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September 29, 2007

My Statement

I have a track jacket that says "Mexico" on it. It's really nice, black with the national colors. Darby got it for me at Epcot in Orlando. I like wearing it, I think it's cool.

Something I hadn't really realized until I moved to California was just how heated the immigration debate was here. It's just about the only thing people talk about on the radio. And to be clear, when they are talking about immigration – how they need to build a wall to save the state – they are talking about Mexican immigrants.

So while here I sometimes wear my jacket without thinking about it. And then I always notice people's reactions to it, like I'm making some grand statement. And in fact, if pressed, it's probably the statement I would make. All of us are immigrant here, even "Native Americans," all of us or our ancestors migrated here at some point in time.

Anyway, this really isn't meant to be an immigration debate or treatise, but more the setup for a funny story. I went to the grocery store tonight, where basically all of the baggers are Mexicans. I was wearing my jacket. I saw them look at it, and then look at it again, while I was checking out.

One of them starts clapping and singing the Mexican Football teams' fight song.

"Where did you get that jacket?" I answer Florida. "Why did you get it." Because I've been to Mexico a number of times and think it's a beautiful country, and I love the colors.

This answer seems to please him greatly. "It is a very beautiful jacket." I agree with him.

And while I walk out the door – no lie - no less than 5 of the baggers are now singing and clapping out the fight song.

Me, the accidental champion of Mexicans in California.

Posted by jason on 03:33 AM | Comments (6)

September 27, 2007

No violence, no lies, and no secrets.

Moving to a place where you don't know anyone is a very difficult experience, even if it's just you.

If you have kids, it's about 100 times more difficult.

Honestly, I can handle not having friends for a time. I know that I have a ton of people who love me. And I'm pretty confident that I can make friends too.

But when your daughter says that the only friends she has are "a lizard and a hummingbird," well, that's hard to hear. And when you have to walk your son and daughter into a brand new school, with brand new kids, and see them warily eye a bunch of little strangers... borderline unbearable.

Lyric does not "go with the flow," she's like Darby in that regard. While Ollie and I both enjoy transition, they dread it. Going to a new schooling situation is traumatic for her. It's unfair, because so far in her life she's 8 and she's had 4 different schooling situations already. That's a lot to deal with. I went to the same school from Kindergarten to graduation, so I can't even relate.

But I am getting a taste of what it's like to hope people like you, to not always have a "default" person you can sit with and be comfortable with. And if it's even a little bit upsetting for me, for a girl with Lyric's temperament, it must be a tragedy.

So Lyric goes to school, and on her first day a little girl says "I'm so glad you're here, I want to be your friend." It was kind of a miracle, and very nice! But then when she comes home, she gets nervous again about the next day, and gets so panicked about it that by the next morning she's dreading going at all. Darby picks up on and perhaps even magnifies this fear in her, so I volunteer to walk her to school.

(By the way, being able to walk to school is so Little House on the Prairie, and really kind of awesome)

I tell Lyric I'll sit in her class with her for a little bit. She's asking for all day. She's teary. This is hard. She just doesn't feel comfortable with anyone yet, she says. Look, I say... these girls really like you... they are your friends. Yes, I'm their friend, she says... but they're not MY friends.

We go to PE. She's working hard not to cry. Crying for Lyric in front of people is a nightmare, she grows so ashamed of it. I don't really know why, but it makes her angry at herself, because she says she's too old to cry. We tell her that you're never too old to cry. She says we're wrong.

And now the tears are there. Poor girl. I give her a hug, tell her she's strong, she'll be alright. This is so difficult.

Her friends are at the front of the assigned position line. She's the last one because she was added to the class last. At the end of her line, trying not to cry, hoping no one sees, just wanting to go home, real home on the east coast. Fly back, be with the people where she's their friend and they're her friends.

Like little angels, her friends see her, get out of the place in line and join her. One of them says, "It's ok Lyric, I was the same way my first days. I cried everyday. It gets better. it really does. Can we help you."

It was kind of amazing. By the time PE is over, Lyric is still not completely comfortable, but she's also not gutted by the thought of me leaving.

Crisis averted? Not quite!

Nobody is perfect, and actually one of the little girls who had befriended her turns out to have some little 2nd grade issues. She's possessive. She tells crazy stories and insists they are true. She scares Lyric, and won't let her play with anyone else. She yells at Lyric for not showing up to play Uno, even though she never said anything about playing Uno at recess. She insists she did.

Everyone in the class seems to like this girl, and Lyric is afraid if she stands up for herself that she'll be a pariah (not her word, she's precocious but not that much), that everyone will turn against her.

It all comes to a disheartening, too-much-drama-for-second-grade crescendo when Lyric tries to run and play with some of the other girls and her friend grabs her too tight. Her nails draw blood. Darby once fainted donated blood, and nearly faints today if we talk about it. Lyric is definitely her daughter. This is too much.

We talk to Lyric about boundaries, about telling people what they can and can't do, about healthy relationships, and being strong enough to tell people how they should treat you. All the while we wonder why in the world someone in the second grade would have to deal with! I try to suggest that perhaps it will really build character. Oh, me, the optimist.

Darby rallies the troops, and informs Lyric that over 50 people are praying for her. She names them all, one by one. It wasn't an exaggeration. No word on whether the hummingbird and lizards were among the faithful. Lyric likes that over 50 people are praying for her.

We keep trying to tell Lyric what to say to her friend. She doesn't like any of our options, shaking her head at each one, saying no that won't work.

She wants to use her words.

So she goes to school. And we wait. She's in school from 8.15 to 3. That's a long time to wait. It's not like we can check online how things are going. Instead we hope things are going well while fearing they're going badly.

She gets home. Today actually we've invited a non-bullying friend over for a playdate. They have a fantastic time, and Lyric seems to be in good spirits. They dance and sing karaoke on the Wii. They bake cookies. Lots of laughter and smiles.

Because of the friend's presence, Darby and I still can't ask how things went until 6.30!

And Lyric tells us.

"When we were going out to recess, I said. 'Can I tell you something? I need to have a friendship with no violence, no lies, and no secrets. Let's start doing that.'"

And the girl said, ok. And Lyric said from then on things were fine. And she's not scared of her anymore.

Wow.

Posted by jason on 02:26 PM | Comments (9)

September 26, 2007

Great first day

I have to say, this day went really well and I think things are just going to be great. It started by being addressed by the husband and wife team responsible for Little Miss Sunshine, both UCLA alumnis... So cool being here in the midst of where all this stuff gets made. I made a lot of friends already too. Even someone who will play basketball with me.

Posted by jason on 01:18 AM | Comments (6)

September 25, 2007

First Day of School

After all the drama of the last month, school finally starts today. And yeah, I'm nervous. But here goes. I have orientation today and tomorrow. I've signed up for one class so far, "Strategic Thinking in the Film Industry." It meets Monday from 7-11 PM. I've already had to turn in an assignment for it.

After spending much of last week getting our kids used to a new school, praying they have friends, hoping they're having a good time, now I go through the same thing for myself.

Posted by jason on 10:17 AM | Comments (4)

September 22, 2007

I am officially holier than you (environmentally speaking)

Yes, you must defer to me. In terms of a carbon footprint and environmental sensitivity... I am better than you. Because today I bought a Toyota Prius.

If you thought Al Gore was smug, you have no idea just how self-satisfied I feel right now. I mean, to be able to remove myself from this unwashed masses of gas-only vehicle driving commoners such as you, and know that I am no longer driving the world towards extinction with each mile I rack up... it's a breath of (now cleaner) air.

Now when I see images of cute seals covered with crude oil, I no longer have to feel responsible, but can instead point my morally righteous finger at you, asking what you're planning to do about it. Because I have already done my part.

I bought a Prius.

Huzzah for me.

Posted by jason on 04:12 PM | Comments (19)

September 20, 2007

At the DMV

They make you take a test in CA to get a license. Even if you already had a license in another state!

Something to understand about me is that I am probably at my worst when testing for a driver's license. When first getting a PA driver's license as a teenager, I failed the permit test 3 times, the driving test 2 times... my CAR failed the driving test once... It was a nightmare, the most miserable debacle-laden failure of my life so far.

So when I found out that I would have to take a test, a TEST, to get a CA license, I honestly broke out into a sweat.

I tried to cram, but it's a 60 page manual full of little inane facts and figures and rules and suggestions. And, I had to try to get a license a year before 2008's fall semester starts so I can get in-state CA residency and pay about 15K less. So I had to hurry.

I got 30 pages through and figured the wait would be long at the DMV and I could read the last 30 then.

I was wrong. Somehow, I broke decades of tradition at the DMV, because it almost seemed like they fast tracked me through the long waits and here I was, with my test.

I am told I can get 6 of the 36 wrong and still pass. Gulp.

First two, about drunk driving. What is the legal blood alcohol percentage, and what is the maximum penalty. Can I just tell you, I have taken about 5 sips of alcohol in my entire life. These rules just don't apply to me, so I am completely unaware of them. I take my best guess.

What do you do when a blind pedestrian is at the crosswalk? What do 2 solid lines more than 2 feet apart signify? Which way should you turn your wheels when parking on a downhill slope? And on and on. The sweat beading and rolling down my back, I count up "the ones I basically just guessed on and really for all I know could get wrong."

There are 12 of them. So now I have to hope that my guessing skills are educated enough to get half right.

I read through my test again, and decided to change the answer to the last question. I don't remember what it was, but something nudged me. I hate doing this actually, because often i overthink things and then end up wrong.

I take the test to the lady at the front, she goes through and starts grading them by hand. The DUI questions, I get one of them wrong. I watch happily as she passes over a number of the "questionable" answers I had marked. My guessing was good.

By the time there are only 4 questions left for her to check, I have 3 wrong. Which means that ... unless I get ALL of the rest of them wrong, I'm in.

She marks the fourth to last question. Wrong. 3rd to last question.... Wrong. 2nd to last question... Wrong.

And now I start to feel this very familiar feeling, this feeling that you would no doubt know well if you were a fan of Philadelphia sports teams. This fated tragedy, this destiny of sadness where a million little things have to line up to bring about the worst possible end, one small break in that chain would avert everything! But one by one... you start to just know where this is headed.

She looks at the last question, and then looks at me.

"Congratulations. You passed."

The question I switched!!! I averted the disaster!

Take that, destiny.

Posted by jason on 11:51 PM | Comments (6)

About time for some updates from me

As most of you have heard already, I did not end up in Grad school in AZ. You may wonder how somebody goes from accepting a fully funded position into a grad program and having a contract on a house, to canceling all of that and staying at home. Confusing I know.

It is a ridiculously long story but essentially things changed. The department gave away our scholarships and it was going to be way too much money to be worth it. Debt is not something I am fond of.

If you care to read a synopsis of the story, you can read below.

When linds and I were offered entry into the program, we were told that we got the best possible financial package. It would cover all of our tuition and most of the fees. There would be a few nominal fees that we would cover. All of this was offered without us having to work assistantships. We just had to maintain a 3.0 GPA or above. Awesome right? We thought so, and we accepted.

When we went out to AZ to visit the school. We learned that the professor who had been assigned to recruiting us had given us a lot of misinformation. Our scholarships would cover about HALF of our tuition and none of the fees. Ouch.

We still figured we would try to roll with it. We scrambled to find assistantships that would cover the remainder of the fees. Linds found one and took it. I found one that would cover about half.

I was hesitant to take the position because I was planing on keeping my current job (at half time) to pay for housing, food, electricity, insurance, etc... The office manager in the department told me "just try it out. you have nothing to lose. If you can't keep up the hours, just stop working the assistantship. You could really use the extra financial assistance this would provide."

I figured she was right. I really could use the money, and what did I have to lose?

My Scholarship. That is what I had to lose.

Unbeknownst to me, when I accepted this part time, short term position, they gave away my scholarship because I was getting financial aid from my assistantship. At this point, I was working (this was not requited of me before) and I was getting LESS money.

Obviously I did not appreciate this situation and I called the office to discuss it. As it turns out, once a scholarship is given away, it cannot be gotten back. Lindsay and I had both been relieved of our "free rides" and were now required to work if we wanted any assistance (which was less than we were previously getting for free).

Faculty members were very apologetic about the miscommunications, the bad information we had been given, and our new predicament, but said that there was nothing that could be done to change it. The absolute best case scenario was that we would have to try to find FULL TIME assistantships to cover our tuition.

Working full time in exchange for something we had originally been offered for free didn't sound like a great deal to us. This wouldn't even leave time to work jobs to pay for living expenses. So we would be working full time, going to school full time, and having NO income at all. Housing, food etc... that would all have to be covered by loans.

Going into debt to become a lawyer or a pharmacist is one thing, but an applied anthropologist? No way. We would be in debt the rest of our lives.

The financial aid aspect is just one glimpse into the confusion and chaos that was the grad program at NAU. Enough is enough. We pulled out.

So, now what? Who knows. We are trying to regroup and figure out what is next for us. In the meantime we got a puppy, bought a townhouse, and started a band. All of these things are incredibly awesome and warrant their own post in the near future.

Posted by collin on 09:03 AM | Comments (3)

September 18, 2007

More updates

Since I've last written I've actually been home and flown back to CA, which is kind of surreal that you can do that in the course of 3 days. It was very strange to see my house and it not really be my house. I was staying at my parents house and they were having some church ladies meeting there at around 6 and I realized I didn't really have anywhere to go that was "mine." It's strange, very strange.

We took the kids for a tour of their school today. I could feel their nervousness as they were the "new kids who just moved from out of town." Thank God, one of the girls said to Lyric, "Will you be my friend?" For Lyric, who had been telling people that the only friends she's made here in California so far are a lizard and a hummingbird, this really made a huge difference.

Ollie has a fever now, poor guy.

About the lizards and the hummingbirds, it's very cool to live in a place where they always greet you outside your door.

My orientation is in a week. Things have been crazily busy.

Darby was right, the bathroom has "significant levels of black mold behind the wall" according to our inspector.

Should I keep writing here, or start a new blog? Part of me thinks this blog dies if I do that because well... Ian's gotten engaged and the other guys have started a new band and none of that warrants even a single post. but at the same time I feel strange making this the "jason and his family go to Ca" outlet.

Thoughts?

Finally got my camera, so pictures are coming.

Posted by jason on 02:25 AM | Comments (13)

September 09, 2007

Random Updates

We got a refrigerator. Finally the days of eating out for every meal are coming to a close.

We saw Jessica Simpson and her Mom driving on Fairfax Avenue.

We swam in the ocean today.

We attended the Westside service of Mosaic Church, they meet at Beverly Hills High School. It was cool.

I missed the Eagles game (except for the first 15 minutes) because of the church service. So I got to see a muffed punt and an interception thrown. So far the West Coast Eagles watching experience is shaping up to be much like the East Coast one.

Darby thinks the place might have mold. Actually, she's sure of it. We're having experts in tomorrow to verify.

Posted by jason on 08:29 PM | Comments (7)

September 07, 2007

We're in the house

It all actually worked out. We're here. And as if to prove to us that we're very fortunate to even be here at all, in the first hour we were here 2 different people showed up heartbroken that it was already leased and telling us what an incredible deal it was. Pictures to come.

Posted by jason on 07:08 PM | Comments (1)

September 05, 2007

Approved

We got approved for the place. Still holding my breath though, we've been here before. Today I spent all day trying to scrape together a certified check. Didn't make it happen until it was too late to sign the lease. Ugh. Tomorrow at 11. And at least we got the check. It's about impossible to get a certified check when you don't have a local bank.

Posted by jason on 07:55 PM | Comments (1)

September 03, 2007

Darby and the friendly homeless woman

Here in LA, homeless people are much more prevelant than at home. Like on just about every street corner, in some areas. So when you're leaving a restaurant with leftovers and don't even have a fridge to store such things in, of course the normal decent thing to do is find someone who might want to eat an untouched half of your chicken sandwich, right?

This has worked out well for us in the past, good modelling for our children, kindness to someone less fortunate, and a full stomach that was going to be empty. Win Win Win.

Darby, Lyric and Ollie at her side, finds an older homeless woman, looking through a dumpster for some food. She offers her sandwich. The lady turns to her and replies. 'No I don't want your sandwich. I want you to eat your sandwich. And get sick. And die. Bitch."

Darby throws the sandwich in the dumpster and scurries away, moving the kids along.

Lyric, perplexed, only has one question. "Why was that lady so mean to us, Mommy? Doesn't she understand.... We're homeless too?"

Posted by jason on 11:12 PM | Comments (4)

September 02, 2007

In California

Well, we're here. Things are going fairly well so far. I mean, as well as they can go when you're homeless, your kids are freaking out, and you're without just about any worldly possession.

The good news first. We MIGHT have found a place to live. That is to say, we want it and really like it, but we called asked for an application and he hasn't sent one to us yet... So that's a little worrisome. It's actually right next to the house that fell through, this time closer to the beach and with an OCEAN VIEW. Same school district, much nicer place... and $200 cheaper a month.

I really hope it comes through. I really really hope it does. Because right now we have like a TON of stuff in our car (we shipped stuff in the car when it was transported, then added all our luggage) and it's kind of miserable driving around in it.

So adding to the "wow this move is so difficult" I was in the plane before I realized that we were supposed to have $900 cash, cashier check, or money order to pay the guy and get our car. And I didn't have anywhere near that much cash!

ATM stinks because they have a $500 a day limit. I got that. Then I tried to cash advance on credit cards, which nothing except get Chase to stop letting me use them, at all. Fortunately, the guy decided to trust me and let me write a normal check for $400. And the car was fine, too. That had me worried (letting some stranger just pick up your car and drive away is surreal).

So we were at a park today and I saw some people playing basketball and I thought to myself, "I shiould get a game together" and then I realized I HAVE NO FRIENDS HERE. NONE.

That's ridiculously pitiful, and probably won't last long. But if I wanted to play basketball, or music, or just meet someone for lunch... other than Darby and the kids, it just wouldn't happen. Amazing.

And on that depressing thought, I'll sign off.

Posted by jason on 10:46 PM | Comments (7)