Friday
Jun082012

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In spring 2010, Kelli got a part time at a hospice agency in San Diego's north county. She worked there as a per diem chaplain for over a year. She had another job that overlapped it for a while. And then she got another per diem chaplain position at a hospice in urban San Diego. Juggling the two per diem schedules was unruly. Finally, in summer 2011 she got a full time spot at the first one, despite what appeared to be a kind of unwitting bidding war for her. Both places had full time spots turn available, and it was an interesting time waiting to see which would settle down first. What was at stake was that we realized for her to work in north county, we'd see less of each other as she spent time in commuting, and with a job that required her to drive a lot even while in north county, she'd be at the wheel seemingly all the time.

Kelli's spiffy new Mazda 3, all sporty and red, just before we went off the lot with it.

The Car

In April we paid a visit to a Mazda dealership up there and ended up getting Kelli a newish car. It's the first of its sort she has ever had. Late model, valid warrantee, nice features, sporty, in good condition. On April 20, we came home with the new car. It was the first time I'd had that experience since I got my truck from a dealer in 1996. About the same time as the car purchase, Kelli was keen to drive me around in some of the areas where she works, up in the rural reaches of the north county. A pleasure drive turned into checking out some rental houses in the next couple weeks.

buber dog slumped over the recliner chair looking all lost and wistfulWe're not in Kansas anymore, Buber

Kelli's Work

And then checking those houses out gave us the clarity we needed: living over 30 miles from her office was taking time from us. Spotty dinner times because the work day finishes just "whenever" and then she'd have an hour or more of charting to do. Tired Kelli, especially if she went to exercise at the YMCA or picked up some groceries after work. We couldn't always walk Buber Dog together. Evening activities at church? Hit or miss, at least doing them together. Once every couple months or so, she has a one week period of being on call. It pays whether she's called or not, but there were times when she came all the way home at quitting time for her regular day's work, only to be called back. And on some occasions, she was pulled back again like a yo-yo. Weeks like that were brutal. Fortunately they were rare. Some on-call weeks had no calls at all.

And that's just her full time job. The other requires four shifts a month, and the way Kelli's broken it up is to do two weeknights and two Saturdays a month. On top of all that, she's also a board member on a national board of disability ministry for our denomination, the UCC. That takes some meeting time and other work. And even more so, all this is not particularly the stuff she got into ministry to do: be a pastor at a church. That process has borne no fruit so far, so as time has passed, the realization is that Kelli right now has many chaplaincy opportunities that actually pay well enough to juggle the rent, car, and most critically, the student loan payments that are just bruising each month. Okay fine, but the time suck of the commute was something that made things rougher than they needed to be.

The Economics of Escondido Employment

Calculations revealed that to move near her primary job would cut out about 13,000 miles/year JUST on her five day week commute. That turns into some real money when looking at the gasoline bill. Not pushing the new car that hard would stretch its lifespan appreciably. But by far, the option for a better quality of life not spent on the road (even in the new car with Bluetooth and all sorts of creature comforts) was more compelling. So we found a place in Escondido pretty close to work. Her mileage compensation kicks in after the distance from home to office is surpassed. You can imagine that cutting that to two miles or so is more attractive than driving 30 miles or so. That means that nearly all her work day behind the wheel is on the company dime. And moreso, some of the work that she'd go to an office to do can be done at home, so her work day is partially spent here now in our new house. Phone calls, charting, prepping other notes and planning for presentations to the others in her office... all that can be done here.

Roses, citrus trees and a white picket fence. Cute.Our new pad with roses and white picket fence. Awww...

Home Sweet Home...again

Where is here? Here is a cute little late 40s/early 50s house with our first white picket fence and rose bushes in the front yard. It's a tad smaller than the one we had in North Park, and after that place, we miss the built in features like cabinets, book shelves, and so on. While it's an older house, it's not 90 years old like in North Park. It's old enough to have real hardwood floors (a bit abused but recently refinished and glassy smooth) but new enough to have a number of remodeled features like brand new windows, kitchen cabinets, bathroom features, pretty new and complete set of appliances. The microwave is the first one I've had in my kitchen since early 2007 when our old one died and we didn't replace it and took to living without regular access to such a device, but having some access while we lived with Suzanne, where she had a microwave in her granny flat. The presence of a dishwasher is officially the first time I've either had one, or more specifically, one that works. The one at the Calabrese Compound didn't work and that was just fine with me. I am perfectly content to wash dishes the old fashioned way. The only other place that may have had one was my old apartment on Mt. Ada in 1997, and I don't recall that being the case.

We live across from an industrial part of town, so there's trucks and ugly buildings across the road from our door. Industry across the street makes for a loud environment most days.

The problem with here being here is that here is also in a neighborhood that borders an industrial part of town, and with big trucks literally outside my front window, it's noisy. The area is nearly entirely Latino and while that isn't the problem, all the folks like to play music that I don't particularly know or like, and my neighbor, one of those junkyard kinds of guys who works on cars, has the radio on while he works, blasting it with the mile-a-minute announcements and commerciales en Espanol. I guess I could have spent some more time sussing the place out. The matter of noise is one thing for general livability but I also have on my mind what it might mean when I want to record. Only today did I record a bit of test material to see what I am in for. The double pane windows help.

My landlord saw that on the rental application I answered a certain question about risky property with "guitar, bass, drums." I was tentative about it but he okayed us anyway and said "that's cool, just keep the guy in the back cottage in the loop and respect him." With all the noise in the area, it might be justifiable to set up the drums and play in the house. That's something I did a small bit of at North Park but for which I was very self conscious. It's really been since the Calabrese Compound days of 2006 that I've played drums in a full-tilt way. And the last I've played actually inside the house was in Quapaw at the short lived post-demolition Hog Heaven. My room here now has just enough space to set up some drums and perhaps other stuff.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

We certainly didn't do this move for social reasons. In that regard it barely makes an ounce of sense. In fact, not only is it a step backwards, it's a leap backwards when you consider that in North Park we were in a highly walkable area that was in reach of everything. Church was bikeable; Lee of JEM came by on his bike to do podcasts and guests were constantly flowing in and out of the place; the music store down the road was the meeting place for two groups I was starting to get involved with; restaurants were plentiful and of great quality. Yep, Escondido has some big shoes to fill. The mileage now is +30 miles to just about anywhere. Church is a few miles more. We might not get down there weekly.

The larger picture, aside from the obvious economic case for moving, is one of feeling like I needed to repent a bit for Kelli's benefit. The last time it made a lot of sense to act according to what she was doing, I was not ready. I'm talking of course back in 2005 when we got evicted (this same day seven years ago, essentially) and when it might have been a good idea to pull up and get to Claremont, CA where her school was. I was scared shitless during that period and found a job here. It was also important since my/our therapists were here, family friends, church friends, and all that. It would have been too jarring to move that far out during that traumatic period. But I've always known that would have been a better thing to do since Kelli's progress has the power to be the economic backbone of things. So this time around, after the years of living with her gone part time, and then even after getting her back after all that preparation time, losing her to business-as-usual, it seemed time to relocate so we can get her off the I-15 (the road she cut tracks into from her seminary commuting schedule for seven semesters).

Shaking the Dirt Loose?

There's a part of me that wonders if, in one of those odd universal, fateful ways, this move is bigger than just the move to Escondido. Does it somehow register in a bigger way than just picking up and going up the road some thirty miles? Does it get me out of my comfort zone? I've felt for a long time that staying in San Diego is a sign of laziness or something else. It's a nice enough town, but I've sidelined other calls for adventure outside my little region. I've been aware for some years now that I never lived outside a ten mile radius from where I was born (at Sharp Hospital in Kearny Mesa). In fact, the measurements I took from Sharp to each house I've been in has made that claim even narrower. When measured directly as the crow flies, the previous peak distance was 7.65 miles out to Robin's house where I stayed for a couple months in 1996. But I never changed my postal address, so that's more of a technicality. Of the places I've actually had my mail sent to, the greatest distance was at the Calabrese Compound, at just under five miles (as the crow flies). All the others settled in a bit less than that. Now it's about 22 miles, or more like 30 by the roads. It doesn't seem like much, but this is the first time I've lived outside San Diego. We'll see what opportunity presents itself now that I've had the dirt shaken off my roots.

I have been upstepping my job search, perhaps aided by at least the firmness of the knowledge of what town I'll be in. For a while there it was hard to look at ads for jobs and have in the back of my mind that I could get a job and realize that it would still be better for Kelli to be spared the drive, and that maybe I'd have to look for work again in a new place. There's a show production company that might want to get me on their roster, and if I get paid at a decent rate for doing some mixing jobs, that might not be too bad, and not particularly a routine punch-the-clock place. I still have my reservations about that kind of work, but after all this time, it would be nice to actually get any income. But I did one show with this company and it went over quite well, which is in contrast to the experiences that mostly led me to walk away from that industry nearly ten years ago.

And then I wonder if now that we've made such a step that it's time for Kelli to get a break. She submitted her UCC pastoral candidate profile to 30 more churches nationwide. If she were to get a church, the unfortunate fact is that most of the pastoral positions so far have been seen to be a reduction in pay, and some appreciable amount like 20-40%. Since hospice is funded by Medicare and UCC churches by individuals in a community who rise and fall with the economy, one will be less stable, or be drawing from a smaller pool of funds in the first place. So it's a mixed feeling, looking forward to getting a church but knowing that it might not hold things together even as well as they are going now. Still, the move felt right and maybe somehow the universe will take notice that we're ready to do something different.

There's something that says to me that Kelli and I should figure out whatever big plan in life we might have and use this breakthrough moment to act on things we've sidelined while occupied with the usual life in our comfort zone, our home town of San Diego. She's got a rising star in UCC disability ministry work, and I've been urging her to develop a personal web site that casts her as an expert in the field worthy of consultant work, speaking, etc. It would be a way to work together.

So farewell for now to San Diego. The training wheels are coming off at last.

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