Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Revisiting Resolutions

It’s my turn to evaluate how I’ve done on my resolutions so far this year. Technically we should have done this a month ago – closer to an actual halfway point – but alas, here we are.

I had three goals for this year:

Goal #1:  Move out to my own place

So, this hasn’t happened yet, but it should within the next two months. Due to some unexpected medical bills (nothing serious, don’t worry!), I ended up using my security and pet deposits to pay those off. It turned out to be to my advantage that I stayed where I am to get this stuff taken care of, so I don’t count this as a failure. I am in the process right now of looking for an appropriate place and hope to move out around the beginning of September or October, depending on what I can find.

Goal #2: Expand my social circle

I suppose this is a minor success. Since I started a new job last September, I’ve met a lot of new people. However, it wasn’t until January or so that I actually started to get to know any of them. I volunteered to chaperone a weekly ski trip and met several of them that way. I also became a part of a couple of committees that has broadened my social horizons. The major hurdle, however, continues to be the distance that I live from the city. Twenty miles doesn’t seem like that far, but when you have to drive all the way home to let your dog out, you don’t feel like driving back that twenty miles that evening to go out with friends. Moving closer will help. I’ve also recently joined a running group and hopefully will make some new friends there.

Goal #3:  Improve my health

This has been a great success at this point. There are two main parts to this goal – weight and fitness. I joined Weight Watchers in January and stuck to the plan with fidelity for at least four months. I got really good at making various soups for lunches which I loved. The crock pot became a very good friend.  Prior to my recent trip east, I had lost 19 pounds. I’m not quite to my goal, but summer is difficult for me to stick with any real diet because I get bored and there is food around. So, I’m not expecting any great gains during the summer – I’m happy to hold steady. Come September, though, we’re back to game on.

The second part – fitness – has also been a big success. I started a Couch to 5K running program back in March. At first, I was only able to run for about two minutes and walk for two minutes. Before long, I was able to run for thirty minutes straight. I was up to 4 miles when I first got to New Jersey in early July. However, due to the unbearably warm temps in the east, the lack of time while traveling, and lack of place to run, I slipped back a little bit, but I’m building back up again. I have signed up for the Seattle Half Marathon in November and I will continue to work with my running group when school gets back in session. So, I’d say it’s a success, but still room to keep going!

I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far this year. We’ve got five months left to complete them, so maybe we’ll do a recap in December before making our new goals!

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Being Bicoastal

New York City Skyline Sunset

Image by mikeleeorg via Flickr

Greetings from New Jersey! Last Thursday, I flew from Seattle to Newark in order to enjoy a nearly three week vacation in the beautiful Edison, NJ area. While I realize that this is not usually considered a highly desirable vacation destination, it serves as a fantastic home base while I hit five states in my 19 days out here.

I love Seattle, but I truly miss the East Coast. I lived in PA for 9 years, NJ for two, and NYC for two.  Seattle will always be my hometown, but there are a lot of things that I miss about the mid-Atlantic region:

Seasons:

Seattle has two seasons – cold rain (November to April) and warmer rain (May to October). While growing up, I was used to this, but when I moved to PA, I became accustomed to have four distinct seasons. I loved the warmth of the summer, the cool crispness and changing leaves of the fall, the snow in the winter, and the actual spring.  Seattle doesn’t get much snow and has a very mild climate due to its proximity to the ocean. We also have a lot of evergreen trees (thus the name the Evergreen State), so we don’t have the amazing color changing leaves. I truly miss the seasonal differences that I grew to love out East.

Food:

I think the reason that I have had success with my weight loss in the past several months is because there is nothing to eat out west. Maybe if you have a lot of money and can afford fancy or cutting edge restaurants, food in Seattle is great. However, especially living in New York, I loved being able to walk in some little hole in the wall and having a fantastic meal.  The pizza is fantastic (all we have in Seattle is chains), the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to is a little family owned place just north of Times Square, and even at your little corner deli, you knew you could get a great sandwich (Seattle loves its Subway!). If I still lived here, I don’t know that I would have lost the weight I did, but I think I would be much more gastronomically satisfied.

Getting Around:

I know I’ve discussed this before, but Seattle has horrid transportation. It’s only been in the last year or so that I have been able to get to the airport without utilizing the services of a airport shuttle company of a taxi. We finally have one light rail line that goes between downtown and the airport. Of course, this still means that I need to get downtown, which I do via commuter bus. Once I arrived in Newark, however, I got on the monorail at the airport which took me to the NJ Transit station. Four stops down the line I was at my sister’s place. Easy Peasy. Why can’t Seattle figure this out??

I do love Seattle – on a sunny day in July or August, there is no place like it. It’s great when I want to go running in the summer – none of this 90+ degree temps with 60%+ humidity. The access to the water and the mountains make it ideal for the outdoorsperson. I just wish there was a way we could take a few of the really great things about the East Coast and add them to what we’ve got in the West. Maybe I’ll just continue to be bicoastal – spend the school year in the west and the summers in the east.

Now to end the week with a little Muppet goodness…

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Next week, the Our View From Here bloggers will be taking a well-deserved break. We’ll be back Monday, July 25th with our usual posting schedule. We thank you for your continued readership!

 

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6 Reasons You Should Have A Passport

Biometric United States passport issued in 2007

Image via Wikipedia

My passport expired last month.  This is the first time since I was 17 years old that I do not have a valid passport and it grieves me. I just got the picture done and the paperwork filled out. I just need to get my act together and mail it all out. Oh, well, I have to write the check too.

So, since this has been on my mind, I decided to do a little research on passports in America. Our country doesn’t have the zeal for international travel that our European brothers and sisters do, in large part due to the prohibitive cost of air travel abroad.  But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t less expensive options that many Americans pass up.  I live less than two hours from the Canadian border and have only visited a few times in my life. Mexico is easily accessible, especially for those in the southern half of our country.

I read an article on the Huffington Post that detailed the percentage of passport holders in each state. Not surprisingly, the highest percentage of passport holders live on the borders or the coasts.  The middle of the country is significantly less. My lovely state of Washington is in the over 50% range. California, New York, and New Jersey are all, as expected, over 60%.  Mississippi is the only state under 20%.

So, in honor of my newest passport application,  I’ve come up with 6 reasons that every American should get a passport.

1. Traveling Internationally

This is kind of a “duh” statement, but it is the easiest way to travel abroad and the only way for most countries. If you are going to Canada or Mexico, you can get the Passport Card or Enhanced State Driver’s License, but these countries have special allowances. You cannot use your Passport Card to go to China!

2. Spontaneous romantic rendezvous in Paris or Rome

A girl can dream, can’t she?  Don’t we all harbor the dream that our loved one will sweep us off our feet and whisk us away to a romantic European city for a weekend getaway?  Now, how embarrassing would it be to have to say no because you didn’t have a passport! We must be prepared!

3. Easier at the airport

Even when I’m not going abroad, I use my passport as my ID at the airport.  I used to use my driver’s license and that worked fine most of the time.  However, when I moved to New Jersey and got a Jersey license in 2003, I started encountering difficulties at security. It turns out that the Jersey license in the late 90s-early 2000s was very easy to fake and subsequently, people looked at it with a lot of suspicion.  The passport is standard and every security agent recognizes it. Plus, it’s a great place to put your boarding pass inside so it doesn’t get lost.

4. Stamp Collecting

I’m not talking about those things you stick on your bills to make sure they get to their intended destination.  I’m talking about the stamps that customs in each country places in the back pages of your passport each time you enter the country.  Each country has its own unique stamp with the name of the country and sometimes a little picture.  When your passport expires, you have to send the old one in, but they send it back to you with holes punched in the bar code so you can keep your collected stamps. My first passport has stamps from Amsterdam and Switzerland. My second has the U.K., Italy and Jamaica. Who knows what my next one will have?

5. Show up the snooty Europeans

It’s a fairly understood fact that a higher percentage of Europeans hold a valid passport than Americans. Of course, it’s a little more essential when the countries are smaller than many U.S. states. Traveling internationally for the weekend is a way of life. However, there are many that look down on the Americans for not having passports. I say we should all get one and show them!

6. They are just cool

Seriously, I was really excited to get my first and second passports. I am excited to get my new one in the next few weeks.  There’s just something about having a passport that makes you feel like you are something special.  You could go abroad at any moment! You stay at home because you choose to, not because you are restricted from going anywhere! Whoo-hoo!

Okay, so it’s a short list and maybe I’m the only one that dreams of flying to Europe for a weekend, but the list has done it’s job.  As soon as I post this, I’m going to write my check, sign my forms, and send off my passport application!

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East Side, West Side…

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City

Image via Wikipedia

I have been fortunate to live on both the East and West Coasts. I was born here in the West, spent many formative years in the East, and three years ago, I returned to the West. I honestly don’t know which I like better.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but there is definitely one thing about the East Coast that I like much more than the West: ease of travel.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, I felt like I could go anyway without too much trouble.  From where I was in PA, New York City was only a four hour drive, D.C. a little more than three, and Philly or Pittsburgh a little less than three.  Boston was even an easy weekend trip.  Living in NYC and NJ, everything (except Pittsburgh) was even closer! I loved taking off for a weekend with some friends and ending up two or three states away.

However, here in the West, road travel is not nearly so easy.  The closet major city – Portland – is about 3.5 hours away from Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C. is about four.  That’s it.  I could go to Spokane in about six hours, San Francisco takes about fourteen.  I miss the long weekend trips.  It’s just too much of a hassle out here.

Even air travel is easier from the East Coast.  While living there, I had the opportunity to visit Europe multiple times and even went to Jamaica once.  To go to Europe, we still have to go to New York or D.C. to catch a cross-Atlantic flight.  We are closer to Hawaii, however, which is where many Northwesterners go for vacation.  We’re also closer to Asia and Australia, but neither of those trips are easy on the wallet. I miss the less than $400 tickets to London or Amsterdam that I could get out of the NYC area.

I’ve always had a bit of the travel bug. I love to explore new places.  I guess I just feel a little isolated up here in the upper corner of the U.S. after years of easy access.

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May I Introduce Myself…

I’m Samantha. Of the lot of us, I’m the oldest by about seven months.  I’m also the only one not on the East Coast, though I used to be. I currently live just outside of Seattle, where I was born and raised but have lived very little of my adult life.  From the time I was 16 until I was almost 29, I lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City.  I moved home a few years ago.

I went to Penn State for undergrad, which is where I met many of my best friends.  I served two years of AmeriCorps before deciding to go to grad school at NYU. Career-wise, I am a high school English, Drama, and Special Education teacher. I taught in the Bronx for two years and then in a suburban Seattle school district for two more.  During the second year there, I was told that I would not have a position for the coming fall. Fortunately, this allowed me to go back to school to get my Special Education endorsement. I have recently graduated with my Masters in Education from the University of Washington and now face the challenge to find a job. The employment situation isn’t as bad as it was two years ago when districts were laying people of, but they still aren’t hiring much.  Fingers crossed!

My little guy, Toby

I am the mommy of a two-year-old dog named Toby. He’s a Bichon Frise/Shih Tzu mix, though he looks much more Shih Tzu. Toby makes me laugh, as I have never met a more good-natured, happy little dog. He likes people, likes to go on adventures, and likes playing with his brother (who is owned by my mom!).

Nasturtiums on the balcony

Finally, in what spare time I have, I enjoy reading, writing, gardening, sewing, and I’m getting into cooking.  I have a small garden on my balcony – not that it did much with the weather we had this year.  I am in the process of sewing a comforter set for my bed and I’m almost done.  As for cooking, I am starting to experiment with new recipes. More on that later!  I’m hoping to get more into bike riding. We have a lot of great trails around here and I recently purchased a great new bike.  Now, just as long as the weather stays nice a little longer!

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Meet Amanda! (is that too vain??)

Hello, world, and welcome to my first foray into blogging! I represent the NY metro region in this blog. I work in NYC but live in NJ with my husband. I got married just over a year ago, but I still like to consider myself a newlywed. It all seems more exciting and romantic that way.

I work at a nonprofit foundation (please don’t ask me how to get grants. I can’t help you.) where I help emerging nonprofits become independent organizations fulfilling a vital need in their community. It’s rewarding and frustrating all at once (more about that in a future post I’m sure).

I’ve been in NJ for about 6 years now. I moved here to be with my boyfriend (now husband) after graduating from Penn State. Despite swearing that I would never go back to school after finishing my undergrad, 2 years later I was back in school, this time at NYU where I studied Global Affairs. I received my graduate degree in 2008 (while working fulltime – not fun) and now I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. Most people would have tried to figure that out in advance. Me? I guess I just like to keep things spontaneous.

I try to keep busy – I like being outdoors and I just became a certified scuba diver. Other than that, I enjoy hiking, camping, kayaking and wine-festing (it’s an outdoor sport!). I have big plans, but less follow-through (I swear, one of these days I WILL start going to the gym regularly) and sometimes I seem to still struggle with basic functions of being an adult….like cooking meals. It’ll all come together though and I try to enjoy the ride in the meantime. More next week!

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