Friday, April 4, 2014

Opening Day

On Friday, I ventured to Nationals Park for Opening Day to see my Atlanta Braves. And despite all my reservations about taking a half-day of work after recently starting on a (new) project, paying an "Opening Day" premium for a ticket, and attending a ball game solo quickly faded after the first inning. Not only was being a part of Opening Day hype, a first for me, super exciting, this was hands down the most action-packed game I have seen.
These things all happened:
  • Atlanta Braves' Dan Uggla, the worst Brave to date, had the first hit for the team. 
  • Three players--Harper and Desmond and Atlanta Braves' Andrelton Simmons--were caught stealing bases. Desmond was caught stealing second to third. Both Harper and Desmond were caught in rundowns. 
  • Altanta Braves' Jason Heyward was hit by a pitch. 
  • Nationals' Adam LaRoche was thrown out at home by Braves' Justin Upton. 
  • Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper threw a fit after striking out (his first of two Ks). 
  • Braves' Evan Gattis hit a home run. 
  • Braves' pitcher David Hale struck out bunting. (That's no good!)
  • Heyward successful stole second. 
  • Nationals' Ian Desmond hit an inside-the-park home run, that was later reviewed under MLB Instant Replay and overturned as a ground rule double. 
  • Two runs were scored on sacrifice flys, one for each team.  
  • The Braves used six pitchers. (Eeek!)
  • There were 14 total hits. 
And, of course, the Braves winning 2-1 at Nationals Park truly iced the cake. Play ball. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March Goal: A Review

I completed my March goal; I finished the five books I set out to read. My current position provides me a glorious, hour-long break for lunch. And because I do not have (or want) coworker friends, I spend my lunch time reading in the huge atrium at the National Portrait Gallery, a location that makes my little heart happy on the coldest of winter days; Barnes & Noble; or on a random bench on the rare warm-enough days. I also recently discovered a quaint court house–optimal for dining–inside my work-local Panera. And last, there is a neat zen garden across the street from my office. The downside to this otherwise neat spot is the the lingering smells of cigarette smoke, which is a scent that doesn't exactly scream "hang out here for lunch." And sadly this is an area where smokers congregate, despite the plethora of signs citing this area is NOT for puffing.

So when I am not walking around scouting new spots for dining and linger, I’m reading.

And these were my five picks for March:
  1. A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett – This was by far the best book I read this month. It’s a memoir, of course, detailing Lindhout’s time in captivity in Somalia.
  2. Tuesday’s With Morrie by Mitch Albom – My parents have encouraged me to read this for oh about the last nine years, around the time I began reading for pleasure, no longer feeling it was a miserable chore. After forcing my way through Albom’s Five Years in Heaven during my freshman year of college, I had no desire to pick up this book. Well, I finally did. And happily so. I would not give this book glowing reviews but it is short enough to enjoy; it felt like a meaningful, long blog post. The words were wise. And the story of time Albom spent with his dying college professor, Morrie Schwartz, made me want to live a kinder, slower life.
  3. Divergent by Veronica Roth – I had high hopes for this book after the rumored comparisons to Hunger Games. This book was a total disappointment. I am not sure why I finished reading. I am not even sure I will see the movie.  
  4. Slim for Life: My Insider Secrets to Simple, Fast, and Lasting Weight Loss by Jillian Michaels – I was sorely disappointed. There were very few new tips. And the “secrets” were repetitive, really repetitive.
  5. The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life by Melanie Shankle – I have followed Shankle at The Big Mama Blog for almost two years now. This is her second book. And while this book is much like her first – Sparkly Green Earring – in that it’s essentially a series of blog posts strung together in a book, I found the content worth reading. It’s easy and light and happy; I laughed often (and nearly cried once or twice). Her tales made me appreciate companionship and the challenge it can sometimes be to share your life with someone else. 
In addition to my lunch hour, I was also aided by winter. Until yesterday afternoon, it was still very much winter in the mid-Atlantic. So I read and weep and hoped for Spring. (It just might be here!)

And finally, I have yet to indulged in a day of solitude nor have I really started learning the Arabic alphabet--my personal and spiritual goals for the year. I have allotted time for these activities in April; it seems adding this to the calendar might in fact be the only way I am successful.

April is upon us, may it be sunny.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Take Me Home, Country Roads

I enjoy rewriting lyrics, often to insert them, rather timely, into my own life. The results have been known to drastically alter the artist's original meaning. If songs are actually intended to have meaning--The Great Debate. John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" was--quite predictably--the theme song for the venture to West Virginia this past weekend. And while there are lovely parts in WV, Morgantown is not one of these places. In all fairness, it is possible I caught Morgantown on an off weekend as the life of the town--West Virginia University--was on Spring Break.  

As we traveled the country roads of West Virginia, I couldn't help but think that John Denver might have had it all wrong.

"Country Roads, take me home;
To the place I belong;
West Virginia, mountain momma;
Take me home, country roads"


The chorus' third line might have be more appropriately stated: Far from West Virginia.

Plain and simple, I foresee no reason to revisit to Morgantown. Aside from Spring Break, Morgantown never had a fair shot; this trip was planned to see Kansas University bring home a guaranteed win. And that did not happen. Though the final score was close and Andrew Wiggins, KU's stand-out freshman, scored 41 points, the game was only riveting for the final five minutes--no more. There was also MUCH chatter about Wiggins receiving his secondary education training in WV; the crowd seemed to find that worth repeating ad nauseam. I have not followed through as to the truth behind this chatter; I am far too disappointed to care.

After the 12:00 pm basketball game, we dined at Mountain State Brewing Co, which was excellent--drinks and food alike. The restaurant is in a huge warehouse-esque building right on the Monogahela River, both accounting for additional perks to a place I would revisit. Note: They apparently have three locations, only one of them being in Morgantown.
The trip highlight--agreed upon by all--came next: drinking Full Throttle peach moonshine (i.e., not local) crammed in our hotel room as we solved the problems of the world. This being a college town, the night ended doing as [college children] do--paying two dollars for drinks and staying out until 2:00 am. And that sat with us superbly as the clocks sprang forward before our weary eyes... and we realized we had somewhere to be--out of our hotel room--on Sunday morning.

So--looking back--even with these odds against us, we managed to have some fun.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

First Day, Round Two

This month marks two years with my company, the longest I have been anywhere doing anything since graduating from Clemson University in May 2009. Gulp. And it is on this day, I witnessed actual growth in my young career. In September (2013), I accepted a new position internally with my company. But because of the nature of my work, I was never given a formal start date (or provided job-related details). So I waited, impatiently, for six l-o-n-g months. The uncertainty of the new position put me on edge and as a result everything in my life felt rocky.

Today though, March 6, 2014, my time came.

So how did it go, you ask?
  • For reasons unbeknownst to me, I was up an hour earlier than necessary ready to tackle the day. No longer wanting to waste time, I lifted weights and perfected my abs for an hour. Then I showered, scarfed down a yummy ‘first day’ breakfast, and took off for the city.
  • That’s right. The city. My job is accessible by Metro. I crammed right on to the Metro with thousands of other people, grinning from ear to ear. I was the happiest person on the Metro, guaranteed.
  • The half-mile walk from Metro, in the continuing sub-arctic temperatures, was not as fun.  Especially since I had only a vague idea where I was going. As I relied on my phone, I nearly missed the building entrance. Oops.
  • Upon arrival, with frostbit fingers, I came to the realization that I needed a badge to simply enter the building lobby. Thankfully, after a quick phone call, a co-worker (i.e., an escort) came to my rescue moments later.
  • In a way, I’m imprisoned. I have to be escorted everywhere, including the bathroom. This is a place I visit far most frequently than most. And not something I like my entire team knowing on my first day.
  • My entire team knows this because I sit in one large cube with seven people, including myself.
  • The team I joined is comprised of nine people, much different than my previously solitary gig.
  • I was asked to contribute to the purchase of a new Keruig to replace the one that broke before my time. That did not sit well with me.
  • My new cube farm is a sauna, without the rocks. I’ll report back soon as to whether I prefer the hot to the frigid, as my prior work space was mighty chilly. And I found the chill to be mighty miserable. For now, these sauna-esque conditions will be great for napping and reading as I wait for my computer…
  • Which won't be here for at least THREE weeks. And I thought the waiting period was over.
  • There is no cutlery or napkins in the kitchen. So I ate my baked—via microwave—potato and whole cucumber like an animal.
  • But, who cares, because I get a lunch break. A lunch break I do not have to feel guilty for taking. Except today, I missed my opportunity. My team left—without my realizing what was happening—and I was without an escort. But, tomorrow, oh tomorrow, I’ll work my way to the National Portrait Museum to dine in the humongous atrium. All will be marvelous then. And going forward.
  • There's also no water cooler except...
  • In the gym. Yes, there's a gym… with a locker room for showering on the days I bike, run, or walk to work! And the fancy gym is furnished with Life Fitness equipment, my treadmill manufacturer of choice.
  • Happy Hour on the first day without warning... after a day of nothingness, not ideal. Note: It wasn’t miserable. But will hanging out with co-workers ever be fun? I'm not convinced. I'm also not convinced I 'fit in' with this crowd (or many crowds). Oh well.
So we'll see, I'm entirely optimistic. I should have my badge in a week and my computer in three. Then the real work begins, I'm told.

Haverhill, NH

The calendar switched from February to March while Boyfriend and I were in Haverhill, New Hampshire with his entire family--gathered at his grandfather's home. The circumstances were less than ideal--a celebration of the life of his late grandmother, a woman I was not fortunate to know.
The older I grow the more difficult being together with loved ones becomes. So while this was not how I had hoped to meet Boyfriend's brother and extended family, this is real life. Funeral (and weddings alike) bring people together, most often regardless of external circumstances.
The weekend can only be described as warm and nice, comforting. There was a ceremony, where more than 250 people gathered in a church with a congregation of about 30 people, followed by a reception hosted by their church. Shortly after, family and close friends assembled at their home for dinner and drinks (and oh my heavens, dessert). On Saturday, there was a luncheon for the 'nearest and dearest' at Dowd's Country Inn, a bumpy ride down the road. The luncheon was lovely--beautiful decor, people congregated, and fabulous food. I do not think I would be alone in stating that the entire weekend was also welcoming; people traveled far and wide because this woman was loved--so genuinely--by many people. I wanted to be there to mourn this loss and celebrate her life. The weekend was not overdone. And, also, not a single iota underdone.
After an understandably emotional weekend, Boyfriend and I received a blessing in disguise--our Sunday flight was canceled due to an impending snow storm in Washington, D.C. and the earliest we were able to reschedule for was Tuesday. We made our way to Boston, where we spent the next two days lounging. There was enough food and trashy television and magazines to go around. And we certainly indulged.
These few extra days were healing, easing and already difficult departure.

Note: These pictures were taken on Boyfriend's grandfather's property and are the best I can do at describing my love for this place. His land is dream-like in nature. I could have stayed forever. His house sits on top of this hill overlooking the Connecticut River. The property continues all the way down to the river, with planted corn fields running along the bank. There are also gardens--contents including such luxuries as fiddleheads and rhubarb--decorating the property; they are beautiful in the summer, I'm told. And the house. The house was built using Frank Llyod Wright's blueprints and is backed entirely with windows, skylights litter the ceiling throughout the house as well. It was through this house and property were designed for me.

Monday, March 3, 2014

February Goal: A Review

I'm back again with an update on my 2014 Personal Goals. My goal in February was to follow a strict vegan diet. And, for several reasons, I failed this before even starting. I am on a strict budget therefore I was not about to throw out half the food in the refrigerator only to replace these items with vegan counterparts. Another was, I'm lazy. There is a lot more work that goes into living a vegan lifestyle; my normal dinner 'go to' options are not often vegan. I did make an effort to prepare several vegan dinners I originally pulled recipes for and planned once the cabinets were cleared. And most of these were successes. Overall though, I was about 20% vegan. Big fail.

Because straight-up giving up is lame, I opted to ditch coffee in lieu of living vegan. And it was hard. In the beginning. On a normal week, I "allow" myself two cups of coffee. I'm on the fence about the amount of caffeine one should consume and somewhere along the way decided two cups per week was the right amount for a person of my stature. Even more limiting, I drink these cups on Monday and Friday, figuring those are the toughest days for me to battle. The twice weekly coffee boost has worked for me. If I ever need more caffeine, I opt for green tea.

This month has naturally been all about the green tea. And it was during this month I realized just how little I delight in green tea. I do not mind this option on occasion but I will never be a full convert. (That was not my goal, just a simple statement of fact.) I tried it hot, I tried it cold. I tried three different brands (this month)--Adagio, Bigelow Tea, and Mighty Leaf. But I persevered. And I was 98% successful. My one indulgence being three ounces on a gorgeous Saturday while visiting home. I resisted on Friday and Sunday. But Saturday, with the weather being oddly nice, my productivity was at full speed. And coffee--my dad's coffee--was too much to resist.

Further, regarding failing in February, I still have not indulged in a day of solitude nor have I really started learning the Arabic alphabet--my personal and spiritual goals for the year.

There was enough going on in February to keep the calendar full--a second 'brew' experience; my first Washington Capital's game; a Super Bowl party; a brunch with friends; a date at Baked & Wired following by a viewing of Peter and the Starcatcher at the Kennedy Center; a field trip to the National Portrait Gallery; catching the Oscar nominated Documentary Shorts at West End Cinema; discovering Nutella hot chocolate during the second (of three) snow day(s) for 2014 (as of March 3); and a weekend with to my parents' home in Northern Virginia. And while each and every one of these events was enjoyable, I was happy to flip the calendar to March and put this particularly cold and difficult month in the past; my self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder was a beast throughout February.

Last, the upside of the frigid weather is I continued to read book after book; I am unable to put down my current read--A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout. This month I finished three more books, placing me at 20% of my reading goal for the year. Better yet, up next: My March goal is to read five books. So weather pending, I should be fairly successful.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Gift of Snow

Last Thursday, Washington, DC and the surrounding metro area enjoyed a surprise snow. The area, of course, is incapable of handling the snow due to the infrequency of 'snow events' so the Government shut down... as did I. Through my window, I could see the likes of enough snow on the ground for fun; I bundled up and headed out to play. I quickly learned my running trails weren't plowed... and to see the Potomac River in all its glory, I was going to have to trudge through eight plus inches of sloppy, heavy snow. So trudge I did. I would have been a lot better off building a snowman or befriending some youth for a round or ten of sledding.
There was just something so magical about walking around my city covered in blankets of fresh, white snow. The snow is inconvenient and unpredictable. It was yet another day--in this very long winter--of forced pause.
And despite the rising temperatures, beginning almost immediately after the snow fell, we still have tall banks of snow everywhere... and each time I head out for a run or walk, I am slowed by patches of icy, snow-covered sidewalks. 
I do want to remember this gift though. The frozen precipitation allowed for a softer, purer perspective on the otherwise familiar.