Mini van update

So far $690.00 has been donated to help get my transmission fixed. A big thanks to everyone who gave! To be honest, I just wasn’t sure anyone would; guess you all showed me! Right now the van is just sitting in a gravel parking lot where it won’t be bothered by anybody. The deadline I have is April 10th so if I’m unable to get the transmission fixed, I’ll have to get rid of the van since my friend’s landlord’s won’t let the van stay parked where it is indefinitely.

In the meantime, I will continue to write as much as I can while looking for ways to make a living. I’m not having much luck getting job interviews or even a “thank you for applying” response to the ads I’ve applied to. Doesn’t get me down though. For all the talk you hear about the economy getting better and supposedly more jobs being made, there sure are a lot of unemployed people here in Washington State.

When you don’t have a vehicle to get around in, you realize just how much you relied on it. I had to cancel two doctor’s appointments and missed my niece’s birthday party because I couldn’t get a ride there. Once the van is fixed or I get another vehicle, I’ll be mobile again!

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New Descendant

A while back I mentioned that while living out of the Minnie Winnebago, I wrote a story for my oldest daughter to keep her mind occupied. New Descendant came about because she was angry and depressed most of the time and writing about a young girl close to her age was the only way I could comfort her. I wanted her to see that poverty does not define who you are as a person. It’s just a situation that you have to live through the best you can.

At the same time, I wanted her to hear the stories of our cultural background. Characters like Raven, the Yunwi Tsunsdi (Little People), Shape shifters and vampire like creatures (Aswang from the Philippines) were stories I heard while growing up. A lot of folks don’t realize that we have tales of werewolves but they are not like those that came from Europe. The wolf is not an evil spirit to be feared.

I still write about the main character, Yeracenna and her journey through a world that seems strange and wonderful at the same time. I have the outlines for four sequels already written out and am working on the second book, Serpent’s Ascent. At the same time I’m working on Tales from the driver’s side which is about half-way finished. For me, writing is like a medicine to soothe a weary soul. In it I find new energy that I didn’t know I had!

I hope readers young and old can relate to the characters I created. In many ways I think the story kept my daughter from sinking further into depression while we lived out of the RV. Maybe it will help some other kid out there from doing the same.

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Tales from the driver’s side

Although homelessness isn’t a glamorous place to be, sometimes things happen that are downright funny, like the time this couple living out of their conversion van left a Wal-Mart parking lot in a hurry and forgot that the clothes line on the roof of their van still had all their laundry on it and as they drove down the street, underwear and bras went flying all over the road!

One thing I noticed out here was the fact that you observe a lot when you are constantly moving around. Sometimes you see bad things, sometimes good. It just depends on where you’re at and when. I’ll never forget waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of shotgun blasts and the flashing lights of police cars chasing a white pick-up truck down the street. Apparently the person they were chasing was involved in a murder at a local motel and the police ran the guy into a median, then shot out the rearview window when the guy started shooting at the police. Needless to say, I didn’t go back to that neighborhood unless I was desperate because these kinds of incidents happened a little too frequently there.

I will never forget one older woman who saw us every day at a local park. She went there to walk for exercise in the mornings and one day she tapped on my window. I rolled it down thinking she needed help but to my surprise, she held up a bag of apples she brought with her that morning. She said “Excuse me hon, but are you homeless? I don’t mean to pry but I’ve been seeing you here all summer long and kind of guessed that you were. I want you and your girls to have these.” She became a good friend along with another older gal that walked her little dog around the park. I came to find out that these two ladies knew each other! The woman with the dog would bring occasional Happy Meals for my kids and I was so grateful that she did. I didn’t qualify for food stamps then because I was working but the money I made went into the gas tank and maintenance on the r.v.. It just wasn’t enough to survive on.

By contrast, there was another family that also frequented the park and they saw us with our r.v. but…the father had a position at the church that sat on the other side of the park and although my kids would talk from time to time with his kids, he made a point of separating his kids from mine once my youngest told them we lived out of the Minnie Winnebago. What was he afraid of? Homelessness is not a contagious disease.

These are the thoughts I thought today while sitting at the park with my youngest today. Seven years it’s been and I haven’t given up hope yet. I still have a way to go before I can get my transmission fixed on the mini-van but several people have donated funds to help me and I thank all of you that gave so generously. So far, $665.00 has been raised and I am truly amazed! With a little luck, I’ll be able to raise the rest of the money needed to get the transmission switched out before the end of April. Otherwise, I’ll have to scrap the van and figure out how to get another vehicle.

Day by day is how we’re living and tomorrow is the beginning of another new start towards a brighter future so don’t give up!

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An understanding educator

After an interesting conversation with my youngest’s teacher, I have discovered that my daughter actually told her class that she was homeless. This is the email the teacher sent to me after I sent her a message saying “She did?”:

“She did and it was very matter of fact.   I can’t even remember what led to the comment.   She did not seem ashamed, just matter of fact.  I don’t want to label her and would never have brought it up myself to the class but sometimes when you say something aloud it does not have the power to shame you.  I clarified what it meant in Maggie’s case because I think that some kids associate homeless people with only those that hold signs by the roadside.  As we know, it is much bigger and more complicated than that.”

                                                                                                                                Judy

I am so proud of my daughter! I was worried about her self-esteem because she was reluctant to go to a new school and I also worried about her ability to make new friends. Last year she refused to tell anybody that we were living in a run down motor home because she didn’t want the other kids to make fun of her. I think having an understanding educator like Judy has gone a long way in making Maggie feel “safe”. Maggie has even told her teacher that she may not be at that school, which may be true, I just won’t know yet.

This incident just proves to me that kids are tougher than we give them credit for. I think that for Maggie, seeing how her mother deals with a tough situation has influenced her attitude about being homeless.

Now if only I can get through to my teenager!

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Teachers without a clue

I got an email the other day from my youngest daughter’s teacher about a “Cool U” interview with each student in class. Typical of my daughter not to say anything about this project until the last-minute! I didn’t see the blue sheet with details on it that the teacher sent home with all the students until today. I even went through photos I have stored on this laptop and emailed them to her.

Turns out that this project is asking for my daughter to take pictures of her home and neighborhood, pets or farm animals, favorite activities and family. Right off the bat, I see a problem. First of all, we’re homeless, do you want photos of a mini van that isn’t moving right now? Second of all, we have no pets and my eldest daughter doesn’t get “home” from school and after school activities until almost 8 pm. That leaves just the few photos I have on my laptop. Our favorite activities are to have enough food to eat, a warm and safe place to sleep and no harassment from the police. I’m sure the school would love to have my daughter post that to her entire class.

Of course, me being me, I will again contact this teacher (don’t get me wrong, I actually like her and think she does a great job) and let her know that this project highlights what most people take for granted. People don’t realize my girls don’t want their peers to know how they’ve been living. I will simply have to tell the school that if they can’t use the pictures I already sent then maybe my daughter doesn’t need to take part in this activity. Sure, the teacher gave my daughter a camera to use but it has no batteries and it’s not like I have the cash to buy any. I still have a transmission that needs to be replaced.

You know now that I think about it, this isnt’ the first time a situation like this came up. When the holiday season was here, my youngest was given a flyer about a holiday program being held in the school auditorium and the school was asking all the kids to wear their best holiday outfits. Well my daughter only has one dress and it is the one from two years ago that she wore to my grandmother’s funeral. She can barely fit it but she wanted to go so we went. My daughter takes violin at the school and sometimes they have recitals. Again, Maggie was sent “home” with another flyer asking all the kids to dress up and wear black and white. Needless to say, she didn’t go to that recital. Her dress has since been donated to a thrift store because she just can’t fit it anymore.

Even my teenager has to let things pass her by at high school if it costs money. I am proud of her though. She hasn’t given up looking for a job, even if it’s babysitting!

Little things like this sting more than people realize. Once I tell my kids’ teachers that we are homeless and have been for a while, they suddenly don’t know what to say or the opposite happens. I laughed when a school counselor asked me if I knew about welfare and shelters. I laughed and told her she doesn’t know me too well, does she?

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Possible opportunities

Ever since that piece in the Huffington Post ran about me, I’ve been getting quite a few emails from sympathetic folks, even some donations for the mini van and I am eternally grateful to you all. In the meantime, I still have to find a way to make a living for the long-term. There is a book I wrote specifically for my oldest daughter while we were living out of the van. She was going through a lot of depression and the only way I could think of to help distract her from dwelling on our situation in a negative way was to keep her mind busy.

I did this by writing a few pages at a time about a girl called Yeracenna. She grew up poor and experienced what it was like to be abused, neglected and ignored. That didn’t mean she was worthless and she would soon discover that poverty doesn’t define who you are. It is a situation that is dealt with by learning her way through it. It didn’t take long for my daughter to identify with the main character and the world she lives in. I entitled this manuscript “New Descendant” as I also included in this story elements from our cultural background. Although my maternal side of the family is Filipino, my father’s side of the family are the Black Cherokees from Tennessee. I grew up around several different cultures and that influence can be seen in this story.

On a different project, I am working on another little book about my first experience with homelessness all the way up until now. I intend to release these on Kindle as it is free and fairly simple to use. Who knows? Maybe someday a major publisher will pick it up for hard copy but in the meantime, I will keep writing the only way I know how.

Of course, not to be left behind is my youngest daughter who now wants a story of her own so that is yet another project I am working on!

It is my hope that folks who read what I write can see what life is like on your own without a support system to stop you from falling through the cracks. Life may not be a bed of roses but it sure does feel better once you remove the thorns!

P.S. – Oh yeah, occasionally you will hear me on radio shows but when those come up, I will post the link to the station so you all can have a listen if you’re able to!

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A guide book of sorts

Reading stories this morning about babies born into homelessness reminds me of the first time I was homeless and the causes behind my own experiences. So many folks want to know so much about me that I admit, it feels a little overwhelming. Rather than try to answer every individual question emailed to me, I decided to write another Kindle book that will hopefully answer these questions but more importantly, give the world a first person account of what it’s like to be a homeless mother.

My friends know that I am unapologetic for the stance I take against Nimbyism, hypocrisy, willful ignorance, apathy, complacency and downright mental laziness. I don’t believe in playing the part of a victim. I don’t believe in being an oppressor either. I will not enable others to be unbalanced nor allow them to influence my life to go off kilter. I do believe that it is in the power of each one of us to rise above the status quo that has been so ingrained into society that we have forgotten how to be a caring collective.

To those of us that fell from the sky because there was no safety net to catch us, I hear you. I feel you. I am one of you. I will do what I can to show the rest of the world that most of us are not helpless or hopeless, just frustrated that those who can afford to help, don’t. I suppose in a perfect world, everyone would have a job that actually paid living wages and people took care of each other instead of selling their souls to the gods of greed. Do everything you can not to victimize yourselves by dwelling on despair.

If I can hold on, so can you.

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