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Burning Man

Fires in the distance

Wow, this year continues to crush us. The west coast is on fire. We left home because the fires in the mountains were causing so much smoke I couldn’t sleep. The other morning my husband woke up next me in a hotel room in a pandemic 90 minutes from home and he was stressed. He turned to me and said what if all these fires mean we can’t sell our house?

I don’t know. I really don’t know. I mean, we’ve been saying things are getting worse for years but we haven’t been able to understand what getting worse looks like on an individual scale. We’ve been a bit protected in our careers and our privilege. These things that are happening are a constant back drop of dispair and now personal impacts that show up in ways we don’t always expect. On a macro level, you say of course the west coast is on fire. Of course this administration has failed us in a pandemic. But then you find yourself trying to book a hotel in a not crowded place to work from during a pandemic with better air quality without spending too much money and you think- what the fuck is this life?

Hey, I get it. I am lucky. Lucky I have a job. Lucky I had $600 to spend on a hotel for 3 nights by the ocean. Lucky I have a car. Lucky I am not sick. But some days lucky doesn’t feel so fabulous. And I can’t help but wonder, how did people survive WWII? How did people rebuild Japan after the bombing of Hiroshima? How about Vietnam after the US pulled out? I think a history of terrible things and wonder how do people recover mentally, spiritually, and emotionally?

But then when I think about that, I feel like I’d rather bury my head in good fiction or mindless television or play music loudly. Maybe that’s how people survive. Maybe other people’s art is literally how people survive. I wish I could say my faith is carrying me through. But it’s not. It’s me going through the motions. It’s me wondering how faith matters in the face of climate change, pandemics, racism, and willful ignorance.

But that’s just part of today. Today I also went through boxes of slides, photos, developed negatives, and old camera equipment with my husband. We made piles to keep or not keep. I’m taking Teddy to the vet so all of his shots are in order for a move. I am continuing on as if things will continue on. And that’s how we are getting through another day.

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2 Steps Forward…

Back in 2000, when we moved to SoCal, it really didn’t seem complicated. Back then, my husband took a couple trips to SoCal and found a place for us to rent. I don’t think I even saw it. I just trusted his decision. I think I used my tax return money to rent a u-haul. And I moved. I don’t remember forwarding mail and I left most of my furniture. He drove the u-haul and I followed in his Honda CR-V. Everything about it was exciting. I don’t remember thinking it was hard until months in when I realized it was hard not to live next door to my BFF anymore.

Skip to 20 years later, and our lives are so much more complicated. For one, moving to a different part of the state is way easier than moving to another state… and moving to another country? House hunters international makes it look so easy.

Every week I have different tasks to keep track of, all moving parts to juggle. Will’s license application, my assessment for licensure, selling the house, moving out one adult kid, creating a good savings fund…and all of these can be broken into smaller parts.

One big thing in front of me right now, is that we have so much stuff. Like closets of it. It’s a lot to go through. I know I can’t take it all, bit what do you do with your stuff in a pandemic? I have given a few things away. I went to the Goodwill website and I thought I figured out which one was open, but after I drove there, it turned out not to allow donations.

Getting my copy of my ID notarized.

Somedays, I get really stressed and overwhelmed, but other days I get very excited. Today I completed all of the identity documents for my assessment. I finished my portion of the education documents and I am waiting on the schools to send their documents. Next up: documents from places of employment. That one stresses me out because trying to get a hold of HR people who work from home about the very specific forms I need completed and mailed has proven to be a challenge. And one large company has a phone message with push 1-8 for these options (none that work for me) and a chance to leave a message. No talking to an actual person. Ugh.

But I keep plugging away.

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The Moving Plan

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My oldest was recently accepted into an art school in Canada. They (My oldest users they/them pronouns) are starting in September. They also have applied for their study permit, which is no small feat. Most countries require money as an important part of a move. So my oldest had to show that school was covered and that they had like $10k in the bank. This was accomplished with a lot of savings and some parental donations. My oldest lives at home, pays rent and doesn’t have a car. So their living expenses aren’t too high.

My youngest is moving in a week to NorCal for grad school. They also have saved up. They saved and got a car. They also put down their deposit and rent for an apartment they are sharing with a classmate. They have been working remotely all summer for the school and will continue to work and do school remotely.

I began my application for a license in Canada. We decided that was the best entry route because nursing is a high demand job. It’s a lengthy process to get the license so I am starting with that. $650 for the application, plus fees with all of the documents. Official copies of my identity documents, official transcripts, copies of the school curriculum, etc. This process isn’t fast, but it’s even slower in the pandemic. Everything is by mail (and have you heard about the mail lately?).

Eventually, once they have everything, it will be evaluated to meet Canadian requirements. Then I can apply for my license (more $$). Then I can apply for a work permit/job.

In the meantime, we are looking at selling our house. I applied for a job that is work from home through 2020. Its more money because it’s full time, but at least it’s at home.

Will is going back to school. He needs a BSN in Canada for a license, but has been working for the last 20 years as an ADN nurse. So online school it is. And then he will need to do the same this that I have done.

A big kind of process like this is a lot of moving parts and a lot of changes. All along the way I find new challenges and issues to address, but overall I am hopeful. Hopefully next year we will be living up north!

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Pandemic Life

Spoiler alert: we don’t have Covid-19.

We waited forever to get results for my kid’s test. 20 days to be precise. We waited so long, I let my kid out of quarantine and got tested myself to go back to work. Drive thru CVS fail.

If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that I am super over certain things about this country. Healthcare is one of them. I’ve complained about it FOR YEARS. It’s expensive, inefficient, and needs so much improvement. Over the years I’ve read a lot about about it, worked in it, and argued with lots of coworkers and friends about it. I am tired of the idea that a diagnosis could devastate us into poverty.

I am also really over grind culture. Let’s be honest, I’ve been over it for quite some time. I’ve worked very hard as a nurse and to get advanced degrees. I’ve worked very hard to give my kids a different life than I had in poverty. It’s taken a lot to get them opportunities and a college education.

Another thing I am tired of is state sanctioned violence. AKA police brutality. How many protests? How many videos? How long do we have to wait for change? Most people I know are frustrated about this.

The fourth thing I am tired of we have actually had a reprieve from. Mass shootings. I am tired of that being a normal state of existence. Staying home has at least decreased the incidence of that, especially in schools. One day I got a text from my youngest in college. I was working and she said she was sheltering in place for a possible shooter. I am so frustrated that America has decided guns are worth that risk.

So after complaining about all of the things I’ve always complained about, what are we doing? We are looking to sell our house and move. How will we move in a pandemic? We are not 100% sure, but we are doing it. ✌️

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Waiting Game

Preface: Science is real and so is Covid-19

My oldest kid had a fever last Thursday. 100.4. They were sent home from work (yes, I said they-they/them pronouns are being used). Because of this, I have quarantined them in their bedroom with a designated bathroom. All day long we deliver food on disposable plates to limit dishes going in and out. We text and call to check in. They have a thermometer and check their temp.

I am home from work. My work wants me to stay home until we get test result. Have you tried to take a a test recently? There is a lot of searching online for available appointments. Because getting a test requires an appointment. I finally got one by getting up at 4:30 to see the newly released appointments. Now we wait. Test results are taking a while-7-10 days.

There are 4 of us at home and we all trying to manage this situation. Sometimes I wonder if I am being to strict. But I know this was the CDC recommendation when one member of a household is suspected to have Covid-19.

In many ways, we are so lucky. We have enough money, insurance, etc. But we also worry. And get anxious about everything. So far we haven’t seen any new symptoms. I’m holding onto that as good news.

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Pandemics are a great time to go back to blogging

It’s been like years, right?

Which means this post will probably be ready by zero people. Despite that, I have been feeling like getting back into writing. It’s been a long time since I blogged, since I wrote in my writing club, and a while since I even wrote on my own.

My last post was 2 years ago when I turned 40. It feels like a lifetime ago. Has this pandemic aged us? These 4 months feel like they’ve been a whole year. Time has moved strangely through this pandemic. March felt like a crawl, while May went flying by. Some days feel soooo long. Those days include a lot of me laying on the couch watching #vanlife on youtube. We don’t go many places. Grocery stores, pick up take out orders, and work. So vanlife it is.

I started watching it because I was fascinated with so many of them being trapped during the pandemic. All of their videos were “trapped in Morocco” or “trapped in Argentina.” Let me tell you, there are a lot of criticisms I could make about vanlife, and I do at home on my couch, but I haven’t stopped watching it. All of the couples have found their way home and are filling their time (and videos) with projects. Projects feel purposeful. Watching them work on projects is relaxing. I get to imagine a life where work once again feels purposeful and future centered.

I am not saying my work has no purpose. But the future? It feels pretty uncertain. I don’t know exactly what we are all working for. I mean this in the sense that I cannot see past the next few weeks. This is the opposite of how I have lived my whole life. Not knowing how the next year will be leaves me feeling quite purposeless. So I watch other people’s purpose.

I do occasionally come up with plans or ideas. And then I get frustrated because I don’t know if they can happen or how they will happen. The news often grinds down my tiny hopes so I have to turn it off. And back to vanlife.

I hope you all are well.

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Gratitude

My husband went all out for my 40th birthday. And it was great. We indulged in luxury and relaxation with some of our favorite people. We spent memorial day weekend in the California desert at the Ritz-Carlton.

Some years back, my old work partnered with Ritz-Carlton to develop a program for the organization. And I heard a lot about the Ritz-Carlton experience. It planted a seed that one day I wanted to stay at a RC property. Back in January, we visited the NOLA property to listen to jazz and have drinks. And I remembered my desire to stay at one. So we decided to plan a trip for my big 4-0.

We chose the Ranch Mirage location because we could make it a weekend that included friends. This way some friends could stay at the resort with us. The others stayed locally at a condo they owned.

We barely left the resort except to drop our kids (and the dog) off at the Holiday Inn Express and to go to the spa at the JW resort (it’s cheaper). We didn’t splurge for the adult children, but I think they still had fun coming back to the RC for breakfast.

The property is situated up on a hill overlooking Palm Desert, Palm Springs, and the other desert cities. It was actually great to be off away from the busier Memorial weekend crowds. The weather was unusually cooler all week in Southern California, which was great for our trip. Cooler meaning it was in the 90s in the desert. Our room was next to the adult pool which meant less kids and more lounging. Our room had a patio, a fire pit, and a deep soaking bath tub that I made a point to enjoy!

The service was the highlight of the property. Everyone went out of their way to be friendly and helpful. It was an exceptional customer service experience. Service like laying out towels on the longer chairs before you sit down by the pool. At check in, spending 15 min showing us the map of the property, getting ice for the wine we had brought, and putting our luggage away for us. There were a lot of kind greetings and helpful staff.

Our dinner was on the property at State Fare. We had great service and everyone loved their food. I was bummed that they had run out of the specific vegetarian meal on the menu. I got pasta primavera and it was decent. But most of all, I had great company and felt very grateful for my husband, my kids, and my friends.

My friend Kristin said she felt so grateful for our weekend trip to the desert. I told her she deserved to relax. She answered by saying that there are so many people who work hard and deserve it, so she knows she is lucky. And it’s true. We are very lucky to have been able to have a weekend like this.

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Making Room for Joy

I’ve been working a lot, every weekend and Monday through Thursday a lot. One of my friends, during a discussion on professional development classes, said that I am always going somewhere. He said it because I told him I am going to Canada in June, so I can’t take a class with him. I replied back with the fact that I have 3 jobs. And one day off a week. So, yeah, I need some time for travel.

So far, this year I have gone to NOLA and Vancouver. One with my husband and the other with the best travel girlfriends a person could have. We had a great time and they made me laugh so much.

We did touristy things like visit Granville island, visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and shop in the city center. We also ate at cute neighborhood markets, had afternoon tea in neverland, visited a whiskey bar in gastown and laughed so hard we cried. We watched women’s Olympic hockey in a Canadian bar, and we were the only people cheering for USA (and USA won!).

I’ve known these girls for years. We are completely different. We don’t have the same beliefs and politics. But we were all teenage mothers who lived on the same street as single moms. We are connected by a shared experience and our continued friendship is an amazing kind of sisterhood. When I returned, I really reflected on the joy they bring me and how grateful I am to have them.

Remember to find joy with the people in your life.

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Happy 300th Birthday New Orleans!

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This year is NOLA’s 300th birthday. Which is part of the reason every travel expert/magazine is telling you to visit this year. I didn’t know that when I booked our first trip of 2018. I just wanted a cheap flight (offset by miles) and somewhere fun my husband and I hadn’t been together.

Some years back I went to NOLA for a conference but my husband hadn’t been since he was in the army, stationed in Louisiana in the early 90’s. His mother had lived in NOLA as a kid, and when she was in the hospital told us about running around the city at 13.

We stayed at the Embassy Suites (Hilton property as usual) which is conveniently located in the warehouse district and has a free breakfast. They also upgraded me to a balcony room, bonus, but the trip was during that crazy cold storm that hit the east coast. It was like 30-40 degrees and we weren’t hanging out on the balcony in that weather (hello, we’re from California).

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It was a great way to enjoy the new year. One of the best places we ate was Peche, which was blocks from our hotel. We had a planned list of a lot of places to try, and we had divided them up by day. We were only there from a Wednesday night to Saturday afternoon, so we divided the two full days between us to plan. I had Thursday and my husband had Friday. We found Peche Wednesday night completely unplanned, which is how travel usually goes. The usually packed bar was pretty empty, probably because it was the Wednesday after new years but before the beginning of Mardi Gras, and it was 35 degrees outside. We ate so amazing food, oysters, smoked tuna and saltines, and some cheese croquettes. I tried the sazerac, a classic whiskey drink that originated in NOLA.

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Part of our Wednesday night included the Davenport lounge at the the Ritz Carlton, for cocktails and jazz. 

The plans for my day included hitting up the essential NOLA institutions: Jackson square to see the Louisiana live oaks and contemplate Whitman’s poetry; coffee and beignets and Cafe du Monde; visiting the Presbytere, across from Jackson square to learn about the rise of New Orleans through slavery (this is a must history lesson for only $6), jazz on Frenchman street; and dinner at a local black owned business, The Praline Connection. During the day we also walked through the 8th ward and saw street art, and had coffee in the newly refurbished St. Roche market. I tried to plan our outings to mindful of the impact of tourism, gentrification, and the history of the city. What’s good about St. Roche is that it was part of post Katrina revitalization, but has local businesses making amazing food stalls. Like Fritai (Haitian), Empanola (Argentinian), and La Mezcla Mexicana. All three of these include female part owners and Latinx or black owners. When watching food videos before my trip, I saw a lot new cool restaurants with white chefs doing creole or soul food. I decided to make an effort to support business owned by non-white people.

We saw this amazing art through the window of the federal building. Powerful Katrina image that many of us have forgotten.

8th ward street art

New Orleans Museum of Art

At the art museum: This was the inside of a Lincoln cabin-esque house built by gold, bullets, iphones, pills, etc on a foundation of shackles for slaves.

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The Time Twitter Found Me a Taxi and I Slept in the Airport

Sometimes travel is crazy. Sometimes you take turns sleeping on a restaurant bench in the airport waiting for staff to arrive. Sometimes you can use the internet to find English speaking taxis to pick you up from your Airbnb in a foreign country in the middle of the night.

Earlier this year, my friend and I went on a crazy adventure to Europe. We flew Air Serbia because we found a ridiculous flight deal for $149 round trip. This meant flying to Belgrade and flying out of Belgrade. I booked an Airbnb for our arrival and one for the night before our departure. This was because our flight times to leave were changed by the airline, which interfered with our train from Vienna connection. Originally we were going to take the long train and then fly home. Instead we had to take the train the day before, sleep one night in Belgrade, and fly out very early.

 

I looked for an Airbnb closest to the airport with some decent reviews. All of my Airbnb experiences have been pretty good, so I had a lot of faith. The host and I corresponded about my arrival to the train station and for an extra bit of money, she said she could arrange transportation from the train station to the Airbnb. Since we were arriving after dark, fairly late, I thought this would work out well.

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After the long train ride, we were pretty tired. Serbian trains are cheap but NOT super luxurious. We played games on My friend’s phone, are strange flavored chips, and tried to cope with the smoke from other passengers. It was not my favorite part of travel. We looked around the train station for our ride, and picked up snacks from the shop in the train station while we waited.

I heard someone say my name, and turned around to find two girls ready to drive us. Um, they were not the Airbnb host. One of them said the host asked them to pick us up, but her English was pretty limited and I had only learned thank you in Serbian. On the drive, the car died twice. They didn’t appear to know exactly where they were going, as in maybe had never been there, and they were reading directions off of the phone with a lot of questions. Along the drive I used google maps to be sure we were going the right way. I didn’t want to get lost with two girls who could hardly say anything to us. when we arrived, we weren’t in the same apartment as the photos. Also it smelled like smoke everywhere. The plan was that we were supposed to be picked up from the train and be driven to the airport in the early morning. The girls said they would be back in the morning.

I’m aware that I sound like a western spoiled traveler, but I wasn’t feeling like their car was absolutely for sure getting us to the airport on time. I have late to airport anxiety  (its real) and I am not one of those it will work out people when it comes to air travel. Also I can’t stand sleeping in a smoky apartment. I was raised by a smoker and I have no more tolerance for smoke on everything while I am trying sleep. So I got on the internet and searched for English taxis in Belgrade. Eventually I found one on twitter and one I could contact via Skype using the apartment wifi. Yay!

I called us a taxi, and dragged my friend to the airport at 1 am. The only problem is, Belgrade’s airport is so small, you can’t get a boarding pass or go through security until everyone shows up. SO we slept for like 4 hours on food court bench seats. I always tell my kids, I can find anything on the internet, and so far, its worked out pretty well. Have you had any stressful travel moments where the internet was a lifesaver?

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