Friday, June 30, 2006

We Saw Superman...

We Saw Superman... It was wicked good. See it and let me know what you think.

The Nortons

It was such a relief to be out of the U-Haul truck and in a real HOME. My Aunt Maria's home was an true oasis for us. We were offered hugs and love and kindness not to mention quite a spread at dinner. We grilled steaks, chicken and garlic mushrooms. There were many tasty salads, fresh fruit, bread and yummy desert too.

Before dinner, we lounged in Logan, Utah's own House of Blues.
We relaxed and laughed...
played pool...
and talked of our big plans for the future.
Heidi, is planning to study bio-medical engineering when she goes to college. She's checking out Duke University in a couple of weeks.

The Norton House of Blues was designed and created by my Aunt Maria. After my cousin Joanna married Ray, her mom converted her old bedroom and an adjoining room into this cool, teen hang-out area. Original artwork adorned the walls. It was awesome. Except that the low-lighting called for a flash that drained the batteries on the camera. We'd put it away by the time Joanna and Ray joined us for dinner so I don't have any pictures of them from this trip but you should see their wedding photos. Amazing.

That evening, I wanted to find Kellie and Sally since I hadn't talked with them as much as I wanted to. They were hanging out on the trampoline. Pretty soon, the trampoline was full of a gang of us laying on our backs, in the dark, looking up at the stars. Kellie, Thank you for letting us use your room. You're so awesome.

We found some more batteries in the truck the next morning and took a shot in front of the mountains that border their cul-du-sac.

Good-bye family. Thanks so much for having us. We look forward to the time you come visit us in California.

Entering Utah

When you enter Utah, the landscape becomes a bit more colorful. The rocks are greener and they take on a tinge of red. I haven't researched the geology enough to know why but we enjoyed experiencing them. Cameron called Utah, "Beautiful." Here we are at a rest stop we'd stopped at so he could get a better look.
The rest area had a small trail. Walking through and relaxing in this interesting setting was an enjoyable break from the car.
As we walked, we saw these tiny little rodents everywhere. I need to do additional research to determine exactally what they are. Groundhogs? Anyway, this bunch was remarkably social. (I think they've been fed often by weary travelers.) They were fun to watch and seemed almost as curious about us as we were about them.
More interesting vegitation and ground cover...
A parting shot before heading back out.
We wished we were driving what they were driving but it helped knowing we had family and a home-cooked meal waiting for us just down the road.

Green River? Right...

At some point, the mountains faded into the distance and the novelty of of the rocks began to wear off. We stopped at a rest stop which wasn't at all scenic but snapped a few pics to share. I look a bit more awake and shaded in this picture than the last.

I wanted to get a picture of the sage brush in the background but it wasn't really exciting enough to walk over and stand in front of so I joked that we should get a picture of Cameron next to the sign on the side of the U-Haul. Have you seen the graphics on the side of their trucks that feature different states? Ours featured Iowa. I thought that was appropriate.

More rocks. Fewer plants.

Fewer everything...

As we approached Green River, Wyoming, we started to see random rock outcropings where were relatively interesting.

A closer view of one.

During lunch in Green River, I convinced Cam he should let me help drive. He took this shot of me and another rock formation while we filled up at a gas station.

Look. I can drive a U-Haul. There was somthing empowering about it. It reminded me of when I'd driven one from Des Moines to Chicago, roughly six hours, towing my car with Sam asleep in the passenger side. The adrenaline of moving to Chicago kept me extremely alert on that trip.

This time, after about 25 hours of road time within the past 48 hours, I was bored. I started feeling sleepy. In the passenger seat, I had been able to fidget, look around, read out loud to Cam, control the radio, take pictures, whatever. Now, being forced to hold my foot to the gas petal and stare and the road and semi trucks in front of me was underwhelming. Cam assured me he felt just as bored as the passenger as I felt driving. Driving gave him something to focus on and kept him alert. So while I can say I did drive on this trip, I logged less than 30 miles before pulling off at a rest stop and happily relinquishing the steerimg wheel. Thanks, Cam for getting us there.

Waking in Wyoming

Due to Cameron's determination and stamina, we made it all the way from Des Moines to Cheyenne, Wyoming (the first real city in WY) on the second day of our trip. I faded after about 10 hours of driving and was falling in and out of sleep on him for the last hour and a half. But we made it, unloaded everything and crashed.

The next morning, while we were not incredibly excited about driving, we were excited about the next stretch of our drive. Neither of us had seen eastern Wyoming and the map and web sites Cam had checked said it was supposed to be scenic. So we loaded back up then off we go.

Almost immediately, we started seeing cool rock formations like this one.

Then as we approached Laramie, home of the University of Wyoming, we could see mountains off in the distance. After Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, mountains were an exciting site. We're in the west, Cam would say.
The mountains became more impressive and the countryside more rural.

Cam took this picture from a gas station. He asked me if I wanted to get out of the truck to have my picture taken in front of the mountain. I was still a bit out of it and the sun was a bit too bright but the mountain looks amazing anyway.

I love this shot of Cam, triumphant.

Des Moines to Wyoming

Leaving Des Moines, we had renewed vigor. No more packing. No more planning. No more preparation for the move. We were moving and well on our way. Sam was off playing with cousins on his dad's side. His seat was now open to hold the cats. My side of the U-Haul felt remarkable roomy without a cat or two in their carrier stacked on my lap.
As much as we miss him, we are glad Sam didn't have to make the drive out. There just wasn't room this time and it was a long trip. Thanks to my mom for suggesting I let him opt out of this particular journey and meet up with him later.

Cam and I each took turns calling people from the road to check in, give progress reports and see how other folks were doing. This early part of the drive also gave us a chance to talk quite a bit and tell stories we hadn't heard yet or could benefit from hearing a second time.

One of the hardest parts of leaving Chicago for us was moving away from Cameron's brother, Eric and his wife, Sarah. Cam told me how Eric had mentioned recently that this was the first time Cameron had left him. As the older brother, Eric had always been the one leaving. I could relate to that feeling.

As the older sister, I left for college, then got married, then left for Minnesota, then came back but was still pretty involved in being married, newly-graduated from college, etc. Meanwhile, my brother was growing up, in college and offering me reassurance that I was doing fine in my first job. Like Eric and Cam, I think John and I first evolved from being siblings to being friends during this time. John would tell me about falling in love. I had a baby. Uncle John was there to frolic and play with Sam from the very beginning.

Then things started getting tumultuous for me. I separated from Sam's dad. My best friend from college, Heather, had left too. She and her husband had moved to in Texas, starting their careers and a family of their own. I used to talk with her on the phone about how far away from where I wanted to be I seemed to be. While I was thankful to have a home in my parent's house, it wasn't where I wanted to be. I wanted to have a fabulous life in San Francisco. I belonged there, I assured her. She encouraged me to take baby-steps.

When Sam was one and a half, we moved out of my parent's house and into our first apartment on our own, just the two of us. My brother was there to help me move. Less than a year later, I was offered an opportunity to move to St. Louis and work for a company that specialized in the branch of marketing in which I had been working. Instead of regional accounts like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, I'd be working on national accounts like Outback Steakhouse. Plus they offered more money. I left my parents and my brother again - taking my three-year-old child with me.

After many fabulous adventures and much struggling to take care of us on my own in St. Louis, less than a year later, I was back. Before making the decision to return, Sam and I had had our adventure to San Francisco in search of a jelly fish beach and opportunities on the coast. I hadn't found a job there and while Iowa’s still wasn't where I wanted to be, I had been offered a good job and the support, love and fellowship of my family were enough to bring me home. I hadn't given up on my dream of California; just put it on a shelf for awhile.

Of course, that's when my brother decided to leave home. He and his new wife, Johanna were leaving, following their dreams in the film and entertainment industry to LA...

So on the road between Omaha and Des Moines, Cameron told me the story of the times Eric had left and where he'd been going and what was happening in Cam's life in the meantime. It was fun hearing about how they bonded on the way to see the College World Series in Omaha while Cam was first in college and Eric was leaving college and starting out into the world of work. They have a remarkable relationship and I hope Eric and Sarah know they are welcome to visit us in California anytime. I am also thankful for cell phones, email, blogs, instant messenger, even fantasy baseball. All these things allow Cam to stay in touch with people he cares about, no matter where they live.

Being here brings me closer to my brother again. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with him and being able to spend time with them again. My sister-in-law, Johanna still hasn't even met Cam. We were laughing on the phone the other day about my supposed husband. Hopefully, this blog will help Jo (and other people we care about but aren't able to see in person regularly) keep up with us and get to know Cameron a little bit.

The terrain in eastern Nebraska reminded me of the terrain in south-east Kansas, where I was raised. The rolling hills (not evident in this picture), open space and lush green vegetation were more greatly appreciated after my time in Chicago.

And the sunsets... This picture doesn't do it justice but we commented on how some of the most amazing sunsets we've seen have been on the plains.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Turns out I like the Giants.

So, yesterday was my first full day of internet access in what seemed like forever and was probably actually two weeks. (Two weeks is forever in our online world isn't it?) Cam had gone back to work on Monday. Without internet access, I'd been trying to be domestic. I did the dishes, unpacked boxes, washed clothes, bought groceries, made dinner, etc. Quite out of character for me. A day of it was fine but I was anxious to get online and find something intellectually stimulating or at least worthwhile and meaningful to get involved in. Never mind we still have boxes that haven't been touched. I need to do something that makes me feel stimulated or I get neurotic.

So, within hours of being back online, I found a way to volunteer the next day. Some point in the past, I signed up for the mailing list for Today, they were holding protests across the country trying to encourage Congress to end what they call its addiction to oil money.

Oil isn't my most passionate topic but Congress came dangerously close to allowing oil companies access to the Arctic National Wildlilfe Refuge recently. That got my attention. And we are trying to buy a car to replace the one we left in Chicago. I'd love to buy one that ran at least partially on corn or water or solar or electric power. (My friend Melinda is way ahead of me with her cool red hybrid.) But it looks like we can't afford a non-oil reliant car.

Move-on's protest wasn't so much after consumers to stop consuming so much oil but after Congress to start supporting the alternative energy solutions that are out there. I love inovative, progressive ideas and thinking. And one of the protests was scheduled to be at Berkeley. How cool would that be that the first day I am able, to be involved socially as a Californian, I am protesting at Berkely? I started researching the university too and am interested in learning more about their Social Welfare program. Campus tours are given everyday at Berkeley - 10am on weekdays. I had it all planned, I'd get up and go. Here I was, moving on. Boxes be gone. Laundry can't hold me back. Then, Cam, who had been supporting me in my plan, sent me an instant message saying someone in his office just handed him two tickets to the San Francisco Giant's game.

Normally, I couldn't care less about baseball but I knew Cam would want to go and since we don't know anyone in the area yet who could go in my place, and I hadn't seen the stadium yet and since he said they are known for having excellent garlic fries, I said, of course I'd be glad to come.

Today, I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and into the city by myself for the first time in five years. It was nice that things still seemed familiar. I found the AT&T park and parking with no trouble and time to spare. I wandered around a bit then met Cam near his office to walk together to the game. We had lots of fun talking and laughing all the way to the park and enjoyed walking around once we arrived a lot too. The garlic fries were as good as we had heard, the seats were awesome, (thanks, Ben) and the stadium was just lots of fun.
Outside, there were statues of Willie Mays and various quotes about baseball from different people and perspectives. Inside, they had a place where tiny kids could try to hit a ball and kids Sam's size could slide down mongo, cool slides. The music was fun and the view can not be beaten.

If you have to watch a baseball game, why not watch one with a view of the glistening San Francisco Bay and the setting sun? One of my favorite parts was watching the guys work the dirt. We were just sitting there talking and laughing and waiting for something to happen when all of a sudden, this guy started throwing dirt by the shovel-full. It looked like a blast. I decided I wanted that guy's job. Then he and another guy were out there with these cool towing rakes, smoothing it out. Finally, they sprayed it down. I know they were spraying people on purpose. When they were done with the dirt and the chalk, the field was beautiful. I'm not sure I've ever paid that much attention to the manicuring before and I'm not sure why it was so fascinating tonight except that I am a dork. Or maybe that I am a newlywed in love, sitting with my sweet-heart in the city of my dreams and that makes everything look wonderful?

Tonight turned out also to be law enforcement appreciation night at the ball park. They talked about the officers who have died while protecting us and had family members of who had lost loved ones on the field. It was heavy. One man was visibly crying. The National Anthem was sung by a law enforcement office named D'Arcy. His singing was audibly Irish. I enjoyed it very much and do appreciate those who work to ensure our safety.

I loved the video promos they had during player introduction. And you'll never guess what else I enjoyed, the baseball. Someone Giant hit a grand-slam with the bases loaded and I remember one especially impressive catch. I'm sure I missed a lot. Cam talked about how the other guys not hitting is impressive but I almost always root for the offense if I don't have a team allegiance. I want everyone to do well and while a good defense may be more interesting to people who are into sports, I am not one of those people. But I did have fun and think I could become a Giant's fan. I need a new sweatshirt anyway...

Does U-Haul Make Moving Easier?

Does U-Haul Make Moving Easier? So we made it out of Chicago. There was still some rush-hour traffic. When Eileen called to see how it was going, we'd been driving for over an hour and were still ranging at speeds of 10-45 mph but at least we were always moving. We made it out of the city, across Illinois and the Mississippi River and past Davenport. We'd just called people we were planning to connect with in Des Moines the next day. Everything was lined up and seemed to be falling into place. It was going to be around midnight when we got to our hotel but that was do-able. Then came the thwump sound.

I asked, "What was that?" Cam said, "It was nothing." A few mintues later, there it was again. I said, "I think it was a tire." Can said, "It is something in the back." Then this family drove by, pointing at our tire. I had never had a blow-out before and was having visions of the U-Haul flipping into westbound traffic on I-80. Cam had been checking the alignment the whole time, thinking that if we had a problem with a tire, the U-Haul would be pulling to one side or the other. I wanted him to pull over right away, on the side of the road. Luckily, he was a bit more prudent and slowed down but got us safely to the next exit.

We were literally in the middle of nowhere. No gas stations only what appeared to be an abandoned chicken farm.
Thank God for cell phones. What did we do without them? Cam got on ours and told the folks at U-Haul that we'd lost all of the tread on the inside back tire on the driver's side. They said they'd call back within 30 minutes. They called back w/in 20 to tell us they would send someone out to repair the tire and that they'd be there w/in an hour and a half. This whole incident could have be terrible but since everyone was fine, we just chilled out and laughed about it. The fields surrounding us were lit up by one of the most impressive displays of firefly action I remember seeing and I grew up in rural Kansas. Sam had fun catching them and I did too.

The repair truck made it from Davenport in good time. However, while the repairman was changing the tire, Cam saw him shake his head. When asked about this, he said that the other tire on that side was shot too. He asked how far we were going. When we answered, California, he said there was no way that tire would make it. Since we were only going to Des Moines that night, he thought we'd be ok. We made it to our hotel room and everyone crashed.

The next morning, Cam called U-Haul and explained the situation. He convinced them to send someone out about the other tire. Luckily, we were planning to spend a bit of time connecting with friends and family there that morning anyway. While we were eating breakfast and catching up with our friends Matt & Tracey, the tire was replaced.

Later that morning, Sam was picked up by his uncle, Brian and cousin, Patience to spend some time with relatives on his dad's side of the family. We miss him but are glad he was excused from the rest of the drive west. This time, there were no detours to the Dinosaur National Monument. And it has been nice knowing he is having fun jumping on a trampoline, playing monopoly and making noodles from scratch while we are unpacking, car shopping, etc. This weekend, he will be picked up my my folks and spend a couple of weeks with them before heading to the Powell Family Reunion in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina this year. I will fly into Raleigh and arrive in Myrtle Beach, back with Sam again just in time to be with him on his ninth birthday. I can't wait.

Leaving Chicago. We couldn't have done it w/o

Leaving Chicago. We couldn't have done it without our friends the Erenbergs.

Despite knowing we were moving many, many weeks before the day. Even after much preparation including giving items and boxes of items away to friends and two Rodeo loads full of stuff to the Salvation Army (thanks Eric and Sarah for the use of your wheels), when the time came to pull out of town on Friday, June 16th, we weren't ready.

We'd spent many productive days packing and organizing. It seemed everything was going so well. The movers, who loaded the truck for us, even commented on how organized we were and predicted we'd have plenty of room in the tuck. At noon, I was saying, we'd be out of there by 1:00. They loaded all of the boxes, our beds, dressers, bikes, most of the big stuff, then left.

The thing was, when the movers left at 2:00, we were completely out of space in the truck. The only things we could fit were things that could be thrown over the couches into the open space that remained. And it turned out that not everything we wanted to load had made it. Cam's birthday grill from last year, sat there staring at us. I'd purchased a portable grill so it would be easy to take with us when we moved but it just wasn't fitting into the truck without some major rearranging we weren't equipped to do and didn't have time for. Suddenly, it became a gift for Cam's brother.

And the house, seemingly empty but filled with things like lamps, most of which we didn't want to take but there was this little bedside lamp that we liked and would have been happy to take. It just wouldn't survive being tossed into the abyss that was the space in front of the couches. Happily, it found a new home with my friend Eileen.

The Erenbergs had been trying to have us over for dinner to celebrate our wedding, my gosh, for over a year and for whatever reason, we just weren't able to coordinate schedules and find a date that would stick. Finally, as the our last day of being neighbors approached, we knew it was now or never. We had a fabulous dinner and even better time with them the week before the move. I'm so happy we sat that time aside. I kept meaning to go over and spend some more quality hang-out time and say a final good-bye but there always seemed to be something else that needed done.

At one point, after the movers had loaded everything there was to sit on, I walked over looking for a place to lay down for a minute. (With all of the adrenaline of the move, I'd been up since 2am.) It is so nice to have friends whose door you can knock on and say, I just need to lay on your couch for a bit. Even if your mom isn't home. Unfortunately, I missed Eileen again.

The movers left and Cam asked me to go grab some lunch for us while he loaded the last few things into the truck. When I returned, we realized the gravity of the situation. While it seemed we were really almost done, it was 2:45. Our deadline for leaving without being slammed by rush-hour traffic was 3:00. Cam said, he wished he were dead which seems a bit extreme but we had gone from thinking things were working out wonderfully to realizing we might not make it in just a couple of hours. All of a sudden, Eileen pulled up and walked over to see how things were coming. After assesing the situation, she suggested we just get in the truck and go and leave the rest of the stuff for them to finish.

There she was, shining a beacon of hope back into our day. Before her offer, I had mentally accepted that we'd have to leave after rush hour, maybe the next day, which would throw our entire moving schedule off kilter. I couldn't believe she meant what she was saying or that we were really thinking of taking her up on her generous offer but all of a sudden, almost before we knew what was happening, Sam and the kids were in the yard with us. Good-byes, hugs and games of ring-around-the-rosy were being had. Where are Sam's shoes? Who knows? Who cares? Let's just go. Kitties were thrown into cat carriers. One was placed on Sam's lap, the other on mine. Cam got into the driver's seat and we drove away.

We left many wonderful people, places and memories behind but thanks to our friend's the Erenbergs, we were able to go.

We made it.

Cam dubbed this picture, "Mary relaxing." As you can see by the upturned chair and box in the background, we still had lots of work to do on the place when this picture was taken and while I don't think this shot is especially flattering, I do look satisfied, happy and relaxed.

It was such a relief to finally get out of that blasted U-Haul truck and into our new home (which we love, by the way). At the end of our fifth consecutive day of extensive driving, I was comparing myself to the Bride of Frankenstein (no comparison of Cam to Frankenstein intended). I, however, did feel like the living dead. I'd fluctuate between exhilarated enthusiasm and flat-out desperation, frantic to be there already.

My poor parents would call to check on our progress and sometimes I was thrilled with how things were going and able to share it with them. Other times, I had to say I wasn't up for talking. Driving 2200 miles is grueling and can be down-right discouraging.

But we made it. That night, my dad tried to ask me if the place was as beautiful as I remembered. I had to tell him I couldn't really say. Cam and I couldn't decide if we were happier to be here or happier to be out of the truck. At that time, I'd say we were happier to be out of the truck. It has been over a week now and I can say it is as beautiful as I remember and we are happy to be here. More to come...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

learning to upload pictures

It's finally happening.

Many of you know that ever since visiting California to be the flower girl in my Aunt Maria and Uncle Jeff's wedding, I have been enamored with the San Francisco Bay area. Because my grandparents lived in Concord, California while I was growing up, we went back to the area for visits a couple of times. I have wanted to live there since I was eight years old.

When I was 16, our family had a reunion in the Monterrey Bay area. After visiting the aquarium there, I decided I was going to be a marine biologist. (To this day, I still greatly appreciate my uncle Jerry encouraging me in pursuing this dream by taking me to talk with practicing marine biologists at aquariums in North Carolina when we visited his family later that summer.)

I was looking into schools on several coasts. Then at 17, shortly after my family moved to Iowa, I met Sam's dad and was sure I was in love. All of a sudden, the dream of being a marine biologist was put on the back burner while the dream of being a wife and mother moved to the forefront.

I hadn't given up completely on my career dreams, during my first semester at Iowa State University, my plan was to get my undergraduate degree in Biology then head to a coast for graduate school. However, it turned out I didn't really have an aptitude for science. I was failing chemistry (for chemical engineering majors) and ended up dropping the class. Instead, I decided to be a journalism major, hoping to put my insatiable curiosity to good use. Maybe I wouldn't be a marine biologist. But that didn't mean I didn't still feel drawn to the sea. Maybe I could be more of a Jacques Cousteau type person, learning about and appreciating marine animals and sharing what I learned with others.

Somehow upon graduation from college, I ended up working in advertising. I never liked selling things. And while I was involved with many interesting advertising campaigns in the 10 years I worked in the industry and had good jobs that allowed me to provide for myself and Sam, the work was meaningless to me.

When Sam was three, I quit a job in St. Louis and we drove cross country in search of jellyfish and career opportunities near family and the beach. It seems the country was in the middle of a recession and I didn't find anyone in California interested in giving me a job that would allow me the time and money I needed to care for us there at the time. We made the most of it and still feel that experience is one of the most remarkable things I have done in my life. Thank you Aunt Kay for welcoming us.

Remembering back to my days in the journalism school, I know I selected public relations as my area of emphasis because I felt I was a "nice person." I have sense learned that being nice doesn't have much to do with advertising or public relations. Recently, with the support of Sam and Cameron, I have begun pursuing a second career in social services.

After leaving advertising, I spent many long months trying to figure out how to make the transition into a field where I had interest but no practical experience. Eventually, I started a graduate program working towards a masters degree in mental health counseling. I also started volunteering in the call center of the National Runaway Switchboard (1-800-RUNAWAY). Through this organization, whose mission is to keep at-risk youth safe and off the streets, I have received crisis intervention training, been given a direct service opportunity and am allowed to really help people who desperately need it on a regular basis.

In the meantime, while Cameron is providing the bulk of our income, I still needed to bring some money into the household. At the beginning of this school year, I learned that Sam's school was planning to hire people to help some kids with special needs integrate into the school. I was able to meet their job requirements and was offered a job. I was paired with an amazing 11-year-old boy who has Autism. He is an incredible kid with many gifts and just like all of us, he needs a little help from time to time. Being there with him, helping him navigate fifth grade has been a wonderful way to make a living this year.

I became so interested and engaged in what was happening at the school and consumed with wanting to learn more about how to better do what I was doing every day that I decided to put grad school on hold and take advantage of the free training I was being offered on how to work with people who have Autism and to study sign language. One of the deaf schools for Chicago is housed in Sam's schools. I had direct interaction every day with beautiful children who were trying to communicate with me. I wanted to be able to understand and respond to them.

Between my work at school, being a newlywed and mother, I didn't feel I was able to give grad school my full attention. Also, I enjoyed the schedule of my workin the school so much and saw so many kids in need of someone to take an interest in them that I began to consider shifting my grad school focus to being a counselor in the schools. The person who is doing what I would call counseling at Sam's school is actually a licensed social worker. I wanted to take some more time and be sure I was in the right program before investing more time and money towards a degree.

So that is what I've been up to lately. In the meantime, Cameron was offered an opportunity to relocate with his company to their San Francisco office. His supervisor and another primary member of his department's team are housed there. He has much respect and rapport with both of them. We know the area is considerably more expensive than Chicago but he was offered a sizable increase and we've decided it is worth it. He has accepted the offer and at the end of the school year, we are getting into a U-Haul truck and driving 2200 miles to our new home.

Hence the heading, it is finally happening. Dreams can come true. I will turn 34 in a couple of weeks. For my birthday and our anniversary, my husband is giving me a new life in California. I have already talked to people who are looking for "counselors" to work with very young kids who have been diagnosed with Autism, in their homes, implementing the ABA methodology. I'm impressed with what I've learned about ABA and the potential it has to greatly improve a child's functioning. I've also applied for the opening they have for a special education paraprofessional (the job I've held this year) at the school district we are planning to move into.

We've been focusing primarily on Marin County. When Sam and I spent time with Aunt Kay in Walnut Creek five years ago, I found myself driving into the city and out of it again across the Golden Gate Bridge to explore the area near Muir Woods and the National Marine Sanctuary off Point Reyes most often. Sam and I saw a whale the last time we were there.

I really love Big Sur too. In Marin County, we'll be less than 200 miles from Lake Tahoe and Yosemite .

It looks like we will end up in Tiburon. From there, all of the nature we long to be close to is right in our back yard. I'm learning about new amazing natural wonders in the area every day. And, the city is easily accessible by bus or even ferry.

We are very impressed with the middle school and junior high schools in Reed County. We haven't made our mind up about high schools yet. One is very impressive and we just don't know that much about the others yet but since Sam is just starting fourth grade next year, we have time.

I will have money coming in through the summer from the job I worked this year. That will allow my some time to take care of Sam during the break from school and get us situated and acclimated. I hope to find meaningful work and wait a year to establish residency and investigate grad school programs then dive back into one in the fall of '07. Who knows what adventures life will bring?

Thanks so much for the friendships, kindness, love and support you have shown me in my life. I appreciate you. I hope wonderful things are happening in your world and am always interested in hearing what you and your family have been up to. I'm sorry I am not always good at maintaining communication. Just trying to find my way. Please know you are important to me.

Much love,