First Impressions of Springfield, MA

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My husband was given the opportunity for his first Surgical Tech Traveler assignment to take place in Springfield, Massachusetts. I decided that since the licensure to teach certification program I am hoping to get into doesn’t actually start until the Fall, why not travel with my husband for the next six months as I study for the Praxis exam and finish up my prerequisites? It can be very difficult to focus on my studies at home. I decided that taking myself out of my comfort zone–to give myself the next two months to study and take the exam (which is due in May)–would be a great way to stay focused on the end goal. Besides, one of the reasons for my move to the East Coast and Virginia was to experience all that it has to offer. My family’s roots lie in New York and Massachusetts as well as Wisconsin and I felt the need to see what my grandparents saw when they were young and living on this side of the country before WWII and their moves to California and the Pacific Northwest led them to their future lives. While I haven’t gotten to Wisconsin yet, I’m starting with New England, where my heart is closest.

The house we are staying at is in a historic neighborhood downtown. The homes are old and gorgeous. Many have been repainted and are colorful and well-loved. Since it’s still snowing here, I haven’t had the opportunity to see them shine as brightly yet as I’m sure they do once Spring decides to open up and show all the beauty she has to offer. Since we are here through May, I know I’ll get to see her bloom.

When we first arrived, my husband and I were greeted by a sweet and friendly pooch who is still a pup and ready to play. She isn’t a small pup though, in fact she is quite large and I fell in love with her instantly. Though we don’t get to see her that often, when we do I can’t help but want to play with her. I miss my own pups so much, so she’s a little bit of sunshine in the snowy depths of Springfield. Our host and housemates are all wonderful professionals working in either academia or the medical field like my husband, and while we haven’t had a chance to get to know all of them yet, we have enjoyed the talks we’ve had so far in the cozy kitchen we share. The atmosphere is very welcoming which made me and my husband feel much more comfortable than we expected.

The buildings are mostly historic that surround us and bring to mind what you would expect traveling to New England. Lots of brickwork homes, schools, colleges, and Roman Catholic Churches which are stunning, as well as leafless trees lining the neighborhoods, snow everywhere, and colorful characters throughout the Downtown area. We found a great hole-in-the wall pizza shop called MJ’s Pizza and Grinders where my husband and I stopped yesterday during his orientation break and bought a slice of pepperoni that was the best pizza I’ve had since leaving Las Vegas five years ago. Yes it’s been that long. I mean there is pizza and then there is pizza. We also found a great restaurant called Sunny Side Up where we had breakfast which also offers lunch specialties selling Polish food such as homemade pierogis and other Polish dishes to be found like on my father’s side of the family that I haven’t tried yet but am looking forward to trying once we go back for lunch. The breakfast was tasty and the service, wonderful.

Driving through the streets downtown, we also ran across a fabulous bakery and restaurant called Puerto Rico Restaurant and Bakery. The small building was packed with people ordering sandwiches to go and bakery goods that were to die for. My mouth was watering as I looked at all the treats that were available to purchase from this Spanish restaurant, my mother’s side of the family’s Puerto Rican roots urging me to try some of the desserts and pastries offered. I ended up taking home a Baker’s Dozen of bite-sized yummies that I’m still working over. I will definitely be going back to try all of their desserts, main dishes, and sandwiches as well.

Finally, we checked out the famous Wahlburgers founded by Paul, Donnie, and Mark Wahlberg, some of Massachusetts’ own home-grown boys and famous for their acting, singing, and cooking abilities. In all honesty, I didn’t know that the family Wahlberg had opened up a chain of restaurants so this was a welcome surprise to me. The bar offered some great cocktails for those who enjoy a liquid lunch or social hour as well as some great burgers which were delicious, and other classic dishes that people love to eat. My husband and I both got the original “Our Burger” with something called the “Wahl Sauce” which added a whole other dimension to a classic burger. I don’t know what is in the “Wahl Sauce” but whatever it is, it made the burger taste extra yummy. The restaurant itself was aesthetically pleasing with some really cool specialty lighting in the main dining area which was super fun to look at while waiting for the food to be served.

As I sit here in the gorgeously old, Springfield Central Library with its Mezzanine, dark wood, and ornamental metal and woodwork, I’m excited for what the next few months will hold. Luckily we’re only a 7.5 hour drive from home or a one hour flight from Boston to Richmond so I will be able to go back and forth whenever I want. I still have responsibilities at home that need attending to but knowing that I can stay here for a week or two at a time with my husband and then go home for a little while without it being to much of a hassle makes this first travel assignment for my husband something I’m still excited about. Now, it’s time to get back to studying.

Waiting is the Hardest Part

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It seems like the last nine months have been a waiting period. After working towards my goal of receiving my BA in English which happened in May of 2021, I have been in a temporary state of limbo. I say temporary because I’m hoping this will change soon. I am feeling rather antsy and need to get back to working full time.

Originally, the need to go back to school drove me from my former job to start my life over again. My daughters were both young adults attending university. I decided it was time for me to make a change and attend college myself. Back in the day when I graduated from high school, I was done with school for awhile and wanted to begin my life as an adult. After working for the past 25 years though, I was ready to finally go after my dream.

I took my four years off, worked my butt off to maintain a high GPA, and graduated cum laude. I had successfully completed the one thing I wanted to for years. While college life made me happier than I had been in a very long time, it couldn’t last forever. Eventually, I had to go back to real life and the reality of paying my bills and earning a paycheck. This led to the decision to say goodbye to what we had always known and start over once more.

My husband, younger daughter and I all made our move to the great State of Virginia to reunite with family we haven’t seen in four years. I had wanted to leave the West Coast behind me and head across the country from my home state of California for many years before I even started college. Once I was just about finished with school though, it seemed like a good time to finally take the plunge. I have found that while I do love it here, I don’t know a lot of people yet and they don’t know me. This makes life a little more difficult than before.

Finding a full time job has been challenging to say the least. Instead of successfully landing a job as support staff in a school district here, I’ve worked part time jobs which have gotten me back out there but weren’t where my heart lay. I am grateful to the companies that hired me to work here. They gave me the opportunity to start my life in Virginia, but I know that while these jobs were a fabulous way to begin getting to know people and understand the culture here, my destiny lies elsewhere.

I have now entered a period in my life where what worked once doesn’t work now. It’s not just me though. The world has changed and I’m not sure what comes next. What I do know is that I can no longer live and work on the sidelines. It is time I give back to society in a way that I never have before. It’s a bit scary and uncomfortable but I feel like this is the road I am meant to take. In every life, there is a fork in the road and each of us has to decide which way we go. After that, we just need to see where it takes us and ride the ride.

https://youtu.be/uMyCa35_mOg

The Working Path

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In everyone’s life, there are people we are meant to meet on our path towards enlightenment. Some of them are here for a short time and some we are meant to share our entire lives with. In my personal experience, the majority of people on my path have been those I’ve worked with. I’m not much of a social butterfly. I guess I’m more comfortable in a work environment. Mainly because at work, you have no choice but to communicate with the people you work with everyday. Instead of being able to hide in my own little world, I’ve had to learn to force myself to talk to others. It’s kind of like my security blanket. I usually let my best self shine through at work. For me, going to work has always been about doing the job I was hired to do but also getting to know people. I tend to think people are most interesting when they’re using the mind they were born with to resolve issues or make things better. It’s also when you see who’s most trustworthy, how they deal with issues under pressure and what makes them tick in business. 

Working is also one of the best ways to meet people who become your mentors. They show you their way of looking at the world and the work-life and teach you valuable lessons you can take with you as you move on through life. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some men and women who have turned out to be some of the wisest, most wonderful humans I have ever known and for that I will always be grateful. They have since I began this post retired. However, I have felt very blessed to know them and will take a piece of them wherever I go as I continue my path through life. Bring on the mentors. If we let ourselves, we can learn from everyone we meet, especially those who we have the great honor of working with. Thank you to my mentors in the working life. Your lessons have been valuable and have helped to make me the person I am today. 

Voice From The Past

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Today started out as a Saturday like any other Saturday. My husband and I were up early and decided to surprise our daughters with a morning treat of donuts from our favorite real donut shop. As we were leaving, an older man started to place his order and to hear him speak was like hearing the voice of my grandfather. His voice was that of the old, tough, former New Yorker my grandfather had been. He only said a few words but his voice took me right back to the days when my grandfather was still alive. He’s been gone for almost 15 years now and I had forgotten what his voice sounded like. I was surprised at how memories of my grandfather overwhelmed me with just the sound of this man’s voice. A warm feeling settled over my heart and I felt like I had been given a special gift. It made me smile but then the tears began to flow. 

Feelings of great love and then even greater loss touched my soul. My grandfather was an amazing person, he had the mind of a genius, the heart of an inventor and the soul of a poet. He was strong, brave and religious. He loved his family with all his heart and did his very best to be a shining example of what a good man should be. We were all scared of him but we also loved him with all our heart. He was only in his 70s when he died leaving my grandmother behind to carry on without him. I feel thankful everyday to be born into my amazing family. I just wish I’d had more time with him before he died.

When you’re young, you don’t understand the gift of having grandparents to share their life stories with you. You hear them but you don’t really comprehend how important having those memories of special times with them are. I try to visit with my grandmother as often as possible when I’m visiting my hometown. Seeing her there in the house where so many of my best memories of childhood and adolescence were brings me back to the days when my grandfather was still alive. She tells me her stories and I listen with relish. She is my only real link to my family’s incredible history now. Each time I’m with her, I feel my grandfather’s presence, her grace and see her tremendous beauty. It makes me feel safe and secure once more. Grandparents are such a vital part in the stories of our lives. It’s important that we treat them with all the love and respect that they deserve. Their wisdom is key to how we make our own way through this sometimes troublesome world we live in.

Music is the Soundtrack to Life

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For as long as I can remember, music has always played an important role in my life. Coming from a family as big as mine, my wonder years were spent hanging out at my grandparents’ house with the four youngest aunts who were my mom’s sisters. My mom was the fourth oldest child in her family of 13 kids. When my grandparents would babysit me while my mom was at work or she and my dad were out on a hot date, the four of them were usually there, all high school teenagers listening to the music of their adolescent years.

I have found that when I’m writing, especially if I’m preparing to write a novel length story, preparing a great playlist sets me up for the direction my characters decide they want to take. I let the music take over and see the characters in my mind and hear them as though I’m watching a movie in my head with the soundtrack playing in the background. Whether I’m writing about a teenaged drummer girl coming of age in New York City, mothers and daughters and the never-ending battle of words between them, a married couple dealing with the possibility of divorce after 25 years of marriage or the elderly man and woman who found each other again in their golden years, music always plays an important role in everything I write. It sets the tone of the story and moves it along in a way that I can see.

I have gotten to know many people who think the same way as I do about music. It started on a day in late November 2009 on a music website known as Blip.fm. It was on this special online DJ website where I began to meet my people. For the first time in many years I found people who were just as obsessed and in love with music as I was. In the almost three years that I have been in and out of Blip.fm and facebook I have gotten to know some of these wonderful people on a more personal level, all online but still I consider them my friends. Even though I haven’t met any of them in person, I feel like I’ve known them for years. I can’t help but think sometimes that if we were all to have a meet and greet we’d end up having a blast with kick ass music playing in the background. I love my Blip.fm and facebook friends and in a world that can sometimes feel a bit lonely at times, they help to make it all more bearable and fun. Cheers to some of my favorite online friends! Love from EnchantedA!

Music is Good for the Soul

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This past Christmas, I tried to think of something special I could give to my parents. I’m not very crafty, I don’t sew…yet and I don’t consider myself a foodie per se. I don’t get excited over shopping at Whole Foods or any grocery store for that matter. I don’t think that a great night out is eating at a nice restaurant and nothing else. I think it’s a waste of money unless there is music being played somewhere nearby. I don’t bake though I love the smell of baking bread, cookies being made and yummy cakes. My sister-in-law creates fabulous cakes that are tasty and beautiful to look at and my mom bakes the best cookies. I think they’re better than Mrs. Field’s but that’s just my humble opinion.

I believe my gift is music, not making my own music though I would love to be able to play an instrument if I had the patience to actually learn. No, my gift is in finding the perfect songs to fit my mood and the mood of others, hopefully making them feel something in their  hearts and souls from the gift of music I give to them. I feel music. It makes me cry when I’m happy and when I’m sad, reminisce about days gone by, feel exhilarated and giddy and helps me get over something when I’m angry, all the while giving me goosebumps when the music is truly beautiful. My husband and kids know exactly what kind of mood I’m in by the music I have playing and know whether it’s time to leave mom alone or act goofy and be silly, dancing around the house as if no one is watching.

I love creating playlists and with the knowledge I’ve gained from the people I love about who they are as individuals, I’m able to come up with the perfect playlist for them from me. Whether it’s music for a wedding or a mix cd for a loved one or friend, that person or couple knows it’s personalized from me to them. It makes me happy when others listen to the cd I’ve given them and love all the songs I’ve added, evoking beautiful memories from their own life experiences, while allowing them to chance to see who they are to me and what they represent in my life.

It was with this knowledge that I decided to give both my parents separate mix cd’s as a more personalized Christmas gift. I added songs that were reminiscent of my childhood and of what I knew to be some of my parents’ favorite bands and singers. Though they both loved my gift, I think my dad understood the reasoning behind it more than my mom. My dad and I both tend to be very introverted and share a love of music that my mom just doesn’t share with me. Neither my dad nor I talk very much but get us in a room where we can talk about music and we are good for an hour or so.

My mom would rather shop with me as a way to re-connect and that’s wonderful. Some of the best memories I have with my mom of when I was younger and now that I’m older, have revolved around an afternoon or evening of shopping. However, I was hoping that by giving them both music that meant something to me and told the story I was trying to share with them, they would have a better understanding of who I am as a person. My dad totally got it and in turn got me…my mom did not. She loved the songs I gave her but asked me why music was so important to me. I probably should have tried explaining it to her a little better but in the end, didn’t really know how to.

I guess for me, music is the way I know best to let my feelings show. Words can sometimes be hard for me, especially in a conversation with others. Sometimes I get so nervous around people that my mind goes blank and I don’t know what to say. It’s a problem I’ve dealt with my entire life. If you are a person who loves music as much as I do, then you know how I feel. We all have our ways of dealing with daily life. Mine just happens to be through music. What about you? How do you deal?

 

Being appreciated is really nice…

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This past June, I ended one career in the school district where I work and took a new position as an administrative assistant at a high school. For the past 12 years, I have worked on an off in accounting and with the budget cuts in the district, I was going to be “riffed.” Instead of letting my career in the district come to an end right before my full five years of vestment, I went for it, pay cut and all. Sometimes you have to take a step backward to move forward. I know now that I made the right decision.

Today was Administrative Professional’s Day and in the 20+ years that I’ve been working, this is the first year where I I truly felt appreciated for what I do and the first time I’ve ever been celebrated for what I do. I love my job…I really do. I know some people probably don’t look at secretarial work as anything special but working in the schools rather than in an administrative or corporate office is an eye-opening experience filled with pleasures that I never knew existed. Little gifts I find in my mailbox from office supply goodies to flowers and a boss who makes me feel appreciated everyday, patient with me and understanding when I forget to do something and still telling me that I’m doing a good job even when I feel like I’m not. Words of wisdom from the principal’s secretary letting me know that the first year is always the toughest but with each passing year it get’s easier and better helps me feel a little less insecure.

The added bonus is that I’m adding to my skills, learning a completely new job, knowing I can take that knowledge with me in a few years if I want to and move onto a higher paying position. The fact that I get a whole month off during summer to do whatever I please without having to request vacation time off is such a gift that it makes taking the pay cut completely worth it. When people acknowledge your hard work in a meaningful way, it truly makes a difference. Enchantment abounds and inspiration is everywhere.

Generation X is not the Lost Generation

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Gen X has gotten a bad rap. Ever since we said goodbye to high school and either started our lives in the real world or worked on bettering ourselves in college, everyone who is not part of our generation seems to think we are lost and that we are invisible. As a member of Generation X, I can say that those people don’t know what they’re talking about. If anything, we are the survivors of a childhood that may not have been ideal, a work life that is not always stable and a home life that may or may not be perfect. We are a generation of rebels and individuals who believe that music is the soundtrack to our lives and we can actually make a difference in a world filled with former dreamers and idealists-turned-greedy middle-aged boomers and plastic, money-is-the-only-thing that matters, barbie girl world, reality t.v. loving youngsters.

 It is true that some of Generation X may feel lost and some may feel invisible but we’re still out there, doing the  work that our predecessors and the generation following us don’t want to do. We are the cog in the wheel that makes it turn, letting the world see our creativity at work, showing the younger generation the importance of accepting others for who they are, having paved the way to be out-shined once again. It’s not a perfect world but it is our world and it’s our job to fix it after everyone else screwed it up. We’re like the un-loved or ignored middle child who just wants to be noticed and recognized for the special people we are without having to show off to everyone else to prove that we are. A generation of people who have so much to offer the world and many who do the important work behind the scenes, molding our children to be better people and hopefully making the world a better place for the future than when we received it. We don’t sound very lost to me. 

The Enchanted Years

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At one time, I thought the high school years were my enchanted years. Everyone was young, beautiful, ambitious, trying to figure out who they were, what they wanted to become and having fun. Life was a social activity to everyone whether you were popular or not. It didn’t matter who you hung out with. Whomever you called friend, you had fun with them. We were both child and young adult. Some of us acted more like the adult and some like the child. We were inspired, curious and falling in love for the first time. For some, the party continued through college and for others like myself, the real world became our university.

I chose to get married at a young age. I thought it would be magical and at least I didn’t have to worry about ever being alone. I knew I could make a marriage work. I had always been a romantic at heart. My future husband was a little pessimistic about it lasting. How could a marriage possibly work when you’re so young? You haven’t even fully matured into an adult yet. Still, I was stubborn and knew I would never give up the fight when it came to love and marriage.

The first few years were a time of disillusionment. My happy, cheerful big hair 80’s neon world turned into the grungy, flannel infested black and grey world of the 90’s and my perfect Prince Charming for a husband turned out to be entirely human and not perfect. I found out that I wasn’t perfect either but the love was still there even during the power struggle. There were times when I didn’t think we would be able to make it work after all and then something magical happened. Our feelings changed when we found out we would be turning our coupledom into a family. All of a sudden, though life was still relatively fun, we had someone other than ourselves to think about.

Throughout the 90’s and into the new millennium, we both did our best to learn and grow while dealing with job losses, depression, being broke all the time and having another mouth to feed turning our family of three into four. The responsibility of raising children, working at jobs that neither one of us loved to pay bills that we hated but were a necessity, took away some of the early magic of being a couple who at one time thought they would live a life filled with adventures galore into the reality of what life was really like. Luckily, we had a really great group of friends who helped to make the difficulties a little less difficult and a lot more interesting to say the least.

However, I have found that my enchanted years really are my adult years. I’ve had the chance to live two lives filled with wonderment. The one of my youth and the one of my children’s youth. Once you have a child either you turn it into a burden in which case you never should have had children, or you turn it into a world of joy and imagination. My husband and I did our best to make sure our children had a childhood filled with love, laughter, the wonder of the outdoors, the magic of Halloween, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Marriage is hard work, raising well-adjusted, intelligent, caring children is hard work. Choosing survival in a world where so many people give up is hard work yet we’ve managed to do this as well. When my children were younger, my life was about seeing the world through their innocent eyes and protecting them from the harshness and ugly reality that could be found in the outside world. Now that they’re teenagers, it’s not as easy to protect them. They have their own view on the world around them and I know that my role in their lives now is not so much the protector as it is the teacher and the voice of reason trying to keep them on the right path. So far, I think I’m managing pretty well. Giving them the freedom to make their own decisions is tough but I know when it’s time for them to go out on their own, they will have the lessons that both my husband and I taught them and they will be fine. My husband and I are both fighters who don’t give up even when it seems like everything is stacked against us. It builds character and makes us stronger.