Saturday, September 27, 2008

M & D

Today I went to my Mom & Dad's. They live in the country, about 1 1/2 hrs. from my house. I drove an hour to Leesburg for ballet class because I have a punch card there with 6 more classes on it that I should use before I leave the area. Although now I much prefer The Washington Ballet not only because of it's proximity, but the teacher is amazing and they have a live pianist. Anyway.

I went to ballet, which was great, and then continued on to see my parents. We had a nice visit; it was good just to hang out and talk. They have an adorable Labradoodle (Lab/poodle), Wyeth, who is so sweet and fun. And BIG, white and fluffy.

I helped my Dad make lunch. He is an excellent cook. I just helped him "throw something together" that ended up being delicious: sauteed polska kielbasa, onion, yellow pepper with potato salad and cheddar cornbread. Yum! He apologized that it was a very yellow meal. While we were eating we watched out the window as hummingbirds went crazy over the feeder on the deck. Such beautiful, interesting creatures. They had shiny, iridescent green backs.

My Dad has been really sick for a couple months, but we think we finally know what the problem is: Lyme disease. I feel so bad for him, because it has completely changed his life. It's at least good to know his symptoms are not a complete medical mystery.

On a lighter note, I saw my Dad's new license plate. My parents change license plates as frequently as some people change ... I don't know, fill in the blank. Basically with a lot of frequency.

They started this long before it was the vogue and then the irritatingly prevalent thing to do in Virginia.

Some of the plates I can recall my parents having:

WDWBT (on a red Volkswagen Rabbit (get it, "Red Rabbit"?))
YOMAMAS ("Hey, isn't that yo' mama's van?")
NACHOS ("This car is mine, nachos ("not yours") . Yeah, my parents like ebonics)
SYSTAR (name of my Dad's company)
DRUM-MOM ("drum line mom" (when my bro was in the drum line))
SHN&OA ("Shenadoah" -- geographic region)
XBGEN1 (Scion XB Generation I)

This prompted me at one point to get my own personalized plate: S4LVRS. ("Is For Lovers," part of the state tourism motto.) The plate of course says VIRGINIA across the top. I'm so clever! I still have those plates as a memento.

And now, my Dad has rolled out his latest plates:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Leaping Rats and Roller Coasters

Last week I was walking along a sidewalk at 23rd & E St. in NW D.C. when I saw a very weird, very D.C. thing:

It was broad daylight, and there were some little brown sparrow-like birds flitting in and around some large landscaping bushes edging the sidewalk. The birds were landing on the sidewalk and then jumping or flying into the bush, back and forth. All of a sudden, a huge brown rat jumped out of the bush! At first I was like, "whoa" I think my mind said "squirrel" and then I was like "OH MY!" when it registered it was a rat! I'm not sure if the birds were tormenting the rat from inside the bush, or defending their territory, or trying not to get eaten or what, but they didn't fly away when the rat leaped out at them, they just avoided it in this abrupt game of tag. It darted at a couple of them as they flitted and jumped around it and then it lunged at one of them, reaching into the air toward it with its front legs!!! CRAZY!!! I think it was trying to catch them to eat them!!! Then the rat ran back into the bush!!!! BIZARRE!


This past weekend, we went to Hershey, Pa. It was a lot of fun! The B&B was really nice. There is a lot to do in Hershey, and it was fun to see Neil's friends who are up there. Fernando is doing his residency through a Penn hospital and Melissa is taking a break from chemistry and caring for their 11-day-old baby!

We went to Hershey Park and rode a couple roller coasters. I definitely do not like roller coasters. I tolerated the first one, with my eyes closed the whole time, hating it. On the second one, I kept my eyes shut as I completely freaked out, started sobbing hysterically and almost passed out. We had to buy the photo to hang on the fridge. I felt I was a flimsy harness away from a sudden and violent death, and the children around me were having the time of their life. Luckily I was rewarded afterward when we saw a concession stand selling s'mores!!!!! They were actually making them over a fire and of course using Hershey's chocolate! It was all worth it!!!!
Click the pic:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A to New Z-land

My main squeeze and I are about to leave for Hershey, Pa., for a little mini-vaca. We're going to a B&B! Never been to one before. I hope there is a river of chocolate in Hershey. If so, we'll swim in it for sure.

I just finished my first week of training. It was information overload. One of my classmates perfectly described the resulting feeling as "jet lag." I went home every night and tried to fight off sleep until bedtime. Who knew that a day in a classroom could be so draining. But we are being inundated with tons of information. It's tiring to be on constant full attention for hours at a time. Add to that, meeting a lot of new people in and around our class and trying to remember their names, story, etc. OVERLOAD!!! But it's been great! I'm really excited to actually get started. Meaning, I'm very excited to find out where I'm going and get there!

I have been paranoid to post anything about my new endeavor, because I'm not sure what is allowed and what isn't, and I haven't been able to get a definitive answer on what the policy is. So you'll note the newly added disclaimer on the side of this page.

On Monday I did get my list of places to choose from and I couldn't be happier with the selection. We'll see if I actually get posted to one of my top picks. I'll find out 9/30.

Without further ado, here are my choices -- where would you go?

Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Berlin, Germany
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Caracas, Venezuela
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Kingston, Jamaica
Lima, Peru
Panama City, Panama
Seoul, Korea
Vienna, Austria
Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What I Used To Do

Yesterday was a singular day for many reasons.

Obviously, remembering 9/11. But it was also my last day of work at Gannett News Service. I have worked there for nine months, and loved every minute of it. Everything from my schedule (I've discovered I'm most productive from 1-9 p.m.), to my staggeringly talented coworkers, to the dazzling building, to the friendly security guards, to the incredible things I've learned and been able to do -- I sure will miss it.

My supervisors took a huge chance on me, and it seems it paid off for both of us.

I designed and copy edited the Nation/World News page and a Markets & Money page for GNS.

Here are the final examples of my work (the formatting got a little funky going from Quark --> InDesign --> jpeg) :

Markets & Money is a half-page, so newspapers can put local business news on the bottom half.

I really loved my job and had an all-around great experience working for Gannett. (That's not something you hear every day, trust me.)

I feel incredibly blessed to have had this opportunity.

I begin training with (edited) bright and early -- 8 a.m., ugh -- Monday, opening an entirely new chapter in my professional and personal life.

I'll always remember what has felt like a lovely hiatus getting paid to do what I love but I'm excited to see and share where this new journey will take me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Trophy Husband? Check.

At the risk of embarrassing my sweet and extremely self-effacing husband, my new favorite photo:
Hello, Adonis! Apparently, he is the god of spray-on sunscreen. Fitting.

And here is a flattering one of me. I love it! I'm whispering sweet nothings to Oxford. He's so cute, it makes me want to be a raw foodist like my hott husband.
(Note my pink fingernails, a result of our tea party/girls' night the night before.)

Thanks for the photos, Leslie! And thanks, cousins-in-law, for hosting us at your lovely lake and farm.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

It's Getting Hot In Here

Campaign '08 is heating up and so is the debate in my home.

I do not come from a family of debaters. I do not come from a family that even discussed politics. I can vaguely recall asking my mom, in '88, who she voted for and her reply: "It's rude to ask people who they vote for." From then on I saw election day and politics in general as topics that should not be discussed in polite company. I wasn't even sure of my parents' political affiliation until a few years ago when my uncle, a die-hard Dem and political science dept. chair, made it clear when he told me "Nobody hates George Bush more than your mother."

And then I married someone raised in a completely opposite tradition. He is a debater. His family is very vocal about everything, where mine (excluding aforementioned uncle) generally sticks to pleasantries. He is used to verbally duking it out and upholding his political views, while I like to keep things friendly and do whatever I can to avoid conflict.

Not only that, he has well-established viewpoints. On the opposite end of the spectrum in more ways than one, I am only now developing my political views.

We are both pretty laid-back, he more so than me, and we agree on pretty much everything.

Except politics.

Working in the news industry, I am "up" on Campaign '08. As you can imagine, once I brought my developing opinions and daily observations home, they have been the source and topic of increasing debate.

Maybe some people would love the opportunity to talk politics with their significant other, but I am starting to think I should stick to my roots and consider politics taboo. Though I confess when we get into a heated debate, I am immature about it: I get really frustrated and upset and take it entirely too personally. I actually get very angry sometimes.

As much as I hate debate, to my credit, my skills have improved a bit:

  • I've stopped cutting him off and saying "end of conversation!" after I've made my point; because I realize that's not fair.
  • I've stopped throwing out weak answers ("because it's 'Change I can believe in!' " "because I hate her!") and started trying to back my views up with actual facts or informed opinions.
  • I've visited the GOP's and McCain's Web sites, listened to some speeches and read their views to form educated opinions of what the "other side" is saying.

But still, I don't possess great arguing skills and I hate being wrong or not agreeing. So this whole thing has brought no end of frustration for me. In contrast, political debate is one of his favorite pastimes.

I think the problems arise when I go out on a limb to present and defend an idea I just formed or adopted, and he shoots it down with well-formed and thought-out rhetoric. Oh, it just burns me up! Therein lies the problem: I see it as a personal attack. He sees it as an engaging debate.

I need to find a way to turn this around to something we can both enjoy.

Do any of you have this problem?

I thought of James Carville and Mary Matalin, and appreciated this tidbit from the FAQ on Carville's Web site:

"They are ... very devoted to each other and ... their family time. For these reasons they have so many other things to talk about than those things that they know are going to divide them. They don't 'avoid' having political discussions but they do avoid getting into heated debates ...

"Above all, they respect one another and respect the fact that they have very different views but share many common goals."

Maybe we just need to adopt this attitude in my home. Any advice you have is welcome, too!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Muffin Top"?

Nubbins (on the AeroGarden) and the unnamed gecko (on the wall), about to freak out because I just walked in the door and caught them basking in the fluorescent glow of the AeroGarden grow lights.

So you may be wondering how our AeroGarden and geckos are doing. You know, the grip of geckos we got to perform the function of eradicating any pests in our home. Well, either they are extremely successful or the problem worked itself out or both, because we haven't seen any more unwanted insects in the house. As for the AeroGarden, we are done growing lettuce, and as you can see, we now have a little herb AeroGarden started.

Last night, Neil was talking about the geckos, and said something about "Muffin Top." "Muffin Top??" I repeated. "Yeah, you know, Nubbin Top ..." "Nubbins?" I asked. "Yeah."

I don't know where he got that, but it cracked me up. It's even funnier to me since I introduced my exceptionally trim husband (can men have muffin top, or is it only women?) to the scourge that is "muffin top" -- he'd never heard of it until a couple months ago. I think he's slightly fascinated by the phenomenon.

We originally had one gecko, "Nubbins," affectionately named because he had a nub for a tail. Then I got him a gecko friend, "The Big Guy" (he's bigger than Nubbins). Then, unbeknownst to me, Neil got TWO MORE geckos. They were all released in the house. One promptly got a good grip on the wall behind the couch, where we found him there a week later, dead, still clinging to the wall. Amazing.

Nubbins, The Big Guy and the unnamed gecko are thriving: After being totally cool and amusing us by roaming the walls and ceilings, The Big Guy found a home under the refrigerator and will only come out when we toss mealworms in front of the fridge; and then he only darts out to grab the grub and dash back to the warmth and comfort under the fridge. Boring.

I hope he's not lonely; Nubbins and the other one hang out together all the time. I guess geckos like dark, warm, confined spaces -- ours have been found in various places, but one favorite is under the wireless router, a small box with about 1/2" of space under its electrically generated warmth. They LOVE it under there. They also venture behind the dresser and under the AeroGarden, another tight, warm space they love. As mentioned, I feed them mealworms to supplement any other prey they may or may not be finding around our apt. and I leave a dish of water in front of the fridge and beside the AeroGarden for "our babies" as we sometimes call them. I guess they've become more like pets than the work-for-their keep animals we originally purchased them as.

Nubbins is quite aggressive to his unnamed gecko friend and despite his nub of a tail and being smaller than his gecko friend, he is quite a bully. He also didn't stop at growing back one tail. In a totally disgusting turn of events, Nubbins grew TWO TAILS!!!! I kid you not. Geckos are notoriously aloof, and he is quite skittish, so it's been hard for me to capture a picture of this, but I finally caught him on my cameraphone right after I got home. SO gross!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Red, White and Blue Edition

Wow. Wowwww.

Not only has Sarah Palin, in 72 hrs., managed to look like a train wreck that collided with the McCampaign, but she has also managed to do so as a fully endorsed -- and fully vetted (?) -- VP candidate.

OK, I am not even going to link to anything here; just look up your favorite news site, political blog, etc., and you'll find plenty of info.

All the latest "developments" aside, I can't really picture this woman meeting with heads of state all over the world. She just doesn't seem polished enough. Or capable enough to handle it if she ascended to the No. 1 spot.

My theory is that McCain wants to look good for selecting Palin, knowing that soon enough she'll bow out, of her own accord (maybe with some pressure), and then he'll go with his real choice.

Stay tuned. How exciting!

(And someone please tell her husband that the overgrown goattee thingy needs to go. And while they're at it, maybe they could tell Cindy she should really consider a black arm brace rather than the hot pink number she's sporting. I mean, I know it just enhances the whole Barbie image, but let's show a little decorum.)


In other news, I can't help but think about how grateful I am that I will never have to move again!!

"Aren't you about to embark on a career-long around-the-world tour?" you ask?

I mean that I will move, but I will not have to perform the move myself. One major perk of working for (edited) is that they will send movers to my house to pack and ship and unpack on the other end! I am so very happy about that, as I hate the feeling of huffing and puffing in an awkward position in a narrow stairwell, under the weight of a couch that is threatening to shift, slip and squash me between it and the wall. Plus I will live in furnished housing, so I won't have to worry about moving couches anyway!


In other (edited)-related news, I am also so very happy that I will have the option of outsourcing child-rearing duties when the time comes. Half kidding.

I am extremely worried that I would be an unfit mother, but I am in a quandary because I desperately want to see what my flesh and blood would look like. Cute, of course, but I want details. So I realized the solution to this will be built in to my new lifestyle: Hopefully I'll live somewhere where live-in nanny help is affordable and I will be able to rely on a professional to steer me in the right direction. My mom always said children don't come with instruction manuals, but hopefully mine will have their own caretakers. Of course, all of this is a long, loooooong, LONG way off, I hope. But it never hurt to start early on managing anxieties.


My Labor Day weekend was glorious, how about yours? The weather was beautiful (well, don't ask any Louisianan) and we went down to visit Neil's family at the lake. It started with having Fri. off and going to a tea party/"North and South"-watching/treat noshing/fingernail painting/ girl-talk filled night ending in a slumber party. Then waking up to a 12-hr. birthday party. It was a lot of fun hanging out and feeling like I was on a mini-vacation. We toured the lake on a boat. I swam -- well, floated in a life vest -- in the lake. I got some quality time in the sun, which is always a high priority. I got to ride their jet ski, which was exhilarating. I haven't driven a jet ski since high school, so it was great to have the chance. It reminded me of another favorite pastime, snowmobiling. But back to sunny days, I had a great, fun-filled weekend and hope you did, too. God bless America.