Saturday, August 29, 2015

Good Neighbor Bags

I love my neighborhood. I love the diversity, from the Mormon missionaries on the corner to the architect down the street, the homeboys around the corner who have no visible means of support, and the teacher across the street.

I love to see neighbors recycling, biking to work, and saving water in their yards.

We live in a great neighborhood.

Also in our neighborhood-the homeless, and poverty-stricken. I do not know the circumstances of these people, and I have no reason or experience by which to judge them. I know sometimes the circumstances are brought on by personal choices, and bad decisions, sometimes the economy, and sometimes by things beyond our control. I do not care what the reasons are. I only know that my neighbors are in need.

However, I hate to be pan-handled. I hate it when strangers ask me for money. I hate it when I have to say no, or feel pressured into saying yes. I hate for my children to see me interact with those less fortunate than ourselves (yes, I believe we are FORTUNATE. There is a degree of luck, to the security we enjoy). I don't mind buying someone lunch, and I do whenever it's an option, but sometimes it just isn't. Most of the time I don't carry cash. And I feel that giving someone a few pennies is condescending.

But these people are my neighbors.

So last year, Hank and I decided to make homeless packages, and I feel that this is something anyone can do. I'll suggest a few ways to make it happen, and what we did, and a comprehensive list.

Get your friends or neighborhood together. Can you each give $20 to help 20 people in need? Do you attend a church where people will give donations? If you have a large family, that's another way to get donations. Giving something up completely for a month or two and putting the money into items for the homeless packages. You can go directly to the source-a store that sells grooming products, a dentist with lots of toothbrushes and samples of toothpaste, etc.

We sort of had a mixture. Both of our moms made donations of items and some friends we solicited on facebook really came through with some other items that we needed to make a complete package. We also put aside 10% of our money for tithing. Some of this we give to our church, some we put into charitable organizations, or non-profits we enjoy, and some we use in our neighborhood, for things like homeless packages and toys for tots.

The items are cheap. Most can be purchased at the dollar store, or for a dollar or less at places like Target or Walgreens. Costco also has things like 11 sticks of lip balm, 52 men's razors, and 14 bars of soap at discount rates.

Most recently, the things we put together were (mostly travel size):

Bar soap/body wash
Shaving cream (for men)
Flash lights (include batteries)
Moist wipes
Body lotion
Hand sanitizer
First aid kit
Sewing kit
Money or gift cards to fast food
A card

It sounds like a lot, and it is. You can do less, and it's still helpful. The thing our neighbors were most excited about tended to be the socks. But you can even put together a package with just soap, deodorant, shampoo, toothbrush, and toothpaste, and we really recommend the socks (Costco, my friends). $5-$6 per package. Is that really too much to help a neighbor?

I also bought small reusable bags at Whole Foods for less than a dollar each. I bought 20 of those, and we got so much stuff we were able to put together another 5 bags, so we used gallon sized ziplock bags, and everything fit just right (minus the food items).

In our experience we meet a lot more men on the streets who are in need than women. There are reasons that there are less women actually out there, and women are in need, too. We did not put together gender-neutral bags, because men and women have different needs. We ended up doing 6 packages for women and 19 for men. Hank and I each keep a few bags for each in our cars, so that when we're out and about we can hand these bags to people out the window.

Last time they went fast. It was amazing how many people we encountered with cardboard signs-"hungry," "homeless," "looking for work," "anything helps." These are our neighbors, guys. Hard times, drug addicts, job that doesn't pay enough, mental illness, you just don't know what their story is. Does it really matter? Your community is in need.
The experiences I had with these bags are something I wouldn’t want to miss. It is uncomfortable when people praise me for being “so kind.” I only want to teach my kids to not judge others and do something to help someone. It’s purely selfish. I hate not being able to help. Now I have a ready-made bag to hand out. Usually the kids hand them out, through a window. Henry made me go back once because we hadn’t had time to hand the bag to a man in the parking lot at WinCo. It was inconvenient, but not as inconvenient as missing a meal. Sam points out people who might not have a home whenever he spots someone with a cardboard sign. He asks to hand them a homeless package. Once when I was attending a conference, I handed a bag to a man who clearly was suffering from mental illness. When I came out of the conference, he was sitting on some steps, carefully taking each item out of the bag and examining it, then laying it next to him. He was surrounded by small things like a toothbrush, a pair of socks, a box of conversation hearts. He didn’t thank me. He didn’t have to. I’m grateful I got to see him appreciating these small items,

Sometimes there is no thanks. But sometimes, in exchange I have gotten small toys for the children, once we got a pepper plant which Sam planted and it is the only thing we’ve been able to grow. It gives us many peppers and they have been delicious. I’ve also been given flowers. How humbling it is to be given a gift by someone who has so little. But it’s not about the thanks or the things people have wanted to give me in return. What this does for me, is gives me a chance to teach the kids about giving, and selfishly, it let’s me feel better when I see someone asking for change. I hope against hope that something in that bag will help them. But I don’t sleep any better at night. I’m in a warm bed, or an air-conditioned house. My husband has a job, and I have a job. My children are getting the best education we can provide and have a savings account that will get them through college by the time they graduate from college. I have a large family, most of whom live in the same city as me. I have good friends who have been there for me in hard times. I cannot imagine what that person does when they are so tired they can’t stand anymore, but they are turned away at every corner, begging has been criminalized and their homes destroyed by the city of whom they are constituents. It is shameful and I wish I could do more.

Most of us want to help. My hope is that more people will make these packages, and that blessing bags, or homeless packages, or good neighbor bags, will spread so that more of our neighbors across the country are feeling a little less alone, a little more love and a little warmer/less hungry/refreshed/more clean.

The drawback is that it's not tax-deductible, and truthfully, donations to food pantries, and other organizations that ARE tax deductible (Naomi's House, Poverello House, Food Not Bombs) are also good ways to help. But haven't we all been blessed? We have a roof over our heads, food in our kitchens, even if it's just pasta. Some of us don't have much beyond that, but we are blessed. And are we not all beggars, too? It's such a small price to pay for our neighbors in need.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Of Luck and Chemistry

In Guys and Dolls, one of my all-time favorite movies, music, and shows, Sky Masterson, the main character describes how he'll "know when [his] love comes along." He states, "[My love] will come as a surprise to me, mine I leave to chance and chemistry." Sarah, the other lead character says, "Chemistry?" "Yeah, chemistry."

One of my qualifications for being jealous of a couple is how they look in pictures. Since I have been with a lot of guys who hate being in pictures, I was thrilled when Hank was so willing to have his picture taken with me. That's what I get for dating a 40 year old man instead of a 30 year old child. Get over it, You-Know-Who-You-Are.

So my Facebook account holds over 1,000 pictures, many of me with Hank, of us looking blissfully happy-which we are.

A friend commented the other day on one of our wedding pictures, that we are lucky. He has posted similar comments in family pictures and pictures of our adorable boys. Facebook is a dangerous place to draw assumptions, which you probably know. However, he is right. We are happy.

So, are we really just lucky? I like to think we have made decisions that have lead to the happy consequence of being happy. When are we getting lucky (in a non-sexual way) in relationships? I have been co-dependent, a girl who likes to sulk, and make my partner beg me to tell him what's wrong, and needy. Ugh. I hate that girl. Fortunately, my first husband broke me of these habits early in our marriage for reasons I won't go into. Except the co-dependency which I broke on my own because it just wasn't working for me, and it never does.

Hank entered therapy after a couple rocky relationships, and learned to be more honest, open, and to talk to me when he had a problem with something I did, do, or may do in the future.

So I kind of think it's not luck so much as our willingness to learn from past mistakes and not make them again.

But I don't have an overall answer. I thought I could marry my last boyfriend. I thought after my first marriage, what I had with him was as good as it got. My first marriage was the "Great Love" of my life, and I thought you only got one shot. As Lisa said, "Whatever else you can say about [him], you know he loved you." And that was true.

But when I decided I would rather be alone forever than marry the next guy, I met Hank and he was amazing. But a lot of random events fell into place for me to find him, including a minor set-up by the same Lisa, Facebook, and Anthropology Social Night.

What if these things hadn't happened? What if Hank had been turned off by the annoyed face I was sporting that night? What if I had decided he was too old before giving him a chance? What if Lisa hadn't been one of his students, or he had met someone before me, or I had gone ahead and married the now ex-boyfriend? Would we REALLY have still been so "lucky" in love?

As I've said before, everything does NOT happen for a reason. But there is a right place and a right time, and I think that may be a little of the luck side.

But there's also the way you choose to handle certain events, chosen and thrust upon you, that take you to the right place.

Did you see that Gwyneth Paltrow movie, "Sliding Doors?" In it, she lives two parallel lives. In one, she catches an elevator and comes home to find her boyfriend with another woman. They break up, she meets another man, and cuts and dyes her hair, which I think is just the mechanism to help us determine which of her lives we're currently viewing. In the other life, she misses the elevator, doesn't catch her boyfriend THAT day, but eventually does, and in the end she meets that same guy from her alternate life, in another way. This gives a "meant to be" feel to the movie, but I don't think that's the point. I think the point is, by making certain decisions, she was lead to happiness in both lives. Let's not forget that her boyfriend also made choices that affected her.

I don't believe in the "one and only." For example, Hank and I would not have been right for each other at most other stages in our lives. But maybe if I had been single and he had been single, we would've met other people that would've made us almost as happy as we are together.

So if you're unlucky in general, like me, you are not completely out of luck, because it only takes a little luck, as long as you are in the right place at the right time. Learn from your mistakes, grow as much as possible, and you'll be there. And, trust me, if he's not there, you don't want him. When you are both in the right place, and it's the right time for both of you, that's chemistry, baby. Chemistry? Yeah, chemistry.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Random Bar Guy

One of my good friends, we'll call her M, has a knack for picking up random guys in bars, through sheer will and exuding some kind of random bar guy scent, meaning she didn't have to do anything and they would seek her out. She had better luck than another good friend, who we'll call Lucky. Lucky, I have personally seen get picked up at an ATM, in a food court, and on the street by perfect strangers. M simply enters a bar and proceeds to be pursued by a random bar guy or random bar guys. That is, until she married a very un-random, very un-bar guy.

The question of the day is, can you sustain a relationship with a guy you met in a bar? In M's case, she would spend a couple of dances with them, and then disappear.

In my single days, I tried an experiment. (And by "single days" I mean a couple of weeks that I was single between my ex-husband and ex-boyfriend, but that's another story) I have a good friend, Brian, who I used to go out to bars and clubs with occasionally. I am the kind of girl who loves t-shirts and jeans like no other. When I went out, I would wear my Converse All-Stars, a t-shirt and jeans. I have been seen in a corset, still with jeans, and heels, in jeans, with a t-shirt, but those were special occasions.

Since I was newly single, I asked Brian something like this, "If you saw a girl in a slutty shirt with lots of cleavage in a short skirt, and a girl like me in a t-shirt, who would you go for?" knowing that some guys like the t-shirt girl. Brian, being honest, surprised me. He said, "It would depend on her face. If she looks approachable, I'd go for it." This was bad news for a girl whose "normal" face looks mad or annoyed, and who usually actually IS mad or annoyed.

So I started the experiment then next time I went to a bar. I did wear a tank top, because Brian said shoulders are sexy, but I have no cleavage, so I didn't really feel like a sell-out. Fortunately, I wasn't with M or Lucky, so I stood a chance at meeting someone. I stood at the bar, near my girlfriend, but staying open, and kept what I think was a "pleasant" expression on my face. And let me tell you, this took some serious concentration and constant awareness of my face. I made eye contact, and gave my number to three guys that night. Brian was appalled. Apparently what he hadn't told me is that you shouldn't give your number to strangers.

Anyway, I went home that night, thrilled with my experiment, and that one of those guys was actually "kind of cute." But the experiment was over, it was too much work. However, the kind of cute guy pursued me, and long story short, we dated for about a year and a half, and it wasn't great, although I did grow a lot in that time.

So back to my question: Can you sustain a relationship with a guy you met in a bar? Did I or didn't I? I almost married him, but it would have been a huge mistake. But we dated for over a year. But it ended.

Here's what I think. This guy was looking for a relationship. I wanted to re-marry, but wasn't ready so soon after my divorce. Should he have been looking for a relationship in a bar? I don't know. But I think not. Because I am a pretty honest person, but I believe we both started the relationship in deceit. I pretended to be a pleasant person, and he pretended to be an open person. I learned more about him that night than I would learn over the next year. He learned that I am not a naturally pleasant person, I tend to use my annoyed face most of the time, and he found me unmotivated. (But for the record, he was wrong about that, because I got a great job and a Bachelor's degree, adopted two kids and got married within a couple years of meeting him)

So random bar guys can be fun, as M will attest, but the bar is for the random people, not for the relationship people. Because it's hard to build a relationship with the girls with the shoulders and the pleasant face when she really just wants to slip back into her t-shirt, jeans, and fuzzy slippers.

Did I mention the fuzzy slippers?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Artichoke Festival

Enough of the serious stuff. Let's talk about something fun: The Artichoke Festival. Or more accurately, a weekend with the girls.

I am fortunate enough to be married to a very trusting, understanding and supportive husband. I hope that he considers me as trusting, understanding and supportive as well. He did not hesitate when I told him I wanted to spend the weekend with the girls in Castroville at the Artichoke Festival.

Having 2 boys for about a year now, I am settling into the understanding that kids do not give you a break. They do not care if you are tired, or sick, or busy, or on one phone with Verizon while you desperately try to fix your other phone.

My husband and I took the kids to San Diego for a week. We fortunately had a suite that allowed us to be separated from them during nap and bedtime, but spent every other waking hour with them, sometimes in close quarters, or running ourselves ragged an the zoo, safari park, Balboa Park, Sea World, etc. Six hours in the car meant six hours of, "Mommy! A bus! Daddy! A bus! Mommy, where did the bus go? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?"

When we got home, it was back to the daily grind. More talk about "a bus" and trying to tire the kids out so they would nap and sleep at night, while simultaneously tiring ourselves out. There's a reason people started getting married and having kids at 18 back in the day. 43 and 32 are having a hard time keeping up with the little ones.

Back to girl time. First of all, what a relief. I live with boys. My husband is a boy, I have two sons, and a male dog. I occasionally spend time with women. I see my mother in law and my mom about once a week. I see women sometimes when I'm out and about. I relish my time shopping at Michael's, where women are the majority, but in general I spend time listening to Henry talk about poop, seeing Sam throwing things-anything-in the house, and watching my husband do guy stuff. I have five close friends who all live or have ties within 50 minutes of where I live. I will thank all of their understanding significant others as well for letting us have some time alone. And I have to hand it to the girls, there was a little guy talk, and some texting, but we mostly had each other's undivided attention.

Don't get me wrong-the artichoke festival was fun. We ate a lot, laughed a lot, bought artichoke souvenirs and made up a song about it, but it's really about the girl time. We played Apples to Apples late at night until the cards ran out, ate pizza, went swimming/hot tubbing, bought nail polish and hair dye, and talked about girl stuff. We shared beds, and secrets, and had real quality time.

The girls remembered my birthday. I opened gifts-which I wasn't expecting and they surprised me by not only getting me a pie, but knowing my favorite kind. I did speak with Hank, and also the kids, very briefly, but most of the weekend was spent reconnecting with girls I love.

I love my husband. I love my boys. I even love the dog. Having Sam throw his arms around me and Henry spontaneously say, "I love you" is maybe the best thing in the world. But there is nothing like girlfriends. Magazines for women are always talking about frenemies, and what to do when your friend backstabs you, or how to handle their envy. These girls are not envious, secretly hoping I fail, or gossiping behind my back. They listen, are generous, have my best interests at heart, want to spend time with me, love my family, respect my decisions, and help me understand my needs and self better than I know myself. I can just be me, and it's so easy with them.

Any other kind of friend is just not worth having.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pregnancy Envy

It seems to be everywhere. Women today are just having more trouble getting pregnant than our mothers. My friend Megan found an article, ( on pregnancy envy, and how to cope. She posted the article on Facebook with a positive note. Her friends were full of helpful comments about how it took them a few years to get pregnant, and then, wham! They have five kids. And then there are a few like me. I said, "And sometimes it just never happens." 13 comments on the article.

The main points of the article were respectable. First, feeling envy is normal, and a perfectly acceptable emotion. True. Next, find your triggers. For example, if you can't handle baby showers-don't go. Third, remember your spouse (I would change this to partner). He or she may be having a hard time, too, and sometimes it can be helpful to lean on each other. Finally, find a way to cope that works for you-keep a journal, blog, or connect with family and friends. (I would add that no one understands like a woman who has never been pregnant, and that was something that was helpful to me)

So, it's no secret that I had trouble conceiving for various reasons, and soon after my husband and I married, we chose to adopt, and through twists and turns made an informed decision about which method to go, and now we have two little babies, and we couldn't be happier (noted in previous blog post).

Now the opinions come out. First of all, excuse me, Lady-who-got-pregnant-in-2-months-but-still-felt-envy-until-then-I don't feel sorry for you.

The article was pretty good, but I would also add don't take it out on people you care about. Friends get pregnant, that's what they do. Complain to someone else about it, you don't want to lose a good friend in the meantime. (Especially if you are going to love your little "nieces" and "nephews" like no other!)

It's just my opinion on the article, I think they should add that. Skip the baby shower, yes, but don't lose a friend in the meantime.

Another thing is to live your life as though you are not going to get pregnant any minute. Take jobs that could lead to careers. Stay in school, or go back to school. If and when it happens, these plans are easily changed. After you find out, you still have about 8 months before the baby comes, plenty of time to finish the next semester, or give your job 2 weeks notice if need be. Don't put your life on hold waiting for that baby. Because, guess what? Five years later you don't have your degree OR your baby (me). I finally gave up, bought a truck instead of a family car, got a great job and finished my degree. I also started looking into single parenthood. Then life changed, but now I had some years of career experience, a degree, and my plans were easily changed into coupledom and parenthood.

I'll tell you what, though. For me, acceptance was the biggest relief. Accepting that I probably wasn't ever going to get pregnant, it was like, okay, on to the next step, but it's so hard to get a clear answer on that, almost impossible. It took me ten years to accept it, and decide that there was another option for me. I quit trying, and now I'm on BC pills until the voluntary hysterectomy, so it's over, but there's still a part of me that thinks, What if a miracle happened? 

Please don't take this as advice. You should do whatever you feel is right if and when you start feeling some envy. I feel it, even with my little babies asleep soundly and safely in their beds. I can't blame a friend for sharing what she shares about her pregnancy. I gloat about my little ones, and about my awesome husband, and I'm sure that's hard for some people, too. But I feel like, they don't know all the pain that came with getting here. And that I still experience. So pregnant women should be able to be excited and "complain" about, ugh, the nausea. And I should be able to not comment, block her, and say to myself, Oh, boo hoo. I'd kill to have morning sickness. 

There are a lot of people who are having a hard time these days. But those people are so often optimistic. "It took me 4 years, but it happened." Or "God has a plan," etc. Those people are very different from those of us who NEVER got pregnant and NEVER will. We're pessimistic, and realistic. We know it doesn't happen for everyone. We know that two of our own husbands may have gotten their respective other wives pregnant, but it just didn't happen for us. We know that you can try everything, and all it brings is disappointment. I want it to happen for my friends. I love my boys so much, I know they were meant to be mine, and adoption is a whole other kind of amazing, one that I wouldn't want to miss, but I still think, why couldn't you have just come out of me to get here? Why couldn't I have that experience that so many people (including their bio mom) take for granted? So many of my friends are struggling with it right now, and I want them to be able to experience pregnancy. At the same time, I know it will be hard for me, even though it's all said and done in that chapter of my life. 

I don't want to give advice, but it's here if someone chooses to take it. My main complaints are the following: I don't need pregnancy advice, hope, or inspiration. I don't want to be grateful for this trial that will make me stronger and take me down a different life path. I want to be sad, and I don't want to come to your baby shower. I also don't want to lose you as a friend, and you deserve to be happy and excited about your pregnancy. I don't want to take that away from you or make you feel awkward.

And at this stage in my life, some of that is not true anymore. I don't need pregnancy advice because soon I will not have a uterus, and it's off the table. I am a little grateful because by adopting I found my little soul babies, and I couldn't be happier, and I didn't contribute to the population. I do want to come to your baby shower, because I'm excited for you, and want to love your new baby.

But fot the past ten years? What helped was limiting my contact with pregnant women (don't visit a young married ward at BYU), letting myself feel what I was feeling, going to bed when the disappointments were acute, enjoying my relationships baby-free, and talking to adoptive moms and moms who had a hard time getting pregnant, or never carried a baby full term-but it has to be someone who's sensitive to your situation-sometimes moms don't understand that just because she got pregnant after years of trying, it doesn't mean I will.

I love babies. For me, once my friends had pushed that baby out, the envy was over for me, hand over that baby. I have a great life, and now I have babies of my own that my friends and family love and spoil. I know that's not the case for everyone. I wish all my friends luck in having whatever baby experience is in the cards for them, and that, in the meantime, they can utilize this time wisely, unlike me. In hindsight, that made it a little easier-but not much.

Monday, August 29, 2011


With so many of us in new life stages, I thought it was an appropriate time to get some action on the blog.

Children. I suddenly find myself with two babies, who I love. They were not born to me, but they found their way to me, and I am their mother in every other sense of the word.

What is a mother?

I think of my own mother, and remember her as patient and loving all the time. It makes me feel as though I fall short when I am impatient with my kids, but I know that this is what I remember because it is the dominant characteristic. She kept me safe at all times, and let me explore and make choices for myself. She always spoke kindly and never criticized.

Today she offers advice only when necessary and asked for, and is always, always there for me. Although she does not read the blog :)

For myself I think about what is most important to give to my children. I know in their case it is the attention they need in order to be able to attach, the unconditional love, and consistency.

The important things are not biological. Although I am not terribly religious, I have found some value in some scripture. I was reminded of the Judgement of Solomon. In the King James Bible, 1 Kings 3:16-28, two women in the same house gave birth to a
baby within three days of each other. According to the women, one rolled over the baby in the night, killing it, and took the other baby as her own, switching them. Both denied that the dead baby was her own. King Solomon said that he would divide the child in two, and give half to each. I used to think that this was an interesting example, but couldn't possibly be true. No one would think that it was a good idea to cut a baby in half, obviously the child would die. But I do remember certain situations of thinking, "If I can't have this, no one will have it" and destroying that thing. One mother said, "Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it." The other mother said, "Oh my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it." The book says, "Then spake the woman whose the living child was," but there is no way to know if the child is biologically hers. King Solomon said, "She is the mother thereof," and she is the true mother.

At different times in our lives as mothers we need different things, and to give different things. For myself, I need my mother's experience and help, and I need to give my children love and safety. These things will continue to change as I change, and my needs change, and as the needs of these two little babies change.

I have experienced the unconditional love as a mother now. Prior to our current babies, we had two other babies. I miss and think of them every day. I love them still, and I know that will never change although I may never see them again in this lifetime. When I hear the song, "For Good," from the musical, Wicked, I think of them. "It well may be that we will never meet again in this much of me is made of what I learned from you, you'll be with me like a handprint on my heart." These children were never mine to keep, but I loved them like my own.

I'm not going to talk about the struggles of adoption, the process, the emotional side of it, the reasons we chose adoption, and the agency we used. Just that I have something that I always wanted. I missed out on a lot of things. Pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, ultrasounds, stretch marks, looking into little faces determining which features are mine and which are my husband's. These things are not important to me now. A friend I knew a few years ago adopted, and as people congratulated her on the new baby, I remember her saying over and over, "We couldn't be happier." I never forgot that, and now I understand what she meant. I didn't need all these things in order to be blissfully happy when I met my children. I knew at once that they were mine.

True mothers are those who love their children unconditionally. Some people have more than one mother. Some people are blessed enough to have conceived, given birth to, and raised their children. Others find their children much later in life. I know so many children and mothers who have found each other in so many different ways. I feel certain that in my case, my children found me just at the right time for all of us. And I couldn't be happier.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What I Love About Fresno

For those of you who are not originally from Fresno, you may have had the same experience upon moving here that I had. I was advised to move north of Shaw, anything south of Shaw was dangerous. I wonder now at the people who advised this, what they could possibly know about their hometown.

I took the advice and moved to a little apartment at Maple and Herndon, which I liked. But I hated Fresno. I couldn’t wait to get out. I looked for jobs outside of the city and even outside of the state, traveling for job interviews, and eventually landing a good position in Fresno. That was okay because the company I worked for was large and had locations all over the country. I knew I had a good chance of being able to transfer once my job became open at another site.

Then I met Hank, a Fresno lover. I asked him what he could possible love about Fresno. It was boring, new development everywhere, chain restaurants, nothing to do. “Oh,” he said, “I’m not talking about North Fresno, I’m talking about Fresno, Fresno.”

Now, to be fair to North Fresno, we have had some fun there. I have to admit that I occasionally shop at River Park. I love Michael’s, I’ve had fun at Boomers, Wild Waters is a pretty fun water park, there are some good libraries, Sal’s Mexican restaurant has the best salsa in town, and my own engagement ring is from a shop in North Fresno.

A lot of people live there. And that’s about it.

Hank lived in the Tower. I had heard about “The Tower.” It’s a dangerous place to live, with lots of crime. The weirdos, liberals, and gays live there. But I was curious to see his place, so one evening I went over to see his house. It was surprisingly charming, and I felt completely safe there.

When we got engaged and began looking for a house to share, we started in the Tower. We then asked our real estate agent to find some good matches closer to the CSU Frenso campus, where Hank works. We hated them. We went back for a search in the Tower.

People were concerned. “It’s so dangerous.” “You can’t stay alone when Hank is traveling for work.” “Don’t you want to at least look in Clovis?” I started looking around my neighborhood. I saw lots of McCain signs, and Yes on Prop 8 everywhere. I knew I didn’t belong in North Fresno anymore.

We found a house that we loved, and I recognized it the moment we walked in, as my “dream house” (quite literally, a fireplace I had seen in a dream of an older, brunette me, with children. I am now a brunette, and older, and children are looking imminent). I feel safe here, and I now see campaign signs that match my own political views.

But that’s not why I love Fresno. I love Fresno because there are things to do. Sure, there’s Shakespeare in the Park in North Fresno once a year, but we constantly have plays at the Broken Leg Stage, 2nd Space Theater, Roger Rocka’s, and other venues. We could go to Applebee’s Bar and Grill on Friant, or we could go to The Landmark, Livingstone’s, or Starline. There is a lot of live music, or we could have a quiet dinner at Rousseau. There are shows at the Tower Theater, locally owned interesting shops on Olive, from games, to witchcraft clothing, to antique shops, and more.

We live on a block with a variety of colors and styles of houses. Some are pink, or the lawn is littered with statues, or it’s like a forest in the front yard, but there is nothing identical or similar from one house to another. They all have character and individuality, just like the people who live there. On our block are teachers, graphic designers, other professors, and an architect. There’s a couple of guys, I like to call “the homeboys” around the corner, and I don’t know what their occupation is, but it must be great, because they are always hanging out in their driveway smoking and drinking beer in the middle of the day. I love those guys.

Why do I love Fresno? In addition to the things I just mentioned, how about the Rogue festival, Wednesday night swing dance, Willey Farms, PechaKucha, CSU Fresno, Creative Fresno, Tri-Tip contests, Fulton Mall, comedy night, Fresno Film Night, Battle of the Bartenders, Arthop, the Saroyan theater, Monster’s hockey, and Reel Pride, just to name a few?

And I never would have discovered all of this if I hadn’t traveled south of Shaw.