Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,600 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Coming Soon!

As promised, the bloggers from “Our View From Here” will be returning in the new year! Happy New Year to you all and we’ll see you on January 2nd!2012 (film)

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Taking a Break

Give a Girl a Break

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Hello dear readers,

We at Our View From Here have enjoyed writing these posts each week for the last 14 months. However, life seems to have caught up with us recently and we are having a hard time creating meaningful blog posts every week. But don’t worry! We aren’t giving up the blog. Rather, we’ve opted to go on hiatus for a bit. This fall has been exceptionally busy with new jobs, new living situations, injuries, etc. We’ve decided to take a break and come back refreshed and with new things to say. Look for our next regular posts to occur in the new year. Thank you for following us on this journey so far and we look forward to sharing with you in January.

Yours truly,

The Our View From Here Bloggers:

Isabel

Christine

Nicki

Amanda

Samantha

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Moving Out

Tubs of evidence (Rubbermaid Roughneck 14 gall...

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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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Settling In

I apologize, faithful blog readers, this post will be short. I started my new job last week and it’s gone fairly well so far. I have an office with 4 walls of my very own! I am a bit embarrassed by how excited this makes me. And I’m a bit ashamed to think of how much time I’ve spent thinking about how to decorate said office. Upon my arrival on my first day, a lovely bouquet of flowers and a sign welcoming me to the office was on my desk. My coworkers took me out to lunch. At my last job, I usually ate at my desk and didn’t venture out much. It was such a novelty to go out for a full hour…with co-workers even!

Over the past week and a half, I’ve been settling in, trying to absorb as much as I can. I started at a very busy time so the first few days no one was able to devote too much time to training me. I spent a lot of time reading everything I could on the common network. Getting my benefits and ID card proved to be a giant hassle but I think (and hope!) all that is finally resolved.

I’m a bit out of sorts this week. We are running a program, which has meant I’ve taken either the 5:10 or 6:30 am train every morning this week, which means I’m usually up an hour or so before that. I’m also getting home a bit later. It’s dark when I leave in the morning and dark when I get back home. I’m getting run down and cranky and frustrated that I still don’t know enough to really do much yet. I’m sure in a few weeks time, I’ll be looking back enviously at all the downtime I have right now, but I’m ready to get going and I’m getting frustrated that all I seem able to do is boring admin work. I know that will all change soon. I think I’m just going to chalk up this crankiness to needing a nap.

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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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Potato Peel Something-Or-Other

In Guernsey, 4 July 2010

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Last spring, I was sitting in a restaurant with my fellow book club members. We had just finished our discussion about a book that wasn’t that big of a hit with the group. It was May, so we started discussing which books we wanted to read for the summer months. One of the women suggested “Potato Peel Something-or-other.” We immediately pulled out our smart phones, looked it up on Amazon.com, read the description, and decided to slate it for later that summer. It eventually got delayed until October, but I read it when I still had time before school started.

My first impression of the book was that I was not going to enjoy it. I am not usually a fan of books that use the convention of letter or journal writing to tell the story. I had a really hard time with Dracula by Bram Stoker because at least the first part is all journal entries. I also had a hard time connecting to Juliet, the main letter writer and character that brings the story together, because I couldn’t relate to her. She was a professional writer who had great success writing humorous articles regarding WWII and during that war, she lost her home in the bombing. While that was interesting, it wasn’t enough to carry a story.

Fortunately, the book takes a big turn when a seemingly random man writes to Juliet when he receives a used book that has her address written inside the cover. This starts a conversation between the writer and the man who lives on a English Channel Island called Guernsey. I’ll admit that I was totally ignorant of the geography of the English Channel, but I immediately went over to Google Maps and started exploring. (If you want to see where it is, go here!) This little island had been greatly affected by WWII when the Germans occupied it for the majority of the war.

As Amanda said, the story isn’t about WWII, but it’s hard to write about this island in 1946 without the constant reminders of the strife they endured. The authors did a fantastic job creating characters using their own words.  One character – Adelaide Addison – only makes a few brief appearances in the novel, but you can totally picture this overbearing, self-righteous woman who butts into everyone’s business.

One thing I found most interesting is that one of the main characters never actually appears in the book. Elizabeth, an outgoing and personable woman, is the founder of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society because of her quick thinking and smooth talking. She touches the lives of all the islanders, yet is absent from the island prior to the novel’s beginning. I feel the author was especially skilled in developing this character through other’s view of her, especially since there were so many different views of her.

I loved this book much more than I had anticipated. By the time Juliet met the islanders, I was hooked. There are a few rumors regarding the movie for Potato Peel Something-or-Other, my favorite being that they are in talks with Kenneth Branagh to direct it. It looks like the aim is to have it out in 2013. I hope they do make this movie – I would love to see Guernsey and its fictional people come to life.

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Where do I sign up for this society?

As I thought about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society one word came to mind that more or less summed up my impression of the book. It’s a word I hesitate to use because it’s somewhat dated. Contemporarily, my experience has been that it’s generally used sarcastically. But it’s a good word. A word that accurately and succinctly depicts the book. That word is charming.

The book is constructed entirely of letters (or telegrams) during the immediate post-World War II period. It’s reminiscent of Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, another book composed of letters. While Ella Minnow Pea is also (dare I use the same word twice in one blog?) charming, the characters and plot is much simpler than Potato Peel Pie, as I affectionately call it. With Potato Peel Pie, over a dozen characters are fleshed out through the course of the book, each with their own back story and experiences. When you stop and think about it, it’s a pretty impressive feat to make these characters seem real, without a bit of narrative exposition, at least in the traditional sense. In fact, the characters seem so real that I found myself grieving when I read that one of the characters passed away.

Potato Peel Pie is a story about the war, without being a War Story, if you can distinguish between the two. What I mean is that the war is a part of the story, and brought some of the characters together, but the purpose of the story isn’t to talk about the war, or how the characters survived before, during and after. I’ve read many of these War Stories and I’m not trying to disparage them in any way, but Potato Peel Pie is different in that the war has become part of the fabric of the characters’ lives. It’s ever-present, because how could such a terrible long-running event not be? But at the same time, most often, the characters don’t actively discuss or think about the war. When they do, they almost discuss it with detachment, as if they’ve grieved all they can, or care to, and that they are just trying to go on with as normal a life as possible. Makes sense to me.

I don’t have much to say about this book, besides the fact that I loved it. I started becoming more and more despondent as each page turned brought me closer to the end of the book. It’s not often that I don’t want a book to end. I read a lot and enjoy many books, but I’m usually ready for the conclusion. In Potato Peel Pie, I could have read for quite some time more, without getting tired of the story or the characters. Anyway, I’m getting dangerously close to blubbering, so I will end by highly recommending you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Right now. Go. Shoo!

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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.

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Everything is Changing

Autumn

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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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