Sunday, June 27, 2010

More adventures in Washington...

I'm back in WA for 10 days, visiting my fiancee and spending much needed time together and deciding together where we should live. The original plan was to move to Vancouver, but we are actually considering staying in Longview, where he lives.

My main concern has been the transition from the suburbs of Los Angeles to a small place that would take a lot of adjustment and not provide much to do. We have done some research this week and, even Eric is looking at his city of residence in a new way.

We have visited the library (impressive--great kid section,) the local historical museum, Lake Sacajawea in the middle of town, and the houses around the "Old West Side", which are very cute and closest to the lake. There are also some nice, affordable houses outside of town near the Columbia. You know, we're just doing a lot of thinking and talking.

We're also having fun. On Thursday we drove up to Seattle and dropped off Eric's Vespa for some maintenance, and then went to visit his good friends, Steve and Kristie Porter. Here are 2 videos of Eric and Steve singing in the front yard. THIS is what they do when Eric is there for a visit. These 2 are like brothers from another mother and it is fun to watch them together:

Eric singing a song that he wrote a few years ago. I love watching him play guitar and sing!

Yesterday we drove up to Steve's dad's place in Winlock, a 5 acre spread with several sheds, an adorable log cabin house, a log gazebo, and a small river running past the property. It was "Egg Day" in Winlock, a local annual holiday, and several people came out for a little neighborhood parade, egg salad sandwiches, and a BBQ at Mr. Porter's place ("Porter's Patches") later in the evening. Eric, Steve, and the 3rd member of their little group--The Sweatbox Trio--name Kai, broke out their guitars at the end of the evening and played for everyone for about an hour. They did great. It doesn't get dark in the summer here until about 9:30pm, so it is possible to enjoy the sunlight late into the night.

Today Eric had to work the graveyard shift, but we had an outing before he had to leave. Finally, finally I got to ride on his Vespa!! We packed a lunch into the little trunk, donned our helmets and eye goggles, and rode about 5 miles out of town to a beach area along the banks of the Columbia River. There were boats, people fishing, people playing fetch with their dogs, and just a nice peaceful atmosphere.

It is certainly very different from home, where everything is always go, go, go, but it is a good different.

After we had lunch, Eric offered to school me in how to ride the Vespa. His is about 6 years old and is a model called an E4 that is now discontinued. He was right, learning to ride it is very, very easy. At first he sat behind me as a passenger, and then I got to ride it myself a few times around the parking lot. The parking lot near the river was pretty empty and a great place to practice. I have to say, it is one of the most fun things I have ever done. Riding that little scooter is exhilarating!

I don't think I got it past 20 mph, but I learned about braking and turns and acceleration and signaling. We are making plans to get me one in the new few months because then I can join Eric, Steve, and Kristie P when they go riding around Seattle. I don't want to be left out! Eric's is platinum, Steve's is black with a camel-colored seat, and Kristie's is a mossy green. I like white, so that will be my color. They are so fun and well-made and very inexpensive. What a great hobby!

Here is a video of me at the beginning of riding the Vespa alone. As time went on I got more confident:

Did I mention how fun it was?! It had the same thrill as skiing or riding a horse or going down a hill on your bike.

Anyway, I am having a great time and it is a much-needed vacation after an intense year at school and before packing up my house, 2 bridal showers, and a wedding.

Our other plans include visiting Vancouver again and looking at the neighborhoods and dinner with Eric's parents and my future in-laws. Nice people. Everyone has been so welcoming when I visit up here.

And the countdown? 41 more days until we are married. We can't wait!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Life's New Road Ahead...

Well, there is no denying it now. With school ending last Thursday and checking out of my classroom yesterday morning, that is a chapter that I have truly left behind.

The past 3 weeks have been spent doing some teaching, but a lot of cleaning out in my room, which has included giving things to colleagues, giving some things to my kids, packing some things, and throwing many things away. For now, teaching is something I'm going to leave behind.

Many have asked me, "Are you going to miss it?" That is a question with many answers. I will miss some things. I miss the satisfaction of a productive day, and I will definitely miss my colleagues and even a decent paycheck. But there are other things I won't miss, like disgruntled parents, meetings, and difficult kids.

It has not been an easy year. Two students in particular were extremely challenging and had a myriad of individual problems that caused a lot of disruption in a mainstream classroom of 32 students. We had a lot of district issues with funds being cut, 71 jobs lost (11 were rehired,) and a lot of division in the union these last few weeks.

This morning I filled out the unemployment insurance form for the first time in my life. That was weird. I'm officially unemployed. Wow. I haven't been financially dependent on someone else in nearly 20 years.

Honestly, I am extremely ready for a fresh start. I'm just lucky that there is one that awaits me.

Now that my classroom is bare and my keys are turned in, I can shift my focus to my house and the overwhelming task that lies ahead of packing it up and moving belongings, furniture, and pets 2 states away. A teacher at my school is interested in renting my house, but certain factors need to fall into place for that to happen. Several things are going to remain in limbo up until the time that Eric and I are married. Thank goodness for my future husband. He is my rock and my best friend.

On Tuesday I fly up to Washington, where we are going to drive through Vancouver, our future home. The sooner we get comfortable with the area, the better. The upcoming weekend will be spent in Seattle visiting friends (his best man and one of my bridesmaids.) I know that the 10 days I'm up north will go by very quickly.

Throughout everything that is happening, despite how overwhelming it can be, I'm very grateful for this new turn that my life is taking. With the right person at your side, anything is possible. I have definitely found the right person.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I've been PINKED.

Yes, I have joined the throng of unemployed people in this country.

Today we discovered that the 5 member school board voted 4-1 in favor of laying off SEVENTY teachers in my school district. 70, folks.

We now have the dubious distinction of being the district who is laying off the most teachers in the entire San Gabriel Valley. Yay us. Not.

For me, it is really a non-issue, because I had planned to leave after this year anyway to move up to WA after I get married. But there are others that do not have plans like that. There are 3 others at my school...1 who is divorced and a homeowner, another who has a son at Berkeley, and another who is a newlywed. 50 of those laid off are from the 2 middle schools in the district.

The district is facing a huge, huge upheaval if all of these lay offs remain intact. Upper grade classrooms are supposed to increase now to 34 students. Primary grades are going up to 25 students. Those little bungalow classrooms are going to be bursting at the seams. They are not made for more than 20 students.

Several elementary school teachers--those who are keeping their jobs--are going to be transferred to fill in the holes at the middle schools.

I am INCREDIBLY LUCKY that I'm starting a new chapter in my life (of my own choosing) right when my district is falling apart, but I feel very bad for my colleagues--all of them--and the kids. All of our hard work to raise their test scores is going to be for nothing now that class sizes are going to be increased.

What a sad, sad mess. I'm so glad to be outta there!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Engagement Photos and a VERY Full Weekend!

Memorial Day Weekend 2010...this weekend will now have new memories for me.

Eric came down from WA last Thursday evening. We had a full agenda of things we needed to accomplish. It was so full I had even written out a little calendar for us to follow so that we wouldn't forget anything. And, yay us! Not only did we do everything we wanted to do, but we also did it ahead of time so that we could fit in some fun things too.

  • haircut for Kristie
  • got the marriage license (after standing in line for an hour, going up to a little dingy window at the County Clerk's office in East LA, and watching a few couples get married in this small, pre-decorated room off to the side. I guess if you gotta, you gotta.)
  • we drove to The Beckham Grill in Pasadena to check it out as a venue for the rehearsal dinner--we were so impressed with the atmosphere, the food, the service and the prices. We booked it right then and there.
  • Off to Macy's to register! We had already picked out our china pattern during Eric's last trip. Now we just had to make it official.
  • While we were in the neighborhood, we stopped at the Pasadena Gold Company to pick up my custom-made wedding ring. Not to sound immodest, but...WOW, WOW, WOW. It is more beautiful than I could ever imagine. 70 little 1.25 point diamonds decorate the 1cm wide white gold band, where my solitaire will rest in the middle. It is a work of art that I hope will become a family heirloom, as it is one-of-a-kind, and partly designed by me.
  • Then a quick burger from IN-n-OUT and, at 7pm, a meeting with the bishop, who will perform the ceremony for us.
Full day?! I think so!

On Saturday we were able to relax a little more, because we accomplished so much the day before. We had a nice breakfast and then visited a nearby park as a possible place to take engagement pictures the next day. Then a trip to the market and then a relaxing afternoon having a Thorn Birds marathon.

On Sunday we met with our photographer, Nick Charrow. We drove to the park from the day before and spent an hour or so taking engagement photos. I'll post a few samples that Nick sent us. We are very pleased!!

We also stopped by and visited our florist, Matt, at The Flower Garden in Pasadena. He showed us a prototype of the centerpieces. Loved it!

Yesterday we returned to the park and brought some KFC, a blanket, a Frisbee, some UNO cards and had ourselves a little Memorial Day picnic. We got there at a great time, right before it got too busy. The weather was beautiful.

Today I had to go back to work. The final layoff decisions will be made at a board meeting on Thursday evening. So, although the day in the classroom was fairly good, the tension in the air, and knowing that Eric was at my house and I couldn't be there with him detracted from the day a bit.

After school he picked me up and we drove out to the Ontario Airport and said our goodbyes. The next time we see each other will be in 3 weeks, when I go up to WA from June 22-July 2nd. We are getting really, really tired of having to say goodbye all the time.

At least we have some great engagement photos to remind us of this wonderful weekend!