Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Moving Right Along

We are scheduled to have our social worker visit later this week. Our home study agency has been very solicitous, especially after they found out about our deadline. They told our SW to get on it by a certain date or they would do it themselves. I still had to email several days later that I had not heard anything yet from our SW, but if that's what it takes, okay. I know SWs are overworked anyway, so I was nice about it. And now we have our appointment and then our update should be right along.

Now all we have to do is track down all the little details in the home study that will have to be changed, e.g. any new addresses and all ages of various people. My work status has changed--I have started working part time--but they say that they can address that in our update with a couple of sentences. But it's all picky little details to update, nothing major.

* * * * *
We are noticing the stress of the uncertain state of IA on all related agencies. Our home study agency is fairly small and personal. I know they have been feeling the slowdown--the adoptions programs of two of their main countries have been closed down or slowed to a crawl. They've been sending out fund-raising letters and informational documents to keep their clients informed. They have even laid off several people in the last month, which is really too bad. And they were so small to begin with that it sounds like they are down to the bare bones of the staff now.

Despite fundraising letters, I am not inclined to send them *more* money. Still, I can appreciate their uncertain position, so when we accidentally overpaid on our latest update, we had them hold that as credit for future updates rather than send the $400 back. As M says, we can afford it even if it's not ideal.

It's also a possibility that if they don't weather this slowdown that they may go under within the next few years... neccessitating our REDOing our home study with another agency (ack!). So yeah, we thought it was a "good faith" thing to to do to have them hold our overpayment while they are cash-poor.

* * * * *
Hey, I told a few more people about this adoption thing recently.

One was a college friend with whom I have started writing to more frequently. We live in different countries, so we see each other only rarely (it's been years now), but we are good about writing. I am also friends with her husband and like hearing about their kids and their lives. It's been really fun to renew a regular correspondence.

Since we've been sharing more of our lives recently, I was telling her some of our IF and IA stuff, and a couple of months ago, I finally sent her a big long saga of the adoption proceedings and the slowdown and all those frustrations. She sent me a very encouraging, sensitive and supportive response, which really touched my heart. I was also relieved that she was as gentle as I had hoped when I took the gamble of sharing more. I guess sometimes it's not just the sharing but the response that makes it worthwhile. I know she has had some hard times along the way, so she's not innocent of how things that can go wrong. It's just the stuff of life, isn't it?

I also recently ran into people we know who had just recently brought their daughter home from China! They had been in that massive LID that took 6 months to place, waiting about 2.5 years or so. We live on opposite sides of the state and of course, we had had no idea that they had been in the same process that we were in until we saw them with their daughter and guessed the situation. I didn't leap at them immediately... haha! But later when I remarked that her LID must have been in Dec of 05, she knew we were in the same boat, on the road to China!

It was really wonderful to see them with their daughter. It was also a pleasant surprise to know someone in real life who had undergone so many of the same challenges and understood what we are going through! It was very moving to me to see them as a family. It also, silly as it sounds, gave me concrete hope that we would be parents someday. I know how people like to say that you forget the wait after you have your children, but it's not much comfort when we still have *years* of waiting ahead of us, so this was a concrete example: someday that will be us.

It was great to talk and share/commiserate a little with each other. It sounds like we have a new connection--yea! :) And their daughter was such an engaging cutie. I really loved watching them interact, like when she and her Dad would wave at each other from a distance, or taking her Mom by the finger and taking her to explore something or somebody. She would sometimes giggle or hand her shoes to other people... the kind of baby dearheart that people just gravitate to. I wasn't the only one who thought she was a dear!

I did try to say a few things in Mandarin depending on the context (hi there! oh,are you thirsty?), but it wasn't clear if she understood me! Sometimes the non-verbal works better at that age. I was tickled to recognize some signing going on. She reminded me of my youngest niece when she was just learning to interact and communicate. Anyway--it all felt happy to me. :)

* * * * *
These days I am more optimistic about learning Chinese again. I'm not optimistic about the *wait* at all, but as my friend said, I have all this time to practice my Chinese! Okay, okay, I'll give it another go.

* * * * *

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Update Number One

I know I haven't been around much recently.

Last month, we set about compiling a pile of paperwork to start the process of getting a homestudy update so we can reapply for the Citizen & Immigration Services 171h form via the I-600a.

When I saw the amount of things we would have to do just for an update, I was very grouchy and depressed.

Medical updates, financial updates, criminal record checks, and something about a "Responsible Individuals List" which seems to be an database tracking child molesters. And we had to fill out a new application (12 pages worth of info and legal agreements), although they have a wealth of detailed personal information about us already. Oh yes, and send them about $800 for the whole update.

It turns out that after the big push for our dossier, I have run out of *all* patience for *any* paperwork. I had just started to feel pretty good about being able to ignore the wait, and being reminded of the massive amount of paperwork *just to stay in line* shook me up. I felt exhausted just thinking about it, and here we had *another* stack to deal with.

M was just "eh, whatever." Lucky for him, I've been doing it (as usual, the paperwork falls onto me), but I haven't been cheerful about it. So I spent some time wailing and complaining and feeling glum at the aggravation ahead of us.

It took us more than a month to gather all this together and deliver it. Now we have to get an appointment with our social worker so we can have her visit and have her spend a couple of weeks writing it up and.... If I don't hear from them within the next couple of working days, I will call and bug them for a social worker appointment. It might have escaped their attention that we are working under a deadline.

Yes, our current 171h will expire in the middle of May. The federal agency has decided to lighten the financial burden for couples having to wait so long that they have to renew by waiving the *first* renewal if the application arrives before the old one expires. Notice that's the *first* one. With the wait extending 4-5+ years, we'll end up having to pay out a few more times anyway, but it would be nice to save a little bit of money, eh?

In any case, the thing weighing on my mind is that if for some reason we don't get the whole bigger application (incl. homestudy update) in to the CIS before the middle of May, we'll have to pay another $800+ for apply for renewal, not including the fingerprint renewal, which we'll have to pay for anyway. That's running about $80 a person. In the grand scheme of things, it's not really a big deal, but the thought of having to do this repeatedly.... *sigh*

So it would be nice if the social worker did not sit on her hands like she did the last time. I am dreading the possibility of having to Fed Ex our application overnight to try to make the freakin deadline. *sigh*

* * * * *
We still get the occasional question from friends or family about "How are things going with the adoption?" My answer is usually the same: "Well, our paperwork is still sitting there in China..."

I am making an effort to educate the people who need to know, for instance our doctor (who is shocked by the slowdown). To avoid misplaced pity or ideas, I try to be as straightforward and cheerfully matter of fact as I can. It doesn't help us to get dragged into someone else's emotion about it.

However, I was somewhat taken aback by my MIL's recent cheerful "So, how is the baby-making going?" Ahhaha... "Well, our paperwork is still sitting there in China..." I'm not sure what she was thinking... that we were adopting on a whim, or that we just hadn't "tried hard enough" to "make" "one of our own." *rolling my eyes* Well, she already has *grandchildren* popping out great-grand-babies, so it's not like she's heavily invested in our outcome. For most friends, they either know about the slowdown or they know nothing about our situation at all.

On a happier note, I am actually feeling overall, well, happy. Professionally and personally, I am forging ahead and doing interesting things. We are certainly not putting our lives on hold (anymore) while we wait to become parents. Definitely a good thing for our mental health.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Old Triggers

Yep, it's another round of people who annoy me. :)

Okay, this time it's a relative who gets irate and worked up to near-hysteria about nearly anything once she's in the mood to. This is irritating because she is not even getting upset about a real thing, but being triggered by something that maybe only slightly resembles or reminds her of something that upsets her. Asking about the connection does not bring anything to closure... I get irritated by the conversation being dragged off in various directions based on these derailing tangents with no obvious connection.

So I have to open my big mouth and query this, this using any convenient trigger to go off on an anxious rant in a completely different direction, and how no one can get a word in edgewise meanwhile. But even this is an affront to the precious feeeeelinggggs. She is very, um, grouchy, to have to wonder why she is doing this so frequently. She feels severely attacked by my even questioning this. Oh, so then I am being the insensitive one... Oh well, maybe I am. I breathe slowly and will myself to delicately back off... (which is in itself an accomplishment)

So I think to myself that probably I have those kind of triggers too, that set me off on an emotional whirlwind although it is not the thing itself that is upsetting me, but the emotional reaction to being reminded of it... For me, it is something like a time when someone done me a deep personal wrong, or when I lost a friend through some tragedy. Or general worthless malaise. Yup, I can get dragged into it all over again.

So I relive my stuff, and this person also relives her stuff -- and it's driving me crazy because she's ratchetting up the fear at top volume, blotting out anything else "real" around her. I want to ask her, "Why do you do this to yourself??" And "Why do you rush headlong into a state that you clearly do not enjoy much?" Or I don't know--maybe she does get something out of it, maybe the rush of adrenaline.

It reminds me of someone I used to know who dealt with any and all difficult emotions by throwing herself into feeling each one to the point of deliberate exaggeration in an effort to "cleanse" herself of these "bad" emotions. As if she could purge herself of the emotions. She said that, too, she had to purge to get rid of it. Did this prevent her from further difficulties? No indeed. In fact, she only reinforced those emotions, wearing the emotional groove deeper and deeper every time she put herself into that state and milked it for all it was worth. Anger, pain, sorrow, spite... Afterwards, she was all worn out... and nevermind the effect of all this stuff on other people... I suspected she was addicted to the rush of anger and fury, at the very least, for the amount of satisfaction she seemed to get out of it.

Okay, so I am aware that emotions also have a physical affect on us, mostly chemical and cardiovascular, I think. We are reminded of something and our hearts beat faster, we start getting steamed or fearful or whatever our pattern... it's so easy to recall those strong feelings because we store them in physical memory. Maybe a similar physical state can trigger a memory too. My DH has told me stories about when he was doing yoga regularly that sometimes the poses would bring up strong emotions in him. Some deeply-buried emotion would come up and sweep over him. So apparently, that's not uncommon to have physical states trigger emotional ones. I'd be interested to learn more about any research done about this.

I have nothing against honoring our experiences and for that matter, our traumas. But we store so much stuff in our bodies as it is... why add to our burden? Why relive painful times so obsessively? I have to ask myself if there is a better way to soften that physical/emotional groove, that habit, and to lay down some new tracks. It would mean catching the event at or before the trigger point before the needle slips into the groove irretrievably, and learning ways of redirecting the reaction. Maybe even reconstructing the response itself.

* * * *
Okay, so here's my challenge:

Notice when I am reacting strongly to something.
Notice how it manifests, emotionally, physically, behaviorally, other.
Notice any images or old scenes it may bring up.
Listen for any internal voices playing old tapes.
Try to soothe, acknowledge, redirect...
Try to do something different physically to help unkink the old pattern?
Reflect on the apparent trigger point(s) for future reference.
Take notes and brainstorm a better plan for next time.
* * * *
Oh, this should be interesting. I'm still a little annoyed however. Maybe my sisters know all my trigger points? Maybe my family is one big trigger point waiting to happen! Oh, this should be *really* interesting!!

* * * *

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Friday, February 01, 2008

small distractions

* * *
D'ja ever have one of those days (or weeks or months) in which one does not feel very social?

I love visiting with friends. I love reading me some blogs. I even enjoy those networking thingies in moderation.

But sometimes I am too scattered, too tired, too obnoxiously un-focused to make coherent conversation or post a thoughtful post or comment. I run out of energy or attention to be much more than a goof.

So yeah, it would nice to continue that conversation, but I have to go and stare off into space for a while. Or immerse myself in something other than interaction.

I feel bad for getting into these non-socially-motivated moods, but maybe, hey, here's a thought: maybe that's just the way I am and I don't need to try to justify or apologize for it.

Like after certain big events when I need a LOT of down time to recover. Am I recovering from a high-social time? Hm?

Okay, I'll go explore that idea. I'll also entertain other people's ideas. I'm not restrictive, just distracted.
* * *

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Happy Things Recently

* * * *
Visiting and talking with *both* of my nieces. Although they are about 12-13 years apart in age, they are both such cute and endearing personalities. I love it when I get to see/talk to them and do little projects with them.

Accomplishing cleaning projects around the yard. (making a dent in the amount of wood to pick up)

Mint-filled Lindor truffles.

Snuggle cats.

Small but steady paid work.

A chatty letter from my sister--yea! (a real life paper letter!)

Vegetarian chili in winter--yummy and cozy

Conversation and snuggle time with M.

Taking yet more stuff to Goodwill.

New color inspirations for Spring.

Bird feeders in steady use.

Pushing myself to grow more in my endeavors--and not doing too badly at it.

Sweeping off the porch, catching up on laundry--even the small things are happy.

Noticing that I have become a better touch-typist than I thought (better than bad-hehe). Now to work on the spelling...(hah)

Suuuushiiii !!

* * * *

I wish you all happy things too. :)

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

family stress fractures

Earlier this year, we heard that this couple we know--let's call them family friends--has been having a rough spot. It's been building up the last few years, but this last year has seen some open dissent. We only got one side of the story, but we were not in a position (or lacking enough tact) to go interviewing other impacted parties to get a bigger picture. And it's not as if we haven't already observed (as it turns out) critically important aspects for years. "Oh, that explains a lot..."

M and I are both a little concerned. No, a LOT concerned. We don't want to think that their marriage wouldn't survive, but this recent upheaval is pointing out all the stress fractures in the family. Mostly that some stresses have reached a critical point so that the different sides are acting out in their individual feelings of frustration and anger. It's one of the usual sticking points--job and time and money and identity and how one or the other is being controlling or over-managing every major decision or thought. I guess one can "manage" these issues for only so long before one has to really deal with them.

It's easy for me to say this or that person is dragging their heels, resisting like hell, trying to blow or keep the lid on. Maybe you never want to think of yourself as ever getting a divorce, but there's still stuff to deal with... better to deal with it than having it blow up in your face. Defusing a b0mb is a delicate and dedicated task no doubt, no less than defusing the pressure in a marriage. *duck*!!

Mostly, though, I can see the impact on the kids. Angry, anxious, afraid. I really worry about them. This last time on the phone, it was ... interesting, the older kids were holding themselves at a distance emotionally and younger kids especially were bickering and nattering anxiously (in contrast with their usual delight when we call or visit). And certain adults didn't even come to the phone to say hi. Aaargh. The whole scrim of polite social interaction was pretty thin. It was a little disconcerting, but I was reminded again --they are ALL stressed.

So I worry about all of them. I worry about the couple.... I can see the fault lines, but even if I see some things they are doing that make it harder on their relationship, I am not in a position to tell them so. Thank goodness for counseling. Hope it's doing some good, but I'm not sure. If the kids are the canaries in a coal mine, things are still pretty tense.

So I worry about the kids too. How hard to be so young at these various ages and have the security of your parents be so uncertain. I've never seen them so... disaffected is the word that comes to mind, but how can that even make sense if they are actually so *highly* affected?

We try to be good relations in their lives. We talk and play with them, snuggle when we are there in person.... We try to be another set of adults who take a positive interest in them, who have known them since they were babies, who cheer them on. These days I see them having some disappointments with their parents that are threatening to be life-long. It pains me that I was not more sympathetic the last time the one kiddo brought it up (trying to explain it away rather than saying "that must have been very disappointing"). It was awkward... as if the one thing that may or may not have been his Dad's fault was standing in for all the other ways he's feeling let down.


I know, I know. every couple has their sticking points, their "rough patch." The kids are just so vulnerable at that age, at any age. So, I worry.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

House Meme AKA I can't resist a meme

I’m continuing the tradition and stealing this meme from various bloggers I read.

* * * *

When you walk in your front door, which room do you enter?
The living room.

Do you have a dishwasher?
That would be me. Sometimes my husband. Otherwise, no.

Is your living room carpeted or does it have hardwood floors?
Hardwood floors. Easy to sweep down.

Do you keep your kitchen knives on the counter or in a drawer?
They’re all in a drawer.

House, apartment, duplex or trailer?

How many bedrooms is it?

Gas stove or electric?

Do you have a yard?
Yes. More than we can take care of.

What size TV is in the living room?
Don't have one.

Are your plates in the same cupboard as your cups?

Is there a coffee maker sitting on your kitchen counter?

What room is your computer in?
All of them are in the office.

Are there pictures hanging in your living room?
Yes, a bunch. Seven pics of family groupings, both formal and casual. A wedding photograph. Two art prints. A pencil and ink landscape. An abstract photographic print. A relief print I made years ago. Oh, plus a small mirror and another small collage-print by an artist friend. Oh, and a landscape pastel too! I know a number of artists and have a bought good stuff over the years. That's just the living room. Oh, and a very small drawing by a semi-famous great uncle.

Are there any themes found in your home?
Cozy eclectic with touches of antique farm chic. Nature-related stuff, especially landscapes of various sorts. Excellent contemporary pottery and art. The office is done in contemporary paper-clutter.

What kind of laundry detergent do you use?
I think it's Seventh Generation or some non-scented stuff. Our washer is super efficient so we use miniscule amounts of detergent. One jug lasts us the better part of a year.

Do you use dryer sheets?
No, never.

Curtains in your home?
Nope. Except one thrown over the front door windows. It suffices.

What color is your fridge?

Is your house clean?
Har har. No. Well, some of it is.

What room is the most neglected?
I'd have to go with the entire yard! The basement runs second.

Are the dishes in your sink/dishwasher clean or dirty?
Dirty at the moment.

How long have you lived in your home?
About 8 years.

Where did you live before?
Rented in both a house and an apartment.

Do you have one of those fluffy toilet lid covers on your toilet?
Ack, no.

Do you have a scale anywhere in your house?
In the bathroom.

How many mirrors are in your house?
Six. One full-length one on the basement door (good for feng shui purposes), one on the bathroom cabinet, one kitschy one in the bedroom, and a little bitty one with a carved clay frame by a potter friend (art around a mirror). Also a hand held mirror that's double-sided in the bathroom cabinet, and a very large mirror panel in the basement from when I did self-portraits an age ago. Seven if you include the little safety mirror reflector we take backpacking in case we have to signal the rescue planes.

Look up. What do you see?
A very white ceiling. With one corner peeling from moisture.

Do you have a garage?
No, just a big ol' gravel driveway.

* * * *
That'll do for now.

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