Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Evil

This week, the news of the death of Osama bin Laden spread across the country and in its wake left us with a number of disparate reactions.  Some were jubilant, taking to the streets in celebration, which I understand but still find a little icky.  Some were reflective, using this moment to remember the gaping wound this person left on our nation and mourn anew for lost loved ones.  Others, like me, were unsure how to feel and what to do. 

If ever evil were personified, it was in the being of bin Laden.  He killed without regard.  I read an article this week that made the point as clearly as I think it can be made: “He killed without regard for those who perished. That’s the scariest thing about people like bin Laden: Believing themselves to be at war against all freethinkers, their definition of “enemy” is nebulous. Children are soldiers by virtue of being born in America.”  Undoubtedly, our world is a better place without people like him. 

I read another article that reflected on the shared jubilation and sense that, “We got him” expressed in the impromtu rallies in New York and Washington.  The author is a military wife who, in the past five years, has endured both lonliness as her husband went to war, and also an increasing feeling of alienation from the nation at large.  Support for the wars has been waning.  Americans are weary of fighting and tired of losing our friends, neighbors and relatives to battles that seem increasingly removed from our reality.  So the public celebrations struck her as insincere.  People who had given up their support of the wars or of our soldiers were suddenly shouting from the rooftops that ‘we’ got him.  Is it insensitive to pick and choose when to celebrate military action?  Or is it a symptom of a short national attention span? 

My heart leapt when I watched the news on Monday morning (early to bed on Sunday, so I missed the President’s announcement).  But celebrating a death, even the death of someone so dispicable, just seems wrong-headed to me.  Instead, shouldn’t we focus on the future?  Someone who caused us so much pain is gone. The search for him is over. The spectre of his influence on our national psyche has disappeared.  This was a huge step for us as a nation.  But now, we need to move forward and move on.  We need to uphold our resistance to terrorism, and realize that it’s not yet over.  We need to continue to remember the ones we lost, and focus on their legacy.  There are miles to go.

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The (literal) view from here

New England has been put on notice for the last several days: 

A BIG ONE is coming!  Prepare yourselves!  Buy lots of bottled water and toilet paper!  You might not leave your house for days!

It’s the same every year. The first big Nor’easter of every season sends our meteorologists and the public into a tizzy.  “How will we make it through?” “What can we do?”  Well, pretty much the same things you did last year when this exact same thing happened.  You’ll hunker down, then you’ll get your shovel and dig yourself out. 

Today, I’ll be working from home.  Getting into work would probably take hours and we’re right in the middle of the heaviest bands of snow.  So, before I’m sick and tired of it (which will be approximately one snowstorm from now) I thought I’d post some pictures of the beautiful white landscape. 

From inside my window

Venturing outside

Roxy in the snow

Gratuitous puppy-in-the-snow photo

frosty face

 

I hope, where ever you are, you’re warm and cozy.  This is how I’ll be spending my day:

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The best decision I’ve ever made

I move a lot.  In the past ten years I’ve moved nine times.  No, seriously, I’ve just counted and I’m as astonished as you are.  These weren’t just cross-town moves.  Seven of nine moves took me to another state or cross country. 

Every time, it’s the same  fever dream of anxiety, heavy lifting and yelling.  In most of these moves (save one) my family has been the backbone of the moving effort (which explains the yelling).  Friends help out, lending me their arms and backs in exchange for beer and pizza.  But every time, I feel like it’s an unending torture and I hate it. 

Also, for some reason known only to meteorologists, I always move on either the hottest, or the coldest, day of the year. 

I have acquired something of a moving expertise, however.  I’ve inherited my father’s calibrated eye so I can easily determine whether something will fit in a small space.  I’m a great packer, and I usually emerge on the other end of the move with all of my belongings intact.  And I’m a pretty good weeder-out of things I no longer need.  (A separate and very funny story has two of my best friends in a deathrace for the give-away box of books and dvds from one of my more recent moves)

But, I finally got fed up with all the bullshit hassle that a move entails.  So, for my most recent move, cross-town from Somerville to Brighton, I broke down and hired movers. 

Let me tell you, that was the BEST $300 I ever spent. 

In typical fashion, the day of my move saw a 20 degree increase in temperatures.  I had asked my dad and my sister to help with the final push and they showed up early, before the moving team arrived.  My dad looked at me and said, “What do you need me to do?”

I wish I had a picture of the look on his face when I handed him the keys to my new place and said, “Can you go over and be there to let the movers in? Thanks.” Shock and awe and absolutely zero lifting.  He was bowled over.  He hastened out the door before I could change my mind.

The moving team arrived and they took 25 minutes to load the truck and were underway while my sister and I finished cleaning and throwing out the remaining detritus.  About another 25 minutes later, we were all in the new place, the movers were finishing up and I signed the bill and sent them on their way. 

It was all over by 11 am and worth every penny.

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Movin’ and Shakin’

Empty moving truck!!!

Image by blmurch via Flickr

So, I’m moving again. I don’t quite yet know where, but I’m looking at moving in the direction of work, hopefully drastically shortening my commute and if I’m lucky, finding a place within walking/biking distance of my school.

I’m no stranger to moving. In my life, I have moved into 17 different homes, which is an average of a little over 2 years in each place. Some places I’ve been in as short as three months (summer sublets) or even 8 weeks (temporary place while waiting for our real house to be finished). The longest I’ve ever been in one place was between the ages of about 4 and nearly 10. I started school there, as did my sister. About six weeks before I turned ten, my family moved about 18 miles south.  Three years later, we moved again, three miles east. We were in the same district – I, being in junior high, went to the same school, but my sister had to change schools. Again.

The next move was the big one – western Washington to Central Pennsylvania. I was just shy of 16 (we often moved in the summer, my birthday is in early fall). That was a huge culture shock, but in many ways, ended up being a great experience for me. I lived in 9 different places in 9 years, but only one of them for more than a year. A good chunk of that time was college, though, and while I was spared the craziness of dorm life, I lived in a number of houses, townhouses, and sublets.

The first time I got to choose where I was going to live was when I went to grad school in NYC. I got an apartment with a friend in Jersey City, opting a larger apartment with a lower rent rather than being right in the city. The commute was quite easy, so it really was a fantastic set up. I only moved because I got a job in the Bronx and my roommate got a position in Brooklyn. The commute was killer – two and a half hours on a good day. I spent a year in upper Manhattan (the musical “In the Heights” always had a special place in my heart after my time up there) and almost a year in the Bronx, a five minute walk from my school.

Three and a half years ago, I decided to leave  New York and head west again. I had family out here and the struggle of trying to live by myself on a teacher’s salary in the most expensive city in the country was too much. My mom let me move in, rent free, until I got a job and was back up on my feet.  For three and a half years, all of my stuff has been in storage. I have what I need for day to day, but the rest of it has been residing in boxes. Anything new that I got for my home has been stuffed away in plastic Rubbermaid containers, awaiting my new place. I’ve even joked that the day I move some place else is going to be like Christmas because I will spend most of the time unwrapping all my new things. I have a full 8 piece set of Fiestaware that has never been touched. I want my stuff back.

So now, it’s just a matter of finding the right place. I tried for this great little house with a yard for my dog, but I wasn’t quick enough. I’m scouring the neighborhoods, looking for that right place that my pup and I can call home. Hopefully, within the next month or so, I will be able to say I have found my Home Sweet Home.

 

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In Memoriam: Thanksgiving

Am I the only person that remembers the quaint holiday of Thanksgiving? You might recall that it’s the day most people have off from work between Halloween and Christmas. The one that doesn’t require presents or costumes?….Still doesn’t jog your memory? Ummm….it’s the day before Black Friday? Remember? …There it is! I knew you’d get it.

I feel increasingly bad for Thanksgiving (you may recall from a previous post that I have an issue with actualizing inanimate objects and concepts). Ever since people started stringing up lights and going all out in decorating for Halloween, Thanksgiving has increasingly gotten the shaft. I guess it just can’t compete with the costumes and candy of Halloween or the presents and lights of Christmas.

In my mind, Thanksgiving is the ideal holiday. It’s one of the few left that hasn’t been overly commercialized. You don’t have to worry about presents or spiffing up the house with decorations. You don’t have kids ringing your doorbell all night looking for candy. Unless you’re the one cooking the dinner, all you really have to do is show up somewhere, eat, drink and be merry. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Then there are the leftovers….pumpkin pie for breakfast, turkey sandwich for lunch and a second go around of turkey and all the fixings for dinner. Excellent.

I also think that Thanksgiving is a holiday where people are the most real. No one’s trying to fake that they really like that ugly sweater they just received and no one feels forced to go to a religious service. Thanksgiving gives us a time to relax with one another, catch up, maybe watch some football or play a pickup game. In any case, of all the holidays, I think Thanksgiving is most about togetherness (yes, I’m sure many of you have Thanksgiving horror stories and I’m probably being overly simplistic and naïve, but I’m feeling sentimental and warm-hearted toward Thanksgiving right now so just work with me here).

Poor Thanksgiving. No one appreciates it anymore. Everyone is just rushing to get to Christmas. I’ve even heard some stores (Sears, I think?) that will be open on Thanksgiving Day. Really? Is it too much to ask to have one day where Christmas and the need to shop and buy the perfect gift is not shoved down our throats? Well I am not jumping on that bandwagon! I plan to give Thanksgiving its proper due. Until the day after Thanksgiving, I will scoff at people who already have their houses decorated for Christmas; scowl at the Macy’s Christmas windows and tree on my way to work; mute the TV commercials advertising Christmas specials; and shake my fist at those festive red Starbucks cups. After Thanksgiving, I’ll be as jolly as a fat elf drunk on eggnog, but not a moment before. Long Live Thanksgiving!

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Go Vote!

In this blog, I think we all try to keep things somewhat apolitical. Obviously, we’re a diverse group of women from all over the country and we all have different viewpoints. That’s the point of the blog. It stands to reason that you, our lovely readers, also come from all over the country and have different viewpoints. I can’t speak to the rest of my blog-writing team, but I’ve tended to shy away from political topics so as not to ostracize readers. However, today is VOTING DAY and without advocating for any particular candidate or platform, I would encourage each of you to get out and vote today. Here’s why:

I would argue that these elections are more important than the last (and most) presidential election. EVERY SINGLE seat in the House of Representatives is up for election this year. That’s right – every one. These are the men and women that are supposed to be representing you in our federal government. They are the ones that you should call when something isn’t working right. And they’re the ones you should go to for the fix. That’s a lot of power. They’re also the ones that write laws. Despite what you may think about them, they’re a pretty important group of people. Same goes for the Senate. And a lot of those seats are up for election this year too.

There are also many governorships, mayors and local councils to be decided upon. These are the folks that determine what happens in your state and in your community. State income tax, sales tax, money for schools, garbage pickups, support for the fire and police departments – they’re all decided at this level. Lots of municipalities and states are also going to be voting on important questions that are going to change the way things work. A prime example of this is the State of Washington, which has 9 initiatives on the ballot this year on issues ranging from the sale of alcohol to worker’s comp to taxes.

And if all that doesn’t sway you, remember that not too long ago, many segments of our population couldn’t vote. Women haven’t even been voting for 100 years yet, and even though African-American men were granted the right in 1870 with the 15th Amendment, many were still effectively barred the right to vote until the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Then perhaps you could think of countries like Burma, which haven’t had elections since 1990, and the last time they did have elections, the military voided the results so they could stay in power (see this Newsweek article for more info).

Yup. All in all, voting is pretty important, and for many in the world, it’s still a luxury. Besides, I’ve always thought that if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain with how things are going in this country. If you’re like me and like to complain and rant and rave, that’s a pretty powerful motivator.

Not sure where to vote? Google put together this handy-dandy poll finder. Just enter your home address and it will find your polling place for you. Now you have no excuse so get out there and vote!

(courtesy CIA World Factbook)

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The President Does NE Seattle

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

Image via Wikipedia

So, something unexpected happened on Thursday.  Wednesday night, prior to school letting out, a series of no parking signs appeared on the side of the road.  I didn’t think much of it at the time.  That night, I saw on the Wedgwood View Blog that President Obama might be visiting the neighborhood.  I knew he was in town for a big rally at the University of Washington in support of Sen. Patty Murray. Later on, I heard that he would be hosting a “backyard chat” in a home about eight blocks from our school, and the main road into that neighborhood passed right out front. I was going to see the motorcade!

The school was buzzing about the visit all morning.  It turns out that President Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, actually attended my school when she lived nearby, so we thought it would be fitting that he pass by. Someone had made a big sign stating, “Thank you Mr. President!” and hung it in the library windows.  We weren’t sure when he’d pass, but we knew he was due at the UW around 11am, so it had to be around 9:30.

Nothing happened during first period.  Second period came and my students went off to their various classes.  I had one student with me who was new today, and we were going on a tour of the school when I saw that some of the gym classes were hanging out in front of the building, waiting. We went to join them as several of my students were out there.  Before long, the crowd was growing, joined by the entire administration!  The teachers kept the kids out of the street as they were so excited they weren’t paying attention to where they were!

Finally, around 9:45, the police shut down the traffic coming up our street and diverted the traffic going to opposite direction.  Two Secret Service vehicles drove by, one stopped and told us to keep the kids back off the sidewalk.  We knew we were getting close.

Then it happened.  My school sits at the top of a hill.  To our west, is a small valley followed by another hill.  A few lights crested the top of the far hill and all the kids started screaming!  The rest of the motorcade appeared and we could see just how big it was.  Dozens of police motorcycles led the way, followed by another couple of Secret Service Suburbans. Then, two odd looking limousines came next, and in the back seat of the second one was a smiling, waving President of the United States! The kids were absolutely crazy, and I have to say, most of the teachers were pretty excited too.

The rest of the motorcade passed on, and the school filed back into the building.  I saw everyone smiling and even a couple teachers wiping tears from their eyes.  No matter your political views, seeing the president is something special and will likely be something that these kids (and I) will remember for a long time.

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