Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Passing the Buck

Got an email from the state worker (who has never done a termination before) that the agency worker (who I think probably has) will be making first contact with Gary's parents.

My first thought was, "the state worker is dropping the ball. That's his job."

My second thought was, "Well, maybe they agreed to do it that way."

My third thought, which I had after I started this post, was, "The agency workers get really irritated at the state workers when the state workers try to manage their cases. So maybe this is the way it is supposed to be, or at least the way the agency worker prefers it to be."

Oh well.

The plan as he explained it to me is:

1. The agency worker will write to them.

2. The state worker will write to them somewhat later. He will put in his letter that Roland and I are committed to not being an obstacle to Gary's contact with the rest of his family. Since Gary is 17, I wanted it to be clear that if just isn't my job to negotiate their relationships for them.

3. At that point I will be allowed to write to them if I want. I'm thinking about that. I feel more comfortable writing to his mother than to his dad, because I'm a little bit afraid of his dad.

4. The public defender assigned to the case is supposed to talk to them after the social workers have made initial contact. At that point his parents can decide whether to relinquish voluntarily.

5. The state worker is not entirely clear on what happens if they do not relinquish, other than there will be a hearing at which the judge will presumably tell everyone what to do.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stupid Foster Parent Training

So we went last night to the required training on med management. Gary doesn't take regular meds, but a lot of kids do, so I figured that it made sense to have the training. Besides, I do need the hours.

I anticipated that it might be about psychiatric drugs. What are reasonable expectations? What changes in environment have to happen for the drugs to "work"? What are the side effects and why we should be cautious about only using them when we need to.

I was really, really wrong.

In the beginning I wrote down quotes so I would look polite and attentive when I really wanted to scream or cry. Interested? Sure you are:

"Oral medications are taken through the mouth." This was followed by examples of medications that came in strips that dissolve on your tongue, liquids, pills.

"Topical medications are put on the skin itself. Just right on it. It could be an ointment or a patch. The medicine goes through the skin and gets into the blood stream. That is really good for kids who hate to take their medicines."

And my absolute favorite, the quote that may have made the entire 2-hour training worth traveling 40 minutes to attend:

"A side effect is like a side salad, but it doesn't have to be the whole salad. It might just be the tomatoes."

I have absolutely no idea what that means, but I think it is hilarious.

After an hour an a half we were on page 8 of 23 pages of handouts. The social worker (who was clearly as disappointed with the training as I was) interrupted the nurse to point out that we needed to hurry along.

Afterwards Roland and I went to get some dinner. They used to feed us at trainings, but now it is just snack stuff. We kept each other amused by quoting the salad line and laughing like teenagers. We may be been rather tired. We had a serious conversation too:

Roland: "How many more trainings do we need to go to?"

Me: "At least 8 more hours this year."

"What about next year?"

"Well, if we adopt Gary and turn in our license we will never have to go to another one again."


For those following my sister's story

They are doing okay. They still live in the apartment suite in a hotel. I'm not sure when their house will be ready.

Sis is getting along better at church. She has fallen so far from grace that they now treat her gently, demanding little and giving her lots of leeway. Their dog barks when he is left alone in the hotel so the church is letting Niece2 bring him with her to school. Sis says that a year ago they would have insisted that they find other arrangements. Now she seems to be able to get away with anything.

Nephew still has had no contact with juvenile justice. Sis is beginning to suspect that he might not. This is disappointing because she really wanted it to be impressed upon him that though this time he is getting sympathy and therapy, if he sets more fires he will be in serious trouble.

The therapy is coming along slowly, which is to say it isn't really coming along at all. Every time I talk to her it looks like it will start soon. This time I learned that though the therapist had changed practices, she did get stuff done so that she could be paid. I didn't pay attention to the details.

BIL & Sis decided that his last leave with them was so stressful that he will skip his next one.

And the big new is.... the fire marshal from my sister's area knows another fire marshal who is serving in Iraq (presumably he was in the reserve) at the same base as my BIL. This guy has apparently been having some conversations with my BIL. BIL had thought it was important to get home as soon as he could because clearly his family was falling apart without him. The marshal in Iraq though suggested that maybe what his family needed was more time apart. After these conversations he is thinking about seeing if he can just stay in Iraq another year. He is hoping that he can rebuild trust with Nephew through email and phone calls.

I don't know how the rebuilding of trust will go, but Sis is thrilled to know that they have more time before needing to be a family again. If BIL does stay the extra year, Nephew will be a sophomore and the only kid at home when he gets back. She's hopeful.

So everything there is going as well as can be expected.

Tracking Stats

Okay, we all keep an eye on them, or most of us do anyway. It's fun to see where people come from and why they show up. It can also be fun to see what searches bring people to the blog.

I don't do these very much. The vast majority of my searches are pretty obvious. People search for "Yondalla." I always wonder how many are looking for me and how many are looking for the D&D goddess Andrew suggested when I needed a blog name. People search for foster care blogs, rules for foster families, parenting teenagers, adopting teenagers.

10% of my visitors arrive having done a search that landed them on my single most popular post: "How Much Do You Get Paid to Be a Foster Parent?" Those people rarely stick around though. They read that and then go off somewhere else. Many of them leave by the links I have on that post to places where they can get more information.

All that stays very consistent, so I don't normally blog about the results.

Today though I looked at the key word searches and there was something new. Someone came to the blog after searching:

"51 Signs you are getting older."

I think one of them may be that people are finding your blog by searching that phrase.

Stacie gives me some info...

So Stacie gave me a summary of how TPR works where she is. I'm going to assume that it is pretty much similar here, since I don't have any idea. If that is the case, then that means....

TPR in our state is much more complicated than that. Typically, it requires abandonment of the child by the parents (no monetary support or physical contact for 6 months) and then the parents are sent a notification of intent to pursue TPR.

Presumably that is the letter the social worker is writing is that notification. Will has given monetary support in the form of having his tax refund held. I don't know if the court counts that. They have not been in the same room since June of 2008. Gary did not hear from his father at all from September 2008 to August 2009. And that August phone call was the one in which Will told him that he wanted to relinquish...so he wouldn't have to pay support.

They then have the opportunity to respond. If they respond and say no, that's all they have to say.

In this case, anything is possible. People who have interacted with his parents (and that interaction has been minimal) predict either an agreement to voluntarily relinquish or non-response. His father did, of course, tell him he wanted to relinquish his parental rights. Though he can't take back the damage he did to his relationship with Gary when he said that, having said it doesn't mean he will do it. I think there is a big difference between announcing you want to do something and the state telling you have to do that same thing. No one wants to be pushed around, and relinquishing your kid is a big deal, even if it seemed like the right thing to do one August evening.

He hasn't had any contact with his mom for a decade. She certainly would be in her rights to say "no" but the abandonment case against her is pretty air tight.

It immediately forces DSS to start working toward reunification again, and to either restart or rework a family plan.

Only wrinkle here is that there
never was a reunification or family plan of any kind. The plan has always been "we need to find Gary a place to live until he can take care of himself." Even if his dad says he won't relinquish he will also almost certainly say that he can't give Gary a home either.

If the parents agree to sign the plan, it negates pursuing TPR for the lenght of that plan (typically 6-12 months).
If the parents refuse to sign the plan or don't acknowledge the original notice of intent to pursue TPR, then the state can go ahead and serve the parents with the date/time of the court date where the TPR proposal will be heard. If they show up, they'll be given attorneys and the fight begins.

In the scenarios we have been playing around with, not showing up seems to be one of the significant possibility.

If DSS has grounds, then a trial will happen. If DSS does not have grounds or the parents argue that they were denied reasonable assistance to work their plan, then the request to pursue TPR is denied.

If that passes, then there is normally a TPR trial, and the judge looks at whether or not TPR is appropriate. For most teens, TPR is not granted in our area unless there is a) a suitable adoptive family waiting (preferably one that has had placement of the child) b) relative or close family friend willing to assume care of the child and who needs TPR in order to add the child to medical benefits, etc c) the child is nearing 18 and wants to be free of parental ties so that he/she will qualify for the scholarships and grants of higher education that are avialable to high school graduates who were legal orphans at the time of graduation.

Well, we're the potential adoptive family. The social worker also said that TPR with teenagers was pretty rare, mostly because there isn't normally an adoptive family around.

Or so we understand....LOL nothng is ever quite certain inthe system, is it?

TPR around here is hard to get- the parents have a lot of rights, if they choose to use them, which most do.

That is as it should be. I'm a strong supporter of parental rights. The state's power to decide who should and shouldn't be a parent needs to be very limited.

Gary just turned 17, so it is quite possible that just with stalling there will be no TPR. Gary and the rest of us are curious about what is happening in the TPR process. It is stressful. We are not stressed about the long-term issues. I'm glad his parents are getting this warning. If either of them step up and actually communicate with him, then that is a good outcome. I suspect they won't, and I expect when he is 18 we will adopt him.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Where we are

I wrote to the state worker today to see if he could tell me anything about what was going on in the TPR process. I got back a very short email saying he was writing a report, needed run it by Gary to be sure he got his facts straight, had the parents' addresses, and was going to be writing them each letters telling them what was going on. He also said that should pass on any messages that Gary wanted to send.

After reading that and reading a bunch of stuff on-line about the TPR process I realized that I was pretty confused. I know all sorts of stuff about it, but I don't know what the real process is.

Like, where I work, if you were going to be denied tenure or fired for cause, you would be able to resign at any point in the process. In the history of the college some people have been given an opportunity to retire early with certain benefits. People who are not going to get tenure are sometimes given a chance to resign before any document saying they shouldn't be tenured is put in their file. The handbook is is full of information official notification, procedures, time-restrictions, appeals processes, but nothing says, "if the dean at the time is not a jerk, you will know this is coming and you will have plenty of time to resign before anything official happens." That this is the case is both good and bad. It could allow a bad dean to manipulate people. On the other hand, people are allowed to resign. We can't insist that they go through reviews and hearings if they just want to quit.

So I don't know if the letter the social worker is talking about is official notification or if it is parallel to the dean telling someone, "we're about to initiate this whole thing. If you prefer you can just call it quits now."

I find the whole thing heart-breaking.

I emailed the social worker back and confirmed that Gary was available the day he wanted to talk to him. I also told him that if it was appropriate I wanted him to tell his parents that Roland and I did not ever want to be an obstacle to a relationship between Gary, his parents, siblings and other relatives.

I asked Gary if he wanted to send anything and he laughed and said, "You suck." He imagined that for a while, enjoying imagining a scene in which a social worker is being professional and explaining things and then say, "Oh yes, I have a message here from Gary. He says, 'you suck.'"

I didn't pass that one on. I also was careful not to be disapproving. I told him before that he could express whatever emotions he was having. Wanting to tell your parents who have hardly paid you any attention in years that they suck is not an unreasonable emotion.

Well, I have to leave for a required training. I'm going to publish this though I am not sure that I got around to saying whatever it was I was intending to say.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Birthday Conversation

Gary left school early today because the pain from the Shingles was wearing him down. It might have actually been worse today, but it might also have been just that he was wearing out from being in pain day after day for so long. He slept all afternoon on the sofa and seemed better this evening, although he did take another pain pill.

We talked about his birthday. He wondered if his father would call like he did last year and what his dad would say if he did. He wanted me to understand that he didn't really care one way or another, but he was curious. I suggested it was like really wanting to know what the next chapter of the book was going to say.

We talked a little about termination and about the emotional impact. He is of course all teenage tough guy. He doesn't think that it will be a big deal to either of his parents. They will not bother to respond, or if they do they will just sign the papers and never think of him again. He believes he means nothing to them, and they mean little to nothing to him.

He insists that his mother can't possibly still have parental rights. His father got those terminated a long time ago. No one else thinks that is true. Certainly there is no record of it. It is true that his father had full-time custody and he has only had contact with his mom a few times in the past fifteen years. It might be that his father was talking about custodial rights or something. That is not how he understands it though. He has not seen or heard from her in a decade. The idea that the state has to track her down and deal with her so that we can adopt him seems to offend him. I guess I can understand that.

I told him that I didn't think that this would be a casual thing for either of his parents. Even if they think it is the right thing to do, they won't take it lightly. He doesn't believe me.

I also told him that this was probably going to be emotionally complicated for him too. I wanted him to know he didn't have to pretend to feel anything other than what he felt. People who get divorced, who believe it was the right thing to do, often still feel sad on the day the divorce is final. He gets that, he says, but he won't feel sad. He's let go of all his attachment to them a long time ago.

I think he is in denial but, as a psychologist once explained to me, denial is a good thing. It protects us from thinking and feelings things we are not ready to think or feel. He has an emotional journey to travel and he needs to travel it in his own time and his own way. I just need to keep letting him know that it is okay to express whatever he feels.

And I confess I also wonder if his father will call him for on his birthday.

I have a feeling he won't.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Endometrial Ablation {update 11/12}

If you don't want to hear about this then move right along...

I was really anxious yesterday morning. I think only people who knew me fairly well could tell. Or maybe not. Probably most medical personnel can figure out that deliberate, deep, calm breathing is a sign that you are coping with some tension.

Anyway, I had the procedure done a place called a "hospital" but isn't like a REAL hospital. It is a physician-owned facility where they do out-patient diagnoses and surgeries. They have 9 beds for over-night stays. I don't know if those beds are just for people who unexpectedly need more care of if they ever schedule procedures which require it. I do know that I signed a form saying that I needed to know that though highly trained medical personnel were always available, there wasn't a physician on duty 24/7. Anyway, it is supposed to be less expensive than a REAL hospital and they have anesthesiologist. I could have done it in the doctor's office but that would have meant getting "something to help with the pain" but being wide awake. Sorry, but um, no.

So. I got there. I signed forms. Roland went back to the getting-ready place with me. They took blood. Asked me how I was. The physician and the anesthesiologist both visited. Everyone answered my questions, though I didn't really have any. I was there for a hysteroscopy, D&C, and ablation. Just before taking me in the nurse asked if I understood what what the doctor was going to do. I said, "Look, scrape and burn." She and the anesthesiologist laughed and they agreed that that summed it up pretty accurately.

Anyway they rolled me into the OR. There was some conversation and then the next thing I knew I was in recovery and the nurse was asking me how I felt. I hung out in the bed for a while and they told me that if I was ready to get dressed I could go sit in the chair and my husband could sit with me. I had wore sweats and the recovery nurse really appreciated that. She and the other nurse talked about the evils of button-fly jeans.

I dressed with only a little help. They gave me a snack (I selected hot tea and graham crackers). They offered me pain meds. All I experienced was mild cramping so I just took some over-the-counter stuff.

Then I left. I got there at 9:00am and left just before 1:00.

By the time I got home I felt fine. A little more relaxed and happy then I would normally be, which I figured was the drugs. I had some lunch and then lay down to read...and woke up 3 hours later.

I haven't had any pain med since the dose of over-the-counter stuff they gave me there. I'm not being brave or anything. I just don't hurt. I was bleeding when I went in and though they warned me that I might have spotting for up to two weeks, so far it is far lighter than what I had going in.

I just called the nurse to ask if I was supposed to be taking anything because I thought the doc said something about antibiotics. She said that I should have had that in the IV, but she would double-check. I also told her I felt really good. She laughed and said not to over-do it though. It was a little unclear to me exactly what might happen, but I don't need much encouragement to be lazy.

So all's good.

Well, they say I can't take a bath or have sex for 2 weeks. I'm finding the no-bath thing to be really disappointing. In the bathroom next to my bedroom there is an 80 year-old claw foot tube with a hand shower. In order to take a real shower I have to go to the boys' level and use their bathroom. It's sort of gross. I haven't decided whether I will just kneel in the bath tub and use the hand shower or if I will brave the boys' bathroom.

Um...I'll probably kneel in the bath.

I whined to the nurse about the bath thing. She made sure I did hear her when she said the part about no sex. Yeah, honey. I've been married for 24 years and I have been bleeding 60% of the time for the past 9 months. No sex for two weeks? Wow. I probably should not go sky diving either.

Update 11/12:
Okay, so I currently am discouraged. I had light bloody discharge for two weeks. Then I had a yellowish discharge for another four. The doctor said that was normal. Over the weekend, about seven weeks after the procedure, I started very light spotting again. Actually, it might be more light a small amount of blood-stained, otherwise clear/white, discharge.

They OB/GYN Guy said that we wouldn't know if it "worked" until 3 months. Of course "worked" is subjective in this case. Many women have ablations because they are having very heavy periods. After the procedure, they count having light periods as a success. I was spotting more than half the time with no discernible pattern. The spotting I am doing right now is even lighter than before, but I'm not sure what would count as success for me.

So, I'm sighing here. I guess I just need to wait a few more weeks and then figure out what, if anything, I want to do.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rambling thoughts

As I start this post I feel committed to posting it no matter how disjointed it is. However, I may change my mind.

Like many of you, I have concerns about the ways in which we fail to take care of families. I believe that many of the children end up in foster care because their families did not get the help the needed when they needed it. In other words, many of their parents are not bad people who never should have had children. They are ordinary, decent people who were put into a situation I don't know if I could survive.

Those of you who do care for babies see a lot of mothers with drug problems. I take care of kids who entered foster care in middle or late childhood and though substance abuse is often part of the equation, poverty and domestic violence plays a bigger role. So very many of the kids have common themes in their histories. Their mothers were young when they were born. Their biological father usually wasn't around. The man that was around, was abusive. Their mothers lacked education and job skills and were abandoned by people who should have cared for them.* I have had four boys on permanent placement. In not one case was the parent who last had custody of them a substance abuser. Not one of them lacked the ability to be a good parent, though the lacked the resources.

My point though is that my experience has taught me that many people who have lost their children to foster care are not "people who never should have had children to begin with." Many of them are victims of injustice. Many of them would have, could have been successful parents if the world had been just a little bit different. A certain number of them never should have lost their children at all.

I've thought about that, worried over it sometimes, as I have also worried about private adoption. Though some agencies are clearly far better than others, I wonder how any agency that is funded by adopting parenting can meet the standards I would like set for them.

My mantra has been, as I know it is for many of you, that adoption should exist to find parents for kids who need them, not to find children for parents.

I have, and this is something of a confession, comforted myself with the fact that I am personally insulated from these problems. I am a citizen of this country and so share responsibility for its laws, but I have not been part of the decision to remove a child from his or her parents care. No one's parental rights were terminated so that I could adopt. All that happened before I came along.

Only now that is not what is happening. Now the court has said that Gary's parents' rights should be terminated, and a big part of the reason why is that Roland and I will adopt. That is not what I wanted to happen, but it is what happened.

My high horse just up and left me standing in this moral swamp.

And there is no Right Thing to do. I have no control over what is said to his parents and how it is said. I don't know whether, when or how the state worker will contact Gary's parents. I don't know if he will tell them that they should relinquish because we want to adopt. I'm not part of the conversation. I have no contact with his parents, and I'm pretty sure the social workers want it that way. I don't get to tell them that if they want to claim him, I will not fight them. I can't tell them how important I think they are to his life.

I'm pretty sure that the state worker will not talk to his parents the way I would want him to. The worker is very excited about being a part of an adoption ... and of a 17 year old boy! He is a specialized worker. He gets assigned teens who are going to emancipate from the system. They need to be prepared to have no one in their lives. Their foster parents don't want to adopt them. Termination either happened in the past or won't happen at all, because what's the point? But adoption is the "gold standard," he says. He wants it to happen. He wants, I believe, to have this experience of being part of the adoption of an older teen. He wants to tell his colleagues that it does happen sometimes.

When he looks at us and our situation I feel like a rare bird in the presence of an enthusiastic bird watcher.

I'm thinking, "I hope we are doing the right thing, in the right way."

He seems to be thinking, "This is SO COOL!" (I could be wrong. These are my impressions.)

It isn't a closed adoption because Gary is almost 17. He knows who his parents are. He can contact them whenever he wants. They can find him and contact him.

It doesn't come close to my conception of an open adoption because there is no conversation between us and Gary's parents. I don't get to tell them that I know they are still his parents, that I will continue to do anything I can to support his relationship with them, and that I don't want whatever happens to get in the way of that.

Being insulated by time was a comfort. I could tell myself that it happened long ago and I wasn't a part of it. Being insulated while it is happening is not. It means that I have no idea if his parents are being treated ethically. There is nothing I can do or say to mitigate ... anything.

And yeah, I know that his mother hasn't made contact with him for nearly a decade and that his father went 10 months without any contact at all. I know that in his last contact he said terrible things, including saying that he was going to initiate termination himself. (Which he didn't understand that he couldn't do.) I get that those are reasons for the current actions. But I also know that life is complicated and that isn't all of the story. I know that people make mistakes and I believe they should be given a chance to rectify them.

And I am part of this whether I want to be or not.

And it is all complicated and distressing with Evan too. He indicated in our last conversation that he wanted for me and Roland to adopt him (as opposed to just Roland) because that would keep things "even" with the other boys. In other words, he would prefer that I not give something to Gary, David, and Carl that he is not given. Now that might just be his gut reaction which he reconsiders, but it was really strange. Adopting someone who has a mother, even a far from perfect mother, in order to satisfy a narrow notion of fairness is so absurd I know how to make him understand that it is absurd.

And then I wonder how the heck I got to this place. It feels so wrong, and yet I can't leave. I can't take promises back that I have made. And I don't want to leave, and it feels right. And yes, I know that's confused, but I'm confused.

There is no moral ambiguity in me with respect to Carl and David. They are alone in the world.

And then sometimes I just want to slap myself for being so damn self-involved. Are my qualms about justice? About what is right for the boys? Or is it about my having clean hands?

So what is best for Gary? His family, for complicated reasons, decided they had no place for him. He went into foster care not because he needed to be protected, but because otherwise he would have been homeless, maybe. Though I wonder about that too. If the state hadn't been there, would he have been homeless? Would different relatives have taken him in and perhaps passed him around? There were good reasons why various relatives either could not or should not take him, but would they have just done it anyway? His younger sister, also a child of his father and not his step-mother, has also been deemed impossible to live with. Last we heard, she is living with the grandmother who was judged unable to take Gary.

But what might have happened isn't really the issue is it? There is only what did happen. His mother left his life. It wasn't a free, uncoerced choice, but it happened. His immediate family said he couldn't live with them. His extended family said, "not us either." Then his father said he was giving him up, at least legally.

And we said, "We want you."

My response to what his father said was primitive and immediate. I thought, if he is giving Gary away, then I will take him. I told Gary I couldn't imagine anyone not wanting to be his parent.

I meant it then, and I still do.

But nothing is ever that simple.

But I want it to be.

*Please understand that most teen moms are great moms. Most step fathers, and romantic partners of parents, are good people who care appropriately and lovingly to the children in their lives. And most people who are poor and/or have less education than the average are wonderful parents who provide for their children's needs. Even if it were true, and it isn't, that all the kids in foster care have mothers who were young when they had their first child, that would not mean that all or most of teen moms will have kids who end up in foster care.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yes, I'm here

I seem not to be able to write thoughtful posts these days. Hopefully that will change eventually.

School has started up for me. We have had four days of classes and 2% of our students are down with the flu. Getting confirmation for the type of flu is slow, but we are presuming it is H1N1. I pass around a sign in sheet in my classes. I send around a small bottle of hand sanitizer with it. So far all the profs and staff are still standing.

Not shaking hands with advisees, or anyone, has become standard.

No one has been seriously ill. The issue, as you know, is not that this flu is particularly bad. It is just that we have no immunity.

I'm intensely busy because the faculty are doing the biggest over-haul to the curriculum in our nearly 120 years of existence. That is not hyperbole. I am on the committee through which all catalog changes must go. I'm the person on that committee who is responsible for keeping track of what has been approved, whether people have done the things the committee told them to do in order to get approval. There is a computer program that helps enormously. Still, today I spent two hours on the web site typing things like, "You need to add two more learning outcomes to this program" or just clicking the buttons indicating that the proposal passed.

Also I have some of the largest classes I have ever had. Given that we were previously worried that enrollments would fall, this is not a bad thing.

Actually none of this is a bad thing. It just means that I am very busy and the blogosphere is not getting nearly as much attention from me these days.

Oh, and Gary has shingles. His pain tolerance is normally quite high. He doesn't complain much, although you can tell he hurts. He's still going to school. I find I really want to do something to make it better, but of course there isn't anything I can do.

Sunday we will be celebrating Gary, Evan, and Andrew's birthdays, as well as saying goodbye to Andrew. We will probably make homemade egg rolls.

Monday is a big day. Andrew is going back to college and I am having a medical procedure which I am sure one day will be regarded as barbaric. I anticipate being glad to have it done, it is just the sort of thing that makes you shudder when you hear it described.

Let's see, I think that is about it. We don't hear anything about the TPR process. I continue to have deeply mixed feelings about it. I don't seem to be able to sort them out in any meaningful way.

Friday, September 11, 2009

So Gary...

His dad called him a while ago, sometime after the hearing, but he doesn't really remember exactly when. Gary didn't answer the phone and his dad didn't leave a message. Gary just told me that yesterday, as we sat waiting for his turn to be x-rayed.

Oh, wait, did I blog that yet? Gary decided to quit the gym where he has been doing MMA for ages (where "ages" are measured in months). Over the summer one of his previous teachers had been coming to the gym and working out with him. He can't come anymore and Gary decided that the regular guy doesn't have anything to teach him. He looked around for a different dojo, knowing that there was no other within a reasonable range that had a reputation nearly as good as the one he was quitting. He found one to try though. I took him on Tuesday. He got his arm/shoulder twisted pretty bad. He didn't say anything until Thursday when he texted me and said that his shoulder really hurt and he thought he should see the doctor. Since Gary NEVER says stuff like that, I just dropped everything and picked him up. We spent a total of three hours waiting to be "worked in," waiting for x-rays, etc. It looks like nothing was broken, but he has an appointment with the regular physician on Monday.

Anyway, he told me his dad called and that he didn't answer and he didn't know what his dad wanted to talk about.

In the most casual voice I could manage I said something like, "Huh, I wonder what he wanted."

Inside I was thinking things like, "Did he get the notice about the TPR proceedings? Did he want to talk about that? If he did, what did he want to say? Did he want to tell Gary that he was going to sign, or that he was not going to sign? Did he want to know what Gary thought about all this? I wonder if the notification said anything about adoption, or if it was just about TPR? Is he happy, or sad, or angry?"

I just kept taking deep, slow breaths and reminding myself that Gary is entirely within his rights to take or not take his father's calls. I really do believe if the TPR proceedings result in Will showing a renewed interest in his son, that would be a good outcome. I believe that if he fights the TPR he will win. I certainly think he should win. The question is really whether he just decides to let go or fight.

I know that part of Gary wants him to fight. Gary won't acknowledge that because he doesn't think it will happen, but I know he wants it.

So I was disappointed that Gary hadn't taken he call, because I want to know what is going on. I'll just have to get over that though.

The state worker hasn't told me anything. I don't know if either or both of his parents have been served. I don't know if the social worker has talked to them or what they have said. They only message I have had from the state worker is a brief email telling me that he sent in the receipt for the computer and I should be getting a reimbursement check soon.

The agency worker came for the monthly visit. Gary wanted her to meet him at his school at the end of the day to talk to the counselor about graduating early. Not surprisingly, it turns out that Gary cannot graduate from the arts charter school early. He can try to talk to the people at Our Small Town High, but it isn't easy to graduate early from there either. His best best is to take the 6 units he will need after this school year from one of the on-line schools. The school counselor at the Arts Charter is going to see if she can rearrange his schedule so that he can drop an elective and have a free period. If she can, then we will sign him up for a self-paced on-line class which he will do at the school in her office on his computer.

We are going to take it one course at a time. If he keeps finishing courses, then we will keep signing him up and he can graduate from the on-line school. If he doesn't, then next year he will go to Our Town High part time and either work or take classes from the community college.

While she was here I told her about what happened at the court. She had been on vacation, and her supervisor (Gary's previous agency worker) had gone instead. That the case plan goal had been changed to "termination and adoption" was news to her.


And this post is rambling and disconnected, but then, so is my life.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Flu Preparedness

H1N1 is a strain of influenza A. There is a rapid test for that. I think we can run that test at the school. If someone tests positive for influenza A at this time of the year they are considered probable cases of H1N1 ... at least that is how the college where I teach is handling it. The state department of health is so backed up with samples for H1N1 that it is unlikely that anyone will know that is what they have until after they are better.

But we have a plan. We have some rooms that are set aside for "voluntary isolation." Students who have symptoms are directed to call the school nurse during regular hours and campus safety evenings and weekends. Someone will show up to confirm the symptoms and then help them move to one of the isolation rooms. Residence life staff is responsible for ensuring that they have everything they need, including food.

We profs have all been asked to think ahead about how we are going to handle our classes if we get sick, and how flexible we can be for students who get sick. I've put a handout on all my course web sites giving students general directions for group discussions. They will have to sign in, make notes. I spoke this morning to a prof who teaches anthropology. She has picked out a selection of movies that some staff person can show her classes.

The first-years showed up on Saturday. Some of the athletes came on Monday. Today the upper classman are moving in. Classes start tomorrow.

We already have four students in isolation.

Boy oh boy, I'm looking forward to this semester.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I heart my IT guy

So we use Moodle for our course software. It gives us password protected sites for each class. Students turn in assignments, participate in discussion forums, print off handouts, stuff like that. In my upper-division classes I have a new forum for every week. The students have to turn in summaries of their research progress every other week. On opposite weeks they turn in short response papers.

On one hand, I probably make them too many small assignments. Certainly it is difficult for me to keep up with the grading. On the other hand, I have found over the years that this level of engagement with the material produces good results.

So the IT guy was able to take my previous courses, back up all the assignments and then stick them into the new courses. That's cool and all, but all the due dates are for last year. It also came out disorganized. I spent a couple of hours today working on one of the courses. I was just about ready to go home when I realized that when I updated the due dates I had forgot in half the cases to change the YEAR, so everything was still due sometime in 2008. I sighed, went through them all and fixed them.

Then I called IT-guy and asked if there was anyway he could copy all that work into the other upper division class. I explained about how the classes had been coming out disorganized. He said he could take care of that.

And he did. Woo hoo! The other class site is all pretty and organized and I didn't have to spend any time on it at all.

Now I just have to work on the lower division course.


Monday, September 07, 2009

Still here...just busy

Let's see...

1. Classes are about to start and I am still under-prepared. Enrollment is, to our delighted surprise, up. The downside of this is that all the classes are going to be over-flowing, but it is better than the opposite. I keep telling myself as I think about all the grading I am looking at doing this term. It really is gulp-worthy. I am going to have to be much more self-disciplined about my internet distractions.

2. Gary and Brian continue to get along really well. I am so very pleased. Here's hoping.

3. I don't know anything about termination procedings with respect to Gary's father/mother. Nothing. Nada. I'm curious, but since our plans don't actually hinge on what happens, I don't find I spend much time thinking about it.

4. Something in Gary has relaxed since we have all decided that adopting him is something we will eventually do. I see it when we talk about his college. Before he talked about whether he could go to the community college. They don't have dorms and he wasn't sure the agency would pay for an apartment like they do the dorms, so maybe he should go to the state university, but he thought the community college would be better. Now he says, "You know, maybe it would be a good idea if I just stayed home for the first year of community college. I know the agency might help pay for an apartment, but I don't want to take advantage of them." There's a whole post there, of course.

5. Some people have asked about Nephew. I haven't really heard much. I know he is doing okay, but that is about all.

6. For those keep track of my bodily woes, I have a procedure scheduled in two weeks. It is the one with the fast recovery. I can go to work the next day if I feel like it. I was given a choice between doing in on a Friday in the office with NO ANESTHESIA, but with "really good analgesics" or doing it on a Monday, paying more money to hospital, and maybe missing two days work. I cope really really well with things like post-op pain, but lying quietly while someone causes pain is a completely different experience. I picked a Monday. I talked to the dean of the faculty at our retreat on Friday. I told him I was going to miss a day or two for a medical thing. "If you want to know the details, I WILL TELL YOU." He laughed. He did not ask for details.

7. Let's see...Gary quit the gym he was previously attending over disagreements with the teacher. He claims that the problem is that the teacher won't let him compete unless he works out every day and he can't get there every day. I wonder if part of the problem is that he doesn't really want to compete. He loves feeling strong and competent. He enjoys sparring with classmates. He really doesn't like getting beat up. This makes total sense to me. Of course he does not think that is why he is leaving. It is okay with me. Brian quit completely. I think it was pretty much the same thing for him too. If I could find a kick-boxing class that was more about working out and less about actual fighting, he might want to continue. I don't know.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Annual Week of Panic

Yes folks, it's here. The week at the end of summer in which I berate myself for wasting time for the past three months, and scramble to put together my courses.

This year it includes a special visit to the new bookstore manager in which I tell her that I decided that the book for seminar isn't right and am ordering a new one. So, so, sorry, but the ones that she ordered, um, no one is going to buy them. The previous bookstore manager would thank me for letting me know. I'm hoping the new one is so overloaded that she that she hasn't ordered them yet. I can dream.

Yesterday I spent some time in the IT's guy's office. It isn't that I don't trust him to set up my course sites. It is just that I am more confident that he will do it promptly if I sit in his office and do his sudoku puzzle from today's paper.

This year it is going to be a bit more hectic than usual. I agreed to talk about the first year book and sadly, I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY ABOUT IT. It is about how there is way too much garbage and we are all going to die if we don't fix it and it is probably too late. I'm thinking about talking about the philosophical "last man" puzzle. That's the one where we try to convince you that the world some has independent value because it would be wrong for the last human in a world-wide plague to push a button as he dies to blow the planet up. Because, you know, talking about that will show them how philosophy is relevant to real-life problems.

I only have to talk for 10 minutes. Still, all I got right now is "here's why all the different philosophical approaches come up with pretty much the same answer to a problem this general."

And I will miss the meeting in which the professors who are talking about the book meet with the "student leaders" because my OB/GYN Guy is having a meeting when I was supposed to be having my appointment with him. I don't think I mind though. (In case you are interested, I will be telling him that the hormone therapy results were unacceptable. Going from a pattern of one week off/one week on to a pattern of one month off/one month on doesn't cut it. I'm serious, by the way. Thirty-three freaking days "on.")

At least the boys are continuing to get along. Brian is really making an effort. Last night Gary came home from the gym to complain about the teacher. In the course of the complaining we learned that Gary isn't being treated well because he can take on any guy there and do just fine. He also said that he was going to find a new place to work out. He knows that the one he goes to is the best in the area, but he will find another and he willl MAKE it better. He can do that, because he is so good.

Brian, who was sitting where Gary couldn't see. He said nothing, although I could see it was irritating him. Finally Gary moved on to talking about something specific that the class teacher does that annoys him and Brian said something like, "I HATE it when he does that." And that was common ground and they talked about how the guy who owns the place is great, and wouldn't it be wonderful if he taught the classes instead. Also about how the guy who teaches is a awful and just in it for the money and the joy of power.

So they were criticizing a hard-working adult that they should have respect for, but they were having a conversation, not criticizing each other, and that is improvement.

But now I need to work on those course sites, and talk to the bookstore person, and maybe even decide what books to read in Ethics after the first section, and ...