Commuting by Train

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I was gored by a bull today. That’s what I call it when I accidentally encounter an opposite moving commuter as I make the dash down the steps to my Redline train. One of the things I’ve become adept at is choosing the right car on the train so that I can more easily make my commute in the shortest possible time. I really actually kind of enjoy the weird ebb and flow of my train commute.

 

Starting in Ipswich in the predawn I get on the train with my fellow sleepy travelers. We nod at each other, but mostly conversation is limited. By the time we reach North Station we’ve been jostled by tracks and fellow passengers and are mostly awake, we stream off the train and I get my coffee at the Dunkin’ there. Across the street we go where the traffic cops are holding the cars back as pedestrians obscure the entire intersection. It’s a good thing the cops are there because if walking in Boston has taught me anything, it’s that people are going to walk whether the light says to or not.

 

Most days my Forrest Hills train is rolling in as I get to the bottom of the escalator but the car I want is the second to the last one. The last car is really the best car but everyone knows it, so it’s always so packed that the last car is only an option if you also want to get to know your neighbor well.

 

We pull into Downtown Crossing and this is where the running of the bulls begins. It’s not Pamplona but it’s just as serious and much less cruel to animals. The wave of Orange line riders breaks and takes over both sides of the stair case which is how I was gored this morning, I felt bad for the poor isolated man trapped in the deluge, but not bad enough to offer more than a casual “sorry!” as I jogged down the stairs. As I was halfway through the tunnel I heard the rumble of a train and the announcement that my train was arriving and the crowd surged. We made it into the last few cars before we rolled out.

 

Arriving at my stop I’m always the only or one of 2 riders getting off. There’s not a lot of business in my school’s area but as I emerge I cross the weird intersection, often against the light, and stroll down toward my school. Sometimes I run into parents and sometimes I see co-workers. It’s actually kind of relaxing.

 

I arrive at the building somewhat mellow and about halfway to my step target for the day. It’s a process and sometimes I really long for a shorter commute but I’m also in a mindset for work when I arrive so that’s nice.

 

Going home is the reverse, if I was shifted from humanity on my way to work, there is definitely a feeling I am being folded back into the masses. By the time we reach the crosswalk to North Station we are walking lock step past the panhandlers and the street cops and the sports fans jockeying for a place in the line leading to the garden. We break and flow into the train station where we end up standing in front of the board until our train is called.

 

By the time I’m on my way back to Ipswich the trains are quiet again, everyone has had a long day and we are ready for it to be over and to arrive home.

 

Commuting by train is very different for me but I also really like it. I don’t have the same kind of anxiety about car accidents and maintenance issues, and I don’t have the same kind of frustration that I had when I used to sit stuck in traffic. Anyway it’s an adjustment but I walk more now and I feel more active and I like that.

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Adventures in Massachusetts

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So it’s been awhile since my last blog update, and part of me thinks that if I’m going to write about moving to Massachusetts I should write about things like how weird it is to me that I seem to genuinely enjoy having a roommate again when the last time I had a roommate was 2005 and I’ve always kind of loved my solitude, and how work is going, and the struggle to figure out which grocery store carries the yogurt I like.  And I guess I’m going to end up writing about those things sometimes but here’s the thing about moving to a place you already loved visiting… you kind of feel like you’re on an extended vacation.

It’s nice, because like.. I already knew about Charlie cards and I can name all of Boston’s sports teams (which is oddly more important than you’d think), and stuff like that.  But like I also am just like, probably annoying really in my absolute caps lock style EXCITEMENT about where I’m living.

So anyway I’m going to tell you about the Choate bridge. The Choate Bridge is a bridge in the town I live in and it was completed in 1764.  That’s right.  This bridge is literally older than our country and I regularly drive my truck over it.  Like it’s not even a thing, you just drive on over.  It’s 252 years old and it’s still the primary way cars get over the river.  It’s also the oldest two span, masonry arch bridge in the United States.  I do not exactly know what that means, but it makes our bridge more special and as a result I’m all about it.  It’s made of granite, like so many things in New England are, and I’m guessing that’s A) why it’s still standing and B) why we are still driving over it.  If you’ll pardon the expression, the thing is solid as a rock.

There is a fantastic website that will give you so much more history about the bridge than I am here, and if you click that link you can even read a poem composed by a blind man from Rowley on the occasion of the bridge’s opening in 1764, which frankly you definitely should.

The reason I’m telling you about the Choate Bridge though, is to tell you about how about a week or two after I moved here, my roommate asked if I wanted to go for a walk around town one night.  So we did.  We walked down the hill and the length of the main street and up a hill where we saw a plaque talking about the town’s revolutionary roots, we circled down to some of the smallest city parks in existence and we yelled at geese.  We then continued on as it began to rain, across a much newer pedestrian bridge and as we walked along the river I looked up and there at 10 o’clock on a random rainy night was this bridge lit up.  And it’s beautiful.  And two things occurred to me.  First, I like living in a place that recognizes cool things like that gorgeous old stone bridge and second, that I was going to like living here.

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More adventures to come.  Ciao.

Massachusetts 

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In 2013, when I was debating where I should settle,  since I laid out a list of possibilities.  DC,  California, back to Nebraska, Boston…. 

Well a lot has happened since then, but most recently I have moved to Massachusetts. *cue celebrations*

Anyway,  it’s been forever since I’ve updated, but the process was long,  grueling and frankly it’s kind of burned the nomad out of me a bit,  but I’m here now and pretty happy about it. More posts coming probs, but that’s the big news from the front. 

#TeamIronMan (Spoilers ahead, obvis)

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So I saw Captain America: Civil War today and I am Team Iron Man.  I mean, I was always going to be Team Iron Man because first of all the first Iron Man movie was and is the greatest superhero movie ever made. Hands down, no question.  The other thing is that I understand Tony Stark better.  He’s a flawed character doing the best he can.  Steve Rogers is a great character but he’s a little too perfect for me to ever be comfortable with.

After watching the movie, the question becomes more muddled but I’m still Team Iron Man, and I’ll tell you why.

Steve is a super good metaphor for the United States in a post 9-11 world, and I have always disagreed with our actions.  Sit down kids, if you weren’t alive on September 11, 2001, I’m about to give you a history lesson.

That day sucked.  It sucked bad.  It sucked so hard I’m not even going to waste my time trying to explain the fear and the heartache and the terror that we as a nation experienced.  Other people have done it, and done it better than I can, and frankly it’s not a thing I’m going to get into.

Lets talk about the aftermath instead.  In the wake of September 11 we decided that we needed to do what we needed to do, we needed to give the people who had the power to protect us the freedom to do it.  The Patriot Act which gave the government unprecedented power to search and hold people was passed.  Torture became a thing that we decided was acceptable.  We went to war with the support of our allies, but then when our allies decided that war all over the world wasn’t helpful, we went to war without our allies.  Because we were America and we alone knew what was best.  Sound familiar?

I’m not trying to compare Steve Rogers to Dick Cheney, although lets be clear Tony definitely took a couple blows to the face on this one.  What I’m saying is that unchecked power isn’t a thing that we should embrace.  There should always be oversight.  Do I trust Steve Rogers?  Sure, but what about everyone else?  No.

So Tony does the next best thing.  He wants the avengers to submit to a world authority.  Not a national one, but a world authority.  Lets be completely clear here, if the UN had jurisdiction over the Avengers, the world would be a more peaceful place.  Right now you have a governing body with no teeth.  The Avengers would certainly be teeth.  Would they still be used?  Sure.  But it’s good to have guidelines.  If we’d listened we wouldn’t have gone into Iraq.  ISIS wouldn’t be the problem it is.  But we went the Steve Rogers route, we are always right after all.

Don’t get me wrong, we all love the hero who can always save the day.  But in the end most of the time the right decision is reached by thought, consideration, debate and consensus.  Do you think the Avengers WOULDN’T have been called to New York?  No.

But Kristen, I hear you saying, Bucky would have DIED.

Yup.  He sure would have, and that would have sucked.  But on the other hand, how many other people do we think have died in this movie?  People who were driving on that collapsed roadway, those guys in the tanks, etc.  I mean I get it we all love Steve so Bucky is more important to US but is he actually more important?  Probably not.  I’d argue that no one is more or less important than someone else.  But even so, lets not forget that Bucky is a mind scrambled, 100 year old, war vet turned murderer.  So…. yeah that guy who was just trying to get home from work? He should definitely be sacrificed for him.

Again, this underscores the metaphor, Capt loses Peggy, he’s hurt and wounded and bound and determined to not lose again.  Seriously its America in the post 9-11 world.  And it hasn’t worked out well for us.  We’ve lost a lot of veterans due to the Iraq conflict.  From active duty, from suicide after… we lost credibility among our allies, and our belligerent, war mongering ways may have encouraged the current cluster fuck we are dealing with politically now.

Team Iron Man, Team Restraint.

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Thoughts

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Today is my birthday and while the rest of the world always seems to make resolutions on my day, I feel a little more entitled than the rest.

Every year I have a list of things I wanted to accomplish and didn’t.  Things I want and don’t have, things I haven’t gotten done, ideals I haven’t lived up to and goals left unaccomplished.

I used to think that that was failure and it made me sad.  I’m starting to reassess that though.

The truth is, that I’ve had a fantastic year.  It’s been full of challenges and humor and friends and adventures.  I’ve met men who walked on the moon and women who will keep us safe and healthy one day on Mars, I’ve had the pleasure and honor of teaching another crop of children and I’ve led small rebellions and caused just enough mayhem to make my 12 year-old self proud.  I’ve traveled a fair bit, and seen things I didn’t imagine I would ever see and learned a lot.

Which isn’t to say that it’s been all sunshine and roses.  I’ve fought with people I love, I’ve had car troubles and been to the doctor more than I’d like.  My cat still vomits on everything I care about and I have never quite figured out how to organize myself.  Someday I’m not going to have to budget every single decision and someday before that happens I’ll remember to keep my shit to a budget.

Looking ahead I’ve got a lot to be excited about.  I’m moving to a new place and I’ll have new professional challenges.  Its a year that looks to have more personal adventures as well and I’m excited about that.  I have travel planned that I’m so excited for I can hardly wait and I’m going to meet my new nephew next year and I’m all kinds of excited about that.

So I’m not overly bothered by my list of undone things.  Undone just means I’m not finished yet.  And I hope I’m never finished.  Everyday there’s more to do and more to experience and more to see.  I’m not done yet, at this point I might never be and I’m okay with that.

So happy new year.  I hope you’re also not finished yet, and as you look at your list of probably uncompleted resolutions last year keep that in mind.  Happy New Year everyone, here’s to an unfinished 2016 as well!

The ExtraOrdinary Spaceman

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I spent some time with my good friend Clay Anderson recently.  No, I don’t know him personally, although I have had the good fortune to meet him.

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But after I read his book, I kind of felt like I did.  Anderson writes much like he talks.  He’s direct, unassuming and hilarious.  Starting with his first flight in a T-38, the astronaut training aircraft which recently formed so much of the backdrop of that One Direction Video, Anderson mixes the glory and the excitement with the humbling.

The book is called The Ordinary Spaceman, and as astronaut memoirs go, I enjoyed it more than most.  Anderson attempts to make the point over and over again that he’s an average guy who got to go on a tremendous ride, but having read it I tend to disagree a little bit because by writing his book he did something extraordinary. Anderson should be lauded for his ability to stick the mat, he applied to be an astronaut 15 times before he was accepted, but he should also be applauded for his bare faced honesty about struggles and conflicts.

It’s easy to look at our heroes and wish we could be more like them, it has to be incredibly difficult for those heroes to acknowledge and embrace the places where they struggle.  In doing so however, the people who do so empower us all to achieve higher goals and work harder to see our dreams come true.  The portrait of an astronaut that Clay Anderson paints isn’t an infallible, pedestal dwelling, super hero the reader wishes they had been born as.  Instead he is what he claims to be: an ordinary guy who made dreams come true because he worked really hard and took advantage of opportunities that came his way that the reader can realize that they could be if they worked for it.  It’s a powerful and convicting narrative, and I’m both grateful for his candor and proud of him as a Nebraskan.  I’d expect nothing less from a person raised living the Good Life.

Go Big Red.

And go buy the book: The Ordinary Spaceman by Clay Anderson

AAAHHHHHHHH!

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I want to preface this post with the assertion that I’m aware I’m immensely lucky.  I am doing the job I always wanted to do.  I have amazing friends, and I have fantastic adventures which I am only glancingly competent at chronicling in any real way.

But I am literally so stressed out right now that my eye is twitching.  Have you ever had an eye twitch?  Its unsettling.  Incredibly unsettling.  Stop twitching, eye, you think to yourself, but the eye goes on.  It doesn’t care, the more you are bothered by it the more it will probably twitch. So of course then you (and by you we know I mean I, right?) put a hand over the eye.  I will force you to stop, you think.  But all that happens is that now you can feel the tremor of the one part of your body you can not force to internalize your stress.

The worst part of stress is that stress does not care that so many things are going well.  You can still be set upon by stress.  Which is why rich does not automatically mean happy, I suppose, although I’d still like to be able to test that theory.

Anyway, so why are you stressed, Kristen?  Well, lets chat shall we?  Last year at school was pretty rough.  New changes, new grade, new teaching partner.  Everything shook out okay in the end, but through the year I nonstop applied for jobs.  Everywhere.  This summer, I promised myself, I will find a job this summer. I got my Massachusetts teaching license.  I have always wanted to spend time in New England and my trips north only confirmed that New England is a pretty cool place.  But as a reserve, I also applied to work again in Nebraska. Nebraska my adopted home and chosen world.  I’d go back to Nebraska if nothing else worked out.

But then at the end of the school year things seemed to be looking up.  I’d only be teaching math and science the next year, I’d be in my wheelhouse all day, every day.  I’d be science coordinator so I’d be able to manage the resources.  I could have it all ladies and gentlemen.  The district cut a position and there was a momentary fear that I’d be sent away, but then someone else went instead.  Crisis averted.

Then on Monday I went in to clean out the science closet and get ready for the next year.  And I saw the class numbers.  There are only 16 kids in my class.  Only 17 in the other 4th grade.  33 students.  You could make one class of 33 students.  Even more concerning?  There are only 13 kindergarteners.  Total.  Between 2 classes.  Oh we are definitely losing another teacher.  And that teacher will almost certainly be me.  I guess I should explain that, that’s not just me being crazy.  Teacher cuts depend mostly on seniority, and despite this being my 3rd year at my school, I’m still the least senior member of our school’s staff.  People tend not to move from there, so I’m still on the bubble regardless.  Which is just one more source of stress I guess.

I won’t get fired, that’s not what this is about.  Part of the reason that we’ll definitely lose another teacher is that our county is woefully short on teachers.  There are schools that have had positions open for 2 years that they just can’t fill.  These schools tend to be in awkward places and have tough clientel.  They also tend to be pretty far from my house.  My school by comparison is pretty mellow, they will definitely take a teacher (or two) from my school to try to fill those positions.

It’s not that I can’t teach in that environment, I certainly have before and I liked it.  It’s more that I don’t like to be dictated to, and I haven’t had a chance to prepare properly.  I spent part of my summer making my long range plans, planning activities and strategies that I’m ready to implement, but that being endorsed K-6 I only have a 1:7 chance of getting sent to a 4th grade classroom.  Probably more, I’d hope that HR would take into account that I’ve always taught in the 3-6 band.  I don’t like to be told though.

And the worst part.  The worst part.  Is that I turned down jobs this summer.  I was offered jobs, nice jobs, jobs I would have liked, because I had decided to stick it out where I was and see what happened.  Good move, Kristen.  Maybe go with your first instinct next time okay?

So I spent some time the other night filling out applications for positions that are still open, and kicking myself.

Streeeeeesssssssssss.  Sigh.

Anyway here’s cute pictures of my cat.  Because if you waded through that mess, you deserve some sort of reward.

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It’s going to be okay, human.

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zzzzzzzz