Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

What’s with this weather?

English: Groundhog sculpture in Punxsutawney, ...

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At the end of a morning jog around Green Lake

Good ole’ Punxatawny Phil got it wrong. When the poor rodent was pulled from his hidey hole in Gobbler’s Knob last week, he said that there would be six more weeks of winter. I think Poor Phil forgot to look at the weather forecast because this has been anything but winter.

Here in Seattle, we’ve had exactly one week of winter. We had mild temperatures all the way through November and December. Finally, for one week in January we had cold and snow. It was enough to close schools for four days. Eight inches in most of the northern half of the country would be no big deal, but we had three issues: 1.) We don’t get snow often and especially not that amount all at once, so people don’t know how to handle it. 2.) It snowed, then iced, then snowed, then melted, then iced. It was ugly. 3.) We are the second hilliest city in the country (behind San Francisco) and it made for treacherous driving conditions. Some of our major downtown roads are hills that terminate at the Puget Sound! I enjoyed the time off – snuggling with my dog on the couch, drinking tea and cocoa, and getting my money’s worth out of my Netflix subscription.

But now? Not winter. It was 60 degrees here on Tuesday, and that followed a very spring like winter. I took my dog to Green Lake for a walk over the weekend and it was packed! We weaved our way around the lake, enjoying the sunshine and the sights. It was a gorgeous day and did not resemble winter in any way.

Not that I’m complaining. I work in one of the oldest schools in the city and the heat is less than reliable. I haven’t had to bundle up in my heaviest sweaters to get through the cold mornings. When running, I haven’t had to wear four layers to stay warm on the long morning runs.  Maybe it’s global warming, maybe it’s a natural fluctuation of temperatures, or maybe it’s just a a fluke. All I know is that I am ready for spring and an early one sounds great to me!

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Home Sweet Home?

Castle Apartments, 2132 2nd Avenue, Belltown, ...

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One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to move out into my own apartment, and for the last two months I have been actively pursuing that goal.  It’s an emotionally draining process with both ups and downs. Unfortunately, it’s seemed to be mostly downs.

I started in earnest when I returned from the East Coast in late July. I didn’t expect to move in August, but it was good to start looking. My goal was September 1st, then giving me the Labor Day weekend to move in, get settled, and all before school started. Well, that didn’t happen, but it wasn’t my fault. I’d found this beautiful 1 bedroom apartment that takes dogs. It was open and bright and had a HUGE deck that my pup would love to hang out on. I put in my application and application fee, totally in love with the apartment. I got a phone call from the property manager the next day stating that he had rented the apartment to another woman who had seen it the day before me. He offered to mail back or shred my check as he had not cashed it yet. I was heartbroken – I had started to picture myself (and Toby) living in this great place.

It took me a couple of weeks to find another place that I would consider, and it came in the form of a basement apartment about four blocks from my work. It was a little steeply priced, but it included all utilities and I would make up the difference in what I’d save in gas. I contacted the woman and set up a showing. It was in a beautiful old neighborhood in north Seattle and I was really excited. It had its own fenced backyard space and the woman had her own dog, so she was happy to have Toby.  It was a very weird apartment. The kitchen was small but doable, however it had no oven. There was a gas stovetop, but nothing underneath except a cabinet. Okay, weird, but not a deal breaker. I don’t really bake all that much anyway. I continued on into a very small living room. I have a large couch, so this was a bit of a concern. The bedroom, though, was huge. However, there was no closet, so I’d have to get a wardrobe of some sort. The light was still pretty good for being so deep into the basement. The big problem, though, was the bathroom area. A curtain – soon to be replaced by plantation shutters, she said – was all that separated the bedroom from the upstairs access. The apartment’s bathroom was on the other side of those doors, as was her guest bath and the laundry room. She even said that if she had guests over, they’d be using the guest bath. This lack of privacy, especially for an apartment that was at the top of my price range, was not going to work.

I looked at a third place this week. The apartment itself was okay, but the owner was trying to sell it and I really didn’t like the uncertainty of that situation. Another condo came out on Craigslist this weekend, and although I’ve emailed twice and called twice, I cannot get a hold of the manager. She called me back, but we keep missing. Now there’s a new place, two blocks from the one I loved originally, and I’m hoping I can get in touch with someone there.

The whole process has been exhausting. I thought it would be easier to find an apartment here than in Manhattan, but it’s not turning out that way. Hopefully soon, though, I’ll find a place that Toby and I can call home.

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1st Anniversary Repost: Loss of a Legend

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 chose the post I did just after Dave Niehaus, the Seattle Mariners broadcaster for over 30 years, passed away suddenly in November. I was supposed have done something else that week, but I felt that I had to talk about this instead.

Dave Niehaus.

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“Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it is grand salami time!”

I know that this week theme is families, and maybe I’ll do that next week, but something more pressing happened and I need to write about it.

Wednesday afternoon, beloved Seattle Mariners broadcaster, Dave Niehaus, died of a heart attack.  He was 75 years old.

In most towns, the play by play announcer for the local baseball team is just another guy in the press booth.  Most people don’t give the guy a lot of thought. Not so in Seattle.  Dave Niehaus called the first pitch of the Mariners back in 1977.  Recruited from the Angels, he quickly became a fan favorite.  I heard someone describe him as everybody’s uncle – that familiar voice that emanated from the radio almost every summer evening.

I became a baseball fan in the latter half of the 1980s, when I was about 9 or 10.  By that time, though, I was already quite familiar with Dave’s voice.  As I got older, I came to respect him even more as that gentlemanly guy who brought us the game each night.

Seattle loved Dave.  When the city built Safeco Field, they chose Dave to throw out the first pitch at the first game. They didn’t tell him until that day, but they made sure his family was there to celebrate.  Two years ago, Niehaus was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award. He got to see Cooperstown and go through the ceremonies.  Again that year, he threw out the first pitch in honor of his accomplishment. I was there that day and got to see him wave to the adoring crowd.

As I was driving home Wednesday evening, I changed the radio station to hear the traffic report. I came into the middle of a story about Niehaus, but I wasn’t sure what was going on.  It didn’t take long, though, until I realized what had happened. Facts were still sketchy – it had only been confirmed by the Seattle Times and details weren’t available yet.  My heart sank and I almost started crying right there in my car.  I have never known anyone else to call the Ms games.  He’s had partners – Mike Blowers, Rick Rizzs – but there is no way they can replace this giant of the broadcast booth.

Seattle is in mourning right now. We feel lost without him. I think it will really sink in in April when Dave isn’t there to give us the play-by-play. My Oh My, Dave, what an impact you had on all of us.

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Being Bicoastal

New York City Skyline Sunset

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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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The Summer I Was 16

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I have always loved summer. I remember from an early point of my childhood making elaborate summer plans.  I’d leave my house early in the morning and romp through the woods, not returning until dinner, and then turning around and heading back out until sunset.

However, there is one summer that really stands out in my minds as one of the best I ever had. It was the summer of 1995 and I was just shy of 17. At the end of the previous summer, my family had moved from the Seattle area to State College, PA, home of Penn State University and where my dad’s family was from.  The transition from Grungeland to Pennsyltucky was eye-opening, but rather uneventful for me. I’d had a good year and made some friends. I was definitely looking forward to my senior year and especially whatever came after high school. However, there was one last summer before the end of high school and I planned to make the most of it.

The first major choice I made was to go to Jazz Camp. This is what music nerds do during the summer. I spent a week learning to play jazz from the Penn State music staff.  It was the first time I ever stayed in the dorms and gave me a taste of what college could be like. We worked hard, but we had a lot of freedom and it was a fantastic experience.

The second major thing I chose to do was to join the apprentice program at the State College Community Theatre. This theatre group worked out of a converted 19th century barn. The talent was pretty much all local and gave people a great starting place in theatre. I was a tech intern – I did costuming, lighting and stage crew. I learned a lot that summer and went into the fall much more confident in my abilities. In fact, that may have been the point at which I seriously considered majoring in theatre in college.

I also got my wisdom teeth out that summer, but I’d rather not talk about that. 🙂

Finally, the most memorable part of the summer was something that most people, especially those on the East Coast, take for granted. I was sitting out on the back porch of the theatre as the last of the sunlight slipped from the sky. Sprinkled through the tree line at the edge of the property were thousands of fireflies. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest and only visiting PA in May and November, I had never seen fireflies before. I sat there, entranced, as they twinkled in the warm night air. It was an amazing sight that I feel so fortunate to have seen and really epitomizes that summer for me.

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Our View From Here is doing our second virtual book club the week of June 20th-24th. This time we are reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Read along with us as we “discuss” this great book and are joined by guest blogger Erin!

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La Niña Needs to Leave

Aurora Bridge in the Seattle rain

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It’s spring. At least that’s what the calendar says. Mother Nature, however, doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo.  We were warned last summer that we would be having a “La Niña” winter, meaning that it would be colder and wetter than usual (which, for Seattle, is really saying something!) What they didn’t tell us was that La Niña wouldn’t really hit until late January and would continue well into April and beyond.  So far this April, we have not hit 60 degrees. Since record keeping began in the 1890s, we’ve hit 60 degrees at least twice by this point in every year.  We’ve also had more rain than usual. I know, Seattle has a reputation of being a rainy city, but it’s usually about the number of rainy days more than the quantity.  Lately, though, we’ve had many heavy rainstorms come through.  We’ve also continued to have snow showers and several instances of hail so bad that it accumulated over an inch. Very weird weather for this time of year.

However, I try to look at the positive side of things. So, here’s my list of good things that we can remember when cursing the weather:

  • Green!!  Everything is definitely green right now – the grass especially! It’s really quite lovely.
  • Longer Spring – with the temps so low, it’s taking a long time for the flowering trees to finish. They seem to be staggering themselves out, so there’s always a pretty tree to look at.
  • Thunderstorms – we don’t get these very often around here and when we do, they don’t often cause much damage. We’ve already had at least three since January, very odd for around here.
  • Cool season crops! I’ve planted some Broccoli and Lettuce and they are growing just fine. I don’t worry about them bolting in this weather, so that means extra long growing season!
  • Clean air – One thing rain does well is clean out the air. We often get stagnant air in the winter, but the spring rains come along and clear it all out.  No worries about the air we are breathing right now.
  • Squirrely Middle Schoolers not so squirrely. Something happens to pre-teens and teens when the sun comes out.  Without much sun, we’ve seemed to avoid the worst of it.

So, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy this rainy-lack-of-spring we seem to be stuck in. But don’t get me wrong, I’m ready for sunshine and warm weather!

Announcement: The week of April 25 (that’s this Monday!), 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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Movin’ and Shakin’

Empty moving truck!!!

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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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A Tale of Two Families

Here’s my family related post that I was supposed to do last week.

I grew up with a small nuclear family – mom, dad, sister, and me. Most of the time it was just the four of us. When it came to major holidays, we’d add in my maternal grandparents, and on occasion my mother’s brother and his equally small nuclear family. That was as big as we ever got for any occasion, so for a good portion of my childhood, that’s all I ever knew.

In 1994, however, we moved from the Seattle area to Pennsylvania. I was halfway through high school when my parents decided to move there, in part because my dad’s family lived there. Now, my dad is the third of eleven children, so I went from nice, small family occasions to often overwhelmingly large ones overnight. Not all of the family still

lived there, but many did and many that didn’t came back for at least Christmas. I remember sitting on the floor of my grandma’s living room on that first Christmas, trying to remember everyone’s name. I saw most of these people so rarely (at that point, maybe twice in my life) that I really struggled to identify who was who and how they were related to me.

What was even weirder was that people recognized my name in that town. I have a fairly uncommon last name, at least uncommon enough that people recognize it and immediately make a connection to someone else they know. I ended up going to the same high school that most of the original 11 siblings went to.  I don’t know how many times a teacher of mine would say,

“Hey, are you related to (insert aunt/uncle/grandma name here)?”  Not just at school, but everywhere I went I had this experience. It was all new to me.  To go from complete anonymity to everyone knowing who you are because of your relations is just strange.

Seafood lasagna - mostly complete, delicious, ...

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My larger family wasn’t close, though. We’d get together for the major holidays (seafood lasagna for Christmas, anyone?), but for the most part, everyone went their own way.  When grandma passed away, the family drifted apart. I moved off to New York where I experienced complete anonymity. You know, I sort of missed having that family around me. Now back on the west coast, and after a parental separation, it’s just me, mom, grandma, and my uncle.  I have a couple cousins around that I don’t see much. I always dreamed of having family holidays, but at this point, I guess I’ll just have to make my own family.

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Longing for the Subway

Light rail vehicle, East (northbound) platform...

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I never thought I would miss the New York City Subway.  I spent four years standing on the smelly platforms in often sweltering heat or freezing cold, squishing into overcrowded cars, and dealing with guys who felt the need to sprawl (trust me guys, there is nothing down there requires you to spread your legs out across two seats. You aren’t fooling anyone.)  However, three years out of the city and I find myself longing for the time when public transportation was easy.

When I was a child in the early 80s, Seattle and Portland (Oregon) seriously studied the idea of light rail and other ways of moving people in and out of the downtown areas. They looked at other cities’ systems, drew up plans, and got community input. Portland went ahead and built their MAX, an ever expanding system of light rail trains that reach well into the suburbs and opened in the mid 80s.  Seattle continued to “study” the issue.

Flash-forward nearly 30 years.  Seattle finally celebrates the opening of their first Link Light Rail line which goes from near the airport to downtown (the completed part to the airport would take another year).  I’ve been on the train a few times and it’s nice. However, with such a limited run, most people never use it.

During that time, Seattle also decided to build a bus tunnel underneath the city. It opened in 1990.  I always questioned this decision. I mean really, was it a good idea to build a big tunnel underneath the downtown section of one of the most earthquake prone cities in the world? The idea was to decrease surface traffic, but I think all that happened was they added more buses. In 2005, the closed the tunnel to retrofit it for the forthcoming light rail trains. It reopened in Sept. 2007 and the trains started in July 2009.

However, this is all fine and dandy if you live within the downtown area. Outside that small area, you are left to buses.  The city buses aren’t too bad – there are plenty of routes and a good number of buses.  I live about twenty miles north, though, and the options are significantly less. There are a few buses downtown and a few to the University. When I was in grad school, I had to go down to school three hours early because that was the last southbound bus for the day.

Long term plans include extending the light rail trains to the East Side and to the North. There is a few commuter trains to the south and one to the north, and that may expand in the future.  I never thought I would find myself missing the NYC subway, but the convenience and relative reliability were actually quite nice.

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Back to the Workforce

Eckstein Middle School, Seattle, Washington. T...

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For awhile now, I’ve been praying I’d be able to write the following:

I’VE GOT A NEW JOB!!!

I am now employed by Seattle Public Schools. I work as Special Education Generalist (read: I teach all subjects) in a north Seattle middle school.  Soon, I’ll have a paycheck and benefits! I’ll be able to go to the doctor! I can get new glasses!

Seriously, though, it all happened pretty fast.  I applied a couple of weeks ago.  The position was opened to applications for exactly one week, and it closed on Friday after school had started.  I received a call from the school on the following Tuesday and was scheduled for an interview on Wednesday afternoon.  I was subbing for a former colleague all that week, so I left school, ran home and changed into my interview suit, pet the dogs, and headed down to Seattle.

The interview went really well.  The principal was there, as was two of the three asst. principals and one of the special education team.  We went through the questions, all of which I feel I answered reasonably well.  After a particular question about behavior programs, the principal commented on my behavior experience.  I asked my questions – mostly about number of students served and case load size.  I left, feeling good about how the interview went.

I got home and ate my dinner. Afterward, I noticed I had missed a call on my phone.  It was the principal, requesting me to call her back to discuss something.  I did, and during our conversation, she unofficially offered me the job.  “Unofficially” because any offer has to go through Human Resources and the District Office.  She told me I’d hear officially in the next two days.

I heard the following afternoon and accepted the position immediately. I was scheduled to come into HR on Monday morning to sign my contract and turn in my other paperwork. From there, I went to my new school! The substitute that had been there since the first day of school was scheduled through the end of the week, so the transition would go smoothly.  I spent the day meeting new people, desperately trying to remember everyone’s names and not get lost in the confusing building.

So, my position is a new one, as is the program that I am working in.  Previously, my school had a large number of inclusion students, meaning that there was usually a co-teaching situation – one content teacher and one special educator to help with compliance and modifications.  However, they decided to expand their program to include those who need a more intense situation.  Thus, the self-contained program was born. The students started out all day in my room, but over the last three weeks, have slowly been integrated into general classrooms as appropriate.  I teach one period each of Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, Science, Study Skills, Literacy Support, and Study Hall. The number of students I have in any one period varies from one to eight.  I’m getting a new student next week who will have more intense needs than most of the rest of my students, so my position continues to grow and change.

I admit, I’m nervous about my job. It’s not that I don’t think I can do it – it’s just that there’s a lot going on, I’m three weeks behind, and I’m trying to catch up as quickly as possible. I already have an IEP meeting week after next and I don’t even have access to the IEP system.  So far, I like my job very much, but ask me in about two months for a more accurate assessment.

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