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  • Christine Shuck

Finishing Energy

Last week, I needed the distraction of working on my current work in progress. The days were ticking down to THE DAY, and if I thought about it, I would be a nervous wreck.


So instead of focusing on the adoption of our son that was scheduled for Friday, and the possibility of it going horribly wrong, I did my best to focus on anything other than that.


Birthday in Nature

Last Tuesday was my teen's birthday, their 16th, and I honored their request for a day off from school to be spent in nature. It was an easy decision, the kiddo gets straight As and is thriving at the charter school we have enrolled them in. The fact that they wanted to spend that day with me knocking around the woods didn't hurt, either.


We walked around behind Lakeside Nature Center and found this cool, although perplexing, concrete structure that stretched across the creek. Alex found a cool old Bayer aspirin bottle that we estimate was manufactured somewhere between the 1920's and 1940's. And we collected quite a few cool rocks, acorns, and moss along the way.


There are special moments I hold in my heart. Moments with my kids where I feel like I've finally done everything right. At least for the moment. And this was one of them. I was the one Alex wanted to spend their birthday with and we had an amazing time tromping about in the woods for three hours and talking about anything that came to mind. There were a lot of hugs and "I love you's" shared as well. I'm really, really lucky to be a mom to such an amazing kid. All of my kids are amazing, don't get me wrong, but that was a really special day.


Almost Done?

The next two days were full of massive progress on Short-Term Rental Success. I wrote at least 6,000 words, consolidated my chapters, winnowing them down from 60 to 40, while the word count climbed to over 50,000 words. I'm close, real close. As in, by the end of the week I should have a manuscript I can begin editing.


Meanwhile, I have begun work on the cover. Fiction covers I leave to the professionals, but so far, I've designed my own non-fiction covers. Here are the four versions I'm currently working on. I'm getting some responses on adding color, so I'll likely do that tonight or tomorrow as I need to dig into writing on the manuscript today.


I am so excited to have this book out in the world. I share a lot of my reviews on The Cottages Facebook page, but my reach is not that large (at least, not yet!). I want other hosts to see the possibilities, to know they can have amazing experiences with guests and I want to help them see a way out of negative interactions as well. Running our two short-term rentals has not only been lucrative, it has been (most of the time) a joy. We have hosted hundreds, if not thousands of guests in the past few years and learned and grown our hospitality with each learning experience. Sharing that knowledge with others is something I love doing. I've helped mentor a couple of local hosts and shown them our STR, given them a load of tips, and now I can take it wider to literally millions more. That's really going to be cool! I look forward to my words helping others up their game and be spectacular hosts.


Check it out on Amazon and, soon, other platforms as well. Just $6.99 for the ebook! The release date is December 1st, maybe sooner if all works out accordingly. And at that time there will also be a paperback and hardcover version. More on that when I settle on a final cover design and the manuscript is complete.

A Friday Adoption Special

Fostering can be a heart in mouth experience. Especially in the case of our little man. With us since he was just nine days old, he has grown into an amazing little (almost) toddler. His biological mother visited with him twice after his birth and then disappeared, pretty much without a word. In late May, the courts moved to terminate her rights, and we watched as the case slowly turned from reunification to adoption.


I have mixed feelings about the courts and judges. The foster care system is overwhelmed right now, and getting worse (thanks to the Supreme Court and trigger laws), but it is still incredibly frustrating to watch. It feels like a blue whale marooned on land. It moves at a snail's pace and with zero grace. Even as the adoption date was set for October 7th, here comes biomom, past the deadlines but still thinking she could disrupt the adoption.


An emergency mediation meeting was set. This is where we, the potential adoptive parents and the biological parents meet and hash out a post-adoption contact agreement. There is a mediator, and if mom has a lawyer, the lawyer is present. Also various members of the team - the guardian ad litem, the caseworker, and a few others depending on availability.


The other mediation we had experienced had lasted thirty minutes and all parties agreed, signed, and were good to go. This one? No such luck. It took an hour and a half, mainly because biomom would go into monologues about "her rights" and seemed intent on being as contentious as possible. So much so, that the vision of what she would be like after an adoption, when it was just us dealing with her and not the rest of the team helping to mediate, really hit home. Did I really want to argue with this person or deal with her b.s. every time she popped back into our lives and wanted to see "[her] son?"


I didn't. I knew it. If she was this aggressive, in a room (virtual, but still) full of others, what would she be like one on one? And what would she say or do with a little boy who neither knew her or could (at least right now) conceptually understand who she was or why she was there?


I could not bring myself to sign the mediation agreement. Even when the news came that she had finally signed it. I just... couldn't.


Our son has the right to know who he is and where he came from. He has the right to know his biological family. Of that I am clear. But I also see how vulnerable and young and immature he is. There will be time for truths, even the hard and painful ones, as the years progress.


As the day approached, and we were informed that biomom might be at the adoption hearing, we chose to not appear in person, and appear virtually as we had for our six-year-old's adoption. In that case, there wasn't a choice. Covid rules were still in effect, and whenever possible, family court met virtually. I had so looked forward to doing this in person, to standing before the judge afterward for a picture. But that wasn't going to happen. Not with the fear that there would be a disruption, or delay to the adoption. I didn't want any traumatic scene playing out, and I didn't want drama. So online we went, with the little one all dolled up in a 3-piece suit.


The moment that I feared happened pretty quickly. The judge frowned, looking over his paperwork. "I see here a note that says mediation occurred, but I don't see any paperwork or an agreement regarding that."


Our attorney looked grim, my husband beside me had a look that matched. "Your Honor, that was because I did not sign the agreement. During mediation, things became so contentious that I did not feel comfortable signing the agreement."


I was absolutely terrified. Had I destroyed our chances at adoption? Would this be kicked back down to family court? Would we have to spend another year or more working with the foster care system?


The judge sat there for a moment. I didn't continue to explain. If I have learned one thing with my dealings with courts and judges, more words is simply, obfuscation. Unwanted, unneeded. He frowned some more and my stomach flipped.


"Well, I think that, taking into account the lack of interaction from the mother or her presence here today, and needing to make a decision for the best interests of the child, I am willing to proceed with the adoption."


A wave of relief washed over me. We were then sworn in, testified as to our willingness to become his parents, and Ethan is now officially our son! We had done it, and without tying ourselves to a future of contentious relations with an unreliable and hostile biological parent. I'm still reeling. He is our last child. I have sent the emails informing the team that we will no longer be foster parents and wishing them well. It's been a hell of a ride, folks. I count myself lucky to have these two little ones to raise.


Remember, raising kids keeps you young... or they kill you faster...

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