Felice Ano Nuevo 2012

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     Happy New Year 2012 to my Facebook world. I decided to wish you all the Latino version in order to pay tribute to the community within which I dwell in New York City! This posting is not going to address all the hopes and dreams we might have for the new year; instead I’m doing a reality check, based on what I observe every day in Spanish Harlem.

     First, I have to say that I am very thankful for the opportunity to be closer to my family and long-time friends here in the city. I am also thankful for all my Oregon friends whom I miss very much. Thank you for a wonderful 22 years, wherever you are. Your stamp on my life is indelible, and I look forward to seeing you again in the future.

Reality check #1 – Yesterday, December 31, 2011, was a strange and interesting day here in New York. The strangeness took place as I walked up Broadway from 34th St. towards Times Square, only to find the weirdest combination of people. If you don’t know, 3 Card Monte is a “scam” game that is played on top of a cardboard box. The person running the game keeps switching three playing cards around, and the player needs to keep a close watch to see where the Queen ends up (maybe not always the Queen). Of course you pay money to see if you can beat the house. No one ever wins! I played it many years ago and was positive I knew where the Queen was – in the nick of time the guy switched it, because he saw that I was watching so carefully. I lost $10.00 but it can be so addicting that a player can lose much more.  So all of these guys had their boxes set-up and another guy watching out for the police (it is illegal). Tourists galore were engaging in this ridiculous form of gambling, while they lost some of their vacation money. I am sure the guys running the games needed the money – a sad commentary on our society. I imagine they consider themselves part of the 99%!

     Reality check#2 – Twice yesterday I heard people say that “come January 1, nothing will be different. People will still be doing the same crap they are doing now.”  Are we deluding ourselves each year when the date changes? I think this comment embraces why the Occupy events took place all over the world – even though I didn’t know what could be accomplished at the time. I protested during the Vietnam War, marched on Washington, attended sit-ins and today I am not sure what was accomplished by my actions.

     I want to stay “half-full” in a world made up of “half-empties” or even “empties.” People up here in Harlem are angry; you can see and hear it every day. They yell at each other on their phones, in person and most conversations are about money and relationships (it’s hard not to eavesdrop). Stress is abundant and I’m not sure what anyone, including our government, can do about it.

     So reality checks aside, the revelry last night in Times Square (which I only witnessed on the tube) was fun to watch but was of course, fleeting. All that is left is the myriad of confetti and garbage. What can be done to change the hardships for the masses; very little I think, but we can help change it for the people we come in contact with every day. We can say hello to people on the street and change their view of city people as being unfriendly. We can pay for someone’s coffee and danish at a food cart. We can look someone in the eye on the subway and smile, acknowledging their existence. We can affect someone every day so they go home feeling a little more worthwhile in their own world. What we cannot do is expect any one human being in power of the greatest country in the world to do it for us. It is just impossible.

 

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This week marks seven weeks since I arrived in New York City. It has been an eventful time, seeing Madelyn in her show (4 times), visiting my old apartment building on St. Marks Place in the East Village (didn’t recognize the street), getting together with friends from long ago, celebrating my birthday with family all together for the first time in 22 years, and of course, finding employment.  It is this last one that has had the most impact on my new life in NYC.

You know how when something happens quickly, neatly and without barriers? Well, that’s how I got my job at New Heights Academy Charter School. Resume submitted: Thursday; E-mail saying that they would like me to move on in the process, so answer these questions; send questions in Friday night; Saturday night around 9pm I get an e-mail saying they would like me to come in on Monday for an interview at 10:30 am; Monday – interview – went well; was told that I was their top candidate and they wanted a “mature” person with experience!; Was I surprised!

One hour later I get a voicemail to call the Exec. Director to speak about something very exciting; call the Exec. Director – she already called my references and was offering me the job; I accepted! In so many ways it feels as if this job was just waiting for me; like it was MY job. The staff is 100 strong and is made up of mostly young teachers on their first, second or third job after college. There are three of us “mature” women; the high school director, the speech pathologist and me. In many ways the majority of the staff reminds of my Early College High School coworkers, so maybe I won’t be too lonely for them!

I made it through the first week. Week two is more training and getting to know my caseload of students. The students arrive on Sept. 8, and I am both nervous and excited to greet them on their first day. Time to start making new memories.

T-minus three and counting….

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So the POD is packed (except for my computer) and the house is eerily empty and echoing. The animals don’t seem to know what to make of it, and unfortunately, my bed is the only piece of furniture left for hanging out.

Dinner with the Browns on Saturday evening. I love going to their house; it is so serene and their yard is amazing. Dessert was raspberries from their garden. I’m going to miss them a lot.

I had a terrific lunch today with Susan. Even though we haven’t spent lots of time together, we agreed that we were going to miss each other. It isn’t until someone is no longer physically in your life, that the missing part kicks in. I’ll miss not going to Portland Center Stage with Susan, but I’m happy she bought my seat for Tom.

I’m trying to see some people I haven’t spent a lot of time with, before I leave. Mary and Mike on July 4th, Maybe Ellie on Tuesday, Sally on Wednesday, Sonja and Tom once more.  I think I underestimated how many friends I really had here; now I have more!

There doesn’t seem to be a happy medium between missing people.  All these years I wondered if I would ever live closer to family again. Now I wonder how often I will see my Oregon friends. I know it won’t be often enough.

Exhaustion!!

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I am operating on very little sleep. Not because I am staying up late, but because this damn knee of mine aches so much at night, and I am uber anxious about packing the POD.  Practically everything that I am taking to New York is packed in boxes. I have made almost ten trips to the Goodwill store in the past two weeks with a full car and trunk, and they are not over yet. Even so, there are so many boxes in my house and I know Madelyn will freak when she sees them. I’ve told her that I’m getting rid of so much, and still there is a lot to bring. I’m glad I’ve been able to make hard decisions about my “stuff.”  No doubt, there will still be things that I will wonder why I chose to bring them along. Perhaps we will have a ‘moving in’ sale.

The list is getting shorter; the animals have their health certificates (Lola and Luna are going as cargo, and Bo is in the cabin with me – he’s better behaved!), Lola got a summer haircut and so did I, the apartment lease is officially in my name. My change of address form is filled out and I’ve settled all my utility bills. Whew! The POD is getting packed tomorrow with the help of a few friends. I know I will be able to relax tomorrow evening when everything is done, but right now that seems so far away.

Better Late Than Never

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Something really pleasant has been happening lately. There are a few ladies who I’ve known for at least 7 or 8 years but haven’t spent time getting to know them well. Now that I am leaving Oregon, I have been having the best conversations with them, and finally finding out what we have in common! Why didn’t I do this years ago?

Nancy is a scrap booking maven, and Madelyn and I met her years ago at one of her workshops. We bumped into each other at the supermarket and just clicked. Diane is the mom of one of Madelyn’s friends, an amazing artist and such a nice person.  We have so many creative interests in common, and just recently spent time schmoozing about everything! Eileen is my former husband’s wife, and she has been so supportive about this move, helping me with my animals, and just there for me if I need her.

I think the connections I’ve made with this three women will solidify our friendships. I know that when I return for a visit to Canby, they will be one of the first people I will contact.  This is a lesson for me to “seize the moment” so there are no regrets; good friends are hard to find.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho…….

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I spent all of today, Saturday, packing up my kitchen with the help of my good friend Mary Anderson. We made a big dent, although the pots are still left to pack. My kitchen is rapidly filling up with boxes, and it feels pretty good. My momentum has been lagging lately, so the energy of another person can make a big difference in how much I get done.  There are only eleven days to go before I board that plane for New York City. The POD is here, right outside on the street, so this adventure is fast becoming a reality.

I’m going to have to enjoy spending the summer with Madelyn, because as of Sept. 1, she is under contract with Carnival Cruise Lines for 6 months! She will be a singer on one of the ships bound for exotic places; such a fun thing to do when you are 23….or even 63! There must be a job for me too! What a great way to spend half a year, traveling, eating well, exercising and meeting people from over the world. I’m very happy for her, but I will miss her.

My biggest concern about this move, at this point in my life, is how my knee will fare with all of the walking I will have to do. I’m especially concerned about steps, specifically subway steps, so I’ve been practicing that in physical therapy. I’m thinking that I may take buses for awhile; I don’t want to not be able to go and do, but I realize I’m only 9 weeks out from my surgery – I know, my timing is horrible, but I had to use my insurance benefits.

I’m looking forward to the Farmer’s Markets in the city and the Brooklyn Flea. We are living in Spanish Harlem (East Harlem) and there are Latino markets, bakeries, etc. right on our street. It will be fun to explore, and even take the crosstown bus to the west side to see what’s over there. I’ve even located an animal clinic for the pets (don’t tell anyone, but the lease says no pets – Madelyn says there are quite a few dogs in the building)!

New York or Bust!

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I finally made my plane reservation for July 6th at 10:25 pm. Since I’m traveling with pets, a nighttime flight made sense; there is a heat embargo when the weather is really hot, so they recommend an early or late flight.

My friend Jennifer from work told me something before I left school last week. She said that when a person is hesitant about a decision or commitment, the world seems topsy-turvy. But when you finally make a decision to do something, it’s as if all of the planets become aligned, and the puzzle pieces fit  together perfectly. She was talking about me making a commitment to picking a day to leave Oregon for New York. So I decided to stop hesitating and make the reservation, and the plan seems to be more cohesive now.

To say I’m not scared or nervous would be a lie. I’m very scared and very nervous. It’s different making this change in your twenties, thirties or even forties, as we did when we came out here. But in your sixties, well that’s scary! Even though I thought about this decision for such a long time, and wondered if I would ever be nearer to my family again, the actuality of it is a bit mind-boggling. It really hit home at my moving sale where I literally gave away parts of the past 22 years for a mere pittance.  Although the process is also cathartic, I still am amazed at how I parted with so much of the past.

So those chapters of my story are closed and the next one is starting. I realize I am the maker of my own destiny – I fuel the process. This next chapter will definitely run it’s course on a lot of faith.