Having spent 29 of my 32 year in the upper midwest, I am resolute that we will not need to turn on our furnace this winter. Seriously, it doesn’t get cold enough in San Diego to even turn on the pilot light. Call me cheap, but I don’t plan on firing up the furnace this winter.
For those outside of Southern California. While the San Diego climate is mild year-round, it does get noticeably cooler in fall and winter. Hardly cold, but still chilly.
If you ever visited our house in Romeo you’d know that Kristen and I like to keep the house cool.Todd and his family talk about putting on layers to come over for dinner. Of course, the joke was funnier knowing that we would actually turn the thermostat up to 70 when company came over. At night, we allowed the house to cool to 58. Understand that we lived in a 135 year old house and keeping it warm all night long would mean the furnace would literally run all night long if I tried to keep it at its day time temperature of 65. At the same time, we’ve always kept our houses at similar temperatures. Some people like a really hot house, I like a relatively cool house.
So, some things about us never change. Just like in Michigan, Kristen and I wake up and tiptoe to the kettle to warm up water for coffee or tea. Just like our house was in the mid-fifties in the mornings, the same is true of our San Diego home. But, just like in Michigan, we are thinking of cheating by installing a couple high efficiency space heaters just to keep the nip off the air.
After all, we’d feel like bad parents if the kids could see their breath when they crawled out of bed.
Yesterday our church hosted an event called Christmas in the City. It was one of the most unique expressions of God’s love I’ve ever witnessed.
We are an unashamedly urban ministry. Situated in City Heights, a diverse working poor community, we reach out to the neighborhood in ways that just wouldn’t work in the suburbs. This is a great example.
How it works
The organization that actually presents Christmas in the City [er, I forgot what it’s called!] encourages church, schools, and businesses to give toys in a way that is very similar to Toys for Tots or Operation Christmas Child. Additionally, previous year’s proceeds go to purchase more toys.
On the day of the event volunteers from all over come to to create a store, checkout areas, and wrapping stations for the presents. Additionally, our church set-up some play areas, snacks, live music and activities for shoppers and their kids to enjoy while parents shopped.
This is where the line comes in.Since they’ve done this event for a few years people in the city know and depend on the sale to buy gifts for their kids. So think of this line a lot like a Black Friday line. People literally showed up at 7:00 AM for this event… which started at 12:30 PM. Thankfully, this was more civilized than a typically line at Wal*Mart.
When the store opens, gifts are sold at 10-20% of retail prices. ($2, $5, or $10) The idea behind Christmas in the City is that they don’t just want to hand parents a random gift to give to their children for free. While that is nice and many organizations do that, this is different in that they allow parents to choose some gifts for each of their children and also give them the ability to buy presents for their kids. The hope is that by doing it this way they can help the working poor while helping the recipents maintain their pride and dignity. They chose the gift. They bought it with their own money.
How did it go?
I had read about this type of event in community development books. So I had some idea that there would be a big line, that there would be a lot of toys, that there would be a lot of smiles.
I guess I wasn’t prepared for the volume. On a typical Sunday our church has 150-200 attendees. (About half non-English speaking, the other half English speaking.) There were at least that many who were in line to come to the Christmas shop. Tons of different ethnic background, tons of different stories, tons of people helped.
Another thing I wasn’t prepared for was that we’d have to turn people away. I know the need is great out there… but I never presumed that we wouldn’t have enough gifts for those who would come. We could have easily sold twice as much stuff! Now that I know how it goes I think I’ll have to do a better job promoting how people can get involved.
I’m still getting the pictures and video together. I will share that when I have it all ready.
It’s been nearly a month since Megan, Stoney, and I packed the car to drive off across America. And it’s been 4 weeks now that we’ve been living in our San Diego house… not quite a month but closing in on it.
So how is it going? In a nutshell it’s going great. We are slowly getting used to a different lifestyle in Southern California. In some ways SoCal is foreign to us and in other ways we feel like we blend in.
Here’s a typical day in our house. We get up at about 6:15. That’s after a restless night of sleep… the sprinklers still wake us up at 4:00 AM every morning. Technically either Kristen or I gets up at 5:30 to head to the gym depending on who’s day it is. So days start early.
Mornings are quiet. We make coffee. I like to sit on the back patio and watch the animals explore the yard while doing my morning internet rituals. Eventually the kids get up and we start getting them ready for school. Around 7:40 I leave for the office while Kristen gets ready to march the kids up the hill to school.
Days at YS are pretty much like work anywhere else. Everyone tries to get stuff done between meetings, we go to lunch, and then we do more work between meetings. It just so happens that the work and meetings I am doing are the most enjoyable stuff I’ve ever done.. but other than that it is pretty similar to working anywhere else in my life.
Somewhere between 4:30 and 5:30 I head home. On days Kristen keeps the car she comes to get me while other days I just drive home while listening to NPR. (How is this different from life in Romeo again?) I love it when Kristen comes to pick me up as the kids actually come into the office to find me. They love YS! It’s full of people who love talking to them as well as a big candy jar by the front desk. They bring the fun and then steal me to go home.
The evenings are pretty basic. We have dinner, we walk the dog, we watch some TV, we go to bed. At least once a week I like to take the dog to the beach so he can run around and smell other dogs butts, chase other dogs, and pretty much just run free at Dog Beach without a leash.
We go to bed pretty early.
Weekends. Friday night has become our family date night. We try to take the kids somewhere fun… we may introduce a movie to this night as Fall progresses. On either Saturday or Sunday we go to the beach. Other than that we don’t do much. Even when we go to the beach we’re only going for 2-3 hours. For some reason we’ve started the habit of going at about 2 and leaving by about 5. That seems to be just enough time for us.
Dear Lord, Kristen and I need our date night back. It’s nice with the kids but… yeah.
So what’s different? The big point of contrast is that our lives are so simple. Life has really slowed down for me. (Conventions are coming!) In Romeo I was always running somewhere. Either for the church or YMX or family stuff… I never got to just chill out. So far it’s been nice to “reset” and just enjoy the cool breezes on the porch, watch the birds in the trees, spy on the cat eating something in the yard, etc.
Other things are very different. San Diego is a true melting pot. There are oodles of other cultures everywhere you go. I have been comparing San Diego (in my mind) to a bunch of European cities I’ve visited. Lots of languages, lots of types of foods, lots of polite “I have no idea what to say” smiles in shops. The abundance of ethnic foods is awesome.
I dig the weather… I mean, who doesn’t? Mornings are typically overcast with a “marine layer” and sometimes that means it is foggy. So mornings will have near 100% humidity until that burns off. When the sun comes out just before lunch it warms up and true Southern California emerges. It gets to about 90 at the YS offices… but never seems to be above 80 at home.
I’ve mentioned the beach several times because I like going there so much. Each time I drive down there I have this “I live here” moment! The waves are typically calm enough the splash around in and the water isn’t warm like in Florida… but so far it’s been warm enough to swim in.
What else is different? Well, we live in a city now. So yards are smaller, houses are smaller, cars are smaller… pretty much everything is smaller and more dense. It is weird to hear your neighbors talking. We have a neighbor who regularly has karaoke nights… that’s fun right there.
We live near San Diego State so sometimes we get exposed to gems like Kristen uncovered the other day at the store. Generally, food is cheaper but everything else is more expensive than in Michigan. Tropical plants are different than Michigan… we have a massive ficus tree in our backyard that would only be 4 feet tall in someone’s house in Macomb County.
This may be the most rambling post of my life. 900 words. Yikes. 901. 902.