Friday, February 22, 2008

Fiddle Dee Dee

Well, it’s taken me longer to return than I expected, but here I am, in all my winter glory – snow-covered and chilly, but hanging in there. The short list of what’s been going on since I last posted looks like this:

Dad’s not dead.
Neither is anyone else in the family.

After two 24-hour + power outages in extremely cold weather, we now have a new refrigerator and a new range.

The septic field is fine, but we were nearly too late getting the tank pumped.
We have a new appreciation for phones that work consistently.
And garage doors that are not too heavy to manually lift.

I’ve made a half dozen pairs of wool socks for myself.

Two of my kids are older.

We survived the holidays more easily than I expected.

I’m at the leading edge of a “new” career.
It’s very time-consuming, but cool.

The baby dog, Gracie, is calmer, spayed, and seems to have given up shoe-hunting in favor of digging holes through the snow and permafrost and into the vicinity of telephone lines.

Urk. I want to thank (picture me in a modest evening gown at the podium) everyone who kept stopping by during my long hiatus, everyone who sent me a note, and everyone who didn’t publicly lambaste me as a totally useless wiener. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back on a fairly regular schedule for writing.

So, the new career… Well, as you may remember, I have advocated for my own children because of their ADHD over the years – with school districts. I’ve also volunteered time and scarce brain cells to assist others lost in the morass of special education law and procedures. I’ve done some of it entirely by remote, over the computer, some of it in person, hunched over tables in the library, chairs in the doctor’s office, or while knitting at Chix with Stix.

A few months ago, another lady briefly joined the women’s group, and she has a child with profound disabilities. The table discussion that day concerned a variety of special education issues, and some of the other ladies are teachers, substitute teachers, or just have concerns about themselves, loved ones, or offspring. Apparently, without realizing it, I came off as being a real whiz kid on special ed issues. The moderator recommended that I consider becoming a paid advocate.

I pondered it and discarded the idea, feeling insecure and inadequate. She brought it up again in another group, so I pondered it again, did some research, and set my subconscious to the task of grinding away at the idea. I got closer to the precipice labeled “OK”.

Once again, in mid-January, the moderator, a clinical psychologist, brought it up, and I said, “yes”. She promptly handed me a referral. Tough case, too. It set my juices flowing, got blood pumping through my brain again, and I reached down into the dark, damp dungeon of my insecurities and examined them more critically.

I’ve spent twelve years advocating on an on-going basis for my own children. I’ve done a bang-up job of it, and I’ve had success with the assistance I’ve given other people. I checked state law and requirements, joined some support lists, and realized that I actually do have a clue about how to do this. I’ve surprised myself by feeling reasonably confident, competent and enthusiastic.

It’s that last feeling that really surprises me the most. Over the years as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve lost enthusiasm for rejoining the work world. I know how much it would take away from my ability to be a good mom to my kids, to keep my household running without lots of stress, and to maintain basic standards. I’ve learned to value myself and my needs, and they can sometimes be time-consuming. It’s been hard to try to figure out a way to put all of that in a framework so that nothing gets so badly neglected that it becomes an “issue” unto itself.

I tried signing up for at-home work, and that was a bust for several reasons. I tried signing up to be a secret shopper type person, and, really, there’s nothing intellectually fulfilling about it, and it felt more like tedious busywork. I’m not the sort to sell real estate, and other things just don’t generate enough income to make them more than a hobby. I am, however, a relentless researcher, and that’s a fine trait indeed for a special education advocate.

So, anyway, I decided on a fee schedule, checked the market, checked my conscience, and heard the “Click”. Everything fell into a place that felt like it fit. I met with my new (first) clients, and, more “click”-ing. Then, I let the data-mining juggernaut within loose. I roared through stacks of special education law, paperwork, historical data, case law, due process decisions, educational files going back nearly a decade, descriptions of applicable disorders and conditions, and felt… invigorated. Taller. Like I was breathing easier. Engaged. Focused.

I kept my clients’ butts covered and set loose the twin dogs of strategy and salesmanship. And we won. Everything the clients wanted. And everyone is still happy, the child is protected and in the right place with the right program in place, the clients can sleep at night, the school district was guided to the appropriate decisions and does not appear to feel steamrolled, and I can sleep, too.

It worked. I did it right, and fate smiled. I can, in fact, do this.

I’ve gotten two more referrals since then, and we’ll see how those go. Sometimes people are not going to really need me, they’ll just need someone to adjust their compasses. Other times, folks may have unreasonable expectations and it might not be a good fit for us to work together. But this does feel right for me at this point in time. I can make some measurable money and still be a mom and wife. I can say “no” if that’s the right choice. My brains are turning back into brains instead of being motherhood haggis, and I can take pride in doing a hard job to the best of my ability.

Wish me luck.


Knitnik said...

Congratulations, and so glad you're back!

Amber in Albuquerque said...

Ahhhh!!!! Yay!!!! You're back! Welcome back! Gee I wish this I could gush this to you in person, but I'm here in sunny New Mexico and you're...not.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. You rock! Congratulations on finding a career that meets your abilities and needs and serves others so well. As the recipient of your (pro bono) expertise all I can say is for whoever is lucky enough to find and hire you, you are worth whatever you're charging (probably more).

Great to have you back Buns!

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to hear about your professional success, in the midst of normal living's tribulations and progress. Happy blogging!


Bill Slankard said...

It's great to have you back, and even better that you've picked up a passion, and one that benefits others to boot.
But I am worried about the one child who didn't get older while you were on hiatus. Peter Pan complex?


Anonymous said...

Outstanding!! I'm so proud of you! Ah, Joan, you are such a winner!! It's obvious that you've done so much good for your children - and now other children will benefit from all that hard fought for knowledge. It's more than just book-learning, Joan, and you know it. Knowing when to push and when to back off, etc. You'll be a wonderful advocate!

I'm so glad to see you posting to your blog again, too, and glad to hear all is well with your family.

~Jenn said...

So glad you're back. And I know you'll be great as an advocate for students with issues. Good for you for shaking off those at-home-mom doubts and trying something new!

Anonymous said...

Good luck--and congratulations on finding a place that seems to suit you so well. Few are so fortunate.

AdinaS said...

Good on you! I know you'll be a superb Advocate. And I'm glad you're writing again!

BoS said...

Thank you all so much. It means a great deal to me to have your supportive comments in my "feel good" file.

FugueStateKnits said...

Whoo Hoo! Welcome back to the internet!