Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Powering Through the Doldrums

I have officially entered my winter doldrums. Work slows down to a crawl. Many of the outdoor activities I enjoy are not an option and the days are just so short. This past week made it worse because I came down with a head cold. About midway through the week in mid-head cold battle I decided I need to come up with a plan to power through this. So here, for everyone ,is my Winter Doldrums Blasting Plan. If you get mildly down maybe some of these will work for you.

Step 1: Be even more diligent about going to the gym. It’s true. A good workout really makes you feel better. For me it makes me feel better and makes my back happy. If I get caught up in the doldrums no only do I feel like a slug for not working out but my back gets cranky. So happy back + energized me = doldrum fighter.

Step 2: Keep the apartment sparkling. I can always tell how my mood is by the state of my apartment. When I get down in the dumps my apartment starts looking like a dump and drags me down more. This has become even more important after this morning, when I found mouse droppings in the kitchen. :-/ As soon as I’m done with this post that place is going to shine like the top of the Chrysler building. I always feel mentally better when my living space is in tidy order.

Step 3: Eat food that’s good for me. This time of year I always slip into eating junk for or bad for me comfort food. When you eat food that’s healthy you don’t feel as sluggish. At least that’s what they say. But it’s true. When I eat crappy junk food I enjoy it at the time but then become a lump afterward. This then snowballs and affects all the other items on the list.

Step 4: Let the sun in. Day’s are shorter. On the days when I am actually in my apartment I need to open the blinds and let what sun there is come in. A dreary apartment will just make me feel dreary. Speaking of…I’ll be right back…ah much better.

Step 5: Make plans to get out of the apartment. I always feel better when I get to see my friends. Between regular work and getting to the gym after, that doesn’t leave much time during the week. I need to make sure I plan out my weekends. I always feel better when I get to see friends and have fun. The less time I spend sitting on the couch watching TV the better. Even if I can’t see them, maybe at least try to call some of my nearest and dearest more.

Step 6: Crank up the peppy music. If you can’t tell from all the songs I tack on to my posts I love music. A good upbeat song can go a long way for improving my mood. I need to throw together some upbeat mixes to play in the apartment or the car to help keep my mood up once I get it there.

So that’s my list. I feel better already. If you get a little down this time of year maybe some of these things will help get you through the next few months. I’ll leave you with a peppy song to get you moving (this is definitely going in the mix).

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2011: Reflection on a Year of Big Changes

2011 was a year fraught with changes for me. I started the year being freshly laid off and looking for a new job. I found a job, moved to a new state and, to put it mildly, its been an eye opening year. It’s been fraught with unexpected joys like root canals and dental crowns and meeting a wide array of new people. I’ve gotten the chance to spend more time with friends I rarely got to see and miss seeing friends and people who used to be there everyday.

I suppose that’s normal in every year. People will come in and out of your life. Friends will get married or have children. I suppose this is all part of being a grown up. I’ve had more than one day where I’ve longed for those days I couldn’t wait to be all grown up. I don’t know what I was in such a hurry for. In all fairness to that young kid this is not at all what she had in mind when she grew up.

I’d like to say moving worked out wonderfully and my job is fantastic and that every decision was the right one . Sadly that’s not the case. I supposed that’s part of being an adult too, making a decision and dealing with the consequences if it turns out it wasn’t the right one for you. I was hoping to find exactly what I need right out of the gate this year but that didn’t happen. That’s ok though. One thing I’ve learned from this year is that if this isn’t right its ok. It isn’t permanent(A mantra I’ve had to repeat on the really bad days). I can go back to the drawing board and find the place that’s right for me.

Overall it’s been a very educational year and a big test of my character. I’ve been reminded that I have many wonderful and supportive friends that are there for me when things get tricky. This year might not have turned out exactly as I planned but it’s taught me a lot about who I am and how much learning and growing I still need to do. I’ll stumble through until I get an epiphany showing me exactly what I should do but as  I muddle through that I know my friends and family will help me while I try to figure it out.

Much like Isabella, I’ve made some resolutions. Most of them pertain to getting my life where I want it. I’m not going to share them here, also like Isabella, I like to keep them private. I don’t even plan on writing them down. They are just going to remain deposited in my mind. Some are big far reaching goals and some are small baby steps to a happier me. One resolution I will share, I am going to create a bucket list. I’ve spent a lot of this year focused on just my job. A bucket list will help me focus on all the other things I want that have nothing to do with my job.

This past year might not have been the best but hopefully way down the road I’ll look back on it as a big turning point in my life or maybe just as the year I got my first root canal.

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It’s that time of year again.

You may recall last year I became very distracted right around October thanks to playoff baseball. Well it’s happening again. I will not post again about how I react to watching these games as, quite frankly, it’s a little embarrassing. Instead I am hoping to use this post as a distraction. We’ll see how is goes.

I do have one thing I need to get off my chest. In truth, something I really need to vent about. Today on my drive home it was raining. It’s been raining a lot around these parts lately. As some of you may know, when you’re driving down a multi-lane highway in the rain visibility becomes very limited thanks to the mist flying off all the cars and semi-trucks.  So why do people NOT have their lights on.?I can’t tell you how many cars I passed or passed me that didn’t have their lights on. Two of them I nearly pulled out in front of but suddenly noticed the dark shadow that was their car. One car was silver, SILVER!, as in the same color as the mist surrounding everyone and the sky. Memo to people with silver cars: Since your car’s finish is basically the equivalent of highway mist camouflage, turn on your flipping lights! (If you can’t tell I came really close to pulling out in front of this person.)

Now on a positive note. If you haven’t found yourself a corn maze to frolic in this fall go find one!  I happened to find myself in one this weekend and it was a delight. This is the third or forth corn maze I’ve been to and I’ve yet to be disappointed. I’m not sure why I find these so fun. The mazes I’ve been to give you a map but I rarely use them. Truth be told this is an activity that requires a fun group of friends with you. I think it taps into the kid in me that apparently finds joy in frolicking in a corn field.

Camo-silver cars aside this is still the best time of year. Finally cooler temperatures (Yay sweaters!) and fun  fall activities abound. I said it before and I’ll said it again. It really is my favorite time of year. Enjoy the cooler weather folks and seriously find a corn maze with a fun group of friends. It really is a hoot!

PS- Sorry for the dis-jointed post. It was that sort of a day. Honestly, I was like Dug from “Up” today (Squirrel!)

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I Wanna Live in Guernsey

SPOILER ALERTS! I don’t usually include spoilers but halfway through writing this I realized I was spoiling certain things. So beware!

“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

To start let me state this simply. I LOVED this book. I read it in 2 days. I then opened it back up again to read again the next day. I’ve had to fight off the urge to read it before bed because I know I won’t go to sleep.

For starters, the book is written in a style I really like. Rather than your typical narrative the story is presented in a series of letters written back and forth between all the characters. What is so great about this style is how the voice of the book keeps changing. I become quickly attached to many of the characters thanks to their writing styles. Reading through all these letters made me a little sad that this method of correspondence is disappearing in our society. No one really sits down and writes letters on paper to people anymore. Granted we have e-mail and various other media but I feel like there’s a certain something that makes a hand-written letter more special (I think I’ll write a letter to my aunt in England who shuns computers).

The other reason I love the book is how well the various scenes are described. A significant portion of the book takes place on the Isle of Guernsey part of the Channel Islands south of England. The primary letter writer (Juliet) regularly describes scenes looking out over the water. In my mind they look something like this:

I went to visit family in southern England a few years ago and this book helped trigger so many memories of that trip.

There is a certain humbling quality to the book as well…hmmm…humbling might not be the word I want. The book takes place right after the end of World War II. It discusses the bombings that hit England and the German occupation of the channel islands. There is even a story arc involving the holocaust. It’s a reminder that many people have been through many hard even impossible times but they’ve survived. It also reminds me that certain things may not be going right the way I want right now but people have been through much worse and kept their heads up. So suck it up because my life isn’t bad at all.

The book isn’t just imagery and tellings of life after the war there is an actual plot to follow.  I was instantly drawn to Juliet and found myself wanting to warn her when I was afraid she was going to make an obviously poor decision. Or hoping that by the end of the book she sees what will make her completely contented that I can already see. I didn’t just want to cheer for the main character, other supporting characters in the book tug at my heart strings just as much. I’d love to sit and have tea with so many of them.

So two thumbs way up for this book. It really draws you in and as I’ve mentioned in previous posts I love when books do this. This one went a step further for me. I felt a strong urge to go visit Guernsey and a little part of me, as I mentioned above, really wants to live there.


Cooking for One

One of the things I dreaded when I once again set out on my own was going back to cooking for one. It’s not that I can’t cook. If you give me a recipe I can follow it and turn out something pretty tasty but rarely are recipes for one serving. Most of the recipes I have are for 4-6 people and honestly leftovers get tiresome by the third meal. I also I have little desire to go through read and follow the directions for a recipe to whip up dinner after a long day of work. In my opinions recipes are for the weekend. It makes me miss all those days of my life living at home where there was a below from the house and magically there was a version of a home cooked meal waiting.

The last time I was out of my own I relied heavily on Lean Cuisines and canned soup. Every so often I would feel very grown up and cook myself dinner. I’d “grill” (heat up) a ham steak on my George Foreman and cook up a box of Mac & Cheese. In my mind, especially after a long day of work, boiling water for macaroni was a serious culinary operation.

Now that I’m back in my own apartment again I’m attempting to do a little better than frozen dinners and boxed Mac & Cheese. Don’t get me wrong my specialty, ham steak with mac & cheese, is still on the menu from time to time but I’m attempting to be a little healthier and diverse with my dinners.

The local farm stands have helped. I have whipped up some seriously tasty salads courtesy of those fine establishments. Just last week I was debating what to eat and was about to heat up a can of Chef Boyardee that I had purchased to prepare for a certain large storm that hit the northeast. I then remembered I had purchased spaghetti and a jar of sauce waaaay back when I first moved in.I opted for boiling my pasta rather than going for the canned variety. I was so proud of my adult behavior (It’s the little things).

My next trip to the grocery store I stepped up my game and bought a small bag of frozen meatballs. My family will vouch for me on this, I love a good plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Now that I’ve realized how quickly I can whip up a single plate, well let’s just say I’ve had more than my fair share of spaghetti dinners and I have yet to tire of them. Some nights I’ll just make an even bigger salad when I feel I need a really healthy dinner.

I’m hoping I can progress even further and come up with other quick single serve dinners I can throw together. I’m proud of my progress these last few weeks. I at least feel like I’m headed in the right direction. Now I just have Lean Cuisines for lunch.

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When I Grow Up….

As a kid I wanted to be any number of things. One week a teacher. The next a singer. There was a step up in to our sun room that made an ideal stage.Another week and actress. That was short lived when I got the lead in the school play in elementary school and could only manage to remember half of my lines.

When the Summer Olympics came on I wanted to be a gymnast. Our living rug had a cream colored border around it that closely enough resembled the out-of-bounds line on the large floor routine mat. Never mind that I couldn’t do a cartwheel or headstand. I was certain of my gold medal future based on my ability to do the classic gymnastic power run with a graceful leap of some kind in the middle across said rug.

By the end of middle school I had decided I wanted to be a landscape architect. Even in to high school when applying for colleges I was certain thats what I wanted to do. I had nearly changed my mind in a career day in high school when a local landscape architect came in a showed us her design…for a prison parking lot. Parking lots? THAT”S what landscape architects do? Based on all the parking lots I’ve ever been in I HATED landscape architects. It didn’t sway me. I applied to various schools with good programs and got in to all of them…except the one I wanted. It was known to be a very difficult one to get in so I can’t say I was surprised. I was accepted for a different program at the school and decided that was maybe a better plan.

Did I make the right decision? My wallet says no as a landscape architect gets paid A LOT more than I do. But my heart says yes. I realized after the fact that a landscape architect spends less time outside than I was looking for.

As far as what I want to be when I grow I’m still undecided. My current career is ok but I’m not sure if it’s the most ideal job for me. This unsettled feeling makes me mildly disappointed in myself. when I was younger I had it in my mind that this is the age when I’m settled in to my career and settled in to my own nuclear family like the one I grew up in (except I’d have a dog).

So looking back, I didn’t become a teacher (unless you count all the times I trained new folks at my old job), singer (unless you get trapped on a road trip with me), actress, or even a landscape architect. I don’t have a little nuclear family ( I don’t even have the flipping dog). To say my life didn’t turn out as I’d expected is putting it mildly. I try to look on the bright side. One day it will all come together. My personal/family life will come together (admittedly from more effort from me than I’ve exerted to date) and I will find my ideal job/career that will lead to contentment. That is my hope. I’ll check back in around 20 years and see how different that life is than the one I expect it to be today.

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It’s Coming from the Attic!!

I’ve been racking my brain all night trying to think of a lovely anecdote to share and I’m coming up empty. I blame this on my complete lack of sleep last night. Some of it was my fault but a significant portion wasn’t.

You see I drove back from PA yesterday and probably had too much caffeine between the coffee in the morning and the soda for the drive that I wasn’t tired at my normal bedtime. I finally forced myself to bed a good 3 hours after I should’ve been there. I finally was getting myself to sleep and it happened. A random skittering noise. I tried to tell myself I was hearing things and then it happened again. I was suddenly awake and alert all over again.  I turned the light on and figured there was no where it could be coming from in the room . I turned the light out and tried to settle back to my nearly asleep state and it happened again. This time I pinpointed the sound. It was coming from the attic!! There is some small varmint living in the attic above my apartment. My current hope is that it stays there. I cede the territory that is the attic to the small skittering critter. I just ask that it does its late night skittering over the laundry room or the bathroom where I can’t hear it and stays in the attic.

I’m hoping tonight will be a little quieter. There is a steady rain falling making the attic good and cold. A good night for critters to hunker down and not skitter across the ceiling above my head; ’cause I could really use a solid night of sleep.

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Irrational Fear, Worry, Anxiety, Paranoia, etc.

As Isabel pointed out yesterday, there are times in our life where it’s reasonable to be scared or cautious. The fear results in rational behavior to protect yourself and hopefully avoid those situations that you are understandably scared of. I have those. It’s bound to happen when you have as many irrational fears as I do a rational one is bound to slip in there every now and then.

I’ve spent a significant portion of my life trying to figure out where these irrational fears and anxiety come from. Sometimes it is a situation where someone should be scared but my fear will amp up higher than it needs to be. My friends will attest to how ridiculous my paranoia can get. Mind you it doesn’t reach a degree of phobia where I won’t leave the house but it is fairly absurd.

For example, I traveled one Spring break with a good sized group of friends to London. While walking through the city my one friend noticed that not only was I walking faster than my normal fast clip but I refused to stop for any extended period of time (like 20 seconds). She asked why I was in such a rush. It simply came to being scared of staying in one place too long in a city. You see my dad had warned me when I was young to not stand around too much in a city because you could get mugged or some such other thing. My special brain amped this up to don’t stop ever! Even if you’re in a group of 6 or more people. I’m getting better in cities. I still have my random irrational fear but now I try to channel it in to just being aware of what is happening around me.

Another example of my over-amped fear center is one my friends still mock me for. On some random evening or reading some random article the reporter was talking about a particular criminal that would lie under people’s cars and when they approached slice their ankles with a razor blade or some such thing and attack them. I got mocked regularly for crouching down to check under my car before entering or leaping in as quickly as possible when I got there. In all honesty, it was fairly silly since I was right next to the car when I’d check. As my friend pointed out, being that close isn’t a very effective way of checking. The “would be attacker” can just slash your face. I’ve mostly gotten over this fear. Although to be honest every so often I’ll be approaching my car alone in a parking lot at night and sneak a peak under it but at least I’ve gotten more subtle with my approach.

There are a couple things I used to be extremely scared of that I’ve actually had to cope with and get through. For the longest time I was terrified of hurting my back and having to get surgery. Then I hurt my back and had to get surgery. It was awful, let’s not mince words but I survived it. I came out the other end literally stronger and healthier. I was forced to workout and develop muscles that quite frankly were probably neglected before (I bet that’s why I hurt my back). Not only did I make it through this big fear I was able to reassure myself that some of my other stupid fears I could get through.

I used to have a sinking fear in the back of my head about getting fired or getting laid off and losing my job. I hated (well hate) job hunting and having to go through interviews. Then I got laid off and lost my job. I was fortunate I found another job fairly quickly but even if I didn’t by the time my actual lay off came around I had a plan. Looking back I don’t know why I was so scared. Wait…Yes I do… It was the concept of suddenly not knowing when my next paycheck would be, that’s still terrifying. Now I’m not as scared of losing my job. Don’t get me wrong. It would be awful. But I’ll do what I did last time. Contact the various people I’ve gotten to know in my industry and check the various job boards and find a job. I know I’m a good, hard worker and a fairly intelligent person. It may not be as short term an unemployment as this time but I’ll get through it.

I think all of the stupid fears in my life helped me push myself to move to a different state away from the comfort zone of home and my parents. I knew the only way to get over some of those fears was to force myself in to them. The same brain that let these fears creep in head had another part that told me I could handle it. I’d like to say I’ve done a wonderful job conquering them all. In truth, I’ve done ok and each day I’m getting better. In the words of the ever witty Mark Twain “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear–not absence of fear.”

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Make New Friends but Keep the Old

So I left work a little late today because I was chatting with a couple co-workers. The one had asked if I’d gotten a boyfriend up here yet. I know I’ve been in Connecticut for a full 6 months but it was inferred that after finding the apartment and where I was supposed to get my groceries I have to find a boyfriend.

He then mentioned finding friends. “It’s gotta be depressing just going back to your apartment and sitting alone all night. You need to go out and get a life.” Actually I didn’t feel like it was until he said something. I was told I need to make some friends so I have plans on weeknights and want to race home to go to said plans. This is a lovely theory except that its not how I operate. I love hanging out with friends and having plans, on the weekends. Every so often to go out and do something on a weeknight is fun but or the most part I don’t mind not having plans after work. I like to come home after an exhausting day and just decompress. It may make me boring but oh well. And I do have a life (To be honest that part stung a bit) it just tends to revolve around the weekend and is rarely local.

I would like to meet new people but to be honest I’m not sure where to start. All of my friends have come from school and a couple from work. I’ve never actually gone out to seek new friends. Its always been our paths passing from common activities, classes, or employers. Most of the people I work with aren’t my age or don’t speak English very well (and my Spanish is even worse) so I don’t foresee many lasting friendships happening there.

I’m at least doing better with exploring my new area. I’m trying to make it a point to try a new restaurant at least once a week. I go on random “explores” to see where things are after work. I know these are things I should’ve done when I first moved here but Spring in the horticulture industry isn’t conducive to that. It’s pretty much a work and sleep scenario for three months.

As for the friend thing, I know I need to try to meet people. I’ll  start looking in to ways to do that where I’m comfortable. Going to a bar and chatting with people just isn’t me. If I try to do that the only person I’m likely to talk to is the bartender when I order my drink.  Maybe a community theater, or a local hiking club, heck maybe even the PSU Alum Association in the area. I’ll see what I can find. For the time being my weekends have been comfortably full hanging with the friends I have scattered all over and I’m ok with that…for now.

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1st Anniversary Repost: What Ever Happened to Theme Songs?

“Our View From Here” has been in action for one whole year.  To celebrate we’re re-posting our personal favorites from the last year.

My favorite post isn’t deeply introspective or highly intellectual to make you think. It is pure brain candy that I had fun putting together at the time and had fun reading and listening to over and over.

Enjoy “What Ever Happened to Theme Songs?” all over again. 🙂

Something struck me while compiling last week’s post on our favorite childhood television. While looking for a YouTube link to the Smurfs I got lost in listening to themes from my other favorite cartoons and I got slightly forlorn. They just don’t make theme songs like they used to. Even the sitcoms of the 80s had fun catchy theme songs (I’ll get in to those some other week….maybe not). I have MP3’s of many of my favorites. I remember the theme song would come on before my favorite cartoons and I would get actually excited to see what the episode had to offer. Some of these songs I can sing to this day. Other’s there are snippets that linger in my brain. I decided last week that this free week would be dedicated to showing my appreciation for these theme songs. Oddly enough, Many of my favorite themes are from the great Disney cartoons that came out in the late 80s and 90s. I truly think it was a golden era of Disney Television Animation.

First up is the song that ran through my head while doing dishes last week while I tried to think of which show to write about.”Ddddanger lurks behind you. There’s a stranger out to find you! What to do just grab on to some DuckTales! Woohoo!”

The next one I randomly find myself singing. In the car, wandering around the house, when I go hiking. Eating one of my favorite candy treats.

How awesome is that french horn?! (I think it’s a french horn.) I always imagined that Gummi Berry Juice tasted like Ikea’s Lingonberry juice. No idea why, it’s just what my child brain decided.

Shortly after Ducktales,  Disney released a couple other weekday afternoon cartoons with awesome theme songs that continue to pop up in my brain. “Spin It! Let’s begin it.”

“These two. Gum Shoes. Are picking up the slack!”

It wasn’t just the Disney cartoons that had great themes. The Muppets and Muppet babies themes still lives in my MP3 list. Samantha played them for you last week. Warner Brothers got in on the act and have their own theme ingrained in my brain. “In this cartooney they’re invading your TV.”

Thankfully, Tiny Toons was so successful Warner Brothers released another afternoon cartoon show that was just fantastic. I am proud to admit I have three of the music cds they released from the show.

To this day, I love Wakko’s song of the state’s and all their capitols. I can never remember all the words. “Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Indianapolis, Indiana and Columbus is the capitol of Ohio.” That’s all I can remember….not so impressive.

Ah well. I hope you’ve enjoyed reminiscing with me and now some of these songs are trapped in your head like they have been in mine all week. They just don’t make them like this anymore. Granted, I don’t watch the cartoons they make now so maybe they do have catchy, fun-to-sing themes like we were blessed with back in the 80s but I highly doubt it.

PS- This is how Wakko’s state song should go after the Indianapolis bit. I never remember that Alabama comes next.

“Oh I’m soo sorry. You failed to put your response in the form of a question.'” HA! Man I loved that show. Where’s my ipod? I’ve got more reminiscing to do.

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