Reflection and worries – part 2

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A few months ago Derek started the process of applying for professor jobs. He applied to one in a semi-rural snowy mountain town, a place that I wasn’t too sure I’d be happy living in. Derek got a call back a day later, and my anxiety shot up. You can read about that here: https://texastalesblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/10/reflection-and-worries/

Well, nothing more came from that interview, but there have been other opportunities since then. Each week my anxieties change. I wish I could be in the present and not worry about the future. What is going to happen will happen. Easier said than done.

Derek applied to a few schools in December and January. Aside from that one call back, we didn’t hear anything.

There was one school and place, not in Texas, that I would have been ecstatic to move to. Derek heard back from that school, and was told “no, however…” It turns out that this school thinks Derek is a good fit for a two-year fellowship. A fellowship at a large school such as this one would really set Derek’s career off. The deadline is Monday, and Derek completed the application for that one last week. My thoughts change about this job possibility almost daily. I would love to move there, but I have reservations about it being only two years. What would happen after that? I’m ready for some long-term stability.

He also applied to a school right here in Houston. That was back in February. I have no patience. I feel like he should have heard back from now, but multiple people have told me that academia is “slow.”

We thought that the round of job openings for professorships were over after the January deadlines. So we thought, maybe a teaching job wasn’t going to happen for Derek right away. However, a few more have been opening up recently. It makes sense, schools probably know of a lot more openings now. Teachers decide to move on or retire by the end of each school year. He has a few in mind that he will apply to once he graduates, which is a week and a half way.

At least I can say that I feel better about the possibility of moving to these places instead of the snowy mountain town, but this doesn’t change the fact that I would prefer to stay in Houston. Derek will apply to some design firms right here in Houston, just in case none of the professor jobs work out.

We have no idea what will happen. I feel like when I reserve myself to thinking that we’ll leave, that’s when we’ll end up staying, and vise versa.

I have been putting a mental list together of some of the easier things we want to do in Houston this summer if we have to leave by mid-July (Most start dates for professor jobs are August 1). Go to NASA, Brazos Bend State Park, etc. Some of the bigger things won’t be plausible, like weekend trips to Dallas and Austin. I am comforting myself some by reminding myself that we could always take a week long vacation from where ever we live in the future and visit both Dallas and Austin. The two cities are not disappearing any time soon.

I am quickly losing patience. I hope we hear back from some places, even if its bad news, soon. I just want to know for sure or not what will happen to us. Stay tuned.

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Changes…

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Everything can change in an instant. A week ago, on Tuesday morning, my dad called me. He told me that the company that he works for, New England Motor Freight, is shutting down. He is, or was, a truck driver. He worked there since before I was born. By the end of this week, my dad will be out of a job.

I never thought that my parents and I would end up going through the exact same situation. It has made me think about all that has transpired in our lives the last few years.

We thought life was great in Pennsylvania. We had good jobs, and a brand new house, bought in our first year of marriage. Then I got laid off from my job. We both bounced around with other jobs after that, and nothing was ever the same. We were not happy. We decided to go back to school and get bachelor degrees in graphic design. That was when Derek knew that graphic design was what he wanted to do professionally. There was nothing holding us back in Pennsylvania, so Derek applied to graduate schools. Even though it was a three-year process, me getting laid off lead us to Houston. We had no idea what was going to happen, but we knew we could no longer stay where we were.

Now my mom and dad are facing that same dilemma. They live in New Jersey, which is one of the most expensive states to live in. Property taxes are high. Like us three years ago, they can no longer stay where they are. They are planning on putting their house up for sale next month.

They do have a plan in place. They want to move to Maryland. For the last few years they have been volunteering with the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Through that, they have become familiar with the area. They have their favorite coffee shops and restaurants, and they have made friends with other railroad workers. This was always their retirement plan, but this was not supposed to happen for another few years yet. Dad is not quite at retirement age, but at least he is close. He has looked at all of the figures, and although the budget will be tight, early retirement is doable.

There is some comfort that they are not going to this place sight unseen, which is what happened to us when we moved to Houston. We had absolutely no idea what we were getting ourselves into. It is still going to be scary for them though.

They have a really nice home that they moved into when it was brand new, (when I was 11 years old) and it was customized for them. They might have to move into a less than ideal home in Maryland, to keep costs down. Dad is a handyman though, and he is capable of fixing a lot.

Again, this is also similar to what we went through. We loved our house in Wellsboro. It was the perfect size, actually, almost too big for just the two of us. It was pretty too. I still mourn my beautiful knotted pine kitchen cabinets. It was hard to downsize and get used to a new, cramped setting.

Since then we have worked our way up, and we are in a nicer apartment, and I know mom and dad too, will make a new house a home. Everything gets easier with a bit of time and hard work.

Reflection and worries

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Do you ever find yourself needlessly worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, and it might not happen at all?

This is the story of my life. Worry is a family trait that has been passed down through the female generations. I feel like I have been trying to talk myself out of going over an anxiety cliff the past two days.

Derek starts his last semester of school next week. We are 120 days away from graduation. He has started to apply to professor jobs.

We both have said all along that we wanted to stay in Houston, but we will move if he gets a good offer. Therefore he is applying to schools elsewhere in the country. If anything, he said, it would be good interview experience.

On Sunday night he finished up an application to (school name withheld) in a semi-rural snowy mountain town. The deadline was Monday. I had no idea that he had intended on applying there until he was in the process.

All Sunday night I tossed and turned dreaming about what life would be like in “snowy mountain town.” I’m not entirely convinced that I could be happy there.

On Monday morning, I convinced myself to calm down, and that this was only the first step in a long process. We probably wouldn’t hear anything back for a few months yet. But then Derek texted me and told me that the school had contacted him, and they wanted to do a Skype interview. I felt like a weight suddenly came down on my chest, and I had trouble breathing. The anxiety was back. I never thought anything would happen so soon. Am I really going to have to move to “snowy mountain town?”

I’m trying to talk myself off that ledge again. He says he thinks it went well, but it was only one interview.  Maybe he will go through a second round of interviews, maybe not. Maybe he won’t get any offers, and he will have to work at a Houston area design firm for a while while being an adjunct professor (meaning contracted for one class at a time), and then try again in a few years.

He still has to apply to the other positions, including one at the University of Houston. I think I would have less anxiety over the prospect of moving to the other discussed locations, but I still have to face the thought of moving at all.

Plan A was to stay in Houston for at least another three to five years. Packing up in July would come too quickly. I am in a really good place myself career wise, and I have gotten a group of good friends. I would feel uprooted at the wrong time. There are still things that I want to do in Houston and in Texas that we haven’t done yet. I do not want to leave anything unfinished.

I’m concerned about putting ourselves (and our cats!) though another cross country move and the stress that comes along with it.

But on the other hand I love the sense of adventure. I feel like I was always meant to move around.

What to do? I do not like feeling not in control. I was not meant to take it one day at a time but that is my only option for now. I am hoping that Derek gets a great offer and that we feel comfortable in making a decision!

New apartment

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We have moved into a new apartment! Everything about it is bigger and better, which was sorely needed.

We live in the same neighborhood, but in a better, quieter spot. Previously, we were right off of the highway, but now we are on a side street. We are still walking distance to the stadium, just on the opposite side now, which is great. I foresee a lot more rodeo country concerts in my future! We are also now walking distance to the metro rail, which will be great for downtown events. Prior, we had to go to the park and ride and pay $3 in addition to our metro ticket.

Judging by some of our neighbors wearing scrubs, this complex seems to be a popular living spot for medical students and or doctors working at the Texas Medical Center, which is just a few stops away on the metro.

Our first apartment in Houston was a one bed and one bath which was a tight squeeze, especially since we were used to a three bedroom, two bath house in Pennsylvania. There was room for everything, but there was no denying that we were cramped.

The main goal was to get a second bedroom that we could turn into an office for Derek to do his school work in, and for me to do my scrapbooking! Previously, Derek’s desk was the first thing you saw when you walked through the front door, which meant you also saw his messes! I am much happier now that his mess is contained to a room that is NOT the living room. This will also help the both of us because now Derek can keep the light on at night if he needs to stay up late, and I won’t hear the click-clack of his keyboard either, so hopefully I will sleep better!

In the end we got much more than just that extra bedroom. Now we have two walk-in closets, two bathrooms, a new washer and dryer ( that we just purchased last week) and a private balcony! Something that we definitely did not need, but what made me fall in love instantly with the place was the big brick fireplace! It’s funny that it takes moving to Texas to get a fireplace.

When walking through the door, you can just FEEL that it is bigger, even with all of the boxes still laying everywhere. I can only imagine how it will feel when everything is done and put away. When we were in the process of moving in, Derek would call my name from somewhere within the apartment and I had to call back, “Where are you?” That is a good problem to have.

We thought it would be tough to find a place that we liked and we would have to see 10 different apartments and have a hard time making a decision. However, we only looked at two apartments and knew right away that the first one was the one for us.

I was initially worried because this apartment was at the top of our budget, but sometimes good things happen at just the right time: I got a raise at work! Now we are more comfortable and don’t have to worry about being stretched too thin.

Even moving a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment is tough work, and we had over a week to do it too! I hope that we stay in this new apartment for quite a few years, until, hopefully, we are ready to buy a home.

Stay tuned for pictures of the apartment, which will come once we are more settled in.

One year later – an editorial

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One year ago today, we pulled out of our driveway in Wellsboro, and started the 1,600 mile drive to Houston. I wrote an editorial for the Houston Chronicle about the last year and how Houston is different from Wellsboro.

I have included the link, and a copy/paste version of the text below.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/To-Houston-from-Wellsboro-Pa-population-3-326-11526896.php

 

I’ve discovered the wonder that is Buc-ees. I’ve photographed bluebonnets in spring, and I’ve eaten my way through multiple flavors of Blue Bell.

Since moving to Houston last August, I realized that everything truly is bigger in Texas (except for our one-bedroom apartment.) I moved from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, home of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, population 3,326.

We moved because my husband is pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Houston. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the amount of students at the university (more than 40,000) is around the same amount of people in our rural county.

Coming here has been like living in a completely different world. There are so many city-related things that are a part of anyone’s day that I would have never given a second thought before.

For one thing: Traffic reports. They’re on the news every morning! The only traffic I had to worry about was the occasional bear and deer running across the road. I would sometimes get stuck behind a truck going 40 miles per hour, but here I realize that you’re lucky to be going that fast any given day on 610.

I’d much rather stay home than try to battle other drivers if it’s more than a 10-mile drive, a far cry from being used to driving hours all over the northeast.

And the noise. Not only the noise of the 10 or so lanes of traffic right outside our door, but the sounds of planes and helicopters constantly overhead. I had not seen an airplane overhead in the 10 years I was in Pennsylvania. My husband constantly has to repeat himself if he talks to me outside our apartment, because I cannot hear him over the rows and rows of air conditioners that are consistently running.

The loudest thing I have ever heard, without a doubt, was the fighter jet flyover during the Super Bowl. We live close to NRG, and it rattled the whole place. The cats ran under the bed.

And the many options … for, well, everything. How do Houstonians even choose? Where to go, what to do, what to eat, where to shop? It’s all mind-boggling at times. We visited more stores in the first week of being in Houston than in years of living in Wellsboro. The first time I went grocery shopping, I had an anxiety attack.

It’s the worst with restaurants. There are so many options here for each cuisine, and a lot of it’s unfamiliar territory for us.

I remember trying crawfish for the first time. I am a picky eater, and I kept finding excuses not to try it.

But it was the season, and I found a restaurant hosting a crawfish special for $7 a pound on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, perfect for my work schedule — and my frugality.

My husband and I tried to prepare ourselves in advance by watching YouTube videos on how to open them, but they left us more puzzled. You really have to suck the fat out of the heads?

But we got there, and the platters were put in front of us. We asked our waiter for good measure how to open and eat them, but he just chuckled and walked away.

We eventually figured it out after consulting the internet once again on our phones. The crawfish, along with the corn on the cob and potatoes, were excellent, but my lips were burning so badly by the spices that I was crying at the table.

I do miss Pennsylvania, at least some of it. I miss homemade maple syrup, and I miss the mountains, especially in the fall with the bright foliage. I miss making trips to the Mennonite general store.

But I feel like Texas, with all of its hustle and bustle, is where I am meant to be.

Our apartment

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In Wellsboro we had a three bedroom, two bathroom house. Just for sake of affordability, we knew that we would have to downsize to a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment, at least for the first year that we are here.

So, officially, we downsized from 1,836 square feet to 602 square feet. It’s really not that bad when you think about it, because our house had a large dining room that was empty, and the kitchen and the living room were over sized. Plus there was that extra bedroom that was never used except for when someone spent the night.

Our apartment makes efficient use of what little space it has. The rooms that don’t really matter, like the dining nook, the kitchen, and the bathroom, are tiny, so the livable spaces like the living room and bedroom are larger.

I can handle only having one bathroom, but in the future I definitely want to have two bedrooms, just for the sake of having an extra closet and a place to shove all your extra stuff!

It is tough having so much stuff and not very many places to put it. Sure, our walk-in closet is huge, but when you put your clothes in, that fills up most of the space. So we’ve gotten clever, and we’ve hidden things behind doors and behind and underneath the bed. So that second bedroom would be helpful.

If there is one thing I could change right now about the apartment, it would be the cabinet space in the kitchen. There wasn’t a drawer wide enough to put our silverware in, so we had to buy a holder to put on the counter top. All of the dishes are stacked up on top of one another, so just one more cabinet or drawer would help.

But we’ll survive. We got everything we wanted to reasonably fit inside, and nothing important was left behind in Pennsylvania.

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The road trip

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Well, we made it! 1600 miles spread out over three days. Here are some photos of the highlights:

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My favorite parts of the trip were:

Crossing into Tennessee: The whole first day through Virginia were all roads that I was familiar with. Tennessee was new and exciting to me.

Lookout Mountain, Tennessee: We passed a gorgeous mountain range in lower Tennessee. One of these mountains, Lookout Mountain, was the site of a Civil War battle. It was called the battle in the clouds.

Fort Payne, Alabama: My favorite oldies Christmas song is “Christmas in Dixie,” by the band Alabama. They were formed in Fort Payne. The last line of the song is, “And from Fort Payne, Alabama, God bless you all, We love ya, Happy New Year, Good night, Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas tonight”

Crossing over the Mississippi: Doing this just made me FEEL different. Like we were truly on our way. It also made me feel like a modern pioneer, and I remembered the multiple times that Laura Ingalls Wilder (my favorite author) had crossed the river in her lifetime.

And: crossing into the Texas state line of course!