Sunday, October 04, 2020

T+ A Day and a Half

I did expect it to be hard. It seems so momentous - from here on out, he doesn't live here full-time. Just 3 days ago, he did. 

 What I wasn't prepared for was the onslaught of memories. B. just asked me to cut his hair, so I instantly thought of 2 days ago when A. "let" me cut his hair before he left and got teary. Is everything going to be measured in "before he left" and "after he left?" 

 We're in Halloween season, which is my favorite time of year, so there are lots of memories of pumpkin patches and hay mazes, costume searches. Geez, how long ago was it that he saw that ladybug costume in Babies R Us and decided that's what he wanted to be? 

 I think what hurts the most is the things I'd hoped to do that we never got to. Every year I wanted to take them strawberry picking, or apple picking, and it never happened. 

I know it's cliche to say that it went by so fast, and I know there were times when it was so slow going. There's the nostalgia for long ago, and there's the pain of what I miss now. 

He spent a lot of time in his room for the last couple of years, but at least I knew he was in there. I miss him playing his video games on the TV. I miss knowing he'd turn out the lights since he was usually the last one up. I miss him emptying the dishwasher, and slamming doors when he didn't realize how loud he was being because he had his headphones on. I miss the squeaking of the trampoline. God, I really miss him. 

There are a few things I tell myself that help me hang on - 

He is where he should be, where he wants to be. He was so ready to go. 

We are still connected. He still needs us. He'll be back in a few months. Then he'll be gone again, for longer, but everyone tells me it gets easier. He can't come home for weekends, but that's OK. 

What a good job we've done, that he can follow his dreams to London. He's so adventurous, so brave.

He used to tell me I was his favorite person. It's been a long time since that's been true, which is OK. For a while, I was, and that's what I wanted. I wanted to raise my children knowing without any doubt that they were loved. He and his brother still know that. 

We are still a family, it's just going to look different. As it should. 

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Adventures in Student Visa-ing

Getting A. to the UK was a roller coaster. 

First was the realization, early in the summer, that we wouldn't be able to go with him to get him settled in. All the move-in stuff I'd been planning, taking him to buy kitchen stuff, bedding, hanging things in the room, meeting the suitemates, etc. Not going to happen - we would just be dropping him off at the airport, making sure he had enough money for a taxi ride to his dorm. We wouldn't even get to see where his room was. 

OK, I'd made peace with that. Next, his university had to issue a very important number - his CAS (Certification of Admission to Study, I think) number. He needed that number to get a student visa. The visa office says you can't apply for a visa more than 2 months before you intend to arrive. So there's this push as soon as the 2-month mark hits to apply - but you can't apply without the CAS number, and it takes the admissions office a while to issue it. 

So we waited and we waited.  Admissions office is all, "We're going as fast as we can, leave us alone." 

Finally the super special number was received. A. immediately applied for the student visa, and we paid all the fees. We had to pay the visa fee, of course, but we also have to pay the NHS fee, since he'll be on their health system. while over there. Fine, please take care of him if he gets sick or hurt. 

During the application process, you have to pick a place where you'll get you "biometrics" taken - basically fingerprints, signature and a photo. Because we live outside SF, we chose the office in SF. First mistake. 

Now we waited for the office to contact us with an appointment. But they never did. We saw on the website that the office was closed due to the pandemic, so A. emailed them and asked if he could switch the biometric choice to Seattle. Seattle, 2 states away. They wrote back and asked for some contact information, which A sent along, and then went silent. Nothing. 

I had bought flights for "move-in" day, which was looming closer and closer. American Airlines cancelled the flights. I rebooked flights on British Airways. 

Meanwhile, King's College London wrote and said that they would like all students who have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival (definitely all US students) to arrive by September 6th, so they'll be done with the quarantine by the time classes starts. 

King's College is also offering alternate move-in dates because apparently lots of students around the world are having trouble getting visas and travel is weird right now, so they tell us we can move in Oct 31, or January 8th, as well. A. really, really wants to get there. 

OK, I wasn't super thrilled that he'll have to leave 2 weeks early, and I was now going to have to switch the flight and probably pay a bunch more money for it, but it might happen anyway because we couldn't get the biometrics done. Correction: We couldn't get an appointment to get the biometrics done. 

G. and A. actually drove into SF to the address we had for the visa processing office. They found one person working there, who told them, "the UK isn't allowing us to process student visas right now." 

Um, what? We hadn't heard anything about them not processing student visas, and King's was certainly acting like he could still come. 

So we made several phone calls to the UK visa advice line, who knew nothing about this ban, and we decided that the only course of action was to go to Seattle, where the office was open and taking appointments.

But, you can't just switch to another office. You have to cancel your first visa application, and start a new one, which made all of us anxious. But it seemed to be the only way, so A. did it, we paid all the fees again, and chose the Seattle office. We knew he wasn't going to make it by Sept 6th, but maybe he could make it by move-in day again?

A. and I flew to Seattle 2 days later, took an Uber to the Seattle office, got some sushi before our appt time, took 10 minutes to get his fingerprints and photo taken, and then took a uber back to the airport and flew back to Oakland. We had to leave his passport there, with the assurances they'd send it back.

A week later, we had his visa. Yay! Flights were confirmed and it looked like he'd actually make it to the London student housing on move-in day!

Two days before his scheduled departure, we had a family Zoom goodbye, we'd planned for his "last meal" and he started texting me weird questions, like "how much did the plane ticket cost?" and "is it refundable?" 

He came out of his room, and said "I think we need to cancel my flight on Friday."  I told him not to joke about that, and he pointed to his visa, which, sure enough, had October 3rd as its valid date. 

So he'd be with us 2 more weeks. The next day, both G and I were exhausted. It felt like we kept preparing ourselves, and then boom, not happening. I was able to reschedule the flight for October 2nd (he'd arrive on October 3rd) with no fee. He'd been worried that we'd lose the money for the flight, so he was relieved. 

As October 2nd approached, I think we were all holding our breath. What could happen? Earthquake? Small earthquakes were being recorded nearby, so that was a possibility. The COVID numbers were going up both in England and the US - would England close its borders? Also a possibility. 

But yesterday we drove to SF, got his luggage checked in, and said goodbye. He texted us when he landed, at 6am. He sent us a photo of his dorm when he got there. It's a tiny room, a small space to live in without leaving for 14 days. 

They'll give him food for 3 days, and then he's on his own. He'll have to order from nearby restaurants because he can't use the communal kitchen until the quarantine is over. 

My baby boy now lives in London.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Well, hello there!

It's been a minute, eh?

A. is now 17 years old, believe it or not. He's a senior in high school, has applied to something like 17 universities and so far has been admitted to all of them. He's also gotten some amazing scholarships and aid. But he wants to go to the one place that's not going to give him any aid....England. He was admitted to King's College in London and that's where he wants to go. It's fine, really, it's fine that he's turning down all this money.


Anyway, now we're wondering if he's even going to go because of this COVID-19 pandemic. Both boys are in virtual classrooms, and prom is probably cancelled, maybe even graduation. I feel badly for him, but on the other hand, he can tell his grandchildren, "Yes, I lived through the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. It was awful...I had to eat my sandwiches on wheat bread because my mom couldn't find white bread anywhere. I decided I hated wheat bread around the age of 15, after eating it all my life. Then I had to eat it again, so you can imagine what that did to my sense of individuating self."

Ben, remember him? The super-moody baby turned into the sweetest kid you can imagine. He's also a total heartbreaker with his blue eyes and long eyelashes, although he doesn't see it. He is now a freshman in high school.

So this pandemic, huh? Today at work, it started out that we were to work as normal, see in person any student who wanted to be seen in person, and hold all our groups as normal. (I work at a counseling center at a state university - the same place I worked in 2004, in fact, when I was writing this blog. Great job, great staff, great students).  Then the shelter-in-place order came out at 1pm, and we were all wondering if that would change anything. By 5pm, the word finally came down and we are now working remotely.

Just last weekend, we were celebrating Ben's birthday at Rock City on Mt. Diablo, his favorite place on earth, and we went out for pizza afterwards. It was very crowded, especially the bar part. We had the boys wash their hands really well, but otherwise didn't think of it much. A week later we weren't even getting take-out anymore. I went to Costco just the last Saturday, used hand sanitizer but otherwise didn't think of it much, and by the next day I was nervous going to the grocery store. It's crazy how fast things are going.

Tonight I'm relieved that I'll be able to work from home, but I wonder how long that will last. How long until I want to choke my family? I predict 5 hours in, I will want to go for a drive by myself just to get some time.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Year in Review: 2011

Happy Holidays! Boy, the years just fly by, don't they? We feel like we've been very busy but we have little to report.

We're still in Our City, still in the house we said we'd live in for 5 years before moving. We're heading into our 12th year here, so you can see how that prediction panned out.

Ben earned his yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do, and then promptly quit.

A. graduated Montessori and switched to a new school, St. J's. Unfortunately, he says he doesn't like it much and wishes he were back at Montessori, so, you know, that's fun. We're all still waiting for a growth spurt, too.

Both A. and Ben started Boy Scouts, and while the activities are fun, the uniforms cost an arm and a leg and the badges are ridiculously hard to sew on.

Lunasea is still in private practice, and hates insurance companies more than ever. Her goal in 2012 is to not have to deal with them anymore. She also is not crazy about sewing Scouting badges and is actively sabotaging her sons' efforts to earn more badges for her to sew onto the shirts.

G. is still at Kaiser and in private practice. He was hit by an appliance truck and totaled the car. We're still driving it, though, because it turns out the driver was the appliance guy's uninsured nephew. Oops!

The unfinished wood around the doorways of our house are still unfinished. After 3 years, we (read: Greg) finally chose a stain color only to find it had been discontinued. Isn't that always the way?

A. is trying out CYO basketball, and his team finally won a game. We couldn't say that at all last year with soccer, so things are looking up.

Dear friends died and we miss them, so that sucked. was your year?

Friday, March 18, 2011

A. Takes a Stand

A. has come out firmly against tiger extinction, in a letter to National Geographic.

Dear National Giograpic,

We should keep lions and other big cats alive because they want to live a big life. Think about it, if we were a big cat we wouldn't want to die (and of course not go extinct). We want to live a good happy life. Big cats going extinct would make a big difrence. Many contry in southern asia and  Africa would have to change state animal and zoos would lose a lot of anamals. Little kids would get relly sad, if there was no more "King of the Jungle." It would be a big loss if the big cats when to ecstinction.

Sincerely, A.

Please, let the countries keep their national symbols. Save the big cats.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Another Auld Lang Syne

I've written before about how much I love New Year's. I'm in the self-improvement business, after all, and although I realize there's nothing magical about January 1st that instantly makes all goals attainable, it's a pretty handy marker for starting something.

Every year my resolutions are similar - they focus around health, organization and finance (like 98% of the population). I don't see this as a failure. These areas are my cutting edges - they are what I will always be working on, and that's fine. Every year gets a bit better. This year I implemented a new bookkeeping system in my practice, which helped track payments A LOT. Next year will be even better as I moved my accounting online.

I've recently been reading about brain plasticity and am really interested in how it applies to positive psychology. I've been really interested in cognitive work on resilience, and how some clients manage to pull themselves past enormous roadblocks and trauma, and why other clients see their lives as a tragedy and have such a hard time motivating themselves to change, even though they express the desire to do so. After 20 years of doing therapy, the actual traumas and stresses the two types experience don't seem that qualitatively different, and I don't think the first group is just in denial. I think the growing field of research into positive psychology is fascinating, and I want to learn more about the practical application of these ideas.

Last year I ran a 5K. This year, depending on how my joints hold out, I will run a 10K. I will also eat less and move more. I'm going to start a binder of healthy, vegetable-heavy recipes since I need vegetables disguised if I'm going to eat more of them.

Last year I learned many ways to cut back on grocery costs. I'll keep that up, and started a separate savings account at ING Direct to save money each month so I'm not struggling at Christmas. This year we sold one of our cars right after Thanksgiving and that saved this Christmas, along with the bevy of frugal shopping sites out there that saved me tremendous amounts of money by alerting me to sales I wouldn't have found otherwise...but I'm not going to be caught wondering how not to go into debt next Christmas. I don't think we'll have another spare car to sell, so....I need to make sure I have enough cash set aside.

And, hey, here it is 11:11 on 1/1/11. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Kind of Superhero I Want to Be

I had fantasies of being a Superhero today. Mostly because some chick started yelling inexplicably at me at a gas station, other people left carts in the middle of the aisle at Target, and then I stepped in dog poop on the grass at the library.

So if I were a Superhero, I guess I'd have to fly, because I'd want to swoop in and correct all those little stupid annoying things we do to each other. I'd swoop into the gas station and make sure everyone was calm, took turns and waited in line. I'd have people say, "No, you were here first, go ahead - here, let me move out of the way for you."

I'd (gently) teach people how to move their carts to the side of the aisle when they stop to look at something. I'd jump in front of their carts before they barreled around corners and say, "Now, don't you want to check first to make sure someone isn't coming and the coast is clear?"

And I'd definitely swoop in and hand people plastic (biodegradable, of course) bags to pick up their dog's poop. "I know you want to pick up your dog's crap, don't you? Here, let me give you this to use."

I'd stop people on sidewalks and firmly suggest they pick up the fast food bags they just threw in the gutter.

I'd show up in people's cars (guess I'd have to add transporting to my list of powers) and say, "Now, you want to use your turn signal right about now, don't you?"

Oh, and an important one - I'd prowl parking lots and discuss bad parking with people as they got out of their cars. "Now, I'm sure you don't realize this, but your car is over the line on the other side. That's going to make it awfully hard for the people in that car to get in, don't you think? How 'bout you just jump back inside and repark within the lines?"

I'd arrive when people are talking loudly on their cell phones in inappropriate places and either bodily transport them outside, or hold up my power shield and cut off their signal.

Any I'm forgetting?

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