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:
Virginia Pilot
Arlington Catholic Herald

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).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


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.