Saturday, July 12, 2014

Becoming a Foster Parent

About a year ago I decided to quit school. I had been planning on working towards my Bachelors in Social Work, but for a variety of reasons, I hung up my hat. At the same time, I wanted to have some sense of fulfillment in life that I simply wasn't experiencing with my everyday routine. I had been pondering, for a VERY long time, becoming a foster parent, but the timing never felt right. That invisible boundary of "some day" dissipated. I proposed the idea to Rich and got his tentative agreement to attend an orientation.

The orientation had more people than I expected (probably about 30), and was hosted by two ladies who both worked for different agencies. They gave us a presentation for what we could expect as foster parents, highlighting just the basics, and said we would get into much more detailed info if we chose to follow through and take the PS-MAPP classes. After orientation, Rich seemed slightly more warmed up to the idea and agreed to move forward with selecting an agency and taking classes.

We were given a rather long list of agencies to choose from, each of which had their own special parameters; some were Christian organizations, others dealt exclusively with infants and toddlers, some were targeted for the black community, and many were just very general with slight variations. I spent some time going over them, and with the input of some of my Social Worker friends, selected an agency. I called, got scheduled for classes and got busy.

The classes were kind of a 'fast track' schedule, so rather than twelve weeks of evening classes, we chose six weeks of Saturday classes. There was a lot of homework, various other paperwork, house preparation, and much self reflection / discussion. Some of the paper work was family history type stuff, like how we were disciplined as kids, who we grew up with, etc. Some was to establish specifics about the kids we would be taking in, including age range (we chose 6-12), if we had a gender/race preference, what kind of disabilities or 'labels' we would be willing to work with (i.e. 'fire starter' or 'history of violence toward other kids'). Our class was a mixture of community foster and kinship. Community foster means you take in kids from the general population who were displaced from their parents, often due to neglect. Kinship foster is for relatives of the kids in foster care, most of which were grandparents. Working with a mixture of community/kinship was interesting because the kinship folks already have the kids in their home, and we got to hear about their experience working with 'the system,' like court dates, case workers, and bio-parents. The classes were incredibly interesting, and I felt we bonded really well as a class. We did some role playing, worked in groups, had deep discussions, and overall learned a lot. We also met some really great people.

Once the classes were complete, we had a meeting with our newly assigned Licensing Worker, who came to our house and listened to and recorded, essentially, our life stories. She then submitted a 30 page report to the state about her findings. A few weeks later we got an email saying that we are now officially licensed to be foster parents. I know it's what we signed up for, but when the time arrived, we definitely had a "holy crap, this is real, and it's happening right now" moment. We had some bumps along the road, lots of looking at ourselves and considering what we want, and many 'ah ha' moments, which are always startling. We have decided to move forward and starting in August, we will begin taking placements. We are both excited, nervous, and so looking forward to what happens next.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Wisdom from John F. Kennedy

I ran across a quote that I fell in love with and is so relevant right now. I didn't want to lose it, so I'll keep it someplace safe - here in the open, for all to behold. There is more to the quote, but this part is the part that grabbed me.

“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie--deliberate, contrived and dishonest--but the myth--persistent, persuasive and unrealistic." [Commencement Address at Yale University, June 11 1962]”

Monday, December 16, 2013

Color Me Rad 5k

I completed my first 5k on 11/09/13 (which is 3.1 mile run, for my fellow 'Mericans). I would've told you sooner, but I'm a lazy bum and it's easier to passively observe prefabricated empty media than march into my mind and mine for organic nuggets of creativity therein. It took me over a month, but here I am, mind mining.

The run was called Color Me Rad, and a (probably miniscule) portion of the proceeds went to breast cancer research; the other portion went into the pockets of the folks who put on the run. No bigs though, since the company I work for does a similar thing for charities and I'd be a super hypocrite to harp on Color Me Rad when my paycheck comes from the same thing. I digress.

Since I am a major couch potato and often go from my quiet cubicle at work to the isolation of Couch Island when I get home, my feller and I trained for it using the Couch to 5k program. It was kind of amazing to go from being red-faced, head pounding, sweaty and heaving on the first run to 9 weeks later running 30 minutes straight with more ease than run number one. The engineering of the human body is masterful. We started our training in August, which is often over 100 degrees Fahrenheit around these parts on any given day. We figured as the runs got longer, the weather would be improving. It was a wise and kind of ballsy strategy, but I'm glad we did it that way. It helped to have Rich running with me - the evenings I didn't want to run, he pushed me to get out the door, and vice versa. The other thing I couldn't have gone without is the watch I bought to time the run. It was hard for my miserly self to part with $45 for a watch, but I used it on every single run once I got it, so I'm glad I parted with the dough.

This particular run had 'color stations' set up about every mile where CMR workers grabbed handfuls of 'color bombs' and threw them at passersby to liven things up. The color bombs were made out of colorful corn starch (i.e. purple, pink, orange, green), and the color stations were pretty dusty. There were also folks holding color hoses, and they would spray us with what looked like a water hose, but shot out colorful liquid that stayed on better than the color bombs.

Surprisingly, more than half of the people in the run were walking the course rather than running. I was pretty proud of my little group for running all the way through. Some people were wearing funsy stuff like tutus or Twister costumes or colorful wigs, but we just kept it simple and wore the shirts they gave us for the race.

I'm really happy that I stuck with it and followed through, since my typical course of action is avoidance and non-commitment. Here's a pic of me on race day, and I actually look like I'm enjoying myself! Physical activity is unexpectedly stress-relieving once the body is conditioned properly.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Quitting Time

I quit school. Sure did. Applied, got accepted, spoke to an adviser on campus, signed up for classes, waited, thought, considered, quit. It just didn't feel right, and I kept trying to wait it out, thinking I'd come around. I was constantly questioning if that was REALLY what I wanted or just what I felt like I was supposed to be doing. Like I had to meet these standards, take this step next, and to what end? I've grown tired of waiting for my life to start, going through the motions because of the supposed next step, and promising myself that eventually I will start LIVING and not just PREPARING TO LIVE. I was uncertain about my major, and I feel that if I wish to further my education, it should be in something I feel deeply connected to, not just a "meh, this is the best I can come up with." Also, I'm in zero debt right now. I deeply despise being in debt, and going to school would require me to take out loans and be tens of thousands in the hole. And since my major was apparently not that popular, most classes were during daytime hours, when I have to be at work, or online, which I hate. AND campus is a heck of along drive from me. And I'm not willing to sacrifice my job for my schooling. Especially since the money I make now is similar to an entry level position that my degree would earn me, so there was no financial gain aspect - just a loss from the indebtedness I would find myself in. And my major typically requires a masters degree in order to get into most good paying positions, and I never planned to get a masters. And...and...and I keep wondering if I'm making excuses or if all these thoughts DO tally up to my conclusion - quitting is the right answer. I guess in reality there is no "right" answer. My life, my rules. Of course I haven't completely closed the door to the idea that I may go back at some undetermined point in the future, when/if the notion strikes me. In the mean time, I'll plan things like people whose days aren't jam packed are able to plan. I'll take FUN classes! I'll do things I WANT to do, rather than feel OBLIGATED to do. I've started LIVING, instead of PLANNING TO LIVE. It is a good feeling, but I still have this niggling thought that I may regret this. Nothing is certain. Just gotta keep moving forward and try to take the next best step.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Trip to South Korea

I am by no means a world traveler. I have only been out of the country once, to Rocky Point, Mexico when I was about five years old. The only thing I remember from that trip is one of the little girls we went with got bit on the toe by a crab while playing on the beach and howled and cried for an incredible amount of time. So when I heard my sister was going to be stationed in South Korea for a year with the military, it didn't really cross my mind that I'd be going. About six months into her stay, my little wheels started turning and I realized I'd never have another actual REASON to go there - it felt like now or never. I talked to her about the plan I was hatching in my head and she was incredibly excited about it, and she's one of those people whose excitement is infectious, so my mind started working double time. Before I knew it, at the age of 28, I finally had a reason to apply for my passport. How I've longed to get that little baby stamped with evidence of my world travels! I always figured, since I live in a border state, my first trip as an adult would be to Mexico; instead I made my plans to travel half way around the world, literally night and day. Passport was received, tickets were bought, plans were hatched. Before I knew it, I was on a plane headed towards the unknown.

When my plane touched down at the airport in Incheon, it was 4:00AM local time - 16 hours ahead of Phoenix. My sister greeted me at the airport, and we took a return bus to the base, where I was able to stay in her room for the sweet price of FREE for the week. Our next stop was the train station, then from there we took a cab to the Toilet Museum. The main building is shaped like a toilet, and right outside is a giant poo statue.
Many photos were taken, many pooping poses were struck. When we reached the end of the tiny park, we headed back toward base, tuckered out from a long, sweaty Korean summer day.

Day two we just lazed around and went to some shops, soaking up the scenes, comparing and contrasting American life to Korean and getting a few things to prepare for our outing the next day.

Day three was by far my favorite, because it provided some much needed relief from the heat, AND I got to meet a ton of my sister's squadron, which was REALLY cool! I never thought I'd get to know any of the people she works with, and it was awesome to get to put faces to the names of people I've heard about, and see how she interacted with everybody. Keep in mind she has not been stationed in Arizona since she joined the military, so I have never had the chance to meet any of her friends or people she spends time with. I was so happy to have gotten the opportunity. (Sorry, tangent!) ANYWAY, day three we took a bus to Inje where we went zip lining and river rafting. Zip lining was AWESOME! It's something I've always wanted to do, and to do it in South Korea was icing on the cake. So cool! There were a bunch of different lines, and we zipped around from tree house to tree house (or whatever they're supposed to be called!).
Not all tree houses were connected via zip line, a couple were connected with little log platforms, seen here:
When river rafting, we were able to cool down in the water when the river wasn't too rough - a much needed reprieve from the pounding sun.
We also met a cool Korean river raft guide, who didn't speak much English, but was totally awesome nonetheless. We promised to find and friend him on Facebook so we could share group pictures, but were unable to locate him. :( No group pictures for us. [His name was Kisun, or something of the sort - pronounced key-soon. If anyone reading is able to locate him so we can share photos and not disappoint our cool friend, they will automatically be granted 50 cool points!]

The next day we journeyed to Seoul via bus and visited a monk temple (Bongeunsa Temple).
At the temple we saw the back of one single monk as he was walking away! Boo! Despite the elusive monk population, the buildings were beautiful and it was very cool to get to observe some of the worshipers practicing their faith.

Toward evening, we journeyed to Seoul Tower, a pretty cool place that boasts a view of the whole city. It was extra special because we went up to the tower while it was still light, but the sun went down while we were up there and we got to see Seoul at night in their big glass panoramic room. Very cool indeed.
We stayed the night in Seoul and the following day went to the Trick Eye Museum, where optical illusions made for some awesome and hilarious pictures!
We headed back to our little room on base for my last night in Korea.

Some noteworthy observations:

As far as infrastructure, Korea wasn't wildly different than America - there were lots of skyscrapers, huge cities, and well integrated public transportation. The biggest thing that struck me as different was the mannerisms of the people there. For the most part, people kept to themselves and were very somber. When getting on a train, they would find a spot to sit and look down at their laps or get on their phones and completely tune everyone out. I didn't see much social interaction among people. This was especially true for older people. We went to a couple of malls, and in this environment the younger people were a bit different - more chatty toward each other, smiling, and engaged. Also, young couples were much more affectionate publicly than Americans, lots of touching, feeding one another, brushing hair from their partner's face, holding hands, etc. I thought that a strange juxtaposition from the way people acted on the trains. I think that social media may be playing a role because on the trains young people were kind of withdrawn as well as they looked at their phones. Maybe technology is so integrated that people don't have to interact with those around them. Just a thought.

Despite my initial intentions, I ate NO authentic Korean food. First of all, it didn't smell even slightly appetizing. Weird spices that I'm not used to, I suppose. Secondly, the couple of times we tried to go to a restaurant, the people acted cold and withdrawn, and I didn't feel very comfortable. Not sure if it was because we weren't natives, or they were just assholes to everyone in general, but I try to make it a practice to only give my money to people who aren't assholes, so we decided not to dine at those places. Also a strange food oddity of note, every SINGLE DAY, where ever we went, there was a Dunkin' Donuts. I saw more of the chain there than I do here, by far. Every, every shopping center, EVERYWHERE! Weird. Despite my disinterest in Korean food, on the plane ride back I rode with Japan Airlines (who are awesome, by the way), and ate some very strange Japanese food. The thing that stands out most was this salad type cold dish that was all held together by a clear snot-like substance. When I picked up the little beans with my chop sticks, a string of the clear gooey substance trailed from the chopsticks to the plate. I have no idea what it was, and I can't seem to find any answers anywhere! I figure that's enough overseas food culture for one trip anyway.

Luckily for me, many of the signs at the airports I visited were both in the native language AND English, which was the thing I was most worried about (specifically getting lost), so it was easier than I'd expected to find my way around.

After being in Korea for a week, with its somber population, my layover in Japan was a surprise. I found that in the short time I spent in Korea, I was influenced so quickly by their culture. In Japan, airport staff smiled and laughed and acted very friendly, and I found myself avoiding eye contact just so I wouldn't have to engage in their kindness. Korea made me cagey! I guess that's a testament to the human condition - we adapt without even realizing that it's happening.

Overall, it was a rich experience and I got a lot out of it. I definitely feel less apprehensive about international travel because of what I learned on my journey. Soon my sister will be stationed here in Arizona, something we've all been hoping for since she joined the military so many years ago. I can't wait for us to plan a trip together and try a new country on for size, and experience everything for the first time together!

Monday, March 11, 2013

International Mail

Thursday was a good day for mail. I got my Passport, my acceptance letter from Arizona State University, an insurance reimbursement check, a new phone case I ordered from Etsy, and not even one single bill. Awww, yeah!

I have been wanting to get my Passport for YEARS now, but never had a good solid reason. I decided to get brave and go visit my sister since she's stationed in South Korea and I will never ever have another foreseeable reason to travel to South Korea. I have already bought my tickets and will be going at the end of June. The schedule worked out best around my work/school schedule, so I didn't think much of it, but apparently this is during the least desirable part of the year for travel to South Korea. I give zero craps about that because I'm sure we will have an awesome time no matter the weather. I am excited and also HIGHLY nervous because I've never gone out of the country before, except to Mexico when I was really young, so it doesn't even count! And if I were to travel to Mexico now, at least I could communicate somewhat since I know some basic Spanish. You think I know any Korean? Not so much. Maybe I'll make a little cheat sheet so I know how to say "I'm lost. Where is the airport?" and "I'm hungry." "Where is the bathroom? I need to poop." You know, the basics. Usually when something scares me, I just dive in and go for it, because being scared is lame, and adventures are thrilling, even if the very reserved and conservative part of myself has trembling hands.

And as for the ASU acceptance letter, there's another thing to be worried about! I have mentioned the safe cocoon I have built for myself at my local community college. It is time to move on, and no one in my immediate family has ever gone any further than high school, let alone a university, so I'm kind of flailing about, not sure how to maneuver this whole thing. My impression so far is not great; it's like they try to wring every cent possible out of you. For example, there was a $50 application fee (understandable), and a $100 fee for orientation if I want to go to that (which I think I should since I'm totally in the dark here), and my sister in law attended ASU and informed me that parking for a semester is over $200 (freaking ridiculous!), and that's just what I've come across in the month since applying. Who knows what other hidden fee garbage they will pile on? That kind of stuff really infuriates me. The worst part is, I HAVE TO do it if I want a degree, so I just have to suck it up, like all the other students. I propose a revolt! We shall blast Twisted Sister ("We're Not Gonna Take It"), paint our faces in a tribal fashion, and...you know, other protesting type behavior. We'll need a leader though, cause I'm gonna be too busy with work and school and trying to have a life in between. Or I could just take the easy way out and pay the ridiculous nickel-and-dime charges that should be free. Wimpy, but simpler! That's my new motto for 2013. ;)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Domesticated Felis Catus

I received the following text message from Richard yesterday:

"I put cat littler on the driveway where my truck was leaking oil yesterday. When I pulled into the driveway just now, Jari [our cat] was in the middle of the driveway pooping in the little pile of cat litter. I had to stop, let him finish pooping, collect the poop, throw it in the garbage can, then finish pulling into the driveway." Ah, the small hilarious moments of domestic life.