The good thing about Wednesday is that it's my last working day without an assistant. Tomorrow and Friday, I can check out mentally whenever I need to. That's the beauty of spending extra years in school. You get a little higher up on the food chain and thus, can relax between feedings.

It was 106 degrees inland today so I had intentions to come home and jump in the ocean, but ended up getting even steamier while attempting to ride my bike a bit farther up Mt. Soledad. Believe me it's not easy, especially when you're trying to weave around cars and pedestrians that move aimlessly like sleepwalkers. It was a new direction though. I'm sick of heading south on the beach walk because I usually end up at the gym and then feel compelled to go in and work out. Not to mention, you're riding your bike through the busiest pedestrian strip outside the Embarcadero. In Costa Rica, we learned how to plan a line through an area of rapids on the river and how to rapidly scope the most stable path through a muddy, rocky slope while tearing down it on a bike. This is harder. Because rocks stay where they are, but people move. They change directions for no apparent reason. They stop suddenly. And you can't pass them because another biker or cluster of pedestrians is coming at you from the other direction. Of course, when I'm walking I hate the bikers.

This weekend I'm planning on going downtown to Balboa Park to check out the museum of man, the photography museum, and the aerospace museum. Three of my favorite things, haha. I'm making an effort to go beyond the limits of Mission Valley and La Jolla for my weekend adventures. I've been settling into a pretty chill routine, but it's still a routine. There are a lot of hidden treasures to be found here. This Monday I ended up walking all the way to the Pangea Outpost (didn't want to deal with parking the car, didn't think I could bring purchases home in the bike basket, hence the leg work). The outpost has little nooks and crannies rented out by vendors, typically artists, who sell funky beach-themed stuff. I hooked myself up with some rasta jewelry and some signs for the wall, all decently priced. Now I have some art on my wall other than the unfinished PURA VIDA project - which now simply says PUR. It's better than before, it just said "PU" which, of course, really only made sense in the kitchen.

Today I strolled into work, walked into the Resource Room, said hello, and was greeted with, "Oh you're here. The behavioral support autism person was just here looking for you. Have a seat." Fine, I think. So I put my briefcase and purse down, take a seat at the tiny table, and wait while the resource teacher phones the school office to let them know they can send the BSA over.

A few minutes later, I'm joined by the BSA person and the speech language pathologist at the school. We make our introductions, they sit down at the tiny table before me, and then look at me expectantly. And wait. Suddenly, I realize that they are expecting me to lead this meeting. I have no idea what this is about, so I start pulling things out of my ass. She's the autism support person after all, so I assume this is about 'A' - the only severely autistic kid at the school. I haven't worked with him yet, but I can see him out of the corner of my eye wandering around the classroom self-stimming. "Well," I say, "I think our priority is implementing some strategies for A to help him stay contained and follow a structured day plan." They nod enthusiastically. Good, I think. I've got the right kid, right idea.

So we discuss A for a while. Typical autism case. Picture schedule, PECS communication system, gross motor and sensory activities, transitions, etc. We put some strategies into action and then fill in the resource teacher. It's then that I remember that I'm not even on his IEP. Occupational therapy was supposed to serve him in his old school, but that school didn't have an OT so they never added it to his Individualized Education Plan. "What's the procedure here?" I ask. "Do we have to hold a supplemental IEP meeting to get OT added before I can work with him?" The resource teacher said, "Well, I'll call mom and ask her when she can come in. Does anyone speak Spanish?" So she and the Spanish-speaking BSA went off to do that, leaving me to hang out with some of the other special ed kids who were in resource, thus assuring that I would miss all further communication on the matter until, about fifteen minutes later, A's mom walked into the room and I realized that were having this IEP meeting now.


The resource teacher hurried me over to the corner and told me to add some goals and a frequency into the IEP system, print the signature sheet and update the front page. "What?" I looked at her blankly, then admitted: "I've never used this IEP system before. I didn't get trained in this." Oh. She, of course, had no time to walk me through it. So as the meeting began to proceed without me, I sat there trying to find my way through a new computer program, come up with goals for a kid I've never assessed or work with, and make sure that all the numbers and percentages and wording was compliant with the standards for the district. I love a good challenge.

The good news is we had a great mom. You could tell that she's a good advocate for her son, and not the kind of 'Advocates' that are a dirty word in the district because they bring lawyers and try to sue us. She only spoke Spanish, but I was happy to discover that I understood nearly every word she said. I've been studying Spanish for about two months now. I put in about four hours a day and it's finally paying off. I've got this whole system of multiple exposures. I listen to Spanish talk radio and music, follow along with Spanish audiobooks, read books in Spanish, activate Spanish subtitles on every DVD I watch, write screenplays in Spanish (good conversation practice!), and switch between four text/workbooks that focus on vocab, sentence formation, pronouns, and verb tenses. It also helps that I can see Mexico from where I live and hence have ample exposure to the language.

I do have a lot of little kinders that only speak Spanish so it'll be a challenge to communicate with them. I always have this weird fear that if I use the language, it'll sound stilted or out-dated to the listener. It's sometimes hard to connect what you learn with what you experience in the real-world. Like if I were a doctor and I learned how to treat pneumonia or perform an appendectomy, I'd wonder if maybe this is just the way it's done in textbooks. You never should trust a textbook, you know? You always figure they're written by some old retired person that hasn't worked in the field in like fifteen years, and then it takes another five years to publish and distribute so you have to take what they say with a grain of salt.
A week ago, I happened to run into another staff member at one of my schools who pulled me into her office and asked me for some advice on some kids she was working with. I should have sensed something off then. For one thing, she was telling me about a student she thought had "touch seeking" behaviors, and when I asked her what he touched she said he punched other students. "He's on a behavioral support plan," she added. "For what?" I asked. "Well, he gets in fights." I had to tell her that I was pretty sure kids who sought tactile input weren't solely doing it through the sensation of their fist against someone's face.

Sensory integration is the new buzzword. Teachers and other school staff read about it or hear about it and suddenly every student that acts up has sensory processing issues. Why blame the student for their own behavior, or worse, blame bad parents or an unstructured classroom. Let's blame brain damage!

The thing is, we all tap our foot when we're antsy, we all stomp when we're mad, we all get annoyed at times by the tags in our shirts. That doesn't mean we have a neurological impairment. In fact, I'd be more concerned about a preschooler that COULD sit perfectly still in circle time for twenty straight minutes.

But I assured her that I would send her a copy of the "tactile sensory strategies" list that I'm also forwarding to three hundred other teachers who think their student is a touch-seeker. This apparently gave her the impression that I was very knowledgeable and willing to help, because it did not stop there.

Every day since then I have received 3-5 emails from this woman asking me for my opinion on issues that are entirely within the scope of her job duties and nowhere near mine. I have no idea half the time what she is even asking me about. Not only am I new to this district, but I have been trained to do OT related things. Her job is completely different than mine. She uses different abbreviations, follows different procedures, has different contact people, and as far as I know she's been doing this job for several decades and should know these things by now.

But no. Just today in fact, she asks:

Laurie, I want to hold a meeting for a student but the nurse says she can't come on the day the principal can come. Do you think the nurse needs to be there?

I reply - I suggest that, since you are in contact with the nurse already, you ask her if she thinks it's necessary for her to be there.

An hour later...

Laurie, can you advice (sic) me on whether or not I should contact the PHY-DI teacher about this student too?

I'm not sure what a PHY-DI teacher is, but I'd advise you to contact that individual and tell them what you just told me.
Her reply...
PHY-DI is a physical handicap something. Is there any way you could tell me what to do?

I can't say for sure whether or not it'd be appropriate to contact them since I am not familiar with the specific case. I would go ahead and contact them anyway. If they didn't need to be involved, they'll tell you and then you'll know.

An hour later...

Laurie, I've run into a snag. The parent only speaks Arabic and has no translators. I contacted the translator's office. Do you know anyone who can translate Arabic?

I suggest you wait for the response from the translator's office. They would most likely know where to get a translator.

And so on. You should see the long list of RE: emails I have in my inbox with her name on it. So many questions. I almost feel like I'm on some sort of game show.

Of course, it's nice to feel needed. So far, I've gotten the "You're so young, are you sure you work here?"question so many times, it's become a little tiring. Next time, I might rip my ID badge off and say "The jig is up, you caught me. Now, I better get back to class before teacher notices I'm missing. I'm making a macaroni picture for Mommy!"

I get no respect.

Last week the OT assistant, Jamie, and I were trying to schedule treatment times with the teachers. Jamie did most of the talking since she's got this scheduling thing down pat. One of the teachers got the impression from this that I was an awe-struck dumb-founded student simply shadowing Jamie for the day. As we were leaving, the teacher asked, "What should I have the children call you?" and when Jamie replied, "Miss Jamie" the teacher dutifully wrote it down. Feeling a little left out, I added, "And I'm Miss Laurie." The teacher looked up at me, squinted her eyes and laughed. Like I'd just walked in wearing my mother's high heel shoes. I felt the way I do when they take my wine glass away at restaurants and replace it with a sippy cup.

But I've got to say, I'm not about to start beating my chest and demanding that they respect my "authoritah." As far as I'm concerned, the less people that know I'm the OT, the less people who'll be coming to me with their stupid questions.

I woke up this morning expecting it to be an easy day.

I'm still working.

The minute I walked in my school, I was shuffled around between various staff members who all seemed to want something out of me I couldn't immediately provide and then concluded by redirecting me to another staff member with further demands. Finally I was able to get settled in my office where I spent some time finding out which classroom my kids are in using a list that must have been in no order at all - perhaps, geographical? Actually, that would have been a help because I spent the next half hour wandering around the school looking for my classrooms. The place is built like those play tube systems at McDonalds. All these random corridors and hidey holes, designed to be aesthetically pleasing but in no way functional. Rooms are given numbers in either the 200s, 400s, 500s or 700s. Based on the number, you could never tell what floor the rooms are on, nor could you even guess what wing of the contraption to head for since 200 is next to 600 but occasionally is interrupted by a string of 500s that continue on three miles due west in another part of the school.

Once I actually got to the classrooms the real fun began. Teachers, dealing with severely autistic or behavioral kids, jumped on me salivating. Please, work with little Johnny. I need a break! And me, being a warm-hearted pushover, went along with it. This meant I spent about a half hour in the time out corner with one little kindergardener who was intent on bolting out of the school room. At one point I chased him into the girls bathroom - which was, unfortunately, in use. I tried to talk to his Spanish-speaking aid without realizing that the man didn't speak any English. Can you imagine? I ramble off this big multi-faceted question and he just looks at me, sighs, and goes, "Okay....well, uh. My name is Jose." Swear to god. For the rest of the time, I sat there with a bag of animal crackers feeding the little guy a cookie every time I could get him to engage in the slightest way with me. Sit up, get a cookie. Give yourself a hug, get a cookie. Squeeze the pillow, get a cookie.

I escaped from that just in time for a long meeting during which the school's educational specialists (new name for special education teacher - they reversed it I guess to make it more PC...and dyslexic friendly), basically told me that there's no time during the children's busy school day for me to see them. Frankly, my bigger concern was that there was no time during MY busy day to see them. Especially since every few minutes, as regularly as Old Faithful, another referral for a student that needs OT comes geysering out of the system and onto my caseload.

After that meeting I had just enough time to get to my other meeting, where I participated in a time study, accidentally documented all of my kids backwards, and found out that I have to fill out a ream of paperwork before tomorrow so I'd better get crackin' on that. From there, I had to rush home in California traffic to change clothes and refuel before heading to Powerhouse to be ten minutes late for my appointment with Ty, my trainer. After the hour, I returned home sweaty and unable to move my arms, but still having to finish up that paperwork and - of course - text my coworkers and bitch about the paperwork (i.e. spread the news that it's due and hopefully inspire some of them to start working overtime too so we can commiserate now and take a long lunch together later).

But okay, it's still good. Because if I wasn't working, I'd be sitting here wondering what to do with myself. That's why I'm not too upset that I just learned that my schools go all-year-round and I have to treat the special ed kids even during their month-long breaks. Southern California is fun-filled, but I'd never find enough stuff to do to keep me busy for a whole month.

I say that now. Come spring break when you're all off in the Caribbean... well.
You know that feeling when Friday rolls around after a four day work week and you think: "Man that is just perfect timing. I was just beginning to get a little burnt out and them wham, weekend." But the honeymoon is soon over and you're right back to a five day week, which in relative retrospect, feels just a little bit worse than it usually does.

I really think that our nation should just mandate three day weekends from now on. Maybe we'd lose a day of productivity, but wouldn't we all be happier more productive people? And in fact, being a person who enjoys having random historical anecdotes on hand, I can even back this proposal up.

The weekend completely arbitrary, really. I mean, the weekend was simply created to include the holy days of rest (either Sunday or Saturday depending on the local religion). The two-day concept emerged briefly when pre-industrial European workers started taking the next day off as "Saint's Monday" just to recover from the drinking and partying (apparently they were partaking in more than a little of the communion wine). But during the French Revolution, a calendar was drawn up to include just one day of rest after a ten day work week. Only during the 20th century did some factory owners think to include a day off on Saturday to accommodate Jewish workers, and the official two day weekend didn't become a nationwide standard until the 1940's.

But what we didn't know was that we could go even further than that. Due to the post-war boom, Americans in the 1960's were producing twice as much as they were only a decade before. To maintain the same standard of living as they enjoyed in the 50's, they could afford to work a four hour day, or a two-and-a-half day week, or even a six month year and still come out even. Instead, American's took none of the gains in leisure (unlike many developed nations, who dropped their standard work hours and continue to work an average of 35 hours a week). As a nation of eager consumers, Americans decided to keep working and spending more. Having already equipped their homes with the fancy new gadgets and gizmos that were developed after the war, Americans next looked to buy bigger versions or more of the same - second cars, televisions and phones; double-wide fridges; hi-fi's with bigger speakers, etc. The cost of keeping up with repairs and maintenance of the home made the forty hour work week a necessity again. Increasingly, women went into the workforce to cover any additional damages to the family budget. But this meant investment in even more labor-saving devices that allowed women to have the time to go to work and pay for them. Talk about a vicious cycle.

If we could change it before, why can't we change it again. Let's be like the !Kung Bushmen in Africa who believe it is bad luck to work on consecutive days and therefore enjoy a two-and-a-half day work week. In fact, I think half the people in Southern California are following the !Kung example. When I leave my apartment every morning, I see crowds of people walking down my street with their surfboards heading to the beach and I wonder why I'm not following them. You know, right before I'm about to get on the I-8, there's a little exit off of Mission Boulevard that leads to Sunset Cliffs. One of these days I'd like to follow that exit. I like sunsets and cliffs a lot better than useless meetings where we sit around and re-evaluate the meaning of words like "collaboration" and "client-centered."

The only downfall is, I think we'd all want to get paid for that day off. It's why we demand paid sick days from our bosses, even though we technically shouldn't be getting paid to sit at home. The justification has always been that we count on a certain level of income in order to meet our needs given the current standard of living. So we'd all take a pretty big hit to our budgets if we had Fridays off from now on. Moreover, any day I'm not at work is a day I'm out spending money.

Maybe the question isn't whether or not I'd be willing to give up eight hours of income a week, but whether or not I'd be willing to work four ten-hour days in order than have my Friday or Monday off and still enjoy my current level of income. I mean, when you're getting up by an alarm clock, you're going to be tired whether or not you get up at 6 or 7. Say you work from 7am to 5pm. Is that so unreasonable? Or what if you worked five nine-hour days followed by four nine-hour days, giving you a day off every OTHER week. That's hardly even a change at all. And look at all the perks! Until it caught on universally, you'd have things like the post-office and DMV and grocery store all to yourself while the rest of the schmucks in your city were still sitting in their cubicles on a Friday afternoon. Not to mention, during your work week you'd be getting up early enough and going home just late enough to avoid rush hour. And I can't neglect to be entirely cliche and point out that driving in to work four days versus five would be a real benefit in these times of rising gas prices. Oh and managers, if you're arguing that you'd have to close up shop one extra day a week and lose out on your productivity, why not have half the staff take Monday off and half take Friday? If that meant you had to hire more people (but at no additional cost because everyone is working less), then maybe there'd be less unemployment and more wage-earning consumers to stimulate the economy. Can the three-day weekend be the answer to this recession?

Maybe not. But I'm convinced that this is the work-week for me. I don't care if my clients are only available from nine to three. There's lots to do in my job that doesn't involve directly working with my students. In the mornings I could spend time preparing for my sessions and when I'm done treating for the day, I could do my documentation and evaluate their performance right after the fact. Wouldn't that be better than rushing into a session with just another coloring sheet or dot-to-dot because I didn't have time to plan ahead, or writing an assessment report a month after I tested the student just because I finally have an hour of free time?

So here's to getting in two hours early, leaving two hours late, and spending my Fridays at the beach thinking about what a clever cat I am! Who's with me?

Wow. Have. Not. Updated. Blog. This is typical.

Well for one thing, I live in San Diego now. Mi padre, hermanito and I came out here on a three day road trip through amber waves of grain and Rocky mountains majesty. Or basically a lot of Iowa followed by a lot of desert with the occasional difficult mountain pass.

The moving company ended up not arriving until three days after promised, which meant I had to buy clothes for work and extend my stay at the hotel. I became fond of the Marriott, my home away from my home away from home.

Finally, things have settled into place, slowly but nicely. It turns out that everyone in the city of San Diego that I've met so far is just a real peach. That includes the lady that stopped to yell at me for cutting her off and then kindly gave me directions back to Garnet Ave. There are 120 therapists in the San Diego school district, so the first two weeks of orientation were a flurry of introductions - putting contacts into my phone along with a bit of trivia to jog my memory when I come across the name. Fortunately, there's a lot more people my age than I expected, so I won't have to reluctantly accept invitations to Tupperware parties to socialize. One of the girls even lives in my building one floor beneath me and just loves to drive my drunk ass around.

One of my concerns was that I'd move to this place and have no one to explore it with. Fortunately, that's definitely not been the case. I haven't had a quiet night to myself since I got here. We've hit up some great bars, met some crazy locals, and even ventured up the coast to the Del Mar race track to see Ziggy Marley. Incidentally, it was the fourth biggest horse competition in the country but we missed the races. Still, as we hiked along the suspicious dirt trail from the bus stop to the track, we did catch a glimpse of the horses being loaded into the gates for the final race. As for the rest of the evening - well, I can say that I recall buying french fries and standing in line for booze, but that's about it. You know, one of THOSE evenings. I've gone through pre-med and graduate school but the most impressive thing I've ever done is manage to get home from Del Mar after rasta fest with my credit card, ID and a plastic Jack Daniels cup that I clung to as a precious souvenir until the bitter end.

The next day was all about cleansing the California way. I biked to the CVS to pick up some Urban Detox - the label claims it cures hangovers and removes "certain pollutants" from your lungs. Sipping this, I continued biking down the beach walk until I got to Belmont Park in Mission Bay. The dinky and somewhat rickity wooden rollercoaster was a bit much for a detox day, so I went through Mission Bay park until I got to the channel where I was able to sit and watch the boats heading out to sea. It was Labor Day weekend, so the beaches were packed with all the vacationers that are having their last hurrah before going home. There was
a huge party at Wind-An-Sea beach that night to celebrate the return of the land to the locals. I was invited - of course, I am a local now - but partying was also not on the agenda for detox day.

The job is good, but you know - work is work. There's so much bureaucratic procedure they've had to spend three weeks explaining it to us, but at least I've got so many mentors and support staff, I can shut my brain off if needed. Like, for instance, during the inservice on how to turn our supplied Macbooks on and off.

My schools are "south of the 8" which is code for Upper Mexico. I actually prefer it. The ritzy schools are filled with litigious parents that bring advocates to IEP meetings to grill you into delivering a statement that they can build a case around. My little escuelas are beautiful - all the schools in California are outdoor, which means there are no hallways. Classrooms are held in trailers that are parked around an outdoor lunchroom and playground. You couldn't do that in Wisconsin without a snowplow constantly circulating the grounds and even then, half the preschoolers would drop dead on their way to art class.

So far I haven't had a chance to meet any of my kids. It's been chaotic. See there was a process of re-integrating special ed kids into general ed that was supposed to take three years, but they just decided this year to suddenly put it into effect like two weeks before school started. The result is that half of the special ed parents in this district don't know where their kids are supposed to be and the other half do know but aren't happy about it. A lot of the kids that ended up in regular ed really cannot be without a support person - for both behavioral and medical reasons. So kids are still getting quickly re-shuffled around and I feel like a bit of a detective, trying to investigate different school sites and try to track down the 55 kids I'm responsible for and the other 25 that have fallen into my lap after the shit hit the fan.

But like I said, work is work. It's hard to feel like I'm here for the job when every night I can sit out on my balcony and watch the sun set over the ocean. Almost daily when I get home from work I get on my bike and head out along the ocean. I got a great discount at a local gym I can bike to which is never crowded and has that Cheers atmosphere - everyone knows your name. In fact, almost every established I've visited in Pacific Beach has that same vibe. The major difference between here and Wisconsin is that people just don't take themselves that seriously. We're all here for the same reason - we're young or young at heart and we just want to have fun. There's an instant connection and acceptance between people.

I've been really focused on what I leaned in Costa Rica. The people there don't take themselves seriously either. They're poor as hell but it's all they know and they don't care to know better. They value the commodities that come easy but are so often overlooked by the rest of us. People, nature, time. When I was there, I learned to sense the world without anything between my body and the earth. No plastic screens, no delusions, no wives tales. I crawled through the mud, dove into rivers, climbed waterfalls, and did more than just drag my body around after me. I used it. It got scratched and bruised and weary and cold and exposed to giant spiders and jungle parasites, but it was purposeful and it was good. Not like stubbing your toe accidentally because you can't keep track of your feet. More like jamming your toe into a rock because it's the only thing holding you up over the river current.

I stayed in a camp in the middle of the jungle that had no electricity or hot water, but was the most comfortable place I've ever been. Every night after that instant darkness that fell after the sun set, we sat with our candles, a scant supply of table games and ample booze to increase the entertainment value of said table games. The fact that we were a team brought us together in a profound way - we'd depended on each other during the day, both to accomplish something exciting that couldn't be done alone, but also to be there for each other when things got hairy. But more than that, there were people I met there that I only talked to through the long hours of a single night that I will miss more than I've missed childhood friends I've known for years. I can't explain why, but I think it has something to do with the purity and simplicity of it all. We barely spoke the same language. In our conversations, I would teach a little English, they would teach a little Spanish, and we would misunderstand most of what was said. But through it all, it was just us and the jungle. There was nothing else and no one else in the world.

The Costa Rican's call it "pura vida" - the pure life, the good life. Relax. Recognize the social construct and use it as needed. At the end of the day, reject it. Question what is real. Do the thing which brings you closer to genuine experience. Take the stairs ten flights to feel your body working for you. Taste food that you have prepared by hand. Watch the people who pass you by and recognize that they are just one conversation away from being part of your life. Appreciate the irritants and frustrations that color your world. Rise above the human tendency to make mountains out of molehills and recognize that while you can't change what you have to deal with, but you can change how you deal with it.

We climbed a lot in Costa Rica - either across boulder fields, up muddy slopes, or up the rock face of a small cliff or waterfall. We didn't have any tools, just the strength in our fingers and the friction of the skin of our knees and toes against the rock. When you are bobbing in the white water at the foot of a water fall and you look up, it seems like an impossible climb. But I was never climbing waterfalls. I was moving my fingers from one crack to another, my toes from one hold to the next. I know it's been said before that every journey is a series of small steps, but I wish we all had the chance to experience that viscerally the way I did. There are a lot of things in life that just work better when you don't think about them, partly because it's futile to try and tackle something that's not measurable. You spend a lot of time jumping up and down at the foot of a cliff trying to reach the top.

Living here has given me the opportunity to continue being guided by the pure life. I've seen that when people stop thinking about fitting into the social construct, they stumble into the natural connection between human beings. I've learned that while my work is meaningful, it's part of a game that I choose to play. There is nothing wrong with placing value in your professional life. There is something wrong with letting your professional life devalue you.

There are a lot of people here who made a choice to come out and see what this place had to offer. But by no means is this the ultimate answer. Coming to California was not about moving to some utopia where I could happily spend the rest of my life. It was about consciously choosing to live a life of conscious choices. It's about sorting out those things that are stopping me from those things that I only think are stopping me. It's about recognizing that we only have one lifetime, but we can choose to live a hundred different lives within it.

So that's the updates plus a bit of tangent preachiness. I'll try not to get so dramatic every single time I return from neglecting the blog. People probably get annoyed with me for talking up how much I love it here. It's not about this place, so don't think that I'm selling the elixir of life as a plane ticket to southern California. That's ridiculous. I think there's something that makes each one of us truly happy. Some choice we've always wanted to make but never thought we could. Maybe it's going on a world tour, going back to school, getting a dog, taking up photography, investing in an old car, putting in a pool...

Here's my challenge to you. I don't care about the economic recession. If you travel around the world, your bank account is going to hurt a little but you're not going to come home and have to move into a cardboard box. Money will come back eventually - and go again, and come back again. As for your own capacity? Well, if you don't know how to work the fancy new camera or what to feed the puppy, there's always Google.

If anyone actually reads this blog and, moreover, actually made it through this entire entry - please post your dream in the comments section and promise me you'll at least give it a second thought.

There's a running theme in my life that nothing I intend to do ever happens, and stuff that I am certain I will never do, does. I thought I'd never get an iPod or even lay my hands on a Mac. I thought I'd never get drunk, smoke a cigarette, go to a dance club, buy a BluRay player, become an occupational therapist, decide to do traveling therapy, watch 24, read Harry Potter, enjoy history, or play Xbox. Most of these things I had convictions against because I tend to not do things that I feel are forced upon me by society. When Harry Potter began sweeping the world, for instance, I resisted because I felt I no longer had a choice in the matter. Then, one day when I was headed to the bathroom for what was to be a long trip, I grabbed the first book I could find - a copy of my sister's Harry Potter book lying on the floor by her door. Lo and behold, by page two I was hooked. And within a few years, I knew every last intimate detail of the series, frequently wrote speculative articles for Mugglenet and other forums, formed actual relationships with strangers over the internet solely based on debating Harry Potter topics, and had read every book about three times - two of them in different languages.

So what's the point?

Well...last post, I had made a firm decision that I couldn't live in Pacific Beach.

Guess where I'm living?

We were sitting at the hotel del Coronado one evening having dinner. For whatever reason, our waiter asked why we were in town, and we all had to admit that the girl who previously made a juvenile fit about not getting the "chef's vegetables" with her meal was actually 25 years old and moving to the city for a job. After dinner as we were walking out, my dad struck up a conversation with the man and suggested I get the scoop from a local and ask about the best places to live. At that point, I was pretty married to the idea of living in La Jolla. The region was absolutely gorgeous (even if the apartments turned out to be crap), and our experience at the Pacific Beach "In And Out Burger" only solidified my desire not to live there. But the waiter insisted that the best place to live when you are young and fresh is PB. This bothered me.

To assuage the nagging, I decided that on our way up to La Jolla the next day, we'd take a route that led us through MB and PB - just to check things out. And as expected, it did seem a little seedy. I mean, I was looking through 'brown' colored glasses of course, but even without self-deception, this place was no La Jolla. Then I saw a sign for the Casa Del Mar - the Nazi apartments, and I screeched for dad to halt. I figured while we were here we might as well check the place out.

It was right on Tourmaline beach, as I had feared. Jeff, the manager, took us down the street leading to the famed surf spot and talked about how this was one of the best areas to live - far enough removed from the PB scene, close to La Jolla, and of course protected by his crazy rule system. Suddenly, this all began to seem not so bad. The apartment wasn't too luxurious, but there was one available at a good price with a bit of an ocean view and it was better than any we'd seen in La Jolla. We walked down to Turmo beach and looked down the miles and miles of coastline that would be in my backyard. I saw myself doing all the things I came to Cali for: riding my bike miles up the beachside path, or exploring the college-town like setting of Pacific and Mission Beach. Even sitting on the sand every night reading, writing, and watching surfers catch waves as the sunset spread over the water.

There were luxury apartments in the UTC that were steps from the freeway, boasted cooking classes from world class chefs, movie theaters, two resort-style pools, an entire gym complete with yoga and pilates classes, Berber carpeting and granite countertops. They were the same price as a dinky little place on the beach. In Pacific Beach, to boot. But the UTC was no different than the place I live now, except it was warmer and had palm trees. I didn't want to spend my time in SoCal at the local mall or poolside. I came out here to do something different.

So Pacific Beach it was.

I guess there's probably a lesson in all of that, but as is the running theme in my life, I probably won't learn anything from it. Does anyone ever? Clearly we cannot plan for our futures. My dad fed me a great line from John Lennon - "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." In fact, it seems that the more you try to select your path, the more likely you are to inadvertently discount the one you were meant to take. Maybe it's a bit much to say that it's all up to fate, but you've got to wonder at the chain of events that led me to this place. The certain restaurant, the certain waiter, the afterthought of asking his opinion, the slight giving in on my part, the street we turned down, the internet site that gave me the name of the apartment building, my compulsion to stop and check it out... Maybe there really is no right answer, but if this is a good one, I'm pretty impressed at how hard fate had to work to counteract my attempts to take the wheel.

There's a lot of things that I once was sure would never be part of my life story: people I was sure I'd never warm up to, places I was sure I'd never be bold enough to visit, activities I never imagined I could get into, things that are now they are such a huge part of my raison d'etre. Throw it all to the wind I guess, and look gratefully upon life's little disappointments. It's proof that someone or something that knows better than you is working to put you back on the right track.