with one vacant lot
the clear divide of wealth
Dear Bike Thieves,
I hope that you love this bike as much as I do. I hope that when you text your husband at 12:20 a.m. from the Middle of Nowhere, Arizona, and he doesn’t respond till ten hours later, reading your pathetic apology for being so stupid, his words will have an equal measure of love.
I’m sorry you lost your bike. That does suck since you’ve had that one for so long and rode so far on it. Sorry babe. 😓
He will never say, “I told you so” or, “Why didn’t you…”
He will be right there with you at 12:20 a.m. when your dog barks and you hear voices and you step out of the hotel room into the Dark Sky Universe and all that your blurry-without-glasses eyes can see is… the absence of tires.
Because he was there when you got that bike, nine years ago. When you went to the spring extravaganza under-the-tent bike sale with $1000 in your pocket from that year’s tax return–the only expendable money we had for a year–placed upon its pedals, teacher’s salary, three kids at home, him not working, “Can I buy it?”
Of course you can set your alarm for 4:16 a.m. and pedal uphill in your new click-in shoes, before the sun rises, before you can even afford a light, before the world is awake, to put that bike along that endless road for thousands upon thousands of miles.
Of course you can register, pay for, and race a train up and down a mountain with this bike, this bike, these tires, this set of wings.
Of course you can buy a bike box and bring this bike to Spain, wrapped in bubble paper and soul tissue, and ride it to school, to twenty tutoring jobs a week, to the end of the road where the mountains meet the Mar.
Of course you can drive down I-25 on a 90-degree Sunday, new tent in the trunk, and watch your bike fly off its flawed bike rack into six lanes of Denver traffic, and watch your husband, afraid of nothing when it comes to his love for you, stand on the shoulder and wait for the right car to allow him to dash into the middle of an INTERSTATE and save that Baby Number Four.
Of course you will never feel the FEEL of the Sun Road in Glacier National Park without this bike vibrating under your palms.
But it is dark. I have driven 500 miles in a day only to be told by my boy, “I told you so” and “I don’t need to waste a photo on a pile of rocks” when looking at the GRAND CANYON, and…
Thieves. Boys. Oppressed.
You have my bike.
I hope you fix the red handlebar tape that was flapping for 500 miles to Arizona.
I hope you ride it to the edge of the reservation and demand that our government give you running water and a better chance at a decent life.
I hope that you sell it and feed your family for a month.
I hope that you love it as much as I have loved it. That you feel the wind in your hair, the beauty in 600 million years of piled-up rocks, and the words of my husband.
It’s so fucking simple. And so goddamn hard to say.
I went to the grocery store today, and I don’t want to write about the nightmare I had last night where no one was wearing a mask.
Could you imagine, three months ago, having a nightmare about people not wearing masks in Target?
Actually, King Soopers was well-stocked today. Everyone I saw had a mask on. People at 8:30am obeyed the one-way aisle rules, and best of all? I stayed within my budget.
I made a budget for my post-work husband, starting at the beginning of May. $200 a week. It may sound extraordinarily excessive, but we’ve got six mouths to feed, and these are American prices, after all.
But I bought extras today. This bugleweed. A roll of packaging tape. And sushi because fuck Wednesday cooking.
And, my nightmares should end soon.
Because my post-work husband got a job, a non-union, non-seniority-screws-you job, doing exactly what he’s great at and wants to do forever, in the midst of a pandemic.
And you can call it what you want. White privilege. True. Luck. Absolutely. Divine intervention. Maybe.
Or just… fate. The fate that led him through the Air Force to me, that led the boy to our doorstep, that led three beautiful daughters into our home, that led his previous experience to him becoming the best candidate out of all the others being laid off.
Coronatine, day sixty-one. It’s a beautiful image filled with pets, hope, and love.
And I want to hold on to this non-nightmare feeling for as long as I can.
This cat was born to be a model. Good night.
and from this soil
from blustery spring breezes
good news can blossom
if i just listen
i can gather up his words
thick as pupusas
in between masa
filled with all that he has lost
yet still hopes to gain
(i cannot fill them.
my love will not be enough.
but now we have time.)
to wait for flowers to grow.
to cook together.
it is a gift, life.
(even when the batter breaks
we learn to make more.)
Should I continue to measure quarantine in days, or should this new life be measured in weeks now? Weeks since we’ve been to work. To school. Weeks since I went to the grocery store without spending $300-$500 trying to stock up for when we’re really going to need it.
Weeks since I made it through one day without crying.
Let’s try a countdown of weeks. Weeks until his job ends: three. Weeks until I have to spend 24% of my take-home pay on health insurance: four. Weeks until we run out of money based on this: twenty. Weeks until I will feel safe about seeing and kissing my husband, as he will no longer be an essential worker and risking his life every day: five.
Weeks until I make it one day without crying: zero.
But I thought I was done crying! I was writing gratitude posts, 10×10, one hundred goddamn things to be grateful for! On the final day, I spent hours reviewing our budget, stupidly thinking we could manage for up to a year on our savings, our tenant money, and my salary.
And what is $260×2, the bottom left plan, the only one we could afford? It’s $520. And add in dental and vision, it was going to be $650 a month, and we could just. Barely. Manage.
But it was a lie, a lie to myself, a bait-and-switch chart from the school district, a slap in the face at 5:00am this morning when I decided to open enroll. No, not $260 per paycheck. Here is the real price:
For the cheapest plan for my family. The plan with a $7000 deductible. So… other than a singular wellness-check visit to the doctor (should I be grateful this is included?), we will pay $12,000 a year in monthly premiums and then another $7000 if anything happens, and then 30% of the rest until we reach the out-of-pocket max of $12,700. Ummmm… shouldn’t the out-of-pocket max INCLUDE the $12,000 a year already spent on monthly premiums? (Asking for a friend).
What could I do? What could I possibly do? I looked on the Colorado Marketplace website. On the initial page, I experienced another bait-and-switch: Let me tell you, we’re between tiers 2 and 3, and we have a family of five, not 3-4 like in the picture. Yay! It was looking good! We could get a premium tax credit!
So I started to fill out the application. And guess what?
Do I need to tell you? Or have you lived in the Land of the Free for all of your life and already know what a FUCKING LIE THAT IS?
$1409 per month with an $8200 deductible. I couldn’t even make up these prices if I tried!
Dear Colorado and Billionaire Health Insurance CEOs: Would I be ON THIS FUCKING PAGE if I were shopping for health insurance for MYSELF ONLY? Because of COURSE it’s affordable for myself only! And of course, for myself only, according to my beautiful school district blue and green chart, I would be MAKING $11 a month, so yeah, it meets your goddamn threshold of “9.78%.” (But don’t you love how, even on their website, they put the word “Affordable” in quotes because they know it’s a fucking joke?)
Let’s return to the beautiful school district chart that shows “DPS Contributions” and I STUPIDLY thought that meant that DPS was footing part of the bill, but what they REALLY mean is the $422/month on my paycheck labeled “Cash for Benefits” which is unofficially part of my take-home salary. So their contribution is really MY contribution, or, in laymen’s terms, MY FUCKING MONEY.
And if we don’t pay? If we don’t give in to this bullshit in the midst of a pandemic?
You guessed it. We’d lose everything. Because we all know that in the Land of the Free, all it takes is one emergency room visit, one contraction of a deadly virus, one broken bone, to lead the uninsured straight to bankruptcy.
So, after seventeen years of teaching, two degrees, one advanced certification, and having seriously ONE form of debt (a mortgage, not a single student loan, not even a car payment), after working my way and paying my way through those degrees, after keeping my children out of daycare and living on a way-less teacher’s salary for eight years, after EVERYTHING…
We still can’t live on my salary.
How many weeks has it been that we’ve been trapped at home? That my husband has been going to work, entering businesses and homes and fucking medical clinics without a mask (because his company doesn’t provide masks) or any form of PPE, risking his and all of our lives before being laid off?
How many more fucking weeks will it be before he can find a job in this market?
Coronatine, Day Forty-seven. Week 7, almost 8.
Why does it feel like day one thousand, week ninety?
Because we live in the Land of the Free, where every life costs a fortune.
I’ve made it to the final day of gratitude! The ten last bits of gratitude for the Coronatine.
- Always love a bike ride. We wore the new masks my friend made, even though I’ll admit they weren’t wholly necessary because I planned a route that did not involve crowds (I have avoided the Cherry Creek path like the plague, pun intended).
- We stopped at a local cafe. Of course, it wasn’t the same. We couldn’t sit down, we couldn’t have a nice brunch, but we could still get some lattes and support a local business and tip the server with a 50% tip.
- While we were riding, we saw the Thunderbirds fly right over us on 12th Avenue!
- I spent a lot of time this morning reviewing our budget. I rarely do, and in fact don’t really deal with our money because Bruce is a money master. But I think it might be possible, if we are very careful, to live on my salary (which they’re already threatening might be frozen soon) and our savings for a year, so hopefully, that will give the economy enough time to recover and Bruce to be able to find work.
- Speaking of that salary, I am SO GRATEFUL that I just got a raise on March 1 because of my National Board Certification. What a difference that will make!
- I reorganized the garage, the hall closet, and the basement storage room to make more space for stocking up on supplies while we still have two paychecks. It really is nice to have time to do this without the craziness of working so many hours, especially since Bruce was going to be laid off anyway before the quarantine was put in place.
- I really do work at an amazing place with extremely dedicated teachers and students. Our school’s weekly news show has continued during this crazy time, and this week included an in-depth interview with an NFL player who graduated from South in 2004. He couldn’t stop talking about how influential his teachers were and how his experiences traveling to New York on a student trip and participating in the musical made high school so special. It’s so nice to hear that and to know how important schools are in the lives of students.
- My counselor colleague helped me (through a Facebook post) avoid paying the AP exam fees for the four AP exams for Izzy and Mythili! I really hope that this virus will help everyone realize what a scam standardized tests are. I’m so over the College Board and AP. It’s a bait and switch, most colleges won’t give you credit, and most students can’t get the score they need anyway. So I’m hopeful that all of these tests will become less important in the future.
- In cleaning out the garage, I found the tent stakes I’ve been meaning to put in the tent bag, and since a neighbor girl needed to earn a Girl Scout badge by setting up a tent and didn’t have her own, the tent was already out! I have been trying to get those stakes into that stake bag for three years, and it took coronavirus to make it happen!
- Let’s hope we can camp this summer, or at least go on hikes. Let’s just keep hoping that something is gonna give, soon. Testing, isolation, whatever it takes. Because we gotta make this work for our world. We just gotta.
Day 2 of Quarantine Gratitude. It’s been a pretty rough day, and I’m disappointed by online learning for Newcomers, so this is going to be hard, but I am trying here!
- Gas prices. I know Trump’s an asshole, and these countries are having a bidding war right now, and I should have an electric car, but these prices are eleven years old, this is the first time I’ve filled my car in a month, and it’s a relief.
- Speaking of cars… it’s nice to run an errand with just a little traffic. Denver has horrible traffic, and it’s been nonexistent lately.
- People listening to the governor. Went to the grocery store today, and they had it all set up for social distancing with one-way aisles, a line around the store, and most people were wearing masks! It was good to not be the only one.
- Speaking of food: our school’s food bank, and in particular, Jaclyn Yelich. She called me two days ago because she just knew some students weren’t getting food. In the midst of a crisis, when she had to move her entire food bank to another location, she knew that some of my ELLs were getting desperate. We made a plan. She formed her delivery team, she asked me to help, and we brought food to six of my Newcomer families. She had a whole warehouse of boxes and bags ready to go for each family. This woman has worked all her life, raised her daughter, and now has given up her entire retirement to feed the families at our school, which takes more time than a full-time job. She gives hope when there is no hope.
- The moon. I have always loved the moon, and in high school even won an award for a story titled, “Catch Me a Moon.” In all its clichéd symbolism, its constancy is calming right now. Knowing that it’s up there, shining bright, so far from all of our problems, connecting us all with our own special glimpses of it wherever we might be in the world, is a comfort.
- Gardening friends. I am certainly not a master gardener, though I bought a house from one! What a joy today to receive the generous gift of an entire tray of spices and vegetables for my garden. Their petite green stems bring life to this sunny window, waiting, just like us, for the frost to stop and the world to be ready for a permanent move to a better life that is waiting on the other side of the glass.
- Audiobooks. In a house of six, it’s difficult to sit down and read. So many distractions and background noise. I love audiobooks because I can take them anywhere with me–in the car, walking the dog, gardening, or cross-stitching.
- Cross-stitching. I will never be a seamstress, but this I learned to do when I cross-stitched baby blankets for my three girls. It is relaxing and methodical, and fulfills my need to always be doing something with my hands. And when this is all over, I’ll have a pretty picture to hang!
- Work flexibility. My district and school have handled these crazy circumstances very well, and they’ve offered us so much flexibility with office hours, grading expectations, and the amount of assignments. It has been so refreshing to work within a schedule that I create, which as a teacher, just never happens. It’s so nice to have time on weekdays to run errands, to fit in an appointment, and to make my own schedule.
- To go with the theme of weekdays and flexibility, it’s refreshing to be able to clean my house whenever I want and not try to cram the chores in between a harried workday, harried dinner prep, and a harried life. Cheers to vacuuming on a Friday morning and a non-harried life!
should i skip a day?
is the sunrise worth noting?
will it save us all?
bare naked branches
waiting for a better spring
and a lifted tail
that everyone came here for
ready to break you
(could you be grateful?
could you ride/walk/talk it out?)
Could that save him? No.
so I’m bitter. Yes.
afraid, bitter, hopeful. spent.
like a sunrise. Lost.
Sometimes negative energy just builds upon itself. I suppose that’s what’s happening now, even though this has been happening to us for weeks and we are just entering the actual week of Daylight Savings, full moon, AND Friday the 13th. Madre mía.
So I am going to look at the funny/not funny moments of the past twenty-four hours.
Funny: In the emergency room waiting room last night, I had to explain Furries to my Honduran son. “Some people just think they are animals, and they like to dress that way all the time, and that’s why he has on the suit and the raccoon tail.” “Oh… well his face already looks like an animal.” I had already looked away, so I had to wait a moment to steal a glance of the dark glasses, the perfectly-raccoon-shaped beard, the dyed mustache, and be ever-so-grateful that Fabian only speaks Spanish so the poor gringo couldn’t understand what he had said as I stifled my laughter.
Not Funny: After a long day of working and screaming at children for ignoring me and running seven blocks in frustration and watching my baby girl kill it in her ensemble role of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr., after I had just put on my favorite outfit of all time (pajamas) to settle into a stupid sitcom in my bed with my puppy who has his own water glass (Figure 1)… a loud crash in the kitchen called me downstairs (we thought the cat had knocked over one of her daily glasses).
I rushed downstairs because, as usual, all three girls ignored our, “Clean up after your cat!” calls, and found myself standing in a trail of blood that led from the knife on the floor at the kitchen entryway all the way to the sink where my son stood, trying to flush out a wound so deep and scary that all I could do was grab a wad of paper towels and scream, “BRUCE!!!!! GET DOWN HERE NOW!!”
Funny: The mulleted, heavily-tattooed paramedic whose job at the emergency room was to walk into the waiting room and scream out his mispronunciation of names, then rush back behind the desk to reread the names and try again, most times failing on the second attempt.
“Luceeero!!” No response. Breathless rush behind the desk. “Sandra (the a pronounced as in apple, heavy Southern drag to boot) Luceeeero?” No response. Breathless rush behind the desk. “Lu-SAR-oh?” “Oh, yo soy Sandra Lucero.”
“Rizzo! … Rizzo!… ” Breathless rush behind the desk. “Roos! Roos!”
“Do you mean Ruiz? I think that’s us.” (To the side: “Rizzo? Like in Grease? Have you seen Grease? Maybe we’ll have to watch it later.”)
Not Funny: Walking into my kitchen at 9:30 pm on a Friday night after bitching and screaming at my son, after posting a blog post, after my love-hate relationship with him, after everything I’ve done, and thinking, “Is he trying to harm himself?”
Because everything that I complain about means nothing.
Because every spot of blood splattered on my wall, on my tiled floor, on my heart, means everything.
Because if I lost him now, I would be as brokenhearted as if I lost one of the three babies I gave birth to.
Because I love him.
(And he did not harm himself. He is a boy. He ran across three countries to come to my home. And he was literally trying to catch a Japanese steel chef’s knife that was falling from the counter to the floor. Because he’s a boy. And he catches KNIVES.)
Funny: “Oh, I will call the actual police on you! You think I’m part of the DPD? I don’t work for the DPD, and you need to get out of here NOW!!! I will NOT be cussed at! I don’t have your stuff and I don’t know where it is! GET OUT NOW!!”
“Miss, what’s she yelling about?”
“This guy was looking for his stuff, and she doesn’t know where it is, and she wants to call the police on him because he used bad words.”
“See Miss, that’s why you shouldn’t use bad words.”
Not Funny: “This emergency room is so calm and quiet compared to how it is in Honduras.”
“What do you mean?”
“In Honduras, everyone in the emergency room is either dying or dead from gunshots and knife wounds. Everyone is screaming. And dying. Because the gangs have ruined their lives.”
Funny: The doctor asked us to come into the temporary room until we could get to the real “room behind a curtain” that had a bed. He was the only one so far who had attempted to speak Spanish to Fabian, and even though my Spanish is always broken, I don’t think it was as broken as his.
After asking about the cut, the incident, the pain, he asked, “Está numblado?” Fabian didn’t respond. He asked again. No response. “Está dormido?” “Sí, sí.”
After he wrapped it up, he told me he thought Fabian cut a nerve, and that was why it was numb. “But you know, I don’t know why he wouldn’t respond to me. I use that word all the time, ‘numblado,’ and usually I get some response.”
Fabian and I returned to the waiting room. I must admit that, other than dormido, I didn’t know the word for numb in Spanish. “The doctor was asking you if your finger was numblado, did you not understand?”
“Like, the sky is cloudy?”
“No, not nublado, numblado, because the word in English for dormido is numb. Numblado? Es una palabra?”
I pulled up Google Translate. “Numb: entumecido.”
And we were crying laughing. Because language is so hard. And the poor doctor took the word numb and added “-lado” and it sounds like the word for cloudy skies (nublado), not a slashed-nerve finger. And because it was almost midnight by then and he’d lost a lot of blood and we were exhausted and everyone around us was wearing a coronavirus mask and he just couldn’t understand why. And it was just… funny.
Not Funny: “I hate hospitals. I’ve seen too many people die in hospitals.”
His cousin. His other cousin. His friend. His everyone-in-his-life-he-can-think-of killed. By gangs.
Funny: Me telling the story to the girls over biscuits and gravy the next morning.
And Fabian smiling like he’s not in pain, like it doesn’t matter, like life can go on because this scar will match all the other scars he’s acquired from his life lived in poverty searching for food, searching for transportation, searching for a reason to keep on keeping on.
Not Funny: Everything I just put on this page.
And life. Life is funny. (Not funny).