Friday, December 16, 2005

The Home Alone Survival Plan

When Jeff left, I was a little bit apprehensive. I don't really like staying by myself. I have an overactive imagination and am quite good at scaring myself senseless imagining terrifying scenarios. I was afraid I would get no sleep the whole time he was gone and my heart would be constantly racing. Fortunately, that didn't happen, and I ended up quite impressed with myself. I had to make changes to my habits, but they worked and I don't think I ever freaked out once the 6+ weeks I was alone at home. These changes included:

1. Always keeping the door locked. Usually when we are out, we only lock the bottom lock, but I took to locking both, and as soon as I got home, I would lock all the locks plus put on the chain, which we usually never do until we're heading to bed.
2. Not watching shows that would stir up my imagination. I planned to really limit my TV watching while Jeff was gone, but I ended up watching as much, if not more, than when he's home. The house just seemed so quiet there by myself that a lot of the time I had it on just for some company. But I was picky about what I watched. NFL and college basketball. Some funny/family sitcoms. Some reality TV. The Daily Show. Definitely no crime type shows. Normally, I enjoy the show Medium, but I didn't watch it once while Jeff was gone because it can be kind of creepy. What I did realize as I monitored my TV was how many commercials are inappropriately placed. For instance, I'd be watching a show like Amazing Race or NFL football, which I consider to be family friendly, when a commercial for CSI or some other crime show comes on showing some grisly footage. Or a commercial for an upcoming horror film. Not appropriate. Thank goodness for DVR, so I could speed through most commercials.
3. Falling asleep on the couch. The first night, Jeff was gone, I went to bed as usual and ended up laying there most of the night unable to sleep. I wasn't scared really, but my mind was just overactive. So after that I started laying down on the couch with the lights off and the TV low and falling asleep there. There was no pressure to fall asleep and the TV kept my mind from wandering other places. Then when I woke up, usually around 12:30 or 1:00, I was tired enough that I could just go back to bed and fall right to sleep.

I think those three things really helped me get in a routine that worked, keeping me from freaking out. That's not to say that there weren't times when I checked under the bed or in the closets, but I didn't have to sleep with a baseball bat next to my bed, which was Jeff's original suggestion when he left.

The good news, however, is that I can go back to my old ways today because Jeff is getting home in less than three hours! I can't wait to see him. It will be so nice to have him back home.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Follow-Up on the Chips

This is a follow-up to the post below, so read it first.

Seriously, the Chip thing is so surreal, that I had to Google it to see if maybe I was completely making that one up. But, no, I'm not. In fact, here is an article about the last Charles Chips delivery men, who were in fact still delivering in PA in 2003. Apparently, however, the chips no longer come in tins because they are too expensive, but you can order them through a catalog for about $13.95. I wish Mom had kept one of those. What a collector's item!

How Bizarre

Last night, I had a number of Christmas carols in my head, and this led me to remembering going Christmas Caroling as a child. I had to then wonder if there were still people who do this. It seemed so unreal to me that it was almost as if I were making up the memory. I can't imagine it happening today, but really it wasn't all that long ago that we got together with family and friends, bundled up against the cold, carried photocopied booklets of Christmas carols, rang the doorbells of people all around the neighborhood, and sang to these people (primarily strangers) when they opened the door. How very warm, cozy, and completely surreal.

This train of thought led me to thinking about other things from my past that at this point just seem bizarre. For example, when we were in grade school, we had to take fluoride once a week. Every Wednesday, one student from each class went to the Teacher Aid room and brought back fluroide for the whole class. When it first started it was in small plastic cups, and then later it came in little packets. On the teacher's word, each student had to put the fluoride in his/her mouth and swish it around for one minute before spitting back into the cup or packet. Then one really lucky student got to come around with a bag and collect all the swished and spat fluoride. How absolutely weird! Enforced dental hygiene at school. It seems so 1950s or so Communist or something.

And the other thing I thought of was how we used to have potato chips delivered to our house. The chips came in a large yellow-brown tin, and my mom kept it in the cabinet where the Tupperware now is. They were called Charles Chips, and I think that was all the man delivered. Maybe pretzels or other chip-like snacks, but he wasn't like one of the more current delivery services such as Schwann's or the grocery-store delivery options that offer a wide range of products. Just chips. As if you couldn't just go to the grocery store and buy them. As if they were a delicacy. So so so strange.

Isn't it amazing how quickly the world changes? I'm not even 25 yet, but I can still look back at things in the span of my lifetime and be incredulous that they actually happened.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tree Photos

My beautiful tree, lit and decorated. 

You can see how much bigger the tree is than me. And it's the picture that's crooked, not the tree. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas

When Jeff figured out that the time he needed to be in Sweden was during the run-up to Christmas, I was not particularly happy. The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year, and I wanted him to be around to share it with me. I was also exceptionally upset about the Christmas tree I doubted I was going to be able to get. Last year, Jeff and I went out and cut down our own tree. It was all quite an adventure trying to get it home, get it in the house, get it in the stand, and get it stable (it fell over one day after already being fully decorated). So realistically it seemed there was no way I'd be able to handle this all by myself, and I refused to go the artificial route out of fear that I'd be stuck with a fake one forever. I would just have to be tree-less this year.

So on Saturday, I set out to decorate for Christmas sans tree. I hung our handmade Santa stockings on our ice-cube snowman stocking holders. I got out the creche I had bought in Germany. I put out candles and figurines. And it all looked nice. But it also looked incomplete.

So on Sunday, I got up, put on windsuit pants, a snow jacket, and gloves and headed out before I could think clearly to a parking lot I'd seen on my way to the grocery the day before where trees were being sold for $25. Pulling into the lot, I walked into the fenced-in enclosure, where I was the only customer. I told the man selling the trees that I wanted a small, easy to handle tree. So he pulls one out that fits my description, I look at it for half a second and decide it's a bit too small, a bit too Charlie Brown. He shows me another slightly bigger and then another. They're all okay, but just don't feel right. So then he pulls one out that's perfect. It's full and straight and even has little pinecones on it. I decide that it's the one but look at a few more just to be sure. Certain that I'd picked the right one, I pay and let the man load it into my trunk. I then drive home with one eye in the rearview mirror the whole time to make sure my tree doesn't fall out on the Beltway.

Fortunately, the tree makes it with no problem, and I find a parking spot in our lot that lines up perfectly with our back porch. All I have to do is get the tree out of the trunk and over to our door. So I begin to pull on it. Then I begin to pull harder. Then I re-grasp, bend my knees, and really pull. I probably should have tried to pick up the tree myself before I bought it. It's heavy. Really heavy. Finally after some serious heave-ho-ing, I get it out of the trunk. I then grab it by its trunk and drag it over to our patio, where I hoist it onto the picnic table. Now what, I think?

Knowing that I ultimately had to get the tree standing up, I let myself into the house, grab the tree stand, and come back outside to evaluate. I stand it up for a minute, remember how heavy it is, and decide there's no way I can lift it into the stand and then tighten the stand without ending up under the tree. I decide the best method is to put the tree stand on with the tree laying on the picnic table. Clever, huh? Since I did pick a tree with a fairly straight trunk this works out pretty well, but when I stand it up, it's not quite perfectly upright. So I bend down and slightly loosen the stand with one hand while desperately holding on to the tree with another. My body is mashed into the tree to keep it from falling, and I have some nice scratches on my face and neck and arms to prove it. After some adjusting, little tiny bits at a time so that I don't ever have to support too much weight at once and end up crushed under the Christmas tree, I get it up straight and it looks good. It seems steady too as I give it a few pushes and shoves, but being a little nervous, I leave it out on the backporch for an hour to make sure it doesn't topple over.

After an hour, I'm satisfied with the stability of the tree and decide it's time to bring it inside. I lay down an old blanket between back door and the corner where the tree is to be located, and then go to pick up the tree with the stand attached. Damn, it's still heavy. With some straining and heaving, I somehow manage to get it inside and in the corner and then all I'm left to do is twist it until the best side is showing. Stepping back, I take a look at the tree and realize why it was so heavy. The tree is only a few inches from the ceiling, and it's incredibly full. It's a big, beautiful Christmas tree. And it smells so delicious. The whole house radiates Christmas. Now tonight, I'll light and decorate it, and with the snow coming down outside, it will really feel like Christmas is on its way.

In summary:
1. It's hard to judge the size of a Christmas tree in a parking lot. In a big open area, the tree looks much smaller than it does in a closed in room.
2. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Something to Look Forward To

I already know what I'll be doing the last week of August 2006. Last night, I reserved spots for Jeff and I on a six day rafting trip through the upper portion of the Grand Canyon with an outfitter called Moki Mac. Ever since I was twelve and stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon, peering down at the tiny stream that the mightly Colorado appears as from that height, I've known I've wanted to go down into the Canyon. A few years later, I watched a program on the different ways to explore the Canyon - hiking, riding donkeys, and rafting - and I knew that rafting was what I wanted to do. It's always been on the to-do list but more as a vague one-of-these-days type of activities. The relocation of my friends Megan and Bryan to Arizona made a visit to Arizona more realistic, and as Jeff and I explored the options, one-of-these-days became next August. It's going to be a great adventure.

The trip starts out at Lee's Ferry and over the course of six days, we progress 89 miles in an oar powered raft to Phantom Ranch, deep in the middle of the Canyon. Each day, we'll spend a few hours on the water and a few hours on hikes to waterfalls, Anasazi ruins, and stunning vistas. Each evening we'll set up camp and spend the night under the stars. It will be somewhat primitive, with the river for washing and makeshift toilets, but we get three meals cooked for us a day and from what I've read, they're pretty good meals. When we reach Phantom Ranch, we'll have to hike up, up, up and out of the Canyon, which takes people anywhere from 6-9 hours. I'm so excited.

The trip runs from Friday to Wednesday, so we'll have a few days at the end of our trip to do other things, especially considering that next Monday is Labor Day (and Jeff's birthday). I'm not sure what else we'll do. Maybe we'll try to hit up some of the other sites like the Painted Desert or Petrified Forest. Maybe we'll visit the Navajo nation or relax in Sedona. We'll definitely see Megan and Bryan. It will be a great trip, especially since Jeff has never been to any of these places, and I've only visited some of them briefly, and that will have been 13 years ago by then. I can hardly wait...But really, I'm glad we're not going until the end of the summer, because we're going to need some time to break in our boots and backpacks. Six to nine hours uphill is a long way!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Holidays, Marriage, and Compromise (But Not This Year!)

As you get older, you take on more roles, but rarely do you lose any. No matter what else you become - spouse, friend, co-worker - you still remain what you were - child, sibling. No matter how old you become, you always remain someone's child. It's a tricky act juggling all the roles that life throws at you. Marriage makes it even trickier, because with marriage comes compromise and a shuffling of priorities. While you can't neglect the needs of your other family, your spouse and your relationship with him/her has to become the top priority. You can't just do what you want or what your family wants. You can't have all the holidays.

The idea of sharing holidays has always been terrifying to me. I'm a traditionalist, especially when it comes to holidays. I like things to be the way they always have been. Unfortunately nothing ever stays exactly the same. The fortunate thing is that Thanksgiving was sacrificed to me long before I got married. Rice's schedule made it hard to get home for Thanksgiving, so only once in my four years at Rice did I make it. Living abroad twice rendered Thanksgiving somewhat irrelevant, since we had to push to put together anything even remotely resembling the holiday. So upon getting married, I was willing to give up Thanksgiving. Jeff and his family could have it. Christmas wasn't even up for negotiation, however. That was mine to be spent as I saw fit...which of course meant going to Louisville and re-living all the traditions I associate with the holiday.

This year, I'm lucky. I get both holidays. Unfortunately, the reason I get Thanksgiving is because Jeff is in Sweden and will miss it, which sucks, but I'm looking on the bright side here. Since I have a stranglehold on Christmas, there was no trading. And although Jeff's family is nice and all, I'm not really going to head all the way across the country to celebrate with them without Jeff. So the end result is I get both holidays.

And while I miss Jeff a lot and wish he were here, there's a part of me that's a little bit happy that I get to go celebrate Thanksgiving with my family by myself. Because I live some distance from my family, going to see them is an event, and it almost always involves both Jeff and I. I never get the opportunity to just stop by and see my parents and brothers. I'm always with Jeff and with my family. And sometimes that's tricky. So as silly as it is, and as much as I love having Jeff around, I'm kind of looking forward to just being home with the family and having the only roles I have to worry about be child and sister.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I Feel A Winter Long Case of the Mondays Coming On

I'm feeling very down on my job lately. It's just not very fulfilling. I get up every day and go to work, where I spend most of my time just wasting it. More often than not, I'm the only one in my office, and even if the two or three other people who work here are here, I don't really interact with them that much. We all sit in our offices and do our own thing. Sometimes I do work, and I usually find some sense of accomplishment in that, but honestly I could get it all done in just a day or two each week instead of the five I spend here.

I feel like I should like my job. I like what the organization as a whole is trying to do. I like the people who work for the organization. But I don't feel like I'm actually doing anything worthwhile. I feel like I'm being under-utilized. Even though this job is different than the one I had last year, it's not really. It's still me and a computer in an office alone most of the time. And I don't think that's the kind of job for me. I think I need something more fast-paced, more people-oriented, more hands-on.

But what do I do about that? I only plan to be in this area another 2.5 years at the most. Is it worth it to go look for something else that I might not like anyways? Should I just stick it out here, because it's a sure thing? The salary isn't that great (it's okay), but they're already talking promotion. The benefits are okay. The commute's not bad. I get off the week between Christmas and New Year's. The people are nice. There's no guarantee that I'll find anything better. I just don't really like any of the options honestly. And Jeff might be right in saying that I'm pretty much not going to be happy with any job I'm going to find at this point.

What I think I want to do is go back to school and eventually become a professor. I think that is the job that matches the highest number of my desires: flexible schedule, hands-on, challenging, people-oriented, intellectually-stimulating, okay pay and benefits, flexible on location. But I can't do that until Jeff is done, so I have to make it through another few years. And I'm not sure the best way to do that. If I was getting paid a lot, I could say that I'm saving up for the future. If I was working in a field that I'd want to go into in graduate school, I could say I'm gaining experience. But none of that is true, so right now, I just feel like I'm buying time, and that's certainly not very motivating.

I think I must have SAD. Everything seems worse in winter.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Random Halloween Rambling

By the time I got off work today, it was already dark. Ugh. I really hate that. It just makes a for a long, dull night. It's a nice night for trick-or-treaters though, because the weather is really nice. Of course, it gets nice after I replace all my summer clothes with my winter clothes. I put my pumpkin out on our front stoop, but I haven't had one trick-or-treater. I mean, I understand...if I had kids and lived here, I'd take them to the real houses in the neighborhood next door and not wander through apartment buildings, but it's still sad not to get any kids. Guess I'll have to eat all the candy I got for them myself. I did see lots and lots of costumes this weekend as the whole DC college and twenty-something crowd was out partying around the city. Lots of political costumes...big shocker in this city. It's kind of fun to get on the Metro and be sitting next to someone dressed up. Kind of makes everything a little surreal. It would be more fun though if it were a random day and not Halloween. Maybe I'll do that. Mom, send me my wedding dress. I think in addition to the grocery store, I'm also going to wear it on the Metro. Get my money's worth out of it, you know.

I was thinking back over the costumes I wore through the years, and these are the ones I most remember.
-In kindergarten, I was a dinosaur. It was a crazy costume with a huge tail and coverings for my hands and feet. It weighed a lot and was hard to skate in (Halloween Roller Skating Party), but I won some costume contest for it, and I thought it was pretty darn cool. Of course, like all my costumes, my mom made it.
-One year I was Pippi Longstocking. I put wire from hangers into my braids to make them stick up. It looked cool, but it wasn't really comfortable. I think I have permanent dents in my head from the wires.
-One year I was this weird combo of princess and something very sci-fi futuristic, outerspacy. That was a strange costume, and I have no idea what inspired it. Matthew and my neighbor Cristin had similar costumes, so there must have been something to it.
-Another time I was a gypsy. I liked that costume, except it was really, really cold that Halloween, and the shirt for it was tiny and left my stomach bare. I think my mom made me wear a long sleeve shirt under it, which really ruined the effect.

Ah, Halloween. It's not as fun when you're old. I mean you can still dress up and go to parties, but it's just not the same without glow sticks and huge bags of candy. I really miss the glow sticks.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Comments on Today's News

*I'm not surprised but I am disappointed to see that Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination to the Supreme Court. While it was clearly in the best interest of the White House and the Republican Party, I was hoping for some ugliness. And I'm scared to think who the President will now nominate. With his party falling to pieces in so many ways, he's got to pick someone with conservative written right across her/his face in order to do some salvaging of his support base if nothing else. I think it was made pretty clear over the past couple of weeks that big-time Republicans aren't going to be happy with anyone who doesn't have a clear history of being anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-anything progressive or liberal. Bleh.

*I think the people in Florida need to shut up and suck it up. They made their bed and now they have to lie in it. I'm sick of hearing about FEMA not doing this or the government not doing that. Hurricane Katrina was an anomaly. While I think even the people there could have been better prepared, it was somewhat excusable that people didn't have everything they needed or didn't get out of town. No one really expected the devastation Katrina brought. But what excuse do these people in Florida have? They saw Katrina and its terrible aftermath. They saw the inability of the government to take care of the masses. They had plenty of time and warning to get their butts out of town or at least to stock up on provisions. So really I feel no sympathy for them. People need to learn to take responsibility for themselves and quit shifting it elsewhere. It would make our country a better place.

*Come on, Astros. Not even one win? I must say I'm disappointed. But I'm not 100% surprised. One of the things that hurt the Astros the most was age. Clemens couldn't even make it past two innings. And that really who you chose to pinch hit in the 7th inning of what could be the final game? I know he's the face of the team. I know he's been waiting for ages for this opportunity. But, when the World Series is on the line, you can't get a soft heart. You have to do what's best for the team, and that wasn't choosing an injured player who hadn't really gotten a hit all series to come to bat in a decisive moment. It was just one of many bad decisions throughout the Series for the Astros. Better luck next year.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Urge to Go

There's no denying that fall is here. Even though most of the trees seem to be skipping the changing color phase, there's no doubt it's fall. The sun's not as strong. The wind is brisk. The hours of daylight just keep shrinking. And it's all got me feeling quite restless. I feel like I need to go somewhere or do something. I need to move, travel to a new country, go back to school--anything that will keep me from the stagnation of winter.

I think part of my feeling of restlessness has to do with the fact that I've now moved into my second year of being in the same place. It's been a while, since freshman-sophomore year of college to be exact. Then it was Germany for one year, Houston for one year, Athens for one year, DC for two...and who knows who many more years (but better not be more than another 2 or so). I'm also in a job that is permanent - not permanent as in a lifetime career - but permanent in the sense that it's unlike my other jobs which had end dates decided on before the start date approached. And I'm married. My life suddenly seems very permanent. It's very strange after having had such a nomadic existence for the past few years.

And it's not as if I haven't gone places this year - we've been to Hawaii and Belize. I've been up to NYC and Philadelphia. I've been out to California and up to Seattle. But I haven't lived anywhere else. I haven't had the challenge of figuring out how to get groceries or practiced asking for a bus ticket multiple times so that I don't mess up the language. I've always just been a visitor. And what I want to do is go explore, go live new cultures, go get lost, and then find somewhere really cool. I just want to move around and see the world before I'm too old or have too many responsibilities or am too materialistic to take a job that pays only $650 a month but offers fantastic opportunities.

But I'm going to have to learn patience, since we're here until Jeff is done with his PhD. So in the mean time, I need suggestions on how to keep myself occupied. Maybe taking some classes will help. Maybe learning a new language. I don't know, but if you have ideas, please send them my way. I need something to get me through the winter. Once the weather warms up, I'll probably be happier just to do nothing and enjoy it. But for now the restlessness has kicked in. And it doesn't help that Jeff's in Sweden either. I'm jealous. I know he's working hard, but it's another country, which in my book makes it automatically a million times better.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

If Only I Knew The Right People

I think I missed my chance. If you know me, you know that I like to make up songs. Well, I don't know if I like it so much as I just do it. I make up songs for everything. I make up songs about doing the dishes and getting out of bed and dusting and eating. And I love to make up songs about Jeff. They just come out without me even thinking, and they usually don't make a lot of sense. But they're pretty funny. Kind of weird, huh?

The thing is, this is apparently a marketable talent. And I had no idea. I've just been doing it for free all these years, when I could have been doing it to make money. Case in point - Nissan commercial. If you've been watching the playoffs, you've probably seen it, because they play it often. A guy is zooming around in his car and the driver (presumably) is singing some song that has lines in it like "I'm gonna honk my horn. I'm gonna let you honk my horn." When Jeff and I first heard it, we cracked up laughing. He looked at me, and I at him, and we both just died laughing, because we know that I totally wrote that song. And now it's on TV in a primely-placed commercial. Too bad I didn't copyright it.

And if you're thinking, okay anomaly, check out current Expedia and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese commercials. Nonsense songs are hot, and I am the queen of nonsense songs. So if you know anyone in advertising looking for the next hot song, send them my way. I've got a whole repetoire that I'd be more than happy to share if the price is right.

Monday, October 10, 2005

What's Up Your Sleeve, W?

W's nomination of Harriet Miers for Supreme Court Justice has thrown me for a loop. Usually he is so easy to read, but this time he's got me confused. I truly thought he would nominate a hard-core conservative. He's entering his lame duck years, and this seems like the perfect opportunity for him to be able to throw his weight around for years and years to come. Plus, as his presidency and his party fall apart, it seems he ought to be doing all he can to shore up support among his bases. He's certainly past the point of being able to bring others over to his team, so he might as well do what he can to keep his supporters strong and away from any thoughts of defection. As happy as I am that he didn't do this, I'm also a bit concerned. I mean, the President, as much as I dislike him, isn't dumb - at least not when it comes to things like this. Sure, Harriet Miers is a loyal friend, but there's got to be more to it than that. As innocuous as she seems, I feel like there's got to be some big hidden thing we don't know about. Really, I just can't see him going soft now. He has absolutely no reason to. It's not going to win him support from his opponents and it's just going to cost him friends. So what's the big secret? I'm a little nervous.

I am, however, enjoying watching Republicans get all up and arms over her nomination. While just two weeks ago, they were declaring it imprudent for a judge to reveal how he would vote on certain issues, they've now changed their tune. They must know where Harriet Miers stands on absolutely everything. How much more obvious can they be in their partisan politics? Hey, it's your president's pick. Shouldn't you just support the choice? Isn't that what good Republicans do?

I also find it humourous, in a disturbed way, that multiple politicians are stating things like they won't vote for her unless they are convinced she will overturn Roe v. Wade? Hello, last time I checked, judges weren't supposed to guarantee votes on issues. That's kind of unethical. And it's not as if she can just take her place on the bench, have a huddle with the other judges on her team, and decide that for this play, they're going to overturn Roe v. Wade or any other decision. For them to even consider an issue, whether abortion, euthanasia, medical marijuana, treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, or anything else, a case has to be brought before them and they must rule specificially on that case and its merits. Remember, they are the judicial branch and not the legislative branch. They do not introduce issues. They simply rule on issues based on the Constitution. Do our legislators need a primer on the three-branch system of government? I'm sure there are plenty of elementary school teachers who could step up and provide it if necessary.

Anyhow, I'm interested to see what will come of all of this. I'm hoping for a full implosion. It will be fascinating.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Google's Birthday

Happy 7th Birthday, Google! Can you believe it's only seven years old? That means Google came into existence in September 1998, the beginning of my senior year of high school. It seems like it has been around much longer, primarily because I can't remember what life was like before Google. Where did we go for information? How did I get through high school without it? It's crazy how quickly the world changes and how quickly we can become dependent on something that didn't even exist a decade ago. These days I always go straight to Google when I need to find the answer to practically any question. Where's Uzbekistan? Check Google. How many tablespoons are in a stick of butter? Check Google. What restaurants are in Dupont Circle? Check Google.

Which brings me to the question...If something can't be found using Google, does that mean that it doesn't really exist? It seems that everything is on the Internet and if it's out there, Google will find it. I can't get it to find two things, however, and that makes me wonder if they exist outside of my world.

1. I can't get Google to find the phrase "give him/her down the road" in the sense of telling someone off. I wrote about this before last year, and I just did another search without luck. Does this phrase exist outside of my small world?
2. The second verse of the birthday song, which I've always been a bit suspicious of, can not be found using Google. When I Google "second verse happy birthday," I get a second verse, but it's nothing like the one I know. When I Google combinations of "good health good wealth happy birthday," I get nothing. This second verse apparently does not exist beyond the Zimmerman family (and its offshoots), so I'm really really curious as to how it came about. Let me know if you know.

And as a final thought, isn't it interesting how "Google" is now also a verb. Seriously, you better watch out, Google is taking over.

Friday, September 16, 2005

My First Business Trip

Sunday night, I'm heading out to Santa Monica to go to our West Coast office. I've never been to Santa Monica, and I've only been to California once, so I'm kind of excited. Plus I've never got to go on a business trip. That part kind of makes me feel old, but at least I'm lucky that I'm going to Santa Monica and not the middle of Iowa or something lame like that. Our office is right on the Third Street Promenade and just a block or two from the beach, so that should be nice. I told Jeff he should come with me, but he's lame and says he needs to work. I told him he's dumb for passing up free hotel and meal money. If it were me, I'd go. But he is taking off Friday, because I'm meeting him up in Seattle for the weekend. Some relative from Sweden is going to be there, so it worked out nice that I can combine the two trips instead of having to do cross-country trips twice, especially since I really hate flying that far. So while it's work, next week is kind of like vacation.

The funny thing is that I'm going out to our West Coast office to teach everyone about our new Web sites. I'm like the office web guru, which is pretty hilarious, considering I've never thought of myself as all that computer knowledgeable. But I guess I know more than I thought, and I've learned a lot (mostly self-taught) in the almost three months I've been working here. So far the Web sites seems to be functioning well, so I guess I'm doing alright. It's strange the positions you find yourself in. Who would have thought I'd have a job where one of the main parts of my job was being the computer know-it-all...and on both PCs and Macs? I just amaze myself. Wonder what else I can do? Anyhow, if you're at all interested in the Web sites or the organization, please go check it out. From there, you can check out the other three sites I run - Contentbank, Techpolicybank, and Expresslane. Exciting, eh?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Lunch in Dupont Circle

I think I'm going to write a book called "Today, While I Was Sitting in Dupont Circle..." and just write little anecdotes about the things that happen to me while I'm sitting there. So far, I could include the following:

*I was treated to a concert by a group of Christian teenagers. Not only did they sing Creed's "Higher", they also did interpretive dancing to it. Then they capped it off with a song that must have lasted at least five minutes but contained nothing but the words "My God is an amazing God." Apparently not so amazing as to give them any songwriting or singing talent, however.

*I had my lunch eaten by a homeless man. Having finished what I wanted to eat and sat it down next to me, I got on the phone. I felt someone sit down close by but I didn't turn to look, as they are usually weird people I don't really want to engage with. When I did finally look over, I found the homeless man who I had earlier seen dropkicking imaginery things eating my leftovers. Not wanting to be dropkicked myself, I let him eat them, but I was a little annoyed that he threw away my tupperware.

*I watched a man pee on the sidewalk. Not only did he not go to a store to try to use the bathroom or at least go over to a tree, he didn't even get up off the bench. He just pulled down his fly and let his pee rainbow right onto the sidewalk. A policeman wasn't 20 feet away, and he had to have seen it, but he just ignored it. Guess he didn't want to get peed on.

*I met a man who chatted me up about foreign policy, telling me that he worked under Condoleeza Rice and did all kinds of things that he couldnt' really tell me about. He was knowledgeable on a lot of subjects, but his mind jumped all over the place, making the conversation somewhat hard to follow. I had to wonder what he was doing just sitting in the circle and hanging out if he had such a high power job. Then when I saw him again a few days later, with the same clothes on, carrying the same bag, and sitting in the same place, I really started to wonder. Maybe he's undercover...or maybe he's just another crazy.

*I was serenaded with Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love to You" by some guy who was originally just wandering around the park but then decided to stand right in front of me and belt it out as loud as he could. Slightly awkward.

*I was approached by a guy asking if he could take a cab to IKEA. I told him that I didn't know of any laws forbidding it (seemed like a dumb question to me), and he then told me that my "ensemble" was nice.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Best Day of My Life

I'm the kind of person who over-anticipates. I build things up in my head until there is no way the reality can match the imagined. I get fired up for birthdays and other celebratory occasions only to find that they are never quite as exciting as I think they will be. So for the wedding I tried to prepare myself. I tried to tell myself that things would go wrong, but they'd be okay. I tried to remind myself that I don't live in fairytale world and am not a multi-millionaire, I tried to be realistic.

But really there was no need for that, because our wedding was absolutely perfect. It was amazing, fabulous, and even better than I ever could have imagined or dreamed. Even if I had been a multi-millionaire, I wouldn't have changed one single thing about it. It was that good. And nothing went wrong. Or if it did, I didn't know about it, or didn't think of it as going wrong. It just happened and it just was. So one of the chandeliers was missing a globe. And so it was a little hot out on the dance floor. But I didn't care. And that means a lot considering I'm obsessive-compulsive and tend to harbor on the negative. Seriously, I had the time of my life.

I could gush on and on, but I'm just going to take a little time and let you know what I thought made it so fabulous.

1. When else will so many of the people you care about be in the same place at the same time? I had friends from home, from Rice, from my year in Greece, and from other places in between, along with family, there to celebrate with me. Jeff had friends from his years in Hawaii, from growing up in Bainbridge, from school, and from Sweden, along with family, there to celebrate with him. There were a few people who couldn't make it that we would have liked to have there (and we missed you), but overall we were so lucky to have so many people we cared about in one place at one time. And by keeping it small, we were able to have it be the people we really did care about and not just every Tom, Dick, and Harry we've ever met. So know that if you were there, we consider you to be particularly special.

2. We got to have three days of celebration. I love that our wedding wasn't just one quick day that was over before we knew it. I loved celebrating with our wedding party at the rehearsal dinner on Thursday. Everyone had me rolling with their stories, and the atmosphere was amazing. My dad roasted Jeff good. My brothers had a ball making fun of me - and saying some really nice things. Kate and D even sang. Then on Friday, it was fabulous to be able to spend time with everyone at my parent's house and at the ball game. The day was relaxing, and we were able to actually talk to and hang out with the people who had traveled so far to be there for us. Plus, it was really great to get to have so many of our diverse groups of friends come together and get to know each other. It made our lives seem a little more connected.

3. Our wedding ceremony was personal and reflected us. We asked only our closest friends to stand up with us as bridesmaids and groomsmen. We chose readings that reflected our beliefs and feelings, and we had dear friends read them. We found a minister who took the time to get to know us and reflected that knowledge in his comments. We picked out music that suited our tastes rather than sticking to the stock choices. We had the wedding outside in a location that felt perfect for us.

4. We made decisions based on what we wanted and not on what was expected. We had pictures of our parents and grandparents on their wedding days on our cake table. We had a cake with chocolate icing. We served only beer and wine, but put a lot of thought into our selections. We didn't do a bouquet or garter toss. I didn't do the old, new, borrowed, and blue thing. I wore a simple, non-strapless dress (gasp...yes there are a few of those still in existence these days). Jeff wore grey.

5. We, along with most everyone else, got to dance all night long. One of the things I really wanted was a packed dance floor, and that's what I got. I had a blast dancing with Jeff and my friends and family. The Proud Mary rolling dance was absolutely hilarious, and if you didn't see my dad tearing up the dance floor, you missed out.

6. I have a fabulous family who made my wedding perfect. My brothers and dad all pitched in and took care of many things, especially when it came to set up, and they never complained. Well, they gave me a hard time about my schedules, but never complained. My mom did more things than I can name, making my gorgeous veil and my table runners, cutting out nearly a thousand pages for the programs, finding and contacting vendors, and helping with absolutely everything. It was a whole family effort, which could not have been pulled off without them.

7. Jeff and I got married. That was the whole point of this afterall. Even if it had poured down rain, the DJ been terrible, and the cake fallen over, this would still have happened and the day would still have been successful (though not nearly as fun). And now, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, we've got each other for all the days of our lives. What more could I ask for?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Eleven Days to Go

The wedding is in eleven days. I think almost everything is done, and now with no real activities to occupy my time, all I have to do is obsess over the weather. Did you know that will give you a fifteen day forecast? I learned that this week. And soon I will be able to get the ten day forecast on Oh, the excitement. Really, my main obsession is rain. What bride's isn't, right? Ideally I'd like it to be low 80s with a nice breeze and zero humidity. Realistically, I'm prepared to deal with hot and humid (it's Louisville...that would be the normal thing to expect...I planned for that.) I can handle cloudy. I could suck it up and dodge a few rain drops. But please, please, please no big rains. No torrential storms. No crazy wind. Nothing like that. I just don't know what I'd do. And not just because no bride likes rain on their wedding day (yeah, I've heard it's good luck, but we all know that's a lie just to make people feel better about having their wedding rained on), but because all my plans, everything I've worked on and imagined for the past eleven months, depends on having decent weather. Decent...that's all I ask. Gorgeous would be wonderful. But decent I can handle. So cross your fingers, say a prayer, do a sunny sky dance, whatever. And then maybe just in case throw in a little prayer, wish, hope that no matter how the weather turns out, I handle it gracefully. Because really, there isn't a darn thing any of us can do about it. But I sure do hope it's nice!

Friday, July 01, 2005

July is Here

Today is the first day of July. I am getting married on the second to last day of July. That means I am getting married this month. Just thought I'd let you know.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Work Thoughts

In case you didn't know, I started a new job this week. I am a Program Assistant at The Children's Partnership, a non-profit that focuses on children's issues, particularly health care and technology. I'd direct you to our website, but it's under construction and won't be reappearing until around July 7. Right now, I'm working on editing it for style, consistency, and errors. It's a good way for me to become acquainted with everything the office does, since I have to read all of it very carefully. My English degree put to good use. And people say that English and German degrees are useless. Thank you very much, I've put both to work in the two plus years since I graduated.

This office is really small. In fact, today I am the only person here. Normally, there are a few others: Laurie, the co-founder and co-president; Dawn, the Deputy Director focusing on health issues; Ambar, a recent graduate who was a part-time intern for the past two years and is now here until she finds her dream job in journalism; Erie, a senior at American University, who will be the part-time intern during this coming year; and Karen, whose job I am taking over because she is going back to graduate school. Yes, small. I wasn't lying. This is the secondary office though, with the main office in Santa Monica hosting about ten or so employees. Plus there are random consultants in NYC and San Francisco. On the one hand, I like that it's small. I'll really get to have a hand in everything that goes on, and I think I'll develop skills quickly. On the other hand, it could get lonely. So far I've been busier than I was at the Holocaust Museum, which is nice, because I think being bored at work has to be one of the worst things ever. All you can do is sit there and watch the time not move and think about the million other things you could be doing. Also, the people in this office seem to genuinely like each other unlike at the Museum, where dislike wasn't even masked. So those are all things that make it clear that this job is a step up. Plus I'm getting paid a living wage, and I get good benefits. We'll see how much I like it in a few months or a year (gasp...can I really work somewhere for an entire year without looking to move on?).

Working just really isn't my cup of tea. Jeff and I had an argument about this the other day when I was still at the Museum, with him stating that he wishes I wouldn't say so much that I hate to work and that I just accept the fact that I have to work. I told him that until I quit getting up and going to work in the morning, I can say I hate work all I want and he can just deal with it. And no, I will not accept that it's just the way it is. I simply don't believe that the purpose of life is for us to spend the majority of our waking hours doing something that we don't like doing. Come on, that can't be all there is to this. I don't think Jeff understands because he likes what he does a lot. I mean, sure he'd rather be playing baseball or traveling or what not, but he is generally interested in what he does and would probably do it even if he didn't have to work. I mean sometimes at night, he talks and thinks about work related stuff, simply because he thinks it is interesting. Weird. I can't think of anything that I am that interested in. I'm interested in lots of stuff, dont' get me wrong, but I can't really spend all my time focusing on one thing and not get bored. I need variety. Even though I've just started this job, and it seems like it will be a decent job, I can't help but wonder about where I'm going to go next and imagine what kind of job I'd really like. The following jobs are in contention for what I think I'd like to do:

* BE A PROFESSOR. Positives: The hours are sweet. It's easy to have a job and a family. You're surrounded by intelligent and interesting people. You can take advantage of the benefits of university life. You can stay somewhat young through the people you teach. The benefits are nice. The pay isn't fabulous, but you're not hurting by any means. Nobody really keeps track of when you work as long as you show up for class. There are universities everywhere, so you have your choice of places to live. Negatives: You do have to work long and hard to get a PhD. If you want to teach at a top-notch place, you have to attend a top-notch place and do really well. You have to get published...and keep getting published. Tenure is hard to get. Lots of other people want to be professors too, and there aren't too many professors leaving. There can be a lot of in-fighting within a university as people fight for jobs and tenure.

*BE A WRITER. Positives: You work on your own schedule. You can easily have a job and a family. You're your own boss. You can focus solely on what interests you and say pthooey to the rest. You can make a lot of money. You can work anywhere. Negatives: You can work really hard and never have anything to show for it. The pay can be lousy. It's terribly hard to break in to the field. You have to be incredibly disciplined. You don't make any money until after your work is done so you have to have some way of sustaining yourself while you work. You have to be really good...or be willing to sell out to popular demand. You seem to have to be a little bit odd.

*JOIN THE FOREIGN SERVICE. Positives: You get to live all over the world. You meet interesting people. learn languages, and engage in different cultures. It's a government job so the pay and benefits are good. Your colleagues are intelligent and worldly. Negatives: It's hard to establish a home when you move all the time. You're far away from family and friends. Your kids might grow up to be mal-adjusted. You could end up in a part of the world you had no interest at all in. It's really, really hard to get into.

Anyhow, those are the current top three jobs for the maybe one day file.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

It's Called Summer. It Gets Hot.

Why do people in DC seem to think they have a monopoly on hot weather? If they checked out a map, they'd notice that they're definitely not as close to the equator as many other people. And if they ever looked at world weather (or even US weather), they'd notice that lots of places have hotter temperatures every day of the year. But for some reason, people here seem to think DC is the hottest place outside of the Sahara. Seriously, I think in my time in DC I've had more people tell me that I'll be overwhelmed by the heat here than I've had tellme that anywhere else. Hello, I'm from Kentucky, I went to school in Texas, and I lived in Greece...I think I know more about heat than the people here do. And yes, I do mean it when I say that I like it hot. 90 doesn't faze me. Temperatures in the 80s are marvelous. It's summer, for goodness sake. Bring on the hot weather.

Friday, June 03, 2005

If you're invited to my wedding, you should be receiving an invitation in a mailbox near you any day now. Jeff and I walked the box full of them down to our mailbox on Tuesday night, and ceremoniously dumped them all in. Yesterday I was visiting a friend here in DC and saw that her invitation had arrived, so I know Jeff didn't go back to the mailbox at 10am (our pickup time) and beg the mailman to have them back. It looks like all lights are green.

Your invitation should include an invitation, directions, a reception card, and a response card with envelope. If it doesn't, well, I guess Jeff and I got distracted by "In Good Company", which we were watching as we stuffed. One of you lucky folks got two response cards, I think. If it happens to be you, you only have to send one back...really. I'll be watching my mailbox obsessively next week, so send that reply card back. Come on...I already stamped just have to stick it in the mailbox and you'll make me ever so happy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Wow! I Had No Idea Planes Could Do That.

Yesterday I got my credit card bill, which included a charge for a flight I'd purchased from Louisville to DC on Independence Air. The charge was correct, but I was a bit taken by surprise by the destination it listed. It listed the flight coordinates as: Louisville and Fictitious Point. Fictitious Point? That's not where I had planned to go, but I'm kind of intrigued. I wonder where this Fictious Point is and what exactly it's like there. Is it a place from a book or a movie that I'll immediately recognize? Will there be talking animals or extraterrestrials or munchkins? I'm excited. I can't wait for that flight. I just hope it doesn't take me to DC, because for months I've been under the impression that this is a real place, and my whole worl'ds going to be thrown out of kilter if I find out this is just a Fictitious Point.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Hawaii Photos

So it's taken forever, but we finally have our Hawaii pictures online. They're on Photobucket, which really isn't the best option, for reasons such as
a: It doesn't have enough memory to host all our photos under one account
b: It puts them in in a weird order and any time you edit the picture it moves them around
c: It won't let you give them good titles, since everything must be one word and you can't use symbols, etc.

But anyhow, it took forever to get them up so they will stay there for a while. Evenutally they will show up on a new site, but for now this will have to do. If you have a good site idea, let me know. I didn't really want to use one where you have to order something from them in order to keep your free account, but I just may have too. Some of those are really lame though in that they claim you as a member from the time you sign on, even if you're just looking at a friend's site and not starting your own. Whatever. Nothing is free. Or if it is, it's not the best quality.

If you want to see the photos, you'll have to go to two sites. First, go to mine. And to view the pictures in chronological order, start with the last page and view the pictures by pressing Previous. Then go to Jeff's page and view them however you want, because they are already so out of order it doesn't matter.

Hope you enjoy them. They don't really do justice to Hawaii, but it's the best we could do.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Well That Was Underwhelming

A new pope has been elected. Seems awfully quick to me. I thought it would take longer. I kind of hoped it would, although I'm not sure exactly why. I thought the first papal election of my lifetime would be a little more exciting. Anyhow, my immediate reaction upon reading that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict XVI was disappointment. I was kind of rooting for an African or a Hispanic. I honestly don't know much about Joseph Ratzinger, but from the commentary I've read about him and the homily he gave, he doesn't seem like he's planning to take the Church in the direction I'd like to see it go. A "traditionalist" isn't what I think the Church needs. I think we need someone who will move the Church forward, past all the scandal and all the internal problems that led to the recent scandals. We need someone who will help the Church move into the current century, someone who will hold true to the basic tenets of the faith but also realize that priests marrying, women being ordained, or couples using birth control does nothing to lessen the true message of Catholicism but instead would make the Church stronger and more appealing. Making the Church more welcoming to more people didn't really seem to be the goal he proposed in his homily, instead pretty much saying that it doesn't matter what people want, the Church must hold to the course. I'm afraid that if the Church holds too tightly to its current course, it's going to find itself floundering. Rejecting blasphemous teaching is one thing...rejecting common sense is completely different. The Church may be a holy institution, but it's still an earthly institution. And I think it's time for the Church to get in touch with the earthly people it's supposed to serve. Here's hoping Pope Benedict XVI will continue with the good works of Pope John Paul II (particularly his efforts to reach out to the oppressed) but will also recognize the need for change in the Church's stances towards the priesthood, women, homosexuals, and birth control.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Life is Good

I'll be in Hawaii tomorrow. The weather there appears to consistently be High: 83, Low: 72, Sunny. I can't wait. Don't worry I'll think of you all while I'm snorkeling with the giant sea turtles, hiking on the lava flows, stargazing from the top of a volcano, enjoying the spray of the waterfalls, and getting a nice tan. Yes, I'd be jealous if I were you.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Theresa's Guide to DC

It's spring here in DC, and the tourists are in bloom. It's ridiculous how quickly they've gone from complete dormancy to full bloom. Not that I wasn't aware of it before, but DC is a hot tourist spot, primarily for school groups, old people tour groups, and families. While I understand the attraction of the city and agree that everyone should visit at least once, I find myself a bit fed up with all the tourists. It's a bit difficult to live and work in a city that most of the country views as a vacation spot. So in the spirit of helpfulness, let me offer a few tips that will make life easier for us all.

1. The metro is not a toy. It's a mode of transportation that millions of local people use everyday to get to work and school. Therefore twirling around the poles or not holding on to see if you can maintain balance as the train stops and starts (which you inevitably cannot do) is not a good idea, especially during rush hour. If you really feel the need to do such, try 2pm. Not toomany are on the metro then. Speaking of rush hour, try to avoid it. The trains are crowded enough as it is, and really there's no need to get to the museums that early because they don't open until ten. And definitely do not bring your group of ten, twenty, thirty, or even more onto the metro at rush hour. There is no way you will all be able to stay together. Also, do not step off of the metro and then stop to get oriented. Walk away from the doors, move out of the way, and then orient yourself for however long you want. On the same note, don't stop right when you step onto the metro. Move down the aisle. The people behind you would also like to get on the train. Finally, yes, I know the metro may be new to you, but surely you have seen an escalator before. Use it the way you would any escalator, meaning please stand to the right, allowing those wishing to walk to pass safely on the left.

2. The sidewalks in DC are generally large. That is so they can hold a large amount of traffic, not so you can spread out across the entire thing and then crawl at a snail's pace. Seriously, when is the last time you walked with your family spread out in one big line? You don't do it at home, so why do it here? Some of us are actually trying to get somewhere. I prefer to have the walk from the metro to work take about five minutes, not fifteen, and yes, as spectacular as it is, I don't need to stop and gaze at the Washington monument every day. And if you do decide to stop suddenly and snap a picture and I'm walking right behind you, it makes it difficult for me to stop without running into you...or your million kids who are spread all the way across the sidewalk.

3. There's a lot to see in DC. It wouldn't hurt to do a little research before you set off. For instance, it might be good to look up some info on the Holocaust Museum and realize that we have a timed-ticket admission procedure and only offer a limited number of tickets each day. This means that if you arrive in the afternoon during tourist season there's a good chance we'll be out of tickets. And despite what you may believe, I, nor anyone else at the museum, can make anymore tickets appear, even if you traveled all the way from the moon just to go to the Holocaust Museum. And seriously, if you'd come all the way to DC just to go the Holocaust Museum, I think you would have done your research and gotten to the museum in time to get tickets.

Okay, I'll go ahead and leave it at that for now. Really, I don't want to have to harm you, and I'd love for you to enjoy your trip, just please don't make my life difficult. Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

So Much To Do, So Little Time to Do It

I'm apparently living in a different world than our country's leaders are. The world I live in has genocides happening in Africa, has ever increasing terrorism in the Middle East, has millions of people with inadequate health care, has disturbing acts of teen violence, and the list goes on. I don't mean to be completely negative as the world I live in has many positives, but there are a whole lot of issues that I feel our elected officials have a responsibility to address. Strangely enough but the Schiavo case, steroids in baseball, and my right to travel to Cuba aren't anywhere on my list of things Congress should be investing its time and energy in.

How absolutely ridiculous is it that Congress and the President intervened in the Schiavo case? The case has been heard by numerous courts, and while crazy political maneuverings keep upsetting the decision, the standard court response is that her husband has the right to remove her feeding tube. While I find it terrible that the whole thing has been drug through the legal process so much, that is why we have courts. They exist to hear cases and make judgments based on the laws of our country. Laws that aren't meant to be changed at the whim of some politician, especially any politician who sees changing a law or intervening in a case as a way to win support for him and his party instead of protecting the rights of the people he/she represents. I am disgusted by reports in the paper that say Bush and his Republican chronies see their actions as a way of winning over more conservatives. Excuse me, but this is a woman's life we are talking about. An absolutely defenseless woman should not be manipulated in such a way. It is despicable. I hope the appelate court holds up the ruling and lets Mrs. Schiavo finally go in peace and lets the issue dissipate. It's a terrible situation, but after fifteen years and no signs of improvement, I think it's beyond time. It's a shame that it has come to this. If nothing else, maybe this will inspire more of us to look into living wills and to make our wishes known to all of our close relatives, and not just the ones who we believe would have legal authority, since apparently legal authority can be easily tampered with. As for me, I know that I don't consider a life like the one Mrs. Schiavo has to be a life at all. Sometimes tubes and machines are needed to protect a fragile life and allow the body to regenerate, but if the body doesn't recover after a reasonable amount of time, then it's time to let go. Really, shouldn't quality of life be the most important factor? I know it is for me.

Steroids in baseball. I think it stinks. I think it's terrible to think that the astonishing records of men who played pure games are being broken by men who pump their bodies full of drugs which increase strength. I hate to think that truly talented players can't make it if they don't join in the masses of players padding their stats through their use of steroids. I am angry that the men who tons of children hold up as idols are doing things that every parent tries to warn their children against. But I don't think Congress needs to subpoena players and throw a circus. Major League Baseball needs to handle this situation. While they've neglected it for much too long, they are finally addressing it, and with continued pressure from the public and from within, they will be forced to take a stance on steroids much like the NFL and other professional sports leagues. It's might be our national pasttime, but it's just a game. And I wish Congress would see that most of the world doesn't have much time for games.

Cuba. Lind of cigars, communism, and Castro. Yes, Cuba isn't a particularly friendly country as far as the US goes. Neither are North Korea, China, Algeria, Iran, and a slew of other countries with either communist or totalitarian leanings and with strong feelings of dislike for the US. So what's the difference here? Well the difference is that no matter how much you want to, you, as an American citizen, can't travel to Cuba. You can go to any of the others. You might be warned against it, even strongly advised against it, but you won't be stopped. Not true of Cuba. It's the only country in the world that the American government forbids Americans to enter. While always true, lately the penalty has gotten harsh. In the past, the government generally turned its head if you managed to get into Cuba through Mexico or some other gateway. Maybe they'd slap you with a small fine. Now, if they find out you've gone to Cuba, they will hunt you down, prosecute you, and possibly send you to jail for a decade. For what, exactly? Smoking cigars? Seriously, I don't think the United States has any business telling me where I can and cannot travel. I appreciate their warnings. I like being informed of places that might be hostile. But to be outright banned from traveling, especially to a country that while perhaps not friendly to our government isn't really risky for a traveler, disturbs me. Honestly, I have no strong urge to go there at this point, but it bothers me that I can't. It just doesn't make sense. Interestingly, there is one way to be allowed to visit Cuba by the American government: If you go with a religious group, you're allowed to go. Huh? What ever happened to separation of church and state? I had no idea that evangelizing was state-sponsored. Shows how much I know.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Now Where Exactly Is $5.15/hour Enough to Live? (Yes, I do mean in the US)

Thank God I don't make minimum wage. Oh, right, I pretty much do. They just trick me by calling it a stipend and giving it to me in one lump sum without making me report actual hours worked. Okay, well then thank God that I'm not solely dependent on my income to get by, because there is no way that I could do that, and I'm just talking about taking care of me, myself, and I.

The Senate just struck down an initiative to raise minimum wage and made it quite clear that there's not much of a chance of a raise happening during the next two years. It's a shame. The other day I was in a store where they had the federal wage laws posted. I looked over them and realized that it has been over seven years since the minimum wage was raised. In 1996, it was raised to $4.75. In 1997, it was raised to $5.15. It's been that ever since. I remember $5.15, because that was minimum wage the year I first started working. I was lucky...I made more than minimum wage, pulling in a whopping $5.25 an hour. It was fine for me. Back then I was sixteen. I had few expenses. I could put gas in the car for under $1.00 per gallon. But the problem is that while minimum wage has held the same, nothing else has. The cost of gas is approaching $2.15, and may go higher by this summer. It seems like those on minimum wage will now have to work a full day just to fill up their cars. And that's not the only thing that has gone up - rent, groceries, bus fare, just about anything you can think of. Everything is more expensive, so it makes no sense to me that the government thinks people can still get by on a measly salary of $5.15 per hour. That's hardly enough for a sixteen year old to think that working might be worthwhile. But the sad truth is that there are many people well beyond the age of sixteen who are only making minimum wage. These people have to worry about more than gas for their car and money for the weekends. They have to pay rent. They have to pay for health insurance (since most minimum wage jobs don't come it). They have to pay for clothes. They have to make car payments and pay for insurance, maintanence, and gas. They have to buy all their food. And some of them have to pay for all of this not just for themselves, but also for their children. Come on, there's just no way that the minimum wage is a livable wage.

Sure, I know the arguments against raising minimum wage - it will increase inflation or it will cause companies to lay people off - but I don't really believe them. Inflation seems to be increasing just fine on its own and the job market isn't very rosy even with the pathetic minimum wage we currently have. Companies won't lay people off if they actually need those people's help. If they did, they'd just have to pay current employees overtime, and that's way more expensive. Sure, they wouldn't have as many "benefits" to pay for, but most minimum wage jobs don't have any benefits to speak of, and if that was a true concern of the businesses, they'd lay off those people now and save on the benefits.

It's really sad that the men and women who were elected to public office (with the help of many people probably making nothing but minimum wage) and who like to give raises to themselves although they are already making very high salaries and collecting magnificent benefits, don't think that America's lowest income workers deserve a raise. It's not a hand-out. It's a long overdue right for people who work fulltime to earn enough to live. Being paid enough for one's work to maintain a minimum standard of living should not be a privilege, but a right.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Weighted Scales

Just a few days ago I finished reading Shake Hands with the Devil, Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire's account of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. At the beginning of February I had heard him speak at the Holocaust Museum. He's an interesting man. A very high-ranking Canadian general who was chosen to "lead" the UN Peacekeeping Force in Rwanda. Obviously a powerful and skilled man. But also very different from the typical (or maybe more accurately, stereotypical) military man, as he is extremely compassionate, very liberal-minded, and quite forward with his emotions. He doesn't hide the fact that he suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome, the highest ranking soldier in the world to admit to it. Honestly, I'm not sure how someone who lived through what he lived through could not suffer from it. I put "lead" in quotation marks above, because while he was the on-the-ground commander who was responsible for life and death decisions for both UN soldiers and Rwandan civilians, he was constantly having his strings pulled by the UN and in particular by its security council. Never receiving the men, the supply, or the intelligence to do what he needed to do, he, his troops, and the entire country of Rwanda were at the mercy of a bunch of bureacrats who had little, if any, concern for Rwanda.

While I think we all know that where we choose to use our military might has always been dictated by what that country has to offer us, our lack of concern for the world and humanity has never been so clear as it was in Rwanda. By we/us/our, I mean the United States, and I also mean the other powerful first-world nations - Germany, France, Britain, Belgium, etc. The soldiers who made up the UN peacekeeping team in Rwanda were mainly from countries who were not a whole lot better off than Rwanda - Senegal, Ghana, Bangladesh. The Belgians did send some soldiers, and ten of them died in Rwanda, but as representatives of the former colonial power who had set up the entire Hutu/Tutsi division, they weren't really the best choice for a peacekeeping mission. We didn't send troops, because honestly, we didn't care what happened in Rwanda. They had nothing to offer us. In fact, bureaucrats who were sent to evaluate what was going on during the first days of the genocide were so bold as to put into print: "We will recommend to our government not to intervene as the risks are high and all that is here are humans." Yes, just humans. No oil, no honor in battling communism (as the UN's most powerful nations were doing at the time in Yugoslavia). Nothing but people. Having recently suffered the loss of a handful of American lives in Somalia during the "Blackhawk Down" episode, America wasn't willing to risk any of our lives in order to protect the nearly one million Rwandans whose lives were at risk. Our lives were worth more. In fact, much more than you would ever guess. During the last weeks of Dallaire's stay in Rwanda, he received word from Washington that US calculations had indicated that it would take 85,000 Rwandan lives to justify the risking of the life of one American soldier. Apparently my life is worth 85,000 lives. Incredible. And disgusting. The entire population killed during the Rwandan genocide, 850,000 people, was only equivalent to 10 American lives.

It makes me feel ashamed to think that my country believes that. Yes, I like to think that my life is valuable. In fact, I know it is. But it's no more valuable than the life of someone else. Why should it be otherwise. Because I was born in a wealthy and developed country where I had the opportunity to be educated and to live a rich life, I am automatically a more valuable person? That's absurd. How can we justify this? How can we devalue the Rwandan lives so much? Is it because they are poor, and we are rich? Is it because they are uneducated, and we are educated? Is it because they are black Africa, and we are white America? I just don't understand.

Every person on this earth has value. That is Dallaire's message in this book. Incredibly, despite the absolute lack of humanity that he witnessed (both in watching Rwandans kill Rwandans and in watching as the rest of the world turned its collective head), Dallaire is still hopeful that this world can be a peaceful place. For that to happen, he says that we first must realize that no human is more human than any other human. We are all human. We are all valuable. We all deserve to live a full life. Let that be a lesson to us. In our every day life and in our worldy life. In the way we treat each person we encounter, in the expectations we set for our government and our leaders, in the way we look at the world, let's each remember that every person we meet is a valuable human being. Let's remember that humanity is not reserved for only the educated or the wealthy or the white, but applies to all people in all places. Let's all be human and humane.

Friday, February 25, 2005

So I know it's been a while since I've written, but I've been quite busy. Wedding planning can be quite time-consuming, in case you didn't know. Now that the bridesmaid dress dilemma has finally been solved, perhaps I'll have more free time.

But, I did run across this today, and I thought it was interesting.

I wonder who gets paid to come up with ideas like this. Because I'd like to meet them and then take over their job. I'm all for being paid to sit around and think my normal crazy thoughts and then have them turned into reality. Funny stuff.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my dad can snag me some and send them my way. Oh, oh even better idea. My mom asked me the other day about "Out of Town Bags" for the wedding. What if I got a big supply of roadkill gummis and put a bag or two in each Out of Town Bag. That would be kind of representative of Kentucky wouldn't it. Yeah, I'm brilliant. think you can work on that?

Monday, February 07, 2005

A Few Thoughts on Politics

*Watching the State of the Union address on a big screen HDTV is scary. It's like having W right there with you in your living room. And that's a pretty darn scary thought. But anyhow, has there ever been an instance when the President didn't start his address by saying what great shape the country is in? I mean it doesn't look all that rosy to me, and it doesn't seem that lying is a great way to start a speech in which you are trying to convince people of what you have to say, but what do I know. Did the President say the country was doing well during the Great Depression or the month after Pearl Harbor? I wonder if any President has ever come right out and said something like "Well things aren't really looking so good right now." That would be something.

*Gay marriage? Seriously? W had forty minutes to stand up and tell us his vision for the country, and he thought that bringing up gay marriage was a good use of those forty minutes? I mean, I thought he was just using that to secure all his conservative Christian votes and then he might let it kind of fade. Not that I thought he was for it, but I thought maybe he'd realize this really wasn't the kind of fight the President should be fighting. Oh, but once again I overestimated him. Give him the tiniest benefit of the doubt, and he'll show you right away why you shouldn't do that. I'm not going to get into it, because I'd end up writing a novel, but I can't believe that people actually think a constitutional amendment is what is needed. People like that really need to open their eyes and take a look at their world. And in a related note, what's up with all the "family groups" and "christian groups" opposing cartoons and "no-name calling days" because they include homosexuals. Apparently "family group" is synonymous with "hate group". I must have missed the line in the Bible that says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you..unless they are gay, non-Christians, or you just don't like them.

*So I don't really like that Bush seems eager to add Iran to his list of conquered nations, but seriously, Iran is a scary place. Read "Reading Lolita in Tehran" if you want to get an idea of what it's like without reading a history or politicial science book. Other countries on the scary list include Russia and China. Seriously, I think Russia is trying to rebuild the USSR. And China...well if China wasn't such a damn economic force, we'd hear a lot more about them because they are seriously totalitarian. But I think we're scared of them...and maybe rightfully so.

*I never realized that Virginia was such a scary state. But just recently they approved a new license plate that says something like "Support Traditional Marriage". They are also thinking of approving other license plates that promote good values. Sweet. I love it when the state dictates values. Also, they are about to vote on an ordinance calling for a $50 fine for guys who are "sagging" or girls who wear their jeans low enough that you see their underwear. Okay, I don't really like to see that stuff, but it's absolutely unbelievable that the government thinks it can regulate fashion. Seriously, that is unbelievable. It blows my mind that lawmakers sit around and come up with stuff like that. I was under the impression that we have a lot bigger things to worry about.

Anyhow, those are just a few tidbits from recent political happenings. I hope to return tomorrow with notes on the speech I went to the other day given by Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Are You Going My Way?

As a little kid, I remember hitching rides from my grandpa. We'd stand at the end of the walk, and as he drove by we'd stick our thumbs out just as he'd taught us and then pile into the car when he slowed down to pick us up. I also remember hearing my dad tell stories about how for fun they used to pull up in front of hitchhikers and then as the hitchhikers got close to reaching the back door of the car, they'd peal off and leave the man standing there. But most of all I remember being told to never, ever, ever under any circumstances actually get into a car with someone I didn't know. Hitchhiking was like a legend. It wasn't something people really did, aside from the scraggly looking couple of men you'd sometimes catch walking up the interstate on-ramp. And I never actually saw anyone pick them up.

But apparently the times are changing. Hitchhiking is now vogue. It is the way to get around DC. But it's not called hitchhiking's called slugging. And it doesn't involve randomly picking a street to walk down and hope that someone picks you up. And you don't even have to stick your thumb out to catch a ride.

Right outside of my office, on the corner of 14th & Independence, a line of people forms every evening around 5pm. There are actually a couple of lines, with many of them being lines for buses that run out to suburbs in Maryland and Northern Virginia. There is one line, however, that is different. This is the slug line. This line starts at the fire hydrant and continues down the road. In this line, people who are heading toward Potomac Mills, Virginia and the surrounding area stand and wait for drivers who are also headed in that direction to come by. You see, in order to use the HOV lanes in the area, you have to have 3 people in your car. And with traffic as terrible as it is around here, using the HOV lane can cut your travel time in half. So solo drivers pull up and announce to the first person in line where they are going. That person then passes the information down the line, and the first two people who are going to the same place hop in the car and head home with someone they have possibly never met before. If the driver doesn't get the two people he needs at this stop, he can go on up to another one since there are quite a few of these locations all over town.

To find out more about slugging, you can go to Here you can find a slugging location near you (both am and pm locations). You can rate slug-lines. You can find out when are the best times to use certain lines. You can check the Lost & Found board to see if that last driver you were with has found the sunglasses you can't seem to locate. And you can learn about the Rules & Etiquette of slugging. Here is a sampling: Slugs don't talk, unless conversation is initiated by the driver. Slugs don't smoke or eat. Slugs don't carry on long cell phone conversations. Both driver and slug say thank you at the beginning and end of the ride. No one offers or requests money. The line doesn't leave a woman standing alone....

Pretty interesting, don't you think? I can't help wondering how it got started and how it ended up so organized. Seriously, how did people first know where to go or how did they decide that getting in the car with a stranger might not be as taboo as their parents made it out to be? I'm tempted to give it a try. Maybe I'll check out the website and find a line that goes my way. At least it would make for an interesting life experience.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

How Disturbing

On Friday I was reading CNN online, and I saw the article about the 19 year old Wal-Mart cashier who was forced into her car as she was leaving work at midnight, abducted and later killed. There were a couple of things that were disturbing about the incident to me.

First of all, the man had been wandering around the parking lot for 2 hours, following women and then for some reason or another, giving up on them. 2 hours! And at one point, he was approached by private security guards who talked to him but did nothing. Okay, if someone has been hanging around a parking lot for two hours with no clear purpose, there's something wrong. Whether or not he or she is doing anything else particularly suspicious, there is something odd about someone just hanging out in a parking lot. If nothing else, charge them with loitering and get them out of there. It's even more sketchy when it's way past dark and when the man is following around women. Yes, some of these details probably came to light after the fact, but that he was stopped by security at one point does reveal that there was something a little off about the man. And if for someone reason after talking to the man and deciding not to do anything, would it have been too much for security to have observed him a little more closely? I mean, obviously, they weren't too intimidating or annoying since he hung around and did what he did.

Secondly, and most terrifying, is that this man would, without knowing this woman at all, abduct her and kill her. I know this isn't the only case of it, but any time it happens, I find it extremely disturbing. Any time anyone is killed or assualted, it's terrible. It's wrong. It's unbelievable. But at least sometimes you can see a motive, however wrongheaded it is. A jealous lover, an angry spouse, a deal gone wrong, etc. It's not right. It's not any less terrible for the family and friends of the person killed. But it's something you can detach yourself from...I wouldn't be in an abusive relationship...I wouldn't hang out with those kind of people...I wouldn't be in that situation...It wouldn't happen to me. But something like this is personal because of the fact that it's so impersonal. This girl was working, minding her own business, and then this happens. How scary is it that some people are so messed up that they can just kill for absoluetly no reason other than some unexplained anger or hatred or disturbance? It's something I just can't fathom. Did he wake up that morning and decide he wanted to kill someone? Did he have any idea what he was doing? If he was in the parking lot for 2 plus hours, I have to believe he had some kind of plan. It wasn't random. But what made him pick the woman he did? It's terrifying that there are people like that in the world and that no matter what you do, you are never completely safe from them.

Anyhow, I don't think we should all quit going out alone or cut ourselves off from the world. I've said it many times before...we can't live in fear. And we can't be paranoid. But we can be prepared as best as we can. I don't know the exact details of what happened, and I have no idea what that woman was thinking, but I can't help wondering why she didn't fight back. Please, please, please...if you are ever in a situation like this (God forbid), fight. Don't get in the car. As soon as you do, your chances of survival drop dramatically. Most attackers are looking for an easy victim. If you put up a fight...kick, scream, yell, bite, scratch...they're likely to let you go and get the hell out of there. If it's your car they're trying to get you to get in, throw the keys as far as you can. Even if they have a gun or a knife, fight back. Make them attack you right there in the parking lot. God knows if they're willing to attack you right there, they are definitely not going to hesitate to do it in some isolated place where no one is around to see or help. Your best chance of survival is fighting right then and there. Later on, it might be too late. So think about it, make a plan, know what you would do, because if the situation occurs you might not be able to think straight and will have to rely solely on instinct. It's terrible that we have to do that, but it's a sad fact of our current world. And I'd rather we all be safe.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I think it's going to snow on President Bush's parade. Or at least it's going to be really, really cold. Perhaps that is God's way of expressing his disapproval for Bush or at least for all the money being spent on his inauguration. Or maybe that's just what happens in winter.

Anyhow, tomorrow is the Presidential Inauguration. A day to celebrate "the peaceful transfer of power," according to W himself. Now if we'd elected someone else that might be somewhat true, but I don't think the re-inauguration of Bush really counts as a transfer of power. And how many instances of non-peaceful transfer have there been here in the US anyway? I think Bush has a little too much Iraq on the brain. A little too much Iraq rhetoric at least. I'd be giving him too much credit to say that he actually gives the situation in Iraq that much thought. Or maybe he does these days, since he didn't do the thinking when he should have and now we're in a huge mess. Whatever. I don't want to get into that. What I want to know is how all of this inauguration stuff got so out of hand. When did it become necessary to spend millions of dollars that we don't have just so the man we elected to be President months ago can take his oath of office? It all seems so unnecessary to me. And not just unnecessary, but also embarrassing. We're living in a world that's facing a lot of hardship currently, yet we seem not to have any regard for that. No, I don't think that we should all dress in black and go into mourning until the world's problems are solved, but I do think we ought to have some restraint and make the process at least a bit more subdued than it has been in the past. It's become somewhat of a foreign concept here in America, but we don't always have to make things bigger and more expensive. We don't have to collectively keep up with the Joneses. Just a thought.

But anyhow, I must say that there is one part of this whole Inauguration that I will enjoy, and that is me sleeping in. Tomorrow is a holiday for all federal employees who work in the District, so yay for me. Too bad for you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

...And I Feel Fine

Hurricanes battered Florida all fall. California was hit hard with floods, and the weather there isn't improving with mudslides taking out cities now. Locusts plagued Egypt and other parts of Africa. And the strongest earthquake on record resulted in tsunamis that killed well over a hundred thousand people and left the earth's geography and rotation altered. Is this the apocalypse?

Funny, isn't it, how lots of people talk of the apocalypse, the end of the world, the return of God, etc., but nobody ever really thinks it will happen in their lifetime. Maybe we'll be the ones. Ha Ha.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

One Good Thing for Living in DC

I feel like I should write a blog, but I can't really think of much to write. I know that's lame, but right now it's the truth. My mind just won't settling on anything substantial. I could do a Christmas recap or a New Year resolution thing, but I'm not really in the mood for either of those.

So I'll just write a little random thought.
The nice thing about not living in the same city as your family is getting to go home for Christmas. If I lived in Louisville, I'd be in my own place, and I'd wake up on Christmas all alone except for whoever I was living with. And there wouldn't be piles of presents from Santa Claus, and I'd probably be bored and piddle around a lot until it was time to go to wherever I was going for Christmas lunch or dinner. But since I do live out of town, I get to go home to my parent's house for Christmas and act just like a little kid. I get to line up on the stairs in my pjs with my brothers for our morning picture. I get to race downstairs to tons of presents. I get to whoop and holler as I open them up. And I get to play with everyone else's presents. It's fun. I think that even if I move back to Louisville, I'm still going to spend Christmas Eve night at my parents. And I'm going to demand that my brothers do too. I guess it could get a little crowded if we all have kids, but hey, that would be even more fun. Yay for Christmas!