I always thought they were. Just recently, the newscaster on the treacherous snow scene (which would currently be anywhere in Portland or the surrounding area) puzzled and frowning at the mysterious white substance in his hand, said, "It's doing something out here now. It's not snow anymore. I don't know what it is."

I hope he's not the meteorologist.

It also made national news. Well. The hours (plural) it takes to get 20 miles right now made the news. The sleet / freezing rain mystery was curiously absent. I will try to forget the screeching sounds of "Willamette" Valley in the newscaster's mouth. Will (as in the name) - a (as in at)- met (as in mets - the team). Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Portlanders are decidedly horrible at driving in the snow and I cannot even begin to want to apologize for thinking so. You follow too closely. You move too quickly. You start too forcefully. These are completely in your control, even when one takes into account the sudden onset of the snow and the inevitability of being caught without traction devices.

On the way back from the airport, which should have been a 20 minute drive, I was stuck on the freeway for an hour and a half. Never before has snow felt like the apocalypse. Emergency vehicles were forced to weave their way through stopped freeway traffic (impossible to move over to the right or the left shoulder). Buses and semis jackknifed (bus riders choosing to get off and travel on foot).

And. I was almost out of gas and my high mileage, hanging-in-there car started to overheat for idling so long. Nothing like being stopped in gridlock traffic, nowhere near a freeway exit watching the needle creep to the highest end of the red zone. Additionally, the fact that I had to go to the bathroom - desperately - was frosting on the fluffy white snow cake.

Not that long ago snow was something lovely, even if it, and the ice, did last for 3 months. I remember towns that plowed and sanded. I remember sledding and fearlessly leaving the house for whatever reason I wished.

Nope. Housebound now.




I made them. For four hours I mixed, rolled, cut, frosted the snowmen, the trees, the bells, the ... candy canes. And then I got tired of making them and 20 cookies later, threw away the rest of the dough.


Yes, I DO think dough grows on trees. Or it multiplies in the bowl, pulling a holy Loaves and Fishes act.

Shoes was very grateful for his cookies of deliciousness. Genuinely so. He picked one up and looked at it, scrutinized it carefully and said, "You made me a Christmas Ghost?" (It was obviously a snowman, however. Obviously). But that's ok. Shoes got in the Christmas spirit himself and decorated for Christmas:


A Christmas Totem Pole. It was bequeathed to him by his late great aunt as part of his inheritance. We mean no disrespect to the totem pole. It is just that he did not at all want to buy a Christmas Tree for just him (remember, we now live 4 hours apart). That's creepy, he says.

I told him the truth:

This no Christmas Tree thing lasts as long as we're not in the same town. And for Heaven's sake, quit calling my snowmen ghosts.

not quite a postscript: what you must know about Shoes is that from the moment I stepped foot in the vineyard town to the moment I left, I was taken care of, pampered and loved. He is a keeper, despite his penchant for making fun of my cooking.
Sugar Cookies in special shapes and I have a Bad Relationship. The Angel and The Gingerbread Man are especially problematic, with their heads and wings that just fall off. I swear. They just fall off. Whatever. Coincidentally, the Bell and the Stocking, which obviously don't have wings or legs or arms or heads, also break.

Roll the dough to 1/8" thick? Really?

Then how do I keep them from sticking to the counter (and sure, I floured the surface before I rolled them out)?

Cheryl and I tried to indulge in traditional cooking making this Christmas. It failed miserably. {Turns out I'm also an imbecile at decorating them.}

Shoes called during our cookie making mission and while we were dripping frosting onto the cookies, past the point of them looking at all presentable, past the point of caring, Shoes drops this:

"Sugar cookies? Really? Did you know I was a big fan?"

O, come on. Seriously? Sugar cookies in Christmas shapes? This fantastic man who asks for almost nothing and is mindful of every little detail of our relationship is asking for sugar cookies for Christmas? How can I say no?

How can I say yes? Those little trolls disguised as candy canes. It's just not right.


I'm ready for you now.

Holiday Happiness:

Spirituality.
{Something so much bigger than all the questions I ask}
Four Weeks Off School.
Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".
{Warbly, bittersweet}
Christmas Dinner With Family.
{It's been at least two years}
Perfectly Square Edges on Wrapped Boxes.
Donner.
Peppermint.
Raffeta.
Letters to Santa
{Made all the better if they're from good friends' children}
Quiet, Cold Nights.
Four Year Old Christmas Carolers.
Scarves, Mittens, Hats.
Warm Hands from Warm Cups of Coffee.

Holiday Not-So-Happiness

Christmas Lights.
{I know. I'm sorry.}
Christmas Cookies.
{I know. I'm sorry. Trying to decorate those little buggers ...}
Most Christmas Music.
{I know. I'm sorry.}
Made for TV Christmas Movies.
{I know. I'm sorry.}
Two amazing women.

Sometimes you find things you have to share with everybody.

If find = love, then love = share.

My compulsive, detailed-obsessed, you'd-better-realize-who-really-owns-these-images self feels once again compelled to spell out, and certainly not to insult your intelligence, dear hearts, that the following images belong quite fully, wholly and totally to the following ladies and are borrowed here as an enticement to visit them. Consider them a stunning preview of greater loveliness to come ... once you visit their pages. {Protected under copyright, folks. And we don't mess with copyright around these parts.}


Cori
(coridantinimakes.blogspot.com)


Beautiful. On Etsy, wouldn't you know. She's explained how she creates her engaging images, but I have no mind for art. It's an intriguing process and only completely captivating and bewitching. Only.

And Sherri
(seattlesheri.blogspot.com)


A little note here ~ if you supply the photos of your own enchanting clan, she'll provide the wonderfully, meticulously edited cards and announcements. And really. They're completely breathtaking.

So please, go. Visit. Roll sweetly and indulgently around in their talent.





Interesting how the posts around these parts tend to increase when school isn't in session.

And around these parts, things have been a little blue lately. Maybe a little gray. Hard to tell. Still waiting for final confirmation of my final grades, even though I've been keeping close track of all of my points.

{Of course I've been keeping close track of all of my points. That, of course, of course, is a very big part of who I am. Compulsive me needs to see it in print, though.}

Still looking for a job, which, oddly enough {she said somewhat wryly} is still demoralizing. Finally got an interview with OHSU, which, by this girl's accounts, did not go well. As in {big sigh}, I'm not what they're looking for. I do so hope I become what somebody is looking for. And soon! {15 job applications later ...}

Not the season to be blue ... or gray ... or a blah beige. Blech. Christmas break is a little slow when all of your activities center around looking for a job and watching a proliferation of "18 Kids and Counting." {And then letting yourself slip into, Good Lord, I'm 31 and I don't have ONE child yet ... Eh. Happens.}

But really, I shouldn't complain. I did just return from a fantastic weekend in Southern Oregon with my littlest sister. That was good.





And good plans for this week: a shift {one} at the bookstore, a lovely birthday dinner with my oldest friend {plus her kindergartner's Christmas program!}, a trip to the Queen Anne Victorian Mansion with my oldest sister and niece, a pampering hair appointment, and then to the Vineyard Town to spend some much needed time with Shoes. These are all super good things, so I guess I need to pull my super sullen blah beige attitude out of the trash.

Christmas Spirit, you better get here fast ...
Well, not my baby. Remember my roommate Tiffany and baby Madelyn?

O, that was a good year, living with those two. And I'll probably begin the story of Tiffany, Madelyn and the apartment just like that: O, that was a good year.

It was amazing.

One year ago, Hiding Madelyn looked like this:




{Not quite sure what the ribbon was about, but lots of things are hard to explain. Like the time Tiffany gently moved the end of the hammer handle on her stomach trying to re create the sensation of the ultrasound machine to try to get Madelyn to kick from the inside. Glee and silliness abound.} And now, a year later, the baby in Madelyn is fading quickly, and she's turning into a quirky little girl with a Big Personality:



And, of course, sometimes she looks like this:



That probably comes with the personality.

Last Christmas, we had a pre-Madelyn. The end of January, she was born four weeks early. February and March she slept soundly, so tiny.

And then, she started to wake up. It seemed like everything she did socially was advanced ~ she smiled early, engaged people early, laughed early. {Making her laugh her low, maniacal belly chuckle was ridiculously easy}. In an advanced poetry class in undergraduate school, Dr. Axelrod read us a tender poem about a father picking up his infant from the crib. I so wish I could remember the title of that poem or the author; whatever emotion it invoked in me is the same thing that rises up when I think of Madelyn. Before I left the Vineyard Town, Madelyn had just started rolling over.

And my exit marks the end of my knowledge, in many ways. That's all I know. That's all I know personally. Tiffany is so good about sending pictures and videos, but, of course, it's 1/10 of the picture. Madelyn is now pulling herself up to standing. And yodeling, apparently, which I'm pretty sure is normal and listed in "Baby's First Year." ;) But, if I were to be honest, videos and pictures are as close as I'm going to get to Madelyn. And that's ok, because that's how it goes.

And lucky me, I get to see them the week of the 20th.

I'm selfishly hoping it's still so ridiculously easy to make Madelyn Pants laugh.
In fact, it's not so much of a sw specific principle. It's just good people practice.

We empower our clients. We work with our clients toward their own, personal goals. We respect the client's individuality.

We try to stay away from doing client work that's not client centered. Creates a bit of an issue. Hard to engage people when they don't believe you're invested in them as individual people.

Bureaucracies, then, are potentially problematic when it comes to client centered work. (Shocking, I know.)

Like the State of Oregon Employment Department. Like the office in North Portland. Like the office I had to visit because the one job I wanted to apply to off their website required the WorkSource approval. I went fully aimed with resume, phone numbers and time on my hands to see if my skills matched the skills the job posting required.

Oy.

The client must follow The Process, right? It was required that I fill out an online profile, online resume and then take a reading and mathematics placement test. The computer started blinking out partway through, and when I raised my hand for help, as this was The Process, The Help was a little irritated with me and told me that I needed to check The Box.

I told The Help that I had checked The Box. The Help told me that I obviously hadn't. As in, "Obviously, you haven't." I checked The Box in front of him and asked him what I was supposed to do now. The Help then told me, "You must be doing something wrong. Finish checking these boxes and push save. It's that button right there." I did, and when all was Saved, I asked him {again} what I was supposed to do now, as The Process hadn't actually been explained to me in a linear fashion in the beginning. The Help looked at me through narrowed eyes and said, "What are you trying to do? Find a job? Get a GED? Do you need training?"

{Coincidentally, none of this is exaggerated.}

When I told him there was one job that I wanted to apply for, he then directed me to the reading and math placement test. I still don't know how that had anything to do with the minimum wage, 20 hour a week job transporting people with developmental delays to appointments.

I took the reading test. I failed the fourth level. I took the math test. I failed the fifth level. I have to say something here. I have two undergraduate degrees -- one of them in English. My undergraduate GPA was a 3.71. I'm in a nationally ranked graduate program where 1 in 7 applicants were granted entry for Fall of 2009. My Graduate GPA, to date, is a 4.0.

They were two of the most poorly written tests I've ever seen. I have no idea what they were talking about.

And after all of that, the all wise, all knowing System had decided that my skills weren't a match for that minimum wage job after all.

As I was leaving, a bi-lingual man was showing the front desk staff a letter he had received from the Salem office dictating that if he wished to continue receiving his UI (unemployment benefits), he needed to go into his local office to take a class. The North Portland office was his local office. They knew nothing about the "training." So helpfully, one of the English speaking employees loudly told him to call the number in Salem on his letter (because speaking loudly to bi-lingual people helps them understand English better). He informed them that he HAD called that number and they had instructed him to go to the office.

I left at that. Demoralized, un-helped, discouraged, frustrated. All I wanted was someone to sit down with me, explain the process, explain why the process was necessary and give me follow up tasks. Meet me at the level I'm at: not under, not over.

I love experiences like this. I love experiences like this because it drives home what I know to be true in my little social worker heart: That we are all the same; That there is little space between the Professional and the Client; That all people deserve respect, compassion and a chance. These experiences that put me in the role of the client are unbelievably necessary. I never, never want any of my clients to walk away from me thinking I undervalued their intelligence or their potential.

I'll continue to look for jobs in other areas than the Employment Department.
{some spoilers included. consider yourself warned. also, and this is a just in case, cover my bases reminder, there are a couple of parts in the book that may offend some. ask me if you want the details.}

A lofty goal, indeed.

How about this. Once a month, and it may be the first week, but chances are ... probably not ... we'll chat, you and I, about these book club picks.

And for December, this pick would be The Outlander (Gil Adamson).



Earlier this year, during a horrible bout of bronchitis, I hid in my apartment. Hunkered down, using my couch cushions as fort walls, hiding from my co workers and clients (whom I normally love. It was just ... a season), Shoes had brought over a stack of books for me to befriend.

Initially, I did not befriend this book. The imagery seemed stale, the plot barely moved and the character development seemed largely absent (who goes through almost the entire book calling the protagonist "The Widow"?). I drove through the book at a high speed, willing myself into expediency, too prideful to allow myself to not finish it.

And in doing so, I missed ... everything.

The second time around it was a completely different experience. I bring this up because it was also the experience of another book club member. For some, we read it the first time and think, "Point being?"

In short: In 1903, Mary Boulton has killed her husband and has recently lost a child. Her escape through the Alberta wildnerness, with her two, red haired, giant twin brothers in law tracking her, affords her the opportunity to become something she did not know she was capable of: being whole. Up and down through the mountains, eventually arriving at a primitive, early mining camp, Mary allows herself to enter into relationship with people at will. Enter and exit a host of archetypal characters: a Good Samaritan, a Reverend, a Dwarf and her new object of desire: The Ridgerunner.

I found myself most drawn to the issue of Mary's "madness" ~ nightmarish visions visit her frequently. "She forced her eyes down, away from the vision, and as she did, tears surged up. Defeated again by an imagined thing" (p 15).

In Mary's life, she is "defeated" by many things: the death of her mother; a pious, superficial grandmother, a father incapable of affection; a dishonest husband; the loss of her child; her insanity. She waits to be happy, as one of our book club members pointed out. She waits for her visions to pass. If only this one thing or that issue were resolved, her madness would pass (aren't we all like this?). It's only when Mary leaves her world, albeit at first quite un-purposefully and completely without direction, that she is able to re-gain control. The start of her escape finds her feeble, without vision, almost starving, afraid of people and pushed higher and higher into the mountains. Eventually, this escape turns out to be the one thing she has been able to control in her lifetime.

In one of the closing scenes, Mary picks up a shotgun and points it off the tent's deck at her pursuers. I didn't know she had it in her; it was as if meeting a new character altogether.

I think I missed it the first time around completely.

And for January ... The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz).
The end of the term is a demanding, selfish tyrant. In the last week, it's not hard work, necessarily. No. That happened 2 weeks ago when the lengthy, research heavy, logic model papers were due.

No. This is a different type of demanding. A wild-goose-chase-at-7:30-in-the-morning-for-a Mac-adapter-from-the-AV-department-that-won't-actually-check-the-adapter-out-overnight, so-come-back-the-next-day-and-hope-one's-available-for-your-graduate-school-class presentation (it's only 50% of your grade);

The-email-server-at-the-school-is-down-during-the-last-week-of-classes;

I-cannot-figure-out-how-to-print-25-copies-front-to-back-(powerpoint)-off-the-SSW-computer-lab-printer;

The-reading-doesn't-stop-no-matter-what;

type of demanding.

That kind of demanding.

I think I'm going to fail relaxation yoga. Not really, by the way, but I have a horrible time ... um, relaxing. Alternate nostril breathing makes me feel like I'm suffocating, so I cheat. My fingers are in the correct position, but my mouth is open slightly. And corpse pose for 40 minutes? When the lights go off, I'm a constant fidgeting girl. (It hurts my hips, no matter how many blankets I roll to put under my knees.) Well. there's only one more class of that to go. Thank goodness. Relaxation yoga is very stressful. (Only me. I know.)

{postscript ~ I'm instituting 1st week of the month book club recommendation on this blog. I've never joined a book club before and my first meeting is tomorrow. I'm so looking forward to this and need to figure out a way to succinctly synthesize what I'm reading (struggling a little with junk language in grad school), so practice here. Just as a warning, though, I'm living in a liberal city and am attending a liberal program. I can't guarantee that some of the picks won't be offensive to some readers in one form or another, but it's ok. We're all loving grownups around these parts. ;) }
... as Shoes' 5 year old nephew, Michael. We'll get to that in a moment.

Thanksgiving was spent with my paternal family - some, not all. A huge deal. We were a military family growing up and I have never spent any holiday with my paternal extended family as an adult - and maybe just once or twice growing up. In August, though, my darling Aunt Janet (at my cousin's husband's father's house, which is another story altogether) said, "I want you girls [Cheryl and I] to spend Thanksgiving with us in Gig Harbor." And at 31 and 28, it was probably time.

It was a lovely day, filled with family I had met, and family by marriage I had never met. It was meeting my Uncle Mike's lovely daughters, their spouses and children, 2 year old glitter sprinkling and tickling, catch up with cousins -- altogether wonderful and altogether completely foreign.

It was bravery (as I am completely inept at meeting new people - unless they're clients in crisis) and love and building bridges and stepping in to something this military child has never been comfortable with: close extended family relationships.

Up and back to Gig Harbor on Thursday.

On Friday, however, I drove to Pullman (that would be 6 hours) to spend time with Shoes and his family -- 3 brothers, one sister, spouses, children, mom, dad. Honestly? I adore them. Honestly? Again, this close extended family dynamic is so new to me. How do they know so much about each other? How do they keep in contact so often? So many times I sit there quietly, taking it in, afraid to disturb it.

But this was a story about 5 year old Michael. You've met Michael before, in one of my summer postings. He's the one who drew me the picture of the mermaid. I had taken my homework with me to Pullman, thinking the scant amount I knew I'd realistically be able to accomplish would be better than nothing (although ... here it is, 9:30 on the Sunday night before my last week of classes, and I feel behind ...). Michael and I are solid, so when he came and joined me on the couch as I was reading about social welfare reform, I was so glad for the company.

He asked what I was doing, and when I told him, "Homework," he raised an eyebrow and skeptically said, "That's NOT homework. You're just reading." Right. Not like his homework at all, although he probably does a better job at his homework than I would ever do. ;) So I showed him my syllabus and how it works, and told him that my homework WAS the reading and we would talk about the reading in class (and at 5, he tracked every word).

He cocked his head and looked at me for a moment. And then he declared, oh so matter of factly, "THAT is SO boring."

Kid's too smart for his own good.

Then he showed me how to use the elliptical downstairs and we played dress up.

Lucky. Figuring out how to be a family member at 31 might be figuring this out on the slow end of the learning curve, but I'll take it.

It's happy.
... why do I feel so gosh darned busy??

I have this paper. You know.

A Paper. Capital P. A Social Policy Paper, in which I've had to examine a social welfare issue on a local, state and federal level. I'm been reading so many statutes lately that sometimes I see the statute symbol in my sleep. No kidding. And Poor Shoes. I don't know how many times that poor attorney has had to field my questions about where to find things in legislation.

But he's patient. So I'm lucky.

This paper gets turned in on Monday and I couldn't be happier. Knowing me, I'll fiddle with it until Monday morning, but at least after that, it's out of my hands! Between that, my group presentation in Social Justice, my Social Justice final, the courtesy CASA case I'm managing here in Portland and the Book Club I just joined, I seem to have my hands pretty full for being a 3/4 time student.

But trust me. I'm not complaining! What a privilege to be here.

And we've already registered for next term. Good Lord, how's that possible? For the next 11 weeks, I'll be concentrating on Human Behavior in the Social Environment Macro Theory, Social Research and End of Life and Palliative Care. (Cheery, right?)

Also just beginning to get in the Holiday Spirit. Kind of hard not to in this city that seemed to get a head start. But I'm scheming with the few pennies I have, and looking forward to a full bake fest after class next Wednesday. Big Thanksgiving plans this year - my first with my extended paternal aunts (I'm 31!), and on to Pullman the next day to visit with Shoes and his family.

And I mean, ALL of his family, including the step sister from Boston and the step brother from L.A. Family Auditioning makes me nervous, still, and I so look forward to the time when I can just relax and be.

Whenever THAT'S going to happen. ;)
When I say, "My divorce was so public, and while so many people were so caring and quick to comfort, it was a very public issue," most divorced ladies understand. It's not just a fleeting thought, "Wow. They separated." It's, "But they were leaders in the church. And they separated because of WHAT?" and then the genuine love and concern and care come in.

This is church family at its best, folks. And it was so welcome. So needed. But so, so visible. It's hard to say, "I'm getting divorced" without saying, "There's biblical reason." What a euphemism. Like noooobody knows what that means. Everybody knows what that means.

So, some divorced ladies - especially ones with biblical reason - sob on their floor for 6 months (IE: me.) (Then ladies like me start feeling better, and then life starts getting better. Thank goodness.) And when you're on the floor sobbing, lots of people ask how you're doing. Because they're really, truly loving people. But then when you start feeling better, you have to re order your life. And people you don't talk to often still ask you, genuinely concerned, a year later, "How ARE you doing, dear?" But then you're feeling better and you don't necessarily want to return back to that place of ... complete darkness. So that question, as genuinely loving as it is (and please, if you want to ask somebody that, please ask!), chafes a little.

And then you think, "My good Lord. What a mess I was. Everybody really saw that????"

Yup. Everybody really saw that.

Despite the blog, don't get the wrong idea. There's some things I like to hold to myself.

Like Shoes, for instance.

Lots of public opinion about the next boy I would date. Lots of well meaning people wanting to help me be critical. Lots of loving, amazing people who don't want to see me get hurt again. Yikes.

I don't want that either. But the want and the need to keep this close to my heart so I could think about it - and the trust between Jesus and myself that had to be built up again - (that's a hard one to explain) were soooooooooper big.

So. I'm not apologizing. That was my decision. But there's a little explanation.

Shoes is not perfect. That would be annoying. Especially considering how flawed I am! But Shoes is:

Loving, gracious, compassionate, humble, logical, witty, smart, and hilarious. And as an added bonus, he gets my I love Jesus but I'm a little different politically than most people in the church. There will probably be no pictures of anything else than feet due to his public position (he's a smartie - exactly my age, but graduated from one of the top 25 law schools) in the small Vineyard Town, but that's ok. I'm ok with some privacy.

Shoes has been around for awhile now - our time together has been adding up to equal many months. Who knows where it will go ... I thought my church marriage would last my entire lifetime ... but I still trust. And I'm not in a hurry.

I realized a couple of days ago that my most recent postings have been fluff with no detail. Today’s posting: regarding school. Next posting: regarding Shoes. Maybe this will help clear up some things I’ve (all right, maybe purposefully, but really, isn’t that a prerogative …;) ) glossed over.

Regarding school. “School” for me at this point constitutes 9 credit hours as I’m enrolled in a 3 year, ¾ time program. It DID constitute 7, until the school informed me that unless I took on two more credits, they would not release my graduate plus loan money. Attempting to enroll in an End of Life / Palliative Care class got me nowhere (full, full, full), so I enrolled in a Pilates class (there’s one) and a Relaxation Yoga class (there’s the other). (I needed those two credits pronto. Relaxation yoga is body awareness, breathing, mindfulness … and Pilates has already given me a foot fungus from the public mat. I should have learned my lesson from the Y in the Vineyard Town. This has already happened! And I should just know better. It’s cold and flu season … and it’s not like the mats are disinfected … ever.).

But. You know. I do more than Pilates and Yoga. There’s Social Policy. And there’s Social Justice. Social Policy has owned my life (sorry, Social Justice). You see … there’s this Policy paper … and I’d explain it, but most people start yawning immediately … so I’ll skip that part. In short, I need a social issue, a focused demographic, a policy, and then I need to retrace the policy to the federal level. I don’t have a clinical placement right now, like the 2 year students do, to draw ideas from, and the entire job thing to draw experience from … well … they weren’t kidding when they said Oregon has the 2nd highest unemployment rate in the nation. However, just today, my good friend Stacey M. from the Vineyard Town stepped in and said, “Why don’t you write about monolingual Spanish domestic violence victims that have great challenges participating honestly and fully in protection order hearings because of the language barriers? I’ll give you statistics to start with.”

Mmm. I’m greatly indebted to Stacey M. I think the era of the Policy paper owning me may be coming to an end.

And then there’s Social Justice, where we spend all of our time discussing the intersections of power, oppression, prejudice, assumptions, and how we, as social workers, need to be aware of all of this in our work. The part I like best about this class? Listening to everybody else’s stories. They’re just so … gorgeous.

Everybody in my program … we’re all so different. So different. And everybody in my program? We’re so alike. Who knew that I would end up in a program where I would be encouraged to be overly analytical and over think everything? This is me. This is them. And the bonus? Most of us value grace and compassion to the extreme.

I drown a little in the readings and I’m still a little intimidated by the Big Bad Policy paper (just a tad). But this was the right thing to do. There’s actually an MSW program in the Vineyard town, and I’ve been asked many times why I didn’t just stay home and do that program. And there’s so many answers: the program I’m in now is ranked well by U.S. News – the other program is not ranked (at least by U.S. News); Vineyard Town held a lot of mixed memories for me; I felt there was nowhere else to go at my last paid employment position.

The crux of it, though, is that I was just ready.

I was so ready.

So I love the city. Really. Truly.

About 80% of the time.

The rest of the time, I'm a little tired of little things. Like the man who likes to sit outside the bookstore on a bench with his pants around his ankles. Good thing he wears boxers.

Or the man who tells himself, "I KNOW, right?! I'll just DO IT!" and then runs out of the bookstore with {unpaid} textbooks stuffed under his shirt.

Or the fact that for the first 3 weeks of classes, we've discussed {nonstop} the intersections between politics and spiritual beliefs. That, however, is another discussion altogether. Suffice it to say I don't fit in there in or out of the church. Either way.

Someone told me there was room for everyone in this city. That might be true. There are certainly enough different opinions in this city. Everybody has one. The grace and compassion for each other, though ...

That, too, is a different story.

So I'm going to have to write my own.

Story, that is.
go to class

go do my homework

go catch the bus

go to work as a temporary cashier at the campus bookstore

go on the weekends.

go. do. experience.

School's been the most interesting adjustment. I feel like I'm always reading, always writing, always studying ... and I'm only going 3/4 time. In fact, I found out I had to add 2 additional credits to access some of my student financial aid, and instead of adding another class, I added Pilates and Relaxation Yoga.

Well. Ok. In all fairness, I did try to add "Supported Employment" but never heard back from the prof. for permission.

And all the craziness has been broken up by visits from Shoes. And those are always appreciated. More than appreciated.



Shoes and I went to the zoo, where many of the animals were missing, ill or sleeping. A weird time to be sure, but than this little guy walked out unexpectedly and everything seemed ok again.


And we hiked into Triple Falls on Sunday. There's a book, actually, of Portland area hikes. Our mission is to do as many of them as possible before it gets too cold.



Aren't we cute?

Busy, busy, busy.

On to the social justice homework ....





My dear friend Katelyn came up for a couple day visit. Upon recommendation, we visited this little hole in the wall donut shop. Katelyn is eating the voodoo donut. Cheryl chose the Fruit Loop. I chose the Oreo.






I can't believe I ate that. That was NOT a good decision.

And we've made several trips to Powell's City of Books, because I think I could live there. A little mat in a corner, maybe. Truly, that would be fine.




Funny thing, too, if I drive just a half hour, I find myself in {somewhat} rural Western Oregon, so I drove and found. And visited with Elizabeth, her husband Aaron, and their adorable little one Rebekah. Oktoberfest, where it is normal to sample microbrews at 10 in the morning. I like microbrews, but 10's a little early for me.

Did you know Cheryl and I lived in Europe until I was 9? True. And Oktoberfest was a type of homecoming, almost. Maybe no substitute for the real thing, but it definitely pulled on strings of familiarity.





And now ... on to school ... which starts tomorrow ...
... having a few issues with computer/email usage. Sister Cheryl's computer LOVES Comcast. My computer does not. :(

Still here, still have all of these postings rambling through my head ... especially at 4:30 in the morning.

Portland is my best friend and my worst enemy. I love it here and I miss ... certain things ... not everything ... about the vineyard town. Spending a lot of time on campus, getting those boring details into order ... student ID card, student account, term bus pass, figuring out where, exactly, my graduate student mailbox is.

All the nuts and bolts information that just has not been included in orientation or new student welcoming. Although my advisor did give me the helpful advice during my first meeting with her to, "not drink the water" in the School of Social Work (SSW) building. First thing she said. Second thing she said was, "please, please, if you absolutely can manage it, please do not bring your car to campus. Even I ride the train." Third thing was, "You will absolutely not be able to do all of the reading that will be assigned to you. Figure out how to triage it." This was after long conversation in my advisor group re: the intersections of social work and social justice.

So. I'm just waiting to begin classes - 9/28. I'm looking at at least $300 in textbooks this year, but, I did get a temporary cashier position during "rush" and will get 20% off. Social Work and Social Policy Monday afternoons; Social Work and Social Diversity Wednesday mornings. 4 hour blocks.

Still looking for a job, but something will pop up. I had a plan for this year and that plan included working "in the field". However, I think God has a different idea, and I don't think I'm going to be going at the pace I've been going at for the past, I don't know ... 8 years? I've done more than my fair share of 50/60 hour weeks (and all the medical students in the crowd said, "so what?!"); crisis work, holiday work, weekend work ... And now, I see a period of somewhat limited financial means for the next few years ...

... but I also see a period of grace and rest.

Next posting: images and lovely thoughts about this city.

{Footnote: I have not forgotten that today is 9/18, and it has now been 5 years since the date of marriage to my former husband and over 2 years since the date of separation. Grief is a funny thing, and I do not know if I can even call it "grief" anymore. I remembered it today as in the vague thought I would have as if I remembered that I was almost out of milk.}


As in, here in Portland and here in body and here in mind and here in spirit. So present in so many ways. In many ways, completely overwhelmed.

But, surprisingly, coming out on top.

The move happened last Saturday with military precision ... all of the boxes were packed, ready to go and just had to be loaded and transported. The shadow boy from a couple of posts ago (I think I will call him "Shoes", as in, that is all he will permit me to post of him) busted a move and at the end of a very busy week for him, moved two of his friends. Including me. But mine was worse. As in, five and a half hours of driving. But a complainer, he is not.

We've stuffed this 3rd floor apartment to the gills and have weeded through most of the boxes.

{Where did all this stuff come from?!}

Cheryl and I have been settling in, decorating, organizing (one of my favorite things to do!!), and have been on a quest for the perfect cup of coffee. So far, the top contender is Stumptown Coffee.

Lots of trips across the Willamette River to downtown to campus to finish (how many "to's" can I put in a sentence?) the last minute school details.

Would love to post my own images, but the camera is broken. This might just be the push I need to buy a "real" one. (Coincidentally, I believe I've read Flickr's Creative Commons Terms of Use correctly and BELIEVE I have been giving credit where credit is due ... but if somebody has any thoughts on this or sees I am doing it incorrectly, please, o please, let me know ....)

The randomness? Hard to believe, but this is not a dirty house. I've pulled children from dirty houses. Trust me. This is not That. This is me pulling things out in order to pack strategically. But 8 rolls of wrapping paper? How does a single-ish girl even COLLECT 8 rolls of wrapping paper? And how does a single-ish girl PACK 8 rolls of wrapping paper?


and wanting to kiss these cheeks so badly.

Her mommy's too.

Many blessings coming in this move ....
... I won't ever *really* be able to tell you how my little girl from my last post turns out. We did, however, wrap up our camera project and oh, how I wish I could really, really tell you the joy she captured on film.

What else?

A 3 day trip to the Olympic Peninsula. One last, stolen getaway before the chaos of the move and the beginning of graduate school. Lots of time in the car. Lots of time discussing, sharing, relating, discovering.

Falling?




Crescent Lake. A long, clear, beautiful expanse I wanted to jump completely in and let it swallow me. Fear of hypothermia, however, is a dream killer ...




Places on maps exist in real life. I need to remember that more ...




An hour or so here at Rialto Beach does a soul good and makes a girl happy. {Pick me, marketers! I can do soooo much better for your tourist advertising than capitalizing on Forks ~ which is a sad, sorrowful place coincidentally ...}




I'm not so readily armed with details, but hints are my forte. Piano forte!! It was a lovely weekend. I am a lucky girl.

And sooooooo popular with new four year old friends named Michael:




I am not the mermaid, but I am the face immediately to the left of the mermaid. Lifelike, right? Thanks, Michael!!

And now, on to finishing my last {4} days of employment with the County. Time to assimilate and process and develop some closure.

... at my current position, I've found I have an issue. I have a little girl on my caseload who has no childhood.

Specifically, I have a little girl who, in her current foster home, has a shoebox of belongings, an envelope of letters and one drawer full of clothing.

That's it.

That is the totality of what she owns.

What she is missing is not just the material goods to call her own, however. She is missing a family. She is missing her future family, her past family and is blessed to have found a gem of a "right now" family ... but. But.

She knows This is not It.

It's not the lack of material goods that break my heart. It's seeing her lay all of what she owns side by side on her bed and listening to her tell the same story over and over again.

That's what breaks my heart. It's listening to her talk about her "real" family vs. the family she hopes one day will want her. It's having her remember her birth family and having nothing to hold, nothing to look at, nothing to validate that she has this entire history that was very Real, and she has a family she misses wholly.

Hole-y.

So she compartmentalizes.


Don't we all?

This hurts, so I deal with This here, but I don't deal with It here, because when I'm there, I need to feel / think / focus / BE / somebody else. At a foster home, no fault of the foster home, she's part of the temporary, in and out, loved but not a birth child flow. Her items are in a shoebox under the bed. It is not her bed. Her clothes fill a drawer. It's a dresser shared by multiple children.

She can love her birth family once a week for two hours.

She can be at school and learn.

She can be a giggly part of her foster home.

They are all separate. Those worlds do not collide. She does not talk about the other parts of her life during the Other Parts of Her Life.

I understand this about her. I was very much like this right after my divorce. I talked about it with These people, but not Those people and Work was Work and Church was Church and I was fragmented and not connected and it helped.

Sure.

For a season. But not that long. Truly ... honestly ... it was exhausting. And people are not straight lines. They are circles. We are connected to ourselves, every bit of ourselves; ourselves are connected to every part of our lives and we are so very connected with each other. Totality. {The heart of God.}

Today I dropped off several disposable cameras to many people in Little Girl's life. They will take pictures. She will take pictures. I will develop the film.

And when we are done, there will not be gaps. There will be pictures to hold. She chooses to compartmentalize or not ~ that decision is hers.

But in that shoebox under her bed will be mounds of pictures of the people she loves. And no matter what happens in the next few years, there will not be a missing gap of information (as is so often the case with foster children. They are ghosts in family pictures for the amount of time they spend in foster care). This is her reality, no matter how much we wish it could be different.

We need to help her choose to face it in love. In the end, we cannot give her her childhood back. But what we can give her is the sense that what this is, Is, and that what her life is, is what she chooses to make it. It's real. I'll give her the tools to help make it real. She can look at the pictures. Or not. She can live in her fragmented life. Or not. It is so entirely up to her.

I hope she chooses a gentle path for herself.


.... of driving back and forth to Portland every week.

It's 4 hours.

One way.

But will be so worth it.

Eventually.

This latest trip ... a job interview ... a new "favorite" restaurant (of which there will be oh, so many) ... and the discovery that our new ceilings are vaulted ... to the moon.


So delicious.


Cheryl thought so, too.


How to take pictures of an apartment? I do not know ... this is a talent I surely don't possess. After wiggling, laying down, squinching, angling ... this is the best I could do. Maybe more later. Once boxes are unpacked. Maybe not.

Time for a nap.



... I'm introducing her just a tad more. She's the one on the right.


Slightly out of the norm for me, as I generally keep my family, my friends and any charming young men I date tucked carefully close to my heart. Facing me.

But we're moving in together, and so my stories become her stories become our stories become your stories ... kind of ... those of you who read this.

I've got sisters.

I've got a sister Liz who's older, married, has 4 children and lives in a town close to Portland.

I've got a sister Hannah, who's 18 years younger than me and lives not near Portland but in the same state.

(Ok, in all fairness, I have a brother, too - Greg, whom I can't NOT mention, even though this posting is about sisters.)

And then there's Cheryl. Who's been my sister the longest (blended family). Who knows how deeply family dysfunction can run and knows how hard we all fight to keep above it. Who has fought with me and borrowed my roller skates and had the better Barbie house and played hide and go seek with me and loved horses while I was deathly afraid of them and used to watch "labyrinth" in my room (much to my chagrin) almost every day and went to Pebble beach with me and went snorkeling in Oahu with me and sang duets with me in the bathroom and watched Ghostbusters with me when we were kids (and didn't laugh at me when I got scared) and loved the cartoon "gem" and made up dance routines with me.

Cheryl will be going to the same school, undergraduate, finishing her degree in biochemistry (she's a smart one). We will drive each other crazy, fight, make up the next day and drink a lot of Starbucks together. We'll go through periods when we'll only shop at organic markets and then go through periods where taco bell seems like an incredible idea. We'll make a million plans and follow through with two and a half with them.

She'll finally introduce me to Korean food (she's fluent! ~ in the food and the language) and maybe even teach me to run. I'll stick by her side as she starts yoga with me.

We've worked hard at being "family", Cheryl and I. No doubt due to our peripatetic upbringing (I just learned that word 10 minutes ago! :D ). My dad was in the military, and the four of us that were the family at the time lived in Europe until I was 9, and then we went to the Philippines when I was 11 (short stay there due to extreme political instability). I started to get to know my extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.,) when I was 18.

So stay tuned. Once you know her, you love her.
I think I'm having one. Will somebody please come motivationally interview me? (That was a terrible social work play on words. I'm almost embarrassed enough to remove the question. Almost. ;))

Some of you know me personally, and I think it's fair to say that I can be easily described as a type A, get things done, detail oriented type of personality. In other words, I take care of my business, all along so arrogantly thinking it's no big deal.

I'm dedicated to my job and to the children I represent in court. I care about the volunteers' reports and making sure they're perfect (they become part of WA Superior Court record forever, after all). My house is {normally} clean. I know where my money is and where it's going.

Sure, I love to have fun and relax, but usually not at the expense of everything else.

Only, lately .... wow.

Case in point: I have 4 minutes to get back to work from lunch. And am I super motivated to do so? Absolutely not. Am I making it to the office by 8 in the morning? Not exactly. Is this incredibly unusual for me? Yep. Will it last forever? Absolutely not.

And work? It's becoming a joke. I'm trying super hard to stay motivated and ensure that I'm providing appropriate clinical supervision to my staff, but .... some things ... are starting to slip. I'm also delegating a LOT more and letting go of that (their) final product ... it will, after all, be somebody else's responsibility in just a few short weeks. {I'm also having to work lots of random evenings and weekends, which, no doubt, is making it worse.}

But, oh, how I'm ready for this move.

Is it time yet?

1:01. Better get back to the office.
... moving for one person can be so complicated.

Every time I get something checked off my to do list, two more things sneak up behind it and plant themselves on the list.

Moving notice. Electricity notice. Internet notice. Car insurance. Change of address. Reserve moving truck. One last glass of wine with this friend. One last weekend of house sitting here. Packing / organizing / listing (I'm not a wait until the moving van shows up girl). Apply for jobs. Apply for more financial aid (thanks again, Maria). Register for classes. Wonder how all of this is going to work.

I'm not in my new city yet, but already I've learned a couple of things (real life lessons!) about what life in the city is going to be like. So smart I'm getting already:

* The person who has not showered today WILL sit next to me on the bus.
* If there is a homeless person in a 2 block radius of me, they WILL find me and ask me for money. Just me. All the time.
* I attract mentally ill people who look for radio transmitters in parking meters.
* I can walk from 6th and Taylor to 5th and Harrison in a little over 7 minutes.
* If you are trying to figure out where, exactly, the line 4 bus stops are (because they're really not listed that well under trimet.org), do not follow the bus, because it will pull up to you downtown and the bus driver tell you you can be arrested for suspicious activity (even with city and campus maps spread out, even with a screaming infant in the backseat, I guess I really do look like trouble ...)
* Moving to a bigger city invites lots of comments from well meaning souls like, "Oh, that's a great city. You'll have no problems finding the man of your dreams there."
* You do not have to wear shoes to graduate school.
* It will rain the one day I'm not carrying a jacket.

More to come...
Just for a minute.

Just for a weekend.

The Fourth of July always has always been my favorite holiday, when the weather is warmer, and the days are lazier and tensions are down ...

(compared to other holidays ...)

It's just been one of those seasons where work has been political and overly complicated. I don't know whose work environment isn't at least a little political; yet, when you add the actual element of social work done for county government with many types of elected officials overseeing work and money and policy ... sheesh. (Remember when I used to tell endearing stories of kids in lock up? I so wish I could tell stories like that again. But. Now all of my work is tied up in the courts and ongoing dependency cases that, much of the time, are also wrapped up in some sort of on going criminal investigation. No more stories.)

I've spent the weekend hiding in the Northern corner of the state, cementing some new beginnings, meeting some new friends, broadening my understanding of many things and letting go of the stress. The food, the fireworks, the view off this deck and the cool of the beginning of the Rockies have all been very welcome.

I'll take one last big breath before plunging into a week of reports and elected officials and conflict resolution and goal setting and driving 16 hours this week to and from Portland for grad school orientation and Cheryl's school orientation.

But, first, maybe a nap ...
Sister Cheryl and I just spent 3 days in Portland trying to find an apartment for this fall.

Goodness. What a project.

Maybe there's a good time to find a place in the city. Maybe there's not. Maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about. But the neighborhoods we loved did not have openings. Not yet. And many, many, many of the places we looked at were run down. Or unclean. Or gave us a creepy feeling (important filter, that creepy feeling).

O, the options on graduate school budgets are limited. And the car sickness feeling that invades me after driving in circles for 3 full days is too, too much. So we did not get our cute, independent hardwood place in Ladd's Addition. We did not even get an appointment to see the one halfway affordable place in the Lloyd District. We called so many places I mixed them all up within a half hour. We scrutinized and discussed and compromised ...

And after deciding that we absolutely could not keep this process up for many more trips (we do live over 4 hours away), we put some money down on a little apartment right on the East side of the river.

20 minutes bus ride from campus.

10 minutes away from the neighborhood we most wanted to be in.

And a great, big relieved feeling that that part's over.

And now, on to find a job ... since all of my $21,000 financial aid went to out of state, graduate tuition ...

... gotta have something to eat this year, after all ...
... that I would forget what tomorrow is ...

but I almost did.

The very first week of the 3rd grade, I, in my cherubian little girl state, sat at my desk, #2 pencil in hand, listening to Mrs. Wilson instruct us to write our names in cursive on our wide lined paper. We had, after all, all learned how to write in cursive during the 2nd grade ... but this was a test, of sorts, to see how much we had retained.

And so I wrote the letters, in cursive, out, shielding my paper with my hand from Robbie, who not only tried to copy everything I did, but who was also a jerk who always tried to kiss me on the playground or burp on me.

L. I. S. A.

But it didn't look right. Not at all. And I couldn't exactly figure it out what the problem was, which, yes, even in the 3rd grade, frustrated me. The letters were all there. All in cursive. But not right. Not correct.

And then I realized that I had written the letters out one by one. Technically, they were correct, but they were not connected. My cursive letters were in print form. And when I realized that, it was so easy to erase them and do what I had already learned to do. This was easy. No problem.

On June 18th, 2007, I came home to this Vineyard Town from a relaxing outing in the Mountain Town. Eventually I went to the study to open up the computer to balance the checkbook as Husband At The Time had just left for Alaska to go Salmon Fishing.

But when I opened up the computer, I did not just find the link to our online banking site. I found many, many emails that forever changed the course of that marriage and that life.

Anniversaries, of any sort, are so easy for me to remember. But I almost forgot that tomorrow was the 18th.

These past two years have been just terrible and simply amazing. I've reclaimed so much of what I used to know: that I deserve better, that there's always been a plan, that I'm going to be ok and that I can let go. Relax.

I used to know all of those things and how to do all of those things. It's taken me awhile, but I can put it together now. I've already learned how to do all of these things.

Now I can give myself permission to do them.
I'm going to have to re focus a little bit on this blog. How on earth did I have so much steam to keep going in 2006 on the MSN blog and WHY am I so LAZY now?

This is where we are with grad school:

I am not nearly, not a little, not even remotely done being absolutely ELATED with this recent fantastic news in my life. And you'd think I'd have a little more humility when the people I respect most affirm my acceptance with, "Wow. The on campus program? That's a highly respected school." But. I cannot not grin with glee. It's my over-achieving nature.

I just accepted my financial aid award letter .... OUCH! Out of state, graduate tuition is the PITS!! I received enough to cover tuition and fees only ... and will be working quite a few hours during the week (I have no idea where yet) to cover living expenses. But. It's so worth it. Next year I'll ask the University to pretty please re examine my residency status and there will be so many more scholarship opportunities as a returning graduate student. I'm also going to hope against hope for a graduate assistantship at some point ...

Next weekend, I'll be going to Portland with my sister Cheryl (who ALSO got accepted - into an undergraduate program - yay her!) to do fantastic and frustrating things like look for apartments (or potential neighborhoods in the city) and learn how to ride the MAX. We have already decided that living downtown is definitely not going to be an option ... although there is such an allure to it ...

That's right. I'm 31 in 2 weeks and have no clue how to ride the MAX ... or even a bus line for that matter ... I guess that's what I get for living in rural Eastern Oregon and Washington for the past 13 years.

MSW new student orientation is the first week of July.

The County has {somewhat forcefully} asked for a letter of resignation ... but not because they're displeased with my work. Rather, they'd like to know what time frame they're looking at to re hire my position. So, County, we will part ways on August 21st.

And I hope to be out of here by the first of September.

I absolutely cannot describe what a relief this move is or how ready I am. This Vineyard Town's luster faded almost immediately in 2007 when I knew that I had to leave everything this place has come to represent. I received Former Husband's last financial payment a week ago, and it's just one more piece of the Great Release.

I've quit my 2nd job waiting tables and am spending these last 10 weeks or so here with the people I adore. Last night my roommate and I watched a few episodes of The Bachelorette (I know, I know ...) and as I was holding Miss Madelyn Happy Pants, I realized how TERRIBLY I am going to miss her.



Such a doll. But we do catch her doing some pretty weird things, too.







I'm pretty sure we were not trying to startle here right here. Sometimes ... she just does things like this.

There will be LOTS of Madelyn time this summer before I leave ...
... of a guardian ad litem. What could be better? What could be more relaxing? What could make more sense?
8:00 In line for coffee and the barista can't find the toasted marshmallow syrup. This could be bad. Looks like I'll be late again.

9:00 On the phone with a counselor for kids. Right. I completely agree. Too much pressure on this kid, we need to back off. We're not disagreeing, I promise you. We're both saying the same thing, we're just coming from different
angles. A meeting? Sure. Just let me reschedule about 4 other things and we'll have a meeting.

10:00 Court scheduling. The 2 desk calenders and the planner battle it out. Keeping the master court calender for 20 volunteer staff and 160 foster kids is no match for me, though. Wait, was that ... did they really just schedule 3 dependency hearings on the same day at the same time in 2 different courtrooms? What the ...

11:00 New kids into foster care ... at least they're physically safe now ... even if they are completely traumatized by being removed from the only thing they know ... and the frosting on the cake is little one's statement, "Can I please just have a family that wants me?" Yeah. Not kidding.

1:00, 2:00, 3:00 Volunteer training. This is domestic violence. This is mental health. This is how a kid moves through the foster care system. This is how you foster your own resiliency. You must foster your own resiliency.

4:00 Lead a cognitive behavior therapy group for the teens in juvie. Yes - you're right - hubris can be what we experience right before we get locked up. It can lead to thinking you're above the law. Kid, I've never heard you say that before. Where did you get that insight?

{And the bonus for us that aspire to pay for out of state, graduate tuition ...}

5:00, 6:00, 7:00 Wait tables.

And 8:00 the next morning? In line for coffee ...

... this weekend is spring release wine tasting. {Although, I very much think this is what I should be doing.}

Vineyard town is stuffed to the gills with tourists, but I, ha ha, I know the out of sight, tucked away, treasure cellars to visit during this busy weekend. Maybe I'll come back for fall barrel tasting.

Instead of sampling the cabs, merlots, syrahs, ... I will be waiting tables, teaching Sunday School, making a hurried trip down to Oregon to see my dad (who is sick, again, this time with heart failure), and hurrying back for an extra shift at the restaurant. It is the weekend that is not a weekend and the busy-ness will resume bright and early Monday morning when I draft a response to a Very Unhappy Letter I received from an area counselor (a letter that degraded the system for not returning some foster children home to some biological parents. A letter written, unfortunately, without any collateral information about this family in question). It's fine. I'm just not a person people want to mess with when it comes to children's safety.

To balance this out with some good news, however, I have had one case successfully end in reunification recently (yay!) and another little guy be adopted (yay again!). Kids in foster care breaks my heart. They so need permanent families.

And I'll continue to hope for good news for my dad. He sees the specialist this week, so hopefully we'll know a little bit more about his heart condition. He man's been continually ill, with something or another, for the past several years, but he continues to hang in there.
... a couple of short breaths.

The email says: results have been posted. Go to the applicant log in page to find out. I logged in incorrectly twice ... and then was afraid I was going to get locked out and have to wait for the snail mail acceptance / rejection letter.

It's not just: Did I get in?

It's: Is there something better for me out there?
It's: Am I stronger and better than the past 2 years?
It's: Has the work I've been doing for the past 8 years accumulated to anything?
It's: My Lord, I've told a lot of people I've applied.
It's: Does God really have a plan for a life I barely recognize anymore?

It's: Yes.

It's: Congratulations.

It's: Get ready for more change.

It's: Thankful. So incredibly thankful.
... I am so very peaceful I think my soul will burst from quietness. And that is a very good feeling.

Right now, I'm blogging.

But as I'm blogging, before and after, I'm cooking my dinner of fish and asparagus. I'm reading The New Yorker. And I'm drinking a glass of Sangria.

For reasons that completely escape me, I'm not focused on how I missed my exercise class because I got caught up at work. I'm not thinking about that Very Hard Family Meeting I will have to have tomorrow at the Child Welfare office. I am not thinking about why I still haven't heard about graduate school yet. I am not worried that the steroid shots I've been receiving are not working on my frozen shoulder.

{These are things I normally think about.}

Instead, I am thinking about much I love fish, asparagus and Sangria. I am thinking about how completely and totally in love with my three month old roommate I am and how I get to have her all to myself this Saturday. I am thinking about a lovely trip to Calgary I will be taking this fall with a dear friend. I am concentrated on the breeze that's coming from the open door and settling on my bare legs.

It's happy.
... just keeping waiting.  Below is a rather well
written letter from the grad school in question.
I don't fault them. I just need to be patient.
Too bad being patient takes so much time ...

Hello!

As you know, the admission decisions for fall
2009 will be made soon.
I have created this \
temporary listserv to communicate with you between

now and when the results of the admission review
process will be made
available.

We have received several calls from applicants
wanting to know the
status of their application.
We ask that you wait until the admission

results will be made available to all which we
advised applicants
would be in late April.

This year we will post admission decisions to
the applicant
login/status page that many of you
have used. That way you will have

the results as soon as the decisions have been made.

As soon as a firm date is known I will be sending
an update with the
date that the admission results
will be posted to your individual,

confidential accounts on our secured server.

Until then we ask that you hang in there and hold the calls.
Decisions have not been made yet and cannot be given out
over the phone.


Best wishes,

Graduate School.

{so some of this was edited to remove
personal email addresses.
i just keeping waiting.}
... acceptance or rejection is absolutely ridiculous.

And completely terrifying.

And apparently all consuming. I used to do other things than obsess about this.

If I get in, I have to figure out how to pay for out of state, graduate tuition. I have to figure out how to move to a city I can't afford to live in. I have to move all of my belongings one state down and almost one complete state over. And I get to own it. I get to own the fact that I made it into a highly competitive program.

{I have to learn how to use public transportation ...}

And if I don't get in? If I don't get in, I have to own it. I have to tell people I didn't get it in. I have to face it myself. I have to live here for at least another year, in a town that continually breaks my heart and disappoints me, before I can apply again and apply to more than one school.

I check the mailbox every day. Its own religion. If it's a little early in the day, I check it twice, just in case the mailman was running late. I check my email at work 30 billion times a day - quickly in and out - waiting for the "we sent the letters out" notice. I answer The Question with, "No ... no, haven't heard back yet."

Just like most things, the not knowing is the hardest part. How do you prepare for what you don't know?
... completely like all of us ...

On January 25th, my newest roommate came to join us.


Yes, she's that perfect. Yes, I'm that in love. No, she's not keeping me up at night and YES, it will be so SO hard to leave for grad school in the fall (pending acceptance). Miss Madelyn decided to make her grand entrance four weeks early and came out in three pushes and 7 hours of labor.

She's changed dramatically in the eight weeks she's been on the outs. Her cheeks are filling out, her little fingers are pleasantly plump and her belly is developing a roundness that is impossible not to touch.

We talk about things, Miss Madelyn and I. I have to impart what I can in the next few months.

The two jobs have kept me amazingly, amazingly busy.

I have my hands full with training and supervising new staff, have had back to back termination trials and have had report after report due. {According to federal law, when children are taken into foster care, parents have one year, give or take, to successfully complete parenting services and make necessary changes. When that does not happen, for whatever reason, the district attorney, general attorney's office, prosecuting attorney's office [whomever - it changes from jurisdiction to jurisdiction] will file a petition to terminate the parents rights. No matter the situation, it is ALWAYS hard.}

And the grad school application is turned in! {Actually, it was turned in in January, and yet I won't find out until the 3rd week of April ...}

There's a few things I would have liked to have done in the past 3 months. I would have liked to have blogged more. Read more. Gone skiing. Or just slept in. Was it really just four months ago I was surfing on the North Shore?

Can I go back?


Welcome, 2009. You've been a long time coming, and yes, I've been waiting for you.

2008, I'm a little sorry to see you go. You replaced your terrorist predecessor, 2007, and for that I'm forever grateful. You saw me get up off the bathroom floor (where I had spent so much of the last of 2007). You afforded me with the opportunity to let go of the things I couldn't control.

You helped me say goodbye to some hurtful, destructive people in my life ... more than one. You gave me a little, brightly packaged gift and handed it to me shyly. Imagine my surprise when I opened it cautiously and then giggled when I saw that you had given me that ever so hard to find perspective.

I loved your May, felt passionate about your July, grieved again in September, let myself experience all new things in November ... and cautiously courted your December, knowing our friendship was fast coming to a close.

You're gone, now, existing only in experience and shared memory. I miss you already.

2009, I admit, I'm a little afraid of you. You're such an undefined presence in my life, and no matter what, you're going to happen. You'll be bringing a lot of change. I hope you bring it kindly. I'll be giving you all that I have, understanding fully, thanks to 2008, that I have nothing to hold back.

{Please be gracious. Oh, please, be gracious ....}