Keeping busy

9:04 PM at 9:04 PM

Along with filling out grant applications and orphanage applications I've been writing for work at City Hall. Even though I am not writing books, I feel happy to be writing alot. I've done ten pages this past week. I've also been studying. I'm taking an online infant class and even though it is fairly easy and mostly a joke, I feel like if I push myself at my own level I can learn more. So during my lunch break everyday I've been studying. It feels good to be using my brain, especially while getting paid. And the harder I work the more I feel like I am earning those travel trips/plane tickets abroad. Not a day passes that I don't look at pictures from Russia and feel home sick or research things to do in Thailand and get more and more excited for what is at the edge of my fingertips. Here is the article I wrote for the recreation division at city of davis. It will be published in the Enterprise. Perhaps I really should be in sales....

Spring is in the Air!

Spring is just around the corner and while some of us use our spring break to do some spring cleaning, others find it the perfect time to have some fun in the sun after a winter cooped up inside. Spring is the time for new beginnings and changes. Flowers start to bloom throughout our City Parks, ducklings start appearing at the Davis Arboretum, and your local Community Services Department plans some great ways for you to try new things during your spring break and create some lasting memories.

I still remember attending Davis Senior High School like it was yesterday. In-between Spanish, history, chemistry, and cross country, I spent the time talking with my friends about making the most of our high school days since college felt like it was just around the corner. High School felt like the end of one chapter in our lives and the beginning of a huge change: college. Where would we go? What would we study? How we would choose? From my own experience the colleges that had the lasting impressions on me where the ones that I visited. Spring break is the perfect time to take a road trip to various campuses with your Community Services Department- meet some new friends (It’s what you’ll be doing in college after all!), try college food, and tour the campuses. So-Cal Safari is for the high school student who is thinking about those college applications that need to be filled out in the summer and fall. Join us and prepare for one of the biggest moments in your life.

If high school is still a few years away, don’t worry! There are many fun spring time camps that will offer some exciting activities, new friendships, and memories that you’ll still be talking about when you return to school in April. Explore your athletic skills through hoops and balancing bars at the City of Davis Gymnastics and Dance Center that will be offering a Spring Fling Gym and Dance camp. This is a great opportunity for kids who are interested in trying out a gym and dance class for the first time or for kids who just can’t seem to get enough of it during the school week.

If being outdoors is your thing we offer a horse camp for beginners where you can spend five spring days in a row with horses and other horse lovers. Most of us don’t have enough room in our backyards for our very own horses, so this is a great opportunity to move beyond the horse books and learn everything hands-on that you wanted to know about horse behavior, care, and riding. By the end of spring break you and your friends will be able to participate in a mini horse show that promises lots of fun. Grab those reins and trot into the final stretch of the school year with stories of horses, friends, and new riding experiences.

Gymnastics and Dance not your thing? Horses not really an interest? Don’t worry! If you really can’t wait for the summer to attend camp we have just the spring preview for you. Travel with new friends and great camp leaders on day trips to the bowling alley, Golfland Sunplash, and a roller skating rink in our annual Spring Break Safari. In addition to safari’ing around, we have many creative crafts and games planned for in town that are sure to keep your mind off of school. Challenge new friends in a hopscotch relay or work together to create friendship sticks. Contact your Community Services Department to find out more details about daily activities.

The choices are yours- a college tour trip, gymnastics, horses, or field trips and playground activities? Spring is in the air and it is time to hang-up that winter coat. Join us and enjoy your break taking that deep breath of fresh air while trying new things.

Tell us about your volunteer experience and how travel has influenced your desire to volunteer

12:14 PM at 12:14 PM

So...I am trying to get this $5000 grant from travelocity that would allow me to go to Russia- they would set me up with orphanage work, a plane ticket, board, food, everything. The grant is a lengthly application asking for 4 essays. I have finished one. Three to go....

I have traveled to many places and volunteered at home. My first volunteer experience was in my preteens when I would sit with shelter dogs on adoption day. I found joy in helping dogs find a second home full of love. It later led to becoming a camp leader for a 6th grade outdoor education camp when I was in high school. As a camp leader I was responsible for being a good role model to younger kids, bring them to meals, campfire, and other camp activities. As a camp leader volunteer I proved I could be energetic and upbeat with younger kids. I was interested in experiencing nature with children and watching them learn new things. After my volunteer experience in high school I became a student teacher volunteer in college. As a student teacher volunteer I would spend time in a 5th grade classroom and help the teacher with group activities, classroom management, and I would help with basic classroom maintenance tasks. For example, one day when the kids were playing outside at recess I took the time to clean the slides from the microscopes. I sat outside in the sun and cleaned each individual slide. While doing so a curious child came up to me and asked me what I was doing. The child was not from the class I was volunteering in (he was younger) I told him what a microscope was and what the slides did. In this moment I realized teaching children can happen at any moment- not just in the classroom as a paid teacher. Through my volunteer experiences I realized volunteering allows you to feel like you have a purpose. It is a moment when you can connect to children or animals or adults in a way that no other position allows it. People in need open their worlds to volunteers and volunteers that are willing to help will learn so much about humanity and cultures that make us who we are.

I’ve been traveling through my imagination before I could actually leave the house. I understood from an early age that travel was something that made us better people. You learn about life through new experiences in unfamiliar surroundings. I have been to over thirty of the fifty states, traveled to Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, France, and Russia. It didn’t seem to matter where I was- in a new state or a different country; but I knew that more than the touristy things I was interested and drawn to the people, the culture, and the stories of these places. Whenever planning for a trip I searched for lodging and activities “off the beaten path” and found excitement in taking things as they came. Touristy things don’t appeal to me. As a tourist you miss out on so much each country and its people have to offer. Traveling has made me aware of how much we learn about life through our experiences with different cultures. I could be in Costa Rica feeding street dogs or having lunch and conversation with a local named Junior in a small town with only dirt roads. Or I could be trying to decipher the Cyrillic alphabet in the Russian metro or traveling to a small Russian village and spending the day wearing a borrowed cultural skirt in a monastery. It didn’t matter where I was, but I knew when I traveled I needed to stay longer, immerse myself, take chances, and become part of the culture. I wanted to understand these people and the places they call home.

The last two trips in my life have had the most impact on my urge to volunteer. I am someone who is curious about small towns and culture and the people that live there. A few years ago when my grandparents, parents, and friends came together to give me a trip to someplace, the first thing I did was go on google and searched the phrase: small towns off the beaten path. I found Cahuita, Costa Rica and convinced my family to come with me to the small town in Southern Costa Rica. I trusted people I couldn’t exchange more than a few sentences with to drive us to the small village with only dirt roads and no street names. In Cahuita I chipped my front tooth and experienced a robbery by gun point. These experiences, as much as they were scarier, brought me closer to the country. It was through these life changing experiences that I started to think about the situations and pressures people are faced with and how this can lead them to do the desperate things they do in life. Instead of become scared of the uncertainty of travel, I came home to Davis and tried to think of ways I could help people who needed it most.

While in Russia this past September my family drove me out to the countryside. We winded past small wooden villages and children selling apples on the side of the road. I watched through the window and imagined being on the other side- in the village, with those kids and families. I didn’t want to be a bystander or tourist. I wanted to be part of the village and a part of the community. I feel that an experience of living within a country or small town will allow me to have an impact on my life and the life of others. Working for money gets you the paycheck that allows you to take those touristy trips, but working for people as a volunteer allows you to become part of the country. I feel as a volunteer I will be working from the kindness of my heart. This is what I want to do. I want to volunteer my time to help others and learn about the world.

Time and the Building List

2:46 PM at 2:46 PM

I think time is everyone's worst enemy- or close to it. Whether we detest another birthday or how short weekends are. Regardless time passes and I try to make the best of it. It is something I feel we can never control and we either are happy with how we use our time or not. So I try to be happy with it while I got it.

The biggest problem is I have a huge imagination and lots of ideas. All of these ideas are doable, yet they keep adding up. I have problems with starting things. So the list keeps building and I am finding while working 2 jobs plus babysitting there is little free time. My never ending building list is:

-writing my costa rica novel
-writing a guide book on breweries of northern california (i think this is my best bet with breaking into the publishing world)
-making a virtual portfolio of my illustrations so I can send them to children's book publishing houses
-apply for grants to travel
-travel to multiple countries
-fill out applications for other volunteer programs (the list continues to build of organizations)
-draw some more

So to handle my time and try to find some self discipline to work on these things....along with my multiple jobs(I've been picking up babysitting, working at city hall, and in the infant room). I bought a super cute imported planner. I almost don't want to use it because it is so cute:

Goodbye Mr. Salinger

7:41 PM at 7:41 PM

I'm a terrible terrible blogger that never updates. I feel like facebook status' have become an easy way to share/express my feelings in a few sentences every day. I try to update those every day, but I should also really keep to this blogging thing. It is good to practice writing that I am beginning to miss for the first time since Grad School. I think I needed a break from those deadlines and pressure to really enjoy it again. I met my good creative writing friend from Grad School yesterday. We had coffee and talked about writing. One of her short stories is a finalist for a competition- I am so proud of her...but we made a new years pact. Our pact is that we will write ten pages a month (to think we used to do it per week!) and meet for coffee and "workshop" each other's peices. Both of us will be writing our first novels. I have had a YA novel idea in my head since Sep. 2008. I hope this forces me to finally write it. But here I am updating my blog because a) I felt like writing for once and b) I am inspired and feel like I should write in J.D. Salinger's honor today. His death hit me harder than I thought. I can't think of someone who I never met and who died hit me hard like this one. It's been on my mind all day and as I have been thinking about it all my memories started coming back to me.

I remember the first time I picked up Catcher in the Rye. I was 16 years old and my english teacher told us it is a controversial book that our high school was at the time trying to ban. I felt like a rebel reading it. I felt like I was breaking rules through books and stories instead of alcohol and drugs like a lot of my peers. I wasn't depressed like holden caulfield but I connected to his sarcastic sense of life and felt a writer's awakening within myself. I understood symbolism for the first time. And when we were assigned to write an essay on the book my english teacher pulled me aside and told me it would be fine if I wrote a short story in Holden Caulfield's voice. I want to say that I wrote my first story because of this book. But that's not true. I was writing stories before I could spell. But I can say that this book did teach me how to being dissecting stories and learning how they are written. I became passionate of understanding what everything meant in stories. This book made me laugh and connect to the pains of the character. It made me understand atheism. Most importantly, Catcher in the Rye inspired me and it still does. I read JD Salinger's Franny and Zoe and some short stories, but the personal connections I had with Catcher in the Rye still make it my favorite. J.D Salinger is an amazing talented artist that will not be forgotten.

"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be." - J.D. Salinger

I should be in sales

12:04 PM at 12:04 PM

Sierra Nevada should have hired me as a sales rep. I guess I might be pretty good at convincing people about certain things. I get excited about recommending beer to perplexed strangers in the beer aisle at the grocery store, convincing ten people they should come with me on an off the beaten path trip to Costa Rica (all planned by me who never went there and didn't know what to expect), convincing people what art supplies would be best for them (sometimes I miss my job at the hobby craft), and convincing a friend it is a good idea to stick a raw hop bud in your mouth (only to loose all aspect of taste for the next hour or so). Now I can add convincing an editor to read my story to the list. I could say another one bites the dust, but for some reason I am just happy I was able to somewhat sell myself in my cover letter. I have always dreaded queries and cover letters, so getting some positive and individual response on that sort of made my day. Are rejection letters supposed to do that? Are they supposed to be this nice?
I guess rejection isn't as bad as I thought or maybe I am just hopelessly positive:

Dear Melissa,

Thanks so much for giving us the opportunity to read your work. We are humbled to be receiving so much great work this early in our existence.

Based on your cover letter, I\'d say we had a whole lot in common. I have also done a great deal of traveling and stare at maps endlessly...and also plan vacations I know (at least unconciously) I\'ll never take. Anyway, I\'d say on Burning the Buttes that you have a great first paragraph. It engages the reader and sets high expectations for the story, which I didn\'t feel quite lived up to those expectations. Sorry to disappoint, but anyone who loves maps is welcome to submit here anytime.

Thanks again,
M.E. Parker, Editor
Camera Obscura Journal

Screw the System

9:02 AM at 9:02 AM

I hate our health care system. Seriously. So I was sick, getting better and went to the doctor. She told me to rest and drink fluids but I am on the road to recovery. It cost me $88 to hear something I already knew. I got better. And then fell down the deep end again. Sunday night I had body aches, and my chest felt like someone was pushing down a bag of bricks on it. Monday morning I woke up with my sheets soaked and pajamas soaking with sweat. I took my temperature and had a fever. It semi-freaked me out, because I have never broken out in a sweat like this. I took IBprofin and felt fine. I went to work and worked a 7 hour shift and went out with my friends at night. I felt normal, besides my cough and sometimes uncomfortable pressure on my chest. I wish I could just be normal. I hate feeling these things and also feeling like I can't go to the doctor because I might be sent home with nothing but a high bill. This morning Lisa woke me up worried because she saw something on H1N1 that said if symptoms subdue but then return as a fever and cough call the doctor immediately. It sort of freaked me out. I went onto the CDC website which stated an emergency symtom is when a cough and fever returns. I found a way to email my doctor which was free but limited to 500 words. She got back to me right away and said if a fever persists come into the office. But I don't have a fever today. Should I go? I feel fine enough. My chest is a little tight with a cough. Why does all of this happen to me now. When my health insurance is shitty. If I knew I would only have a small co-pay I would go. Do you see what this healthcare system is doing to people? When they might actually need to see the doctor they dont. It really is a health care system for rich people. I hate it.

I was on the phone with my insurance company (blue shield) for almost an hour yesterday. They just frustrate me and by the end of the phone call I wanted to tell them to "fuck off."

On top of being sick my doctor wants me to get an echocardiogram for a heart murmor. This is pretty much the only thing that came out of my $88 doctor's apt. Oh but the echocardiogram costs $2000 unless insurance covers it. Since I have a pretty much emergency plan I called insurance yesterday to find out how I can switch to a plan that will cover the test. They told me none of their plans will because it is pre-existing. I tell them well they have been my insurance company since I was a baby and just because I am on my own plan and not my parents now, that doesn't mean I have been on their company. THey have received insurance money for me my whole life. How can this be pre-existing and they wont cover it, if they are the only ones who have covered me?! Seriously. Idiots.

I just want to get better. It is so frustrating when you feel fine enough, but not normal enough. I can't stand resting. I need to do things. I started running this last weekend (probably not a good idea since I still had a cough) but it is something I am excited about and want to do. I need to work so I can make money to pay the health insurance companies that wont completely pay for me. It is such a terrible cycle. Our government is so screwed up in many ways. I think I just need to not stress about it. The more I stress, the worse I get. If I am positive I'll recover, right?

This weekend Mendocino! I am super excited and hope for lots of mushrooms.

Karma and Kittens

6:50 PM at 6:50 PM

So much for flu shoots...I'm sick as a dog. Congestion, muscle aches, chills, cough, shortness of breath...the whole shabang. It better just be a cold and not swine flu. The muscle pains and shortness of breath scare me the most. And I have not had a beer for 48 hours...something is def. not right with me. :)

Besides working 70 hours over the last two weeks and getting sick, I also walk dogs. Mostly my morning dog walks contain strolls and ball throwing around the neighborhood. Like today. Since I wasn't feeling too hot I had to make my way through the streets. I tell Jaime to "leave it" and sam to "heel." A woman watches me from her front porch and tells me "You are talking to them like they are two year olds." I reply, "There isn't much of a difference between two year olds and dogs." She didn't reply to that. Perhaps she thought I was crazy. Little does she know I work with a bunch of two years olds (and like kids, don't mean it as degrading human kind) and my dogs are like my children.

Yesterday when I was feeling slightly ill, but better than today I took the dogs for a morning walk out by putah creek near the University airport. I love this area of davis because the creek is clear, you can't hear cars, and there is nature around you. I usually can't walk the dogs here during the months of April-October, because of yesterday was their first walk there since March. While walking them in the morning I noticed 4 tiny kittens playing on the trail right next to the parking lot. I thought it odd that they just stayed in the parking lot. If they were feral cats they would be more off the trail and deeper in nature. It just didn't seem right. They were all fancy colors too- bright orange and black calico, gray with tan stripes. They looked domesticated to me. I walked the dogs and they were still there, in the parking lot, waiting. No mother cat was in sight. I went to work and kept thinking of them. I am not a cat person by any means but these kittens really called to me. I took an hour off work and went back, without dogs, to go and find them. They were still there. Same spot. I tried picking them up but they ran...not far...they kept on staying near the parking lot. I couldn't get close enough to grab them. I went back to work and told my mom and Reagan. They were so tiny and helpless out there. During our lunch breaks the three of us go back. We figure three people might have a chance to catch them. No luck. These kittens are frisky. They watch us and run into bramble, then come back out. Third time out and no luck. We start calling feral cat society and the SPCA. No one can help because of budget cuts. I just stay at work and worry about them as it gets darker. They are so helpless and tiny. They don't know nature and the wild. At 6pm my mom and I leave work and say well let's just see if they are still out there. We drive through utter darkness and sure enough we can see their little ears and eyes waiting in the parking lot. Over 12 hours and they stayed in the same place. There is also a fox that runs by. First time I saw a fox in Davis and the kittens are perfect pray for it. We decide at this point we need nets, food, crate. The hunt continues.

The 5th time out to try and catch the cats (I can't help at this point because the sickness hits and hard)...but Reagan and Lisa are sucessful. They catch one by throwing a blanket over it. They patiently wait for 2 and a half hours before catching it. The others get away.

All day I think about the remaining kittens and worry. After work I drive back out there and there is no sign of them. I hope they were caught by another friendly citizen and not eaten by foxes. I am angry at the idiots who just dumped them out there.

On a positive note as I was walking to work today I found $33 on the ground. I felt guilty taking the money but after an effort of looking around, couldn't find the owner. I figured this was meant to be. It's called karma. This must be what I get for helping helpless kittens for hours.

The one that made it and went to the vet today: