Thursday, February 9, 2012

So many miles behind me, still so far to go… Some notes on Life

Springwater Trail. Portland, Oregon.  February 6, 2012.

So Many Miles Behind Me

A little sore and tired today, but I am taking to day off, mostly.  Focusing on some light projects at home…

Saturday, 5.52 mile walk with the big one and the dog, down the Gresham-Fairview Trail and looping home past the big quarry.


Sunday, short 2.5 mile walk with the big one and the dog up the hill to Binford Reservoir..

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Monday, 12.5 mile bike ride on the Springwater Trail with the big one, who had the day off of school.  This one was a little rough on the boy, not realizing that it was a little uphill into a strong headwind the whole way back, but he did well.


Tuesday, four mile bike ride down the hill to pick the big one up from school after he threw up, two miles on foot, round trip, to Safeway, and another four miles, round trip, for my Tuesday meeting, for a daily total of ten miles on bike or foot.


Wednesday, 7.3 mile walk to and from the little one’s school for an appointment that was canceled five minutes before I arrived and another two mile round trip walk to an appointment with the big one.  9.3 miles for the day, total.


For a total of 39.82 miles on bike or foot, mostly foot, this week (so far).  I am going to call it 40 miles in five days.  Try and stop me.  Considering those are two of the first three bike rides of any length I’ve taken in 20 years, while they are short and flat rides to many, they felt fairly substantial to me.

Though tempted to declare myself ready for some decent backpacking trips this summer, I must be cautious.  No heavy pack on my back for these trips and not much elevation on any of them. 

Unfortunately, all of this necessary running around has completely derailed my plans for the week. 

Binford Reservoir.  Gresham, Oregon.  February 5, 2012.

The Boys Being Boys

Things are going pretty well, for the most part, but it wouldn't be life without some ups and downs.  It helps me to sit down and write through these things from time to time.

Right now, the toughest issues are with the boys, the little one in particular. Last week the little one had a bit of a relapse into old behavior. Definitely the worst he's had at his school this year, matching what I was seeing when he first started at Serendipity after moving in with me last spring, though still not as bad as what he was doing in Beaverton.

Things, overall, are running pretty smoothly, so the recent set backs are not due to any transitions or anything like that. I think it is just a little bit of boundary testing and, since he has been doing pretty well for the most part for so many months, I think a part of it was just forgetting that there are consequences for violent behavior. I am not too concerned, but it was really important that we clamped down on this right away and made it clear to him that these behaviors were not acceptable and would not be tolerated.

So this has been a bit of a distraction this last week, a lot of extra time spent working with his teachers and counselor. But I do think this is just a part of the process with him.

We'll probably see this happen every once in a while, for a while, with decreasing intensity and frequency until he is back to "normal." Also, everyone is in agreement on this, that these behaviors are choices, bad decisions that he is making, and that he does have control over these behaviors. No one is running around looking to put him on anti-psychotics like they were before he moved in here last spring, trying to figure out "what is wrong with him." It's just left over behavioral issues from too many years of running feral.

Last week, I was relieved that I wasn't back at work quite yet because it would have really been difficult to handle this situation if I was. Good timing on the little one's part to get this step out of the way now and not in a month or two.

Unfortunately, we may not be out of the woods on these issues yet.  As I was about to post this, I received this email regarding the little one’s transition back to his mainstream elementary school:

…[he] should be brining his data sheet to our school because we have issues going on that probably aren't being documented well. He needed to be asked to leave his gen. ed class today because he was disruptive. He was mad at another student.  I think we should probably have another meeting before he adds time. We received 4 restraint reports from the SSC, he has hurt students at recess at our school, not listening to adults here, I was told that in resource room for math he is not working. He often sits with hands in hair not doing work. With all this happening I'm a little concerned with his readiness and how this transition should go.

The big one also had a bit of a slump the last week, week and a half or so. I've been pretty much letting him fly solo on the homework while I focus on the final push towards employment, and his work has slacked off a bit as a result. For the most part, he's turning most of his work in (though he did miss one or two assignments recently), but it's just not being done very well when I am not checking it for him and holding him accountable.

Accountability in our current system happens when his grades are posted online and he gains or loses privileges based on his marks. But I will say that he is making a lot of progress. He even earned a second positive behavior referral recently.

The last time I let him fly solo, he stopped completely. This time he only slumped a bit.

He had some major tests last week that have not been graded yet, but hopefully he did well and he gets out of the woods in science, at least. I was able to spend quite a bit of time helping him study last week.

Tests have been his big problem this term. On his assignments, the big one has been getting Bs and Cs for the most part, but he's been failing most of his tests, and this is killing him in the two classes where tests carry a lot more weight than the assignments. Unfortunately, this keeps him right on the line between passing and failing, so if he blows a couple assignments or forgets to turn them in, they drop him down to Ds and Fs really fast.

He is learning that he doesn't have a lot of wiggle room and that it is better to go ahead and take a few extra minutes on his homework than to slack off on it and then have to deal with the consequences... A few extra minutes one evening can save him from weeks of no video games or being grounded.

Don't get me wrong, all of these issues are just a part of the process and everyone, for the most part, I feel is doing really well overall. These incidents and issues are all expected, minor hiccups, but everyone is definitely moving in the right directions. As long as, over time, more steps are taken forwards than backwards, we can deal with these small slides in the wrong direction.


Getting Daddy PAID!

Then there is the search for a new writing contract…  Looking for work…

At this point the job hunt is only frustrating because the active job hunt hasn't gotten off the ground yet, not because of a lack of leads or results.

Because of these unexpected events with the boys, I am falling about three weeks behind schedule on this right now. Most of the last two weeks was spent taking care of boy issues, and I was running about a week behind schedule before that on getting more than a couple resumes off in the first place.

I have one or two solid days of prep work left before I feel comfortable sending out resumes in mass (though I have sent off a couple when I've stumbled on possibilities). I still need to clean up my websites a bit (about one day's work, most of the heavy lifting is done now) and to finish the portfolio I just started on Behance (probably no more than a day's work, mostly spent figuring out how I want to present my work samples and then reviewing and posting this material - the difficult part is selecting or editing samples that display my abilities without revealing the proprietary information of former employers).

After this, I plan on starting a run through the job sites, updating my profiles and then applying to everything that looks like a possibility (shotgun blasts of resumes, not sniping at select prestige targets). At one or two sites a day, that should keep me busy full time for about a week to ten days. After that, the process will be one of keeping up to date with new postings on these sites and starting a run through the old temp agencies, looking for short term and long term opportunities.

The agency part of this process can fill up two or three weeks. It can be pretty time consuming because I usually have to run all over the greater Portland area for interviews and skills tests. It is difficult to be certain, but I hope to be starting some sort of a job four to six weeks from the time I start getting resumes off in mass. Looking at past job hunts, that is a realistic timeframe, I feel.

Dead Wood.  Springwater Corridor.  February 6, 2012.

The Ex One

Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen financial issues the ex one is having, which has created unforeseen financial issues for myself and the boys, sending out  resumes is going to have to be on hold until the ex one can resolve some issues she has been having, because, right now, I am limited to walking/biking distance and I need a new printer cartridge to print resumes and work samples for interviews.

She needs to dig herself out of the hole this time and deal with the consequences.  The longer I am out of work, from here out, the more we'll have to rely on her income, delaying or even permanently derailing her long term plans, so there is incentive for her to get this specific incident and this on-going problem resolved.

I do have some distasteful back-up plans if she is not able to resolve this in a week or two, but I am not ready to go there yet. Rent and power are paid and we have enough food to get through.

It's been so long since I've had any money that it doesn't really make much of a difference to me one way or the other, and since we are finally through the two months of on again off again school breaks, it won't effect the boys much either. This isn't the time of the year where we are doing a lot of running around anyway.

She may have to make some choices about how she spends her money, such as the cable and internet. These are not critical issues to me. The boys and I don't watch that much television, and I discovered that there is free wi-fi in our complex’s rental office/resident lounge for the tenants to use, so I don't need an active internet connection in the apartment for job hunting, especially after the first week to ten days.

But I am shut down until I have bus fare for transportation and until I can print resumes and work samples.

I think the issues she's had with the finances are helping to bring her to terms with some long term issues about her current abilities and about her future.  She is realizing, slowly, that some of her plans may need to be modified or changed. That some of her plans may not have been entirely realistic (buying a house while living on a limited income from Social Security).

She is making significant progress in the parenting department, but I don't think she is quite up to dealing with the tough situations solo yet. For example, I wandered out the other night to find the big one, who was grounded without gear because he was flunking math and dropped his grade to a D in science, playing video games on her computer. When I reminded them that he's not supposed to be doing this she sighed and rolled her eyes in a sort of "you can’t expect me to keep track of this" sort of way...

She knows better than to say that this isn't her job, but I think she still hasn't accepted that this is a part of her job, especially if she ever wants to live on her own and have significant parenting time.  However, I think her thyroid may be more to blame for these difficulties than anything else.

Both her and I are realizing  that she is still experiencing some pretty severe issues with her thyroid that are making it difficult for her to make clear decisions and to maintain a healthy emotional balance, so she is going to start following up on this more with her doctors, making this a bigger priority in her life.

We received some test results a couple days ago that reveal that this gland is getting more and more out of whack.  She may be looking at surgery later this year to have it removed.  If so, that will really be a game changer for everyone’s plan for 2012, but it may be what is necessary for her to get her life back on a stable track and to be the parent that she really wants to be, has been in the past during her one healthy stretch the last ten years, and can be again.

In the long term, if she can step up and be a more successful parent, that will help all of us tremendously, and I am glad that we have some light at the end of the tunnel on this. 

Unfortunately, the tunnel may be a bit longer than any of us realized a week or two ago.

So Many Miles Ahead Of Me

I do feel that, by the time I take on a new writing contract, I'll have had at least a couple more weeks to make sure that things are running smoothly (as much as possible) around here. It is time to start the next phase of the getting back to work process, to start actively searching, and I am eager to get started.

Like I said, once I pull the trigger on the resumes, I should still have at least four to six weeks to get the home front prepared for me being out of the house more than I am in it. A little longer depending on how long it takes Jenna to resolve her financial issue or a little shorter if I am lucky and God is willing. But it is definitely time to get this process started. I do not think the family will gain anything from having me wait any longer than necessary to get this started.

As for myself in all of this, I am feeling pretty weary and burned out.  It is a little daunting to be looking at such a major change in my own life when feeling like this, but I think making these changes will help me more than hurt me.

It's been a long year plus of taking care of everyone and I really haven't had a break since I left for California to help my mother with her issues at the start of November 2010. I am feeling that a bit, and I know my productivity has been down a bit for the last month or so. It is not depression or anything worse, it is just being tired and burned out.

Getting back to a regular job should be a refreshing change of pace for me. While it might be a little tough on the boys and Jenna, it will be nice to get back into a more "normal" pattern of life. I also think that will help everyone else get back into a more "normal" pattern of life.

Until then, I am hanging in there and trudging the path.

Springwater Trail.  Portland, Oregon.  February 6, 2012.

So, there's the big update with everything going on right now.

Considering that my greatest need, financially and mentally, is to get back to work, this pause for the last year has effected everyone else too. While I've been focusing on the day to day needs of troubled children, we've all had to make sacrifices. Now that the children are healed enough for me to take on a job, we'll all benefit from increased financial security and, hopefully, the ability to have a little more freedom and fun during weekends and breaks.

I really look at this next step as being a very important part of the healing process for my whole family, reflecting the progress the whole family has made since I returned from California a year ago.

As for the ex one and the boys, it took years for them to get as messed up as they were, and it will take years for the boys to recover from those experiences, but I am constantly amazed at how much progress they have made in such a short period of time already.

The last couple weeks have dealt out some tough hands to play, but nothing impossible and these are the challenges we all must confront as we heal. For me, I am just looking forward to getting my life back on track this year after a long pause. This past year has been frustrating, because I've put so many of my needs on hold while taking care of everyone else's. 

But watching the boys’ successes and growth has been even more rewarding.

It just shows me that, fundamentally, they are good kids who have just been confused and distracted by too much crazy crap from the grownups in their lives over the years.

I am also very thankful that, since last spring, at least, that I have been able to be a part of the solution for them, not a part of the problem. I thank my father very much for having that opportunity, because without his help last year, I would not have been able to be there for them as much as they needed me.

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