Hometown Adventures

Last weekend, I went back to Western New York, to Rochester and to my hometown of Batavia, a small town halfway between Buffalo and Rochester.

It’s been just about 6 months since my last visit, which was before Christmas. Visiting in the late spring, early fall, or anytime during the summer is best because everything is green and there’s no chance of a blizzard blowing through. Although, it didn’t snow at all during our last visit and was pretty mild for late December upstate.

However, it apparently hasn’t rained up there very much seeing as there was a lot more brown than green. It was quite disappointing. I remember in my freshman year at GCC (Genesee Community College) my English 101 teacher told us how she moved from California for her job at the college. She had visited and interviewed in May, fell in love with the greenery, and took the job; I wonder how she felt once it started to snow and never stopped haha

Anyways, this weekend was for celebrating our friends, Matt and Laura, at their wedding. They are both college friends from Geneseo: Matt was Tom’s roommate when I met Tom (in my senior year), and Laura and Matt started dating around the time that I was student teaching (fall semester after my senior year ended).

Tom was one of the groomsmen so he went up a day before I did to get his tux fitted and do all the male celebrating (I was told laser tag was involved and I got super jealous). I joined him the day before the wedding which was the same day that my friend Courtney came to Rochester and was in the same hotel as us (she was singing in the wedding)! Tom, Matt, and Courtney were all friends before I met Tom, but Courtney and I became insta-friends. Like, seriously, it happened so fast, we just got along so incredibly well.

Friday evening, we headed to the rehearsal dinner at a comedy club associated with Sticky Lips BBQ. It was so nice hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones – we sat with the rest of the groomsmen who turned out to be so cool!

Post-dinner, we headed to downtown Rochester to check out the Jazz Festival with the rest of the guys. None of us are jazz-enthusiasts, but it was something to do at 7 pm on a Friday night the day before a wedding. It turned out to be a really good time – we saw Fitz and the Tantrums whom I still don’t know but apparently they’ve been on the radio. I didn’t take any pictures at Jazz Fest as we did not have a great view, but I did take two on the way to the festival…and of course they’re terribly blurry! Just squint a lot and maybe they won’t look so bad…

Jazzfest

After the concert, we lucked out so hard at the parking garage. We got back to the garage at 10:20 but I guess it closes at 10, so all of the gates were locked. We were able to sneak under one of the main gates, since there was a car at the entrance, and ran to our cars. All of a sudden, a woman zips around the corner in her car and asks us how we plan to get out seeing as the gates are closed. She let us out [for free!] but we were to “not expect this again”. Don’t worry, we won’t!

On Saturday, while all the guys met up for breakfast at Denny’s, Courtney and I went back downtown to visit our other college friend, Vicky, at the coffee shop she manages. She also does Crossfit, so you probably don’t want to mess with her.

vicky

She made us both lattes – Courtney got the Lavender Cardamom Latte (left) and I got the Mocha Latte with cinnamon (right). They were so delicious. And that presentation – latte artiste in the house!

IMG_7750

I tried to get some artistic photos through the espresso machine, but it didn’t work the way I wanted…

IMG_7765

Before long, it was time to go back to the hotel to get our faces on/hair did/threads on for the wedding so we took a group photo and were on our way.

IMG_7768

I did Courtney’s makeup before she had to get to the venue to practice the song she was singing – Be Thou My Vision, love that song! I then did my hair and makeup, got dressed, and headed out to the wedding. The drive there was beautiful and the lack of rain wasn’t as noticeable in the fields along the back roads to Caledonia.

When I got to the venue (the Jerris Wadsworth Barn), I was internally freaking out that I had the wrong place because I didn’t recognize anyone. I called Courtney and [thank goodness!] found her inside the barn. We sat next to each other for the ceremony and reception.

IMG_7772
The ceremony was beautiful albeit hot as heck. It was almost 90 degrees and we were in direct sunlight, so I was sweating in all the places. Like, ALL the places. Courtney sang beautifully, the pastor’s message was great to hear, and the bride and groom were both obviously excited. Matt enthusiastically said, “I do” when the vows part came. He was clearly pumped haha

We got this picture of the four of us, a similar picture that we took at my wedding with the original amigos [minus Nate].

amigos

I’m ashamed to say I have no pictures of the bride and groom together. Then again, they’ll have plenty of much better quality pictures that no one will notice my lack thereof! I mean, I do have this one from when they were cutting the cake; I promise that Laura is behind Matt.

IMG_7803

We played yard games during the reception that Tom was SUPER into. I swear, he saves all of his energy to play frisbee in 90 degree heat in a suit. He then complained of how sore he was for the rest of the evening. That still didn’t stop him from continuing to throw the frisbee around. Haha notice Kyle and [non-groom] Matt behind him acting chill while Tom is fiercely trying to win.

IMG_7788

We ate food, danced a ton, and had s’mores at the campfire when it got dark. Tom and [groom] Matt had a little buddy cuddle, just like old times.

buddy cuddles

We ended the night lining up along a walkway holding sparklers for Matt and Laura to walk through. I can’t wait to see their pictures!

Sunday was the day of goodbyes. Courtney had to head back home to Buffalo really early, so our goodbyes were actually said before we went to sleep. We saw Matt and Laura at breakfast in our hotel so we got to say bon voyage to them as they are honeymooning in Italy and were leaving later that evening. Then I had to say goodbye to Tom at the airport since I was staying for a couple more days and he headed back to the city.

I’m so glad I stayed. I got to see my mom, my Godmother, Josie, who has been more like a grandmother my entire life, and a bunch of high school friends (not all pictured as we didn’t all get photos) over the next 48 hours. I brought my mom Chinese food for lunch one of the days and Josie was in the best shape she’s been in quite awhile – it honestly made me so happy.

visits

PLUS I worked out in the hotel’s “fitness room” [1 treadmill, 1 elliptical, 1 multi-purpose weight machine]. AND I went in the hotel pool. AND I had an ultra huge king-size bed to myself. It was magical.

pool

Funny story: right after posting this photo on Instagram, my friend Mary texted me laughing that you could see the book I was using to hide my phone in the reflection of my sunglasses. Sure enough it does look like that, but I honestly wasn’t trying to and didn’t notice. I was trying to make sure I didn’t lose my place in my book (could’ve just dog eared and set it down, I know) and that I didn’t drop my phone in or near the pool, so I held everything with both hands. Plus, I was all alone outside so there wasn’t anyone to catch me taking it haha

As is always the case, no matter how much fun it is to get away, coming home feels great. It felt good to see Tom once again, sleep in my own (albeit full-size) bed, and be able to walk everywhere without feeling cooped up.

I had a blast and I can’t wait to go back and see everyone again. Or maybe they’ll come down to the city to visit me!

“Why are NYC people so rude?”

New York City is known for its tall buildings and late-late-late night life. It’s known as the “Big Apple”, interestingly because of its history with horse racing. It’s also, and for more obvious reasons, known as “The City that Never Sleeps”. As soon as you mention that you’re from New York, people from out of state automatically assume you mean NYC. It’s America’s melting pot, holding 8 million residents of all different backgrounds, nationalities, races, religions, sexual identities and preferences, etc and so forth.

IMG_4399

And among these familiar names and characteristics, New York City is highly known for being home to a lot of rude people. When NYCers step foot outside the city, they are astounded by how friendly people are in other places (especially Upstate and The South). They realize that people in other towns smile as they pass one another, usually throwing in a greeting, and seem so genuine while doing so.

Now, coming from a small town in Upstate/Western New York, I get it. People back home are friendly. When taking a leisurely walk down the street, everyone tends to smile and say “Hi” to one another. Things are much slower-paced, allowing for time to stop/slow down and smell the roses.

But the thing is, people are rude in small places, too. I worked at Walmart back home – believe me, rude people are everywhere. Plus, people in small towns and/or cities have less interactions with others on a daily basis. While they’re in their cars driving to work, maybe cursing at other drivers for poor driving skills, we don’t have that luxury (well, most of us don’t).

On the same note, friendly people are in large places. I’m on a first-name basis with the two guys at the deli I go to every weekday morning for breakfast. They greet me by name, ask how I am, and know my usual order. My co-workers are lovely people. The ladies at the laundromat are friendly; although their first language is not English, they still give me a smile and tell me to have a nice day.

So, sure, there are rude people in New York City, but there are also wonderful people, too.

Plus, not to defend jerks with outright disinterest for other people’s well-being, but I can kind of understand why some people are rude here in NYC (to an extent). I was thinking about this the other day after an older gentlemen sitting next to me on the subway told me to have a nice day. I smiled and said the same to him, kind of hanging back before putting my book away and getting up to leave the train. I didn’t want him to notice that we had the same stop. I didn’t want him to try to strike up a conversation.

After living in the city for 2 years, I’ve realized that no interaction means no bad interaction. I understand that it was 7 a.m. so there were tons of people around. If he tried any funny business, after dealing with me there wouldn’t be a lack of people around to help if I needed it. Not that the presence of a lot of people guarantees safety, but that’s another can of worms.

So anyways, I stayed 10 feet behind this older man to ensure that we wouldn’t cross paths again. But then he looked back and noticed me and as I walked by him, he made some comment to me with a smile. It was not a rude, sexualized, or otherwise uncomfortable comment; it was something like the coincidence of us meeting again.

Now, this guy was friendly, polite, and didn’t approach me in a threatening way. BUT. Hearing stories of how women (and men) get sucked into uncomfortable and dangerous situations has me on high alert most of the time. I’ve tensed up when someone approached me (male or female, any color) just to ask directions because I’m not sure what they are going to ask or potentially try to do to me. I know this sounds so dramatic and like I’m making up crazy stories in my head. But these things happen!

One morning before work last year, I was once getting a Metrocard from the machine in my local station when I felt someone grab my butt. And I mean grab. It wasn’t just a brush of someone’s hand or someone’s bag bumping into it. It was a full-palm-and-fingers-curled-around-the-left-cheek grab.

Joey Friends shocked gasp gif

Stunned and flustered, I turned to the first sign of movement to my left and yelled with lots of attitude, “Excuse me, please don’t ever do that again!” Who knows if that was the culprit? I don’t. But either way, that person felt like it was okay to grab me and make me feel vulnerable. I held back tears because I was mortified, embarrassed, and scared. Has this person been watching me? Did they know I would be here at this time? Will they try it again?

I wasn’t even wearing anything revealing or anything that might lead someone on – I was wearing a pair of flare jeans (not skinny, not tight), sneakers, a plain black t-shirt, and my hair was up in a ponytail. That is like the most “leave me alone, don’t talk to me” outfit.

And that ruined my whole day. I was worried about coming home that night because I still wasn’t 100% sure who the culprit was and whether they would try it again. What if they brought a friend or two along and cornered me? My station is pretty busy all the time, but still. They have their ways.

So anyways, long tangent, but same point. I think a lot of people are more cautious than they are rude. It may be a different story in Manhattan during morning and evening rush hours, but in my case I have a trust issue. Especially as a white female – the looks I’ve gotten from guys of all ages is enough to creep me out forever. The things that have been mumbled to me on street corners as I’m taking my laundry to the laundromat in broad daylight amidst a large group of people is not appropriate for my blog. It’s disheartening and frustrating.

So for those of you that are not from NYC or have only visited and were put-off by the rudeness you’ve experienced, just remember that you don’t know where that person has been and what they’ve been through that day or in life. There are a lot of high-stress jobs here in the city. Their home lives may not be great. Their train could have been delayed, making them late to work. You never know.

Also, just a heads up that tourists can be very annoying to residents going about our daily lives. Now, believe me, I’ve been a tourist in the city. I get it. You’re excited, you’re in a new place. I’m just asking that you be more aware of your surroundings like you would anywhere else. We rely on public transportation which can be unreliable, smelly, and cramped when all of your luggage, book bags, and fanny packs take up excess room. There are hundreds of people walking down sidewalks, so we appreciate it when the flow of foot traffic is steady. Please don’t stop abruptly to look up at the tall buildings, take a picture/selfie, look at a map, etc. We have places to be while you have sites to see. Keep it moving and stay to the right.

DSCI1242

Anyways, that’s my two cents on why people in NYC seem rude. I hope this sheds some light for those thinking that everyone in NYC are asses. We’re not all bad. Occasionally, we might let our stress get the best of us, but that’s a universal thing we all share as human beings, whether small-town or big-city.

Living in Brooklyn forever?

I like living in Brooklyn. I like my job in Brooklyn. I like being so close to everything and that most places are still open at 10 or 11 at night. I like that there are parks nearby and that we’re a 30 minute subway ride away from Manhattan. I like that it’s busy and city-esque here but not as touristy and annoyingly crowded as Manhattan.

BUT Brooklyn is flipping expensive!

According to a recent Bloomberg report, Brooklyn is the least affordable city in America to buy a place to live (followed by San Francisco and Manhattan at #2 and #3). Like, what????

The article also mentions that 70% of Brooklyn residents rent and that the median rent is over $2800. No wonder people are being priced out of Brooklyn into other boroughs (or homelessness!)…

Rent is too damn high SNL Kenan Thompson

I mean, that median number makes me feel a bit better because we pay about half of that for our 2 bedroom at the moment. Our lease is up soon (so the featured image is almost a year old!), and therefore Tom and I have been discussing what we want to do next – do we renew our lease for another year or do we want to look at moving elsewhere? We are ready to stop putting that money into rent every month, knowing that we’re not getting any of it back when we decide to leave. So obviously, a house or condo would be the next step.

But it’s practically impossible to find decent places within a decent price range without maxing out our entire bank account and signing the next 10 years of our income away to a mortgage. Going back to that Bloomberg article, the median price to buy a place is $615,000. Who can afford that? Not a couple of mid-20’s newlyweds (one with a student loan from Columbia, might I add), that’s for sure!

Plus, neither one of us wants to live in the city for the rest of our lives. When the time comes, I really don’t want to raise a child in the city. And we both agree that we really don’t want to spend such a large amount of money on a condo that’s not much bigger than our current apartment. We want space to grow into, we want a yard, and anything close to what we want in the city would be a couple million dollars. For real. It’s disgusting.

We’ve been searching Zillow for about 2 months now, seeing what’s out there and how much we would need in order to buy something. The low end of what we’ve found has been around $300,000 for 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom condos with no decent amenities (elevator, dishwasher, on-site washer/dryer, etc.).

Zillow Brooklyn Prices Zillow Prices Brooklyn

The criteria that we have settled on is 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, and preferably all the mentioned amenities, plus close proximity to the subway, and in a good neighborhood. Oh, and they need to be okay with pets because MAMA WANTS A CAT AND/OR DOG!!! For all of this, we’re looking at around $650,000. Ouch.

So we’ve decided that we will continue to rent for another year and then see what happens. Whether that means moving towards the outskirts of Brooklyn, out of the city, or out of New York State altogether, we’re both on the same page in that we want to be smart with our money. We started a budget and are going to keep better track on how much we spend and where our money is going every month.

We definitely know we want to stay on the northeastern part of the country, thinking as far west as Illinois and as far south as the Carolinas. Anywhere will seem like a steal outside of NYC, so we’ll feel like millionaires! But, no matter when or where we move, we’ll be together, and that’s what matters. (Cheesy, yes. You may either ‘aww’ or gag now.)

So here’s to another year, Brooklyn. (Unless I lose my job or something else unfortunate happens, then that’s a whole other can of worms…). Ending on a positive note. *thumbs up*

Let’s Chat: Rambles on Paleo & Umbrellas

Oh, hey there! How are you? Haven’t talked to you in awhile. How’s the family? And your job?

Willy Wonka Tell me more

Yeah so I haven’t written in awhile, mostly because I haven’t found anything really worth writing about.

Actually, that’s a lie. I have a couple drafts of things I would love to post, but I’m not really sure about sharing them with the interwebs.

So now that I’ve lied to you and told you I’m keeping secrets from you, let’s continue to chat like those two old friends catching up at the coffee shop who speak loudly and have no discretion for what the general population of said coffee shop wants to know about their lives.

Or the overly zealous female talking about her work frustrations or juicy conversations with friends or whatever with her male counterpart on the already cramped train where there is no escape. He usually just gives one word responses in between her breaths (that don’t come frequently and don’t last long) to make it seem like he’s paying attention and actually cares. Luckily for him, he’s gotten really good at tuning her out and pretending he cares because he cares about her as a person. Aww, what a guy. Unfortunately, the rest of us don’t care and cannot drown her out as easily, so we are left to hear every little detail.

But I digress.

So it’s May now. We had a monsoon blow through New York yesterday; I thought April was supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. But I realized a few things yesterday because of the rain…

First, I am not prepared at all for the rain. The one pair of boots I own are almost 2 years old and I found out yesterday that they have holes somewhere. So, um, needless to say my feet were absolutely soaked by the time I got home last night. Disappointing. And uncomfortable.

Also, I don’t own anything that resembles a rain coat. I have my winter coat and light spring coats, but nothing to keep me dry. Yes, I have an umbrella, but here in New York City you find out real quick that you can’t simply rely on umbrellas. The wind changes direction every time you turn a corner in the city and I swear it purposely blows up from the ground just to turn your umbrella inside out, losing the battle completely.

Broken umbrellas are a common sighting here. Now, I don’t condone littering, but it’s kind of comically sad seeing them strewn on the ground on or after rainy days. They obviously weren’t able to hold on through the storm and have been abandoned because they no longer serve their purpose.

I mean, if you Google or look through Flickr for ‘broken umbrellas’, you’ll see what I mean by the pathetic nature of said broken and useless umbrellas. Some are just a tad broken, but broken nonetheless. Others, however, are so mangled and disfigured, it makes one wonder whether a lion escaped from the zoo and went on a killing spree.

Broken umbrella

And then there are the people who are determined to stay at least a tiny bit dry, even though their umbrellas have been overcome by the elements. Even if one or more of the spokes are broken. Even if the extension part of the handle no longer works. These people are manually holding the umbrella open because, dammit, they will not accept defeat! They will do whatever it takes to keep at least their forehead untainted by the rain. Granted, who wants to go in a bodega or to a street cart and pay $10 for a poorly made umbrella that almost seems designed to break under the smallest gust of wind?

Another thing is that it’s such a pain walking down a narrow sidewalk while people walking in the opposite direction also have their umbrellas open. It’s kind of like playing chicken; one of us has to either raise our umbrella or close it a little bit in order for us both to fit through. But I don’t want to close it and risk getting soaked. And it doesn’t seem like they’re going to close it either. Then I start to raise my umbrella, thinking I’m going to be the considerate one…but then I notice them doing the same…so then we both kind of lower them. Quick, we’re getting really close!

It usually ends up working out, but sometimes the umbrellas get caught on either the other’s umbrella or a tree, and water flies everywhere, usually on both parties. It’s kind of like that embarrassing “dance” when people awkwardly can’t pick a side when walking by each other under normal circumstances.

Bottom line: I need to find some rain gear, like, ASAP.

Another reason I haven’t written in awhile is because I feel like I’m failing majorly with the whole eating Paleo thing. I made a dish or two using a cookbook I bought, but that’s been about it. I have been eating more health-consciously [scout’s honor!] since I wrote that last post, choosing salads over sandwiches, burgers, pasta, etc. I don’t think I’ve had pasta in quite awhile. Great, now I want tortellini with Alfredo sauce, broccoli, and sun-dried tomatoes. Mouth is watering. I’m full-on drooling now.

I’ve been eating more fruit, purposely buying it from a small veggie store nearby so that I have them to snack on instead of chips or cookies or the like. I have, however, been kind of bad with chocolate since Easter was 2 weeks ago and that silly Bunny spoiled Tom and I with Cadbury Creme Eggs and hollow chocolate bunnies. The thing with me and chocolate is that, if it’s in the house, you best believe I will eat it.

Matilda Chocolate Cake

>>Oh, side note, I wanted to try the Carrot Cake M&Ms but I totally missed out! I didn’t realize they were limited edition for Easter, so I never picked any up because my thinking was, “I have a feeling we will be getting some candy from Mr. Easter Bunny, so I can wait.” Well, I’ve waited and heard people raving about how delicious they are. Come to find out everywhere is now sold out, and people are selling them on Amazon for $15 a bag! Like, what?! Preposterous. So anyways, let’s hope they decide to make them a permanent flavor because they were so popular. Otherwise, I’ll have to wait until next Easter.<<

I talked to one of my co-workers a few weeks back when I decided Paleo was a good idea and she said her husband does it; she found that eating 80% Paleo is totally fine and that a slow-cooker is your best friend with this diet. Part of my problem with eating Paleo is that it’s about 70% preparation and 30% self-control. Also, sometimes the lack of calories and sugar has given me problems in terms of feelings that I’ll pass out, so sometimes I just need something quick and sweet to boost my sugar levels.

Honestly (and obviously), it takes so much longer to prepare a Paleo meal. So she said using a slow-cooker has been a God-send; she just decides what she wants to make, prepares everything the night before, throws everything in the crockpot in the morning before work, and when she comes home, it’s nearly ready! Plus, you can make a few nights’ worth of food using a crockpot, whereas some meals take so much time and work just to prepare enough for 2 people.

So I’ve been working on not putting myself down on doing poorly on this mission of eating healthfully because I’ve been improving my eating habits in general. And I’ve been using the workout room here at the school at least 3 times each week for the past month, so that’s great! I bumped my Fitbit step goal up to 12,000 steps per day and have been consistently surpassing that daily. Overall, good things happening.

Okay I think I’ve blabbed enough. Until next time, ciao!

Serendipitous Friday

This past Friday was an amazing, serendipitous day. Not just because it was Friday. And not just because I got to leave work early. And, no, it wasn’t the glass of wine I had with dinner (it was a long week, okay?).

In a matter of 12 hours, God put in motion events that opened my eyes and restored my faith in humanity. Honestly, that is the only way I can describe what happened today.

I work as a paraprofessional/aide for a freshman girl, let’s call her Julia, with cerebral palsy in New York City and my day started like all others this week: wake up at 4:15 a.m. to catch the 5:05 train, and travel for almost 2 hours to get to work. Once off the subway, I got my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and bagel, got to school at 7:15, and relaxed with my breakfast and Netflix before Julia got to school and work actually began.

About an hour later, while in class, Julia got physically sick, so we went down to the nurse’s office so she could lay down and wait for her mom to pick her up. I felt bad that she wasn’t feeling well, but I was kind of excited that my weekend would be starting early.

Maybe I could take a nap today. After consecutively getting only 5 hours of sleep each night, that would be great! Oh, happy day.

While waiting for Julia’s mom, a couple of students came in and out of the office, complaining of sore throats, dizziness, or just feeling sad; it’s amazing how extremely life-altering the death of a guinea pig can be to a teenager.

I ended up talking to one of the students and found out how absolutely amazing she is. This girl, whom I had seen in the hallways and had a bunch of assumptions and preconceived notions about. This girl who was very talkative and was a distraction in class at times. This girl blew me away with her life story which included being adopted from Ethiopia at the age of 10 and having spent her last birthday in China helping orphans.

I didn’t ask for anything for my birthday this past year. I already have everything I’ve ever wanted – I’ve been adopted and I don’t live in an abusive family anymore – so I ask to do things to help others.

How amazing and selfless is she?! She also takes part in other foundations, one being charity: water, and has even been able to go back to Ethiopia to help her original community.

Not only that, but she talked about her celebrity friends like it was nothing; “Amy Poehler is so nice,” and, “Hugh Jackman’s wife, I call her Deb, wants to produce my movie.” Where I’m from, we consider Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills players celebrities. And we don’t hang out and go to parties with them. So I was starstruck just by hearing her stories of these events.

Brian Moorman, Buffalo Bills
Snuggling with Brian Moorman, punter of the Buffalo Bills, circa 2008. Like, whoa.

So once Julia’s mom came, I had to figure out which train I would be able to take home. When I got on the train at Penn Station, I was surprised to find that it was already packed. We still had 20 minutes until the train was scheduled to leave – usually it isn’t packed until a couple minutes before. And that’s only during rush hour (before and after usual work hours), so it was odd that it was so full at noon.

And then I realized I had walked onto the wrong train. Shoot. I ride the train everyday, how did I manage this?!

I walked to the door, which was already closed, and started panicking a bit. I had no idea where this train’s destination was, but my train was across the platform. If only I could get the door open…

Some guy walked up to the door from the outside, wanting to get in, and by an amazing act of God, the door opened a bit. It opened just enough for the two of us, me on the inside and this guy on the outside, to pull it open the rest of the way so that we could trade places. That worked out really well.

LIRR train

I got on my (correct) train, which was now a bit packed since I had just wasted time on the wrong train. I sat in a 3-seater, me on one end and a middle-aged guy on the other, with all of his bags in between us. There was a guy in the seat in front of us that started muttering about finding a conductor. His speech was a bit odd, so I couldn’t tell whether he was mentally challenged or drunk or had a stroke or what.

Luckily, the guy I shared a seat with was very patient because Tyrone, the guy in front of us, had a lot of questions. He kept saying how he was trying to get to the Mineola mall; “I gotta go to the mall and get me a new pair of gloves because I lost mine last week. I wanna see how big that mall is.”

He sounded like a child in a 40-year old man’s body. We knew that something was wrong, but weren’t sure what to do about it. Should he be alone? Would the conductor do anything about it to help him? Would he get defensive or aggressive if we tried helping any more than just answering questions?

The guy next to me, whom I later found out is named Jimmy, talked to Tyrone whenever a question was asked, even though many questions were repeated multiple times. “My name is Tyrone. I want to thank you for helping me, sir,” Tyrone said. “I hope you never forget my name.”

Jimmy told Tyrone that he would need to take a bus to get to the mall from the train station, but Tyrone only had 75 cents on him. I gave him the $2 he would need for the bus, Jimmy wrote down the information so that Tyrone could get help from the bus driver, and we figured that was all we could really do.

The first train conductor came by, punching tickets, and Tyrone introduced himself and asked how he could get to the mall. The conductor was pretty patient with him and helped him as best he could, but ultimately walked away letting Tyrone continue his adventure to the mall. “I hope you never forget me,” Tyrone said to him before he walked away. “I won’t, Tyrone. You take care of yourself, okay buddy?” the conductor said, chuckling, before moving on to the next car full of tickets to punch.LIRR ticket punch

A little while later, a second conductor named Donna came through; Tyrone introduced himself and asked how to get to the bus to get to the mall. “Are you alone, honey? Have you made this trip before?” she asked. She ended up telling him not to get off the train at his planned stop, that she would be back for him and would escort him personally.

When we got close to the last stop (I had to transfer to another train to get home), Donna came back to Tyrone and asked him for ID and where he was going. He didn’t have ID but had some papers in his backpack with some information; apparently he was just discharged from a “hospital” earlier in the week, from what Donna read aloud from these papers. She asked again where he was going, to which he responded with his glove spiel.

All of a sudden, a guy comes up behind Donna and hands her a pair of red gloves. “They’re double insulated; he can have them.” Wow, that was so nice of him, I thought. Tyrone thanked the man, and as I looked around, a smile on my face, I noticed that everyone else was smiling too.

Pulling into the station, Jimmy asked Tyrone if he had eaten today. After Tyrone shook his head, Jimmy pulled out an apple and a banana and gave them to Tyrone. Then the girl behind us handed Tyrone half of a sandwich she had left over from lunch.

Oh my gosh. It was so wonderful seeing all of these strangers come together to help someone in need. Being in New York City (but I’m sure this applies to practically any city), everyone is so consumed with our own lives and problems that we forget to look at the needs of others. And even then, we see these needs but don’t know how to help because there are so many people that need help. And then there are times when we simply don’t want to help, so we look past those in need without a second thought.

Times Square - I took this back in 2011
Times Square, NYC

My heart was soaring and I couldn’t stop smiling. I mean, the fact that God placed all of us in the vicinity to help him was absolutely phenomenal. There could’ve been another, less patient man in Jimmy’s seat who wouldn’t have looked up bus fares or schedules for Tyrone to help him.

The man with the gloves could’ve simply kept them hidden in his pocket, reasoning that his hands were cold, or that they were his favorite pair, or whatever other excuse.

And if Donna hadn’t come down the aisle and taken Tyrone under her wing, who knows where he would have ended up if he got off the train at Mineola. Check out this article I found from April on nypost.com that features Donna as one of NYC’s most popular train conductors!

So during the rest of my commute home, I was hoping and praying for Tyrone’s safety and well-being, thanking God for putting us in the situation, and allowing me to help, albeit in such a minuscule way. I mean, $2 for bus fare is such a small thing. But I’m so glad I could be involved.

When I got off the train, waiting for the “railroad crossing” arms to go up, I ran into Jimmy! I introduced myself to him because we hadn’t throughout the whole ordeal earlier. He told me his name was Jimmy and said my name was beautiful. I thanked him for what he did on the train earlier, and he thanked me for my $2. We said good-bye and I threw in “I hope you never forget my name!” in memory of our friend Tyrone.

He assured me he wouldn’t. And I won’t forget what I witnessed today – my faith in humanity has been restored. And all because Julia got sick. And then I almost took the wrong train. But I ended up right where I was supposed to be; it was true serendipity.

2013 Reflections and 2014 Ambitions

With 2014 just around the corner (as in less than 12 hours away), I figured I would make a list of “resolutions” for the new year! Yeah!

Now I have some reservations about the idea of making New Year resolutions in January because

  1. I think we should reflect on our lives and have goals for the future all the time, not just when the clock strikes midnight on the 1st of the year.
  2. Being in school for the past 19 years, I guess I’ve been brainwashed in thinking of a “new year” as starting in September. In all those years as a student and future years as a teacher, I’m of the mindset that, “it’s only January; we still have a whole 6 months of the year left.”
  3. I think a lot of times people make these great resolutions with good intentions but without realizing how much they have to change their lifestyle or mindset in order to accomplish them. So as soon as they falter, they don’t have a plan B set in place or a way to get past the roadblock. They end up letting the feelings of defeat get the best of them and, soon after, they simply give up.

Not only did I include goals/resolutions for the upcoming year, I figured I would include regrets and accomplishments from the previous one. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

2013 Achievements:

√  Moved to and lived in New York City

√  Completed graduate school at Columbia University

TC ID

√  Kept my Crohn’s under control

√ Created and maintained a blog (except for the past 3 weeks…but with the holidays and work and completing grad school, I think I have a legitimate excuse)

√  Obtained 3 different jobs in NYC (TA at a private middle school, cashier at a small pharmacy, aide for a high school student)

√  Got engaged – I guess that’s more of an accomplishment for Tom (proposing and getting me to say yes)

Christmas ornaments!

2013 Regrets:

  • Stumbling in my spiritual life and thereby trying to control too many aspects of my life
  • Constantly worrying about what others think of me
  • Lack of self-worth/esteem/ambition/confidence
  • Not reading enough – about the world, about math, about teaching, about God
  • Watching too much YouTube (read about my addiction here) and Netflix (currently on season 5 of Gossip Girl)

2014 Goals:

  • Get married! (this one’s more of an event than a goal…woot!)
  • Get a teaching job (I miss being in the classroom – check me out student teaching back in 2011; I’m the one in purple, holding paper in the front. I know, I get mistaken for a student a lot.)Student Teaching - October 2011
  • Push through the premarital book we were recommended and started last month; I didn’t expect it to be this difficult! Let me give you an explanation:

You see, it’s not so much the discussions we end up having about our roles in the marriage or our expectations or whatever the exercises ask us to do or reflect on. The part I struggle with is the fact that we have to constantly reflect on our parents’ marriage, our relationships with our parents, and just our pasts in general.

These questions honestly make me question who I am because I can’t even rationalize some of my thoughts and thought processes. I end up so deflated after doing an exercise in the workbook that I honestly don’t want to do any more. But I know it’s helpful to look at myself and reflect on my past in order to set my sights on what I want in the future and in our marriage. It’s just tough when you didn’t grow up a cookie-cutter life of two healthy, married parents.

Tom has been a real trooper, coming up with ways to alter some of the exercises so that we don’t have to necessarily focus on those things that frustrate me. For example, one week we had to analyze our expected roles in our marriage. However, the book asked us to write down which of our parents were responsible for which household and/or professional responsibilities. Going through the list, I realized that after the age of 10, I did quite a few of the duties, my dad being absent and Mom’s health not so great. After the age of 15, I did most of them. Gee book, thanks for bringing that up.

Well, since Tom marches to the beat of his own drum and since my parents’ marriage ended when I was young and Mom’s MS made it difficult for her to do things, he suggested we just focus on our marriage because that’s all that really matters at this point. We ended up agreeing on most (with the exception of maybe 1 or 2) of the “roles” we plan to split or share in the book.

  • Buy a house
  • Find a church to attend consistently and become an active member in
  • Keep up with student loans
  • Survive the remaining 6 months of my current job, 4 hour daily commute and all
  • With said 4 hour commute (making for 12 hours out of the house every day), find time to run or go to the gym. Come on, you can’t honestly set resolutions without including health and fitness.
  • Create and use my own math/education blog (this is halfway done already…I created a blog, Chatting About Math, on edublogs.org, but feel like I have nothing to contribute since I am not in the classroom full-time yet)
  • Read more – about the world, about math, about teaching, about God. This should be made easier with my daily commute.
  • Write more – on this blog, on my math blog, maybe contribute to someone’s blog or something?
  • Learn how to argue/debate and stick to my ideas/decisions – this may sound like a weird one, but I tend to avoid arguments or debates because I suck at them. I don’t want to create arguments just for the sake of arguing, but I would like to become better and defending my position on topics.
  • Gain more self-confidence/esteem/ambition/worth and not be so dependent on what others say or think

So there you have it folks. Kind of a long list, I know, but I think there’s a good mix of small and large goals, some more easily obtained than others. What are you most proud of from 2013? What are you most looking forward to in the new year?

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year’s Eve as well as an amazing 2014! Cheers!Happy New Year

Goodbye NYC Dorm

This is my last week of grad school at Teachers College, Columbia University. Unless, of course, I fail any of my finals. In which case, I will be returning next semester! But I’m pretty sure that will not happen.

Nevertheless, let’s keep our fingers crossed. And toes. And any other anatomical parts that can be entwined with each other to make sure that I do indeed pass everything and can officially call this the last week of my formal education.

With my last week of grad school comes my last week of living here in my dorm room. I’ve started the packing process and boy, oh boy, do I have a lot of stuff. When I came down here in January, I was able to jam-pack everything (including Tom and I) into Tom’s teeny tiny Honda Prelude, with room to see through the back window. Safety first, right?

Sweaty/sleepy Tom

I know this is very cliché but it seriously feels like I moved in only a couple months ago, not 11! And I didn’t realize just how much I have made this room my own until I started packing and taking inventory of all that I will have to squeeze into the still-tiny car.

As I took down my collage of pictures and the multi-colored Christmas lights that have been hanging all year, my room has become very bare, blah, and un-me. So much so that it actually seems too big now. A dorm room in NYC that seems too big?! I know, crazy.

heart picture collage

I remember the first time I had unlocked the door to my new home back in January and was extremely surprised at how small it was. I mean, me and my belongings were packed into 215 square feet; where would everything go? I was so used to having a whole house to myself back home, so coming here was like being confined to my bedroom with a bathroom squeezed in. Little did I know, this is how Manhattan is; unless you are able to pay an arm and a leg and your first born child, this is considered normal for the size and price.

Although my room came with a refrigerator/microwave combo, the actual kitchen was conveniently located right across the hall from my room, which was nice if I actually needed a toaster or stove top. But holy cow, how was my body and all of my stuff supposed to fit in such a tiny space?!

Living in NYC, you realize just how valuable storage is. Thank God for the armoire with two shoe drawers at the bottom, hanging space in the middle, and a cubby space at the top. Oh, and the 5-drawer dresser. And the cabinet above the fridge/microwave for my food. And the three drawers under my bed. And the little wheel-y drawer thing that fit under my desk. And the bookshelf. And the cabinet under the sink in my bathroom. After a couple weeks in the room, I realized just how adequate this space was – I had room for everything, and I didn’t need anything else.my apartment

As you can see, my “apartment” was located right next to the elevator, which was surprisingly unnoticeable. I was kind of worried seeing as my first dorm room at Geneseo was right next to the garbage room. The custodian was not concerned about our wanting to sleep past 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings, as we usually were woken up by the clanging of the metal cans.

But I digress.

You may also notice that my room is the smallest – I think all of the other rooms had an extra closet or something. It also seems like they all have bath tubs, whereas the X in my bathroom represents the stand-up shower. But that’s fine with me because I didn’t end up needing another closet. And, seriously, who has time for baths anymore?

Also, because I got a corner room, my room has two windows! The one looks upon the south end of the building, so there isn’t much a view when sitting on my bed. But the other window looks out upon East Harlem, so I’ve gotten to see some pretty amazing sunrises.

Like this one:

sunrise 1

And this one:sunrise 2

And some pretty cool storm clouds, too.storm

Overall, my time living in Manhattan has been good. Sure, there were lonely times in that little room, as nothing around me was familiar, I didn’t know anyone, and I tried to stay away from spending money when I didn’t have a job. I definitely will not miss that bed as it was very uncomfortable. I will not miss the brownish water from the sink; luckily I got a Brita pitcher, but still, that’s gross. And having to wait for the shower to heat up in the morning…sometimes it wasn’t until I was washing my face (the last step in my shower routine) that the water would become bearable.

And, as is the case everywhere in NYC, the heat/air conditioningwas such a pain in the arse. See, here in the city, it’s pretty much all or nothing. From October 1st through May 31st is considered “heat season,” so nothing but heat comes out of the units. The rest of the year, the units are air conditioners. And there is no control over the temperature – it’s either on or off – so you just turn it on when you get cold (or hot between May 31st and October 1st), then turn it off when it gets to a comfortable temperature. So needless to say I’ve fallen asleep many a nights in a chilly room since, if I left the heat going when I fell asleep, I would wake up sweating.

So anyways, this week I’ll be slowly packing stuff up, as they are kicking everyone out by 11 a.m. on Saturday the 21st. Even though finals don’t end until Thursday evening. I mean, I have work in Brooklyn every day, then a final exam Monday evening, a 10ish-page paper due Tuesday evening, class Wednesday evening (we got a take-home final for that class, thank goodness), and a final exam Thursday evening. Luckily I have a half day of work on Friday, so Tom’s coming into the city with his car and hopefully we’ll get everything packed into his car and we’ll get going that evening.

I’m off to live at Tom’s parents’ house for the time being; they have a guest bedroom that I always stay in when I’m there anyways, so they’ve been calling it my room for awhile now, anyway. Since I have my job in Brooklyn until June, I looked at getting a room in Brooklyn, but rent is just too damn high. So yeah, with the wedding coming up in about 8 months (yay!!), student loan payments in 6, my Invisalign, and whatever else I need (food, maybe?), I figure saving $800/month might be a good idea. The commute is going to be annoyingly long, but I’ll get a lot of reading done on the train. And hopefully some sleep.

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.