Snakes on a Trail!

Rattlesnakes, mostly. Western diamondbacks, mostly.

We’ve been in Texas for YEARS now and I have rarely encountered snakes. Usually they are stretched out on the road as I whizz by in my trusty Honda.

Hubs has seen more than me, and his encounters are more with live snakes – he’s usually working at dawn or dusk (the most active times) and he has more occasion to be outside in fields and whatnot.

But one thing I’ve been hearing a lot of lately, now that we live in the foothills of a mountain range, with a great trail system right around the corner from our house, is watch out for snakes. Since the pups and I try to get out to walk regularly, this is useful information.

I do not take this warning lightly, because I know next to nothing about how to spot snakes, and generally I tend to be attentive to dangerous things I know little about. However, I also take this advice with several grains of salt depending on who is offering it. When my spouse tells me to be on the lookout for snakes, especially around dawn, I wake up a little earlier (pre-dawn) and start using a flashlight for better visibility.

When the dog-mother whose precious baby dogs get their own live-in babysitter and birthday parties tells me that snakes are around every bend… okay maybe.

This area of the southwest is tree-less so guess what kind of snakes we have? PIT VIPERS. I love how ridiculously scary that classification term sounds: PIT viper. Not just a regular viper, but one that hangs out in shallow, hard to spot pits of doom.

Interesting factoid: pit vipers are named for heat-sensing pits in their heads, not because they live in pits (which is also generally true).

I looked up native Texas snakes because, well, why not? There are four in the state, three are pit vipers: copperheads, cottonmouths, and the most common and prolific in our neck of the woods, the rattlesnake. Western diamondback, to be precise, although we have a whole bevy of rattly-beauties.

by jeanette m otis on flickr
{image by Jeanette M. Otis on Flickr}

There’s also the colorful and elusive coral snake, which is a cobra, rather than a pit viper. The main differences are the type of venom and how they deliver poison (foldable teeth vs. non-foldable). Coral snakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths aren’t huge in our neck of the woods. Apparently they all like trees and water. Wusses.

I haven’t seen any snakes on walkies yet, nor heard any (Rattlesnakes blend in really well in grassless brown desert, so they are not very visible. But they are very hear-able). I hope it stays that way.

However, if I do encounter a snake I will stay calm and still, back away slowly, and then run home and write about it here.

Pain is a Gift

Appropriating Doctor Who quotes for my own use

There’s a quote from a recent Doctor Who episode that resonates for me (the writing is dang good this season, just sayin) –

Pain is a gift. Without the capacity for pain we can’t feel the hurt we inflict.

To me, this quote is about empathy. Without our own memories of pain we wouldn’t be able to appreciate or understand the way others behave when they are in pain.

I’m thinking about all this because today is an anniversary. I didn’t think, at the time, that it would be as big of an anniversary as it is. At the time, I figured it would simply be a memory of one moment. And it is that – it’s the date I had emergency surgery on a (literally) dark and stormy night. Which was scary and sad.

Turns out, though, that the day wasn’t just a day of loss. It was the beginning of being barren. It wasn’t until several years later that I could fully appreciate that day, as sad and low as it was, was something to be cherished. It was the last day I was ever “able” to carry a child.

So, obviously, painful. But not even close to as painful now as it was seven years ago. These days it’s more of  a distant ache, more a memory of pain than pain itself.

And the thing that I’ve really been marinating on is how it made me (I think) a better person. Healing from the immediate pain and then the extended loss took a lot of time and mental energy. One of the things it did was shift my perspective, in a good way.

pain-is-a-gift_by-elvenwhovian-deviantart
{image by elvenwhovian on deviant art}

There’s a lot more room in my head for grace and different opinions than there once was. When people behave strangely or poorly, my first thought is to wonder what they’re dealing with. I am not nearly as judgmental as I once was.

Basically, my perspective has widened. My own pain affected me in ways I never expected, so now I often assume that others are dealing with the same kind of surprising, disconcerting changes that come along  with their own pain.

That’s a good thing, I think, and prevents me from being a total ass to those who seem to be struggling with things I know nothing about.

I’m better to others (because of pain).

That is a gift.

Do Your Job

Aka: How to shut up and keep a paycheck.

Work kicked my butt last week, figuratively and literally.

There was a giant event that was 100% my responsibility to plan, execute, and run. And, while I have done this kind of thing before, it was the first time with this group – as they continuously reminded me. Unlike previous experiences, this group is mostly a lot of type-A micro-managers.

by Evil Erin on Flickr
{image by Flickr user Evil Erin}

Challenging.

Several times during the last two weeks I was reminded of an old family-favorite story of a certain blue-collar fella’ who spoke some truth during a post-event celebration at a local bar. This guy was way past the “work appropriate filter” stage, so when someone mentioned the reigning supervisor, we all got this gem in response:

Oh he is SO a boss-and-not-a-leader.

So-a-boss-and-not-a-leader has become a catchphrase in my family. It’s a way to communicate someone who is happy to be in charge, with the power and accolades that come with being the boss. At the same time, it describes someone who avoids getting their hands dirty, avoids the hard decisions, and generally fails to inspire.

For myself, I tried hard to be a leader. Worked my tail off, got down and dirty. Delegated appropriately without standing around watching others work. On more than one occasion in the last 24 hours I had to bite the crap out of my tongue to avoid verbal attacks. It’s tough to maintain a “respectful” presence when you’re tired, sick, and frustrated.

Doable, though. I know because I did it.

The event went well – smoothly and without any major hitch. All the bosses were pleased. I had some valuable learning experiences I can use going forward, including some humbling moments. Always tough to realize I’m not *quite* as incredible as I secretly believe myself to be.

All told, the event was a definite, solid WIN for me. I don’t celebrate those enough. So this post it an attempt to do that in some way: document the difficulty, document the win.

Today I’m sequestered in my living room with some serious respiratory issues, glad I didn’t mic drop and quit my job mid-week last week. A steady income is a glorious thing. Paid sick days are also wonderful.

It turned out okay. I didn’t die.

WIN.

by kitty.green66 on Flickr
{image by kitty.green66 on Flickr}

Adoption Consultant

We’re going kind of non-traditional with the dependence on an adoption consultant. This is a relatively new thing in the world, so I thought I’d explain what the job is and why it’s something we opted for.

Our consultant describes the job as an “adoption coordinator,” and equates it (loosely) with the job of a wedding coordinator. Adoption is a big process, she explains, with a ton of *important* moving parts and its invaluable to have someone who is overseeing the process, making sure all the things get done, and done well.

(This isn't our consultant, but the message is similar.)
(This isn’t our consultant, but the message is similar.)

Adoption agencies have a moral and legal obligation to the expectant parents, and then to the infants, and last to the adoptive parents. Thus, their attention and energy is not prioritized toward meticulously walking us through every step, answering our calls or random questions, or sending us daily updates, etc…

For our first ever experience with the whole of the private adoption process, we kinda’ wanted that.

The luxury of an adoption consultant is that adoptive parents are the only clients. Time and resources aren’t divided; all the attention is on the needs of the adoptive parents. For us, this has been incredible in terms of peace of mind and manageability of ALL THE THINGS that need to happen for this process to work.

We’ve had really detailed, personalized instruction and feedback on every step of the process thus far. Now that we are beginning to contact agencies and attorneys, our consultant is person we call with questions or concerns, rather than trying to get someone at an agency to respond.

Like a wedding coordinator, an adoption consultant is an added cost. Unlike our wedding (which was a total DIY affair), this process is one we absolutely want and need to get right. Neither of us have the mental or emotional fortitude to shoulder the responsibility of “getting it right.” Thank all the stars in heaven that there’s a better option. And even more, for two full-time jobs!

Domestic Infant Adoption

OPTIONS ABOUND for those who wish to adopt – the only limits are time and money. With a biological child, you get what you get and they only come one way – very young.

So let me tell you about our options and what we decided.

First decision: international or domestic? We could go to a different country or stay in the States. We were not keen on international paperwork, so we decided on domestic.

Second decision: public or private? We could adopt through the public (e.g. “state”) system or through an agency/attorney. The difference is mainly in who is relinquishing the child to us – for public it’s the government and for private it’s first parents. We were not keen on the government being heavily involved in the process for this go-round, so we decided on private.

Most private adoptions are infant adoptions. So we’re doing what is generally known as domestic infant adoption.

Some of the work still goes through the state government. Our home study has to be submitted and approved by a licensed state social worker, for example. And the actual placement and finalization paperwork is managed by government entities. The majority of what we’ll be doing, though, will happen with private agencies or attorneys.

The Adoption Has Officially Begun

I feel like The Adoption needs to be in all caps. We are really truly officially off the ground and, if not running, at least moving along at a decent clip.

Strange to suddenly be IN this, instead of studying it and soaking up a lot of information. For those who kinda’ know the buzzwords, we’re at the front end of our home study. Home studies can take months; we expect ours to take maybe two, max. Thankfully, we found a home study provider who is local and *not* three months behind, as can sometimes be the case.

If it takes six months, though, that’s how long it takes. We know the end of all this will mean our family includes a child, so we’re not married to a specific timeline.

1977134004_fcbe79ff1d_oThere’s a LOT of gathering of paperwork involved in this part of the process. All the documentation that proves we are who we say we are – birth certs, marriage certs, proof of residency, income, etc… Most of it has to go back ten years and some of it we’ll have to get from family members. Mom, Dad, expect a call.

We had the profound good fortune of being recommended an adoption “coordinator” who has already been an incredible help in organizing our process and directing us as to best practices and possible road blocks. This whole thing felt huge and un-manageable in December and now it feels huge and totally manageable.

Guys. This time next year we could have a kid. That. Is. CRAZY.

2016 Reading Challenge

Popsugar 2016 Reading ChallengeNothing like a list to get motivated, right? Thanks to the wonder of social media sharing, I recently came across a meaty 2016 Reading Challenge list. The checklist items are broad – allowing individual users to choose their own books.

<— Here’s a copy of the checklist.

I’ve already knocked out two books from the list, and a third (related) book. My local library has seen me once already and will probably get to know me on a first-name basis in the near future.

I enjoy being a reader again. Having a list somehow motivates me to pick up books and get through them, which (for some reason) is an activity that has fallen out of favor in my brain over the last year or so.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology – specifically my Kindle and the Kindle for iPhone app – I can read everywhere. I do tote around one or two physical copies of something on the list, but with my phone always on my person, I can snag a few pages whenever I have a few minutes of down time.

Take a look at the list and see if it inspires some reading desire. I like conversations with other readers, so I’d like to challenge you to join in with me and let’s compare notes.

(On RaeReads.com I outlined the entire list and my choice for each category. As I finish reading and post book reviews, that’s also where the reviews will live. And Goodreads is where I keep all of this stuff straight – it’s social media for readers. Lots of books, lots of reviews, and that’s “home base” for sharing book-nerdry with my friends. I don’t make any money off of mentioning Popsugar or RaeReads or Goodreads. I just like those sites. 🙂