Archive for the ‘Everett’ Tag

The Cost of (NOT) Living   3 comments

When we decided to leave North Carolina, at least for now, and transplant 2,786 miles to the left coast, just north of the Socialist State of Seattle, in Everett, Washington, a common question was “Yeah, you will be retired and drawing a decent check from the retirement system here, but won’t the cost of living out there eat up the difference even with your new job?”  There is more than one way of looking at this.  Yes, some things here are more expensive.  Sales taxes are higher, property taxes are higher and with recent changes in pot laws there are lots of people higher.  But there are flip sides to every story, but not to be flip, you may not know what you are talking about.  Several things ameliorate the impact of these points.  Some utility rates are quite good because this area depends on hydro power to such a large extent.  They would be even lower if they didn’t spend millions on some “green”, as in the color of money, projects that often don’t work out or produce electricity at much higher rates such as the stalled, ever more expensive, tidal power generation system that now appears to be going nowhere.  This is particularly true as their electricity is already so “green”.  But with a need for air conditioning that is not a need at all, except for a smidgen of days in the late afternoon, overall utility bills are lower anyway.  There is no state income tax…yet, anyway, though there are rumblings.  Fruits and vegetables, as fine as anywhere, are cheap and plentiful in season.  While it may not balance out completely, the difference is not as much as might be expected.

But so what!

 

Packing for the move.

Packing for the move.

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Straining under the weight of pillows!

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Obligatory selfie…now that we have that out of the way!

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Halfway from there to over there.

 

I have lived in two states my entire life, and I regret that it was only two. That is twice as many as a large number of people, probably a surprisingly large number.  Not that there is anything wrong with making a choice and sticking with it.  That is, if it is a choice.  Inertia is not a choice.  There was nothing essentially wrong with North Carolina.  It is beautiful but planning at any level of government for the future, such as for roads or education, sucks.  In Seattle, the leadership doesn’t want to build roads or add lanes because it thinks that if the freeway is continually in gridlock then everyone will go to the park and ride so that they can get in a bus or will carpool and sit in the gridlock anyway.  Just not going to invest more in petroleum based energy, even though waiting in traffic, stopping and starting, probably averages 17 miles a gallon in a auto designed to obtain 32.  Everyone should just ride their bikes in the drizzle.  In North Carolina, they are just  inept in their planning, little sense of the long term.  They would make terrible Chinese who seem to think longer range than most of us here in the west.

I will not recall living in Louisiana.  I begin to sweat profusely and my underwear starts to stick.

I regret not living in other places, even outside the United States.  Yes, we are avid watchers of House Hunters International.  Perhaps that is not yet too late.  Though, I do have some difficulty with the euro concept of a toilet separate from the bath/shower and sink.  One mistake and it is a looong way to the faucet and soap.  Bidets are cool, child accessible fountains.

 

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Megan and Nana share a jig celebrating sighting of Washington across the Columbia River!

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Even if the cost of living overall is higher, why not, at some time in your life, just go where you wanna go?  Do what you wanna do?  And take the kids!  Living in one place, especially if you are not a traveler, is like looking at only one spot on the body with a magnifier, blind to all else.  That one spot may be quite interesting, but are there not other interesting, maybe more interesting spots?  I should think so.  Much has been written on the richness in one’s life that comes from moving about for travel or to live.  Nana has found herself with tears sparkling in her eyes as they absorb patterns of light that form images of this new world that are stimulating and beautiful.  While not quite driven to tears, each day as I drive to work the world can be different in clear and even measurable ways.  Yes, now that we have left summer, far underrated by those outside the Pacific Northwest, there are days of watching rain sloughed off the windshield by friskly moving wiper blades, but there is so much more.  The Cascades may be enshrouded by thin clouds turned orange by the rising sun, or there may be bands of light and dark streaking out from behind the trees or ridges through dense fog.  But there can also be a crystal morning where our world is guarded to the north by Mt. Baker and Glacier and to the south by Rainier.  There is the unique, once per year, morning where a glistening white shimmers from the nearby peaks with the first snows at elevation.

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Seattle.

We have approached this as a working vacation.  I work and Nana vacations!  No, just kidding!  Sorta.  She is now a lady of leisure.  Well earned.  Each weekend we try to find the opportunity to explore more of our new world.  I do not pretend mountaintop guru wisdom.  The move largely evolved out of economics, not philosophy, so there is no room for arrogance.  This is a finite life being lived in, for a given lifetime, an infinite world.    But I have not been able to avoid pondering what is the cost of NOT living? I think the costs are quite high.  As a school psychologist we are known to talk about a certain poverty of experience that many children bring to the school environment. From the outside we can see the impact this has on their functioning in school.  I contend that there can be adult versions of a poverty of experience.  It may not be so obvious from the inside but, like an alien might look in on human existence, it may be very obvious from the outside.  I could have dismissed existential crises by just accepting what was and turning way from the choices available.  I have never heard of or known of a person who said that travel to new places and experiencing other parts of the world ruined their life, with only a few exceptions related to going to war and such.  In coming posts, we will share some of the sights and experiences that have begun to transform our aging brains creating a certain newness.

Mt. Rainier, the perfect backdrop for a city!

Mt. Rainier, the perfect backdrop for a city!

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Nana and Mt. Baker on a perfect day.

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On the Go! Go! Go!   1 comment

North Carolina is a beautiful state with so much to offer.  As a rather conservative person I think that taxpayer money needs to be not only spent well but frugally.  Unfortunately, North Carolina has not valued educators as it should.  Some paring of funding may well have been appropriate.  With less money most school districts in North Carolina have managed, until changes in testing make long term trends an exercise in comparing apples and, oh, say celery, to not show much, if any, deterioration in skills among their students.  With outcomes similar over time it is hard to argue that some aspects of previous spending were not wasteful.  Education has always been a carousel and pendulum ride between different strategies, methods and, yes, fads.  Enormous amounts of money have been spent on such endeavors.  Now, the trend is towards the use of notebooks, laptops, tablets to further instruction.  This is expensive and there is inherent obsolescence that requires commitment to further large expenditures of money down the road.  While it may exist, and everyone will have an opinion, I have not seen much evidence that these expenditures are justified in outcomes in comparison to other uses for that money, the opportunity cost.  (But it is a grant we won!  How could we turn it down?! Um, that is not free money.  It is borrowed from somewhere, mostly the future and to some extent China)   I hope the positive outcomes will be there because that is a money that could be spent in many ways that have proven effective over the years and to pay for quality teachers.  I am not a big fan of tenure, as I have seen some teachers ride along for years with little productivity and even less reaction to this.

So North Carolina passes a budget with raises for teachers that on the early years of the pay scale yield large raises and nothing, for all practical purposes, for teachers with a great deal of experience.  What must be noted is that these are not actually raises at all give even the low levels of inflation for the past 3 or 4 years.  For the veteran teachers it represents falling behind for another year by the rate of inflation for the year.  Further, in North Carolina, the pay scale is subject to legislative approval most every year.  So if you are a new teacher and look at the pay scale and say to yourself, “Self!  Look what I will be making in 5 years!  Woohoo!” then you could be sadly disappointed as the legislature could do exactly what it has been doing, basically freezing your salary by making what you make at year six the same as for year 5.  It is at their discretion each year.  So watch out!

So why am I going on about this?  In my district in North Carolina our local supplement has not been restored to the levels at the beginning of the recession even the county as a 25% budget balance, far above what is considered prudent.  Taxes are among the lowest in North Carolina.  Have the low taxes led to vast migration of businesses and industry to the county?  No.  What does not appear to be understood by county leadership is that businesses don’t just look at the tax rate.  They look at other factors as well, the educational status and support for education, school ratings on Zillow and other sites on the web, community support for recreation, not just remaking a downtown, and at other indicators of the overall health of a community.  With no prospects for improvement and approaching the end of our working life cycles, we realized that there just would not be enough money to do what we wanted to do in retirement.

Well, over the course of about two weeks I submitted resumes through Teachers-Teachers.com, interviewed and accepted a position in Sultan School District in Washington state, approximately 2800 miles from here, and began the process of retirement here.  On August 20th we journey there with our house sold and a very much downsizing condominium purchase in Everett, Washington.  Sultan is a small district, but when we went there in July we were met by extremely friendly people.  I can’t wait to go to work there.  I was hired there even though I was going to be pretty close to the top of their pay scale.  I wonder if that would have happened here in most districts……

Nana will be fully retired and I will work to fund all of her extravagances!  I expect martinis and lingerie at the door when I get home each day.  Yeah, right!  Not necessary at all.  Instead of constant monetary anxiety I will come home to a less stressed spouse, and that is enough right there.  There are downsides.  Expenses of moving but they will be recouped.  Moving further from two grandchildren but a little closer to three.  I know!!  It is supposed to be wet out there!  Raincoats or hats!  And I do already know, no umbrellas or you will be silently ridiculed!  It will be about a 30-35 minute drive to my district.  Some of the time through residential or I can four lane it most of the way but my favorite route so far is through a beautiful river valley with field that spill over with fruits and vegetables.  The cascades rise to the east as I approach from Everett.  Every day (yes, there will be many days where clouds and drizzle will spoil the view!) has the potential for me and us to see and do the things we yearn for when we travel.  What better conditions for work.

Someday we, at this time at least, anticipate returning to North Carolina to retire, perhaps around Brevard unless it is completely overrun by sweated out Floridians seeking something cooler to the north.  Who knows.  I hope, even among my usually favored conservatives currently running the state, that they find the will to do what is right on a consistent basis for education.  The children and the teachers deserve better.  The state deserves better.  Give us a reason to return.