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.

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:

american insurance bill Kaiser Foundation

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…

Following The Mantra

Write every day! We’ve heard this over and over again, and I am just attempting to fulfill this promise to myself. I’ve got a house full of kids and no room for solitude unless it’s in my head. All you parents know what I’m talking about. It’s impossible to buy a moment. I find myself agitated that my kids are disrupting the imaginary world in my head, then realize how out of order my priorities can get. I received an email yesterday from the studio I write for letting me know that all of us writers can expect no work for at least the next few weeks, at minimum. Another stark reminder that I need to find other outlets asap. I think I really enjoy writing articles on doing things that are fun and unconventional. Travel articles with kids, local travel, local restaurant stuff (kid-friendly, of course) and anything on-a-budget. Where is a good place to submit these? Can I just go in blind, or do I need to query, or is there a list of suggested article topics I can pull from? Is this just whaImaget happens when you are actually hired as staff somewhere? Am I delusional in thinking that maybe I can just waltz in and submit unsolicited articles like this somewhere? Throw me a bone here, people. Let me know if you have insight into any of this stuff. I know some of you write for a living.

I hear children giggling behind closed doors. I wonder if I intervene too much or not enough. I wonder if it’s always a parent’s nature to question if they are doing this right. We only get one chance. It’s so strange, this transition between milestones. It happens regularly; I remember distinctly different times, like when I couldn’t figure out why C kept crying in her car seat when she was a baby. I realized, finally, that she was squished in there with that stupid little infant pillow and she couldn’t turn her head. One day it just occurred to me to take it out, and she was so happy. She was growing from infant to something bigger and I wasn’t realizing it. As soon as I did and modified my end, she was fine and able to be happy in the skin she had grown into. It’s like, you find balance together as a family and then your kid decides to jump onto that next rung and family life is thrown into upheaval for a moment until we can find our equilibrium again. I think we are hitting that phase right now, fast and hard. We can figure out how to grow and climb to that next precarious step together, parents balancing kids, or we parents can refuse to move and throw the entire thing of kilter. I guess it’s time to figure out the best way to step up and take that next pillow off.

On Deaf Grandmothers

Daily Prompt: Talking in Your Sleep

Have you ever eavesdropped on a conversation you weren’t supposed to? Tell us about a time when it was impossible not to overhear a conversation between people who didn’t know you were there. What was the conversation about? How did it make you feel?

The back pew of the tiny old church smelled like lemon furniture polish. Everyone in my grandmother’s neighborhood congregated here for mass, and as we waited for the rows to fill I couldn’t help fidgeting over the sickly green layer of dirt and wax that coated the antiqued wood. My grandmother hardly ever came out for services anymore; her hearing was failing and she was too proud to purchase the hearing aids recommended by her physician, but today was Palm Sunday so an exception had been made.

The church seated maybe a hundred people, just big enough for the small town she lived in when all the folks turned out. Everyone here knew each other. They had grown up together, married each others brothers or cousins and watched each other’s children grow. I always looked forward to the end of the service when the kids would play “tag” and hide under skirts and the adults would mingle and reminisce. Inevitably someone would comment on how big my siblings and I were growing, how wonderful it was to see us, and then they’d continue a brisk conversation in Spanish that I couldn’t keep up with. I was sure they were talking about us, my siblings and I — we were the only half guerros around who couldn’t follow the conversation.

As the last few people filtered in, the priest began his prominent march down the aisle, the traditional cue that the service was starting. Silent anticipation descended the entire congregation. Inevitably, my tactless, timing-inept grandmother took this moment to lean over and whisper too loudly in her hearing-impaired voice, “Did you see Mercy? That lady in the green? Boy, she hasn’t aged well,” or “Did you see Adrian? The red head over there? She has really put on weight!”

I love my dear grandmother so much. Her timing and her tact are impeccable. I don’t care if we are at a restaurant, a clothing store, or a church service, this scenario is the story of my life with her. I will forever fondly remember her awkward, impolite “whispered” remarks that everyone in a 20 yard radius can’t help but eavesdrop on.

Daily Prompt: Our House

I vividly remember short bits and pieces of my first home. It was on Bermuda Drive, and it was blue. There was a massive oak tree in the front yard that dropped more acorns and leaves than aught to be possible for a single tree. My dad would rake the leaves into mountains, then we would dive into them and bury ourselves deeply into the scratchy mounds. Afterwards, we’d be left digging leathery leaf bits and acorns out of our netherparts for quite some time. One year he decided the tree needed to go. He and my uncles rented a chainsaw and took that sucker down while my siblings and I cried, lamenting future leafless autumns.

A swing set with candy cane stripes sat prominently in the postage stamp back yard. The cherry red fence was trellised with vibrant moss colored grapevines that grew the sourest grapes you’ve ever eaten, and a shaggy white dog named Schnapps was always at our heals. Our fence was low and I remember peaking between the peeling planks to spy on the old woman who lived in the house behind us. In hindsight she was probably in her 40’s, but to me she was old.

My brother and I would use the doggy door to go in and out of the backyard — who needed doorknobs, right? One day, soon after I crawled into the kitchen through that doggy door, I was playing at the kitchen table. The wall adjacent was made out of mirrored tiles and I was hanging upside down on one of the chairs, looking at my reflection and contemplating my hair that hung all the way down to the ground. This, I remember vividly. In the mirror next to my reflection sat another little girl, and I was talking to her. She wasn’t anyone I knew; in fact, I wasn’t quite sure what she was doing in my house. She was close to my age. My mom heard me talking to her and came in to see what was going on.

“I’m talking to the little girl, mama, the one that’s right here under the table with me,” I said, but when I turned to look she was no longer there. My mom’s eyes grew wide as she sat me down and asked more questions. I didn’t really know what the big deal was, I think I just knew that she was from some other life. My mom called my dad in a panic, then they spent the next hour going through the house looking for her. They never found anything, but I’ve always remembered that little girl.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/prompt-our-house/

Losing My Voice (and trying to find it)

I’ve always been a wordy person, in the written sense, anyway. Don’t ask me something unless you want ten times the answer you bargained for, plus all of the research to back it up. I love complex issues, and I’m a very opinionated person. Call me a woman. It’s been interesting, then, that I’ve felt very lost since I’ve decided to really try to pursue writing as a career. The first step was easy. I wrote a few articles and found a job that semi-pays the bills and lets me work on my writing (in one sense, at least, even if it is very dry.) The tough part for me has been what comes next. It’s like this huge door was opened and I’ve got the whole world in front of me, but I don’t even know where to step. Intimidation almost to the point of paralysis. Have any of you had this happen? How did you overcome it?

I’ve got a head full of ideas and I haven’t taken the first step in many of them. I started writing a novel, got about 30 pages in, then went back edited, then re-edited based on my mood du jour. Sometimes I think there’s another book I should be writing, something better or more my style (or mood) but I don’t know if it’s ok to have two books going on at the same time. Do any of you write more than one book at a time?

I think that one reason I’ve been so paralyzed is because I’ve gotten caught up in this idea “writing for others” or, er, this concept of writing for money 😉 I am trying to fill in gaps by thinking of articles that might sell, but between that and my side job, it takes up all my brainpower. Or maybe I’m just hiding behind articles because it’s easy and I don’t have to be too creative on my own. I’ve got a million excuses, but the truth is that I just haven’t gotten very far. What tricks do you use to get yourself writing more, for you?

I think I am going to use this blog for ramblings like this, but also for short pieces that I’ve been thinking about putting into book form. I worked for a long time at a non-profit with youth that spent a lot of time incarcerated. We taught them soft job skills such as being timely and working on a team, plus the necessities like filling out resumes and interviewing skills. I still work there part time as a mentor coordinator. I am always struck by how amazing these kids (young adults, really) are. I’ve always thought it’d be amazing to write a little on their lives, how much they’ve lived through and how dedicated and brave they truly are. The kid with tattoos on his face working at Jack-in-the-Box probably has one of the most amazing stories you’ve ever heard, but no one’s helping him tell it. I’ve struggled with wondering if this is exploitation, or a story that deserves to be told one way or another. Can I even do them justice by putting their lives in my words? By simplifying them into a series of shorts? I think I need to try.

Another idea that keeps tugging at me is writing a memoir of sorts. I live a funky sort of life. My family lives with another family in a cooperative living situation in the middle of San Diego. We have a small farm in the middle of the city, with goats and chickens and rabbits. Throw in a few dogs, some cats, turkeys, a parrot and a gaggle of kids and you kind of come close to who we are. When we embarked on this journey, we didn’t know how long it would last. We dove in head-first and it’s truly been a wonderful ride. We didn’t know we were essentially marrying another couple when we started this, but that’s really what it’s been like. Ups and downs and life altering moments that we’ve had to get through together, and it’s made us infinitely stronger. It’s been 4 years now, and I don’t think there’s an end in sight. But then I think, who would want to read all about my life and my anecdotes? This is what I need to get out of my head — I should write it for me and my community and not worry so much about who on earth would read it.

Here lies the problem. We say that we are writing for ourselves, but truth be told we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t writing for each other, too. I wouldn’t care to put it on my blog, I wouldn’t fret about where to start. I do care if you read it, and I care that you actually like it. How do we get around that?