Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Groove

This one always gets me moving in the right direction.


It's wedding day and I've come away with two very significant facts:

1) William and Catherine (Kate) are beautiful, glowing and I hope their love withstands the tests of time.

2) Soon our house will become The Fascinator Zone.  Below are some snippets of inspiration.

Small, simple, elegant.

I love the lines of this one and you don't need to get into neck strengthening exercises in order to wear it.

 A little bit of butterflies and a little bit of steampunk.  Yes please!

 I love feathers, particularly when they are spriggy and defying the laws of gravity.

 I am a COMPLETE sucker for peacock feathers.  The colors and angled feather shape in the first speak to me the most, the almost antique quality of the second is beautiful and the third is hard to get wrong.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Office View

I am a firm believer that in all components of life things happen for a reason.  It's impossible to see what's ahead and often things look so dire and uncertain it's difficult to imagine something better around the corner.  Keeping the optimism is an exercise of huge proportions, one I often struggle with.  When I finally reach the moments where I can look back at the steps I took along the way, and how they led to where I am now, I am always so relieved things happened as they did.

A bit of back history:

My first job was in a dog daycare center.  It's true I wasn't allowed to have pets growing up and it's also true that I made it my mission to have everyone else's pet in the neighborhood on a first name basis, but the fact remains I discovered this job because I had friends who were working there.  A job of opportunity, it just also happened to be doing something I loved.

While working at the daycare center I learned from a fellow church member, a veterinarian, about an up and coming profession: veterinary technology.  The appeal of becoming a vet tech was substantial.  Such demand!  So many opportunities!  So many areas of the animal and medical world to focus on!  And it was only a two year degree offered at community college, very appealing to someone who kept drawing blanks in the department of future educational goals.

I moved on from the dog day care center and began hospital hopping to gain experience before entering the vet tech program at NOVA.  Starting out as a kennel assistant may not have been the most glamorous way to start, but exposure is exposure and we all have to start somewhere.  In the early clinics I learned so much about understanding animals and how to handle them, crucial building blocks for dealing with them on a regular basis.  From one referral practice I had incredible exposure to less common surgeries and was inspired to wrap all of my Christmas presents that year as if they were surgery packs.  My family was appreciative, even if they didn't understand the artistry involved.

I took an 8 month hiatus to work at a Hallmark Creations store during it's busiest season, because that makes SO much sense...  Then I came to my last position as a veterinary technician, where I worked 13 hour days as the sole surgery tech for a man who would inform me I didn't need to eat when I asked for a 20-minute lunch break.  He was the type of man who needed a whipping boy, a title I am not built to hold very well.

Towards the end of the year I spent there (a full year no one expected me to last) I began searching in earnest for a new job in a completely related field.  I'd burned out on the insanity of vet clinics and was desperate for some normalcy.  Wracking my brain for an idea of what of positions I could qualify for with no education and limited experience, I figured my best bet was to pursue the administrative assistant world.  I sent well over two dozen resumes out to any job position I was remotely qualified for and heard back from two.  One was a placement company, the other was the company that gave me an offer I couldn't refuse.

I stayed at that job for 3 years, longer than any other I'd had, until they could no longer afford me.  Thus began the turbulence over the next several years of trying to find a job I could be happy and successful with in an employment market that demanded extraordinary qualifications to stand out in a crowd of hundreds.

Office Two-Face assured security and company growth only to let me go (last in, first out) due to budget cuts after 6 months and having taken on the job responsibilities of 4-6 individuals.  The next office lacked structure, required administrating for two simultaneously opperating companies with cross-over employees and hosted sibling fights resulting in excessive yelling and thrown objects.  I left Office Crazy to take a coveted position at a Company With Promise which I was very enthusiastic about until discovering their need wasn't for an administrator but a mind reading office manager and/or the girl who had come before me.  I was labeled as one of the nicest people the owner of the company had ever known but not a good fit for them for my inability to translate "organize my office" into anything productive with absolutely zero additional input or guidance on anyone's specific needs.

None of these places, not a single one, offered any benefit other than a meager paycheck that barely paid the bills.

If it hadn't been for that string of insane, trying, emotionally exhausting and physically draining jobs, however, I wouldn't have been in the right position at the right time and place to be available for the job I have now.  Let me state how incredibly blessed I am to have made it through the storm and found a home on the other side.  I daily love my job, love the people I work with, enjoy my commute and am happy with how perfect things worked out.  After less than six months I am increasing my responsibilities and will get to move to an office with windows.  Exciting for me though I feel bad for my co-worker who will be leaving her view for an interior office.

While the lush greenery in the field and woods across the lot from our building are a tempting enough view, the other view I'm gaining is one of security and longevity.  I've said for years I wanted to find a place where I could be happy and stay for years and years and years.  With a huge sigh of relief and thankful prayer I think I've finally found exactly what I've been looking for.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Groove

Let's see if we can make this a somewhat weekly offering.

Today's Groove: Touch & Go by Stacy Clark.  I simply don't have enough words for how much I love this song, this video, this girl.  Makes me feel like the inside of a chocolate lava cake in the very best possible way.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Weed B Gone

"The dandelion swayed in the gentle breeze like an oscillating electric fan set on medium."

Clif and I were on the deck discussing the freakish ingenuity of our escape artist black lab when we happened to see our next-door-neighbor-who-is-so-frequently-away-we-almost-forget-we-have-neighbors-on-that-side working in her yard.  Not her name, exactly, but close enough.

Our discussion had shifted from canine shenannigans to the horrifically out of control state of our lawn.  I didn't want to go in the yard for fear a small family of meerkats may have moved in and frankly I didn't feel my ankles needed to be subjected to that kind of unknown.

The effort to take back control of the yard started a couple of weeks ago with the flower bed that runs along the front of the house.  You might say I had failed to notice spring was so far along:

Daunting!  Luckily most of those weeds were a dream to pull up.  Less luckily was that those same weeds when allowed to grow too long develop into that crazy grass stuff that literally throws shrapnel seeds when you breath in its general direction.  Let's just say I am thankful I still have my eyesight...

The other half of the weed population was dandelions the size of a boxing glove.  If you have ever in your life tried to pull a dandelion by the root you know my pain.  Tap roots are SERIOUS BUSINESS!  For a while I tried using a garden spade to get down under them but ended up cutting through most, leaving tap root too far below the surface to pull, laughing at my efforts and scheming for how they'd come back bigger than ever.  So, what's a good gardener to do?  Give up.


Until you see your phantom neighbor wandering her yard with a giant metal stick she's using to pry the suckers out.  I watched, fascinated, as she took a leisurely stroll around her house, bending here and there to pop dandelions out of the ground and into her bucket with next to no effort.  I had to have that tool.

I sent Clif to the Depot with strict instructions not to return without The Device:

Holy cow, my new best friend!  I couldn't wait to get home to break that baby in!  (For those of you who are wondering, yes, it was about this time I started to be overly aware of my age and lameness having just come to the high point of my week with a weeder in the front yard...)

Happy was I down in the dirt getting minimally dirty thanks to my work horse pair of gardening gloves until I did something silly: I asked Clif if he could bring me my gardening bench from the back yard.  Working my waist was great exercise but after 50 million dandelions my back attempted to start a riot.

Clif delivered alright, but brought along something extra:

Here I am half way through my hard, sweat-breaking work and along comes the big gun.  Now, I have nothing at all against the big gun, we need the big gun!  But my play time with my toy was cut short.  With the little bit of time he saved, however, I was able to give our butterfly bushes, Laurel and Hardy, a MUCH needed trimming.

Can I tell you a secret?  Even though it wasn't exactly the timing or type I would have liked to have had, I was happy for his help.  And after he rained down weed death from the sky?  I went back out and dug up a dozen more dandelions anyway.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

PSA Movie Review

It's a beautiful, sunny spring day.  What do you do?  Get sunburned at berimbau class then head off to Rio with your fellow capoeiristas.

You didn't think I meant Brazil, did you?

Rio is fantastic.  Funny, cute, touching and full of candy for the eyes and ears.  The soundtrack was absolutely fabulous, of course it doesn't hurt that I already love the smooth samba sounds of Brazilian music.  It was hard to sit still through parts of the movie, I found myself grinning ear to ear and bopping along.  Visually I was rocked by the colors and cityscapes that made the entire movie so stunning.  Makes sense, the story takes place during Carnival, how could it not rock your oculars?

It is chalk full of gems like this:

And this:

Even this:

It wasn't until this morning that I thought about the implications of the timing of this release.  Easter is already a time of year that is pretty notorious for the arrival of pocket pets into little children's baskets.   It seems like such a cute idea to present the little one with an adorable fuzzy creature Easter morning but soon the luster wears off and parents everywhere are stuck with forgotten critters they don't want to take care of.  Pair this with what happens when people watch cute Disney-like movies involving precocious talking animals (I'm looking at you, 101 Dalmations and the multiples of silly people who rushed out to get what is on my top 5 of worst breeds for family pets) and you can start to see the potential dangers around the corner.  It's easy to get swept up in the fun and joy of a wonderful movie and think it will translate into home life but birds, parrots in particular, can be difficult animals that require an extensive amount of knowledge, time and commitment.

This season of renewal, go and enjoy this movie with your family, but please leave the feathers on the screen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Inflating Annie

A quickie for today:

I recall quite distinctly my very first introduction to CPR.  It was at Williamsburg Middle School, in... 7th or 9th grade, perhaps.  I had Mr. Sullivan, the football coach, for my PE/Health teacher.  During the health sessions of that year we would retreat to a tiny trailer out behind the gym where we spent the better portion of class doing busy work or getting a jump start on our homework.

It was a rare occasion we had a day with any real educational meat on it, our CPR days being among them.  I remember feeling excited and nervous at the thought of having to learn and demonstrate skills that would result in my very first certification card.  I felt too young and unprepared for such a responsibility but also eager to prove I was worthy of that tiny piece of paper.

CPR fairly quickly lost its luster in the sense that I got it.  I understood, I paid attention, I made sure I knew the material and skills.  In other words, I actually cared.  There were plenty of people in my class who did not care as much as I did and spent their time doing as little as possible to get through.  These individuals were the ones who would drag their feet when coming to the front of the class to perform skills on the horribly creepy flesh Annie torso, almost immediately claiming their dummy was broken.  It wasn't their fault the chest wasn't rising, it was a malfunctioning set of lungs.  Inevitably at this point Mr. Sullivan would look at me, interupt whatever menial task I was trying to stay entertained with, and make me come to the front of the class to disprove these claims by testing the Annies.

Nothing says accomplishment quite like establishing yourself as the best mouth-to-mouth-er in middle school health class...

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Fundamental Shift

A recent conversation at the doctor's office:

"I've been eating better, not perfect, but better, and I've been exercising more and somewhat consistently yet I seem to keep gaining weight.  I don't get it."

"Well, you might not be eating enough.  You should keep a food journal to see if you need to up your calorie intake."

*blink.  blinkblink*


You can imagine how that piece of advice sounds to someone who has struggled with weight their entire life and has forever attributed that issue to not enough exercise and too much food.  To finally come to a time and age when working out and interest in lighter, healthier eating has finally started to take hold and then hear the reason the weight clings is because I'm eating too few calories simply blows my mind.

Truth be told I thought lady was crazy when she offered her take.  I understand the concept of making your body think it's starving if you're not eating enough, causing it to go into storage mode, but I couldn't understand how that scenario could possible apply to me.  I'm eating better.  Usually.  Sometimes?  Not perfect by any stretch.  I still indulge in drive-thru meals, embarrassingly enough most often after I've hit the gym when I'm too tired and it's too late to cook.  (Let's talk about crazy, shall we?)  But I'm better, and that should stand for something, right?

This past Sunday I bumped into some friends, one of whom has dropped an incredible 80 pounds and looks fantastic!  He has a foot on me in height and now weighs less than I do.  Can we talk about depressing?  In desperation I begged his secret: fitness and calorie counting.  Now, Weight Watchers actually worked for me once upon a time but I've never, ever wanted to become a calorie counter.  Lately I'll try just about anything, however, and so I ask him to tell me more.

Turns out there is this amazing little app for my iPhone that will count your calories for you!  It calculates your calorie intake goal based on your height and weight, asks for your weight loss goals, even tracks your water intake (for those of you who don't know, I suck at water.  It is a massive accomplishment that I now drink about a Sigg bottle a day) and exercise habits.  All for FREE!

I downloaded MyFitnessPal(.com) and started tracking right away.  Figuring I'd already blown the bulk of my daily allowance on the indulgent Corner Bakery Anaheim Scrambler breakfast I'd had I took it easy at lunch with a sushi roll and edamame.  I wondered how I was going to find anything to eat at dinner with the girls for what I imagined to be a cup of carrots worth of calories I'd be allowed left to consume.  I shared some scrumptious Korean BBQ with some lovely ladies and tallied up the damage done.  Much to my shock after dinner I still had 796 calories to go to reach my goal.

Ok, so, maybe there is something to this not-eating-enough thing.  Now armed with what will hopefully continue to be a wonderful tool I am preparing myself to try to shift 20+ years of ingrained thinking.  Waking up in the morning wondering how on earth I'm going to be able to eat enough is just not a place I ever thought I'd be.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cherry Blossom Traditions

For years and years it's been a tradition for my family to get up before the sun and drive into the city to see the cherry  blossoms at their peak.  If you have ever set foot in DC, or any large city for that matter, you can understand why starting your journey before most normal people are awake is so important.  The parking lot along a portion of the Tidal Basin (the best place for cherry blossom viewing) holds all of twelve point three vehicles that are all in incredibly high demand.  Even by 6:00 on a Saturday morning cars circle the lot like vultures.

Every year as I got older getting up that early to see a bunch of trees, beautiful though they are, got harder and harder.  I wanted to go with my family because it was tradition but my teenage body rejected that the hours before daylight existed as a time in which the human body could be something other than horizontal. I would almost always say the night before that this year I probably wouldn't make it, I'd see how I felt in the morning thinking I'd choose to sleep in.  Every time I felt pangs of guilt and regret at missing out and I'd wake up, roll into something somewhat presentable and trip my way out to the car.

When we arrived it was always the same: park towards the back end of the lot because there are usually more spaces and it's easier to get out when things start getting crazier as the morning goes on.  Go up to the Basin railing, turn left and begin start walking.  Pause at the Jefferson Memorial, pause at the pansy garden and in later years adjust the circuit to include the Roosevelt Memorial.  By the time we got back to the car the lot was a sticky mess and there were people everywhere.  We all smiled as we climbed into the car, thankful for the beautiful sunrise and peaceful walk we shared.

This year I missed the trip around the Basin with my family and I am more disappointed than I realized.  In honor of them and the scent of spring on this gray day I'll share some of my favorite blossom pictures.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Book Report

I started reading Water For Elephants in hopes of finishing it before the movie comes out in a few weeks.  I think I might actually make that goal which says a lot given my generally slow read speed, and while I'm enjoying the book it's not what I expected.  There will be commentary, but I'll reserve it until I'm finished.

In the meantime I received these in the mail:

Let me start by saying when the time came in school for required reading lists, so too came my loathing of reading.  I hated most of the books we had to read (I'm looking at you, Catcher in the Rye...) and book report may as well have been a four letter word.  Towards the end of middle school I started getting back into reading with the help of Anne McCafferey, but for the most part I fought this part of my education tooth and nail.  There were, however, some exceptions, the standouts pictured above.

Allow me to first say that I have had a blessed life with a rich, fulfilling childhood and a family filled with love, support and encouragement.  I mention this because the very first thing that struck me like an 18-wheeler to the face when I opened my package of nostalgic goodies I noticed one very pronounced similarity among them:

Lone adolescent against the world.  AKA: Not my life.

Hatchet: boy survives disaster, learns to live alone in the woods. 
Z for Zachariah: girl survives disaster, left behind by family, learns to live alone in a valley.  
Sign of the Beaver: boy left behind by pioneer family, must decide to wait for them or live with the Native Americans.
Island of the Blue Dolphins: girl left behind by Native American family, must decide to wait for them or become a pioneer.

What's up, Same Book Times Four?

That's ok, though.  From what I remember of them they are all classics and great reads.  I am interested, however, to compare my opinion of them as an adult to their lofty place in my nostalgic memory.  Part of me is a little bit scared to read them again for fear of compromising the positive, though hazy, feelings they invoke.

At the very least, even if my memory of them shifts, I am glad to add them to my library and have dreams that one day I'll have a child who will love them as much as I did.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Little Bit Off

Have you ever dreamed that you were at least half naked in front of your entire class and NOT been completely horrified?  In fact, you may have even thought it was normal, or thought it unusual on everyone else's part that you were the only one.  This morning I have already lost count of the number of things that are absurdly wrong with this situation.  Consider me disturbed.

Friday, April 1, 2011

In The Beginning

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I like a lot of things.  A lot.  Of things.  I am the Self-Proclaimed Queen of Way Too Many Gosh Darn Hobbies, but you know what?  I kind of dig that about myself.

Some days the sheer number of activities I try to participate in feels suffocating and I wonder what I'm doing to myself, yet I couldn't imagine parting with any of them.  Most days I feel challenged in the best way possible and life is never boring.

While my vision is for this place to grow as I do, for now it will be the gathering place of my wonky world.  At the very least it will be the place I collect the stories, memories and experiences that continue to shape me.

And perhaps, just maybe, I can entertain you along the way.