Thursday, July 31, 2014

Alternative Work Schedule

I have some good news on the work horizon. That’s right, good news. My contract is entering the second and final option year, come late September. And as a result, things are being switched up a bit. As of this week, I officially have an alternative work schedule, the one I have dreamed of all my contracting days. This means, Monday through Thursday I work 8:30 am to 6:00 pm; I have every other Friday off; and the ‘working’ Fridays, I will work the standard 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. There are certainly pros and cons to this agenda. But for me personally, the pros outweigh the cons.

The ultimate pro is definitely the biweekly Friday off. Rather conveniently, I am going to Baltimore this weekend. And I realized I will not be rushing up to Baltimore with all the commuter train traffic. I can go at my leisure after some form of exercise and cleaning and laundry chores are completed. I can go whenever I want because I have the entire day off. The. Entire. Day. More, for this particular weekend, my afternoon arrival should allow for some one-on-one time with K.A.B. before 92 other Returned Peace Corps Volunteers join us for a pre-reunion weekend.

Further though, an unexpected plus thus far on the alternative work schedule front is the livelier streets (at 6:00 pm) during the walking portion of my commute. I am also back to commuting with Boyfriend in the morning. That results in more together time and less reading time, a tough toss-up.

The longer days might be a drag when the days get shorter. The days are long now, so I don’t notice a real difference between five and six. I should also note that all my coworkers had this schedule “forced upon” them, which helps diminish the difference between a 5:00 and 6:00 pm departure. At least on day one, two, and three. 

The daunting nine-hour day is easily dismissed after a quick analysis of the calendar: I’m slated for a four day Labor Day weekend—pro. Pros, from now until September 2015. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chicago Marathon, 10 Weeks From Now

There are 10 weeks until the Chicago Marathon. And my bursitis has relocated itself from my groin to my outside left hip. The nagging pain no longer hurts when I walk or twerk my leg in odd ways, however, sitting at a desk all day, oh the agony. But, Friday, I said to heck with it, I laced up my running shoes and set out for a jaunt to see how things were working. I have been doing sporadic weight training, but I find the motivation required to convince myself to get out of bed for that on a regular basis, especially compared to running around a city full of runners, is much too much. I cannot argue the time spent with Jillian Michaels has expedited the healing process. Though, I also cannot argue the icing, physical therapy, resting, and stretching regimen has seen me through either.

Alas, the weather—and sunrise!—was perfect when I set out on Friday. I headed down to Iwo Jima, through the Arlington Cemetery, around to Teddy Roosevelt Island, and up the hill of death to breakfast. I felt increasingly worse as the run progressed. And my positive, very positive, splits can attest to that. I rested up over the weekend; Monday, I hung out with Michaels, per my joke of a training schedule. Then Tuesday, I set out to run my favorite eight-mile loop at a more reasonable pace. I ended up racing all 71 of the other morning exercisers I crossed paths with. I could certainly be faster than the girl ahead running significantly faster splits. I am sure she wants me to chase her for two miles also. Positive thinking, anyone? I have lost my rhythm. And my faith in what was the plan.

So unable to walk, after logging fifteen total miles and an hour of strength training in five days, I reached out to Dr. M.E.K. for a consultation. I prefer to alarm her with dire messages super early, aided by her Central Time Zone. My text read, “I have Lyme disease and it’s caused early onset arthritis because this mystery has yet to heal. I’m looking for a 26.2 mile piggy back in October. Hope your training is going well.” She is, after all, deservingly responsible for getting me into this mess.

Avascular necrosis? Pain. Trochanteric bursitis? Pain, pain, pain.

I need a miracle, quick. I am not looking to be the untrained fool in October.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Local Meat, Happy Eating

As we have all heard, I am eating meat now. But almost every part of me wants to return to my vegetarian ways, if that means I can still indulge in the occasional chicken wing. Before I reconvert, I opted to try a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) at Spring House Farm recommended by my parents. For the next three months, I will receive a biweekly random assortment of three to five pounds of meat. Farmer Andy was good to me on the first pick up, delivering bacon, chorizo, and steak.
steak, salad, and veggie goodness, served with bread
bagels with bacon, cheese, and eggs, served with potato fries

The last meal was chorizo tacos with black beans, cheese, corn, lettuce, red onions, tomatoes--served on a flour tortilla for her, corn tortillas for him.

The bacon definitely stole the show. We have a few strips left, thankfully. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fragments of Summer

Life accelerates to warp speed in the summer. As a result, all kinds of things happened that never rose to the level of having their own blog post. Since this is my only semblance of a scrapbook, please pardon me while I recap a few things.
  1. Boyfriend and I battled a nuisance of a specie, The Fruit Fly. A large army of fruit flies invaded our kitchen, in the most unpleasant of matters. There were a lot of tears shed during battle. Those flies belong in the Biology Lab I left them in, circa 2004. In a jar of apple cider, the entire army eventually plummeted to their death and we--with all thanks to Boyfriend--were victorous in war. For now anyway.
  2. On the subject of war, I have been battling a mysterious case of bursitis (in my groin). The injury is not from overtraining or even running, hypothetically speaking. It is most likely from a nasty spill I took in February, supposedly "ruining" my gait for what feels like all eternity. My life has become painful; everything--and I do mean everything (from biking to running to sitting to walking)--hurts. I am quite devastated as I was on track to qualify for the Boston Marathon at the Chicago Marathon in October... and now I cannot run, heck walk. I have visited three doctors; religiously stretched, iced, and heated; and, most importantly, rested. There has been no change. In fact, my hip has become aggravated, from what I suspect is overcompensating for bursitis and sitting in an office chair for hours on end. You cannot win all the wars. 
  3. The Washington, D.C. collective bid H.M.O. farewell to over happy hour, after she moved in with Boyfriend and I for a few nights. Her departure was most upsetting. I hoped her stay would be eternal.
  4. In June, Boyfriend and I ate solely from our pantry--purchasing only fresh produce and milk. We are members at Costco, where we often overdue it. This has led to brining home a 10-pound bag of black beans; a 10-pound bag of sugar; 20 cans of diced tomatoes; and/or enough Cheez-Its to last a milineum. The only fail, if it can be called that, I prefer to think of it as genorousity, was spending $2.04 on chocolate chips to make my 'office famous' fudge for a coworker's birthday, per her request. (4a.) I psuedo quit my 2014 Personal Goals challenge, like all decent resolution makers tend. I have still been partaking in a challenge each month, however, I am basing these goals on praticallity of my life at the start of the month. And I am not writing about them, except for now, because snooze. 
  5. There has been time spent with K.S.D., my old roommate, double dating at some Northern Virginia establishments (i.e., FrozenYo and BonChon). The company of her and her lad is always welcomed (and refreshing).
  6. M.E.K. and her husband visited over Fourth of July weekend. I had lunch with them on a slow working Wednesday before the holiday, then Boyfriend and I were able to meet them at ShopHouse, a Chipotle-owned Southeast Asian-inspired kitchen, for dinner on Thursday. Things do not get too fancy when the Midwesterners visit! I have reason to keep them around though because... they like dessert, so went opted for Pitango Gelato (and Red Velvet Cupcakes for some).
  7. Boyfriend and I finally made it to Boyou Bakery for brunch. Why--tell me why--we waited so long? There are few things better than devouring supremely made biscuits and beignets on a patio with a close companion. So yummy! So affordable!  
  8. R.D.S. and her fiancĂ© also visited during the Fourth of July holiday. We met them, along with their friends, for brunch at Red Apron Butchery on Saturday. Afterwards, we visited the National Building Museum, which can only be described as lacking; do not follow our lead.
    These posters in the Designing for Disaster exhibit belong on my wall. 
  9. On this same Saturday, Boyfriend and I visited the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, featuring Kenya and China. I endured stomach pains while Boyfriend meanered throughly through Kenya. I loved what I saw (and heard). We'll definitely be back next year. And we'll come hungry, the ethnic food looked mighty appealing.
  10. I made bagels using a recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, my lastest food blog obession. The taste and texture were close to perfect, especially for my first attempt. They weren't as pretty (or as large) as I had hoped, but I'm looking forward to experimenting further in a second attempt. Parmesan and sundried tomato? Cinnamon raisin? The world is my oyster. 
  11. A variety of epics salads have been prepared in my kitchen for any number of meals, including breakfast. So. Many, many, many. Epic. Salads. There are no recipes, lending these salads to an uncountable number of combinations. These might be rooted in my attempt to 'cheat the challenge' during June; inspired by summer--the season of produce; or because I am too lazy to plan and cook and also too cheap to let the produce I have stocked up on--much too much for two people--waste away in my fridge.
  12. I have seen some real bad baseball at Nationals Park, featuring the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs. In the name of the Altanta Braves, I have unsuccesfully cheered for victorious underdogs. More successfully, I have sharpened my 'scoring baseball' skills. Not unrelated: Have I mentioned Boyfriend and I now have MLB.com Gameday Audio, for the price of $20. It has revolutionized my world. The Braves will take on the troubled Cubs here in an hour, and I will listen while I work.
And here we are at the midpoint of summer with a fury of weddings (and related travel) on the horizon.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

This is the phase that never ends.

I write this post from a bad place. I need to rant. And I need something to blame. I am going to blame weddings for my unhappiness, when I know this funk is a result of my job. On a public forum, I absolutely cannot vent about my current work situation. That would be real dumb. And I have not lost my mind... yet.

So with warning, my head, heart, and mouth are not on the same page--tread lightly.

This weekend I am going to Boston, Massachusetts, hometown to Boyfriend, for a wedding I have (unfairly) been dreading. (Have I before mentioned Boyfriend is from a cultish town where everyone has been best friends since birth?) At one point, I was very excited for this wedding. My own unhappiness has vastly altered my perspective. I will not know anyone outside Boyfriend's immediate family in attendance. I will have to meet a majority of his friends while still allowing him space to have fun. There will be more small talk than I care for. There will be wasted calories on wedding food. And I will be dressed in a 'non-me' outfit, feeling woefully out of place. Though Boyfriend has not been dragged to many of "my" weddings, he has listened too much venting on the front. I owe it to him to attend this wedding. And to put on a smile while there.

Here begins the 2014 wedding series. And a recently engaged friend added a second wedding to the 2015 spring agenda. With each friend taking that next step, my own poor situation is amplified. But, as a result of this funk, now is absolutely not the time for Boyfriend and me to pursue engagement. I want that time to be the happiest in my life, not a Band-Aid on my current situation.

My mom keeps telling me this back-to-back-to-back wedding trend is just a phase. Well, I want to debunk her theory. My first non-family wedding took place in February 2009, my senior year of college, and the “phase” is guaranteed to continue until May 2015.

Some stats:
  • I was 21 when I graduated from college.
  • I will be 27 next month.
  • I have been in two-thirds of the weddings I have attended, estimated to be on the low end.
That is six years of wedding-ing.

Now, some basic math: divide 6 by 27. And we can conclude 22.2% of my life has been spent attending weddings and, for better or worse, wedding related events. The financial burden for these nuptials have been insurmountable. I have honestly enjoyed next to none of it. Sorry, friends.
 
(It is important to note, there will not be a wedding "for" me. The idea is nauseating, in my humble opinion. I warned my mother years ago. And I think we have compromised on a celebration of the life event that does not involved standards or traditions. You are all invited. You are most certainly NOT obligated to attend.)

I cannot count the number of weddings I have been in and/or attended at this point in my life. I am not kidding. I get weddings confused. I often cannot remember whether or not I was in certain weddings. On the upside, I have traveled to Florida, Kansas (twice), Massachusetts (twice), New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina (five times). I am sure I am missing some. 

Next up is another trip to South Carolina in August, Georgia in September, back to South Carolina in April (2015), and New York in May (2015).

And before these weddings, let me fairly account for the three trips to Michigan for the weddings of my cousins. Thankfully, I only have four total cousins. And the last one, well, he just turned 15, so I will be most excited and ready to attend his wedding should he opt for one many, many years from now.

My savings are soon to be depleted soon. This phase continues...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tulip Tree Cabin

This weekend we stayed at another PATC cabin: Tulip Tree. Tulip Tree stole the show, making our previous cabin stays seem so primitive. Perspective, folks. This cabin was like a home in the woods without the amenities. I plan to place an offer on the not-for-sale property. Tulip Tree was built over the course of eight years by weekend volunteers. So if my offer is unsuccessful, perhaps said volunteers will be interested in an eight year build-cation in Montana?
Friday night, after arriving late, we explored the cabin a bit and then crashed. And somehow we slept until 10 am the next morning. That would make back-to-back 12-hour slumbers for me. My body is beat! The rest of our crew arrived an hour later. We scarfed down a quick lunch and began hiking. We wanted to reach Victoria Falls, webbing trails into a loop for this purpose. Turns out, I’m not great at estimating distance; our 11-mile hike ended up being more than 16 miles. Details. The waterfall wasn’t even great. It was decent for Virginia, nothing I’d normally hike 16 miles to see though. Again, details. I planned our direction based on the river, meaning we hiked along the river the entire way home. And it was stunning! And vocal! And kept my spirits high! Had our velocity not increased to beat dark on our return, my companions might have appreciated the water as well.
Eight hours later, we were back at the cabin. Boyfriend was dying (i.e., feeling the effects exercise has on a sedentary lifestyle). And the rest of my crew was furiously fighting tics. We found 64* in total, yuck. I filtered water and cooked dinner. Oddly, none of us were particularly hungry until the s’mores were presented. Forget the burritos I prepared!

Though Sunday was rough, rougher for some – Boyfriend was in immense agony, suffering from Old Man pains; A.J.S. claimed her knees has disintegrated; and, thankfully, our truffle-making friend, visiting from Boston, had fewer complaints. To my dismay, we took it easy for the day on Arrowhead Lake. We were able to reminisce about the bear we saw on our hike! This marks the second bear I have seen in Shenandoah National Park (and did not photograph). And this time it felt real because we were hiking in the backcountry, not sitting in a bear jam. Along with the bear, we came across a box turtle, a bunch of beetles, tons of centipedes, a grub, a snake, and spiders galore. It’s wild out there!
If Shenandoah wasn’t quite so far away, it would be a much more relaxing getaway.

*As this marks the second post in a row where tics have been mentioned – yay outdoors! – let me inform you as to the severity of Lyme disease (i.e., tics) in Virginia. This ain’t no joking matter. In 2012, the Center for Disease Control stated, 95% of Lyme disease cases were reported from 13 states including Virginia. And the tic population has only increased in Virginia since the release of this statistic. Danger.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Looq Here: C.D.H. Visits and Another Weekend Captured

Are you sick of weekend recaps? I’m not. So on I will write. And as to whether you continue on reading is entirely up to you.

At this point in my life, The Blog is a place to talk about the weekends I live for as my job is oh so rough. Even yesterday, a day that was supposed be easy breezy, collapsed before my eyes. We had a Team Lunch scheduled to watch the United States/Germany World Cup game at one of my favorite Washington, D.C. establishments, Busboy’s and Poets.  But the following events supervened: First, our 90-minute Team Meeting ran over. Then Busboy’s and Poets released our table by the television, the only television, to another party. This required Busboy’s and Poets to set up a projector in the back, since our Team Captain specifically requested a table within view of The Game in the reservation. And, last, the projector did not work, so instead of relocating to a more spirited environment, we listened to the game… not actually watching any. I monitored the play-by-play on Twitter and angrily stewed.

This is why I don’t talk about The Dark Period, my nine to five. I already have to endure it. I find extending the day by venting to family, to friends, to the world unhealthy.

Last week, my brother drove up from Atlanta, GA to visit the family in Northern Virginia. And I’m not sure who was most excited to see him; my excitement level was pretty high! Though he arrived on Tuesday, I had to wait until Thursday night to see him. When that time came, I walked over to Nationals Park, where I was meeting both of my brothers for a Washington Nationals/Atlanta Braves game. C.D.H. is not a Braves superfan; it was pure coincidence the Braves were in town to battle the Nationals. I do, however, appreciate his taking the time to indulge me for a game. I teleworked on Friday, providing time for a Starbucks run with my brothers before heading out to the suburbs for the weekend. We made time for Melt on Friday because duh. And we might have over-consumed leaving us not as hungry for the Birthday Boy’s dinner at Fords Fish Shack. I still feel as though I managed to consume my fair share. Everything I put in my mouth was delicious, specifically the French fries. Afterwards I watched the second game in the Braves/Nationals series (on DVR), then hit the sack. 
On Saturday, C.D.H. and I met up with Boyfriend and some friends at the Northern Virginia Beer Fest. There was kettle korn, so this designated driver was delighted. And the rain held off. And Louis got to join us briefly before I was escorted out by police—no dogs allowed, dumb. Despite Boyfriend probably having contracted Lyme Disease, it was a wonderful time with wonderful people. I hear the beer was nice too!
My mom graciously gifted me a Looq, a selfie arm; oh the joy! 
My parents cooked an incredible dinner on Saturday night. We all sat around and ate merrily.

I mostly remember sitting around waiting for the 6:00 pm start of the US/Portugal World Cup match on Sunday. And I think we the people of the United States of America will forever remember how that game ended – a final play in the final seconds – in a deflating blow. (But hey, writing a week later pays off, we’re moving on to the Round of 16 – Belgium beware!) There was a run to the dog park with Louis, which my friends and I might have enjoyed even more than Louis—oh the spectating to be had!
Leaving home is always hard, especially so when it means saying goodbye a brother I’m not sure when I’ll see next.