Tourism Revelations

How long does it take things to lose their wonder? How many times do you have to see something amazing or witness something so grand before it becomes just another part of life or a seemingly lackluster experience?

Coming from a smallish town (although, technically it’s considered a city) in western NY, I’ve often thought about this in terms of Niagara Falls. Don’t get me wrong, Niagara Falls in and of itself is amazing even though, fun fact, it is not technically on any of the ‘World Wonder’ lists. I mean, 4 million cubic feet on average go over the Falls every minute so it’s a huge source of power and (minor detail) a huge source of revenue from tourists.Niagara Falls field trip

I mean, it’s crazy to me that people come from all over the world every single day to see the Falls. For me Niagara Falls is just one of those things everyone went to on school field trips, visited with their parents, or even went camping near.

For millions of other people, they view it as a once in a lifetime experience. They take pictures in front of the Falls, buy tons of souvenirs, take a ride on the Maid of the Mist, take a stroll through the Cave of the Winds, and then maybe go gamble the rest of their money at the Seneca Niagara Casino. And that’s just on the American side!

In my opinion, the view and tourism on the Canadian side is even better. They have a much more panoramic view of the Falls, Clifton Hill is packed with restaurants, shops, and other attractions that are all within walking distance. Plus, at night they shine huge beams of colored light on the Falls, so they look extra awesome.Tom Niagara Falls

I took Tom to see Niagara Falls two summers ago, and it was just so weird to me that this was a new thing for him. Everyone should experience the Falls at least once in their lives.

And I’ve seen all of them at least 20 times. I’ve only been to the Canadian side about 5 times because of the increasing restrictions on crossing the border, so there might be a bit more novelty for me there. Either way, sometimes it seems like it’s “just” Niagara Falls.Jones Beach

So it’s not wonder that when Tom and a couple of our friends went to a beach here in Long Island that they felt this same exact insipid feeling. It’s not that they were bored out of their mind or weren’t enjoying themselves, it had simply lost its novelty for them because they had been there before multiple times.

And then there was me, awed at the sunset, the sand, and the fact that I was so close to the Atlantic Ocean! I mean, right? It’s the ocean!

I’m also realizing that I’ve gotten this way towards certain things in New York City. I live there, so some of the touristy things just are not on my radar as exciting things to do anymore. I guess it’s a different story when you’re with friends because to me it’s more about the experience and enjoying time with friends; being someplace cool is just a bonus.Times Square

Tom and I were walking through Times Square the other day to get to the subway and it was obvious just how non-touristy we were. Some examples:

Tourists constantly have their heads cocked and locked to the sky, looking at the tall buildings. We had a destination, so we were constantly looking for quicker ways to get through the crowds.

Tourists are always slowing down or stopping right in the middle of the sidewalk to look at a store, take pictures, or look at a map. Us? We can’t stop, won’t stop. We got stuff to do.

Tourists are also the ones that never cross the street until the white hand gives them the A-OK. Call us daredevils, but we know whether we have enough time before that taxi will hit us.FAO Schwarz

I dislike the huge crowds of the super touristy attractions, but I have to remember that for many this may be their first and only chance to experience the chaotic brightness of New York City or the jaw-dropping amazement of Niagara Falls. And I can respect that.

But please please please don’t just come to a sudden halt on the sidewalk or not look where you’re going. Because that just lacks common sense. And you will get run over. Either by a car or by me. Take your pick.

Above all, though, it makes me thankful that I’ve had the privilege to experience these places that so many never have the means to partake in. So here’s to traveling the world and  being a future tourist in other peoples’ every day surroundings.

Saying Goodbye?

I got some crushing news this weekend from my mom.

“I’m selling the house,” she told me.

Cue heart sinking, gut twisting, jaw dropping, eyes widening, so on and so forth.Sitting at Mom's Desk

I don’t want to write too much about it since I already wrote a post about my childhood home. We had a conversation about the house 3 weeks ago and it had been settled that she would keep it until I was certain that I had a place to go after graduating this December. But things change, government agencies suck, and here we are getting the proverbial rug ripped out from under us. I have been slowly preparing myself mentally and emotionally for this, but I still wasn’t and still am not 100% ready.

Although things are not set in stone as of right now (Mom’s speaking with a lawyer this week to see if there are any other options) I was hoping to get some ideas about having an estate sale, packing stuff, storing stuff, etc. Being over 300 miles from home, it will take a lot of prep work to organize an estate sale, so if anyone has any suggestions please share them. I’m not sure if getting some sort of estate sale service is worth it, but I’m open to learning more about them.

Also, since I currently live in a dorm room, ideas about storage spaces would be great appreciated. This will probably be happening within the next 4 weeks (before the fall semester starts), so I’m going to be scouring (read: frantically looking) for thoughts and ideas.

Making Math Fun: Experience MoMath

Pythagoras, polygons, and fractals – oh my! By the title, I’m sure most are rolling their eyes, and maybe even feeling anxious at the thought of math.front

There is such an unnecessary fear about math felt by many. Children and teens in school dealing with fractions and algebra, reading to simply lay down their pencils because, I mean come on, “Where am I ever going to use this in my daily life?” Adults with bad memories of their own school experience with math, although that might be due to the fact that teachers used to be able to hit them with rulers.

For us residents of New York City, we don’t have to look farther than the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath). Located on 26th Street, MoMath is “North America’s only museum dedicated solely to math.” The museum, which opened back in December, only has 2 floors with maybe 20-30 stations (exhibits) so it is not so overwhelming, but it also covers an exponential number of bases (kind of a math joke…exponents…bases…ha?).tricycle

Although my trip to MoMath was a requirement for an assignment for my summer class, it has been on my list of places to go here in the city. Go ahead, call me a nerd. I am a proud math nerd. I am a mathematician, and you can be too! Sounds like an advertisement, huh?downstairs

As you can see from the photos, there were many age groups represented here – children and adults come to find out just how fun and useful mathematics is. And it’s fantastic! If you don’t believe me by now, check out the MoMath website to get a sense of what all is there, hours, and prices. Do it. I dare you.

My Childhood Home

So I went back home a couple weekends ago and, although it’s only been 2 months since I last visited, I was hit with a ton of emotions. I was flooded with so many memories of this house – the familiar sounds of the floorboards creaking, the smell of the hand soap, and sights of my baby pictures hanging on the walls (Tom says they look like I had a mullet. It’s called a half up-do with bangs, okay?).Bathtub

I even went through some of our old pictures from when I was a youngin’ that are stored in boxes upstairs. I sifted through pictures of me with my parents, my friends, and relatives during birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, and other random times. There are tons of silly pictures; this one didn’t seem out of the ordinary at first. I mean, it’s just me learning to read and write with my Dad. Ha, nice 40, Dad. Anyways, looking through these, I started getting a little anxious.Holly and Dad 2

You see, my mom has been in a nursing home for almost 3 years now. She was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis back when I was 9 years old, and it’s definitely progressed over the last 15 years. She is not considered a “resident” because she has not fully signed the remainder of her life (she’s only 60) and her possessions over to them. But I think it might happen soon.

We’ve talked about it here and there, trying to decide what to do and when to do it; most of the hesitation concerns her losing her independence, something she has prided herself on for as long as I can remember. It is also so that when I come home to visit and such, I have my own house to stay in.Mom's helper

Even though I have had a love-hate relationship with this house, it will still feel as though I’ve lost something or someone dear to me. Not loss in the sense that it’s a possession and I have to give it up, it’s more from the memories I have of being there. Sleepovers with friends; cooking with my mom; playing in the street as a kid with the boom box playing Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys for the whole street to hear (how did my neighbors not hate us as kids?).

Then there are the many complaints I had of it growing up. My basement has always been unfinished and I have never been in our attic because it’s more of a crawl space, so there wasn’t a cool lair to hang out in like some of my friends had. I will even miss the backyard, as minuscule as it is; it served its purpose when there was over a foot of snow and school was canceled.

Snow action

The tough times pull at my heart as well – my room that became my solace whenever I was upset or wanted to be alone to read or play video games, the platform at the bottom of the stairs where I found my mom lying after she fell (that was the last time she ever tried going upstairs), and the nights spent alone sitting in the kitchen while she was in the nursing home and I was not working either of my two jobs.

I didn’t realize just how difficult this would be; for the past couple years, since selling the house became an actual possibility, I thought it would be exciting and a good idea to downsize and clean house of all these things that we don’t need. But now I am realizing that selling the house is the ultimate implication that mom has lost her independence. And that I am a grown up and need to make my own grown up life and home. And that’s devastating and scary as hell.

I mean she put so much work into keeping this house running even on her single-parent salary that eventually became monthly disability checks. And the nursing home will take every last cent of what she gets for the house. Not only that, but thinking about what to do with all of my and her belongings is super stressful. But let’s not go there; that’s a whole other can of worms.Jack for present

Even though it may be another couple months or a year until the house is on the market, it’s unnerving thinking that this huge part of my life will be gone. And it will become someone else’s; maybe another kid will move in and grow up in my house and make their own memories like I did. Someone else’s birthday will be celebrated there every year. Maybe they’ll repaint my old room and closet like I did when I became a teenager. They’ll make it their own and it will change as they grow up.

Or maybe an older couple will move in and spend the remainder of their lives just sitting on the front porch, enjoying the breeze. Another family will be able to enjoy the beautiful tree in the front yard that blooms in the spring (although it seems to be gone within a couple days because it always ends up raining and then all the petals litter the ground).Before and after

Who knows? Either way, I know I have to let go and move on – I mean, I’m an adult right? I need to get on with life, not just live in the has-been moments. Although it is fun and comforting to reminisce sometimes, I can’t let myself grieve for the past. So here’s to looking forward to the future – moving on from this chapter, creating my own home with new memories, and enjoying every step of the way.

Halfway There

So I have not written a post in a couple of weeks. I have a good reason, I promise. Just hear me out!

I started graduate school this past January at Teachers College, Columbia University. And just an hour ago I finished my last final for the semester. I survived a semester of graduate school in New York City!

Up until about 2 weeks ago, I had planned on getting my degree next May. However, 2 weeks ago, I realized something. I am only 1 credit shy of being halfway done with my Masters requirements. What the what?! After crunching and re-crunching the numbers, reading and rereading the requirements, I spoke with my advisor just to make sure I was not overlooking something. Sure enough he confirmed that this is more than doable.

I kid you not, the clouds opened, the angels sang, and God said, “Holliday, you shall finish in December.” So that’s what I plan to do.

How awesome will it be to save a whole semester worth of housing and credits and the God-forsaken ‘College fee’ that is mandatory but no one knows what it is used for. Oh, maybe to supply us with those goofy ‘Student Senate’ plastic Ray-Ban wannabes. And our 20 “free” printed pages per week.

Anyways, so saving money will be fantastic. Except then reality hit:

“I will be done in December. That means I have to be an adult that much sooner. I will need somewhere to live. I will need a job to support myself. Not to mention, student loans will kick in that much sooner. Gah, what did I get myself into?!”

But, in all honesty, I am excited to see what will happen. I am over the moon that I get to start my “real-world” life sooner. I have been exploring careers outside of the typical ‘math teacher’ realm; coming to TC has really opened my eyes to the possibilities outside of the classroom.

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I am not completely abandoning the idea of becoming a classroom teacher (especially because I totally want that shirt!), but it is exciting what new and improving technology is creating in terms of jobs and experiences.

So the point of this post was:

1.  To apologize for not posting in awhile. I’ve been a good girl, telling myself that instead of writing a blog post I should be studying and doing homework.

2.  To let out some built-up fear and excitement for the future.

3.  To share this journey and hopefully help others who may be going through or will go through similar situations and may have similar decisions to make.

So what are your thoughts? Any ideas about what future endeavors a Masters in Mathematics Education could possibly explore? What do you hope to do by the end of this year?

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” OR Happy Birthday to me!

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. –Ephesians 2:8-9

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This past Saturday, April 27, was the five-year anniversary of my being saved. I found myself thinking a lot that day about how things change in five years; how much we grow (physically, emotionally, mentally), how many decisions we make (whether right or wrong), the people that come and go. I think it is important to reflect on our lives often, not just to reminisce, wish for the past, or dwell on regrets, but to realize how far we have come in our lives and all the events and people that God has placed in our paths along the way.

April 26, 2008, I was in a car accident (ironically on my way to an event at church) that I came away with just some scrapes and bruises. I don’t know if I have any pictures of my car anymore – it was considered totaled after it flipped over, both of us upside down on the side of a country road. I rounded the curve too close to the outside, hit some gravel and overcorrected, then swerved violently before finally flipping over and landing upside down. My stomach still drops when cars make swerving motions, and I still feel anxious when I hear the sound of screeching tires. I called my mom sobbing because I didn’t know who else to call; she has Multiple Sclerosis, so there wasn’t much she could do for me other than making some more phone calls and worrying about me. Real smooth, Holliday. Real smooth.

The next 20 minutes were such a blur, but the people that I encountered are still pretty clear. A man drove by the scene shortly after and called 911 for me; I remember he had a verse of scripture on his shirt. I had been following my friends’ family so when they realized I was no longer behind them they came back for me; their hugs were so comforting at that moment. The police officer in the ambulance told me that God had a bigger plan for me that day. God certainly provided me with comforting people that day. How else could it be explained?

Later that day, my boyfriend at the time had asked me, “If things had turned out different [AKA if you had not made it out of this alive], do you know where you would be right now?” I had been attending church regularly for the past year. I volunteered for church events. Heck, I had been on my way to bond with a group of women from the church to make soup! I had never done drugs, I didn’t drink, I didn’t swear; I was a good person. But somehow I knew that these things weren’t enough.

So the following day, Sunday, I walked into Pastor’s office and prayed to God to save me and take hold of my life. I was baptized a couple months later; my testimony verse is Romans 5: 3-5, which says

More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Over the past five years, I have stumbled. I have looked to God for selfish reasons. I have tried doing things my own way. I have been impatient. But just as well, despite all of these things, God has never ceased to bless me. No matter how many times I fall, God has never failed to pick me back up. He has thrown things in my path that, at times, seemed insurmountable. But He has also blessed me immeasurably.

Five years ago today, if you asked me where I would be in five years, I would have never guessed where my life is today. I never would have thought I would get accepted into SUNY Geneseo, get involved with InterVarsity, meet so many wonderful, amazing people, and receive my Bachelors degree. I would never have guessed I would meet and fall for a tall, red-haired guy named Tom at a church event. Who knew I would be accepted into Teachers College, Columbia University, and move to New York City?

There are so many things that I never would have imagined for my life. But God is funny in that way; we think we know what we want, we think we know what is best for us, but God knows so much more and has so much more planned for us. Like Isaiah 55:8-9 says:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

These past five years have shown my how much deeper my testimony is; in the beginning, it was because I was afraid of dying and going to Hell. I realize that I was saved even though my reasoning may have been pretty shallow – I mean, being saved is being saved, we shouldn’t feel the need to compare our testimony with others.  Tim Hawkins is a Christian comedian and he has a short skit that addresses this need to compare testimonies and the desire to have a “good” testimony (watch it here). I have grown to realize that my whole life is a testimony to God; He has gotten me through pretty crappy stuff, sometimes without my consciously realizing it.

Who knows where I’ll be in five years? I sure as heck don’t! And I don’t really feel like limiting myself to who/what/where I think I’ll be in five years. Whatever I think, God’s plan is so much better than I could even imagine. Cheers, God. Here’s to another five.

Yes, Virginia (and everyone else), I live in New York City

So for those of you who did not know, I have been living in the City That Never Sleeps.

Yes, Virginia, I have been living in New York City for two and a half months now…and I forgot how many people I didn’t tell. I guess maybe they thought I was just working as a substitute teacher and glamorous Walmart supervisor for these last few months. Others, well, either don’t care to know my whereabouts or thought I fell off the face of the earth?

I was actually accepted into Teachers College, Columbia University back in August last year, but coming in the fall was too soon to get everything prepared to leave home. That’s a whole other complicated story (AKA: my life), so maybe one day you’ll hear about it. I’ve always been told that my life would make a good book; I think I should get better at blogging first, then I’ll consider it.

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I applied for two schools: University at Buffalo and Teachers College. I had already been admitted into UB’s Math Education graduate program, and was planning on starting in the fall, so I had a fallback plan if TC didn’t accept me. I honestly didn’t think I had a chance of getting into TC; I mean, come on, it’s affiliated with Columbia! I’m just this small-town girl (though, technically, Batavia is a city), I never received huge awards from high school or college, my grades were good but they could definitely find better people to take my place. It was quite a stressful summer waiting to hear from TC.

And then, on an August evening, I got an email from TC directing me to the ‘decision’ page of my application. This was it. I mentally prepared myself to read, “We are sorry to inform you…” or something along those lines. So when I read, “We are happy to inform you…” I just about wet my pants. I think I screamed.

As excited as I was, the idea of moving in only a month was terrifying. Like I said, it wasn’t going to be as easy as students who move away to college freshman year with parents to take care of all the messy details: house, transportation, the actual moving process, etc. So I knew that if I accepted admittance into TC, I would be deferring to the spring semester to allow me more time to prepare myself mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially.

I only told a select few because I didn’t want to announce it publicly over Facebook that I was leaving town to go to NYC. There are multiple reasons, but one of the bigger ones was due to self-doubt and pride.

Okay, sure, I got accepted into this crazy awesome graduate school, but…What if I can’t hack it in the city? What if I come back after a semester because I hate it there? What if I fail my classes, living far from home, life in general?

And when I did tell people, I would make it seem like I was prepared to fail. That way, if I didn’t like it or ended up not doing well, I would be willing to come home without making a huge scene, reapplying to Walmart (that would make 5 stints there), and assume my old life back home.

If I hate it, no big deal – I’ll just come home.

It was definitely a defense mechanism but, looking back, it was only defense from myself. Everyone I told was nothing but excited and supportive; we were all people living in a small city in western New York, so just thinking and talking about going to and living in a huge city like NYC was thrilling.

Absolutely everyone was pumped for me. Everyone but myself. It’s not that I wasn’t excited. The problem was that I was so excited I was afraid I would overlook the possibilities of failure and end up getting clotheslined by life.

Why do we do this to ourselves? If any of my friends came and told me they got accepted into a prestigious college and/or were moving somewhere, I would be ecstatic for them! A couple of my friends have done this actually (not for school but for jobs) and I couldn’t be happier. And I’m so glad they told me so that I can be excited for them and support them! But when it came to myself, I was so bent out of shape about the negative possibilities, doubting my ability to do well in school or survive a new city, that I wasn’t willing to share it with anyone but those I was closest to.NYC skyline

So to those of you whom I didn’t tell, I really apologize. I was afraid that if I told everyone and made this huge hype, it would blow up in my face and I would end up falling flat on my tush. Then I wouldn’t just be letting myself down, but I would feel as though I failed all the people I told, all the people that believed in me. I felt as though my failure would extinguish any fire in the hearts of those coming from a small city and wanting to explore living in a bigger city. If I couldn’t do it, I know it would discourage me, but would that also discourage others?

I’m glad to say that I love it here. These past two+ months have been exciting, challenging, eye-opening, and amazing. I’ve been wanting to write about my experiences here, but there was still such an uneasiness with letting people know and actually knowing myself whether I liked it here enough to stay. I plan on being here for the next year, and after that, who knows? Maybe I’ll love it enough to find a job here for a few years before I settle down and start a family; I don’t really want my future kids growing up in such a huge, overwhelming city. Or maybe I’ll find a job in another great city. Maybe a different country. Who knows? I do know, now that the cat is out of the bag, that I’m excited to write about anything that may come up.