Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010, where did you go?

And so ends 2010. It's really rather ridiculous.
I leave tomorrow to celebrate Christmas with the familia back in DC suburbia, and won't be back to good 'ol Star City until 2011. I enjoyed dinner with the refugee family and even baked some Christmas cookies with them, thinking how surreal it is that I won't see them until next year. I even bid adieu to my favorite burrito joint downtown, waving to it on the way home from work. (Shameless plug? Of course. Delicious? YES.) I'm going to miss our little Christmas tree, my old lady chair that's perfect for drinking tea while I knit and listen to my Wait Wait podcasts, my crazy neighborhood that apparently catches on fire. More on that later. I've grown attached to this town, and two or so weeks of working from my parents' home, while exciting because I get to see my family, is also a little sad. I very much have grown accustomed to my lovely routine here.

That being said, I appreciate 2010 and it's allowing me to find this job. I appreciate that 2010 brought me a college degree, a car, a refugee family, an opportunity to help others, my best non-familial rooming situation (Sister, you'll always win that category), and truly great people. 2010, however, has also had many roadblocks for me. Twelve months ago, I did not imagine myself anywhere near Roanoke... ever. It's funny how life works out. I am very ready for 2011, though. May it bring me many grant wins, more creative ways to save money, and generally pleasant surprises.

As I wrapped up my year here, I went to give the annual report at one of our client's board meetings tonight. All went well, but on the drive home, I noticed a surprising amount of fire trucks passing me. The closer I came to the apartment, the more there were. A block away from home, they were everywhere. I very much remember thinking, "That's a TON of fire trucks and cops for a heart attack..." And then I looked up, and saw a TON of smoke.

I parked Mr. Merlot and walked to the back of my building, naturally calling OfficeMate to let him know that our apartment may be on fire, something he should know since he was in it. It wasn't. But we're along an alley, and a garage on the alley was in flames, with cinders falling by my feet. I even enjoyed a slight dusting from the fire extinguisher hose. Honestly, there is never a dull moment here.

We decided to call it an evening with a Christmas movie. It seemed fitting. I can now finally say I've seen Die Hard.

Merry Christmas, intertubes, and a Happy New Year. I'm taking a blog sabbatical until 2011. If you desperately are in need of knowing what I'm up to, imagine me eating with my family. Because that's what we do best.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmastime is here!

Christmas and Visitors
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing two of my closest friends from college who drove many an hour to visit me in Roanoke. Upon their arrival, they expressed their disappointment in the lack of Christmas joy in our apartment. Naturally, an adventure to Lowes was in order. Within an hour, we had our $15 tree shoved expertly into Mr. Merlot, seated four people in him, drove back to the apartment and set it up next to the stockings hung by the radiator with care.
It wasn't as simple as it seemed. For weeks now, I had been bugging OfficeMate about our lack of a Christmas tree. Seeing as I won't be returning home until right before Christmas, I felt I was being denied all those Christmas traditions that college breaks always assured me I'd be a part of. Every time I saw a Christmas tree in someone's window, I'd point it out to OfficeMate. "Hey, hey guess what they have? That's right, a tree. You know what we don't have?" People had suggested trees, others had offered tree stands, but nothing ever seemed to come to fruition and I was becoming progressively more distressed regarding the lack of Christmas tree in our apartment. I was ready to buy the Festivus pole and list my grievances.

So I thank my friends for pushing us to get a tree. It makes me so happy every morning when I wake to the piney fresh scent; it reminds me of all the love that went into its procurement and decoration, and how, without my friends, my life would be much less colorful and festive. Also, my failed scarf that I accidentally knit into a cape has now become our tree skirt, and Britannica was amazing enough to lend us Christmas lights.

It was a solid weekend, all in all. Friday, I was lucky enough to enjoy the adorable Christmas parade, and Saturday and Sunday were full of Christmas time activities with my college friends, along with a trip up to the star. Yes, it was necessary. There was an ice skating adventure that took place in which I wiped out on the ice in the most epic fashion possible, and am still sore two days later as a result.

Winter... and working in an old house.
My office is an old house. Remember? Well, as exciting as it was back in October, it's become a little crazy in this record-setting low temperature winter. There's some solid central heating on the lower level, but it doesn't quite know how to climb the stairs to our second-story office yet. Tragedy strikes in the most frigid of fashions. Our space heater was doing great, but others on the second floor soon also realized it was cold and brought in their own space heaters. It turns out that three space heaters was just a little too much for our old house to handle, and we bust the fuse. Multiple times. We're talking about five times in one day and many runs to the basement to switch the breaker, all while many people yelled, "SAVE YOUR DOCUMENTS! I'M PLUGGING IN MY SPACE HEATER!"

So now I just wear my slipper-sock-boots with two pairs of socks, along with a scarf, heavy winter coat, and on the worst of days, mittens, at my desk. It is getting a little ridiculous and we're working on how to shuffle people around or start working from home on unbearably cold days - like today's 17, which didn't include windchill. I packed heels in my purse for an offsite meeting and realized afterward that they would not have cared had I shown up in my slipper-sock-boots.

Dear Santa,
All I want for Christmas is heat in my office.

....and an immersion blender, but you knew that one already. Safe travels!
Love your favorite AmeriCorps volunteer,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Free Food, Ghetto Windows. Classic AmeriCorps Living.

Free Food
Coming back from work today, OfficeMate and I stopped by one of our clients to return a banner of theirs we had at the office. Upon our arrival, the Director offered us soup. Thinking she meant "let's grab a bowl of soup because it's cold but I honestly don't have time for you" I thanked her and said we had plenty of food. But she persisted.

It turns out that "soup" really means "a freezer full of of frozen Olive Garden food that had been donated, but they were running out of space for it, which included, but was not limited to, soup. Thus, our freezer is now full of Oliver Garden's finest and we also have a bag of Panera's choice pastries. Have I mentioned my roommate apparently has the food hook up? He had spoken to this director the other day and she had mentioned it to him, he just never remembered to tell me.

There is something to be said for great nonprofits, and that they look out for us volunteers. Cheers to you all, those who love on their volunteers!

Apartment Class
Remember when I broke a window? Luckily for you all, our window saga does not end there! These past few days have been becoming increasingly cold and windy. While sitting on the sofa, I couldn't help but notice I felt like I was in a wind tunnel. Our phenomenal AC window unit was in cahoots with the window across the apartment that I broke to form the world's most effective and freezing wind tunnel.

OfficeMate has been attempting to cover the window with a rejected poster of mine from high school that, for some reason, I felt the need to bring with me to Roanoke. However, it kept falling over and making me jump. So I proposed we use the trashbag that had been sitting behind a chair since we moved in.

We have a trashbag, taped over our window. It fills up like a sail whenever there's a gust, and prompts us to break into "Come Sail Away" on, at least, an hourly basis.

But hey.
You get what you pay for. And on this stellar stipend, trashbag sails/windows in my apartment are almost a perk! Almost as much of a perk as weeks worth of free Olive Garden.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Snow! It's SNOWING! Welcome, December!

Hello December!
I'm not sure when you got here, but it's nice to see you. Your being here means that I have been in Roanoke for three months now. It also means that I only have nine months left as an AmeriCorps VISTA, which, honestly, is surreal.

December, you presence also means that I can now listen to Christmas music without getting angry. In fact, I'll even sing along. I do wish that Roanoke Christmas music would add some variety to their set list, though, because I'm getting awfully tired of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."

Last night, I went with Britannica, her sister and OfficeMate to the Christmas tree lighting downtown. Let me just say that while it's not quite the National Christmas (Holiday?) Tree in DC, it is still extremely cute. Afterwards in the downtown market, they had people dressed up like they were from A Christmas Carol, some carolers, carriage rides, a living nativity, Santa, and vendors lined up on the street selling things like roasted chestnuts and hot cocoa. It was adorable, to say the least. I also may or may not have sung along with a choir and screamed "SANTA" a few times. Oh Christmas, I'm excited that you're here!
This morning, I woke fully rested and even lay in bed for an hour or so, finishing up a book. It was truly amazing. When I finally got my butt out of bed, I was determined to be productive. I changed my sheets, made some coffee, and decided to finally find this elusive laundry room in our apartment building. I ventured outside in shorts (have I mentioned it's SNOWING today?), boots and a sweatshirt (thus the purpose of laundry) only to walk around in vain, trying to open locked doors with improper keys, and then just kicking them out of frustration.

Maybe my laundry's not that dirty yet. Maybe I can hold out until Christmas. Maybe I should wash all my clothes in the bathtub and hang them out to dry. Maybe my landlord should answer the phone on the weekends. Maybe I should just go to a laundromat. But because it's snowing, so that's unlikely.

Cooking Attempts
I have finally brought arepas to Roanoke. Granted, there is no queso caribe to be found in Roanoke (true life: I didn't even bother looking), so they were filled with Kroger's finest mozarella and cheddar because that's what we had in the fridge, and topped with the classiest of ham for a sandwich. Also, yes, I made them for dinner. With a glass of wine. Vegetables, I just cannot be bothered with you these days.

Getting creative with cooking is proving to be quite a task. I try not to repeat meals, but it's been about five or six weeks now, and I've already repeated once. Spaghetti and meatballs, you're just so simple! Also, let's ignore the fact that I eat pb&j almost every single day for lunch, unless I'm resourceful enough to make enough food for dinner to ensure leftovers the next day. When I do that, though, I generally end up eating the same meal for like a week and hate myself for it.

For now, I have every intention of not doing my laundry, making some tea, and starting another book. Because honestly, what else are snowy afternoons in the valley for?