The Scamp and the Gratitude Challenge: Week 31 and 32

I am in Scotland. For good this time. I have been here for 4 whole days. I’ve managed to get almost everything I need in terms of housewares and food stuffs, I’ve got one of my boxes, and have made it to and from work twice without getting lost. That last one is a big one because I had to navigate the bus system, and figure out the closest stop to my work since the building is hidden in a slightly shady industrial area. I cannot begin to explain how good it feels to actually be sitting at my desk working (although it will be much better when I have internet at home and can work from there a few days a week). I have heaps of things to do, and although I am still not 100% sure I know what I am doing, I have a month to get things in order. I have a list of things of emails to send, meetings to attend, and a presentation to give. I’ve just been named the face of TESTA for the university.

You may now henceforth call me the queen of TESTA. I want a tiara….and minions. Lots of minions.

But, back to the gratitude challenge.  Week 31 is all about my core values. The one core value that I would have to say that I am most proud of is my belief in adventure. My life is centred around adventure, whether it be my crazy wanderlust, or the risk that I am willing to take for my career (I mean, I did just pack up my life and move to Scotland for my chance at my dream career in higher education). That sense of adventure has provided me with some life changing experiences, and some pretty fantastic memories. That  belief in the value of adventure is what keeps me going some days. Planning a new trip, encouraging people to travel, talking to people who are also adventurous, it makes me happy. I hope that when I am in my 80s I will still have that wanderlust.

This week, Week 32 is dedicated to a city that I have visited. I have been lucky enough to visit a lot of cities, but I think one that really stands out is Boston. The Boston trip was scheduled at a time when I thought I was going to need a break from the CSUF program, and it was the perfect opportunity to see one of my best friends while she was in the States for a week. By the time the trip actually came, it was a good break from being depressed about the expulsion, and it was during that trip that I interviewed for my current position. The city was under 8 feet of snow, but that did not diminish the fun that we had for three days. Sus and I saw a lot of fun things and ate some really great food, and both got jobs out of the experience. It was a turning point in the year for me. It changed the direction of my life. I want to go back to the city again one day and see the city when it is not buried under snow, but it will always hold a special place in my heart as the city that redirected my life toward something better.

Once the internet is set up at home, I will get back to consistent posting about all of the great stuff that has been going on since I got back to Scotland.

The Scamp and Beantown: Day 4

Three words: Boston Public Library

I’m in love with libraries. Outside of teaching, working in libraries is the only job I have ever had. The Boston Public library is really a thing of beauty. According to their website:

Established in 1848, by an act of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts, the Boston Public Library (BPL) was the first large free municipal library in the United States. The Boston Public Library’s first building of its own was a former schoolhouse located on Mason Street that was opened to the public on March 20, 1854. The library’s collections approximated 16,000 volumes, and it was obvious from the day the doors were first opened that the quarters were inadequate.

In December of that same year the library’s Commissioners were authorized to locate a new building upon a lot on Boylston Street. The present Copley Square location has been home to the library since 1895, when architect Charles Follen McKim completed his “palace for the people.”

In the latter half of the 19th century, the library worked vigorously to develop and expand its branch system. Viewed as a means to extend the library’s presence throughout the city, the branch system evolved from an idea in 1867 to a reality in 1870, when the first branch library in the United States was opened in East Boston. Between 1872 and 1900, 21 more branches began serving communities throughout Boston’s diverse neighborhoods.

In 1972, the library expanded its Copley Square location with the opening of an addition designed by Philip Johnson. Today, the McKim building houses the BPL’s vast research collection and the Johnson building holds the circulating collection of the general library and serves as headquarters for the Boston Public Library’s 24 branch libraries.

The entrance to the library is a grand marble staircase with two lions on guard.

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Sus and I were able to wander around and see the murals and the art that seems to be around every corner, and made it to the rare book room that houses some letters and correspondence from famous authors.

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In addition to the books, the library had some maps on display. I would love to find some prints of them and hang them on my wall.

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The library was not the only place of beauty we ventured into though. We also went into Trinity Church. Recognized as one of the most significant buildings in America, Trinity Church took shape on marshland in Boston’s Back Bay in the 1870’s. It really is beautiful building, and the pictures that I took really do not do it justice.

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Our next destination landed us at the Skywalk Observatory 55 floors above the city. We had a 360 degree view of Boston, and learned some interesting facts about the immigrants that choose to settle in the city.

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We ended the day at the Parish Cafe. They are known for sandwiches made by celebrity chefs. I had a couple of ciders and an amazing chicken sandwich while Sus and I debated education, Obamacare and Israel. We found an H&M (Sus’ Mecca) and shopped some sale items.

This was the first day that the cold and all of the walking really got to me. My joints were stiff and sore, and I was in a little bit of pain. I try not to complain about my Lupus too much, but four days of nonstop walking really got to me.

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I have never been so happy for layers in my life. I ended the day preparing for a very important interview and trying not to be nervous about the future.

The Scamp and Beantown: Day 3

I have a thing for zoos. I love them. Every time I visit a new city, the first thing I look for is whether or not they have zoo. As it turns out, Boston does have a zoo.

As it turns out, I chose to visit Boston during Snowmeggadon, and the thought of visiting a zoo in 8 feet of snow made me want to cry a little (okay, who am I kidding, it made me want to cry a lot). Monday in Boston was a whopping 3 degrees, and that made wanting to be outdoors for an extended amount of time impossible.

Luckily Boston has an alternative to the zoo that is just as good.

According to the website:

The New England Aquarium, which opened in 1969, is a global leader in ocean exploration and marine conservation. The Aquarium is one of the premier visitor attractions in Boston, with over 1.3 million visitors a year, and a major public education resource.

As it happens, the exhibit right now is all about my favorite animal.

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I love penguins. My cousin is a marine biologist, and works for an aquarium, and I am constantly begging him to bring me home a penguin. So far, he is saying no, but I am optimistic that I can change his mind.

The New England Aquarium is on the warf, and on any other day, I would have loved to see the view, but seeing as being outside hurt my face, we only stayed outside long enough to buy tickets and run inside.

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I loved the aquarium. The penguins were adorable, the staff friendly, and fish colorful and exciting. Sus is naturally curious and had me cracking up at all of the questions that she was asking. She was worried about being eaten by a starfish, wanted to know what everything ate, and made the men feeding the penguins laugh at everything she wanted to know. The marine biologist feeding the penguins was mighty cute, so I let her ask as many questions as she wanted.

When we had gotten our fill of fish (and sadly abandoned our plan to bring a penguin or two home with us), we trusted lonely planet and went off to Chinatown for some dumplings. Chinatown was amazing.Having never been to China, I imagine the layout here is very similar to a city in China.

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The Gourmet Dumpling House was easy to find, and before we even sat down, the waiter presented us with a pot of hot tea and some menus. While we were deciding what to eat, we snacked on scallion pancakes that tasted like little bits of heaven.

Thank you Google Images for supplying the photo. I ate all of them before I remembered to take a photo

Thank you Google Images for supplying the photo. I ate all of them before I remembered to take a photo

We ordered chicken wanton soup and vegetable dumplings. The last time I had Chinese food this good was when the lovely Sophia made dinner for us in Edinburgh. The restaurant had more staff than diners when we were there, and there was rapid fire Mandarin being spoken everywhere you turned. The staff was laughing and teasing each other while they sorted and cleaned fresh produce, and wrapped some sort of dumpling (The waitress was nice enough to tell us what it was, but I have since forgotten).

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This was by far the best meal that I have ever had. There were 10 dumplings in the bowl, and I kid you not, I ate seven of them. I’m not sure if it was all the walking, or the fact that it was my first meal of the day, but everything about this meal was amazing. Sus had to roll me back to the hostel. I would go back to Boston just to go back to the Gourmet Dumpling House.

The Scamp and Beantown: Day 1

Only this girl would book a trip to Boston during the worst snowstorm the city has ever seen. Eight feet of snow is no joke. I took a red eye, and landed at 8 in the morning, and after an hour subway ride, and a ten minute walk in the ice and snow, I made it to the hostel that would serve as home for a few days. I was so tired by the time I got to Boston that I didn’t even notice the cold.

This was my first hostel experience, and I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. I have a lot of friends who stay in hostels, and very few of them have horror stories, but when I got to the 40Berkeley, I was happy that it was in a safe neighborhood, and was reasonably clean.  The room reminded me of the dorm I lived in in Scotland (well, a less clean version) complete with the shared bathroom and uncomfortable cot bed. I was scared that the extreme cold weather would make the room extremely cold, but when I settled in,, the room was a tropical paradise. I was sweating in five minutes, and when the mysteries of the radiator knobs alluded me, I actually opened a window.

It was snowing….

The neighborhood streets had been plowed, and small paths had been cleared on the sidewalks, but it was still hard to get an idea of what anything looked like.

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By the time Sus arrived, it was late afternoon, and both of us were too tired to any real exploring. I knew that I could be in Boston without going to Cheers, so we walked through the Boston Commons, and had a bite where everybody knows your name.

The Boston Commons may be beautiful, but all I saw was 8 feet of snow.

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Chicken II made his first trip out and about, and he enjoyed Cheers.

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In the dark, with snow flurries and jet lag, I was worried that I would not enjoy my trip. I punctuate my life by the adventures that I take, and I was worried that if I did not enjoy the trip, then my mood would not improve.

Then I remembered the gratitude challenge. The challenge for this week was how I am feeling 9 weeks in. While I was worried I would not have fun, I was grateful to be out of California for a few days, and for the chance to experience the snow and Beantown.

I’m really not sure how I feel yet at this stage of the challenge. There are days when I feel like I am becoming a more grateful person, and that I am being reminded of all of the good I am surrounded by, and then there are the days when I feel like running over everyone I come in contact with. I’m hoping as the weeks go by, I will hold onto the positive feelings and become a more grateful person.

The Gratitude Challenge Week 7 and 8

I’m way behind, and a bit lazy, so I am doing two weeks at once.

Week 7 is all about one friend who I am grateful for while week 8 was all about expressing gratitude to three people.

7 is a no brainer. The woman who I am highlighting this week is Toni. We met while working for the University of San Diego. We bonded over filing and mocking law students, and our friendship is based on snark, sarcasm, and squirrels. When she finally met her soulmate, she allowed me to be the officiant.

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When I need a cute kid fix, she sends me pictures of my meow

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When I was terrified about walking into a meeting at Cal State Fullerton alone, she drove over 100 miles to come to the meeting and act as my council (knowing a lawyer is really handy). When my legal issues reach beyond her expertise, she hunted down a lawyer who was best suited to give me advice. There really are not enough words to express how grateful I am for her friendship.  I’m waiting for the day I can repay her for her kindness.

As for week 8, this was a hard one. I’m not very good at asking for help, and I am even worse at thanking people when they do help me. I have been a bit socially awkward lately in order to avoid having to explain what happened with CSUF, so my attempts to express my gratitude have been almost painful.

The first person I expressed my gratitude to was my therapist. My sessions with her have come to an end. Obamacare does not think that mental health is important, so I have to find low cost options to get help with my depression. The city of Brea offers a service, and I was matched with a great therapist. She really helped me cope with all of the nasty things that went on in the program, and helped me deal with the fallout of being asked to leave. Had it not been for her, the program really would have broken me. Unfortunately, I am only given a certain number of sessions, and now have to hunt for another manageable program.

The second person I expressed my gratitude to was a difficult one. When I visit my doc every few months, I have to give lots of blood and pee in a cup. Having gone through this procedure often enough, I know how much water I need to drink and when to be able to handle that, and I know that the veins in my right arm are better than the ones in my left. I also know which of the nurses has a light touch, and which one can never seem to find the vein. This week, I got Nurse Ratchet. She insisted on using my left arm, and when she jabbed the needle into my arm and missed the vein, I was none too pleased. I was ready to be mean, but instead decided to thank her and tell her how grateful I was that she was able to get my blood drawn quickly. She told I must have a low tolerance for pain, and then told me how to pee in the cup properly, I feel that my gratitude was somewhat wasted on her, but I did appreciate the lesson on how to pee in a cup (turns out I have been doing it wrong for years! Who knew?).

The third person who got a little of my gratitude this week was actually more than one person. My freshman level writing course were really good sports this week. I’m a big believer of technology, and the day I need to show a video and go over some grammar issues, the light in the projector blows up. My students did not complain and settled into hearing me discuss the lectures old school style. They actually took notes, asked questions, and did the writing assignment assigned to them. I don’t know if they are actually good people, or they knew that I did not want to be trifled with, but either way, I told them I was grateful that they kept their thoughts about the class to themselves.

Now that that is out of the way I can focus on my upcoming trip to Boston. It is snowmaggedon there, so it should be an interesting few days. I don’t think I will be seeing as many sites as I thought I would, but I am still going to try and get to Harvard Square and the Boston Commons. I may even go the bar where everybody knows your name.