Friday, October 22, 2010

Viva La Mexico

Bright and early Wednesday morning I picked up Howie for our Mexico adventure.  Both of us had listened to the NPR story that had ran on the radio early that morning about the murder of a jet skiing American tourist in a Texas/Mexico border city.  We agreed not to see it as an omen.  I was far more apprehensive over the idea that I had left it up to Conrad to fetch us at a McDonalds in T.J to worry about a murdered tourist.  Howie was blissfully oblivious to the risks involved when dealing with my father-in-law.
David, Eunice's youngest son

Luckily the pick-up went smoothly.  The idea was to head into San Antonio, where Conrad lives, to capture photos.  Conrad had other plans.  He took us into the heart of T.J so that Eunice could do some shopping.  We ended up in a fabric store for over an hour.   Afterward, Eunice drove us through T.J, driving past Zona Norte, where young prostitutes lined the streets. Some were in provocative outfits, others dressed up like school girls in pleated skirts and knee socks, and others dressed casually in jeans and sweaters.  The most striking thing about each of these women is that all of them carried themselves in the same sorrowful defeated way, each with the same look of desperation.  It made me feel powerless and angry all at once. 

We drove past Eunice's old place of employment. She beckoned an old friend out of the store and I was suprised to see a tall transgendered lady introduced to us as Christy walk over to the car. Eunice excitedly introduced Howie, telling Christy that he was here to take pictures for an American magazine.  Shortly after we stopped at a tortilla market, and next a key cutter so that Conrad could have a new house key made.


Nearly 2 1/2 hours after our arrival, we finally made it to Conrad's home. The photos that Howie was there to take were snapped.   Eunice gave Howie a tour, showing him all her sewing projects, the machines, fabric, and completed projects that filled the garage.  She showed us drawings of elegant dresses she had created on her computer and the digital photos of gowns she had handmade.  By this time it was well past noon.  I politely mentioned to Conrad that maybe it was time for us to leave.  Apparently we had one last adventure to go on.

The process

Before dropping us off at the border, we headed into Rosarito so that Stephanie, Eunice's oldest daughter, could be dropped off at school. From the freeway I viewed uxorious high-rises in which no one lived, half built roads left abandoned materials and all, a trash filled field in which two horses roamed free in, and shacks, upon shacks. We drove past the bridge that two headless bodies were hung from a week earlier (rumored to have been murdered by members of T.J’s drug cartel).

Cute shoeless kid in Rosarito

By the time we made it to the border it was nearly 3 o'clock and the line going into the U.S stretched for blocks and blocks. The great thing about Howie is that he is bursting with interesting stories. While we waited I heard about past Reader cover photo shoots, the story of how he ended up in San Diego, his plans for the following day that involved a weather balloon, a camera, and fishing wire, and the time he stayed on a strawberry farm. Howie is the kind of person that you don't mind waiting in a long line with. He is anything but boring. He's the kind of guy you want at dinner party.

My Mexico adventure has made me eager to write something else, something better. I'm not sure what just yet. Meeting Howie and hearing all the terrific stories and adventures his job takes him on has motivated me to push myself to do more of what I love.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Humble Pie

Lately I have been really lucky to have scored a number of freelance writing gigs. I think it started to go to my head a little. I started wondering if I really needed to suffer through all of those pointless classes I have been taking lately. I began stupidly thinking that maybe I could give up the whole school thing and find work without having to get a silly piece of paper to prove my credentials.

Last night I had dinner at the home of my new employers. The whole staff from BK was there. When things deviated past work, Rafael, the videographer asked me where I went to college.

I am certain my face turned the shade of a stop sign. The fact that I do not have a college degree has always been a profound source of shame for me. I blurted out “I don’t have a degree.” and didn’t bother to mention that I’m working on it. I just wanted to get the attention off of me.

I started out the night super confident in my abilities as writer for the project they have hired me for but the end of the night I sort of felt like white trash.

This morning in my e-mail inbox I received a description of a San Marcos college winter intercession creative writing workshop for my old journalism Professor. It proved the point once again that I need to get all this silly general ed stuff behind me and continue on with the hopes of soon enrolling at San Marcos.

I like the idea that when I start getting overly confident something mortifying happens to ground me. I think humbleness is a quality I will never grow tired of even if at times I am humbly shamed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Amelia Birthday Letter #6

Dear Amelia,

I hate to admit this but at 6-years-old you are a far superior child then I was at your age.

Things you excel at:

1. Hula hooping- I have always wanted the ability to walk and hula hoop at the same time. I am 31 and still haven’t perfected the fine art of the hoop. However, you have. You can walk, talk, and perhaps even run all while balancing your fluorescent pink hula hoop effortless on your hips. It never ceases to amaze me.

2. Your bike riding skills- you learned how to ride at two-wheeler at the tender age four. The difference between the childhood me and you is that you are persistent. The day we taught you how to ride your bike was a day full of angry bursts of emotion and lots of tears but you insisted on learning and would not give up. This is embarrassing but I might as well admit it now, I did not learn how to ride a bike until I was seven; seven stinking years old. As you may have realized by now I am not a fan of exerting too much effort into things. Needless to say I really envy your ambitious spirit!

3. You love to learn. You want to know about everything. You are constantly asking me questions about the stars, the moon, clouds, why it rains, where the coldest place in the world is, and on and on. Lots of times I don't know the answer to these questions. When that happens you insist that I find out. I love that about it.

4. You like everyone. If someone is mean to you at school you insist that they were having a bad day and that tomorrow will be different. I find this aspect of your personality deeply wonderful. 

For your Birthday we went Apple picking in Julian. We had big plans to take you to Disneyland. Grandma was going to fly in from Florida for the occasion but then Great Grandpa died. Despite plans being changed you didn’t complain once. You were so mature about the whole thing. I’m proud of you for that.

Our Julian Apple picking day was so much fun because as always you were so very excited about the adventure. You loved having your own little white baggie to fill up and the overabundance of apples to choose from. You skipped up and down the tidy rows of apples looking for the best looking pieces of fruit.

Unfortunately at the end of our visit Grandpa Braun had the genius idea of shoving a wasp riden apple in your face. I am still unclear of the reasoning behind this but as always your Grandpa remains a mystery.  You were stung right in the middle of the forehead. You left the orchard in tears but made a quick recovery once someone mentioned that we would stop for some apple pie on the way home.

Things in your little world have changed a lot this year. You have moved on to the ever so grown up world of having a full day at school. You love it. You adore the idea of having homework and the round table you share with four other kids, you like the way the crayons are arranged according to color and the way Mrs. Krug allows you to be class leader once a month. When I told you that I spend a large chunk of my day missing you, in a very matter fact tone you told me “I don’t miss you while I’m at school.” This broke my heart a tiny bit and you must have noticed because you explained “Just because I don’t miss you doesn’t mean I don’t love you.” You are an old soul.

Sometimes I forget how little you are. You remind me with the cute things you do. For instance, while at the beach you often tell me how much you love “sea enemies,” when you mean sea anemones, or when you open the car door and shout “open Stephanie!” as opposed to open sesame, or my favorite, they way you still say crapping instead of clapping.

Little Miss Amelia, I am proud to be your mom and have loved watching you grow and evolve in to the little lady that I look forward to seeing every morning. I adore you more than you could ever fathom!


Your Mom

A Day Spent with "The Rad"

My Reader photo shoot with Conrad was on Tuesday. They requested he wear a Hawaiian shirt and he refused stating that they are "too middle aged for him." Also he was 30 minutes late. I arrived five minutes before twelve. I called Conrad to find out about his whereabouts. He was at a mall 15 minutes away looking for his keys that he had misplaced somewhere, he wasn’t sure where. I kind of wanted to kill him.

Luckily his tardiness ended up being a good thing because I was able to get to know Howie, the photographer and Reader operations director, better. He is a pretty cool guy. Although he did ask me a million and one questions, which always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. When asked about the origins of my name I explained that it was Gaelic and that as a result kids in school called me the gay licker. There was a long drawn out awkward pause after that. Perhaps I overshared? I was trying too hard to win him over with my personality, kind of like the kids in high school who tried to wow the other students into voting for them for something silly like student council or homecoming court. Let’s face it I’m a bit of an awkward person.

When I told Howie that Conrad has not yet read the story, it was suggested that I don't allow it until after we finish taking all the photos for the article. I guess maybe it is a bit brutal. Now I am paranoid that I am a mean heartless jerk.

When Conrad finally showed up the photographer was overjoyed by the fact that, although he had  not worn a hawaiian shirt, Conrad had managed to sport a necklace with a pendent the size of an infant. 

I took Conrad out to lunch afterwards because I was starting to feel like a shitty daughter-in-law.  We went to this ridiculously overpriced Italian restaurant and sat way too close to two overdressed women. So close in fact that if I extended my elbow a little it would graze against their table. They kept giving Conrad the evil eye every time he would laugh loudly or exhibit his terrible table manners. He finished his meal in about a minute flat and when I had leftovers asked if he could have them. It was pretty comical.

It was nice to spend the afternoon with Conrad. I don’t think the two of us have ever hung out alone before. I am going to make an effort to spend more time with the old guy. After my dad passed away I had a hard time being around Conrad. He had this expectation that with my dad gone he was supposed to act as my fatherly figure. While it was sweet that he tried to step into my dad’s role, I hated it. I had this idea that my dad was a far better human being than Conrad and that he could never come close to being the kind of person my dad was. Isn’t that a terrible thing to think? The truth is that the two of them are just very different. They are both remarkable men. For a long time I had some serious misdirected anger aimed toward Conrad. It was silliness and I’m over it now.

A few hours after I got home from our lunch Conrad called. He didn't even say hello, all he said when I answered the phone was "How are your bowels, mine aren’t doing so good?" He always keeps it classy. Apparently the Italian food did him wrong.

On Tuesday I will be going to Mexico with Howie to capture photos of Conrad, Eunice, and the kids for the article. I’m super excited. I think it’s going to be a really fun little adventure. It’s not every day that I get to Mexico in the middle of the week. Maybe I’ll buy a poncho.

Our family picture from our last Mexico Visit.  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Today was a Good Day

Today was one of those days where the very idea of being indoors, even for one minute, drove me crazy. I barely managed to hold it together during our hour long church service this morning. Jacob was scheduled to sing along with all the kids from his school in grades 1st through 4th.

While up in front of the congregation crammed with perfumed and khaki wearing parents, bored elderly folk, and the innocent eyes of the ever so pure Lutherans, my son proceeded to persistently poke the ribs of the petite boy standing in front of him. For some odd reason he believed that the rest of the church would not notice what he was doing. My kids never cease to embarrass me. Much to Jake's dismay, I made him not only apologize to the kid, but his parents as well.

But all of this is off topic, what I really wanted to talk about is how beautiful San Diego has been lately.

We've had rain. Not the fake California ran where it drizzles a tiny bit and people go crazy, frantically pulling out umbrellas and rain boots from their attic storages because they fear a tiny drop of water will melt them. The rain we had last week was a down pour. We had thunder and even more impressively--lighting! This was the first time I had seen lighting in my 12 years living here. It was awesome.

Our week of rain ended triumphantly with the most stunning rainbow I have ever seen. It appeared at dusk and the lady across the alley politely knocked on my door to alert me to the beauty I was missing out on.  My neighbors and I gathered outside and stared up at the sky as if tiny white winged angels were circling above. Rain, lightening, and rainbows are miraculous for S.D.

Quickly following all that rain everything turned green. Nearby Mission Trails with its desert like terrain is almost as vivid as Ireland.

Today was a sunshine day. I was super antsy around the house. Aaron took Jake to La Jolla for an intense swim at 6am this morning. As a result they were wiped out afterward. Aaron was lounging around the house lazily watching TV and dozing off on the living room coach. I took the littles out for a bike ride around the hood and finally convinced Aaron to take a beach trip with us. Grudgingly he gave in.  We headed to my favorite spot, Ocean Beach. The following are the pictures from today:

I like how Jake basically melts into the rocks. 

Random adorable red-headed couple who I thought matched the sunset so I took their photo

Thursday, October 7, 2010

If Wishes were Fishes

My Dream Kitchen
Dream bedrooms

Dream Sitting Room

Making a Buck off the Interesting Life my Father-in-Law leads

 I sold another Reader cover story. I received a check in the mail from them the other day and it is written out to: Siobham Braun. I kind of love their typo. I am huge fan of any and all pork products so why not embrace the idea of having the word Ham spelled out in my name? Maybe I can make it a new pen name.

The article is about my father-in-laws recent move to TJ. I'm wondering if it will amass the same amount of scathing comments as my last article? Which I might add, received the most comments of any Reader cover story ever published. I would be proud, if it weren't for the very idea that nearly all were hate-filled rants. I have a feeling this will be similarly detested. I seem to have that effect on people.

The reader people want Conrad and I to do a photo shoot for the cover. I'm not really excited about my mug gracing the numerous Readers distributed across San Diego. I am a privacy freak. To tell you the truth, I would rather have an incognito pen name to hide behind.  The very idea of my face on the cover freaks me out.

Conrad, on the other hand, is all about it. There was no masking the utter glee dripping in his voice when he assured me that it would not be a problem for him to cross the border in order to be a part of the photo-op.  The man is an attention whore!

"You are aware that along with procaliming how amazing you are I do make fun of you a ton in the story?" I ask him.  He could care less. “I am an interesting man." he proclaimed. I would agree with that statement.

Me and the Rad