Heather L. Seggel

Requesting a Quick Favor

In Uncategorized on 16 September 2014 at 5:32 pm

Below you’ll find a list of ten skills or traits. Without thinking, please list any jobs you can think of that use three or more of these in the comments. You can suggest as many as you like or occur to you, but I need replies from a  number of  different people, so share if you have a moment, and thanks so much for your help.

Here they are:

Design
Analysis/Research
Physical activity/exertion (moving boxes, planting)
Detail/Attention to detail
Writing
Reading
Organizing/Creating a systematic approach
Intuition or foresight
Using language with precision
Service (work for benefit of nonprofit, charity, the greater good)

Amalgam: A Short Story

In Uncategorized on 15 September 2014 at 1:18 am

The human skeleton is taken for granted; we don’t think too much of its individual bones, perhaps with good reason. But teeth can come and go without much upheaval, so perhaps we’re a little less afraid. Canine, incisor, molar—we know their names, and sometimes the number that indicates their position in the mouth. Did you know the wisdom teeth are 1, 16, 17 and 32?

The one I found in the wash today is a molar, but I couldn’t tell you the number. It has a small silver filling on the chewing surface. I forget what that’s called. Occlusal? I dropped out of the dental assistant program in community college when it turned out I was pregnant, and Bill wanted me home with our kids. He’s gone a lot for work, so it makes sense, but it’s a shame that I never finished those classes.

The girl has been all over the news. Missing for two weeks, presumed dead at this point, just nineteen years old. Ours are ten and twelve, good kids, good students. I worry when they go out, but Bill says God owes us one for all the trash he picks up. I asked him what that means and he just laughed.

The tooth fell out of his pants pocket. I know it’s not his and it didn’t come from one of the kids. One of our kids, I mean.

Two years ago it was a class ring. Not from our high school but one from another state. It fell out of his shirt pocket when I knocked it off the clothes peg in the bathroom. I had barely picked it up to put it back when he was at the door and almost took it off the hinges. Honestly, I thought it was just an affair. Not that that’s a small thing, but relatively speaking.

Bill always did like souvenirs. We’d take a day trip up the coast and he’d buy key rings for the kids, a visor for me, little seashells with googly eyes glued on to leave on the dashboard. Everything has to spell out: I was here.

Wondering if he was there when this tooth was pulled, if maybe he was the one with the pliers, is upsetting my stomach. I might be looking at the former owner on the news right now. She’s nineteen and missing, presumed dead. She has green eyes. Or had. I don’t know which.

I’ll never know for sure about the class ring. Maybe it was a coincidence that a former student from that school turned up in a landfill twenty miles from here. Maybe she pawned her ring and Bill bought it for some reason. I never saw it again. I should put this tooth back in his jeans—it was probably in that little pocket that will barely hold a car key. If he doesn’t know I saw it, then he doesn’t need to worry about my knowing.

I’m not sure why I take it out to the garden, wrapped in a little ball of foil, and bury it behind my camellias. Maybe to let that nineteen year old spirit finally get some rest if she needs it. And maybe to serve notice on my better half: He doesn’t know it yet, but he’ll be spending more time at home with the kids from now on. It’s time for me to go back to school and think about a job. You know, just in case.

HOUSING TROUBLE

In Uncategorized on 21 August 2014 at 1:59 am

This piece recently ran in the North Bay Bohemian, but after the numerous edits it was put through I was left feeling a little blah about the result when I finally read it today. Here’s the original draft. Admittedly incomplete as a piece of actual journalism, but it sounds like me and is a more accurate account of what happened. –HLS

 

HOUSING TROUBLE

“Your income is below the minimum level to qualify.” The box next to this response was checked, but I was confused. I had applied for a spot on a waiting list with one of Burbank Housing’s low-income apartments, but was being turned down for earning too little. My income was too low for low income housing?

According to Bonnie Maddox, a Burbank Housing Management Corporation employee who oversees the complex I’d applied to, yes. “We have to see an income of two times the rent in the unit or you’re not qualified,” she told me. It doesn’t matter that I’ve consistently paid rent on time and in full despite never in my life earning twice what it cost. Maddox suggested I submit applications to other Burbank properties, noting that “Every property has different guidelines,” and that the numbers pertaining to income can be fudged to some degree by adding in food stamps or other forms of aid. None of this was made explicit on the application that resulted in my rejection, though, and I was receiving some qualifying assistance at the time of my application.

The reasoning behind the income requirement is a commitment to not “set somebody up for failure,” in Maddox’s words. This makes sense but, lacking the flexibility that might allow someone to grow out of the cracks I’ve been left to fall through, they’re surely not helping many of us to succeed.

This is not my first time on the Sonoma County housing-go-round. My father and I were homeless here from 2004 to 2005 and ended up in a Ukiah trailer park that deserves its own reality TV series. When the place I moved to after he died became unsafe, I opted for a short-term room rental in Santa Rosa (where I’ve paid my rent on time every month, despite earning it in full only once) in hopes that I’d find a stable place from which to relaunch my life and work as a freelance writer.

What a difference a decade makes. No, I’m mistaken, this gets filed squarely under “same as it ever was.” When we were desperate to find a place before, it never failed to shock me that a Korean War veteran and his de facto caregiver gained no traction whatsoever when trying to avoid what became our fate: Bouncing from campground to campground in Bodega Bay in a pair of matching $20 tents from Kmart.

Though it’s no comfort to hear it, at least I’m not imagining things. “We’re in a damage control state right now,” Cynthia Meiswinkel tells me. The Senior Office Support Supervisor at the Sonoma County Housing Authority says demand for Section 8 vouchers is currently so high the waiting list stretches 4 to 6 years, after which tenants may face landlords reluctant to take them on. The vouchers carry some stigma, but they also ensure units will be inspected for basic health and safety concerns, and priority often goes to an unaffiliated tenant willing to look the other way.

When I ask Meiswinkel what she recommends for someone in a situation like mine, she sighs. “That’s the question of the…it’s coming up a lot.” The SCHA and Community Development Commission, lacking Section 8 vouchers at the ready, are referring people out to Burbank Housing (cluster what?!) and, for those even closer to the edge, to homeless advocacy organizations. The pamphlet they give to visitors contains program information along with an entreaty Meiswinkel echoes: They want anyone affected to “Contact the higher-ups (in office) and advocate with us,” for more funding, more access, more possibility. I’m surprised, and only a little dismayed, that the best advice I’ve received is also the most succinct: “Vote.”

Heather Seggel is a freelance writer currently couch-surfing in Santa Rosa.

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