Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Catching Homelessness

My school year hasn't begun yet and I already have work to do! Each year the School of Public Health chooses a common book. This year the book is Catching Homelessness: A Nurse's Story of Falling Through the Safety Net by Josephine Ensign. It's a quick read that's fairly engaging; it only took me a couple days to read through it. The SPH provides a reading guide of questions to consider while reading, which I haven't yet looked at but will try to peruse before the SPH orientation where discussion of the book with the author is the main event.

Here are my initial thoughts on the book:

This book was an engaging and interesting read. It jumps around a bit, so it can be easy to lose where you are in the author's timeline, though she sometimes recaps information she's already told you which helps you reorient yourself again (I occasionally got impatient with the recaps though - you already told us this, why are you writing it out again as though you haven't?!).

The author doesn't delve deeply into the reasons for homelessness or how effective our efforts toward it are. I'm rather ambivalent about this approach. For instance, she would mention the closure of state mental health facilities or the Vietnam War, but only spend a few sentences on them, almost just mentioning them in passing. She offered little opinion on these events or even information about how they impacted the homeless populations. This was frustrating at times, but could also be seen as her providing more of a jumping off point for people's independent research.

Also fascinating is reading along as she details her own life unraveling. I suppose this is more the true focus of the book - telling stories of the homeless people she worked with and then using her own experience to show just how easily everything can fall apart. The author was able to get her life back in control, and again she talks about this in passing - she realized she needed to leave the South and then talks very little about the work needed to make this happen. This could come across as a bit flippant about how easily it is to improve one's situation, though I don't think the author intends it to. Again, it would have been an opportunity to discuss the impediments to leaving homelessness, but the author doesn't take you there.

Overall, an easy, interesting, and I think worthwhile read. It's not going to provide opinions for you or give you all the information about the myriad of things that impact homelessness, but can be a great starting point for not only further thought and research, but also increased sympathy for those who find themselves without a safety net.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Off to Camp

Last Wednesday the auto wrecking place came to pick up the car. It was a good thing I'd printed out a form from the DOL, because they hadn't brought anything with them. The driver handed me fifty bucks and loaded up the car after I signed over the title and the DOL form. I was a little nervous about if I'd done everything I needed to or not. I knew I needed to report the sale to the DOL, so I did that after the driver was gone and that put my mind at ease a bit. Not sure if there's any way for me to know that the company has done their end of the things, but it seems like it may not matter so long as I've reported the sale - the DOL will know that we're no longer responsible for that particular car/license plate (apparently WA doesn't allow you to transfer your plates from one car to another).

Saturday we pulled together most of Gareth's items for camp. Finished packing up Sunday morning and then headed out. It's crazy to think that a year ago we had just moved into the house - we drove Gareth to camp the day after moving in. Mal was excited to see the "statue-tree" again. I was very confused when this first came up, but then we realized he was talking about the totem pole at camp. Sometimes his memory astounds me - hasn't seen or talked about that in a year but as soon as camp comes up again he remembers. Now if only he'd choose to apply said memory to learning letters and such things.

The camp drop-off/pick-up are a little difficult because you're only out of the car for maybe 10 minutes when you get there, so you drive 1.5 hours, get a slight break, then hop back in the car for 1.5-2 hours back (we got stuck in some traffic on the way home). Gareth was very excited to be back at camp, so good-byes were easy. Mal was not thrilled to be coming home with us. We almost had a tantrum on our hands as he started to whine that he wanted to stay at camp. I have a feeling the displeasure at not being able to stay will not dissipate over the next few years. Thankfully I had signed him up for summer preschool this week. When preparing for that the next morning he asked "is my preschool camp?". I responded that it was indeed and he's been thrilled that he also gets to go to camp ever since.

Being at the camp made Ryan and me wish we were going camping. Not much of that will happen over the next couple years, but hopefully we'll do more of it after that. As we were driving off the island we discussed how it might be cool to own a second home - a small cottage type thing - somewhere like that. It'll never happen, but it's fun to dream sometimes.

Since I'm kid-free in the mornings I've used the quiet to do things like practice and go on a bike ride. One night I made Mal a simple dinner and tried a new recipe that's more expensive (so something I wouldn't want to make when feeding everyone) for Ryan and myself. That's about as exciting as things can get when one kid is gone and the other is still around. It's amazing how much quieter things are with no one to pick fights with. We'll head out to pick Gareth up Saturday morning and another year of Camp Quest will be in the books.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Good-bye to the Pod

Our Vibe had been making some unsettling noises for a little while, so I finally got around to taking it in for a tune-up last week. Later that afternoon I got a call telling me that there was oil everywhere, a seal had failed, and to replace the seal and compromised hoses and everything else would probably cost $1200 or more. Plus another $1200ish to fix several other things that needed doing. Considering the car is 12 years old and that we'd replaced the same seal 18 months prior, it was more than the car was worth to us and seemed to carry little guarantee that we wouldn't be in the same boat a year down the road. We had a bit of panic that night as we tried to sort out what we'd do. Bus was able to take care of most of our urgent needs. Friends stepped up to the plate and offered cars for getting Gareth to camp in mid-August if needed and any other help we might need.

We debated getting a car similar to what we already had (even though we felt it was a bit cramped for Ryan and cargo) just to get us through the next few years vs getting a more expensive car that we actually want and is comfortable. Spent a few evenings putting together spreadsheets to compare leg room, cargo space, and price points of various cars. It's exhausting to do this; all weekend it'd hit 9:30/10:00 and we'd just go straight to bed. We had some money saved up to put toward a new car since when we paid off the Pod we'd kept setting aside our payment each month to build up a nice amount toward an eventual new car. We knew we needed to figure out if a dealership would even consider our car for any kind of trade-in, since it is neither produced anymore nor running, at least not reliably running.

On Sunday we had friends come pick us up and drop us off at a dealership in their neighborhood. They kept the boys with them and entertained and fed them all afternoon and into the evening. The cars we were leaning toward were Subarus (gotta be like everyone else here in Seattle, right?), so we test drove a couple of those. By this point we were leaning more toward getting a car we actually want, so our drives were mainly about figuring out what would fit our family better. Subaru was offering some amazing financing through them and the prices on the cars surprisingly seemed to match fair prices we'd found online. They had just a couple 2016 Outbacks left on the lot that were decently priced with a few things we likely wouldn't have paid to get in a 2017, so we went with one of those. It took hours (entered about 1:30 and left about 7:30), but was so much less onerous than our previous car-buying experience.

The dealership had no interest in taking the Vibe off our hands, so I spent yesterday figuring out what we'd do with it. There are a large number of auto wrecking places out there with really slimy websites. I didn't feel comfortable calling most of them because they seemed so payday loan-like. One legit one near us heard Pontiac and immediately said they had no interest. Another south of Seattle was surprisingly willing to head up here to pick up the car. They seemed like they expected me to be disappointed in what they could give me for it ($50) because scrap metal prices are so low right now. I was just thrilled anyone was willing to take it off my hands. We still have to get that finished up and I have no idea how to handle the title/registration stuff as far as that goes, so hopefully they'll be helpful in that regard and hopefully by the end of this week we'll be done with the whole business, having said our good-byes to the Pod that served us decently well for 9 years. It's almost too bad it needs so much work because it has pretty low mileage for being 12 years old. That said, the fact that it isn't made anymore really seems to impact how anyone looking to buy views it (despite the fact that the engine is a Toyota engine, so finding parts shouldn't be too difficult).

The new car has been dubbed TARDIS, because the Outbacks never look particularly large to us when we see them from the outside, but feel much bigger on the inside. That may just be an artifact of us having been in such a small car for so long, but the color even worked out pretty well, so TARDIS seems a good fit:

2016 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium