Solo

I’ve been talking about doing this for a while, you guys, and I’m finally here!

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Why, yes, it is a small, somewhat dirty hole-in-the-wall hotel room. You miss the point. I am BY MYSELF! I didn’t even realize how badly I wanted the solo time until I actually booked it. I figure it’s been about 12 years since I’ve actually gone anywhere (aside from the grocery store, sometimes) completely by myself. I mean, we were getting to the point of more freedom with the girls because they occupy themselves more and don’t need to come with us everywhere, but throwing a baby into the mix a decade later threw off the natural shedding and rebirth from the mommy cocoon. Also, since we’ve been married we’ve pretty much done everything of significance together, even without children! I almost forgot that I actually like exploring and being alone and feeling like I have the capability to make my own decisions. It’s quite exciting. I took the train northward from San Diego.

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These photos epitomize LA for me. I know I will have some haters, but I grew up about an hour east of LA and I never learned to love the sprawling, gray, dusty beast. I love big cities and everything that comes with them, generally, but in my opinion LA just did it wrong. I was happy to be on the train going through it instead of parked on the freeway.

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Past LA the landscape opens up into something beautiful. The stark coastline opens infinitely to the west, sparkling and blue and beckoning. This is what calls people to LA, really. At first, sagebrush and canyons scrabble and claw their way up the harsh terrain to the east, but as you get further toward Santa Barbara the landscape begins to give way to rolling hills. This time of year it’s a conglomerate of greens all thrown on top of each other, always softer around the edges than what I’m used to in San Diego. The above picture was taken just south of the City of Guadalupe, a small farming community just north of Santa Barbara.

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This is Guadalupe proper. I think I mostly love the train because you see the backsides of places and things that you normally would miss in a car. It’s really a beautiful way to shift perspective when you travel, and I didn’t anticipate this when I first took a long train trip.

I thought this would be a great time to just get some head space and to get a lot of writing done. In reality, I’ve spent too much time on Facebook already, and just wandering a little around the city. Tomorrow I am vowing to keep the internet off (except a newsletter that I HAVE to finish writing) and to make some art, albeit art squeezed into a day trip, squeezed out of my being at my request instead of organically. Sometimes you just take what you can, folks.

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#NationalAdoptionDay

I just found out that tomorrow is National Adoption Day. Seeing as how we’ve been flung (joyously but unexpectedly) into this whirlwind that is adoption, I feel as if I should write something about it.

Often times people think that adoption is expensive. We get that question regularly, and it was something that even we were in the dark about. When we became foster parents, adoption was NOT our end goal so we never even asked those questions. Fact is, though, that if you adopt through the foster system (at least in San Diego) it is FREE! Private agencies charge a lot of money, but not the county. I did a little research and found that throughout the US this is the case, though they can charge you small fees for various things like fingerprinting and background checks.

It’s not an easy path if you instantly want to have the promise of a baby. Usually the wait list for adoptable infants through the county is long, but if you are willing to take on a child that’s toddler age or older there is a huge need. There is also a HUGE need for foster parents, and this is a less direct way to end up with a baby. This is the route we took, though our end goal was initially not adoption. Fostering is an amazingly rewarding, guaranteed to be bittersweet and a little heartbreaking, experience that is not for the week of heart. I encourage you to check out a Foster Family Agency (just Google it!) in your area for good info that’s relevant to you.

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Our super cute, almost-adopted foster son checking out the scenery.

So, really and truly, you can adopt a child that is in terrible need of a forever family for FREE or almost free. You might have to pay for livescan and/or some other nominal fees, but it’ll all be less than a few hundred bucks. In fact, depending on the situation, you might even get PAID by the government for the foster care phase and even after adoption up until the child turns 18.

Wanderlust.

Winter time in San Diego. This was last January here in Imperial Beach.

Winter time in San Diego. This was last January here in Imperial Beach.

Winter is finally rolling into San Diego, as much as winters do in these parts. The air is brisk at night, the leaves blowing off the few deciduous varieties here by the beach. The daytime temperatures are still in the high 70’s, though, and the sky stays the clear blue of a robin’s egg. It’s idyllic, and I know this, but I can’t help the yearning I feel for a real wintertime. My spirit wants the smell of pine and the dry, clear cold that only comes on winter nights where it falls below freezing. When I started university in San Diego, I never thought I’d stay here past the few years it took to graduate. Little did I know that I’d meet my future hubby and grow roots here. The thought of digging up the little ones and taking them into the unknown is daunting. My blood is transient.

The truth is, staying physically put in the same monotony of every day life drains me. Ever since I married my spouse, I’ve been eager to pack it up and keep exploring. San Diego was supposed to be a pit-stop, nothing more than a baby step away from my parent’s home so I could begin to stretch my boundaries. So far it’s been a 17 year pit-stop, and I’m antsy. I can’t help but feel that we were meant to move, to be fluid like a river and reach our fingers wherever the the earth will take us. What happens when we sit still for too long? Do we go stagnant or dry up? This, I fear.

As the years have past, I’ve grown and changed so much, but the nature of my heart is the same. Exploration and new experiences are life-giving. I know that it will be painful to leave the community that we have here, but bittersweet. Technology and ease of travel mean that family and friends-like-family are always accessible. My kids need to learn to explore the world and to not fear the unknown. I know not everyone is wired like me, but new experiences make everyone grow.

We are not 100% sure, but I think we are going to make the jump sometime in the next year. We have been researching and praying for clear direction. We want to be somewhere where we can be doing something positive in whatever community we are planted in. This spring, we will make the trip to Detroit to check out the city and get a feel for its heartbeat. Along the way, we will check out a few other places like Kansas City and St. Louis, too, but we are feeling a real draw to the Motor City.

Check out the video and article below for some more insight and stats. Are you from Detroit? Ever been there? We would love any words of wisdom or connections to check out in the comments. We love community development and working with youth and have a good amount of experience in both.

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/taking-back-detroit/explore-detroit.html

The case of the pending adoption

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I’m antsy. This week is the first big court date we have for our foster son. It’s the date where the court will decide if they should terminate services for his biological parents or continue. Really, it’s probably a no-brainer because they’ve been completely MIA since the beginning, but it’s still nerve wracking for us because it’s the first real step that brings us closer to becoming his legal parents. Man.

When we began this journey, we were sure we didn’t want to adopt. Our goal was to love on a child that needed it, to help them through a rough patch and to mentor some young parents along the way. We were pretty happy with our two middle-school-age daughters and our new found freedom as a family on the move. I was enjoying being out of diapers and bottles with kids securely in a good school. The thought of starting over with another baby made my palms sweaty. We had, however, heard that this was the way the cards tended to fall. When the foster parents really don’t intend to adopt, they come up with the adoptable kids. It’s Murphy’s Law. The parents who would love nothing more than to grow their family end up with placement after placement that gets reunited. The universe is funny like that.

So, here we are, 9 months almost to the day of when our journey began and I couldn’t imagine life without the little guy. That’s how they sucker you in. You get eased in by this thought that it’s not permanent, and by the time the option for permanency presents itself you are totally on board with the idea! In reality, it’s been a little bit of a roller coaster. You spend the first few months guarding your heart against becoming too attached, and then the inkling of the idea that this baby might actually end up yours presents itself. No matter how hard you try to protect your heart after that, you can’t stop the hope from wriggling it’s way into you. In the end, this case can still go either way. I’ve seen potential parents put all of their hope into a baby, only for that baby to be reunited or placed with a biological family member that shows up at the last minute. I don’t know how the cards will fall for us, but I know that in the end it will all be okay. I hold onto the optimism that God is so much bigger than me, and that doors open and close as they should. Life will inevitably march forward and we will grow, no matter which way this journey takes us.

Stealing Time.

I know I’ve been absent here for a long time, but I think I’m finally ready to come back. See, we signed up for this little thing that has been sucking away my time and energy, and I’ve been using it as an excuse for not writing. We thought about jumping into this project for a while, but we finally decided to pull the trigger in January and become foster parents. Yup, you heard right. Along with two preteens of our own, we now have a 1 year old baby. It’s been a crazy beautiful and intense 8 months, but I feel like we’ve finally settled in to some sort of rhythm. It helps to have the girls back at school.

I still dream of finishing a novel one of these days. Actually, I think I’ve finally found a way to help me stay on track! I bought a notebook and have been writing the traditional way, pen to paper. It seems like my writing time is always stolen between appointments, while waiting in the car, or on family trips. My laptop sucks, and honestly sometimes it’s just tough to be creative when Facebook keeps beckoning me away. Oh, you. You know what I’m talking about. Another perk to writing longhand is that I can’t go back and delete everything I wrote the next day because I think it sucks. It keeps me moving forward, and I wish I would’ve just started doing this a long time ago. I still think everything sucks every time I re-read it, but I am determined to make it all the way through the story line and wait to edit until I am typing it up. It feels really nice to be unstuck.

I started looking into some novel writing software – do any of you folks have experience with this? The prices range a lot. What are the things I should really make sure to look for? Any great recommendations? I am looking most seriously at Write it Now and Write Way. Also, still looking for a critique buddy…

Last thing for you all. Just came across this blog by Chuck Wendig and really like it! He’s got great insight for any aspiring writer, but he’s kind of a smart ass so avoid it if you don’t like sarcasm. I especially like this one and this one. That’s all for today, folks! Have a beautiful one.

A Human Challenge

Today I am following yesterday’s prompt from The Daily Post, which challenges us to write on anything we want for exactly 10 minutes:

I’ve held a conviction lately that we, as humans, aren’t supportive enough of each other. This sounds very broad, yes, but within it I’d like to create a challenge. I challenge you to donate 10% of your income to helping other people.

This seems quite simple and maybe even redundant to. Biblically, tithing is supposed to be 10% of your income donated to the church. Regardless of your religion, I challenge you (yes, you!) to set aside that 10% and figure out a way you can bless someone with it. How different would our lives look if we simply did this to help out our fellow humans?

Recently we got a bill from my husbands life insurance company. It was for a few hundred dollars, just to maintain our insurance in the case of his accidental death. This is the incident that really got me thinking. I could throw away that few hundred dollars to a huge insurance corporation with the hopes that I might get to see some of it in the case of my husband’s untimely death. And God forbid anything happen to me, because then we’re screwed. Or I can take that cash and donate it to some of my friends. I know that many of them are hurting for various reasons. One is going through treatment for Lyme disease. One just lost her husband. One is trying to save for an adoption. What would it mean if we, as humans, supported each other instead of insurance companies? Medical bills for untimely illnesses aren’t covered by any insurance companies, so anyone that is sick is guaranteed to have mounting expenses that they are probably having trouble paying for.

So, I challenge you this: Invest in each other. Bless people financially where they are hurting. There isn’t always a whole lot we can do to physically help each other, but sometimes money can take so much weight off of someones shoulders. Invest in each other, and have faith that if catastrophe ever found you, those people would rally around YOU and support you, too. I guarantee that the people in your life care more about you than any insurance company. Pour your heart into them and have faith that what goes around, comes around.

**GoFundMe.com and YouCaring.com are great crowd sourcing sites where many people with expenses that they can’t afford are investing their hope in fellow humans. Check them out if you like this idea and want to find people who need help!

Rant of the Day

I had to take my child to the Dr. today. She had an earache that wasn’t going away with warm drops of tea tree and coconut oil. Yes, I use these hippy medicines as my first line of defense, mainly because of what I am about to tell you. Are you ready to be floored, people? Get this – I had to pay $90.48 for them to tell me that my daughter had swimmers ear and for a prescription of antibiotic ear drops. The real clencher? We already pay somewhere in the ballpark of $14,000 per year in health insurance to make sure our perfectly healthy, relatively young family of four has health coverage.

If this was a one time thing, I wouldn’t even care that much. I would pay the money and wash my hands of it. But guess what? Back in July my other daughter had a sore throat. It wasn’t going away, and when I peaked back at her tonsils with a flashlight after a few days I could see the white spots. Damn. No hippy medicine for this, I was going to have to take her in. Check out this bill:

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American insurance bill – Kaiser Foundation

At the time, we paid our $50 copay. Thank God she didn’t even have strep throat, so we didn’t have to front the money for the antibiotics. I thought we were all done with everything, but a month later we got the above bill. Turns out a NON-URGENT, same day office visit is $346.00. Phew – glad we only have to pay $75 of that out of pocket. Also note that it was ANOTHER $62 for them to “directly observe” her tonsils at the office visit, of which we only had to pay $15. Oh, and that last part? It was $44 for them to swab and culture her to make sure she really didn’t have strep. We paid $11, but they charged our insurance company (which, essentially, is themselves – the Kaiser Foundation) that other $33. To culture bacteria in a petri dish. Seriously, people. Our total out of pocket expenses for our daughter that day were $151. FOR THEM TO TELL US SHE DIDN’T HAVE STREP THROAT.

So, back to my poor Estelle’s ear infection. I expect we will get another bill for the rest of the costs in the next month. I’m 34 years old, and my kids are 9 and 10. My husband has been a public school teacher for the last 9 years (another rant, another day) and I can honestly say that this is the first year that I’ve felt raped by our healthcare system. I’ve known its been bad for a long time. Working in the public sector has not paid well by any means, but at least it’s always given us healthcare. Over the years, my mind has been blown by the percent increase in cost every year when open enrollment comes up. The district always has paid $1,000 every month for us toward health coverage. Nine years ago this gave us really good insurance, actually. Slowly, though, we’ve had to opt for less and less health coverage because as the cost of premiums increased, his salary did not. The school district covered the same amount, and this last year we had to pay an extra $200 or so on top of that thousand just to give us the bottom rung that they offer.

This is the first year that I’ve been afraid to take my kids to the doctor. I do everything I can to wait it out, to make sure they REALLY have to go before I take them in. I get ill thinking about how much I’m going to have to pay, and I pray that nobody gets really sick. We are considered middle class America, and I am worried about what this means. It should be a right of everyone here to not fear taking your children to the doctor. I don’t know a good solution, but I know something needs to change. I paid for our prescription yesterday and when I walked outside with my daughter I cried. I feel so dirty. But hey, it’s good to know that the VP of Architecture at Kaiser Permanente gets paid 200k per year. Because that, folks, is an extremely important job. (See more salaries at http://www.glassdoor.com)

The Red Pen of Death

Ha! I love this challenge on Killing your Darlings  so much! It’s just so difficult, though, isn’t it? I will for sure be doing this, but not until I get to the END the first time around! I tend to want to edit things to death without moving forward. Also, this short post by The Story Medic is really insightful and reminds you of important guidelines to keep front and center. So, any good insights or words of advice? Anyone want to trade? You kill mine and I’ll kill yours…

Professional Baby Steps, and New Websites

I’ve been terrible about posting anything here lately, but I’ve been spending a lot of time over at another blog that I’m just starting up! Yup, it’s true. I’ve decided to start a wordpress.org site that focuses on the adventuring and travel writing stuff that I love doing so that I have a legit site to market and give to people when I am attempting to score more writing gigs. It’s my first crack at completely developing a website and I’m not gonna lie — it’s been a lot of fun. In a different life I think I would’ve gone into programming or website design; it fascinates me. Not that you need any programming skills, really, with wordress.org. They really have it together and everything is streamlined to make it super user friendly. Anyhow, my site is completely brand new and I’m nervous to blast it out, but I would love any feedback from whoever is willing to give it! Drop on by, check it out and let me know what you think. It’s located over at www.fourspoke.com. I will be back here more this week, writing a little more personally. It’s tough for me to stay away from those weekly challeneges.

Shifting the Tangent

I had the strangest thing happen to me today. As many of us do, I was perusing Facebook and came across an old friend from high school. I added him, of course, and he quickly accepted. Within a few minutes, he sent me a chat message to say hello. I reciprocated, as any well-mannered Facebookie would do, and what transpired after that kind of floored me. His next insta-message said, “Hey, this is so impersonal. I know I haven’t talked to you in, like, 15 years but do you have a minute? Give me a call – here’s my number.”

So, my initial inclination was to pretend that I had shut down facebook and didn’t get the message until later, at which point I could send him a message and say something like, “oh, sorry, didn’t work out maybe next time!” Instead, I went against my knee-jerk response and said ok. “You mean right now? Let me grab the phone…”

It was so uplifting to have a real conversation with an old friend on the other end of the line. We too often hide behind the guise of our cyber-personas and find excuses to avoid each other in real life. Technology is great at creating a disconnected falsity of connectedness among us, one that makes us feel as if we are more in touch than ever but really just allows us to pretend that it’s true. More often than not, I find myself dreading picking up the phone when it rings or meeting face to face with old friends. At first I blamed it on getting older and having kids, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t an affliction of age- it’s a symptom of society.

I fear a little bit for my golden age and the future that my kids will live in. I am unsure that we’ve done a fabulous job of handling the exponential cyber-growth we’ve gone through over the past 15 years. I fear a breakdown of friendships, of face-to-face conversation and real telephone calls. I hope my children and grandchildren learn the art of mingling with real people and experience the joy of hearing people laugh at their jokes. My kids and grand kids need to learn how to deal with confrontation face to face, to see peoples emotions in real life and to spill their heart to someone with words instead of text messages.

I am unsure how to shift this inevitable tangent we seem to be on, but I have faith that there is a way to tilt it just enough. We have to start now by picking up the phone instead of sending a text, of making that dinner date and opening our homes to old friends. Our future generations learn from us. It’s up to us to hold on to the value of interpersonal relationships and teach our kids how to navigate them, too. I’m not trying to persuade anyone to shutter their social media pages — by all means, keep using Facebook as a way to connect with old friends. Then, step outside of your box and pick up the phone.

See the weekly writing challenge on The Golden Years at: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/weekly-writing-challenge-golden-years/