runlikejoy

Displaced Stay At Home Californian in rural N. Carolina

The Many Faces of Joy

The Many Faces of Joy

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Strip Mall Dentistry


So I had to break down and go to the strip mall dentist because we are cancelling our dental insurance and we needed to all get our teeth cleaned and checked up before our plan is gone. Lets just say by way of explanation that the cost of my husband's insurance has gone up so much that only a single resident can afford a comprehensive health care package. I am working on not being bitter about this and thankful that he only has 6 more months left.

Anyway, I hate this place, I hate it so much. The Spanish speaking dental assistants and dental hygienists stand outside the examination rooms and chat each other up one side and down the other in Spanish. They do not seem to take much care about their subject material, they talk about the people sitting in the examination chairs and joke around and since the majority of the people who go there are either Indian or Asian, I guess they feel comfortable in the anonymity of the Spanish Language. I never thought that I would live in California and say that but I had never lived in Silicon Valley before.

Secondly, the dental hygienist is a Hun. Somewhere, sometime, in a past life, she was tortured by Pol Pot and his friends or she was chased and beaten up by gang members or maybe she had to hide from dinosaurs to avoid extinction, whatever the case, she is rough and scary. She looks like someone's grandmother but she is mean with a silver picky thing in hand. The last time I was there, she cut my lip with that silver thing and the time before she cut my gum so badly with this metal temporary crown that I thought I was going to actually cry.

Let me back and and just tell my faithful readers (yes, I have faithful readers now) that I am no stranger to dentistry. Being a recipient of military benefits as a child, I vividly remember sitting outside of dental offices and waiting my turn like the VA guys around me to get my teeth cleaned. I remember once asking for a fluoride treatment to be made longer and having only the top tray done by itsself so I didn't vomit or gag for 5 or 7 or 20 minutes or however long they tortured children back in the 70's but I was denied and when I started to gag repeatedly (as any 7 year old would) the dentist snapped, "Now you cut that out!". So I am not a wuss or a softie and I have never had a dental procedure that made me wince or cry out - I sit my ground!

Today was the final straw when we took our oldest to her appointment only to be told that her appointment was 2 hours later. When I produced the card with her name and the time on it, I was met with a blank stare. Then they gave her a procedure we had not signed on for and they asked me to pay for it as I was leaving. I asked my husband if he had approved this procedure and he said he did not. I told the receptionist that I had not authorized this procedure and she said that they had done it anyway. I told her that I was told that no services would be done without consent from the parents. She said they wouldn't charge us and we left.

I am glad today was my last trip to this dental office. I don't feel badly for the dentist, after all I never saw the same one when I was there, I think there have been 3 new dentists replacing old ones in the 3 years we've been living here. I only wish that I had not been limited to this dental office and dental staff - and I'll be checking my statement when it comes because something tells me that while they said they would not charge me, they most likely will anyway.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Shoes

I'm not really sure what is going on with shoes lately but I seem to have fallen into a void complete with ugly shoes. First of all, whenever I try to check my updates on Facebook or sift through my spam folder on Hotmail, I find that I am getting ads targeted to women with hideous taste in shoes. Secondly there is something really ugly and terrifying going on with these rounded bottom track or running shoes. You can't go into a store and look at tennis shoes without being bombarded by these horrible rounded bottom shoes and to create even more misery, the gimmick is that they make your buns tighter or something like that. Personally I can't see my buns so I don't really care what they look like. I can also tell you that I could care less if anyone else stares at my buns and the only people who seem enthralled by them are my children so I try to keep them well covered at all times.

Remember when Crocs hit the scene? Remember how there was that one dufus that bought the red or orange pair and wore them to his Christmas party because they were so comfy? I think Crocs should be limited to the garden or the backyard - just like Dansko's should be limited to the doctor's office or the restaurant kitchen. Now they have these shoes that cost a fortune that have all the toes separated and that look like mutated or webbed feet. The really really ugly shoes always cost a fortune!

I still like fancy, cute, high heeled or flat shoes. But for some reason everyone is telling me that I should be sensible and practical and buy the ones that won't hurt my back or legs or that won't trip me up running after children. Trust me, my back hurts whether or not I wear sensible or practical shoes.

So Happy Christmas everyone and wear something cute on your feet to celebrate.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Santa

I made this wreath today from a $2 dollar wreath I found at Goodwill and some balls of yarn I had stashed away for when friends come over and say, "Gee I wish you would teach me how to knit, I have been dying to learn" which in reality has only happened once and it was the 8 year old neighbor and I am pretty sure she hasn't picked it back up since she made off with a decent pair of size 8 needles and some ratty yellow yarn. And to give credit where credit is due, I didn't come up with the idea on my own, I saw it on someone else's blog and thought it was so cute but I wasn't willing to buy the wreath because it isn't in my budget to buy greenery that will eventually dry out and that I will throw in the garbage. If you can't eat it, use it or clean something up with it, I don't waste money on it.

This is the season of waste, irritation, inadequacy and guilt for me. I feel irritated at how commercial everything is, how wasteful people are, how we buy and buy and buy when we don't need the things we are buying or giving and then how those items end up broken, torn, destroyed or discarded very quickly and we move on to something else. I also dislike the way we teach our children how to ask for 1 or 2 or 50 gifts as if that will bring peace to the Middle East, cure AIDS, give same sex couples the right to marry whomever they love or get the Korean neighbors to stop abusing their kids.

I feel inadequate because I don't have lots of money to buy whatever my children want or most especially an American Girl Doll even if they never touch it again in their life. I feel guilt because even though I have to settle with someone else's hand-me-down toys or look at places like the Goodwill or Salvation Army, there is someone else with so much less or even nothing at all and I realize I have so much.

That having been said, I want a pair of Ugg boots size 8, color brown. I have been wanting a pair for 7 years, maybe this is the Christmas I'll get them.





Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bottom Lines



It is very cold now in my little house - it is very cold outside of my little house as well. It is hard to sit near any of the windows in my house because there is a terrible draft and it is cold to sit anywhere in the house and not be moving to keep warm. If we sit on the couch downstairs we must wear blankets and slippers to keep from shivering. If my hair is up in a ponytail, I have to take it down to provide my neck with some much needed covering and warmth. I knew there was a reason I was growing my hair long.


In the part of California where we live, it never gets too terribly cold but we had warm weather followed by some rain followed by a cold snap that has left us all wondering when it will head back up to the 50's which is where we like it to stay in the winter. Oh I know that there are those that would laugh at me considering the 40's unbearable but I am a Californian, so I can't help that, laugh away.

Four months ago or more our neighbors who live in a duplex building identical to ours got new storm windows put in, the double paned kind, and I hoped that we would as well. When I found out that we would not be getting them I hoped and prayed that the small wall heater downstairs would provide enough warmth to keep us all warm both downstairs and upstairs. And I hoped that our flimsy and gappy windows would keep the warmth in and the cold out. I was wrong and it is only November.

So we've pulled out all the blankets and we've bought winter pajamas and we keep the heat to a minimum and we march into Winter hoping that it is not too long or too cold. And my bottom line is that I will not pay over $100 dollars a month for heating my house. And the landlords bottom line does not involve new windows. Something tells me my bottom line will be moving while hers stays just where it is.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nanny-itis

I took my kids and my neice to the mall today in Marin county and I was met by a parade of Spanish speaking Nannies with their little ones in tow. I could tell they were Nannies because they looked nothing like the little children they had with them. I could also tell they were Nannies because they treated the children in a manner that indicated they were not the parents. And I could tell they were Nannies because I speak Spanish fluently and I can understand everything these women say to each other as well as to the children.

I met a group of Spanish speaking Nannies at a park when I first moved to the South Bay and I was so excited to find and meet ladies that brought their kids to the park and sat and chatted in Spanish, my Spanish was going to improve! After having been at home for 4 years and not having used my Spanish professionally, I was excited to bring it out of the briefcase and dust it off. As soon as the ladies learned I was an actual parent and not a Nanny, they changed parks and I never met them again. In the time I was able to spend with them, I was apalled by their treatment of other people's children and the things they said about the children in front of them, because these children understood what they were saying. In the time I was able to spend with them that one day at the park, I was apalled by the high number of children that were in the care of what seemed to me, a high number of unqualified caregivers. These Nannies were apalled by the end of the playdate that I was the mother of my two children and that they had invited me into their inner circle without checking to see if I was a Nanny first.

I was approached at the end of the playdate by one of the Nannies and given a stack of business cards and asked to distribute them among my Mommy friends.

I believe that teaching our children more than one language is a good thing and that we are helping them to expand their educational opportunities by introducing them to 2 or 3 languages at a young age. I think that we should try to expose our children to people of all languages and all cultures. I also think that hiring people to watch our children is good for the economy and that everyone who wants to work in this country should get a chance to, Spanish speaking Nannies included.

Just know this, if you do pay someone to watch your kids, make sure you know them well or make sure you don't care about what goes on when you aren't there, because there is a good chance that they don't treat your kids or talk to your kids or act around your kids the same way that you do when you are with your kids. That is why they are called Nannies.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fashionista


It comes as no surprise to those of you that know me well - I enjoy discount shopping. For those of you that don't know me well - I enjoy discount shopping. It allows me to browse and imagine what I can do with the bucket full of cupcake liners or pink napkins that I bought for only 99 cents, but it also keeps me on budget which is where I have been for many moons.

I tend to frequent those types of stores that carry mainstream brands for less, you've heard the ads I'm sure, the one where the girlfriends ambush another friend who is spending too much money for name-brand clothes. Or the one where the super posh girl whose T-shirt cost more than the clothes in the entire store is claiming to be a buyer for these discount stores and skulks around runway shows to get great ideas. Anyway - I like those stores and wander the aisles looking for fun things that need a home.

I bought a brown short sleeved top at one of those stores recently and it was $12.99 and with tax it came to $14 dollars and some change. I put it in my closet and forgot about it until a day when I was volunteering at my daughter's school. I brought it out of my closet and put it on, what a fun day, wearing something new to the closest thing to a "Job" that I have. I looked down after wearing it for about 2 hours to discover that there were about 12 smallish holes in the front of the shirt, so I took it off, dug the tags out of the trash and found the receipt and put it aside to return.

When I returned it to the store, I pointed the holes out to the young man who refunded my money and told him that I was sure I had not put them in the shirt, I had only worn it a few minutes when I noticed them. As he processed my refund, I noticed that he was re-attaching the sales tag to the item. I just passed it off as a store policy so the tag would not get lost - after all, stores have to account for inventory - maybe that is what he was doing.

I was in that exact same discount store that starts with a T followed by a J, the day before yesterday, when I noticed a cute brown short sleeved top that looked very familiar. I pulled it out and see it was the same shirt I had purchased previously. I thought, "Wow, how cool, I could get a new one, since I liked that one so much! So I looked down at the front of the shirt and I noticed 12 smallish holes at exactly the same spot where mine had been. I then noticed that price tag read $12.99 "small holes".

Holey Moley!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Baby Pants


For some reason everyone is having babies again and so I am making baby pants. The first pair I knitted were huge and fit a 4 year old. These fit a 6 month old. I am getting pretty good.

There is something so wonderful about the knitting process. I love creating things with yarn and needles. I love seeing the end result even if it doesn't look anything like the pattern. I love the look on people's faces when they realize you've made something with your two hands. I like giving original and creative gifts regardless as to whether or not anyone wears them. I like sitting and watching my hands keep busy while the rest of me is still. I like buying yarn and knitting supplies.

I will give these to a lady I hardly know who is having a baby girl. If she doesn't like them or let her baby wear them it is fine, because I think they are fantastic. Now I will make the same thing for another baby coming soon.

I can't wait to get started.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Library Take Two

Last week the girls came running up to me at the park and my oldest had her hands on her hips and a very sour look on her face, "Mommy" she practically shouted, "Fiona called me a fuckler!" I had to count to 10 because sitting there surrounded by 3 other Mommy friends, I didn't really know how to respond. So I said, "What?" and she repeated what she had said before to which I responded "That isn't even a word". I also mentioned something about not using words that are not words and lets use nice words and they ran off and continued playing, crisis solved.

This morning I had to return books to the library at the same time this posse of 4 or 5 adult men do. They tend to rush the movie section in search of new releases and then grab them quickly in case someone else shows up and tries to rent a new release before they do. Since you cannot reserve new releases, they are loaned out on a first come first served basis and sometimes you can go for a year without seeing a new release at our library. These men mean business. Apparently 2 men reached for the same movie at once and immediately on of these men shouted, "What the fuck dude!??!" These men were an older man and a young man. The young man had on a nice brown UCDavis sweatshirt and while we were waiting outside for the doors to open I had wondered in passing if he had graduated from UCDavis or was just trying to keep warm.

The young man starts to follow the older man and shouts, "What was THAT???" The older man turns and states very matter of factly, "We both grabbed the same movie and I ended up with it" and then walked quickly away. The young guy says, "That is bullshit dude, you asshole, douchebag, bleep bleep bleep bleep", anyway, you get the picture. By this time the older man is gone and now the young fellow is performing for the audience that is left. I am trying desperately to cover my 3 year olds ears because she is very good at picking out the word in the sentence we don't want her using. The young fellow says to no one in general and everyone in the room, "Did you see that shit? That is fucking bullshit. Faggit. (long pause) Racist. " I guess he felt good about covering all his bases and then headed out of the movie area to file a complaint with the library manager.

I collected my movies and what remained of my 3 year old's clean vocabulary and headed out myself. I did stop to file my own sort of complaint only to have the man I spoke with tell me that they will most likely have to post a security person at the movie section in the future. I wonder if he'll carry a large book to bat people over the head with when they are too grabby with the movies.

I can't wait until Fiona decides to use one of the new words she learned today thanks to sweatshirt dude. Maybe this time she'll get the word right!





Thursday, October 21, 2010

Therapy


So I'm at my therapist yesterday and we were talking about moving. There is something oh so American and casually decadent about starting a sentence with "So I'm at my therapist yesterday . . ." Anyway - we were talking about moving and she asked me to chronicle my moves starting from birth until the age of 18. I have to back up and tell you that this entire conversation was initiated because we are seriously considering having to move in the next 9 months and so while my husband looks for a job and interviews, I am considering medication and more extensive psychotherapy to cope with yet another moving truck, boxes and listening to the cat yowl from a box on the front seat of the car.

Let me back up, after a long 7 years of school during which only a few pair of shoes were purchased, we will be done next summer. D-O-N-E! It has been eventful, tearful, wild and annoying. I realized after moving to the South Bay that I hated moving and I hated new houses and I hated areas of the planet that were heavily populated. I also hate mini vans but I digress. So in preparation for this upcoming move, I have to do several things to get ready and one of those things is to talk to my therapist and consider taking something for the panic and anxiety that yet another move produces.

So back to my original theme, as I chronicled the moves in my life I realized that there is a reason why my husband is so sane and normal, he moved once in 18 years, O-N-C-E! What a dream. What a life opportunity. What a fortunate young man. I, on the other hand lost track of the moves by the time I was 12. It is no wonder that I cannot do this easily, gracefully or generously. But this move is it. This is the move to end all moves. And then we will stay put.

At least until the next time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy Birthday






Today is my sister's birthday. I am hoping she will call me soon so I can wish her a happy birthday and find out what kind of nice things her cellie and other inmates have done for her today. She is in prison.

When people talk about her - they usually refer to her in the past tense, "Today would be Angela's birthday" but she isn't dead. I have found however that being in prison to lots of people is like being dead. In their minds she has ceased to function as a person. I wonder what those people will do when she is released, if they will go on like nothing happened or if they will continue to not have contact with her.

I know it sounds strange but I have lost contact with people because my sister is in prison. Not because I decided to but because of the relationship I image, people associate one bad seed with the other. In the words of Donny Osmond, "One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch girl" but I wonder what my reaction would have been had the tables been turned. Would I be as willing to maintain a connection with someone who had a bad seed or bad element in their family?

And there is also the truth that people are a little creeped out by people who commit crimes or people who have stepped outside the boundaries of societal normalcy. "You did WHAT???" Or "What Happened???" are the usual responses to a story like my sister's. I have to admit that it has taken me nearly 5 years to get my head around it and sometimes I still shake my head and find it unbelievable or unacceptable.

My sister received an outpouring of concern and support when she was first arrested, that concern and support has dwindled and now is a trickle - 2 letters a week from her sister to be exact. She does get a weekly visit from a wonderful lady in Salem as well as a monthly visit from a nice friend out in the Beaverton area.

Life goes on and people get busy. It is hard to remember someone who has been behind bars for nearly 5 years. It is hard to remember to wipe down the baseboards or dust and those things are right in front of our faces on a daily basis. I have a tendency to compulsively clean my house and I'm glad for it - because when dust or scrub the walls, I am reminded that I need to write to my sister.

Happy Birthday Angela!





Sunday, September 26, 2010

Friends



So I asked an old friend on Thursday if she liked my blog and she replied, "Yes. (pregnant pause) I get nervous when I read it. It is only a matter of time before I turn up in it." I never realized that this wonderful little blog that I throw a limited amount of talent and creativity into would be the source of nervousness for those friends that participated in some of the best and most memorable shenanigans of my life and who have been with me for a long time.

I got an email from another friend who spelled it out for me, I was not to blog about her by name E-V-E-R. I laughed out loud when I read her message because this specific friend has redefined the word privacy in a world where nothing and no one is private.

I'm lucky to have good friends. I wasn't always so careful about my friends. I'm sure I'm not the only person in this world to have run off or angered a few friends. I had to learn valuable lessons about friendship such as don't date your friends ex-boyfriends, don't be too friendly with a guy your friend is into, don't share too much information with your friend's boy because maybe she hasn't told him very much about herself, don't be cooler than your girlfriend, don't sell your girlfriends down the river to any man, don't be too funny to another girls dude and some other rules that each girl makes up about herself and her girlfriends.

I lost 3 very good friends, two in my early 20's and another in my mid 30's and losing their friendships rattled me. I always presumed that I was outgoing and friendly enough that no one would sever their relationship with me and I was wrong. I let the first two friendships go after a long fight to try to repair the damage I had done. I let the third friendship go without a fight, that friend just walked away from me. I figured that if my friendship was not worth salvaging or fighting for, then it was over.

People say that I talk too much and they are correct, not only do I talk to much, I write too much too. So to those two friends that are worried about showing up in my blog - I promise to change your names to protect your privacy but those fabulous stories will be shared!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Music


I have thought it would be fun to list a playlist of songs so my readers can enjoy some quality or not so quality songs. Of course the only kind of playlist I can start with is the kind that 1) drives the husband crazy 2) can only be listened to alone 3) must be accompanied by singing loudly while walking the dog, driving the car or cooking 4) totally drunk.

I have to tell you that these songs are wonderful but also each one has a special place in my heart. So here goes:

This Girl's in love with you - Sacha Distel version
The Last Worthless Evening - Don Henley
Too Much Heaven - the Bee Gees
I Just Called to Say I Love You - Stevie Wonder
On the Wings of Love - Jeffrey Osborne
I Don't Need You - Kenny Rogers
Redemption Song - Bob Marley
Blue Bayou - Linda Ronstadt
I Fall to Pieces - Patsy Cline
Those Good Old Dreams - The Carpenters

So there it is - the playlist that I only bring out for the really good days. It is cheese-ball but it is good cheese - the kind that makes you remember roller skating on Thursday nights or brings back the hot tubbing with drunk friends in Angwin.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Advertising


Today I stumbled across something interesting - a blog that tries to look like a blog that endorses products and services but that has little to no original writing or photography. I am pretty sure that the person who is "blogging" in this situation is having one or all of the following happen: 1) they are being paid to "blog", 2) they are being paid to endorse someone else's products 3) they make money every time someone signs up to be a follower or part of their "blog" or 4) it is only called a "blog" to get people to read it.

I read something not too long ago about these kinds of "bloggers" but I chalked it up to silly and frivolous. Who would waste valuable blogging time by endorsing toys, products and services? Why would you sully your energies for a $10 check by telling people you like Huggies over Pampers?

Then I was offended. Here I am sweating out original subjects and trying to come up with original material, writing from the heart, blood, sweat and tears and all that bullshit. And this person is just copying and pasting some fabulous link from Youtube or something funny from Jibjab and including a picture of their 2 year old, oh, and check out this neat product that you can buy for only $24.99 that fits in your microwave and convection oven and can later launch rocket ships, and calling it a blog.

And finally I am feeling cheated and swindled. Why haven't I tried to sell stuff? Why am I not profiting from this venue, using this site of the aforementioned blood, sweat and tears to trump up some money? Why am I slaving away at the keyboard without any kind of payback or paycheck whatsoever?

So here goes, see the picture at the top of this blog? Some kind of neat throw that is being knit? I am knitting it right now but it can be yours. It will go to the first person that is willing to pay shipping/handling and $100 dollars. It is soft, warm and will look good on your shoulders or on your lap or on the bed or tossed across the couch. And if you like it and buy it, you can tell people where you got it and I'll make them one too for the same price.

(I'm just kidding, it is for my friend Tara's birthday and you can't have it)



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bigger Britches



My little brother got a job this week. I am so proud of him, he is the newest employee of a local pizzeria. Let me just tell you that my brother has done pretty much every job under the sun.

He has pumped gas, he has made pizza, he has bussed tables, he has painted pottery, he has delivered papers, he has roasted coffee, he has made coffee drinks, he has babysat, he has run errands, he has done telephone tech support, he has fixed computers, he has cleaned, he has cooked. The list goes on and on and on.

I once said that one of the things I was the most proud of was that the members of my immediate family would pretty much do anything for work; that an honest days work was an honest days wage and that there was nothing beneath us or above us that we would not do for a paycheck. I know this is not the case for everyone. I know a guy who did not work for nearly 5 years because the jobs available were not up to the perceived standards of his degree. And so he waited for the job he considered to be worth his education... I know another guy who preferred to ask his grandmother for money because he figured out that after taxes his pay wasn't even enough to pay his rent. I know someone else that feels that certain jobs are beneath them because of what people would say if they knew they were working retail or waiting table. I have a girlfriend who worries that taking a steady job would mean passing up future opportunities.

I know there are not a lot of jobs out there. I know that you can apply for 20 jobs and not get callbacks on any of them. I know that a great job opportunity will sometimes turn out 500 applicants vying for the same position. But I also know that there is a list of jobs out there that some people will not do to avoid shame - to avoid having to tell people, "I make pizza for living" or "I pump gas".

I took care of my grandmother for the last 2 years of her life. I remember at first being very ashamed to tell people what I did for a living. After all, I had finished school, I had had a career, I had been a teacher, I had made my own living, I had shared an apartment with a roommate, I had freedom and my own space. All of a sudden at age 27 I had to tell people I was living at home and caring for my grandmother full time and it was difficult to do. Now I feel great about it, I think about what a wonderful opportunity it was to spend time with her and to share those last years with her and to give back to her after all the time she gave to me.

My grandmother used to tell my brother as a child when he would start to get mouthy or cocky, "you are just too big for your britches!" I think she meant he was larger than life or that his head was getting too big. I'm not sure how he feels right now but to me he has every reason to be too big for his britches, because he's got a job!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wedding Blankets


I am knitting a wedding blanket for some family members that just got married. To avoid confusion and rumor that the relatives are marrying other relatives, it is really just a family member marrying someone outside the family. Anyway - I went out and purchased the yarn for the blanket, came up with the pattern all on my own and then started the blanket. I worked on it furiously all summer long, at least it felt like I worked on it all summer long. About half way through I realized that I had no more time left and so on the day of the wedding, we bought a nice card with a nice message and let the happy couple know that while we have a gift coming - it isn't completely finished yet. We will be shipping it soon.

That was a week ago and as of today I have not touched the blanket. Sigh

Monday, August 23, 2010

Vanity


I found out today that two new people have read my blog. Yesterday I found out that someone new also read my blog. That makes three new people in a week, I consider that a great and gigantic week.

I was on my way home this morning from taking the bigger of the wee ones to school when I saw a brown couch I could not live without. After sitting on it and listening to it squeak I raced home and asked the neighbor with the gigantic truck if she could help me go pick it up. I then raced back and cut in front of the trash truck to bring it home. Then I had to rearrange the tiny living room to accommodate not just two couches but now three.

Then Uncle Joey did the unspeakable, he said, "I can list that blue couch on Craigs List and we can sell it". My heart did a flip flop because in the past we have not been lucky with the selling and buying power of Craigs List. But by 5pm this evening the blue couch was being hauled out of the living room by two college students who will most likely use it to spill beer on and many other fluids because that is how college students are.

We were given the blue couch by my Mom and her Bob and while I have always been overwhelmed by their generosity, I have never been able to reconcile my taste to the hideousness of the blue couch. It is truly something straight out of the museum of natural ugliness. But because we were too poor to own a nice and new couch and because I could never find a nice decent and clean free one, we kept the blue couch and put up with its ugliness.

I'll let you in on a little secret too, it had secret powers. YES, it had secret powers. If a child under 8 jumped on it, it worked like a trampoline. Children everywhere used it to launch their bodies up toward the ceiling. So to all those children who love our blue couch, it is gone. And I'm sorry. But we got money for it and we didn't have to lift it and now I never have to look at it again as long as I live.

In its place, there sits a used and sticky brown couch that squeaks. All in the name of vanity.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Religious Experience

I knew this guy when I lived in Spain who is now an Adventist youth pastor somewhere on the East coast. He is also a friend of mine on the social networking site, Facebook. He is a very social guy, has lots and lots of friends and he often posts things related to being a pastor. One day not too many months ago he posted his sermon topic for the youth group and the title read something like this: Why do so many young people leave the church?

My mother is a devout Seventh Day Adventist. I remember once complaining to my friend Heather's dad as we sipped wine that over the years she hasn't let up at all, if anything, she refuses to let her religion age with the times. He actually stood up for her and said it was refreshing. Too many times we see people who change beliefs due to different reasons. Many Adventists eat out on Saturday now and pay with credit cards whereas 50 years ago, buying and selling on the Sabbath was a no-no. The same holds true with jewelry, 50 years ago, Adventists did not adorn themselves with jewelry, trading wedding rings for wedding watches. Until he made those comments I had not even looked at my mother from another perspective, she is after all my mother.

I stopped going to church when I was 18 years old. I had begun to separate myself from the rigidity of my mothers rules and her religion at the age of 15 but by 18 I was through. You must remember that my mother's rules have remained constant and to a teenager they were nothing but controlling and ridiculous. I was not allowed to bathe from sundown Friday night until after sundown Saturday night. I was not allowed to listen to the radio or read secular reading material. I was not allowed to swim, ride bicycles, sing songs or play games that were secular.

Once the Sabbath was over the rules still continued - no putting any food in your mouth until prayer was said, no opening your eyes during prayer or else you were spanked after prayer, daily morning and evening worships, the list is long. There were even rules that could be embarrassing like when we went out to eat we had to bow our heads and bless even that food, even if we didn't like everyone staring at us and tried to pretend we were just resting our eyes. We would sometimes try to leave our eyes open and hope that we didn't get caught, just so we could look like everyone else in the restaurant.

As a girl, I had even more rules, for example I wasn't allowed to wear pants with zippers in the front of them as they were classified as boys clothes and girls were not allowed to wear boys clothing or vice versa. I fought until high school to wear jeans and even carried them in my backpack to school and changed once I got there. I was not allowed to wear clear nail polish or jewelry of any kind. I was not allowed to wear makeup of any kind.

My mother is now raising 2 of her grandchildren. Let me back up, neither of my brothers or myself go to church, my sister goes to services but not a church per se, she is in prison. My mother is raising my sister's 2 kids and she is raising them exactly the same way she raised us. I asked her once why she would do the same thing twice when obviously the first 4 kids didn't turn out exactly as she had planned and she gave me a very long explanation on her faith and what her faith means to her and how she lives her life with her faith and her God leading her. I didn't feel like she exactly answered my question. But I believe I have answered my Facebook friend's; Why do so many young people leave the church?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Picnics


My youngest brother seems to be unlucky in love and has asked to move in with us until he can get back on his feet again. We had offered in the past to support him as much as we could while he went to school and worked but lately that has become more and more difficult to do. We had always maintained that if he came to live with us he could save up some money, get out of debt and go to school down the road. He is not a child so the idea of living with us was not desirable but lately he finds himself a free agent and ready to take us up on the offer.

I think about what he is going through and it reminds me of the times I found my plans not working out and needing to move back into home or asking a friend to sleep on their couch while I sorted through the remains of my life and tried to move on. I think about the time I found out my boyfriend was also the boyfriend of 3 or 4 other girls and I had to confront that reality and get out of his place fast while I still had a microscopic thread of dignity. We never really talked about it, one day I was there, in his bed, and the next day I was gone. I couldn't even take my things with me, I just left them there for him and never went back. I thought about him for many days after but I never went back. I knew that if I did I wouldn't be able to like myself and so I stayed away.

I think about the time I waited until my boyfriend went to work and then I feverishly moved my belongings and furniture out as quickly as I could so that all evidence of myself would be gone when he came back from work. I even picked up my dog's shit in the yard so that if he walked out there he wouldn't even find traces of my dog. And the stuff I wasn't able to move or get in the truck, stayed behind and I never went back for it. I got a letter from the cable company 2 or 3 years later saying I owed over $300 dollars for a cable box that I had left there because I never went back to get it. Lucky for me, Peter, another roommate at the time, had kept it and I finally returned it and they stopped billing me.

I think about the car I loaded up with a TV, coffee maker, Birkenstocks, diamond rings, perfume, clothes, portable CD player, bedding, books and more and drove them to my boyfriends house and then gave him the keys to the brand new car he had bought me stuffed full of the stuff he had bought me, because I couldn't accept another gift from him and was ready to give him back everything he had given me. I just kept repeating, "I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this" and got into my old car and drove away as fast as I could.

Thinking about my brother helps me affirm that things in life happen for a reason. When something ends, something new begins. And when life gives you shit, you make shit sandwiches and go on a picnic. Looks like we'll be making extra sandwiches for a while.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Beauty


I am a knitter. I used to be crocheter but once I found knitting I decided that I loved it more and so I turned my back on crocheting. If I can figure it out, I will post a picture of something I have knit recently, but I have to figure out how to do that first.

I started crocheting in Portland when I was pregnant with my oldest child. I bought bad yarn that was really ugly and scratchy and made very ugly scarves and sent them everywhere as gifts. I sent one to a friend that never commented on it. I sent one to a friend in Miami with a gay pride rainbow motif. She called to tell me she got the scarf but that it was 92 degrees in Miami and she wasn't gay. I practiced and practiced and I didn't get any better.

I met a lady in the bay area who took time and patience and let me call her with knitting crises late at night and she held my hand while I whined and was difficult and she stuck with me and now I am a decent knitter. I can pick a pattern, pick out a color I like and make something cute and fun. I love it.

Recently I had a friend who was celebrating a birthday and I labored over what to give her for the momentous event. I settled on a thick and warm scarf that I would design myself with a pocket at one end for keys and an iPhone so that when she headed out of her Central Park Apartment, she would stay warm and look cute. I worked for 2 weeks on that scarf, only picking the cutest and warmest yarns.

When she opened the box, I could tell she didn't like it. I felt terrible. I felt like she had kicked me in the face. I thought it was beautiful, why didn't she? I wished she could have seen how much time and energy I spent on it. I told her to give it to a homeless person, at least they would stay warm and have somewhere cute to put their keys and iPhone, that is if they had them.

And then it hit me, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Howard


I said goodbye today to an old friend named Howard. She was my dog for 14 years.

I didn't actually want a dog when I got her, we had a female dog named Minnie and a male dog named Wang-ja and they mated and we had a litter of 10 puppies. We lived somewhere in the Napa Valley and so getting rid of 10 mutts was a little hard. We had Minnie fixed shortly after this litter so we wouldn't find outselves in this predicament again.

I had already picked out the name Howard but the dog I wanted out of the litter was a female. So that is how my female dog was named Howard.

When my grandmother died and my mother sold her house and I was forced to move away from the home I had known for so many years, my mom asked me "well you and Howard will have a nice time in Portland" and I realized that I was taking my dog with me. Until that time, I didn't really consider her my dog.

Some time between the 14 hour drive to Portland and the fact that I separated her from a pack of 5 dogs, she became mine, all mine. She was devoted to me. She followed me from room to room. She knew that I was hers and she was mine. She died today.

Howard loved people food, more than dog food. She loved squirrels and cats and was so optimistic that she would always win. She was a fast runner and could run like the wind. She also would bark when someone knocked at the door. And she would whine when she needed to go outside to pee. She never had to be housebroken, she was that smart.

We will miss you Howard Kim. But you are chasing squirrels somewhere else now and still running like the wind.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Library Story Time


I take my kids to storytime at the public library because it is free and because they love being read to. It requires me to exercise more patience than in any other area of my life. It also requires me to take a deep breath and count to ten before I lose my cool. And because we live in a town that is predominantly Indian and Asian, it forces me to accept other cultures for what they are and try to embrace our differences instead of freaking out.

To begin with, the storytime ages are listed on the door of the story room, they are online and they are posted in the children's section of the library but everyone disregards the age specifications and you will see 16 month olds at the preschool event, or you will see an 8 year old at the baby storytime.

What happens next is, everyone arrives late.

Then, as the storytime lady reads the story, children AND parents, push and step on people until they are at the front of the room and then sit on people's feet who are already there. This creates bedlam and causes the children who are already there to miss parts of the story and also makes it impossible for the storytime lady to be able to read an entire story straight through. Once in a while the storytime lady will stop, reprimand the parents or children and then continue. It generally doesn't do anything but cause one or two children to cry.

Then there are the parents that drop their kids off at storytime because for some reason they consider this half hour program a viable daycare solution. I'm not sure why they do this but they must need to get something done at the library that their children cannot be a part of. It is especially fun when their child starts to freak out when they realize their Mom or Dad is gone and that creates another problem. Last week a child was wailing and wandering around outside the library because when storytime finished and their Mom was not there in the room, the child wandered away. The best part of this story is that everyone was walking past the child and not helping her, as if helping her would have somehow been too dificult or maybe upset the child more. Anyway - when the mother finally found the child, instead of hugging her and apologizing for having left her, she openly scolded her and blamed her for wandering off. This by the way is not cultural, parents do this the world around.

Once storytime is over the storytime lady puts pictures out for kids to take so you can go home and color them or sit in the library and color them. That way if your Mom has dropped you off and left, you can wait it out by coloring something pretty. The problem is that all the children AND parents push to the front of the room to grab 3 or 4 or 8 pictures for their kids which creates all this havoc but also means that when your kids finally get to the pictures, there will be none left. Last night a little girl grabbed 4 pictures and then while her sister tried to get one from her, held them over her head and pushed her sister by the neck to keep her away as she walked out of the room. When her mother asked her why she didn't give one to her little sister (who is in tears by now) she shouted angrily, "I got 3 for her!" and then stomped away. It was classic.

Lastly the children and some parents saunter out of the library and into the parking lot where I continually am amazed that there aren't more reports of children being run over by cars because no one holds their child's hand in the parking lot and kids are running around like it is a playground. How these children stay alive in their countires of origin is beyond me, it is terrifying to think of. I know that there are countries where the infant mortality rate is higher than ours but I tend to think it is because they are being hit by cars because their parents do not require them to hold hands when walking in the street.

There was a caucasian woman last month who picked up her 2 year old old after 10 minutes of angry comments and left storytime because she couldn't handle the cultural diversity and the social norms of people outside of her ethnic group. As you can see, I am an ambassador for our country in a sea of cultural diversity. And while I feel like a salmon swimming upstream, at least I continue to swim.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Landlord Blues




We are moving . . . . again. We live in Cupertino in a house that is not habitable and are moving after a year and a half due in part to being told we have to move and also having a serious mold problem. When we moved here a year and a half ago, I did not like the house and I still do not like our house. I actually hate it now that we are being forced to leave and hate the way it smells. It smells like clothes that have dried inside, mildewy and sweaty.

The landlord called me and told me that he was going to move into the house and so we needed to move out. He said that he had been advised by his "tax attorney" that he needed to move in due to some kind of tax law that said he didn't have to pay property tax as long as he lived in the house for 2 years. To which I jokingly replied, "so I guess we will be roommates?". He then told me that we had 30 to 60 days to find a place, he wasn't throwing us out but since the heater had never been fixed and the mold was becomign an issue, it was probably a good thing, we didn't want kids around that.

Backup, backup, backup, we have 2 kids. I had called the landlord at least 3 times previously about a mold problem that we had discovered and that needed resolution. Originally the mold was isolated to a closet off the dining area but has also been discovered in other parts of the house since then. I also have been in dialogue with the landlord for a year and a half (2 winters) with regard to a wall heater that doesn't work and has never been fixed. As a result, we run a space heater in the kid's room on really cold nights and have bought really warm feather quilts for them to hunker down under.

We found a house, in under 24 hours. We even filled out all the paperwork and got approved and met our new property manager in under 24 hours. So I went back to the landlord and told him we were moving out in 2 weeks and we would like our security deposit back since we had to move so quickly so we can put it towards our new place. He totally balked and started to backtrack. Here is how it went "Oh, well I'll be out all that rent if you leave early, I had no idea you would be so quick, where are you going to, what will I do for rent, what good luck you had, I had no idea the market had so much availability . . . " and the kicker "by law you have to give me 30 days notice, so you can't move out early".

It is safe to say that I'm mad as hell. I'm madder than hell. I'm mad that everytime I walk from room to room, our house smells moldy and mildewy. I'm pissed that every day I spend in this house I have to pay even though it is probably not safe and a total dump. I am creeped out that after a year and a half of living here, everytime I come home from being gone for several hours, I'm struck by how stinky the house is when I first walk in.

We lived in Davis before moving to Cupertino and we rented for 3 years from a nice lady there. We rented 2 different houses from her and thought we had a great tenant/landlord relationship. The first house had cockroaches which were never cared for. When we moved out of the second house, she took $400 dollars of our deposit to cover a tree in the front yard that died, a TREE!

Someone wise once said, "Don't get mad, get even" and that is what I'm doing. I'm getting even. I'm tired of being a renter that gets taken advantaged of by savvy and cheap landlords. I'm tired of having my hard earned money taken from me to cover trees that I supposedly killed. I'm tired of living in houses that have mold growing in them and heaters that don't work and paying through the nose for it.

It is called Renters Insurance. If you don't have it, look into it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Karma or Chance?

I used to work for a lady we'll call Kammy. She was crazy. We worked for a small company that did Internet Banking and Bill Pay. I say small because at that time, Internet companies were small. She and another lady went through the charade of interviewing me and getting excited about me and hiring me and making me feel really important. I was given a title, a salary, employees, a badge, access codes, banking access, database access and a gym membership. It was a huge career boost for me. I was to report to her.

What I didn't know when I was hired was that she was in a relationship with her married boss who we will call Ike. He wasn't married to her, he was married to someone else. The best part was, they did nothing to hide it. She would openly pout in meetings if he didn't wink at her or flirt with her, she would spend hours in his office late into the evening, they would eat meals together and come to work together and leave together, everyone knew they were involved with each other and they did nothing to hide the fact.

Working for Kammy was a nightmare. She was foolish and petty. She once had me write someone up for offending a friend of hers. She would make mean comments about overweight people or people that she considered "ugly". She made racist comments about people of other ethnicities. I never went to lunch with her, never went to her parties and refused any invitations to socialize outside of work. I found out a week before I was to be fired that I was going to be fired and put in my notice. This was only after I had been stripped of all my access levels, had all my employees removed or reporting to someone else and had my hours changed to the worst hours possible and given more work than one person could handle.

Here's the thing, before I went to work for Kammy, I had a great job where I had tons of responsibility and loved what I did and I was secretly having an affair with my boss. I can't help but wonder if cosmically I had a debt to pay by finding a job in Internet Banking and Bill Pay and working for Kammy and Ike. And if they were part of some karmic debt that I had to pay back, what kind of karmic debt have they had to pay back?

Since that day, I have never questioned the saying, "What comes around goes around" because I know that in my case, it is true.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year

I went to dinner last night in San Francisco. It was a friend's birthday dinner and she had made reservations at a very posh and very expensive San Francisco restaurant that featured meats as their forte. We sat under the Bay Bridge and enjoyed the lights of the bridge and the full moon that kept rising higher and higher by the minute. We sat in this beautiful restaurant for 5 hours and ate and drank and enjoyed each other's company.

My husband ordered a $26 dollar chicken leg that tasted delicious. I ordered wild mushroom risoto. We shared a $12 dollar organic iceberg lettuce salad, iceberg, yes the stuff of salad bars. I marveled at one point out loud, how fancy food becomes when you use words like confit, creme fraiche and tartare instead of words like gravy, sour cream and raw.

I and my tastebuds thoroughly enjoyed the evening and the company. I did however, feel uncomfortable and chalked it up to not being used to eating such rich foods. Right around the same time the woman to my right said, "I think Veganism is an eating disorder" I hit on it, I felt guilty. G.U.I.L.T.Y. I have not eaten in a restaurant like this for many years, mostly because I find that the food prepared in my kitchen tastes just as good and is much cheaper but also because we are in a really difficult economic time and spending lavishly on food at a trendy restaurant seems innappropriate for me and my family.

As it turned out, we didn't have to spend a penny aside from the gas money to get there and to get home. And the company and food was lovely from beginning to end. But I still feel a little twinge when I think about how much everything cost and how there are people with nothing and how far those dollars would have gone to feed the needy.

And I think about the fine line between advantaged and pretentious. Am I the only person who noticed that or did others?

Hmmmm . . . .