The Liberal and the Immigrant

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It’s easy to say, “Let all immigrants come to America.”  It’s harder living with one.  I have been living with my Armenian/Turkish husband “Jack” for 5 years and 3 months.  We survived Turkey and then China and are now attempting America.  Because of language, cultural, and belief differences, our marriage has been difficult.  He can’t drive a car in the U.S., and a Green Card costs about $2000 plus proof of bank savings, home, job, etc.  We haven’t been able to afford one yet, especially since we used up all our savings when my Mazda 5 minivan was totaled in Houston, and I ended up in Texas Medical Center ICU with a subdural hematoma (bleeding in my brain from slamming into metal, no airbag deployed, seat belt bruising my ribs and pushing the air out of me).  Texas sheriffs blamed me for the accident, though I was the one hit by a speeding Houston driver.

We went back to California after that, in an American car with a high-interest loan, high payments, and increased driving insurance.  We slept in that car in the desert, then headed back toward the mountains where I lived before jumping overseas.  Jack got 3 manual labor jobs in a small town.  He quit one and was fired from the other 2, though his English now is pretty good.  After 5 years of teaching English and Journalism for universities, high schools, and private language schools in Russia, Turkey, and China, I have not been able to find a good job in America.  Nobody really needs an older, experienced English teacher in a country where the first language is English.

I found a job driving delivery for Uber Eats in Los Angeles, but with the one-hour commute from the truck stop where we live in the Inland Valley, I make no profits after gas and bill-paying (and my husband’s share, of course).  Uber pays drivers too little, though we wear out our cars, pay auto insurance, and risk our lives on steep, dark roads in the rain.

Turks love to talk, yell, fight.  Centuries of this aggression genetically infuse my husband.  My American friends don’t understand how much of a cultural difference this is and simply don’t like Jack for yelling too much.  Or maybe they question the high rate of abuse to women that Turkey records each year.

Then we lived with a Liberal couple in our small mountain town about 2.5 hours’ drive from Los Angeles. Continue reading

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Christmas Lights in China

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My daughter Jessica was born in September, so by her first Christmas she was old enough for me to carry around and look at Christmas lights.  Her small blue eyes widened at the amazing colors and brightness.  Now she is 22 and lives in California.  I am teaching English in China.  This is my 5th Christmas away from home.  I went out last night to a colorful, cobblestoned street by the river in my Chinese city near Shanghai and was amazed at how the lights lit up like a fairly-land.  I thought, “Jessica could see this.” Continue reading

My Christmas Adventures Overseas

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My first Christmas away from America was spent in snowy Russia, 2010

Some of you may have read about my tragic childhood experiences of Christmas.  On a lighter note, you may enjoy reading about my recent Christmas adventures in Russia, Turkey, and China.  See how my life has progressed!

Still, as I spend my 4th Christmas teaching English overseas, I miss my children in California and wish I could get back to them.  Let’s all hope for a Christmas miracle and reunion with our families!

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Saint Anthony’s cathedral in Istanbul, Turkey, 2012

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A mall in Beijing, China, 2013

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Christmas and Suicide

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In the first chapter of my true cancer survival book, “Crossing the Chemo Room,” I tell about the Christmas when I was 4 years old, and my father shot himself in front of me and my mother after he had been drinking.

Twenty years later, my mother died just after Christmas, from an accidental, lethal combination of Valium and wine.  My only brother disappeared into the wilderness the next year, never to be found.  Suicide can run in families like ripples from a rock thrown into a lake, and it is not easily forgotten.

Although the suicide rate is not highest during the winter holidays, it happens because people can drink too much or take drugs to feel less depressed over lack of family or gifts.  If you see someone who is hurting, talk to him.  Learn about suicide.  Offer help.  This Christmas, light a candle against the darkness of suicide.

“Crossing the Chemo Room”

Chapter One

Childhood

“When my father and my mother forsake me,

Then the LORD will take care of me.”

Psalm 27:10

I always wanted a normal life.  You know, the kind with two parents and lots of siblings in a wooden house.  You could even add a white picket fence.  I would grow up in that same house, near cousins and aunts and uncles, in my secure, familiar American town.  I would go to school and church down the street.  I would marry the boy next door, have kids, and live near my parents and the rest of our large, happy family.

I always wanted to live in the mountains.  Most of my life I have lived in lowlands, deserts, or valleys.  But for a short time, when I was nine years old, I lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

My brother Kerry and I would explore upward paths bordered by blackberries and overshadowed by pines.  We would find high meadows and streams flowing between gray boulders.  Tadpoles swam in still pools carved into the granite.  Kerry and I would catch the slippery creatures, admire their small legs, then let them go.  We would climb as high as we could, sit on the edge of a cliff, and watch the sunset change distant peaks from misty blue to gold so bright we could hardly look at it.

I wondered how a person could cross the chasm between the clifftop and those peaks.  Continue reading

Writing my Way Home for Christmas

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Jessica as an angel and Jonathan as a gold-crowned king in a California play 2004 

Help me write my way home to see my children in California.  I haven’t seen Jessica (21) and Jonathan (18) in the 3 years I’ve been teaching English overseas.  After I got divorced from their father (who got everything, including them), I couldn’t find a teaching job in America, so I went to Russia in October, 2010.  After 6 frozen months, I flew to Turkey where I lived and taught for 2.5 years.   I met my Turkish husband there.  After nearly getting arrested for writing about the Turkish freedom protests and posting a photo, I went (with my Turkish husband) to teach English in China just 2 months ago.

In all these ups and downs, I’ve been able to support myself.  But I haven’t bought a much-needed new computer (my old Apple laptop is 9 years old and very slow).  I haven’t taken a real vacation.  And I haven’t been able to afford a trip back to Los Angeles to see my children.

From Sunday, November 3 to Sunday, November 10, all 5 of my books are only $.99 (less than a dollar) for Kindle format.  You can pick from my true cancer survival story, travel adventures, science fiction, and fantasy.  Or you could splurge and pay $9.99 for a paperback.  My books encourage people to survive anything, and they make great Christmas presents.  Light can shine in the darkest places.

Please buy one of my books for a friend, think of me, and share my story.

Thank you.  See my books here.

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Jessica, me, and Jonathan in California in 2010 before I left to teach overseas

Home for Christmas

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I sit in a Turkish Starbucks, beside an open fire.  My chair has arms and pillows like those in English manor houses.  On the table, a single glass of amber-colored tea catches firelight.  It’s almost Christmas.

Among the shelves of white ceramic cups, green garlands hold red bows and golden ornaments.  In this Muslim country, you can find Christmas trees and Baba Noel, but the Nativity story is not mentioned.

I love Christmas despite the fact that my father died on that day when I was four.  Despite my alcoholic mother dragging me through trailer parks across America, I still love the holiday that shares a humble manger scene, angels, and one bright star reflected in a million tiny lights.

For two years my ex-husband hid my children from me.  Though we lived on opposite sides of the same California mountain, he went against court orders and kept us apart.  I, who had been a rich housewife and homeschool mom in a three-storey chateau beside a stream and forest, had no job or money to hire a lawyer.  I could not visit my children, speak on the telephone, post a letter, or send an email.  Yet I wrapped gifts like necklaces and laser lights.  I wrote pathetic notes on Christmas cards (what do you say after two years apart?) and left the packed red bag, like Secret Santa, at my son’s school.  Amazingly, he got the bundle.  He and his sister secretly opened the presents.  When their father found out, he threw their treasures in the trash. Continue reading