Farewell 2007

I'm back in D.C. after a nice stay in ATL. I really enjoyed being at home. It was very relaxing and I think I spent most of the time eating or watching TV. The highlight of my stay was playing Scrabble with my family, seeing Enchanted with my mom, and catching up with my high school friends. I look forward to going home in February for my mom and aunt's 60th birthday and taking the full week to explore downtown and my old 'hood.

I can't believe that 2007 will be over in just a few more hours. 2007 was both the best and worst year of my life. I had so much fun spending time with old and new friends and pursuing and achieving personal goals. But, I had a hard time adjusting to life without Floyd, with a job that has increasingly become less enjoyable (time for a change!), and with the mistake/lesson learned that was Mr. Rebound.

I'm very optimistic that 2008 will be a great year. I will avoid the love/lust mistakes I made this year in favor of living up what I hope will be my final year in D.C. In particular, here are a few of my goals for 2008:

  1. Finalize the Peace Corps application process and go! I need to get serious with the application. I can't keep telling folks that I'm going to the Peace Corps next fall, if I haven't applied…
  2. Fitness: I want to ramp up my fitness routine in 2008. I know that my fitness level has improved since I joined the gym but I want to go even further in increasing my endurance, strength, and flexibility.
  3. Explore/Revisit: I have a ton of "bright ideas" of things I want to do to celebrate my last year in D.C. I've already drafted A-M, G.F.A., and other friends to come along and I hope that, together, we can check a few locales off my list. For example, I want to tour the White House, Washington Monument and Senate. I also want to head back to NYC, Philly and AC before I go.

So here's to a very memorable year, and I hope that 2008 is even better.

Happy New Year Everyone!


Live from ATL

Greetings from Atlanta. I'm enjoying the time home with my family. I had a great Christmas. I ate so much food and we played Scrabble after opening the presents. I totally lost at Scrabble, but I won on the presents. The coolest thing I got for Christmas, which I bought for myself, is a tea infuser shaped like a teapot. Finally, I'll be able to sample the loose tea I bought this summer in Paris. Otherwise, I got cash that I hope to spend on clothes--probably jeans and a pair of boots.

I have at least two goals while I'm home, to finish my peace corps essays and to finalize my writer's group submission. I haven't worked on either yet, but I have spent a crazy amount of time watching television. It amazing how much television I've watched and how many snacks I've eaten while watching tv (yay, cheese puffs!!). It's no wonder that I weighed more when I lived at home. All I did was eat and watch tv in my free time. In D.C., because I don't have cable, I spend a lot of time reading and "going places" via metro or my own two feet to fill my day.

I'm hoping to dig out my old bike today. I'd love to ride it around the neighborhood for exercise. I would love to buy a bike for D.C., but I'm too afraid to ride it around given that the D.C. drivers don't know how to drive. But maybe, I will.


Homeward Bound

In only a few more days, I'll be in Atlanta. I haven't been home since last Christmas and it will be nice to sleep in my old bed again. For my week in ATL, I plan on sleeping in and watching lots of cable television. I also I hope to make the usual rounds to the mall (Perimeter and Lenox) and the Varsity with my mom and to Waffle House with the handful of high school friends that I'm still in touch with. I might even head to the neighborhood gym for a few yoga sessions to help banish holiday stress and combat the excess calories I'll consume.

I do miss living in Atlanta and seeing my high school friends and family on a regular basis, but I've been in D.C. long enough that D.C. feels like home. So, even while I'm sleeping in my old bed and visiting my old haunts, I'll be thinking about D.C. and longing to be off I-85 and back on the Metro.


Work Holiday Party - All about Karaoke

We set a pretty high bar at this year's work holiday party. A nice amount of people showed up and we had a pretty cool live band. After the band was the central event of the night, karaoke! Our office actually spent a few hundred dollars on a karaoke machine. It's definitely a good investment, given that we will use it at all our program retreats and office events. Karaoke was a hit at last year's party and this year was no different. I enjoyed watching my coworkers take the stage and belt out their favorite songs.

Among the songs I sang, A-M and I did a duet of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Actually, I did more of a William Shatner dramatic talk because I was unable to reach most of the notes. It's so sad that I've lost my singing voice. When I was a kid I was a fairly nice soprano, but now those extended octaves have disappeared. Perhaps, I just need more karaoke practice because I know that I can hit just about any note when singing in my shower.

Tuesday's karaoke was the first time since high school that I've done karaoke. A friend and I used to go to this random Korean/Thai restaurant in Doraville, GA and request songs by Madonna and Abba. Most of the folks there would request songs popular in their native country, so we definitely were a bit out of place. But it was a load of fun. Ah, that reminds me of going salsa dancing and also to clubs in Buckhead with that same friend. I was so into the nightlife scene during my senior year of high school—something that was intensified as a freshman in D.C. and continues today. It will be a sad day when I'm too old, unhip, and busy to go out. Or maybe, I'll just be the old hag in the corner wearing a metallic tube top and skinny, dark wash jeans (assumingly that won't be "in" in 2040).

Gosh, I'm starting to ramble. Let me wrap up. The work holiday party was great (and hopefully my last at my current employer!) and I think that I'll add karaoke to my list of things to do in D.C. before I leave.


Another Holiday Party

This weekend, I attended a very memorable holiday party. A-M and a bunch of her friends rented out the top part of the 17th Street Cafe to celebrate the end of the year. Most of my buddies from work were in attendance as well as the trio I met through Tree Hugger happy hour (Chatty-Chica rules! I can't wait for our trip to Marvin in 2008!).

I must say that I looked hot. I don't mean to brag or sound superficial, but I worked really hard to transform myself from my usual drab tomboy look into a pretty woman with actual sex appeal. Most importantly, I properly repaired and accessorized the Betsey Johnson dress I scored at Marshall's.

I am not a fan of Marshall's or any of those other discount stores. In fact, every time I enter those stores, I feel faint. My mom says it's due to the recycled, unfiltered store air--mixed with an overwhelming array of junk. But last spring, I scored a lovely purse and just a week ago, I landed a $35 fixer-up dress. The dress was ripped along the split and was missing its belt and removable straps. But I easily remedied it with careful sewing and sniping and a $7 lace scarf from Target. I paired the dress with a cute pair of shoes I'd been eying at JC Penny's for a month--only $14 after $46-worth of discounts!.

I think I did very well for a holiday outfit on a very tight budget. I doubt that I'll ever wear the dress again--I don't think such a thing would be useful in the Peace Corps and I'll probably return from the Peace Corps fat--so that it will be given to a friend or to the Goodwill. As for the shoes, they are super cute but not that comfortable. I'll probably wear them a few times before also giving them away.

It's rather silly and wasteful for me to have spent $60 on an outfit I'll never wear again, but the joy and ego boost I got from transforming myself was truly worth it. My look and aura last Saturday isn't something that I anticipant recreating that often--in fact I've only dressed up a handful of times this year--but it is a great reminder of my potential.

I thank A-M for inviting me to such an amazing holiday party and I thank all my work buddies for sharing such a memorable night with me.

Happy Holidays, all!


A Trip to the Renwick Gallery

Today, I decided to spend part of my lunch break at the Renwick Gallery. I've passed by that building so many times before and given that today is a rather slow at work and the sun is still shining, I decided to take a look.

First of all, the building is beautiful. The exterior and interior are both grand and reflect the architecture and styling of the time period. The grand salon really was grand, and I enjoyed viewing George Caitlin's stacked paintings of the "wild west" and the first peoples of America. I didn't get a chance to view the temporary exhibits on the first floor, but I did visit the rooms showcasing American crafts and decorative arts. I am still in disbelief that Wendell Castle's Ghost Clock is made entirely of Honduras mahogany (that just has to be a sheet and not bleached wood!). I also enjoyed "I am nobody" (I forget the artists), which I found haunting and raw yet beautiful.

I think I'll take one more trip to the Renwick before the end of the year to study the Ghost Clock once again, to adore the grandness of the upstairs salon, and to check out the exhibits on the first floor. Then, it's on to the Corcoran Gallery, Decatur House, and the Octagon. Am I missing anything else in this neighborhood?


Fuel Economy - Up the MPG!

One of the environmental issues near to my heart is fuel economy. Particularly after a short internship in the House and researching background information for my thesis, I became very interested in the decades-long lack of federal action to increase fuel economy.

Low fuel economy hurts consumers, forcing them to fill up their vehicles more often. I'm sure that most folks never really thought much about fuel economy, that is, until gasoline prices broke $3/gallon and fuel costs started to affect the family budget. Now, people care and are clamoring for solutions.

Low fuel economy contributes to our oil dependence--which continues to be a major national security issue for our country. The more oil we use to power our vehicles, the more exploring and drilling we have to do in our own backyards or import from abroad (which we do the most).

And then, there is global warming. Raising fuel economy standards will reduce the amount of global warming pollution that is emitted by vehicles. Generally, for every gallon of gasoline that is consumed, about 24 pounds of global warming pollution is emitted (during the full life-cycle). With more efficient vehicles, folks can travel using less fuel--resulting in reduced oil consumption, global warming emissions, and fill-up frequency.

Fuel economy standards governing the vehicles on America's road haven't been substantially changed in 32 years (see note later about light trucks). That's right, 32 years. Congress, back in 1975--in reaction to the Arab Oil Embargo--passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act which set standards governing the fuel economy of passenger vehicles. Congress sought to double the efficiency of the American fleet by 1985, which they did. But no increase has been mandated since that time--except for a mere 1.5 mpg increase for light duty trucks. As a result, the average fuel economy of the American fleet has languished since the late 1980s and actually dipped a few points as a result of loopholes (what's a law without a loophole?) and the influx of light duty vehicles (SUVs, pickups, etc) that were governed by lower standards.

But now, the tide is changing. Our oil dependence was highlighted by our President, an oil man, and in the past few weeks and months, diverse groups have acknowledged the need for increased fuel economy standards. As the holiday break for Congress approaches, it becomes clear that D-day on fuel economy is neigh.

The 2007 Energy Bill contains an agreement that will increase the fuel economy of the U.S. fleet to 35 mpg by 2020. Assuming that the Senate renegotiates the "controversial" tax provisions out of the bill (of course, we shouldn't increase taxes for the oil companies--they've just had record profits!), both chambers of Congress are set to pass the Energy Bill, and thereby the fuel economy provisions. One can only imagine what our unfortunate president will do...

I've had my fingers crossed for the past few weeks regarding this bill and I continue to pray that Congress and the White House will do the right thing and finally, increase fuel economy.

[Hippo Q. quietly steps down from her soap box.]


Cake at DAR

Last night, I attended the Cake concert at DAR Constitution Hall. Although they didn't play "The Distance" or "Let Me Go" (my two favorite songs), it was a great show and I wiggled and sang my heart out. The highlight of their performance, besides the hits, was their rendition of Kenny Roger's "Ruby." I haven't heard that song in a long time and I didn't realize that it is about a disabled vet.

Consitution Hall is such a weird place for a concert. Sitting down in the amphitheatre before the show, I felt as if I was about to hear a boring lecture on gun law. It is not at all inducive for rocking out to a band and the nazi-security guards were major buzz kills. We kept trying to get into the aisles to dance--instead of standing between the cramped row of seats, but the guards stopped us all. It was so weird to be at a concert where people are sitting and the security folks won't let you dance in the aisles.

I saw Celia Cruz perform at DAR a few years ago. It was an amazing show, and it was surreal that we were all sitting down--deterred by the guards despite the infectious music. After a few songs, we finally got up and invaded the aisles to dance. En masse the guards can't do anything. There was a need for an aisle invasion last night. But I settled for dancing in my row.

Last night made me really appreciate such live music venues as the 9:30 Club, Black Cat, and Velvet Lounge. Those place allow people to really get into the music and dance and jump along to the rhythm. Hmm...I think it's time for another show.


Just Breathe!

I'm feeling rather antsy right now. I would love to write about Chatty Chica's party and the cute fixer-upper I scored at Marshall's. Or even, brag about going to the Cake concert tonight. But, there are at least two things hanging over my head right now that are keeping me anxious: my Peace Corps application and my writing.

Peace Corps
Last Friday, I finally summoned the courage to ask my supervisor for a recommendation—thereby, notifying him that I'll be putting in my 2 weeks notice in five to nine months (the normal Peace Corps application process time). Being a histrionic weirdo, I prefaced the request with a story about my desire for a challenge and to take the next step ("I've enjoyed my time working here and I've given it a lot of thought. I feel that now is the time to…"). For a minute or so, I even had myself believing that I was about to put in my two weeks notice.

The fact that I have put in my notice and continue to broadcast my Peace Corps dreams to all whom will listen makes me anxious to finally finish the damn application—which I started last December (and several other Decembers before) and just never finished because I didn't want to deal with writing the essays. But I've given myself one month to finish the essays. I figure that I can get an okay draft by Christmas and then, spend time in Atlanta finalizing it. The next step is to secure the other two recommendations and submit the application. Thereafter, I can focus on the interview, medical/dental records, and final nomination.

Ideally, I'd leave right after next year's election. I want to spend at least two more months at my current employer before moving to a position on the Hill (Keep your fingers crossed!). Most likely, I'll officially move home next fall to spend my last few months with my family before packing up for 2.25 years.

It's so bad that I haven't written anything new in weeks. I've been either avoiding my story all together or editing what I've already written (which isn't much—just about 20 pages that encompass the first third of the story).

I'm unsure how I want the story to proceed. I know the ending but I don't really know how to best go about the protagonist's actualization. My turn for critique at my writing group is coming up in about a month, so I need to have something by then. Mostly, I need to have text that shows an improvement since my last critique—and I'm not there yet. So again, I'm hoping that I can devote a few nights to getting some new thoughts on paper before working on a selection to submit.

I had hoped to be finished with the basics of the story by now, but instead I feel that I'm even further away from finishing. I guess I didn't realize how hard writing can be, and though I know the key is just to write, I have trouble finding the time or will power to spend an hour or two at the task. But when I do, as I did the Friday after Thanksgiving, it's quite exhilarating. Hopefully, my time at home will afford a few late nights of writing. I'll make some hot cocoa and cake and spend the night doing something I enjoy.


The cosmos thought otherwise

Last night, I was supposed to see a production of the musical Hair at GWU. I thought that I had planned everything just right, but as seems to be the tradition of anything that I plan, everything sort of imploded. First was the problem of the dinner location being too crowded (a faculty holiday party took up all of Lindy's upstairs seating). We settled for tasty Mehran, which not everyone was enamored with, before getting in line at 6:20 for tickets. All except for six or so tickets are already sold, so we left the stage door without hearing so much as the first lines of the opening tune, Aquarius.

As a coworker put it, the cosmos had something else in mind for my first viewing of Hair. I've wanted to see the show since I was a child, listening to my father's Boston Pop Does Broadway. From that moment, I started researching the show, purchasing the Hair movie and soundtrack and original broadway soundtrack. I even stumbled across the screenplay at the local library. I was obsessed with the 1960s like most of the kids of my generation and Hair revealed to me a slice of that crazy time period.

So, seeing Hair in Central Park or on stage in NYC didn't happen this fall and seeing a production at my alma mater didn't happen. What gives? Perhaps, I'm supposed to see it in April of 2008, the 40th anniversary of the first Broadway show (2007 was the anniversary of the off-broadway production). And if not that, there is always the 50th anniversary. Someday, someway, I will see that show.

Where do I go
Follow my heartbeat
Where do I go
Follow my hand

Where will they lead me
And will I ever
Discover why I live and die


"Oh, the weather outside is frightful..."

Aww, the first snow of the season! Although I love snow and think that it's beautiful, it always makes me feel rather wistful. I didn't grow up with lots of white stuff, but I have so many great memories of snow/ice/sleet; and I will always smile like a child at the sight of the first snow of the season.

Today, I'm reminded of "snow" days as a kid in Atlanta. In the winter, Atlanta normally get loads of ice or just an inch of snow--that results in the closing of schools, mass hysteria at the grocery store, and sudden driving incompetence on the roads. The house I grew up in was built on a random incline (it was weird because all the houses around us were a few feet lower than ours--as if the builder wanted to ensure that our house overlooked all the others). My sister used to slide down our iced/snowed over driveway, and I used to take out my sand castle set and make figures in the snow. I also made sure to save a few cups of snow in our huge freezer--that's how special and uncommon snow was growing up.

I'm also reminded of the few amazing snowstorms I've experienced in D.C.--going crazy with classmates on the deserted National Mall or cozily sip homemade hot cocoa with my first love. Oh, and the time my lover and I spent hours clearing the sidewalks and car, fearful of falling or being iced in--only to have the sun come out and the temperature rise to a balmy 55 degrees F the following work day. Despite the mountain of balls I made that morning, I never did pelt him with a ice/snowball. My aim was always off.


A few more big ideas

Things are going well, and aside from my love life, I don't have any complaints. But yesterday, I felt unbelievably anxious and unchallenged. I know that my anxiety stems from finalizing my Peace Corps application and furthering my novella. But, I don't know why I feel unchallenged, given all the new things I'm doing these days. Maybe, it's just another flare-up of twenty-something-itis. So, I'll just apply a band-aid and give myself another near-term challenge involving fitness, income generation and/or creative expression to distract me:

Fitness: I've toyed with the idea of running a marathon or half-marathon for a few years now. Perhaps, 2008 is the year. Indeed, I was inspired by Bend It Like Beckham (which I watched, along with Casi Casi this weekend) to boost my fitness level. I think I finally will add more strength and endurance training to my mild fitness routine. I might even enroll in an adult ballet class to supplement the flexibility, balance, awareness, and strength training thrice-weekly yoga provides.

Income: I've already mentioned that I want to find a part time job. I've been talked out of the bartending and catering scheme, so I think I'll reapply to work at some of the stores in my 'hood. Someone has to be hiring for weekends and evening shifts. And, I'm ready to give a dozen hours per weekend to earn a cash for an amazing summer vacation, though I already sense that I'll regret the extra hours.

Creativity: I'm slowly moving forward with my creative writing venture. I really like the writer's group I joined and have learned a lot about writing from it. But there has to be some other route of creative expression for me. I've decided against music, so perhaps, theatre is it. Or, I could finally start that board game group I've been talking about forever. I'll keep you posted.