Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wow, my arms are sore! Yesterday Keith and I volunteered as side-walkers for Wings of Hope Equitherapy: WOH is a horse ranch where physically and mentally disabled kids and adults come to ride horses and improve their balance, spatial orientation, and improve cognitive function. We walked along side one little girl, holding her in the saddle, walking with Charlie Brown, a gorgeous chocolate brown pony, our arms straining to keep her up straight. What a workout! But the smiles were totally worth it. We helped the kids dunk a basketball from horseback, clapping and cheering them on. And the boys were so excited to have a guy there volunteering. They showed off for Keith, waving, and checking to be sure he was watching their triumphs. We had a wonderful time.

Keith asked me last night, "I wonder why the volunteers are all girls?" And it poses a very interesting question. In my field of work, most of my colleagues are women. And there is a huge need for men in the care giving business. Maybe it's the money, or the lack of recognition? (God knows it could be better.) Or maybe it is something that is simply ingrained in women- a maternal instinct- to be caregivers? I'd be interested to find out. But more importantly, I wonder how I could reach out to encourage men to volunteer at places like WOH, where the young boys and older veterans would love to have a man to talk with? It is pretty hard to describe the rewards from volunteer work. How can I describe the smiles and laughter, and gentle nuzzles from Charlie Brown? Words seem to fail me at this point. You really cannot know until you try it. But if you have ever felt like there is something missing in your life, or that you could use a cleansing from the complications of every day- a feeling that comes from hard work and helping another person, then give it a try. You won't regret it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The sun will come out...

It's been a long time since I blogged. I had actually forgotten all about it, until someone read it and reminded me. They were telling me how badly they felt for my plight, and here I am thinking, what plight? So it seems, I was feeling a bit down and out for awhile, but all good things come to those who wait. Today as I sit and watch my goofy husband playing with our dog, both of them howling on all fours, I can't help but laugh. The sun is out, I have a wonderful family, and my marriage has never been better. So things didn't work out quite like we had planned, financially speaking, but I'm actually glad they didn't. Good things can come out of bad situations. I don't think Keith and I would be as happy together as we are, if we hadn't had to fight together for our family and some form of financial stability.

Nearly losing all you thought important has a funny way of re-prioritizing your life and focusing you on what is really important: people, life, love. I'm now back to working as a social worker in hospice and I am humbled every day at the work I am allowed to do and the people I am able to touch. Making a difference really makes a difference in my life. Now would it be nice to be a millionaire and never have to work? Sure, I think it might be. But for those who don't have to struggle for that, who never know what it's like to be nearly destitute, they are missing out. Sounds funny, but if you don't have to struggle, you really can never appreciate the important things. The ability to have a roof over one's head, breakfast on the table, and people to share that with.

So here's to the important things: friends, family, love, and life.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Europe or Bust?

Getting older is a funny thing. For me, I've noticed that I'm more confident and seem to know what I want. This is a nice thing most of the time. When it becomes ironic, is when I look at my sense of adventure. When I was younger, I was absolutely terrified to be alone. Stuck with my own thoughts, no one to distract me from my crazy self?? No thank you! I would never have given a second thought to a summer abroad, for example. Too frightening! This probably led me to avoid a lot of opportunities in my young life, often making choices based on being close to others instead of considering what was best for me and my own growth. Honestly. I really regret never going abroad. Why the hell didn't I just go, jumping in head first to the unknown?

Interesting thing is that now I kind of like being alone. My sense of adventure and willingness to try and do new things is heightened. Why does it take so long to grow up?

As I've been looking for work, I've been trying to keep an open mind. So when I saw an opportunity to work as a Social Worker in Europe, I thought, "what could it hurt?" So I applied, giggling to myself, wondering secretly what it would be like to run off to Europe. Ha! It could be kind of fun, right?

Well, here's where it got interesting. I actually got a call back. And a potential interview in Miami next month for a position in the London Borough of Southwark. And it's the only call back I've really had, making twice what I could make here (of course, that would be about equal in London). Hmmm... I could actually do this. And I'm not afraid. But now that I'm older, braver and finally okay with being alone; of course, I'm not alone. I have my husband and 3 dogs and this makes it a little more difficult to run off to Europe on a whim. Maybe impossible. Sigh. I kind of liked the idea. Traveling; seeing France, Spain, and Germany nearby. And I have a few friends now in Germany, so I wouldn't be totally alone. When would I ever get that chance again? But I can't really take it seriously.

It's a bit ironic to me that when I was younger I was way too afraid to do anything like this, even though I was unattached and it would have been a serious adventure. But now, when I am brave enough to do it, I am no longer unemcumbered. So now I have to consider someone else's opinion, what he wants out of life. And it isn't running off to England. Now what? I guess maybe I let the dream die, keep looking in Texas. That's what's best, right? Still, there's this terrible nagging thought. My newly developed sense of adventure mourns the loss of the idea, even if it is really ludicrous. My family and husband think I'm nuts, and maybe I am. They don't really take my new adventurous spirit seriously. And I can hardly blame them. Who suddenly thinks, "I know! I'll pack up my husband & 3 dogs and move across the globe!" I mean, what if I hate it? How would I get back? And as a Social Worker it's not like I'd get paid a lot. England's expensive of course. Sigh. I wonder secretly what I might be missing though...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Smart Cars

My niece is visiting here in Little Rock, staying with my family for the summer. She's 10 and I'm frequently tickled by her outlook on life. She's spending her days at various local summer camps and this week it's Discover Camp at the local community center. The camp is teaching the kids about inventions, so that's been the topic of various conversations. My niece has decided she will invent a smart car. Her car will be able to do anything you ask it to do, simply by thinking it. It sounds far-fetched, but according to my husband, a family friend is doing something similar with military planes. The pilot simply thinks "Fly left" and off he goes. I'm sure we are well on our way towards smart cars, smart refrigerators and the like. My niece may one day soon see her dream realized, faster than even she may imagine. This set me to wondering, though, about the potential pitfalls of "smart"cars and the like.

My computer already has a personality, named Vicky by my husband for the seductive voice it uses to tell me the time and date and to remind me to stop playing on Facebook or Yelp and look for a freaking job already. What if my car could actually read my thoughts? Road Rage would have a whole new meaning when I think to myself, I should really teach that a-hole a lesson, and my car suddenly rams into the jerk in front of me. Or what if I think to myself, I should really call my mother-in-law, only to find myself driving down the freeway and suddenly in the midst of a phone conversation I really had never meant to have?

A smart refrigerator could really cause me problems. It would find me ordering all types of junk food when hungry only to find it appearing on my door step and ruining my well-intended diet. And a smart toaster? Well that's just a fire waiting to happen. It seems this technology may be in the hands of the military soon, if it isn't already, which scares me half to death. One mistake and instead of bombing Osama Bin Laden's latest hideout, we may find we've unintentionally blown up our own troops, along with half of the Middle East.

I'm not sure I like the idea of any machine reading my mind and my deepest wishes. I try to stick to my morale compass, but I seriously doubt I could keep my thoughts in check all the time. I mean if the things that fleetingly pass through my head actually happened? Well, let's just say that Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton would be in some serious danger.


One morning I woke up to find myself homeless.

These words ring in my head more days than not. A series of unfortunate events including the crash of the housing and job markets in California led me to this nomadic life I now live. Traveling from place to place, with an ever-changing mailing address, my car is truly the only place I can really call mine. Sadly though, the post office won't accept my license plate or storage unit as a current address.

At 30, I'm what you might call a couch surfer, spending my days in the homes of friends or family until I wear out what little is left of my welcome. I haven't always been a bum. In fact, until recently, I would have been called pretty successful. Married for 3 years, I owned a home, 3 dogs and 2 cars, and lived in the heart of Silicon Valley, California. The fact that I am a social worker, and thus worked with the less fortunate, is not lost on me now. Irony and humor are two of the few defenses I have left.

How did I end up here, then, 30 years old and staying in my parent's home in Little Rock, Arkansas? Before I get into that story, let me clarify for the sake of my reputation that I am in no way from Little Rock, Arkansas, nor am I from any part of this forsaken state. It is simply where I am resting my head for now, with little choice of my own in the matter. If pressed, I suppose I would claim Texas as my home, although I was born in Ohio and lived in California for the last 4 years. But Texas is where I was raised and where I long to return. The all yall's and yee-haw's are thoroughly a part of my blood.

Now to the series of unfortunate events...

Last summer my husband was laid off from a company where he had worked for the last 5 years. We had actually moved from Southern California to Silicon Valley and bought a home less than 6 months previously because he had been promoted by the very same company. Thinking he had secured himself further in his job, working at the home office instead of in the field, we thought we had it made. We could not have been more wrong. The position he had previously held was safe, but his new position was one of the first to be let go.

Chins still held high, we didn't worry...much. And 3 months later before his severance ran out, he was rewarded with a new job. We breathed a sigh of relief and continued to live our lives, spending as quickly as the money came in. We were not safe for long. A short 3 months later, he was laid off from his new job, the company unable to get funding, decided to downsize and wait to launch their product until the economy improved. Now we began to worry. With little severance and no paycheck of my own, we had no savings to speak of. I began to look for work with my husband, but to no avail. By December, we were in serious trouble.

Thinking we would outsmart the economy and move somewhere cheaper and less effected by the ups and downs of the market, we decided to put our home on the market and move to Texas. The plan was to stay with my in-laws, until we were able to sell our home, find work, and get our own place. It was a temporary situation, and we could do anything for a few months, right? Shortly thereafter, I had a falling out with my in-laws and found myself living with friends while my husband and 3 dogs remained at the in-laws. My friends had no room for 3 dogs, but they would love to have me, of course! Again, we could do anything for a few months. So we lived on separate sides of town and saw each other whenever possible for date nights and the like.

I had fortunately found work quickly, but the paycheck didn't come close to paying our mortgage. Then just as quickly, I lost my new job. Our house sat and sat on the market as we continually lowered the price. When it did sell 5 months later, we found ourselves losing over $100,000. But we would be okay! American optimism, the home of the brave and land of the free, right? Besides, we're still young.

Eventually, my husband and I decided we could no longer stand living apart, so we packed up the dogs and the cars and "moved" to Arkansas to stay with my family. It's now June and like I said, at some point I finally came to the realization that I am truly homeless. I count my blessings to have resourceful and kind friends and family, don't get me wrong. It could be a lot worse. As a funny reminder, perhaps, my family bought us camping gear for Christmas, so that we could survive in the wild... or under the bridge.

Life makes me laugh daily, which is a good thing, because without the laughter, I don't think I could stand it. Friends tell me my story is a sad one, and that I deserve more than a few drinks, but I'm continually finding the humor in it all. And for now, I want to record the funny, strange things I see in my everyday homeless life, remembering the humor and enjoying what life has to offer.

I suppose as an intro, that pretty much sums up what this blog is about. My humor may be a little dry and the self-deprecation a little overdone, but it's my humor nonetheless, and no one can take that away from me... Can they?