Today is the last day of Blog Action Day 2008 and I just heard about it so I have to write fast.  The topic this year is poverty, something near and dear to my heart as I spend my days (and nights) here in Mexico City.

My husband and I had planned this move for 6 years, so that he could be with his family, and I thought I was ready.  But the truth is that when we got here it was the poverty that put me into shock.  Even moreso than the garbage – which is just an outgrowth of the poverty really.

I posted here last December about A Lesson in Economics when we bought a new refrigerator, but today is the perfect time to dig out my digital photo album.  Here is a photo of a menu at a restaurant the equivalent of Denny’s.  It shows chicken breast with mushrooms $83 pesos, breaded chicken filet with macaroni salad $91 pesos, and filet of fish in the style of Veracruz $91 pesos. 

Menu at Denny's equivalent in Mexico

Menu at Denny

 I know, you’re immediately calculating in your head “Well, that would be about $9 USD, that’s not so bad.”  The trick is this – that $91 pesos is just a little over what an average Mexican working for minimum wage makes in one day.  That’s right.  The minimum wage here is $400 pesos per week – and they have to work six days in a week to get that, $80 pesos per day.  And yet the prices in the metropolitan area are like what’s shown in this photo.  Needless to say, not many of those folks eat at this restaurant. 

I’m not saying there’s no money in Mexico – far from it.  The restaurants are full.  The malls are full.  The cinemas are full.  But there are no closed sewer systems anywhere and there are serious floods every year.  The roads are a mess and commercial transportation runs at about 30% efficiency.  Uncountable people live in shacks cobbled together from pieces of corrugated plastic and tarpaper.  And little old ladies peddle home-made jello in plastic cups door to door just so they can eat a meat taco once a week, while they live on beans and rice the other 6 days.

Well, I have to run.  My husband just got home and we’ve got errands to run now that the traffic has died down (it’s 8:30pm).  I just had to put in my two cents on this topic and will try to blog more about it this week.  Poverty is a complicated subject, but just because it’s complicated doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand it.

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Time has flown.  And I have flown.  Again since my last post.  Traveling is exhausting.  But to meet my new boss it was all worth it.  It’s amazing the effect a good boss can have on a person.  Even my sister and husband have noticed.  I’m laughing a lot more.  Sleeping less.  Working more, but enjoying it immensely.  Just having someone that validates your work and knows the job inside and out has really turned my perspective around.

And I’m preparing psychologically to fly again.  My sister will be having a medical procedure in November (probably) and I want to be there, so zoom zoom zoom.  Just like time…

I am on vacation.  While sitting at the Benito Juarez International Airport last Wednesday I read that a once close acquaintance had passed away. That sounds strange – “a once close acquaintaince” – but sometimes a person can share a moment in your life that is so personal that it never leaves you, and yet you do not know each other well enough to call yourselves friends.

When I knew Gene Upshaw in 1978, he was still a guard with the Oakland Raiders, but he had already stepped forward in the National Football League Players’ Association and was recognized for his leadership skills both on and off the field.  In that year, during the Raiders’ first residence in Oakland, California, I often attended after-game parties with my girlfriend who worked in the Raiders office.  That was how I met Gene, and several of the other team and office members – dancing, partying, celebrating – it was a carefree time in my 20-something life and these boisterous young men and overgrown boys were dance partners and drinking buddies.

Then one afternoon, just short of the Hegenberger Road exit on my way to the Raider offices to see my friend, the radio announced a most devastating event.  It was November 27, 1978, and the beloved mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone, had been shot and killed.  The next five minutes was a blur of tears and I pulled into the Raider parking lot in a daze.  As I stepped out of my car, another vehicle pulled in next to me.  It was Gene, and when our eyes met I knew that he’d heard the news, too.  We crossed the meager yards between us and I opened my arms to comfort this hulk of a man.  He fell against me and sobbed.  Not a word was spoken.  When we were both all cried out, we each took a deep breath and walked hand in hand into the office.

I saw Gene only a few times after that.  We never spoke of it again, but even if we just passed each other at a party or on the dance floor, a silent tilt of the head or squeeze of the hand reminded us of the comfort shared between casual acquaintances in a moment of trauma.

Whatever Gene Upshaw’s public popularity might or might not have been when he died on August 20, 2008, Gene will always be for me the embodiment of the tough guy with a tender heart, unafraid to share – or maybe afraid and sharing anyway – the tears that come with deep loss, and a symbol of the lasting impression that a simple touch can create when we reach out to comfort another human being.

I belong to an online poets group sponsored by the Whidbey Island Writers Association.  We have a new member whose writing I really enjoy.  He has a blog on LiveJournal.  He said that to be able to read the stuff he considers worth publishing I would have to sign up for my own LifeJournal account.  So I did. 

I haven’t been able to figure out how to get to those special pages, but I did decide that since I’d created my own LiveJournal account I might as well treat it like a journal.  So I started writing.  Stuff I wouldn’t publish here.  It will be my real “journal style” writing.  If you want to hear about my new cake recipes or burned pecan pie, please, freel free to check it out – http://achaessa.livejournal.com/.  Mood – uncertain.

Okay, I confess, a crappy month at work and the cynic in me takes the wheel (and drives around bitching about the traffic).  But today is a new month and I was thinking more about Randy Pausch and his list of childhood dreams (all but one accomplished) and my list which just pointed out that I’m a frustrated artist trapped in the corporate world.  But there are things that I wanted to do as a child that I have accomplished, though not in the same straight-line way as Randy.

For instance, I loved reading National Geographic and wanted to travel in the wilderness and live the outdoor life.  I also wanted to be a psychologist.  When I was 30, I spent a year doing wilderness expeditions with disruptive adolescents.  It was one of the most amazing times of my life and a perfect combination of those two childhood dreams.  We spent 3 weeks in the high-desert of south-central Idaho with each group of kids, teaching them how to live off the land, make fire without matches, navigate with topographical maps, and be self-sufficient, while leading them through a brief curriculum designed to stimulate their self-analysis.  It’s amazing the effect such training has on the self-esteem of a bored and rebellious teenager.  Or on the self-esteem of a bored and frustrated 30 year old.  Knowing that I can walk into the wilds and make fire, find food, and live an interesting life – when most people would panic or focus on complaining – gives me a rare insight into my inner strength and resourcefulness.

I also wanted to be Perry Mason.  His style of investigative advocay just thrilled me.  I worked at my first law firm when I was 19 and got a taste of the real lawyering world.  I even completed a year of law school.  But by then I knew the downside of lawyering – lawfirm politics, long associate hours, high production stress, no recognition for anyone but the partners (ohmygosh, I just realized that the corporate world is my nightmare version of the legal world) – and I decided not to complete my law degree.  Then in 1995, I was introduced to the King County CASA organization and became a guardian ad litem for abused and neglected children.  I did child advocacy work for six years and helped to change many lives for the better.  I specialized in the federal Indian Child Welfare Act and gave workshops across the US on advocating for Indian children and working with Indian families on parenting issues.  I learned even more about my own half-breed heritage and I met people that enriched my life. 

I also wanted to be a translator at the United Nations.  I love languages and how they intersect and evolve around one another.  Of course, I wanted to speak French – it had such a sexy air about it, but when language classes came up in school, my mother said, “You live in California, nobody here speaks French.  Spanish will be useful.”  (But she said it in a way that sounded like “Spanish or nothing.”)  So I, of course, said, “Then it will be nothing.”  And wouldn’t you know that at 41 I became fluent in Spanish without ever having taken formal schooling – and now I live in Mexico and speak Spanish every day.  It’s not quite the United Nations, but I never wanted to live in New York City because of the traffic and rude people (ohmygosh, I just realized that Mexico City is my nightmare version of NYC).  And, yes, my mother was right – Spanish turned out to be very useful for me.

So, there are four childhood dreams that I can mark with a * if not an X.  Maybe I will get to do something with my artwork someday.

So, here it is, July 27, and my last post was June 12.  This just goes to show that when conflict is between the day job and being creative, the day job wins.  For now I won’t be changing blog hosts because my stale blog would be a waste of advertisers’ money.

In the free moments around my 60 hour a week slog, I have managed to accomplish a few other things:

  • I took my CEP Level 2 exam on June 10 and passed it with flying colors!
  • I started studying for my Level 3 exam in November.
  • We celebrated Miguel’s 35th birthday.
  • I got tile floors installed in my entry, kitchen and dining room (okay, I worked the day job while the tile layer put in the flooring – but I designed the pattern and it turned out fabulous even though everybody thought I was crazy).

And yesterday I found Randy Pausch’s amazing lectures.  What an inspiration – and what a loss, his passing so young.  It does make one wonder what happened to our childhood dreams.  And when we were children, how many of us actually had the passion and conviction to say “I want this” ?  And then actually strive for that as an adult?

I never made a list like Randy did, but here is a list of things I did with such passion that just remembering the activity now I can feel myself doing it:

  • playing the lead in the elementary school play and singing the opening solo – and winking at my father in the front row (age 5)
  • watching Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl (and every other movie she ever did) and yearning to sing and be spunky like her
  • watching Star Trek and wanting to be like Spock
  • playing the not-yet-King Arthur in the class production of The Once and Future King (age 11)
  • singing the lead in the elementary school Christmas play (age 12)
  • singing Motown and the Beatles and Creedence into a pink plastic hair curler
    (oh, cruel world, I just realized that I switched from singing and acting to drawing after that creep Wayne Yee shamed me for knowing all the words to all the songs when I was in 6th grade – Wayne Yee, you suck)
  • designing entire wardrobes for Betty and Veronica and sending them to the comic publisher
  • drawing every art school entry form picture I found (remember those advertisements in Sunset magazine?) – houses with landscaping, portraits, cartoons
  • designing a costume for Tatiana in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (age 13)
  • designing the winning poster in a contest to publicize a local concert by Cuban pianist Joaquin Nin-Culmell and then listening to him play (age 14)
  • painting the winning Halloween window decoration at the local fabric shop with Sandy Abalos (age 14)
  • drawing my feet one day when I was sick and hated missing art class – and being amazed at how perfect they turned out (age 14)
  • drawing my first nude – and being amazed at how like a photo it was in its precision (age 19)
  • getting accepted at CCAC on the basis of my 8 pencil drawings portfolio (nope, couldn’t go – evil stepmother interference)

Miguel and I watched the movie August Rush the other evening and I realized that I did have one dream growing up – to go to Julliard.  But Wayne Yee, divorce and freaky stepparents intervened and I went into survival mode and never looked back.

So I’m holding out for my other childhood dream – winning a huge lottery jackpot and traveling the world.  I’ve got to have at least as good a chance at that as at going to Julliard at 50.

I’ve been doing some rearranging on this site to make it easier for me (and readers) to keep track of my blogs on Age Gap relationships (see left side bar – Age Gap Relationships category) and will soon be doing the same for my other BlogHer blogs. 

But wait, you say, there are very cool list agents that could do the same thing by just cutting and pasting a little bit of code from their site – for instance, like the Bloglines site.  True, but WordPress somehow considers that code “advertising” and won’t let me paste it onto my site.  My only recourse – do a manually generated list, or change my blog host.

My CTO was talking to me about my blog one day, he likes my writing style and thinks I should capitalize on it, but regarding the page in general he said, “no ads - a lot of wasted space.”

So what do you think?  Would a few innocuous block ads be too annoying?  It seems like every blog I read lately has little ad squares everywhere and they don’t seem to be inhibiting my reading.  (Except for those gross banner ads that move – Yick!)

And, if you think moving my site to a blog host that allows advertising is an okay idea, do you have any preferences?  And why?  I’m asking for feedback here . . . please and thanks.

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