Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Moving Out

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The week finally came – the week I move out of my mother’s place where I was able to stay through grad school and out to my own place. I’d anticipated this happening much earlier, but due to some medical expenses, it had to wait a little longer.

I found a great condo for rent in North Seattle. My commute will be less than a third of what it currently is, especially in the evening. I will be closer to where most of my friends live and may actually be able to have a social life.

Over the weekend, I moved the majority of my stuff to my new place. My uncle, mom, and I loaded up a 14 foot U-Haul truck at my storage unit/mom’s place. We drove it the 15 miles down I-5 and two friends met us to help unload. My friends often comment on my numerous plastic tubs that I use to move. Each year, I buy a few, so I’m now up to over thirty of them. They are super easy to carry and pack and they stack together when empty. It’s pretty funny when you see them packed all together in stacks of three or four.

Using a handtruck and a  small pushcart, we managed to move everything in fairly quickly. We basically dumped and left. I spent a couple hours after work each day this week starting to set my new place up. I plan on taking Toby down on Saturday so he can get used to the place.

While I hate the actual move, there is something fun about setting up everything just the way you want it. Over the past couple of years, I slowly replaced everything I’d gotten rid of when I moved across country, so now I’m opening all of those boxes. It’s like Christmas all over again.

So, I’ll leave you with a little Billy Joel and his Movin’ Out song…

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Everything is Changing

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There have been and continue to be many changes in my world this month. Some are good, some are not, and some are really inconsequential in the long run.

Good:

  1. I am moving. In less than a week I will pick up my keys and move into my new apartment in North Seattle. This will cut my commute by two-thirds in the morning and at least three-quarters in the afternoon. In addition, I will actually be able to fit in all my belongings again. I miss my stuff.
  2. New school year. I know I’ve talked about this before, but it’s really a different year. I celebrated me one year anniversary with Seattle Public Schools this week and it’s amazing what a better place I am in. In addition to being elected to our Building Leadership Team, I have a student teacher and my colleagues often come to me for advice, which is a new position for me.
  3. Fall! Like Amanda, I love fall and everything that goes with it. Well, except those pesky allergies to decaying leaves. At least that’s not so bad in the Evergreen State!

Bad:

  1. Stress. My job is a bit more stressful this year because I have more classes to teach. Last year I taught three different subjects. This year I have five and the additional prep time is both causing a lot more work and cutting into the time and can work on the piles of paperwork that goes along with being a special education teacher. Hopefully, this will get better once I get through October and my first three IEPs.
  2.  Weight. I’ve stopped losing weight. I’m not gaining it either, so that’s a plus. However, with my schedule right now, I’m barely getting exercise time in and my diet is a bit wonky. I’m hoping that’ll even out once the move is done.

Inconsequential:

  1. Facebook’s new layout. Yes it’s annoying. Yes it’s confusing. If you don’t like it, go to Google+ Not on Google+? Click here for your very own invite. I’m tired of my feed having nothing but complaints in it for the first week of a new layout.
  2. Netflix/Quickster. I’ve been a devout Netflix fan since 2005. I do admit that their recent change to two services – one for DVDs and one for streaming – has me questioning if I really need both. But, in the long run, not an issue of earth-shattering proportions.
  3. My birthday. I’m entering my mid-30s this weekend and it’s a little odd. But, not really a big deal.

Change, overall, is good. I get bored easily, so I know I’m glad that things change constantly. It’s just important, sometimes, to put it all in perspective.

It’s time for another Our View From Here book club. This time, we’ll be reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Check it out next week when we discuss what we thought of the book and feel free to comment on our posts about what you thought about it!

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1st Anniversary Repost: The Best Laid Plans…

Our View From Here is one year old! In celebration of this occasion, we’re reposting our favorite post from the last year! Enjoy!

I’m a planner. When I graduated high school, I had a plan. I was going to Penn State, where I was going to study kinesiology for a few years. After I got most of my general education credits under my belt, I was planning on transferring to Slippery Rock University (yes, this is an actual college) to become a physical therapist.

I diligently followed my plan…for a semester. I learned all about pronation and supination and realized kinesiology was not the field of study for me. To be honest, I’m really not sure where this interest came from initially. I have never utilized a physical therapist; I wasn’t athletic. In fact, I think my sole experience with physical therapy came from listening to my dad grumble about doing his after his hip replacement surgery. After a mini-crisis of trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, I settled on going back to my volunteering roots. I began volunteering with the Red Cross and decided to major in Business Management, like my supervisor did, so I could go eventually be a manager at a nonprofit. Eleven years later and I’m finally a Program Manager at a nonprofit foundation. This is one of the few aspects of my life plan that seem to have come to pass.

Had someone told me back then that in just a few short years, camping and hiking would be among my favorite pastimes, I would be skeptical, but I could concede that it was possible. Had the same person told me that in a few years after that, I would enjoy skiing so much that I would go out and buy my own equipment I would have probably had a bit of a chuckle. Finally, if someone told me that in 10 years I would have started scuba diving and be well on my way to finishing up several advanced certification courses, I would have nodded and smiled politely, while slowly backing away, for fear I was speaking to a complete nutjob who could go postal on me at any moment. But alas, here I am, looking forlornly at the skis I bought this season but probably won’t have a chance to try out. In my work bag is a course book to teach me how to dive with enriched air, rather than regular 21% oxygen air. And I’ve been working with friends to coordinate our schedules for a camping trip in June. I have one person to blame for all of this, my husband, Darren.

Us, several years ago

Darren first went camping before he was a year old. He is an Eagle Scout (that’s the highest level of Boy Scout) and has been skiing for over half his life. The scuba is new, but an interest he’s had for years. He finally convinced me to take the class too, and I have to admit, it was nice to learn something together, rather than always being two steps behind. The point of this post isn’t to pay homage to Darren, the outdoor Adventure-Boy (though I happen to think he’s pretty swell). No, the point I’m trying to get across is that I think it’s important to have someone in your life that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Someone who can challenge you to do things you might not otherwise do. For me, it happens to be Darren, but I don’t think it needs to be a significant other – a good friend, a relative, even an arch-nemesis can fulfill the role. Whomever it may be, the trick is to find that person, and let them push you, because you might find there’s a whole lot of fun to be had once you do.

As I was writing this post, the song from the below video popped in my head. I have no idea if it makes sense, or is completely antithetical to my point. I read comments from others about the meaning of the song and the comments ran the spectrum from “live life to the fullest” to “you’re going to wake up in 20 years and regret your life.” Since no one else seems to know what it means either, I’m just going to go with it. At least it’s catchy.

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Figured it out

Several months ago, after a giant jackpot was making headlines, I wrote about what I would do if I won the lottery. My responses were similar to most of the other posts this week: taking care of family and friends, having a splurge or two and donating money to charity. In that post, I was struggling if it would be better to “spread the wealth” and give smaller donations to a lot of charities or focus on just a few charities and give a more substantial amount of money so they can make a greater impact. Since that time, I think I have answered my question. Allow me to digress for a moment.

My commute takes me through Newark, NJ. If you are unfamiliar with the area, let me explain that, to put it politely, Newark is not a nice area. In fact, is about as far from a nice area as you can get, or at least the parts I’m familiar with are. There are several abandoned warehouses and factories along the train lines that are covered in graffiti and are being overrun with weeds. It’s a depressing sight, especially if you can imagine back to a time when these factories might have been fully operational, employing hundreds, if not thousands of people with decent jobs that would provide for their families. I ride by these factories nearly every day and am always struck by what a tremendous waste it all is. Real estate in the NYC metro area is at a premium and I can’t help but think this land could be used more productively than as a canvas for local hoodlums armed with spray paint cans.

In recent months, there has been some building in the surrounding blocks. First a parking deck and now what appears to be a retail plaza. It got me thinking about how the abandoned spaces could be better used. I thought how great it would be if someone would build a homeless shelter that would provide much more than a bed to those in need. I started envisioning a modern, airy space that felt more like a home than a prison or dormitory. I imagined a secure playground for children to play in and an onsite day care that would allow parents to go look for work with the peace of mind knowing that their children were safe. I saw a training classroom where residents could get assistance on building a resume and learning computer skills, or improving their literacy. I saw English language classes and trained counselors that would visit regularly to help diagnose and address mental health issues. I thought about how incorporating green technologies and could help the shelter save money and lead to a healthier environment for the residents. And I thought how all of these things together could combine to create a respectful environment where people who have fallen on bad times could get the assistance they need, and actually might have a chance to break the cycle of poverty.

I’m not naïve enough to think this would be a panacea for Newark’s problems. But I’d like to think that a model like this shelter I’m envisioning could have a significant impact on some people’s lives and could truly help them succeed in life. So after much debate and thought, I think I’ve found what I would do with my millions if I won the lottery.

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My diamond shoes are too tight

Every day, a man prays to win the lottery.  He does good deeds, he’s a good person and he prays really hard.  Weeks and months and years go by, and his prayers are unanswered.  Finally, one night, instead of praying to win the lottery, he asks God why he hasn’t won yet.  God ends his years of silence by saying, “You never bought a ticket.”

I don’t usually buy lottery tickets, the 1 in 200 million odds just aren’t enough to motivate me to shell out my dollar.  But I do dream about what I would do and buy with that kind of money.  Of course, my dreams, as ever, are tempered by practicalities.  It would be the amount after taxes, after all.  And my spending habits would depend on whether I decided to take the lump sum payment or the annualized amount.  I’d probably opt for the lump sum, do some investing and only pay taxes on my interest, in case you were wondering. 

I would quit my job.  Lots of people wouldn’t and I understand, but I don’t think I could focus on my work if I was dreaming of my 5pm-9am life of luxury.  I’d buy a couple of houses.  One in New York City, a nice town house in Brooklyn or the Upper West Side.  I wouldn’t live there full-time, so I’d see if my friends wanted to stay there, keep it up and enjoy a rent-free life. 

I’d buy our lake house from my father and his brother, tear it down and build my dream house there.  A Craftsman style home, with a big patio, outdoor kitchen and big windows to watch the water from. 

I’d take a luxury vacation and I’d bring my favorite people with me.  We’d spend the first day getting pampered in the spa, fresh haircuts, new clothes.  Then we’d dance and party and swim (or ski, depending on where we went) and have a grand time for a few weeks. 

I’d make some donations.  Some organizations do wonderful work, and I’d want to support that.

I’d start a business, something to fill my time, employ a few people and make my life fun and interesting.  Maybe I’d help my sister start a business for herself.  Get her the capital and start her off right. 

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.  So, I suppose I should buy a ticket already.

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My Musical Inspiration

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I’ve been fortunate to have a number of amazing people around me all of my life. I can pinpoint certain teachers who guided me down a path that I may not have found otherwise. I have an amazing family and many incredible friends who have influenced me in a myriad of ways. However, there is one person, with his quiet and gentle guidance, that inspired me more than any other and ultimately, his inspiration led me to where I am today. that man was my maternal grandfather, who I affectionately called Poppy.

While I now teach special education, this was not the path I originally set out on.  Prior to teaching students with special needs, I wanted to be an English and Drama teacher.  I was exposed to drama first through my experiences in music.  Poppy unintentionally inspired my early music education and even my choice of instrument at the age of 10.

My sister and I would regularly spend the night at our grandparents house. It was a fun night away from home, and while at the time I thought it was just a great way for us to spend time with Gramma and Poppy, I realize now it was also a welcome break for our parents.  Anyway, Poppy would often retire to his TV room after dinner and listen to music. This is where I was first exposed to Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and other Big Band greats.  My six-year old self would wander into his room, crawl up into his lap, and listen to the Big Bands emanating from the speakers.  I knew, at an early age, that I wanted to play that type of music.  This meant that I had to play the saxophone.

My mother tried to convince me to play something else, something like the clarinet. Nothing against the clarinet, but I knew that there wasn’t much of a chance to do jazz on a clarinet (Benny Goodman was a notable exception).  Mom had nothing against the saxophone, she just didn’t want he very small daughter to be hauling it back and forth to school everyday.  However, I was not to be dissuaded, and my parents rented a saxophone for me that fall.  I loved it. Of course, a simple version of Ode to Joy and the Batman theme (seriously? Four notes!) was all the further I got that year, but it laid the foundation for some real success later on and eventually joining the jazz band in high school. At the end of my high school career, I was lucky enough to travel with our high school band to Europe, my first time abroad.

Poppy passed away in 1992 when I was not yet 14.  He never got to see how far I got with music and how that later morphed into theatre and education. I’d like to think that he’s watched what I’ve done over the years. I just hope he knows how much he unintentionally inspired me at such a young age.

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Weighty Issues

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I’ve kept quiet about this for a little while now, not wanting to jinx myself by declaring it to the world. But, I’ve decided that it’s time to say something.

Back in January, I started making a concerted effort to get healthier in two ways – losing weight and getting fit.  I joined Weight Watchers at the beginning of the year and have stuck with it.  Since January 8th, I’ve lost 13.7 pounds.  While that may not sound like a lot, I’m a small person and every little bit of extra weight makes a difference.  I’ve found that the program is pretty easy to follow, especially the online version. I don’t do meetings, so tracking all of my stats online works best for me.  I’m allowed to have whatever I want and every food has a point value. As long as I don’t go over my allotted points for the day, I’m good. It does encourage me to make better choices.  Fruit has no points, so I find myself reaching for an apple more often.  Whatever it is, it’s working for me. My pants fit well and, in some cases, are starting to fall off without a belt. Blouses that started to pucker are lying flat.  All over, I feel much better.

The second goal – getting fit – took awhile to get started. I wanted to concentrate on my weight loss through my diet first.  I’ve found in the past that when I try to do too much too fast, I get frustrated and give up.  Once my diet was stable and successful, I decided to get back into exercise. Previously, I joined a gym, which worked until the gym was sold, my trainer fired, and the whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth.  This time, I decided to take up running. I ran in high school and loved it, but haven’t done much since.  I found a Couch to 5K program that I liked and hit the treadmill.

At about this same time, a running group started up at school. I happened to have lunch with a couple of the people in the group and was invited to join.  I liked the idea of running in the school neighborhood with some colleagues after school.  Then I found out that the end goal is to run together in the Seattle Marathon or Half-Marathon in November.  When I started this, I didn’t have an end goal in mind. I just wanted to run.  But having that Half-Marathon floating out there – albeit 7 months away – is helping me stick to it.  It’s also made me set smaller, shorter term goals, like a 5K in June and a 10K in late August.

To help me track my progress, I’ve been using a program called Map My Run. I simply created my profile, downloaded the accompanying Android App (also available for iPhone and Blackberry), and started logging my workouts. I really like this program as you can enter your runs, your indoor workouts, and your other exercise options, even downhill skiing! The GPS in your phone can help you track your run and then you can upload it directly to the website. You can look up different events, connect with training buddies, and compete in challenges.  It’s definitely helped me monitor how I’m doing!

So far in 2011, I’m doing well on my New Year’s Resolution! Now I just need to work on my living situation and managing my money!

ANNOUNCEMENT:

The week of April 25, Our View From Here will be holding its first virtual book club!  We will all be reading, and commenting on, the book Water for Elephantsby Sara Gruen.  Read along with us!

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What I Missed Along the Way

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Like many of my blog-mates, I have few regrets. I, too, realize that my life wouldn’t be what it is if I hadn’t made the choice that I did.  Mainly, the regrets I have are things that I choice not to do. Often coming from a place of fear, I wonder what would have happened, what would have been different if I had stepped up and chosen the other option.

Just before I turned 16, my family moved across the country. Now, being a minor, I didn’t have a whole lot of say in this decision. I always wondered though, what would have happened if I would have stayed? I had a boyfriend who I was head over heels in love with. Would we have stayed together? I had close friends that I’d been with for years. I honestly wonder what I would have ended up doing with my life, since the opportunities that were presented to me in Pennsylvania directly led to my chosen career. I don’t know if I count that as a regret, but it was a definite divergence in the road and I occasionally mourn the life I left behind.

My only major regret is my lack of love life. I’ve had a few opportunities that, or a variety of reasons, I did not explore. I’ve also never made it a priority in my life, choosing rather to focus on my career or education. Yet, when I see a happy couple walking hand-in-hand, I think, “that could have been me.”  Even worse, when I see my friends with their young ones, I really start thinking about what I am missing. I never thought that I wanted to be a mom, but there is an urge there that I can’t deny. If it never happens, then I’ll be fine, but I can’t say that I never wanted a child of my own.

Wow, this was a sad week.  Next week will be better, I promise!!

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Moving to the Big City (or in a New York State of Mind)

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Like many of my blogging colleagues, I have moved many times in my life. I moved from the Seattle area to central PA when I was 16, which was quite a culture shock. It was the mid 90s and to go from the center of grunge culture to the Grange Fair was a bit jarring. But nothing prepared me for the experience of moving to New York City.

I have been living in central Pennsylvania for nine years when I decided to go to grad school at NYU. The choice was as much for the specific program as it was for the location. I knew I needed to get out of PA – I’ve always been more of a city girl and the country was getting to me. I arrived in the NYC metro area during the first week of September 2003, and I’ll admit, I was overwhelmed. It was the first time in my life that I got to choose where I lived. The moves prior to this one had been dictated by my family or necessity.

I spent the first few months there trying to figure out my way around. I actually lived in Jersey City, just across the Hudson from Manhattan.  I had to learn both the PATH train and the subways. I had to learn a new way of shopping – different stores for fruit and veggies, bread, meats. The grocery stores, for the most part, were totally different than I was used to. The aisles were barely wide enough for the mini shopping carts that they had.

The whole process of learning the city was exacerbated by the fact that I spent most of my time in Greenwich Village, a part of the city that is not on the grid system that New York is known for.  Where else does 3rd Street cross 10th Street? Anything above 14th Street was easy, but that’s not where I spent much time.

I moved into Manhattan when I was done with school.  I chose to live in the slightly more affordable Washington Heights (almost to Inwood.) I became very familiar with the A train, as well as the buses that went East and West across the Bronx (where I worked).  I learned to love public transportation and became very good at it.

I was told once that you need to live in NYC for ten years before you can really call yourself a New Yorker. I was only there for four years, but I feel I knew my way around better than a lot of people. For example, a couple of friends were in town for a Daly Chihuly exhibit at the NY Botanical Gardens. Being a volunteer at the Gardens, I got in for free and could bring up to four friends. We spent the day at the garden and then decided to go out for dinner and drinks that evening.  We headed down to the Times Square area – not my favorite, but there are a lot of options there.  We then found a great Scottish bar where the waiters were in kilts. After a few rounds, I was rather inebriated. We left the bar and were heading back to my place when my companions realized they didn’t know how to get home.  As not sober as I was, I was easily able to navigate us to the 42nd Street subway station, get us on the northbound A train, and got us off at the Dyckman Street station.

There are some days I really miss New York. I left almost four years ago, but I truly believe that there is no place like that city.

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Itchy feet

For my family, change was a way of life. I’m a Navy brat.  I was born in Alaska, and moved to Georgia before my second birthday.  I’d like to think that adjustment was difficult, but I don’t remember it, so it couldn’t have been too traumatic.  During Elementary School, it was hard always being the new kid.  Every time I had settled in and found a group of friends, we picked up and moved.  In the next ten years, we moved four more times, finally ending up in New Hampshire.   Then, we moved to four houses in the same town within four years.  Then, stayed in one place, in one house for fifteen years so far (my parents still live there).  Even though the moving was hard, the not moving proved to be an even bigger adjustment.

After college, I repeated the pattern: New Hampshire, Boston, New York, Boston….I haven’t stayed in one place too long.  When my feet start to itch, I pack up and move to a new city or a new apartment.

A new house only eases the urge to move slightly.  I’m not looking for a perfect place (though my most recent apartment gets the closest), I’m trying to assuage my boredom, my feeling that it’s just….time.

So I guess the adjustment for me isn’t to a new place, it’s to NOT being in a new place.  In a new place, I can explore; it feels like a great adventure.  In an old place, I feel like I’m missing out on someplace different.  Of course, as I’m beginning to discover, there are benefits to the familiar.

I’m just having a hard time adjusting to liking that, too.

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