Oregon Trail

Location: Oregon, United States

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Interview/The Week

The interview

I interviewed for a job on Tuesday. I had sent my resume in for a position dealing with transition-age youth, meaning those within the "system" that are transitioning from children's services to adult services. It was a 30 hour per week job - perfect! The woman that called me from this company informed me that the youth position had been filled, but she wondered if I'd be interested in another, similar position that was full time. I listened to her spiel, and I was interested, so we arranged an interview time.

The interview went well, from my perspective. They asked questions that were pertinent to the work and let me know that we were all on the same page as far as our approach to serving this group of people. I would love to work there. I was invited to come and "shadow" someone for a half day to get a feel for what the job would really be like. But I kept thinking about that 40 hour week. They were very flexible with how you could fulfill those 40 hours - start early, work late, work longer hours and get a three day weekend every other week, etc. Add on to that a 1 1/2 hour commute each day. So I came home and did the math. And I did the math again because I didn't like the answer. And then I tried it another way and it still didn't come out right. And I could feel the opportunity slipping away. There was no way to do this job at 40 hours and stay sane in the process.

So I called the hiring supervisor and told her that I'd been looking at the situation and felt that I would not be able to work 40 hours per week, but that 32 hours would work really well. I asked if that was even a conversation we could have and she said, "No," and gave me the reasons why, which were perfectly normal and expected. And she said if my situation changed to let her know and I said I really liked the company please let me know if anything changes from your end and that was the end of it.

I have really mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, my feminist man-hater side is screaming INJUSTICE! If I were a man, I could just take any job I wanted and have the rest of the family run around and make everything pull together! If I were a man I wouldn't have to think about how to get the laundrydonekidsfedofftoschoolgroceriesboughthousecleanmedstaken AND do a job on top of it. I just want to do what I want to do sometimes and not have to think about the repercussions. I really hate June Cleaver.

On the other hand, my kinder, gentler side says I did the right thing. I honestly don't want to be roped into a 40 hour week, which with drive time would be a 47 1/2 hour week, and we all know social work positions rarely wrap up nicely at the end of an 8 hour day. I want time to garden, read, learn Spanish fluently. I want to be able to help my kids with their homework if (when) they need it. I want to be there or have Paul here shortly after they get home from school. I want balance. I still hate June Cleaver, but she can do her thing and I will do mine. Just don't make me be her.

So, I'm back at it. Combing my sources for job openings. Making a list of interesting prospects. Calling to inquire whether or not 32 hours a week is an option. I am on my proverbial knees a lot more, too. I am reminded of Watchman Nee's book Sit, Walk, Stand. Basically, sit and listen. Wait for peace. Walk it out. Then stand. Stand on the promise and know. I find myself going back to the sense of peace we had when we considered this move an awful lot lately. I remember thinking this is an unreal peace we have about this move. That was a little unsettling. What did God have in store for us that we would need this intense, unwavering sense of peace to stand on over and over again? We knew we were in for it and yet we knew it was right. So this is part of it. I'll just keep at it.

The week

Well, that was my week. Lots of thinking. And Paul is slowly getting over his chest cold, which turned into bronchitis so he's been real fun to have around. And I do so well when he is sick - so caring, and nurse-like, all hugs and service and 'can I get you anything, dear?' Yeah, whatever. The real story is that every time he coughs I think I'm going to gag, too, and it gives me a headache to watch him eat Oreos and Cola when he's on antibiotics so I stay far away. Like in the basement. I really want my bed back, but I'm already Nurse Rachit (sp?), so I am just waiting it out.

Last night, the kids and I went to Jackson Bottom, a wetland preserve here in Hillsboro. We LOVED it! They had a special program with live raptors, all sorts of hands-on bones to touch and pelts to identify, a night hike on the trail and the Rose City Star Gazing club out to look at stars through these huge telescopes. (I caught Stephen and Thomas trying to convince one guy that there had to be life on other planets and that the government has been covering it all up for a long time. Area 51 and all that. Conspiracy, you know.) So before we do any more star-gazing, I will be giving them the 'please don't embarrass me' lecture...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Errrgh! And other stuff

Here is an excerpt from a RANT I sent to Paul via email on Friday morning:

“Can I just say that I am sick and tired of looking for a job?

I have spent every morning this week searching the internet and other sources for jobs. I carefully review each possibility and find that I either need to speak Spanish or settle for a stupid position that requires only a high school education. Not only that, but my licensure in MN is worth virtually nothing here. I had to take a test in MN, they don't even ask for that here. I may or may not get credit for the hours of supervision I had, and I have to pay $15 just to have the State of MN verify that I had any licensure at all and that I not in default or being disciplined in any way.

Today, I spent a crapload of time filling out a tedious skills, education and employment history form for the State Employment Agency online. They matched me with 6 jobs, two of which required only a H.S. education. One job looked really promising, so I called about it: It was with Outside In, one of the homeless youth agencies in Portland I've been following. The employment agency told me to call Outside in directly. I thought it was weird that this job was posted and I hadn't applied for it yet, so I looked it up on their website. Sure enough, the position was not listed. Then I called them and found out it had been posted (and filled) in July. (I forgot to ask what year). The girl I spoke to was so confused, she had no idea what I was talking about because it had been filled so long ago. UGH! And then I remembered why I hate the State Employment Agency. I used to have to bring people there when I worked for the Lao Association. We would spend hours completing paperwork only to find out that there were 20 jobs posted two years ago and filled two days after that. WhatEVER! It is a complete waste of time!


True story! I was in the middle of this email to Paul and got a call from one of the agencies I'd applied to a couple of weeks ago. The woman I spoke to had been given my application for a position that had already been filled. She called to see if I would be interested in interviewing for a similar position with a slightly different clientele. The job sounds very interesting and the wind up is that I will interview on Tuesday and see if it is a match. The only glitch so far is that it is a full time job and I was aiming for part-time. However, they seem to be very flexible with how you fulfill your hours so it just might work. I'll check into that very carefully during the interview.

Saturday. Well, this is probably too much information for you, but it will help to put things into perspective. Saturday, I woke up and realized I'd gotten my period. Usually no big deal, but today, I could feel the hormones coursing through my veins. Someone was going to pay. I very graciously warned Paul that I was a living time bomb and bit his head off because he had slept in to prove it. Then we decided I should do something else for the day so no one else got hurt.

I decided I wanted to go get a load of some free gravel that I'd found on Craigslist. I plan to make a path in the garden and this was the very material I wanted to use. I went to the computer to double check the address but the wireless mouse was out of batteries and so were we, so I was off to Target first. I got the batteries and stood in the longest line there for no apparent reason. Got home, got the address, and off I went.

Or crawled, I should say. What is up with the traffic on T.V. Highway? It was Saturday! Why was everybody on the road?! So it took forEVER to get there. As I watched my gas gauge go down, I began to wonder if it would even be worth it. By the time I got there and back, I would be paying the same amount for gas as it would have been to have an entire load dropped off at the house. Sure enough, I got to the place and it was mostly dust with a little bit of gravel. But I loaded a bunch anyway just to save face and figured I could at least get a start on the path.

When I got home, I started to unload the rock out of the van. Yes, I'd used the van, lining it with tarps to protect it. This worked pretty well, but it was a total pain to empty it out. In addition, the dog was underfoot and wanted to play ball. And it was dusty and I was irritated because it was so not worth it. By about the fourth wheelbarrow load, I wanted help badly so I went in to get Paul. He was in bed again and the kids were vegging and fighting in front of the t.v. NOT GOOD! So I stormed out and finished on my own, then came in, took a quick shower, bit Paul's head off again because he was in bed and left for the store because it was dinner time and I needed ingredients. At least it was my night to choose the meal (Cuban Chicken Paella).

Fairness Update: Okay, so Paul has been sick with a respiratory thing lately and has had a cough (Bark? Hack? Gasping wheeze?) for about a week. He keeps saying he is getting better and he actually sounded pretty good on Friday. It turns out he'd given himself four doses of "Non-drowsy" cough suppressant throughout the day and was completely wired. So Saturday rolled around, he wasn't medicated, and he crashed. At least that's the story. (He's going to the doctor on Monday).

Sunday. Whew! My hormones are back in order and it's a brand new day! Thank God for that, because NO ONE had fun yesterday.

Funny story of the day: Paul and I have decided to check out the "Community Groups" they have at our new church. These groups are larger (30 - 50) and designed to allow people to get to know others at the church on a more personal basis in addition to having a time of prayer and study. The fellow who was leading it mentioned that he'd gone to school in Northeast Tennessee. When he said that, I thought, "Well the only place in Northeast Tennessee is the Tri-Cities, where my dad is from. I wonder if that's where he was?" So after the meeting, I asked him and he said sure enough, that was the case. Then I told him my dad was from there and he said, "How did he ever get out of there? No one ever leaves!" And I kind of laughed, because my mom always jokes about saving my dad from "that incestuous bunch" (Ha! It's a joke, people!). Then the fellow explained that he'd led a bible study for a group of women in their 60's when he was there and that none of them had been further away from home than Gatlinburg, TN, so he figured no one ever left. Then he said, "And you know what the other funny thing is? EVERYONE knows who Daniel Boone is and they are all related to him!" To which I calmly replied, "Actually, I'm related to him by marriage. (True!) I've even got a book detailing my family history that has it in writing." Maybe I'll bring it next time to show him...

Monday, September 11, 2006

So, How are the Kids (and Adults) Adjusting to School?

After the first week of school, things are looking fairly bright overall. Here's a play-by-play:

Stephen was pretty sure he was going to hate school, suffer greatly, and most likely die in the process. He was an absolute nervous wreck the week before school and acted up accordingly. Just edgy all the way around, so the slightest difficulty was A BIG, HUGE DEAL!!! After the first day, he came home all smiles. He likes his teacher, and he loves the "tally" system that she uses to encourage good behavior. By the end of the day, he had acquired the most tallies in the room for bringing a paper from home and being in the quietest group. This was a beautiful way for him to start the year. He continued to smile all week and has made a few new friends. He is also learning to just disregard the kids that tease and say mean things. This is a big step for him - up until recently, he has felt that he needed to personally punish these kids or make sure that they get punished. Hmm, can you say 'vigilante'?

We have set his room up with a desk so he can do his homework without the distractions of his brothers/the dog/the dad getting in the way. He was doing math homework one evening and getting really frustrated with it because his brain was shutting down. We talked it over and I asked him what would help - did he want something squishy to mess with? chewing gum? what? Suddenly, his face brightened up and he turned on some music. Then, with a smile beaming on his face, he stayed on task and completed the rest of the work in no time! Good job!

Thomas never said a word about how he felt about starting school. I think he was quietly looking forward to it, but didn't dare say so because he was in the minority here. After the first day, though, it was a completely different story. The bus was a half hour late picking them up both on the way to school and on the way home. He had worn jeans and it was hot out by the end of the day with no air conditioning in the building and he thought he was going to die from heat exhaustion and a pounding headache. To top it off, in an attempt to do damage control (?), part of the orientation consisted of openly discussing the two ghosts that reportedly haunt the building - one is a troubled, bullied kid that committed suicide by hanging himself in the building two years after it was built and the other is a disgruntled janitor from way back. I guess they thought it would be better to get the stories out in the open rather that hear them from the 8th graders.

For Thomas, at this particular moment in his life, it was the worst thing they could have done. It brought up every grief and loss issue that has been just below the surface for him for the last 6 months and he absolutely fell apart. We problem-solved most of the issues the first night - wear zip-offs, bring water, etc., but he didn't tell me how awful he felt inside until two days later. So the next morning when he was supposed to be leaving for the bus, he completely fell apart again. This was the same day the electrician was here to move the outlets up in the kitchen, so I've got that drama going on and I'm completely stressing about the house, Thomas hears that the "whole house could burst into flames at any given minute", he's freaking about going to school, misses the bus, and refuses to go at all. I tell him to get in the car and we'll talk about it there because I'm not in the mood to discuss it in front of the electrician. He gets in the car, we talk about it, but he's still not telling me what's really going on. He just says he can't go to this school, it's horrible, no, he's not being abused by anyone but he just can't do it, and so on. None of the reasons justify him getting to stay home so I bring him to the school. He refuses to get out of the car and says he is more than willing to break the law and be truant. By this time, it's almost comical, but I'm running out of ideas (don't tell him that) and I'm thinking something REALLY BAD must have happened for him to snap like this. But he needs to go to school and get over it, so I say, "Fine, then, stay in the car. I'm going to go in and get the principal." "No! No! Don't get him! I'll come inside!" he says. Then he tells me he will hate me for life, etc. etc. and I tell him I love him and I'm glad he's doing the right thing and he goes to school. Drama!

That afternoon, he came home and hugged me and apologized and said he was very, very sorry. Then he talked about what was really going on inside and we had a chance to really deal with the losses he's experienced since we've moved here. In the end, it was beautiful - we made a list of the things he's lost and another of the things he's gained and a third of the things he's anxious about at this school. Then we crumpled each list and burned them in the fire pit, saying a prayer for each one and symbolically giving it all up to God. He was a new person afterward, and said he felt so light and free!

William is in the High School this year. He was not looking forward to school at all, either, but did not seem as anxious as previous years. He just did what I call 'low-level griping', which he seems to think is some sort of prerequisite behavior prior to things that he might not like. But it's almost an act and I kind of get a kick out of it because I can see him smirking just under the surface. Then I say, "I see you smirking, and I'm thinking you're not that worried about this," and he tries to cover up his face or change his expression but he can never do it and then we both crack up.

He also came back from his first day mostly smiles. He said he had a couple rough spots where he thought about Sundae (why does school bring up Sundae?) but people helped him through it and they were really nice. He likes most of his teachers except the gym teacher seemed a little abrupt and one fellow was WAY too PERKY! He has since warmed up to these two as well. A few things have come up such as no para in one class where he thought he should have one, so he has brought up his concerns with his case manager and they are working to iron it out. This is amazing! Up to this point, I have been doing the majority of the advocating for him while talking through the process with him and encouraging him to advocate for himself whenever he can. He's done this a few times, but this year he just took it upon himself and has done a great job of letting his needs be known. In addition, he has come home and done his homework at the kitchen table with very little assistance or urging from Paul or me. AND he's excited about doing some creative writing in his English class. Good show!

Paul and I are really glad the kids are going to bed earlier and then staying there. It is nice and quiet for a while before we need to crash, and we've needed that to have time to talk or just chill this week, especially while we process the news about Paul's mom.

I've been applying for jobs for the last few weeks and have several resumes out. I haven't heard a thing from anyone except, "Thank you for your recent inquiry, we'll pass your resume on to the supervisor in charge of hiring." I'm beginning to feel a little ill. What is it? Is there a glaring, stupid error on my resume? Is my letter of introduction totally missing the mark? Or worse, what if the theory base I use is not what they are after out here? That would be bad. But then I talk myself down from a panic attack and remind myself that, back in December I met with this fellow and felt there would definitely be meaningful work that I could get excited about. And that I haven't come this far just to be forgotten. So I think it's just a matter of applying, praying for the right job, and waiting it out. Ugh. I hate waiting.

Sasha is fitting in nicely. She is a silly dog that loves to play whenever there is a human available. He favorite game is to take her ball and push it out of reach, either under the dishwasher door, or behind the garbage cans or under the deck. Then she growls at it or barks until the human helps her get it out. This was really cute and funny for a while, but then she started doing it at midnight so I took her ball and put it in the drawer of my bedside stand and told her to leave it until morning. Once the ball is no longer in sight, she quits - I don't know if she just forgets about it or if she gives up, but it works! (Whew!) She also loves to give kisses and has the biggest, wettest tongue on a dog her size I've ever seen. (Gaack!) At least she doesn't drool. She likes to lay down next to you and get petted with her head on your stomach. This is like relaxing with a warm and furry bowling ball on your belly. Everyone should try it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Good, the Bad, and the Worse

The Good. Again this week, we have just been impressed with how well we have gotten "plugged in" around here. On the first day of school, I went to pick up Stephen. As I was walking to the school, I came across two other moms I've gotten to know over the summer that were also going to meet their children. They invited me to join them, and we chatted and strolled our way to the school. It struck me as we got there that I had seen them talking to each other as they waited for their kids last spring. At that time, I was the new kid on the block, and stood some distance away from them (because, duh, I didn't know them). And here we were like old timers by the end of the summer. Later that evening as we walked the dog, Paul and I were greeted by at least four people that we have gotten to know in the neighborhood. I looked at Paul and just grinned. Groovy.

The Bad. I had the electrician out to move the outlets up in the kitchen before the cabinets get installed. He started working, pulled one of the outlets out and said, "Oooo, aluminum wiring. That's bad, really bad. I will need to call my supervisor to see if I can even touch this." And I'm starting to freak - "Bad? Really bad?" What is that supposed to mean? So he explains to me that, during the 70's oil crisis, there was also an anti-copper thing going around so they started wiring houses with aluminum instead. About ten years later, they realised it was a really bad idea because houses were burning down. Evidently, the aluminum expands and contracts too much, eventually arcing and burning through the lock nuts, then the walls, and the ceiling, and - well you get the picture. So our options are to rewire the entire house in copper (bottom line - a minimum of $30,000) or go through the house outlet by outlet, fixture by fixture, and install new improved lock nuts (at about $3 each) that won't allow the arcing to occur. There are about 3 or 4 lock nuts to every outlet, fixture and switchplate. Tedium ad nauseum and ka-CHING. But less ka-ching than rewiring, so there you are.

The worst of it is that the inspection noted that there might be aluminum wiring and we should have a licensed electrician check into it. And we were like, "La, la, la - aluminum wiring - how nice is that?!" And never thought twice about it. Note to self: if it says have it checked, have it checked for crying out loud. *Sob!* I feel so STUPID!

The Worse. Okay, momentary stupidity aside. This is serious. We now have all the reports back regarding Paul's mom's tumor. The MRIs indicated that it was calcified and most likely slow growing. However, the pathology report has shown otherwise. It is a "malignant Oligoastrocytoma, grade 3, not localised". Translation: cancerous tumor made of two kinds of brain cells that is growing quickly (4 is the worst - aggressive) and is spreading. This has us all reeling from the news. She met with the doctor today to discuss treatment and will be receiving radiation 5 days a week for six weeks and chemo daily by a pill for a year. They would rather not do surgery because the cancerous cells are embedded within the useful brain cells. Please keep her in your prayers as this will no doubt be a long haul. The good news is, she is one amazing lady. She has been the picture of health up to this point, has a great circle of family and friends to support her through this, and is a fighter.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Last Week of Summer

The last week of summer ... unbelievable. This morning the kids are all off to school and the dog and I are Home Alone. Bwa-ha ha ha!!! I spoke to my sister on the phone about five minutes after they left and she said, "What are you going to do all day now that they are gone?" Well, let me count! All sorts of things that I can't do because I get interrupted, like patching up the paint outside or thinking an entire thought. And things I can do in utter silence, like filing all the random papers that pile up on a daily basis around here or studying to pass the Oregon portion of my licensure for Social Work. Or things that are absolute torture when you have the kids along like running multiple errands all at the same time or shopping for a new bathing suit (bad enough the way it is...). One thing I'm particularly looking forward to is going to the DMV for several hours in order to get my license plate for the car. Finally. Oh, well, four hours with a book at the DMV is better than four hours with the kids at the DMV.

We had a darn good final week, though. We went for walks in our neighborhood parks with the new dog. We swam in the pool. We brought Stephen to a movie last weekend with a couple of his friends from the neighborhood. The kids went to the doctor for their check-ups (okay, that wasn't so fun for Thomas because he had to get booster shots). We had our friends the Marti's here for the afternoon on Saturday and we went to Art in the Pearl and out to lunch with a family in the neighborhood that we have gotten to know.

Dude! Do you realize how cool this is??? We did stuff with other people from the area! Like, omigosh! We might be adjusting! Even today for the first day of school, the kids were in a relatively good mood: anxious, but excited all at the same time. If you know them at all, this is a miracle in and of itself. Stephen was funny, though. He tends to watch the clock so he isn't late. This morning, he looked at the clock and said, "8:01! Four minutes of summer left!" Pitiful.

And I will close with another classic quote from Stephen this week. We were standing outside talking to Mark and Amy, the neighbors that had driven us to the vet when Sundae died, and introducing them to Sasha. (We hardly know these neighbors, just so you know.) Stephen noticed one of the neighborhood cats wandering around and went off to pet it. After a few minutes he came back, got Mark's attention, and said, "Um, excuse me, but a cat just crapped on your lawn." "Crapped"? He just said "crapped" to these people we hardly know? So now you know why it's such a big deal that we did things with people from this area - they are still willing to get together with us even with our many idiosyncrasies. Beautiful.