Sunday, September 3, 2017

September 1, 2017

The day I officially started working as a full-time employee of The Children's Center as a certified social worker.  I haven't worked full-time at a paying job since I was married...and really it was only during the summers that I worked full-time hours except the 11 months I worked at Kilgore Psychiatric Hospital for children and adolescents in 1977-78.  That means that it has been almost 40 years since I worked full-time.......I hope that I can do it.  And actually I am working 36 hours a week--although what I am doing is taking one full day off each pay period.  With Jena and Ben, I still feel like I need some flexibility for appointments etc.  We will see how that works----

My plan is to work four years...but by now, I know how plans can go....whatever happens--- it is a privilege to work with parents and children and hopefully help them in some small way, understand each other a little better and find joy together.

Never a dull moment around here.

Back to school

for Jena.  This is Jena waiting for the bus on Monday, August 28th, and ready for her first day of school at the Vista Education Center.  This year she will attend there on Mondays and Fridays.  She was excited to see her teachers and her friends.

However, the bigger event came on Monday evening when another grand adventure and school day began for her. This is what I wrote on Facebook:

When we adopted Jena, one of the questions/comments I often heard was "But she will always live with you." In deciding whether to adopt a child, our question was "Is this the right child for us?"--we tried not to try to worry too far in advance about the "ifs and buts" of the future. However when she was very little, I would sometimes think that our life was going to look different from our friends. But by the time she was five or six I was more "how lucky are we that she will always live with us." It was kind of my "ace up the sleeve." When my friends lamented about their kids growing up and moving away, I felt contented because we would be blessed by Jena always in our home.

Until last night......... when this young adult started her new adventure in the Wonderwood College Bridge program. She will be living in an apartment in Provo from Monday night through Thursday afternoon with 2 other girls with Down syndrome and 3 BYU students. They will visit college classes in the mornings on Tuesday and Thursday on BYU campus and then come back for afternoon classes in cooking, speech, reading and math. Wednesday Hannah Price one of their roommates and an amazing mentor will take them on a young adult activity during the day and to Institute at night.
Jena has been saying that she was going to college since she was little and she did it! It will be an amazing experience (and experiment). She has not stopped smiling since we ask her about 3 weeks ago if she wanted to do it.
Yesterday evening as we were moving boxes in, some students from the complex stopped in to meet the girls and invite them to Family Night Outdoor Movie night in the yard just north of their townhome. Without hesitation, Jena was ready to go. After getting names and phone numbers, Jena was off and got to watch "Sandlot" on a blanket with about 30 other students, It was a perfect beginning to her college adventure. I am not going to lie...I teared up when I stepped out and watched her surrounded by her peers on the grass. Life is good!

A terrible picture, but a perfect way to start her College Bridge experience.
And I know which face is hers laying on the grass with the biggest smile possible
on her face!!
She has been preparing for days and gathering the needed supplies.  Sometimes I would walk in her room and see her sitting on the floor surrounded by her "stuff" organizing things and I would have to walk out and compose myself--it is the same with each of the people I get to call my children--when stuff is being backed up and they are headed in a new direction--it is that strange feeling of excitement, love, and sorrow all rolled up in one--and this happened whether it is the first time they left or after several times. Motherhood----

On the wall in Jena's room is a quote she chose years ago:

It was perfect for preparing for this next adventure in her life.

Moving in evening----

Gary and I both came down--I from work and Gary with Jena and all of her stuff.  We first visited Ben and had Chinese food with him and then headed to the apartment.  Gary helped carry in her boxes and then headed home.  I was planning on helping Jena get settled but as mentioned before, she got invited to an outdoor movie so off she went.  That gave me an opportunity to spend some time with Sara's mom and to meet Hannah's mom as well.  Hannah is the person we have hired to provide some structure for the girls.  Her mom, Robyn, wanted to come and "meet the moms were so brave to do this for their daughters."  She has a 17 year old daughter with Down syndrome named Kylie.  She was more tearful than we were.  It was so fun to meet her as well.  In the mix of our conversations, we discovered that her husband served a mission in Hong Kong in the early 1980s and that Sara's sister Laurel had served in the late 1990s...small world!

After the movie ended, I said my goodbyes to Jena and headed up to Eileen Bradford's home in northern Provo.  She is a close friend from Hong Kong days....and it probably isn't a surprise to anyone that we talked until 1:30 a.m.  You would think we were old enough to know better than that.

Tuesday morning I headed back to the apartment to meet the girls and Vicki Elhen (the mastermind of all of this) to help with the BYU orientation for the girls.  I can't walk around the campus without being filled with great memories and so it was as I walked with Jena on this first day of her College Bridge program.

the townhouse
 Heading to campus for the first time as a group----
Sending texts at the landmark "Rock" which is one potential meeting spot for them.

We visited inside some of the buildings to give them a flavor of the university.  Jena picked the Eyring Science Building which we had visited a month ago.

Ice cream at the Wilkinson Center--Emily, Jena and Sara

 Jena unpacked and set up her room by herself with no problem...

After our campus tour, I joined Eileen, Dad and Eileen's mom and sister for lunch in Provo while the girls had their first afternoon of Wonderwood which is their reading, math, computer, and speech part of this program.

Then I headed back to the apartment to deliver pizza for their first apartment dinner and found them with Hannah doing a puzzle Jena had brought. They didn't want to stop to eat pizza then so I grabbed a piece and headed back to Syracuse.....and really left Jena there.
Hannah sent this selfie of the four of them on Wednesday when they headed out to go bowling.  They will do an activity from 10-2 each Wednesday and they are being joined by Amy (who has autism and is partially deaf) and her aide as well.  From all reports they had a great time.............
When I saw Jena on Thursday evening when I got home from work, she was happy but very, very probably had something to do with late nights in the apartment.  She sent me a good night text at 12:47 on Wednesday night.  When I asked her about it, she said she and Emily (who share a room) were having fun.

And so the grand adventure/experience/experiment begins............Scott called a week ago and was asking me what the purpose of this was (he was expressing some of his worries for her safety), I told him that 1-It was one of her goals for herself and even if it only lasts one semester no one can take away that she accomplished her goal and 2.  The more independence she can achieve the better she will be able to function in adult life--at work, volunteering or at Church.  Even if she always lives with us, these experiences of young adulthood will be great for her.

(Do we worry, yes!  But I am a mom and I worry about all of you...and your spouses....and your children!  It is what I do.  Hopefully we have made it as safe as possible, but whatever happens, we are just taking it one day, one week at a time.)

Jena is a Cougar!!!  Classes start this week.

Sweet kindnesses.....

 I received these two sweet gifts to acknowledge my graduation and becoming a CSW (certified social worker):

In the mail, I got this Willow tree statue from my sweet friend, Kathy Siebach.  It is called "Love of Learning."  I have known Kathy since our days in Hong Kong.  She and her husband currently live in Japan.
Then my niece, Chera, brought over this gift--a book called "Letters To A Young Therapist".  Chera started her two year on-line social work program at the same time I started my program so she has been working as a social worker at Davis Behavioral Health for a year already.  I am enjoying this book--the author was near my age when she wrote it and it is written in the form of letters to a young graduate student wondering if she can really be a therapist.  Even though I am 62, I am a "new therapist" so I understand the questions and uncertainties of becoming a therapist, but also because the author is around my age, we share a similar cultural history--growing up in the 60's and 70's--the changes in the mental health field, etc.  It is an interesting mix and I have found many things to underline and remind myself of in the future in my work and in my life.
Thanks to all my family and friends who have sent me congratulations and sweet notes of support.  It has been a long journey, but a good one.

Eclipse Day- August 19, 2017

If you were anywhere in the US on this day, you know what a big event the Solar Eclipse was for millions of people in the country.  Even when we were traveling back from Nauvoo, there were signs about good spots to watch the eclipse especially in Wyoming which had a band of totality. Gary was smart and ordered our glasses, but we decided not to make a trip north or east to see the totality because we felt that 92% would be pretty special.

Gary had taken his mother to a doctor's appointment and then they stopped at the Center where our brother-in-law Allan lives to share the eclipse with him.  He was asleep but Gary shared his glasses with staff who took turns heading to the patio to watch it.
I was home with Jena and we had the TV showing the event as it started in Oregon and proceeded east across the country.
One thing I hadn't heard of before was to watch the shadows and sure enough they were changing throughout the eclipse--most common were these crescent ones.
It is hard to see but at the height of the eclipse at our house it got slightly darker and you could see these two little crescent shadows on the sidewalk.
A few minutes after we came inside, I heard my phone beep and I had a message from Jena.  She had gone back outside to take a picture of the fading eclipse.  She rarely takes pictures so I hadn't thought to tell her not to take one with her cell phone.  I was worried that she might have hurt her eyes or her phone, but all are well and look at this amazing picture.  I am really not sure why it caught that image, but it is amazing.

Jessica and Elessia decided on Sunday that they wanted to travel to Idaho Falls and see the total eclipse.  They drove up and back in the same day and then Jessica went into work for the night shift. They loved it and said that it was so amazing.  One quote I saw stated that to see an eclipse at 92% compared to 100% is like comparing the numbers 3 to 3,000,000--no comparison at all.  After watching the coverage, I agree and am already planning to make a trip to Texas at the first part of August in 2024 to see the total eclipse.

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total in Idaho!
Nature is so COOL!

(Of course with the recent landfall of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, I also am humbled by its great power that we as man have no control over at all.  We live on the earth--we admire it, we use its resources, we build bridges and tunnels and try to hold rivers in their ways--but it has a higher master than us.  And nature obeys the laws set forth for it with exactness.  I am not saying that our Heavenly Father targeted Houston and surrounding areas for a hurricane.  I really don't know how all of that works, but I know that He created the laws that the earth follows--all of science is known to Him and His son, Jesus Christ. And when the winds and water and currents meet the scientific formula for an hurricane--a hurricane will happen.)