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

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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.

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:

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)

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/

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.

Different Folks.

San Diego. A gorgeous place in a beautiful location. Many people think “beach” and “sun” and the pretty people that go along with these two things. They would be correct, to a point, but many people forget to think “city” and remember all of the things that come with this loaded word. I live in one of the poorer neighborhoods in the city. First, let me tell you a little about the poorer parts of San Diego — San Diego is comprised of a couple. One of the poorer parts, the part that I lived in for a long time, consists of a slew of refugees from many parts of the world. The old immigrants are from Vietnam, but many that have moved here recently are from various parts of Africa and some of the Middle East. It’s poor because the people are not educated in American ways and are learning them. It’s poor because they are competing for low-paying American jobs. But that part of town is so rich in culture. It’s got the best food in San Diego, hands down. The families are intact, and they are here because they are trying to make a better life for their kids. Many immigrants are extremely driven and well-educated — that’s how they ended up here in the first place. It’s financially poor. That part of town gets recognized a lot. They get more city money, more grants, and more volunteers to try and help the refugees establish themselves and make a life here. It’s good, they need it.

Now, the part of town I live in is different. I moved here about 4 years ago. This part of town is often overlooked in so many ways. I lived in San Diego for a decade before I even knew it existed, and many people I talk to don’t know where, exactly, it is when I mention it. I live in what is known as Southeast San Diego. This part of San Diego has been poor for generations. It is impoverished in a way that is so deeply etched into the souls of the people here that many of them don’t know how to live life any differently. College has never been an option. Many of the youth are in gangs, but so are their fathers and their grandfathers. Most families are not intact in this part of the city. The schools have the lowest ratings in town and there are no volunteers lining up here to help tutor them. It hurts my heart a little bit to write it this way, but it’s true.

We moved here on purpose because we knew it was a tougher part of town, with the intent of pouring our lives into the community. Can I tell you a little secret? I love it here. I love the people so much. I’ve learned so much from my neighbors and the people I work with, and we’ve been so amazingly blessed in this neighborhood. There is a different kind of family going on here, one that is only found when people have nothing but each other. Our house is always full of random people, and I wouldn’t trade this spot for the world.

What kind of people live where I live? Financially poor, generationally impoverished, gang involved people. People with tough backgrounds and tougher lives looking forward. Real people. Strong people. Some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/daily-prompt-west-end-girls/