Friday, October 29, 2010

Wrapping up October


I own a geranium. His name is Planty. He is the offspring of my good friend’s geranium, Gerry. Planty, bless his little geranium heart, is like my pet. I am not at a stage in my life where I feel remotely responsible enough for a dog, especially consider my cushy living stipend that I call a salary to make me feel like an adult.

I’ve had Planty for about three years now. He’s a little trooper, my plant. He endured a hurricane and later a snowstorm my senior year of college. Even when I thought he was dead, a little green sprout popped back up, and I knew my geranium was a fighter.

Planty, obviously, moved with me to Roanoke. He wasn’t the best travel companion – he didn’t speak much in the car. Regardless, by about day two at work, I felt it was time I bring him to the office. At first, Planty wasn’t incredibly receptive to his new environment, and he wasn’t particularly fond of the stinkbug invasion in southern Virginia. Every day before going to eat lunch, like clockwork, I would water Planty. He seemed to be warming up to his new home, looking content, loving the bright sunny days and fresh air on the second-story porch.

One tragic day the other week, I went to water Planty, and he was not there. Like any good mother, I immediately began to imagine the worst-case scenario. I called for OfficeMate, frantic that someone had stolen my plant, not really taking into consideration the ridiculousness of the notion that someone would go out of their way to steal a geranium. That’s about when I saw him. I saw him on the ground, having taken a two-story jump to his little plant death, surrounded by shattered pieces of his pot.

I had driven Planty to suicide.

I immediately ran inside and put him in the Styrofoam ICU (Intensive Cup Unit). A few days later, I went to Walmart and procured him a new fancy blue pot. He’s kept indoors now, on the kitchen window ledge. I worry about him. I never asked him how he felt about moving, about leaving his plant companions in my mother’s backyard, and now he’s acting out. This incident has also made me worry about my potential as a pet owner, and later as a mother.

For now, we’re hanging in there, Planty and I. We appreciate all the kind words on facebook.

Broken Window

After my busy week of a suicidal plant, moving, discovering only half of our stove works, and my first board meeting, it was so wonderful to be able to go out with some friends for my 23rd birthday last night. It was low-key and perfect, complete with great people, tasty food, amusing conversation and questionable wine.

Upon our return home, OfficeMate and I got to chatting. I was struck with the realization that it was rather chilly, due to the fact that I had opened the living room window earlier in the day. As I innocently closed the window, it shattered on me.

This led to me calling my college roommate who is an EMT, an impromptu trip across Roanoke trying to find an open pharmacy for rubbing alcohol and neosporin, settling for a Kroger and buying juice.

My hands are now covered in bandaids, making it look like I spent my birthday not enjoying some pizza, but kicking someone’s ass in a bar brawl. …a brawl that, I’ll note, it looks like I won.

The glass has been picked up. The landlord has been called. Until then, we just get to enjoy a nice late-October-I-hope-it-doesn’t-get-any-colder-or-we’ll-freeze breeze.

New Chair

Yesterday, I also got myself a little birthday gift.

Say hello to my new chair.

This is my first purchase of a legitimate piece of furniture. I feel like such an adult! It was sitting at the thrift store, waiting for me, with its $20 price tag. I shoved it awkwardly in Mr. Merlot’s backseat, and he is now sitting comfortably in the living room. We still have no tables, but that’s irrelevant. Eating on the floor is still working out just fine. $20 for an incredibly cute chair! I love this city.

First Board Meeting

I had my first board meeting yesterday, and I can confidently say I feel like I rocked it. I was prepared with packets for each board member and was able to coherently and confidently answer all their questions. All my hesitations from the past two months dissipated when I realized that I’ve begun to pick things up – I may have only touched the surface of nonprofits, but I’m absorbing it all as I go. Not only does the Board of Directors hopefully respect me now, but I also can respect myself for knowing much more than I realized I did.

Today, I return home. For the first time in about two months, I am going to see my long-lost family, hug the dog, and enjoy public transit. And come Sunday night, I have to return back to Roanoke, as I try to make it home.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Thank You

Today, I stabilize my living situation. Tonight, I sleep in a place I can call my own for the next 12 months. Tomorrow, I won't have to pick my clothes out of a suitcase (let's be honest here, it's a hiking backpack).

However, in all this tumult of the past two months, I have found the best two people in the valley. I found two people who took me in at my time of need, who fed me, and who went above and beyond what I requested of them. They, more than anyone else, made Roanoke feel like home to me. My Refugee Parents have included me in family activities, ask me how my day is (This is asked, without fail, every single day. I'm always fascinated), and supplied me with fantastic company and riveting stories. I am beyond thankful.
I'm excited to be living somewhere stable, but I'm honestly rather bummed that I have to leave my refugee camp - I've grown quite attached.

Here's to phenomenally good-hearted people. Here's to sunny October Sundays for moving. Here's to packing up Mr. Merlot and moving in Roanoke for the third and final time.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Best....

I went hiking this weekend.
I've been talking about going hiking in this neck of the woods since I applied for this job back in May (June?), and have just gotten around to it.
Britannica invited me for a family/girls-night sort of weekend to be held at Granny's house. Granny is Britannica's 75+ grandmother who cooks obscene amounts of homemade biscuits and really any other kind of food you could possibly imagine, knits house slippers for her guests (mine are blue and yellow!), and keeps a shotgun in her bathroom to shoot the groundhogs in the backyard, of course.

Granny lives in a neighboring valley down some serious back roads, and her front porch wins the prize for best view in the state, looking out onto some seriously majestic parts of the Blue Ridge. She had an uncle who deserted from WWI and lived in the mountains for seven years, with his mother leaving him food every few days (I apologize for my paraphrasing of what is truly an incredible tale. I can't do it justice). Granny is, in short, fantastic.
We, being four of us ladies while Granny stayed home, went for a hike mid-morning up to an area called The Devil's Marbleyard (for more info, check this out). Essentially, one hikes up to a rockface with boulders the size of Mr. Merlot. I initially clambered around the rocks precariously, but soon enough was putting my hamstrings to the test and doing some impressive maneuvering. I'm still not sure how I didn't die. It was great. The following photo is brought to you by my ghetto camera phone, because my real camera had dead batteries. Yes, this was my view from the top.
The Best
Today, I was asked what was the best moment I've had since I moved. My initial response was my hike this weekend because, honestly, did you see that view?? Pair that view with some phenomenal hiking companions and general joviality, and it made for one hell of a day.

However, while Saturday was incredible, it was not the top moment. My top moment has probably been one nondescript afternoon while driving home. That moment where the windows are down, the sun is setting over the mountains, the family-friendly radio station is cranking out some hit from 1955, and I know I'm trying my best at work - that's the moment where I am most contended, knowing I live in the most beautiful place on earth doing the best work I can.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My First Grant

The Grant
This entry title is a slight misnomer... I have yet to actually complete my first grant. However, I have completed versions 1,2,3,4,5 and 6. Unsatisfactory versions in between versions 1-6 were trashed. Tomorrow will inevitably bring more versions, but by Friday at 5pm, those versions will be inconsequential.

Today is important, because I have completed all the aspects required of me on the application, regardless of how terribly written or what glaring grammatical errors may still be left.

This grant and I... I noticed him from across a smoky bar known as the internet and he quickly gave me his digits. As I've gotten to know him, I learned how much money he had, how much I could ask of him. I learned what he expected of me (he wants it all on paper) and I learned he had a deadline. There are others out there vying for his attention (and money), and I had a deadline to impress him by.

Commence freak out. Commence overreaction. Commence stress.

I have never written a grant before. Now, I legitimately enjoy writing. But this wasn't my opinion of Henrik Ibsen* for a professor to glaze over and throw in a pile. This was asking for money so underprivileged children could have access to educational software. If I messed this up, there were larger, more implicit, ramifications than subtle drop in my GPA.

I brought it home this past weekend. Yes, the grant and I were getting serious. Sadly, I left him ignored in a pile on the floor and kicked my shoes over him until Monday night. Monday night I spent a handful of hours organizing my thoughts, kicking my five year-old MacBook for not being more responsive, and trying to plot out the best argument for this nonprofit. By the time I came in to work on Tuesday, I was unsatisfied with my work.

My Supervisor (new Supervisor, not Britannica) was a Godsend today. She is graciously and patiently explaining some of the most basic concepts to me and beating me over the head with the reminder "to not reinvent the wheel." I stayed late at the office today, cranking this grant out. I am determined to give myself at least one full day of edits before submitting it.
Hopefully, I'll win this thing.

Alone at the Office
Our office is an old house. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I love that it has character, I love that when we have lunch we gather around a dining room table, I love that we have a full kitchen and I love that the building itself is adorable. I hate that it's drafty and creaky.

The draftiness has yet to be a real issue thanks to this bipolar weather Roanoke's trying on for size. There was one day the other week that was particularly cold, but I found a spaceheater that Britannica abandoned and was fine. The creakiness has also been a non-issue because the office is generally so full of people, laughter, OfficeMate's singing, Across-the-Hall coworker yelling at OfficeMate to not sing, and our affordable intercom (yelling) that the creakiness goes unnoticed.

Today 5pm rolls around and OfficeMate and Across-the-Hall dip out. It's 5pm, we're the last ones there, it makes sense. I would generally go, too. Except, I have this grant. No big deal. I'm on a mission. I'm committed. I get into my writing mode. Off come the shoes. Forget the sweater. Turn off classic rock, bust out the Juan Luis Guerra. The cursor is blinking and I am feeling the good grant vibes rushing through me. That could just be the sugar rush from the diet coke and half a bag of candy corn, but I told myself they were good grant vibes. And then I heard it.
thunk thunk thunk
I figured it was the door, so I put the shoes and sweater back on, turn down the music, and head downstairs. No one was at either door, so I went back upstairs. Sweater and shoes off, music up.
If there is anything that's an incentive to finish your work early, it's a creaky house. I went back downstairs, again in vain, and accepted the fact that the house was rejecting my being there. It proceeded to continuously proclaim its dislike for the next few hours, but I did not leave until I was satisfied with my writing. Or, semi satisfied. All in a day's work.

*Henrik Ibsen, I'm not a huge fan.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Twang.

For the past three weeks, I've begun spending my Wednesday evenings at one of the food pantries we support at work. Every Wednesday, this organization supplies food and clothing to hundreds of individuals in the valley that would otherwise go hungry. We require they either fall below a certain income bracket or are recipients of medicaid, food stamps, SSI, TANF, or any other government program that assures us they are below the poverty level.

I've been placed in the new registration line. Also, Mother, you would be pleased to know that my Spanish has finally proven itself useful in the valley! I'm the unofficial on-call translator every Wednesday, which honestly does make me feel like I'm somewhat useful.

But, oddly enough, while this is also the one time a week when I can actually use my Spanish, aside from using the odd word here and there with OfficeMate, this is also the one time a week where I become painfully aware of what is happening to me.

I'm developing the southern twang.
I don't know if it's because the people I sign in have such thick southern accents, or what, but this is getting serious. I drop my 'g's and I can hear myself drawing out my vowels. Britannica called me out on it yesterday, which means it's becoming noticeable to other people as well.

I don't say 'y'all." I refuse to pick that one up. But, I am beginning to see why people use it.

The transformation has apparently begun.