Moving on, yet again

Maybe you’ve noticed or maybe you haven’t, but the daughter and I have moved around a lot these last few years.  It’s happening again; our fifth move in three years and I’m terribly conflicted.

Part of my really really really wants to go back to Portland, to the city I know and love with restaurants I enjoy, cheap movie theaters, the big ol’ downtown library, friends who have made me feel loved and my son, yes, I’ll be near my son again. {Really near, in fact, like living under the same roof again.}

People joke about how your kids will grow up, move out and then move back in again when they realize they can’t afford to live on their own. Ours just happens to be the opposite situation where Mom realized she can’t afford to live on her own.


Wait, that’s not where this was supposed to go… So I am glad to be going home to the Pacific Northwest, full of clean air and forests and rivers.  My lungs will be happy, too. They are the reason I finally said Yes, I’ll go back. I’ll give up the job I enjoy at a wonderful company. I’ll give up the sunshine and warm air if I can just breathe again without hurting. If my daughter and I can go a whole month without either of us being sick, I’ll take the rain. I will. 

You see, it’s been months of breathing problems and I’m not willing to let it become years. The daughter has missed weeks of school with all the illnesses, all of them validated by my own eyes. The girl has been sicker than I’ve ever seen her; both of us have been bedridden for days with coughs, fevers, vomiting and, the ever-popular, general malaise.  And on more than one occasion.

My lungs hurt to breathe in deeply. I avoid laughing because it’ll make me cough uncontrollably, gasping for air. Walking up the stairs to our second-story apartment makes me wheeze. I can feel the difference in my lungs if the air is being re-circulated in the car or being brought in fresh.

It’s bad, uncomfortable, painful, disappointing. It totally sucks.

In four weeks, I’m packing up a UHaul and heading north again. Away from sunshine and blue skies. Away from smog so thick it hides the mountains.

In ways, I’m so very very glad. Like I said, I’ll be near friends and family and a city I know and love. But there is an overwhelming guilt about moving yet again. I’d planned to stay for the rest of my daughter’s high school years. Stay here until she graduated. I had the best intentions and instead I’m asking her gently to please at least think about packing. Again. Please do this for my health and for your own. Asking your child to sacrifice, knowing they’ve already had to sacrifice so much to follow your hopes and dreams to SoCal, is so much harder than I want it to be. I want her with me. I want her healthy. I want her to be happy.  It just doesn’t seem like there is one place that can do it all.

The push-and-pull between all the things I want and need and all the thing she wants and needs is tough and the answers aren’t easy. Each time I’ve moved us, I though it was for the best…a place of our own, an extended family, away from the relationship drama, to a good job, back to healthy air… but it’s yet to work out as I had so earnestly hoped.

Nonetheless, here we go again. Packing for another move, another adventure. Another notch in the belt and another reason to be angry.

Look! It’s us!

Five years ago my two kids and I moved in with Jennifer and her son. Somehow it work and worked well. Audrey and I moved out last fall when we had the opportunity, but  Stuart stayed on.

It wasn’t until a couple years ago that anyone seemed to take notice of the arrangement. First, we were included in the book Shared Housing by Annamarie Pluhar, then an article on Mommyish months later, and another year later I got a call from a writer at All You magazine. Another half year and it’s in print.


It’s out now, but if you read it, remember that while it’s in first-person, I didn’t actually write it. 😉

Sleeping in Seattle

It was supposed to be a birthday trip, but funds were too tight in November to make it happen, so we waited until we could do it right.  With only a few days notice, we decided to go last weekend for  weekend trip.

We caught the bus early to head to the train station downtown .20130227-194514.jpg

It was the first time we’ve ridden a train together in the States and we couldn’t help but compare it to the trains in Vietnam. I couldn’t help but wish we were paying Viet prices (the same trip there would have cost less than $5/each). 20130227-194742.jpg

Audrey wanted pasta carbonara, but the only Italian place we could find didn’t serve it. Instead she got lasagna that came without noodles. Weird. 20130227-194807.jpg

We took the underground tour, though I was obviously the only one really interested in it. Sigh. It was my second trip through and not nearly as interesting as the first time six years ago. 20130227-194958.jpg

The Gum Wall has been there forever, even in the early ’90s when their father and I used to frequent Seattle, but Audrey had never been. She got her first up-close experience. Ew. 20130227-195050.jpg

The light fixtures at Pike Place were amazing. So was the heavy stench of pot being smoked down below us.20130227-195126.jpg

Audrey and Stuart both got their fortunes over by the Big Wheel on the pier, but hers was mind-blowing in its appropriateness for the moment. 20130227-195159.jpg

Our other splurge was visiting the EMP with its leather jacket displays and video game exhibit. 20130227-193742.jpg

We picked up junk food on our second visit to Pike Place.20130227-193722.jpg

The Seattle Public Library was well worth the visit and I have no idea why it’s taken me two decades to venture inside. 20130227-193657.jpg

It’s an amazing library, really. 20130227-193609.jpg

A little call to home in Oregon from a vintage newspaper. 20130227-193638.jpg

Then a late dinner at Deli No More before catching the Bolt bus home. 20130227-193537.jpg

A happy birthday weekend, even if it was a little late.

Getting the book covered

The kids and I spent Monday afternoon trying to take care of all the necessary parts of photographing the cover for Phở for Three. I’ve had various ideas floating around for a while, all revolving around eating phở at the open market in Thanh Hoa. It was just across the street from Hong Duc University where I was teaching and we spent a lot of time there, eating both the noodle soup and another favorite: bùn chả. In the evenings, we’d head across the busy street and enjoy ice cream–our pale faces always the center of attention.

It was the memory of that market, along with the one in Tam Ky, that I wanted to honor with the cover photo.

We got the soup, its necessary accoutrements, along with Viet coffee and pineapple, then spent 20 minutes arranging and re-arranging the dishes until it suited me enough to start taking pics. Of course, last night I spent my insomniac hours wondering about every.last.detail.20120807-113508.jpg

But it’s done for now—just need some editing (by a skilled friend) to add in a few other elements and put the title on there. I’m afraid how long it’s going to take me decide on a font, though. Any ideas?

Through the kindness of others, it happened. Special thanks to Susan Beal, for letting us take over her backyard for an hour; to Prado, who let us borrow his camera; to Stuart, my photographer son who shot the photos; to Audrey, my fan-wielding daughter who shooed flies from the feast we’d set; and to both Phở Oregon and Fubonn for providing such authentically Vietnamese foods.


Thanks so much, everyone, for your support, your shares, your encouragement, and your belief in my little dream.



I mentioned the long-lasting effects of divorce, then got this in the mail. It’s the child support balance after nearly thirteen years.
I guess I can be slightly relieved that his child support debt is bigger than my school loans debt. And no children went hungry because of mine.

Those school loans were, in fact, what fed and housed the kids while I got that degree. And while the degree hasn’t helped at all in the income level, at least the kids and I are smarter because of it.

And if he won the lottery and finally paid up, maybe our kids could avoid that awful student loan debt. I know the college sophomore son would appreciate it.

You never really get over it

I’ve been working diligently on the second draft of the memoir project for months now, finally getting a grip on what I want it to do, how I want my story to come across. It’s an awful lot of work, let me tell you.

This revamp of Chapter One has taken me weeks. I re-wrote it entirely, then again, thanks to the feedback from my writers’ critique group, the Zeitgeist Writers’ League.

They wanted me to explore how I got to the point of being a single mom traveling with kids. Where’s the divorce? the desperation?I’d hidden it and even as I edit this version, I still finding myself hiding behind the details unwilling to admit just how hurt I was.

Maybe it’s how hurt I still am. Writing about finding the photograph of my husband with his teenage girlfriend is gut-wrenching, and I don’t mean that nonchalantly. My stomach feels like its been turned into a Celtic knot as I struggle to put into words the feeling of that afternoon when I had the first inkling that the marriage I’d thought was just suffering through normal lack of intimacy, was actually falling apart. I find myself nauseated and I have to stop writing and thinking. I stop to get a hug from the GuyFriend or go spend a few moments basking in the glory that is my now-teen daughter.

The everyday pain of having the family I’d planned dissolve like that is long gone, but there’s a part of me that still feels the stinging slice of dishonesty, abandonment and loneliness.

growing up

They say time flies, but sometimes in life it slogs along in slow motion. That’s what it seems like right now, except for this: my kids aren’t so childlike anymore.

My son just finished his freshman year of college; my daughter will be in high school this fall. And in circle-of-life style, she will be attending with several of her kindergarten classmates–people she hasn’t seen in more than eight years.

The years between have changed us all.


Really it’s articles like this one from the Washington Post that serve to remind me why I find dating as a single mother such a scary proposition:

Vitasek [the 47-year-old child molester] often targeted financially struggling single mothers, helping them with material items and showering their sons with gifts and attention, authorities said.

Yes, I’ll continue being the financially struggling single mother for another four years, thankyouverymuch, rather than be a target for any man. Especially as my daughter gets older and the issues related to never having had a father raise their ugly head.

Truth be told though, this is one of the scariest aspects for me and has been something that nags at me whenever I meet someone new. Luckily the few (i.e. two) guys I’ve dated seriously in the last dozen years have been stellar men and never gave me the slightest worry. The GuyFriend has been magnificent with her, both a testament to his character as a man and a father (not for her, but for his own two).

Now as I look at being single for the remainder of her childhood, this article just serves to remind me why I’ve chosen to be picky and trust few. So far, it’s proven to be the right choice. Besides, I’ve got less than a handful of years to be Mom. I’m okay doing it alone. Really, she and I make a fine duo.


It’s all up to me, it seems.

Nearly two years after we’d started dating, it has come to an end. The split had taken me by surprise and I’m still trying to pull my heart back together two months later.

It’s taken a toll on me and my moxie, and the Universe seems to know it. Unpacking more boxes this past week, I came across each of these bits of sage advice and hung them on my fridge:

One of the prominent features in your make up is self-reliance and confidence in your ability to accomplish what you undertake; your courage is strong; you do not hesitate to lead. The Mystic Ray advises you not to be impetuous.

You would be wise not to seek too much from others, at this time.

True happiness must come from within.

I guess it is time for me to take a deep breath and realize it will be a solitary life for me–a solo mama who needed a little shove to get her moxie back.

Ohhh, right, weeknight dinners.

I used to see the headlines on the women’s mags at the grocery and never could understand what difference it really made if it was a weeknight or a weekend dinner. Crazy publishers had something of the sort on every cover.

They still do, but now I get it. I understand how moms don’t want to get home from work at 6 p.m. after nine-plus hours away from home, just to start chopping, boiling, and baking for the evening meal. When I worked at the school, I was always home by 4:30, long before dinner needed to be served to starving kids. If it takes an hour to prepare and cook, who cares?!

These days the evenings are a bit more squished. After picking up and fighting through traffic for an hour, we finally get home sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. All I can think of to feed us is whatever is quick and easy. Rice with Trader Joe’s Madras Lentils. Spaghetti. Quesadillas. Now, I finally understand the difference between the weekends and the weeknights. And I think I’ll pick up a copy of Real Simple, with its Month of Easy Dinners.

And, of course, there is always my sister’s offer to help me cook up some big batches of freezer food. Maybe next month.