Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The End.

I know, I know, I haven't written in eons. Truth be told, I thought about starting a new Baltimore blog with at least one update a week about my food escapades, but couldn't think of any fun names and I got busy/distracted/lazy. If you can think of a fun blog name (that isn't anything like "Bubba Banks in Baltimore" or "Charming Kitchen" which I sadly realistically considered), perhaps I'll take up a food blog with the rest of those foodies.

Oh this kitchen. It's amazing. I've made so much middle eastern food. I've made a plethora of soups. I've rekindled my love for kale thanks to the man at the farmer's market downtown who sells you 1lb for a DOLLAR. So I've eaten a lot of baked kale chips, kale in soups, and tonight, sauteed kale with garlic roasted garbanzo beans. Last night was roasted curried eggplant with tomatoes and jalapenos. I've kept my menu pretty varied and Bubba is learning to eat fun new things (spring onions, jalapenos, celery, kale). I don't think I've repeated a single recipe in the month I've been here. Honestly, Baltimore's disappointed me with it's food offerings and I find that I like what I make more than what I've found in it's eating establishments. As dorky as it sounds, when you start eating well, that's what you begin to crave. I won't go so far as to say I've gone gluten-free or vegetarian (because Lord knows I love me my bacon), but there's much LESS gluten and meat in my diet. I've had the same loaf of bread in my fridge for the past month. ...I should probably throw that out.

I'm beginning to get the hang of the job and the city. The friend issue is still not fantastic, but that's what I get for continuously moving around. I've struck up conversations with regulars on my bus route and gone to lunch with coworkers. Meeting people sucks. I can only drop so many hints on coworkers. "Yep. Don't have any plans all week. Because I just moved here. And I don't know many people. Making friends is so hard. Just heading home to the dog. To watch tv and cook. By myself. Alone."

In due time. I'll meet people in due time.

I thought I'd say a proper goodbye. This is it for Snooty on a Stipend. I am no longer on a stipend (this fact only verified by my legitimate benefits plan). I will, however, continue to be snooty, as evidenced by my sentence about liking my food more than the food I eat when I go out.

AmeriCorps, and my consequential year in Roanoke, was an amazing experience for me. I met such great people, got to live in a beautiful city, and was able to get started on what I hope will be a long and wonderful career. I am so thankful for everything I learned and everyone I met. You taught me so much and I'll never forget any of it, or any of you. Thank you. Thank you so much.

And with that,
the end.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Baltimore. Week One.

Bubba and I have settled in quite nicely to our little abode here in Baltimore, save for not being able to fit our free sofa into the apartment. Please don't ask what happened to it. It's not a nice story. However, Bubba did get a cheap faux-dog bed out of it! He now sleeps on what was formerly a sofa cushion and seems to love it. To the left, I bring you "A Dog Smelling the Breeze While Sitting on a Sofa Cushion Next to an Old Chair and a Geranium." That right there? That's contentment.

I've been settling into a routine that includes walking Bubba and cooking meals that I promptly pat myself on the back for being so healthy and adult-like. I take the fancy free bus to work every morning, and depending on which route I take, I walk right by the inner harbor and get to enjoy a pretty great view.

This job is great. The organization is fantastic and all the employees seem approachable and cordial. Everyone has been nothing but accommodating to me, and I'm already itching to get past orientation and onto some projects. We have about fifteen country proposals due to one foundation by the end of October, and I've been promised a role in that, if for no other reason than translation. It's everything I've learned in my past two jobs, but in such a different context. Proposals, but for USAID instead of the DoD. Nonprofits, but on SUCH a larger scale than Roanoke. I'm grateful every moment for every bit of background I have, because it's all helping me so much. It's helping me understand large-scale proposals, it's helping me understand the basics of our strategic plan, it's helping me begin brainstorming about individual giving for an organization of this magnitude. This is an incredible opportunity for me, and I am going to learn SO much SO quickly.

Alas. Friends. Oh goodness, I always forget how much making friends SUCKS when one moves. I think I purposely don't allow myself to think about it. Bubba's been good company, but sometimes I yearn to hang out with someone who doesn't lick their privates. I think he and I will be going to an open air concert tomorrow night by our lonesomes, so perhaps I'll meet some people there. While eating mini rice cakes, leftover chicken casserole and a diet coke. That sounds like the epitome of approachable. Or crazy.

One day at a time!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saying Goodbye.

Life has been slightly chaotic these past two weeks. I've been getting to know Bubba and his quirks. I've been slowly packing up my things. I donated blood, and they missed my veins... again. It looks like Bubba attacks me at night, obviously because he's so vicious. Almost a week after I donated, and I still have an embarrassingly large bruise on my arm.

I've had to have depressing conversations with the roommate about how to divvy up our stuff. "So, you can take the pots and pans because I have some I can bring to Baltimore. Do you mind if I take the silverware organizer?" As excited as I am to be starting such an amazing job with an incredible organization, as much as my new apartment is adorable and I'm excited to be living somewhere adult-ish (not in a X-rated kind of way), I'm going to miss this town. I'm going to miss my ghetto, leaky apartment with shattering windows and mold on our bathroom ceiling. I'm going to miss having three different, overwhelming patterns on furniture in the living room. I'm going to miss needing a flathead and hammer to open windows. I'm going to miss the quiet of living across the street from a cemetery. I'm going to miss seeing mountains while running errands. Most of all, though, I'm going to miss the people. It makes me leaky just thinking about it.

I went on my final hike this past Sunday with OfficeMate. We opted for Dragon's Tooth, a hike we unknowingly somewhat started that one time we hiked in the wrong direction. It was pretty overcast when we started our hike and at times I'm pretty sure we were IN a cloud, but it cleared up when we got to the top and made for a lovely view. A great final hike for my year in the valley if I say so myself. Bubba stayed at home due to his stubby legs and lack of being able to rock climb.
The rest of my time has been spent trying to see friends before I leave, packing, and cleaning. Bubba has not been helpful, between shedding and being afraid of my crappy vacuum. It appears he is afraid of many a thing. This includes thunderstorms, which was an issue when I tried to walk him last night. It ended with him laying down in the grass and hiding his head in a bush. I had to carry him back inside. I was hoping he'd pee from fright, because he hadn't peed in hours, but no such luck. I had to wait it out for a break in the storm before we dared venture out again. Ah, dog ownership. Looks like I got myself the fiercest dog in the valley.

So for now, for now I am packing and saying goodbye to all the places and people that have made this year so spectacular. Thank you for an amazing year, Roanoke. I'll miss you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Most Productive Week Of My Life

Eight days ago, I woke up unemployed with no idea of where I'd be in the next few months. I was stressed and just wanted some confusion.

On Monday, I got a job offer.
By Tuesday, I accepted the job.
On Friday, I was told my application to adopt a basset had been approved.
On Saturday, I fell in love with the cutest one bedroom in Baltimore.
On Monday, I adopted that very dog and was sent a lease to sign for that very one bedroom.

I am the luckiest girl in the world who has had the most productive week of her life.
I'm exhausted. I've driven to Baltimore and back. I've had to scramble on account of my lack of printer on more than one occasion. I've tried to schedule meetings with awesome people I won't be seeing for a while. My amazing friend from college came down and helped me a ton yesterday with Mr. Man, Bubba "Bubbster" Banks.
This dog, oh man. I was expecting to have to wait weeks for some dog snuggling, but last night he just crawled up into my lap and put his big 'ol head on my leg. Sure, he's getting a refresher course in house training. And yeah, he thinks anything smushy is a toy, but he's learning. After months upon months in a shelter, it's to be expected. I'm glad I have these next two weeks to remind him of how things are done. He's going to be an excellent little companion.Much to Bubba's chagrin (his words exactly), I have been paparazzi-ing it up. Bubba seems to dislike the camera/iphone. I swear, he can be more smiley than this. He likes the little mat by my bookshelf, as you can see. Next life steps: moving! ...again.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baltimore & Bubba

I got a job! I got the job, in fact. In a few short weeks, I'll be moving to Baltimore to do business development work for a NGO. I'm some combination of overwhelmed, excited and completely clueless. Clueless in that I know very little regarding Baltimore as a city and am somewhat blindly navigating the waters of apartments. I feel like perhaps I need to start watching The Wire, because so many people have referenced my living it soon. Awesome. Drug dealers. To the very few of you I know in Baltimore (what, like all three of you?) who have received frantic facebook messages, thank you for your understanding, compliance in answering my ridiculous questions, and patience.
It's amazing how quickly things can change. Just last week, I was getting antsy that the Barnes and Nobles at the mall hadn't called me back. I was wondering where I'd have to move and when, and then all of a sudden I'm given a job and POOF! Decisions are made for me. (Well, at least I have a vicinity to live in and don't have to worry about what part of the country to look at anymore.)

The Baltimore skyline is lovely. It truly is. Moving to a more sizable city with a younger population is something I'm actually really looking forward to. Comedy clubs, yoga studios (for more than just the gentle yoga for arthritis classes) and all those other things that come with a city larger than 100k are all something I am so excited about. I'm so excited about my job; I am so lucky to be given the opportunity to work in a field I am passionate about. I know so many people don't have that privilege and I consider myself one of the lucky few.

I'm still going to miss this town, though. I drove to my old office today to say hello to my old supervisor and past coworkers, and it started to hit me how soon I have to leave. A beautiful skyline can never replace the mountains. I'll just need to visit regularly to get my healthy dose of topography and southern hospitality.

Also.
Remember my complaints about day dreaming about my imaginary dog and what dog parks we'd visit? I wrote about it when I complained about job hunting. A few months ago, the indie station here (101.5 the music place!) was discussing their Pet of the Week on my drive into work, and they mentioned a basset-beagle mix named Bubba. The first thing I did when I got to work was check this dog out. Here is his profile on the site. They have a much better photo than anything I do.

I knew I couldn't adopt him. Not on a poverty stipend. And it KILLED me. So I would check back every few weeks to see if he was still posted on the website, because it's a no-kill shelter, and Bubba is there until he gets adopted.

I got lunch with a friend today, and on the way back I passed the shelter. I thought to myself a very dangerous thought. I thought, "I have a job. I can afford a dog! I should just go meet him. Maybe he's too high energy and I won't want him anyways."

So in I went. As soon as I saw him in his little cage, I knew I was a goner. While all the other dogs were barking and freaking out, little Bubba just sat in his corner, thumping his tail. No bark, no bouncing around. Just a happy, adorable little tail wag.

They let him and I play together for half an hour or so, warning me not to approach his face quickly and to be gentle. The volunteers speculate that Bubba was abused before coming to the shelter. Many families have come in and looked at him, and he's growled at small children (or even teens, they said) that have tried to snuggle up to his face too quickly, turning them away from this little guy. So I sat in a chair and held my hand out for him to sniff. By the time I left, he was flipping over for his belly to be rubbed and shoving his head under my hand for him to pet.

He doesn't bark. He's a lethargic little dog. He has little stubby basset legs and beagle eyes. He slips around on linoleum floor because he has bad traction and it's adorable. And I'M IN LOVE WITH HIM. He reminds me so much of my brother's dog when he first got her. Gah! Fate! But, nothing's for sure until I have a place to live. It's so tempting though. Seriously, click the link to his profile, because that picture does so much more justice than my iPhone ones. It was hard to get a picture of him while he was wiggling so much.

They lowered the adoption fee for me. This is killing me. I might have to adopt him. He's so darn cute, and just the sweetest, most wiggly little guy.

Oh my. Job, apartment, puppy. A lot is changing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Looking like a wet rat at an interview; how I related to the rodent who won't leave my apartment (and other fun adventures!)

I've disappeared for two weeks, and I am well aware of it. I apologize. I went to Rhode Island for Labor Day weekend, and then unexpectedly got a call for a follow-up interview in Baltimore and needed to high-tail it back to the DC region the moment I landed in Roanoke. It's nice to finally be back in Roanoke with my taco bed, my tea kettle and, apparently, my mouse still. Let me try to break the past two weeks down into something manageable...

Rhode Island
My dear childhood friend's parents live in Rhode Island. We both decided back in July that a vacation was necessary for both of us and opted to spend a few days there over Labor Day weekend. It was a lovely escape from the tedium and stress of job hunting (not that I needed a break from all my laboring of sitting on the sofa looking at job listservs). Time was spent at the beach, perusing a small town with a lighthouse, cooking, drinking wine and just relaxing. It was wonderful. Enjoy some photos courtesy of Senor iPhone.


Flying out of Roanoke was interesting, since I'm accustomed to the wonders of Dulles and National airports. My flight was delayed, I was rerouted, and a five hour trip morphed into a 10ish hour ordeal. Bonus, though! I got to sit on a plane with nine rows. Nine. That's eighteen seats. The seats didn't recline. There were propellers. I felt like I was on the Fisher Price plane from my childhood. Check out the sweet steps up to the plane, because you also are allowed the opportunity to (forced to?) get up close and personal with the tarmac.

The Mouse
I thought he was gone. I deep-cleaned the apartment in week one of Funemployment and OfficeMate went to town on the kitchen while I was in Rhode Island. When I returned to Apartment Sweet Apartment yesterday afternoon, I noticed some more mouse droppings around the trashcan and told myself not to think about it. I took a nap, watched the women's finals for the US Open and made dinner (read as: mac and cheese). I went to throw out my Annie's White Cheddar box and heard shuffling in the trashcan. I assumed, wrongly, that it was, I don't know, like trash resettling or something. So imagine my surprise when my hand is essentially IN the trashcan and a mouse comes out, looks INTO MY EYES, and then uses my hand as a springboard to jump down.

You know how eye contact is a sign of aggressive driving? My mouse is an aggressive mouse. He's made eye contact. No more running around at night in the corners, hiding in the shadows and pooping in other apartments. No, now he's getting ballsy. He's pooping in plain sight, coming out when he pleases and walking. on. my. hand. AND PLAYING IN MY TRASHCAN.

Right now any interaction with the kitchen is very limited. I'm glad my lease ends soon so he can be someone else's problem. What kind of super mouse is he that he can eat that much poison and not die? And don't tell me it's another mouse, because then I would have to come to terms with the idea that there are multiple mice living in this apartment, and that skeeves me out more than holding paws with the one yesterday. Gross.

Interviewing
I've been trying to stay vague on job hunt details, because it sucks when you think you really have a good chance at a job, tell a bunch of people you're confident and then get shot down. However, this last interview was too ridiculous not to share.

I've had three interviews with these folks up in Baltimore: a phone interview, a two panel interview, and then last week, a meeting with their CEO. Last week, it also bears mentioning, is when the entirety of the East Coast was beat down with rain (it made for a BLAST driving up I81 at 30 mph with my flashers on).

In the 200 feet from the parking garage to the front door of the office, I got SOAKED. My little umbrella did not save me from the torrential rains and I had left my dorky LLBean raincoat in the car for fear of looking unprofessional. You know what's more professional than a dorky raincoat? Coming in soaking wet with half of your hair unstyled and poofing, a small pond in your shoes and looking like such a mess that when the receptionist sees you all she can say is, "Oh... honey. I wish I had a hairdryer to offer you." That's when you know you've nailed professionalism.

I went to the restroom, used a million paper towels to dry my legs, emptied my shoes into the sink and did some impressive yoga-like move to get paper towels between my back and the wall to absorb some moisture. When the CEO came out to meet me, he apologized for being five minutes late and I apologized for being damp. Other than my ridiculous appearance, I think I nailed it though. We'll find out soon enough.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Aches.

In high school, I was a frequent migraine sufferer. Retrospectively, I blame them on all the stress of teenage angst. If I was anything in high school, I was overflowing with angst. (Sorry about that, parents!) But I'd sleep 'em off in the morning and be fine by the afternoon.

These past few days, I've been getting headaches. (Also, a hurricane passed through the entire east coast, save for Roanoke.) They... the headaches, became more frequent, and then last night, more severe. I texted my on-call physician, a much-loved cousin who is in fact a legitimate doctor and far superior to Web MD, who told me to just sleep it off.

So I slept. I slept for 12 hours. With a pillow over my head. I awoke this morning to an eerily blue room since I had pulled my curtains down and they really just diffuse the light more than block it. I have never missed the awesome shades of Europe with the metal slats on the exterior of the window that block out EVERYTHING more than I did this morning. I still had a headache.

Here I am, a few hours later, and it's still there. However, after 12 hours of sleep, there's not much I can do. So the computer is set to dim, the shades are drawn, and I'll crank out some more job applications Edgar Allen Poe style. I have no doubt in my mind that this is how he wrote some of his best work - in leggings, old glasses and oversized sweaters in a dark and eerily silent room, save for the dripping of the leaky sink and the buzz of the cheap AC unit. It's how The Raven was written. Fact.

I was excited to see that Peggy Olson takes Excedrin Migraine. Should I do the same, Peggy??

I flee the state on Thursday for a much-needed escape. Virginia, you may be for lovers, but I'm not loving on you right now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Unemployment: So exciting it makes the world tremble in fear

Yesterday, I was on my computer, reading the news, gchatting with folks and halfheartedly looking up job openings when I felt my legs shake. At first I thought my legs were being weird, perhaps rebelling against me for two consecutive days of yoga. Then the shaking intensified and I got frustrated at my landlord, thinking, "Look, I know no one else is home right now because they all are good citizens with jobs, working to better our society, but I AM HOME and I PAY TO LIVE HERE so please desist with the renovations downstairs." That's when the glasses in the kitchen started to shake and my microwave almost fell off its cart, and I came to the realization that it wasn't renovations. So I looked out my window. Nothing. Then my friend in New York City asked me if I had felt something, and I was finally able to piece it all together.Roanoke is about 150 miles southwest from Mineral, VA where the earthquake originated, but as everyone knows from the abundance of news stories, everyone is fine, nothing went wrong, etc etc. It was unexpected because... we never have earthquakes here, as evidenced by my complete ignorance as to what was occurring. Friends as far north as Montreal said they felt the quake.

Funemployment has, thus far, meant large amounts of cleaning and forcing myself to "exercise" because I know I have no excuse now. After two days of yoga, today I opted to combine exercise with cleaning and vacuumed. Hey, hey, it's totally cardio. Stop laughing.

Let's discuss vacuums, shall we? When I moved into this apartment, my parents gave me their old vacuum so they could get a new one. And by "gave" I mean they didn't want their old one anymore because it was awful but have issues throwing things out so I got stuck with it. Whenever used, it would emit clouds of dust, leaving whatever roomed you vacuumed smelling like dirt. Curiously, the clear bagless part never seemed to fill up with anything, either. My theory? It picked up the dust from the floor and spread it around your room until it resettled to the floor you just theoretically cleaned. Your room doesn't even get to SMELL clean - it's awful.

In my effort to deep-clean the apartment for lack of anything better to do with my time, I asked Brittannica if I could borrow her new vacuum. This morning, I woke up early like a kid on Christmas morning, and vacuumed away. Let me tell you... after months, nay YEARS, of a dreadful vacuum, this was like vacuuming with unicorns and elves. This thing cleans and my apartment even has those fun vacuum lines on the carpet! This thing is legit, let me tell you.

So that's my life right now. Earthquake. Fake, half-assed exercise. Cleaning. Throw in some job hunting and you've got a pretty good picture of my day-to-day. Please, withhold your jealousy.

(Image cred to the hilarious tumblr jmckinley and his representation of DC's 2010 earthquake devastation)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm Done! (Essentially)

Dearest internet, I'm sorry it's been so long. You see, tomorrow is my final day as an AmeriCorps*VISTA. Today I packed up my office, organized my desk and my files, and took my most important origami dinosaur with me. I ate my final PB&J at work (let's be honest, there are still many PB&J left in my life), wrote my final, but brief, VISTA report, and wrote a "Welcome to your desk!" letter to my replacement, because I'm a dork.

It's weird to think that just a year ago, I moved down here to start this year, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to combat poverty and take on the world. I've become a little more of a realist, acknowledging that poverty is not solved in a year and there are a multitude of contributing factors to its existence. When I begin to worry that I haven't accomplished all that much, I take a look at my resume, which assures me that I won over $120,000 in funding for nonprofits this year. It assures me that I created a sustainable system for tracking funding prospects this past year, that I began implementing two planned giving campaigns, that I worked with a particularly complicated board of directors, and that I learned much more in one short year than many people do in entry-level development jobs that last three to five years.

My routine will change. Oh goodness, and we all know how I love routines. I get to start looking for glamorous part-time work soon (get pumped, local grocery stores, coffee shops and bookstores! Maybe I should work for a wine distributor) to have some semblance of income while I continue the job hunt. It's one of those things... while I'm sad to be leaving and nostalgia is hitting me like a brick wall, it's time to move on. One year at the poverty level is more than enough. I did what I could at the office, but I had done all I could. As I was packing up the office in my various reusable grocery bags (it's all I had in my car. Stop judging!), it finally sunk in that I was finished at my first job. My first job out of college - I finished it, and I rocked it. It started me on a career path that I am not only hopeful for, I'm excited about. I do love writing proposals, and development work is something I hope to perfect. Perhaps not every aspect, but ... private and corporate funding? We'll see. I still have one more day (of direct service. Yayyyyy painting!).

I have received a few inquiries as to what will happen to the blog post-VISTA, and for now all I can tell you is that I'll at least be writing until I find something full-time. I'll take it from there. Don't you worry, many tales of the job hunt are still to come. Do you know what's exciting, though? That education award I get from VISTA soon! Take that, student loan people!

postscript: I had an interview on Monday. I was equally as sweaty. I'll blame DC's awful humidity. Details to come only if I land that job.
(Image cred, again, to the fabulous Natalie Dee)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Television

In college I was absolutely that annoying girl who was all, "TV? Please, I don't own a TV." Then I would go to my friends' place and watch tv with them, all because I was too cheap to get a decent tv and cable. When I moved into my current abode with OfficeMate, we agreed that nice cable was a necessity since we weren't going to be spending any money doing anything else. Oh nice cable, it will be hard to go back. We never had cable growing up, and man is it NICE.

I like to pride myself on having pretty solid taste in tv shows. As a child, I enjoyed Reading Rainbow and Wishbone, and later grew into gems such as Sister Sister (admit it, you loved it too) and Home Improvement (thanks, UPN!). I was a HUGE Sopranos fan in high school, love House and have recently developed an appreciation for Mad Men. There is also a soft spot in my heart for the Office (early seasons only), How I Met Your Mother and 30 Rock, because I aspire to become Tina Fey.

I'm a HGTV junkie, but I blame that on being a woman. I try to only watch it when no one else is in the apartment, so as to not subject OfficeMate to programming for women full of commercials for yeast infection creams and tampons. There's just something so therapeutic about watching extraordinarily wealthy people shop for villas in Italy and wonder where they'll put their hot tub. I wish I had those problems.

This summer, I have found myself entrenched in America's Got Talent. Grammatical errors in their title aside (how did no one call them out on this?), it's entertaining and I have my top picks to go all the way. Then, one day, NBC had one of those annoying, "STAY TUNED SO YOU DON'T MISS OUR NEW SHOW!" ads.

And then I watched the new show, even though the whole time I kept saying, "This is idiotic. What a waste of my time." But it's true, I am now hooked and have yet to miss an episode of...

Love in the Wild.Yes. I said it. Love in the Wild. I have kept silent (except to a select few) about this addiction of mine for too long. I am no longer ashamed (lie. I'm still ashamed) of myself.

For those of you lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the premise, they take shallow, fake&bake, early 20 something who have given up on love (because, if you haven't found love by 24 you're obviously SOL forever) and throw them in Costa Rica hoping they'll cause drama to make for excellent reality tv. Oh, and how they do. People say things like, "I like that she cares about her appearance" and do awesome things like drop wooden statues on their feet and (SPOILER ALERT) get kicked out of the competition as a result. Last week, two couples went home! DRAMA.

So while I am excited about America's Got Talent tonight and the youtube contestants, nothing can compete with my excitement for tomorrow night. Gosh, I hope Mike & Sam make it! Or Miles & Heather, they're cute too.

I may regret admitting this to the internet, but this is the reality of poverty, guys. You're driven to watching such gems as Love in the Wild. (Honestly, with a logo like that, who WOULDN'T want to watch?)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Job Hunting, or "How to Question Your Worth While Trying To Make Yourself Seem Worthwhile"

The past few weeks have been filled with resumes, cover letters, awkward phone calls regarding the status of a job application, and wondering whether or not I should just join the circus. I used to be flexible as a child. I could be "She-Used-To-Be-A-Contortionist" Girl!

In reality, though, this process is terrible. After I finally find something somewhat worthwhile, I get my hopes up and begin imagining life in that city and what my coworkers would be like. The worst is that, when I get any sort of feedback, even a "Thanks for applying! We'll be taking your resume and cover letter into consideration! DON'T CALL US, WE'LL CALL YOU!" email, I begin to look up apartments in the corresponding city and then wonder if my imaginary dog and I will be within walking distance of a dog park. In the best-case scenario when they want to interview you, I just assume that we'll be together forever and they're going to offer me a six figure salary any day now for that entry-level development position at a nonprofit. Why wouldn't they?

Then there's the interview.
Then you sweat.
Then you begin to second guess yourself.
Then you don't hear back from them.
You wonder if maybe it's because they could tell you were sweating.
You begin to reconsider you deodorant preference.
Then you call them, even though they said, "Don't call us, WE'LL CALL YOU!"
They say, "Calm down! We'll call you." This just makes your more nervous.
You remind them of why you're a great fit for the job, while silently reminding yourself that THERE ARE OTHER FISH IN THE SEA and, you know what? You're a GREAT catch! Anyone would be lucky to have you!

Then you wait.
And then you find something worth applying to again. You begin to wonder what your coworkers would be like, and you start to google dog parks. It's an awful process.

I'll end this tirade with this lovely graph I made earlier today in Paint. Please note the scale ranges from Rainbows to Meh, and ends with a Toilet. Please excuse the poor resolution. I blame blogspot.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

It's Official! I'm out of shape.

Mousey, as he has now been named in the apartment (I know, we shouldn't have named him. This was not my doing), is still out and about, being far too smart to take the traps we've laid out for him. I've taken to clapping and loudly announcing my presence in the kitchen so he knows to hide. This does in fact mean I look certifiably insane every time I go to get a drink/make dinner/throw something out. -clap clap- "I'M COMING IN MOUSE, HIDE YOURSELF!" -clap clap-

Back in March, there was a Groupon in Roanoke that offered zip lining and wall climbing for $20 out in New Castle (a happening town with a gas station and a Subway). Both OfficeMate and I purchased this Groupon, and it's actually been the only one we've purchased as of since. Roanoke's new to the Groupon scene, and most of the offers are for spas or mail-order food. But hey, $20 for wall climbing and a zip line is a damn good deal, so we went ahead and nabbed it.

First off, when you're banking on your iphone to get you to a location where there is little to no cell reception, you're going to get lost. Especially when your phone tells you to make a left and drive two miles, when in reality you're supposed to go RIGHT and drive two miles. Awesome.

When we finally reached the place, it was packed full of people camping, canoeing, biking, and every other outdoorsy pasttime imaginable. Besides just arriving late, we then spent about half an hour walking around trying to find a main office and employees. That being said, once we found the office and the employees, the zip lining was good fun and the climbing wall was awesome. I struggled twice, though. Yes, we only did two activities and I struggled during both. To get to the top of the zip line, there was a pretty decently steep hike. Being unprepared, neither of us had come with water nor had we eaten anything all day, and the employee was BOOKING it to the top of the hill. I should come with a warning: Not as in shape as I appear. Then, THEN, the climbing wall. I climbed up the first half like a champ, and then I paused. Not only did I not know where to go next because all the rock-like things were too small, I was also horribly out of breath. I somehow made it to the top of the wall and thought about victoriously raising my arms Rocky-style, but opted against it.

We left and high-tailed it to a gas station for some granola bars and gatorade. I was hurting. Not only was a starving and dehydrated, I HURT. I hurt the next morning. I hurt the next afternoon. Then I hurt two mornings later and knew I was just pathetic. I've been doing yoga to try to fix this. Most likely it will be to no avail and I'll give up in a week. Damn you, exercise, my lifelong nemesis.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rats, a mouse!

My freshman year of college, a mouse was found in my dorm room. From what the girls on my hall and I were able to deduce, he fed on the other half of the suite, but slept in mine. Being college females, we naturally fell in love with a cute, small rodent, and did the unforgivable - we named him. The resident mouse was loving labeled "Roger" and we set out a humane trap to catch him. Someone bought a cage from which he escaped, and then we miraculously caught him again because Roger wasn't the brightest. He was set free in a field. In November. Roger probably died that very night.

Today I was sitting on the living room floor eating sourdough pretzel bites out of the bag like the fat kid I am, when I noticed something scurry past my right side. I jumped and assumed the worst - that it was a cockroach. Well, lucky me, it kept scurrying. It scurried towards the kitchen enough for me to get quite the view of my new third roommate - we have a mouse. I swear, this apartment. Our windows shatter, our roof leaks, there was a mushroom growing in the window ledge of the bathroom the other day, I kid you not, and now this. Now, a rodent.
It was when I sat the bastard in the kitchen sitting happily on my bathmat that I tell myself is acceptable to use as a kitchen mat by the sink that I lost it. Here he was, intruding on my space uninvited, IN MY KITCHEN? I think not, friend. You will not enjoy the same ending as Roger; I have no intention of being humane in my capturing of you. You are eating my food that I pay for WITHOUT food stamps. You are not paying rent, so you may not stay here. Get. Out. I don't care that I used to be the crazy hamster lady in middle school, I now lack the same soft spot for rodents. You're not a stray basset hound in my kitchen, you're a mouse.

OfficeMate (who is no longer my office mate. Tragedy!) said he liked to think of our new friend as Remy from Ratatouille. Until the mouse begins to cook me four-course gourmet meals, I don't want him here.

I called the landlord.
"Hi, I have a mouse in my apartment?"
"Oh lucky you!"
"Yes, well, he's not paying rent, so I was wondering what the proper protocol was for his eviction."

They're coming tomorrow with traps and will spray around the perimeter of the building. Goodbye, sir. You are not welcome. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Nerves

After college, I endured a period in my life known as "unemployment." In order to deal with the day to day mind-numbing quality of it all, a good friend of mine informed me that she referred to that period of her life as "funemployment." And it stuck. I spent approximately four months shooting out resumes and cover letters. I interviewed with no idea of what was expected of me. College does not prepare you properly for that aspect of the real world. Sure, it teaches you critical thinking and vastly improved my writing, but interviewing? There was no class on that. There was no class on patience or the best way to spend your days watching every single match in the World Cup on Univision, becoming accustomed to State Farm commercials in Spanish and refusing to watch any of the matches in English. I found the best way involved Maccy, the dog, and a bag of chips. Funemployment is lonely.

When I got this position in Roanoke, I was thrilled. Beyond thrilled - I was getting my foot in the door of nonprofits, I was going to learn the ins and outs of fund development, I had an excuse to live somewhere completely new. It was perfect.

However, now that funemployment part ii looms overhead and another move is in my fairly near future, I'm becoming sentimental. I knew this year had an expiration date. I had no intention of doing a second year in Roanoke, but now it's all starting to hit me. I have to move soon - I have to find a new apartment, a new grocery store, a new hair girl*, a new routine, a new KITCHEN. Ah, the tragedy!

This time last year I was itching for change. Now, a year later, and I'm nervous about it all. OfficeMate and Britannica will no longer be nearby. I won't live in an apartment with well-meaning rednecks who will protect me with their shotguns. I know I'll be fine, but I know my nerves are getting the best of me.

*When I went to get my hair cut last week, I told my hair girl that I was moving and it made me so sad because I love what she does. I feel like I'm breaking up with her, it's tragic. She suggested I fly down every 6-8 weeks from wherever I end up, but I don't think I'm ready for that kind of financial commitment. WHO TELLS THEIR HAIR GIRL THEY'RE SAD THEY HAVE TO LEAVE THEM? She must be relieved I'm leaving.

(image credit to the ever-fantastic Natalie Dee)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My First Sunburn (and other 4th of July Pasttimes)

No, not my first sunburn ever, but my first sunburn in nine or ten years. I generally pride myself on being able to throw on some SPF 15 or 25, and being good for the rest of day. That's generally a good enough coating for my semi-latina skin to develop a nice, sun-kissed glow.

So today when I left to go tubing, I did just that. I slathered on some oil-free 15 (some 100 on my face - we don't want wrinkles, ladies!) and figured I'd be good to go for the day. A group of five ladies and myself hopped on our tubes and started our fourish hour trek down the river in Natural Bridge.* While everyone else constantly reapplied their SPF 50, I said no thanks and silently thanked my latin genes for keeping me from burning.

About hour three, I began to feel hot. By hour four, I noticed my thighs were looking a little red. By the time we got out of the water, I knew my legs were goners. By the time we got back to Granny's and I changed out of my swimsuit, I knew that a sunburn this bad had not happened since 2002 in Venezuela. Congratulations, Natural Bridge, your sunlight did in one day what the Canary Islands sun could not do in an entire week back in 2009. When I got back home, I slathered on the aloe vera, cranked up my little AC unit and just stood on a stool in front of it. I don't know what else to do. I'm considering a bag of frozen peas for each leg and maybe I'll just sleep in the freezer tonight. True story, I took two precautionary advil. So if you happen to see someone around that looks like me, but a lobster, that's just me, looking like a lobster.... for the first time in almost a decade. I am shamed.

In other news...
My wonderful parents (plus the pooch) came down on Thursday so that The Car Whisperer (Hi, Dad!) could take a look at Mr. Merlot. My father, by some miracle, was able to fix the car without even having to replace the starter (although, he had one ready just in case). However, this was not before he mentioned the car might have permanent electrical damage which caused me to burst into tears over the thought of having to spend that much money on a car again (I'm looking at YOU, living stipend!). All for naught, though! For now, Mr. Merlot is fine and up and running. Knock on wood.

We spent Friday hiking and grabbing some grub. Saturday was spent at the Farmer's Market ($1 eggplant, I kid you not!) and then the lake with OfficeMate and his parents. Today's venture to Natural Bridge has completed my outdoorsyness for a few days, at least until this burn turns into a tan or peels off. Yeah, yeah enjoy that lovely visual.

For now, though, I'll just nurse this burn and continue to motivate my skin. "You lasted so long without a burn, you've got this! Just turn it into a tan and I'll be sure to reapply from now on! We had such a good system going, why did you turn on me? Water under the bridge! Just heal! I'll keep giving you aloe vera and advil!"

Happy Fourth of July! I'm two of the colors on the American Flag! All three, if you count how blue my heart is after this sunburn.

*The tubing was lovely and relaxing. I enjoyed being able to lay out in the sunlight, let the current take my tube and I, and just absorb the (damn sunlight) lovely views of the surrounding mountains. No photos available because I love my camera and iPhone.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Messing With a Broke-Broke.

Yes. Mr. Merlot is being a gold digger again.

I... I don't even know where to begin. I treat him with love and respect. I get him oil changes every 3,000 miles. I offer him emotional support ("C'mon Mr. Merlot, you can make it up this hill!"). I waxed and vacuumed him the other week, I even bought him a new T for his front when I was visiting my folks recently. And yet, he's never satisfied. When I first got him, he became all worked up about needing a new catalytic converter. I sighed, wrote the check, died a little bit inside for my checking account, and he was happy. I also bought him a brand new battery. Now, ten months later, he's wanting more. Kids these days - they're never satisfied with anything.

Yesterday, it took a few tries to turn him over to A) get to work B) leave work and C) get home from Dick's Sporting Goods. (At least he got me home and didn't leave me near a sporting goods store) When I went to go to work this morning, taking separate cars from OfficeMate because I had to come home in the afternoon for a phone interview, all Mr. Merlot would do was click. No turning over. Click. Click. Click. Every click was another hairline fracture to my heart.

So he was left at home, and we carpooled in. After coming back and then having my phone interview (I honestly do despise interviews. The whole process makes me unfathomably nervous. Just take my word for it, I'd be a good fit for the position!), we went out to see what we could do for that car. We tried jumper cables, to no avail. I called my on-call mechanic (Hi, Dad!) for phone support who walked me through some things (I now know where my starter is located), and we've deduced that Mr. Merlot needs a new starter.

Do you hear that sound? That's the sound of my wallet wailing. I haven't gone to the dentist in like two or three years, but my CAR needs more money put into him. Absolutely, that makes sense. I guess Mr. Merlot was feeling left out because OfficeMate's car got a new battery this weekend, and Mr. Merlot wanted something new, too. Goodness, he's always needing to be the center of attention. For the next few days, I shall be chauffeured around by OfficeMate to and from the office. I'm moving up the social ladder in Roanoke - I don't even have to drive myself around.

In other news, not related to my complaining about my Gold Digger of a vehicle, I did in fact have a phone interview today. This means that I have done something right in the world of job hunting, and hopefully will empower me to keep on keeping on in this department.

Also, as many of you read on the Book of Faces, I have indeed surpassed the $100,000 mark in my grant revenue. I recently found out that two proposals I assisted in writing back in February ended up winning $93,000, so that puts my grand total over the $120,000 mark. I feel so legit! You better believe I worked that into today's interview.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Please help.

In high school, I was an active member of the Superdance committee my junior and senior years. Superdance was a big freaking deal at my high school and was actually my first experience in fundraising. You could say it was a precursor to VISTA.

However, that's not what this is about. While working on Superdance, I got to know one of the awesome English teachers I never had the direct privilege of being taught by in the classroom. Tom Duesterhaus's English class was the one people got livid if they didn't get into it (myself included), and rubbed it in your face if they got in (high school friends included). Mr. D had such a way with awkward high schoolers, making us know that we could actually accomplish something substantial, and he did it in such a supportive way. He genuinely believed in us, and he even played the guitar! Mr. D, in a word, was awesome.

Last week, Mr. D went missing. So this is my sad attempt to do what I can to continue to spread the word. Please, please PLEASE read over the information, join the group, spread the word. He is an amazing man and we all just want to make sure he's safe.Here is the link to a facebook page over 1,600 strong.
Here are a few articles covering what they've learned thus far:
ViennaPatch
Virginia Pilot
Arlington Catholic Herald
ABC 7

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Danger: Canvassing

First of all, I would like to extend a hearty Roanoke welcome to Maccy Jr, who is speedy, wonderful and serves as a daily reminder that I now owe my parents money like a 16 year old who bought a prom dress that was way too expensive. It's a good thing he's cute.

Having returned to Roanoke Sunday night, my "real" life has been in full swing for two days now. Upon stepping into work on Monday, I fully realized that, while my work-life had been on pause for five days, no one else's had. The office recently purchased a location for a Thrift Store to benefit both us and our clients, and we've been raising money to make this longtime dream a reality. Before I left, people had thrown around the idea of canvassing to not only spread awareness of our new venture, but also to raise funds. Turns out that the very day I got back was the same day chosen as Canvassing Day Part 1.

I've never canvassed. Also, we've been having some freak thunderstorms in the valley since I got back. (The story of Mr. Merlot driving in hail through like four feet of water is a whole other blog post in and of itself. I was cringing the entire time.) So when I was sent out on my first canvassing adventure with heavy grey clouds looming overhead, I was skeptical. We paired up, so OfficeMate and I (naturally) trudged along the sidewalk-less busy road, going uninhabited house to uninhabited house, leaving bright yellow fliers for the lovely residents to find when they got home. I tell myself that these fliers did not get blown away in the wind, and that each person who laid eyes on them donated $500. A girl can dream.

In the 20ish houses we visited yesterday, we encountered maybe four people. Two were grandparentish, and our initial welcome from those homes were children peering out of windows. Grandparents did not seem remotely interested. We woke up one woman from sleeping, even though it was around 1p. She works the night shift at her job and was not amused nor did she care about nonprofits. To be fair, I wouldn't be halfway through my sleep cycle, either. I don't even know why she answered the door.

And then there's my personal favorite. OfficeMate and I had a pretty good system down; he'd knock, if they answered the door I'd give the schpeel, we'd throw in some "if you have any questions, call us here or visit our website," and keep it fast and simple. One man answered his door while he was on the phone and we awkwardly waited for him to finish his conversation. The longer we waited, the more awkward the situation became. He finally tells us, "Come on in, you guys!"

Have you ever seen that episode of the Sopranos where Dr. Melfi is going down the stairs into the parking garage and you can tell something terrible is about to happen? I lived that moment.

This guy is in a weird basementish type room with chairs covered in laundry, he owns three very overweight football-sized dogs who yap, and has a lone computer in a corner. It's the unibomber's shed, Roanoke-style. OfficeMate has shut the storm door behind us, but left the main door wide open. The man looks at him and says, "Shut the door, son." I thought to myself, "I don't want to die in this awful room with three fat, little dogs." Eventually, this man gets off the phone and we give him a shaky and uncomfortably fast run down. "Thrift store, uhh.... donations. We're opening...downtown... CALL IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS BYE!"

I, personally, booked it out of there, trusting OfficeMate to get out alive on his own. Survival of the fittest, guys. Don't judge.

And that's just the beginning! Once these crazy storms die down, I get to do MORE neighborhoods! Oh joyous day. If you don't hear from me for a while, think of me every time you see an overweight dachshund.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Eulogy

Today has been a long day. Maccy had an appointment with the Genius Bar this morning, something I figured I'd take advantage of while in the DC area with our plethora of Apple Stores. I knew the diagnosis would be bad, but was still somewhat hopeful they'd be able to perform their Mac voodoo and he'd come back to life. But it was not so. His diagnosis was more of an autopsy.

There is, I learned, a little chip around the qwerty section of MacBooks that is responsible for relaying information to outputs: monitor, mouse, keyboard, etc. His was fried; that chip was responsible for the burning smell that occurred whenever I turned him on. The man at the Genius Bar was able to hook Maccy up to an external monitor, mouse and keyboard and he worked well enough. The repair cost was $750. Oh goodness, that number hurt to hear. I struggled to keep myself composed and talked over my options with Genius Bar Guy. I could buy a refurbished 2010 MacBook for $850. I could get a 5% discount on the warranty because I'm a government employee. It wasn't that bad, he promised. It just wasn't worth repairing a five year old computer when I could get a new one for $100 more.

I told him I wanted to think it over, and went to visit Brother at his coffee shop to drown my sorrows in a latte and read some Wall Street Journal. I discussed my options with OfficeMate, the parentals, and a handful of friends. My loving parents offered to front the cost of a new machine until I get a real job and can pay them back. I then made my way to a different Apple Store where I had them wipe Maccy clean, so I can recycle him without the possibility of someone getting my files. This process apparently takes forever, because I was waiting for well over an hour. I just ordered a new computer, who will probably be named Maccy Jr, in honor of the computer who came before him.Dearest Maccy,
You were by my side for almost five whole years. You stood by me in my awkward eyebrow stage. You edited so many awful cliche college photos. You didn't shudder that time I installed AIM on you (I'M SO SORRY!). You traveled to Spain with me where we enjoyed many a cafe con leche in Bar Alberto. You helped me skype so many people. You were there for me when I videochatted Brother and his dog, Holly, in class. Maccy, you endured my writing some seriously bad papers on you, but also were the reason I wrote some of the best analytical pieces of my life. You let me put embarrassing music on your iTunes, and helped me find this job. Let's be honest, I finished my first grant proposal with you. You will be followed by a 2010 MacBook - he'll be a lot like you, but larger (250GB to your 60GB), faster (I don't even know how much RAM you had...), and won't be held together by tape. I'm sure Maccy Jr. and I will have many great adventures and memories, but you, you Maccy, were my first Mac. You were there for me for college, studying abroad, and beyond. You were an amazing computer and I know that had it not been for this water incident, we would have many more years to compute together. Thanks for five fun years (and sorry if I ever bored you with excessive facebooking).
Sincerely,
MV

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Vacation

I'm on Vacation, something so terrific it needs to be addressed with a capital V. I enjoyed the Third Annual Wine & Cheese Night - a yearly summer tradition at my parents' house (... so what if I started the tradition?), I have eaten Indian food from my favorite Indian place, I've played tennis, flown a kite on the DC mall, ordered Mr. Merlot a new T, and sat around and enjoyed large amounts of food. This is, essentially, the first time I've touched a computer since I left work on Friday. It is, in a word, glorious.Vacation is a land where I don't have to wake up early, but I do anyways so I don't sleep it all away. On Vacation, there is Holly, my brother's dog, to snuggle and play with. On Vacation, there are friends I have not seen in eons to catch up with. On Vacation, I can run errands that are otherwise impossible in Roanoke (cheap wine, Costco...).

So for now, I cannot be bothered to blog properly. Too many amazing things to do, like help Brother make ice cream, take Holly to a dog park, eat some leftover cheese from Wine & Cheese Night, put new grip tape on my tennis racket, among so many other things.

Please do not disturb.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sports. Why I suck at them, and the ones I don't understand.

Ah, sports. My nemesis. I never had much luck with them.

Tee Ball always posed a problem because I was better at hitting the tee than the ball.
Baseball was just a disaster altogether. Shame on whoever decided I was worthy of moving up to the next level in ball-bat combo sports. Let's thank our lucky stars I never tried my hand at cricket.
I had many acceptable years in soccer - nine to be exact. But... we were club soccer, and we weren't exactly the star-studded team. In our awesome mustard-yellow jerseys, I think the Potomac Kiwanas won a grand total of maybe one "championship" in the almost entire decade I played with them. Defense was my forte, because it required far less aim. I was once awarded the Sportsmanship Award, which, and God help me if I ever admit this to my children, is the "you tried but still suck" award. I'm okay with it - no really, I am.
Basketball. 6th grade. I was 12 years old. I'd really rather just not acknowledge that this ever happened.
I took some tennis lessons in seventh grade, and that was okay so long as I didn't play on a team. I'm actually not even completely against volleying for the sake of volleying. I just don't like competitive things, mainly because losing time and time again was just scarring as a child.
In high school, I accepted that things which involved coordination were not for me. So I joined cross country. That couldn't be too hard - you run, there are no balls, no sticks, no goals involved. You don't have to pass to anyone, the main person you disappoint when you walk half the meet is yourself, not your team, and you just follow the people in front of you (I always wondered how the people in the front of the meet knew where to run. Who did they follow? Those signs were never enough for me). Then my knee got busted, WAY busted. So I stopped running altogether, did some physical therapy, and just kind of quit exercising. Okay Universe, I get it. Don't exercise.

I've followed that to this day, pretty much. I run sometimes, but nothing like before. In college for a while I was doing yoga and pilates regularly. But as for sports, it's just better if I watch them. I love me some FCBarcelona, tennis matches (yeah Nadal! Okay, okay maybe I just like watching Spaniards in sports), I'll even watch some basketball with OfficeMate. But there are a few sporting events which just baffle me.

1. Golf. I get bored.
2. Nascar. See above.
3. Wrestling.

Which brings us to...
I attended a WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) event last night. Some of you might be more familiar with it's older name, WWF, but that name was trademarked by the World Wildlife Foundation (and their super sweet panda logo that I used to have on a tote when I was like eight). A dear friend had tickets she got through her job, so Britannica and I tagged along. I over-analyzed various aspects of the evening: What to wear (to be fair, I was all decked out in JCrew and Ann Taylor), proper etiquette (you need none), and that I had no idea what to expect (I don't know if knowing what to expect would have helped me out at all).

So off I went in my "grunged down" outfit of Banana Republic jeans and shirt from the Gap (...there's a sign I didn't belong there) to watch men (and apparently women. Check you out, WWE, being all equal opportunity!) wrestle. As it turns out, there's a freaking backstory behind everything in wrestling. As my friend put it, "I feel like we're watching Days of Our Lives and missed the first 15 years!" There were villains, what I think might have been a feud over a girl (I'm still not sure), and men in itty bitty tight briefs who look like they had been covered in I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Butter Spray. Mad props for well choreographed fights in some instances though! (Other instances... they don't deserve props)People were INTO this stuff. While slippery men bitch-slapped one another and made awkward grunting noises, Britannica and I had a ridiculous analytical conversation regarding how this is just as much a form of escapism as video games or a good read. That's why it's World Wrestling ENTERTAINMENT, not a federation. Needless to say, I felt horribly out of place, but I was pleasantly entertained (moreso by the man in front of us with the winning mullet/tye dye combo, but yknow). When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And in Roanoke, this odd little version of Rome, you watch "wrestling" where at one point, someone gets hit with some stairs.

Every now and then, the three of us would just turn to each other and say, "I don't understand!" "What's going on?" "Who's this guy?" "Why does this man have a leopard print cape?" "Why is his butt covered in so many sparkles?" and my most-uttered question of the evening, "I wonder how you get into this line of work....?"

I learned a LOT, though. I always talk about how I want to live like the locals, and I definitely did last night. Also, I was able to experience something I wouldn't have otherwise. I think that, with that, I don't need to go to any golf tournaments or NASCAR races. I don't care if I'm close to Martinsville. I'll stick to polo matches in Charlottesville at wineries, thank you.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Fat Kid's Tribute to Lebanese Food

It bears saying that my Refugee Mother is Lebanese. I ought to also mention that her parish, St. Elias, has a massive Lebanese Festival the weekend after Memorial Day. ...or, right now. Being a good fake daughter, that is exactly where I headed after work last night and where I was at 8:00a this morning (okay, okay, more like 8:30a.) I am currently on my four-hour reprieve and opted to come home for a nap, a diet coke and some AC.

Aside from a shameless promotion for the St. Elias Lebanese Festival (Honestly, if you're anywhere near the valley, you should stop by. We have a TON of food, dancing, beer, wine, a raffle ... food. No seriously, we have food.), this post is to honor all those things I adore about how they make the delicious things they do in the middle east.My Top Ten Happiest Lebanese Foods
1. Hummus. Chick pea, garlic, olive oily goodness. I could happily sit in a corner with a bowl and just eat it with a spoon.
2. Tabbouleh. As a child (okay, we still go all the time), my parents would take us to the Lebanese Taverna Market where we would stuff our faces with schwarmas, couscous, hummus and the like. I never liked tabbouleh growing up because I thought parsley was weird, but at some point in high school, I realized it was glorious and couldn't get enough. There were nights at my Refugee Camp where dinner was a fork, an enormous bowl of tabbouleh, and a glass of wine. Amazing. Today I've made some obscene amount of tabbouleh and it has been fantastic. 20 cups parsley, 16 cups bulgar wheat, a few healthy handfuls of mint, and other large portions of necessary ingredients. Taste-testing is a necessity that I am more than happy to fulfill.
3. Labneh. I never ate much of it prior to living with my Refugee Parents, but this combination of strained yogurt, cucumbers, dried mint and lemon juice is one of the happiest dipping sauces known to man. It's refreshing for summer and I enjoy it even just as a side salad.
4. Kibbeh. (I have seen about 12 variations of spelling of kibbeh this weekend ranging from "kibby," to "kibbi" and "khibbe," I have no idea what the proper spelling is.) Ground beef or lamb, onions, bulgar wheat, mint and a dash of perfection. Whatever recipe they use at St. Elias is truly written by the Big Man Upstairs. I inhaled a portion last night around 10p when I left, and decided it was the most satisfying dinner I've ever had.
5. Stuffed Grape Leaves. ...do I even need to explain why these are so mind-blowing? When I celebrated Easter with my Refugee Parents and their family, I ate a plate of approximately ten of these. Yesterday, they were my go-to snack.
6. Baklava. Honey. Pistachios. Phyllo dough. Win.
7. Anything grilled, roasted, from a dead animal. I don't know how, but the Lebanese just do it better than the rest of us.
8. Anything with spinach. Spinach and cheese roll ups in phyllo, spinach pies. Good God yes please.
9. Beer. Similar to Heineken, in my opinion, Almaza is crisp, sharp and refreshing. I highly recommend pairing it with their fantastic dead animals.
10. Knefe. Phyllo. Honey. Cheese. delicious.

So stop on by St. Elias and get your fat kid ON. Or, if you don't live in the valley, find somewhere where you can get your fat kid on. Because this stuff's amazing.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Life Lessons: Internet, Poverty, Roanoke

Dearest Blog, how I have seemingly neglected you. Let me explain!

Last week, there were some crazy storms in these parts. When our internet began to get temperamental, I wasn't completely surprised. Phone lines were down throughout the valley, and we didn't even have internet at the office last Friday. Then the internet started just... not existing in the apartment. OfficeMate being cursed with being tech savvy was plagued with my unending questions: "Can you make the internet work??" "Why is the internet down?" "THE FOURTH LIGHT ON THE MODEM STILL ISN'T BLINKING. YOU SAID THAT MEANT NO INTERNET STILL. WHAT'S GOING ON?" I generally was told the internet was down, to be patient, and "You have internet on your phone."

Internet on my phone is all well and good, but I can't blog on my phone. I can't apply for jobs on my phone. Google reader on the iPhone is far from fantastic. First world problems are hard.

At the moment, our internet is still down (kind of). The cable in our living room just doesn't want to work, and the one in OfficeMate's room is connected to it. The one in my room, however, just mysteriously appears out of the wall and is seemingly connected to the outdoors (or the guy-below-me-who-I-can-hear-snore). So at the moment the modem is plugged in my room, stretched across my bed to the lone plug in here, with an ethernet cable to get this 2004 piece of machinery on these crazy intertubes.

I digress. It is now June. I have slightly over two months left in my AmeriCorps tenure. I'm legitimately qualified for these jobs I've been applying to. I've begun wondering if I need to start thinking about moving out things I'm not using anymore (winter sweaters, coats, boots, etc). While on one hand, I wonder where the time went and I become all nostalgic for the valley, I am very much ready to continue on to the next phase of my life. Roanoke has been amazing to me (other than having my money stolen, moving three times, losing my computer to a ghetto apartment building, having my car get hit, just to name a few), and Lord knows I'll miss these mountains, but it's time.

I've learned so much this year. I've learned how to stretch a dollar. I've learned how to get by on next to nothing without the assistance of food stamps or handouts (One can absolutely get by on minimum wage in this valley without food stamps. Anyone who tells you otherwise is buying things they do not need). I've learned how to cook so many more things. I've learned how to fill my tires with air (don't mock, I never had a car with tires to fill with air before). I've learned how to write a grant proposal, do development work, look for foundations. I've learned to appreciate the silence and slow nature of my life rather than get antsy about having nothing to do. Well, actually, that one I'm still in the learning process. Just today I learned that a cable splitter can go bad!

But I've also learned that, while I can get by on less than minimum wage, I'd rather not anymore. I miss simple things like a new pair of shoes. I've worn out my clothing since I've moved, since I've bought almost nothing new since I moved and laundromats are eating my unmentionables. I want to be able to buy a new computer when one gets leaked on, without having to worry about financial repercussions. I want to be able to afford rent somewhere other than where the shirtless, seemingly unemployed guy sits outside on his folding chair with his dog and cigarette in the midst of racial slurs and shotgun-toting neighbors. I want to be able to get groceries and an oil change in the same day and not cringe at the thought of my checking account suffering as a result.

My life is not glamorous. I'm not saying it's tough, because honestly, it comes down to creative budgeting and nothing more. I'm not a math whiz, I'm just smart enough to know how much I need to get by. But it gets old, and it gets old FAST. And I didn't go to college to have to be creative with my budgeting, I went to college to get myself a job that allows me to be creative in the office so I don't have to be with my checkbook. I'd rather spend my time at exhibits, concerts or productions than at home crunching numbers or, brace yourself, on the sofa doing sudokus because that's free. I'm just ready to live the life that the rest of my peers have been living for a year. And if you guys haven't been living that life, then stop making it look like you did on facebook! (Facebook creeping is also free) I'm just ready to take what I've learned, and continue on with the rest of my life.Roanoke is a chapter, not the end.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Uphill Climb

As I write this, I am frantically running back and forth to my kitchen, lovingly adding more chicken broth to my risotto and giving it a nice little mix. With a glass of wine. And then I intend to eat my risotto with chopsticks, because I haven't used them since I've moved to this town. So, it's more or less an average evening.

I have, as of late, but wherefore I know not (spot the nerd reference), developed an unhealthy obsession with Mad Men. I've stopped reading and now spend my free time completely engulfed in the lives of Don Draper and Peggy. Oh, Peggy. How did you manage to get yourself a private office, at 22, as a female in an advertising agency in 1960? I don't even get a door on my shared office. You're my hero. Let's be best friends.

OfficeMate and I successfully climbed to McAfee's Knob this past weekend. Well, climbed is a very strong word for what I did. I huffed. I sat on a log and was passed by children and people legitimately doing the Appalachian Trail with massive backpacks. I shamed OfficeMate by making him stop, too. He climbed. I huffed.Aside from my being shamefully out of shape (It was hot! I was getting over a cold! We only brought one water bottle! I ran cross country nine years ago! Doesn't that count for anything anymore?), the view at the top was absolutely worth it. The view is absolutely breathtaking, and I'm embarrassed it took me until now to get out there. It honestly is not that far from where I'm currently living. I am also now one of those cliche people with a facebook photo of themselves at the top. Sue me.

And finally, sadly, I've begun job hunting again. Much like my hike this weekend, I'm horribly out of shape. If you're a prospective employer, hey, what's up? Let's chat sometime. Job hunting is soul-crushing work. I've said it before and I'll say it again; the whole process is like a bad dating scene. "Hey, I think we'd be great together! I like combating (insert nonprofit mission statement here), too! We should get together sometime. No, I'm looking for something long-term. I think we'd work really well together. Please give me a shot! I THINK YOU'RE CUTE! PLEASE CALL ME!"

Ah, the joys of being back here, not even 12 months since the last time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Tale of Gossip.

Dearest Friends, let me tell you a tale. This is not a tale of romance or of darkness, this is a tale of neighbors.

Upon my return from work this evening, I noticed a team of men working on the lawn at our apartment. Mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, your usual. One of the men called me over and asked if I knew who drove a certain car out front. I said that while I knew the person by sight alone, I was not actually acquainted with them.

I went to my apartment, went to the restroom, and when I opened the door I heard yelling in the courtyard. One of the lawncare men was yelling AT my apartment building, saying various colorful phrases which led me to believe that the man who drove the car I was asked to identify had made some racial slurs towards some of the workers. The yelling and colorful language continued.

So I situated myself in my old lady chair, like the gossipy old bitty I am. My apartment has provided me with an array of entertainment through my open window since the weather's gotten nice. It's really quite convenient.

As the worker continued to yell, a fellow building-dweller came outside to complain. She came, and I wish I was joking, with her shotgun. She began yelling at him to stop disturbing the peace, threatening to call the cops, and then I got to hear, with more colorful slurs, exactly what went down.

Resident Old Man of the apartment had indeed said rather inappropriate and offensive comments, and this man was not having it. Shotgun Neighbor suggested he talk to the landlord. Angry Lawncare Man left with the rest of the workers, and Shotgun Neighbor went back inside.

Man Who Lives Below Me and I Can Hear Him Snoring When He Sleeps yelled out HIS window to ask what was going on. Shotgun Neighbor yelled back her reply. Girl Who Plays Her Music Too Loudly threw in her two cents. Shotgun Neighbor mentioned seeing Girl Who Lives Upstairs talk to them before the yelling began.

Wait. That's me! I'm Girl Upstairs! Don't gossip about me by yelling through your windows when you KNOW I'M HOME. Also, you should know I'm more than Girl Upstairs. I'm Gossipy Old Bitty. Gossipy Old Bitty who lives in a Redneck Town.

The End.

Monday, May 9, 2011

When I'm a Real Adult...

So my computer gave up. Last Monday, he just refused to turn on anymore. Awesome, right?

Luckily, I was Charleston-bound last week yet again, because my brother graduated! This also means that my parents were able to bring brother's old (and I mean old) laptop - an iBook from 2004 that shall suffice as my computer until I have a real salary and can invest in one of my own. They keyboard pops out. I don't know why. Apple, what were you thinking?? So I apologize for the lack of blogging last week - I just had no computer. But check out my new, sweet, top-of-the-line-seven-years-ago gear! (Stock photo since I'm afraid of asking this one to open a jpeg)

In addition to using a seven-year old computer right now, I am also driving the world's most sneaker-like Kia Soul, which I had previously only associated with hamsters. When Mr. Merlot got hit back in February, I played many a fun game of phone tag with various insurance companies, and last week the whole situation was finally resolved. Mr. Merlot is in the shop getting his bumper fixed right now. Fingers crossed that he'll get a new T out of this whole situation!

This Kia though... oh man. I've always mocked people with particularly boxy cars. The Nissan Cube, most Scions, and now I'm in one. A friend asked me if the Soul had any redeeming quality, and I told him the key fob had a beeper lock thing. That's sad for two reasons: 1, Mr. Merlot doesn't have a fancy key fob and 2, that's the best thing I can come up with about the Soul. Thankfully, it's only until tomorrow when I can be reunited with my ghetto Corolla.

It's not uncommon to hear me utter the phrase, "When I'm a real adult, I'm going to have (insert whatever I'm kvetching about my lack of at the moment)." The past week's events have swelled up the urge to write that list out. And so I bring you...

When I'm a Real Adult, I'm Going to Have:
-A car that's not a Kia. I love Mr. Merlot and he's allowed to join me in Real Adult land.
-A laptop that both works and is younger than 7 years old. This computer is older than brother's dog.
-A garbage disposal. No more peeling carrots over the trashcan and getting sad when they slip into strawberry stems and moldy leftovers.
-An ice maker, because making ice one tray at a time is sad.
-A dishwasher, because nothing sucks more than making a big meal and then having to wash every damn dish by hand.
-Central air conditioning, so that when it's 90+ degrees outside, I don't have to hope the itty bitty window unit can reach my bedroom.
-A toilet with a balloon in the tank and a handle that isn't held together by a rusting paper clip. Yes, you read that properly. I don't even know how my toilet is able to flush without exploding.
-DVR. Because no one should have to choose between House and How I Met Your Mother.
-A gas range. Not only do they cook more evenly and ensure you can cook after the power goes out, food doesn't get stuck on them and then later set off the smoke detector when you try to boil water.
-A double oven. I've never had one and can't help but imagine they'd be so helpful.
-A ceiling that doesn't leak onto my electronics. Or really, one that just doesn't leak at all.
-More than two chairs at my dining room table so that if you have a third person over, you don't have to drag over a chair from the living room. And if a fourth person comes over, they don't have to sit on the armrest of the third living room chair. As for five or more people... that's when we eat around the coffee table.
-A shower that doesn't go cold for 2-5 minutes while you still have conditioner in your hair or shaving cream on your legs.
-More counter space than the pittance I currently have.
-A washing machine and dryer in my house/place of residence. Laundromats with men who talk to themselves and machines that eat your delicates are just unpleasant, awkward and expensive.
-Windows that don't allow huge breezes in, forcing you to tape plastic bags over windows in the winter. (Our sail came down about a month ago, and our window is back!)
-Windows that don't shatter when you try to close them, forever scarring you and making you rethink shutting the windows in the future.

All that being said, I realize this is the time in my life to live with a leaky ceiling, tape plastic bags over my windows, and warn visitors about the toilet. "Don't be frightened if it sounds like jet engine when you flush it, and you don't forget to jiggle the handle after the bowl drains!" In all of the ghettoness, there's a level of endearing charm.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What I Did Over My Spring Vacation

Yeah, that's right, we're doing this grade-school, journal-entry style.

Day One
Day One was spent traveling around the region in search of antique stores with Brittanica. We ended up at an adorable store in Buchanan, VA where I irresponsibly purchased a ring, scarf and the world's best salt and pepper shaker. Buchanan is also a lovely town. I ended the day grabbing dinner with some fantastic friends.

Day Two
Day Two was rainy. Like, rainy to the point that OfficeMate and I had to have our trashcan ready for Ceiling Leak Part III. It didn't leak, miracle of miracles (did the repairmen fix the roofing issue? MAYBE!), but we were prepared nonetheless. Britannica coaxed me out of the apartment to see Jane Eyre, which was honestly fantastic. For any literature nerds out there, I was supremely impressed with this redentiion. This was also my first soiree with The Grandin Theater, which was just as quaint and fantastic as I had hoped.

By Tuesday night, I was beginning to feel slightly ill. I had initally chalked it up to allergies, but this was worse than allergies. I went to bed, and awoke to ...

Day Three
Sick. So very ill. Sinus headache, runny nose, congested beyond belief... the list of symptons could go on. How I got ill, I'm still not sure. My only adventure yesterday was to CVS to buy some Sudafed and a second box of tissues for the apartment. I played a few rounds of Mario Kart 64 with OfficeMate (who promptly schooled me), napped a lot, and enjoyed watching Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2-0.


Day Four
Better! Only one Sudafed today, and I'm still alive and kicking. I woke up early(ish) and began the dreaded job-hunting process. I have my resume ready to go and cranked out a few cover letters. (Okay, one. But I want to have more done before I go to bed!) OfficeMate and I deep-cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, because it seemed appropriate.
You know how I get antsy sometimes in this town, and turn to cooking? Well, after churning out the cover letters (...singular. Letter.), I high-tailed it to Kroger and got my grocery ON.

You see, a week or so ago, I bought a bunch of fresh basil for a salad I made for an office party. Since I'm not accustomed to fresh basil in my kitchen, I never thought to use it. I realized today that it was beginning to look a little wonky, so, with the assistance of OfficeMate's cashews, I made some mad delicious pesto. Who knew you didn't have to have pine nuts to make pesto? (These ladies. Best new blog find, seriously. I have an unhealthy addiction to food blogs.)

While making pesto, my neighborhood earned some street cred. The Po Po visited my building. Why, I'm still not sure. But here's a picture for proof! It also proves that I'm a creeper and take photos out of my window while trying to be sneaky about moving the curtain aside.
Day Five
We shall see! Tomorrow is supposed to be a glorious 68 degrees and sunny meaning... I want to get my hike on. Hopefully OfficeMate won't be too sick (my bad!) to go.