Moving on: Declutter!

I can't believe the first month of 2008 is almost over. While I've honestly worked toward some of my goals for 2008, there is so much more that needs to be done—particularly in the particulars of preparing to leave D.C. for good.

I don't intend to renew my lease this summer because I want to spend few months living downtown before I head home. Ideally, by then, I'll also have a low-paying Hill job that won't support my current rent.

I'll be looking for a shared space in NW that costs much less than $1000 (let me know if you have any leads!). Trust me, I know this whole undertaking won't be easy. I've moved a lot during my time in D.C.--not only between dormitories (6 in all!) but also between my own two apartments. And, of course, I've helped Floyd apartment search and move about four times. I think all those experiences have made me realistic about searching for housing in D.C. and knowledgeable about the expected cost and hassle of moving.

Moving will be especially stressful since I've amassed so much stuff. I came to D.C. in 1999 with a few suitcases and a box, and I'll leave D.C. 9 years later with a small truckload of stuff. I hope to remedy that by reducing what I have during the next five months. I've already started thinking about what I will sell, donate, recycle, trash, and bring to ATL. I've always wanted to minimize my possessions and live simply and this will be my opportunity to do so.

Hopefully, after this process, I will only have a small corner of stuff left. I will move about 80 percent of it home to Atlanta in June (no more than enough to fill an SUV) and move the remaining 20 percent to my new place in D.C. in July (no more than the stuff I deem necessary—i.e. clothes, toiletries, linen, kitchen stuff, and whatever else I can fit in my 3 oversized duffle bags + a bed and dressing table). Those three duffle bags are all that I want to bring home in December. Wish me luck!


Capitol Hill Dreamin’

One of my last dreams this morning involved me nervously applying in-person for a Senate job. Other dreams that I can remember from last night also involved my career direction or lack thereof.

My anxiety to secure a job on the Hill is definitely increasing. I want to get a position before March so that I can have a minimum of 6 months as a staffer before I have to ship off for the developing world. I've already started to enlist a few of Floyd's friends to help out. As one of them noted, a lot of folks will be flocking from the Hill to take part in the campaigns. So there should be plenty of good opportunities for me to participate in the legislative process (whatever that may be in an election year…). So I am encouraged but still anxious to sit down and draft my cover letters and scour the listings for a position made just for me.

I plan to pump out at least 5 applications for LA, LC, and staff assistant positions on both the Senate and House side this weekend. Although I'd love to be an environmental/energy LA (House) or LC (Senate), I would be satisfied with a lower level position (which would pay less and be more stressful) given that it would be for a term of less than one year. It will suck to start a legislative track on the Hill in 2008 only to leave as soon as I've formed relationships and established credentials. But Peace Corps is calling…loudly.


Chocolate Soymilk + A Date

Thanks a lot, Whole Foods.

Thanks for reminding me that Valentine's Day is only two weeks away and that once again, I don't have a Valentine.

Yesterday, I stopped at Whole Foods on my way home to buy some chocolate milk, which I'd been craving, along with hot cocoa, all weekend. As a side note: Silk's Chocolate Soy Milk is phenomenal. It does seem to contain a lot of sugar, but given that I'll only drink it occasionally as an celebratory or dessert beverage, I should be fine. Indeed, I'm a water drinker 90% of the time.

Okay, so back to my story. At the checkout counter, I was handed a flyer that read:

Come meet area singles, enjoy a festive atmosphere and sample delicious food pairings throughout our store Thursday, February 7 from 6pm to 9 pm.

Of course, being a bitter singleton with low self-esteem, I got defensive. Why did cashier hand me such a flyer but not the woman in front of me? Is it obvious that I'm single? Sure, I don't wear a ring, but are there other tale-tale signs that mark me as a single woman? Do I have an unconscious tarty air that says, "I'm in the market for love…or whatever I can get"? Was it the fact that I was clearly buying enough chocolate soymilk, apples, and almonds for one? (Once before, a man in line noted that I must live alone because I was only buying enough food for one person. That actually freaked me out—I'm always on alert for potential stalkers!).

For the record, I do not plan on going to Whole Foods next Thursday to find a lover as interested in fair trade, organic and locally grown food as I. Nor will I attend any of the advertised Professionals in the City, etc. "Find a Valentine" events. Given that I met Mr. Rebound last V-Day, I think I'll even avoid my single friends' V-Day night out. Instead, this V-Day I'll be home alone. But don't feel sorry for me. I'll be engrossed in yet another Jane Austen novel, drinking chocolate soy milk, eating glorious take-out, and most of all, celebrating the "damn it, I can be content though single" me.


Masterpiece Theatre’s production of Mansfield Park

As I told Floyd yesterday, Masterpiece Theatre's productions of Austen's works are one of the few joys in my life right now. So maybe that is a gross exaggeration given all the things that I'm filling my days with, but it is true that rereading Austen and watching the latest BBC productions have given me great joy during the past few weeks. I have always loved Austen but have never considered reading all of her works in succession as I am now. I have about fifty more pages left in Northanger Abbey—which I find tiresome right now because Catherine is really so silly(!). Then, I'll set off to reread Mansfield Park.

I enjoyed Sunday's BBC Production of Mansfield Park. Mansfield Park has to be one of my favorite Austen books (after Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion). I like its treatment of social climbing and (minor) descent and the sweet love story between Fanny and Edmund. My only complaint was that the first portion of the film seemed to be lacking something—though I still can't quite figure out what. I would assume that this sentiment just relates to the absence of the full character and story development that are found in the book. I'm sure that the other problem is that beyond comparing the production to the book, I also tend to compare the current production to the previous BBC version I've seen.

Nevertheless, the setting, costumes, and characterizations were solid, though David Weigand of the San Francisco Chronicle was less than happy with the portrayal of Fanny. Indeed, I was troubled by her appearance. I would have imagined a plainer and less wild (as in her hair) Fanny in comparison to her fair cousins. Though she did look familiar, I wouldn't have guessed that Billie Piper, who played Fanny, is a former pop star.

I'm sorry for being so redundant in my posts regarding the new Austen productions. I promise that I will have something new to say about Sunday's show—Jane Austen Regrets—which is a new story based on the author's life.

Postscript (1/31/08): After watching the second showing on Thursday, I think I figured out what was unsettling about the production. The music, camera angles and general direction make some scenes seem really soap-opera-ish. That makes it entertaining but more overly dramatic that I'd have liked.



I don't think that I've yet conveyed my enthusiasm for Marvin on this blog. So here goes:

The Bar
After reading the Washington Post Marvin review last November, I was convinced that I just had to visit the hip new bar named after D.C.'s own. For months, I plotted excursions to Marvin , and the one night I had the opportunity to visit, I was confronted by a super long line (it wasn't even 11 pm!). Thankfully, this weekend, I finally got to check it out. I arrived around 9 pm and scored a great seat in the upstairs, indoor room right near the window. Enjoying the views of U and 14th streets, I relaxed and sipped my well-mixed gin and tonic. It was too dark for me to check out the photographs on the wall, but I did recognize a well-known poster of Josephine Baker, which I also have at home. I was disappointed that Marvin Gaye wasn't on a constant loop, but I liked the funk/soul music mix that was played. I will definitely be back to Marvin in the near future for an early drink (before it gets crowded and the DJ starts). It's a very chill place early in the night and, particularly if you can score that window seat, well worth the trip.

The Musician
Marvin Gaye is one of my favorite musicians of all time. I can remember listening to his music with my father as a child and grooving along to the Marvin Gaye hour when I first arrived in D.C. Few songs/performers can incite the sort of the sensual jubilation I feel when listening to "Come Get to This" and few can incite feelings of heartache like "Distant Lover" (live!) or "I Want You." I love his Motown sound, but I adore his later work, particularly "What's Going On." I can remember the first time I connected with that album. I was so amazed by his versatility. He soulfully expressed love, spirituality, and an array of emotions (hope/despair/anger) regarding the events of that time.

It is very sad that his life ended so early and that he had to endure so many significant personal struggles--that, I suppose, helped spur his creative expression through music. He was definitely a musical great and will be revered and on a constant loop in my CD player until I die.


Masterpiece Theatre's production of Northanger Abbey

Wow, I had another great weekend. Although I didn't get an opportunity to celebrate MLK weekend as I had intended, I made significant progress with my Peace Corps application, read a lot, went to Marvin (!), and spent quality time with friends. But of course, I want to dedicate this entry to the Masterpiece Theatre production of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, which aired on Sunday night.

Northanger Abbey is the one story that I remember least among all of Austen's works, but I hope to revisit it this week before the re-airing of the production Thursday evening. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed Northanger Abbey. I think the actors did a great job of conveying the sense of the book. The actress who played Catherine particularly did a great job of portraying the young heroine. I really liked the interspersed fantasy sequences because they helped convey the wondrous imagination of Catherine, given all the gothic romance novels she's read. Seeing the sort of enjoyment that Catherine gets out of gothic romance novels makes me want to read Ann Radcliffe's, The Mysteries of Udolpho. Indeed, my interpretation and level of enjoyment will probably be different from Catherine's, but it should be interesting. As with Persuasion, the costumes and the settings were solid. Unlike Austen's subsequent books, Northanger Abbey isn't a complex or layered story, though many themes (e.g., status, propriety, money, etc) that are treated in later works do surface. Check out this review for more specific commentary.

Austen wrote Northanger Abbey over the course of one year when she was 23, though the book wasn't published until after her death. Her gift is truly amazing and I can only hope to aspire to her magnificence in clever, moving storytelling.

In response to the underlying question in the novel, I think that one can read too many novels and that reading many novels can result in an extension of the suspension of reality created by the novel into the reader's everyday life. In this way, the reader, like Catherine, begans to interpret and imagine reality in literary terms with dubious results. Life is not like a book. In fact, it's better. Books provide a lifetime of enjoyment to readers but by no means can the wonders of literature replace wonders of everyday exchange and the struggles of living. Nor should it. So, keep reading but also live.

Next up: Mansfield Park. It will be aired this Sunday at 9 on MPT and WETA. I've already checked the book out of the library in order to reread it before Sunday.


Recession & the Stimulus Package

Money, money, money
Always sunny
In the rich mans world

I'm getting really annoyed by all the talk of a recession and the importance of stimulating the economy by boosting consumer spending. It seems that the Administration and Congress intend pursue a $140-$145 billion stimulus package that will provide a "timely, targeted and temporary" response to our slowing economic growth. Funneling this money directly to the American people, through rebates, an extension of unemployment benefits, and tax perks for business, is intended to get money in the hands of consumers within the next year to help boost economic activity and in the near term, banish fears of a recession.

Although I certainly lack knowledge of economics (macro was a breeze, but micro was a killer!), it seems to me that this method of rescuing the economy seems senseless. I understand the importance of the rebates particularly for low-income and middle-income individuals (perhaps, $800) and households (perhaps, $1,600). Many folks are struggling to provide food, shelter and heat for their families. But the likeliness that such rebates are funneled into non-essential consumer items like Plasma TVs, new wardrobes, landscaping, etc. is high. I don't necessarily have a problem which such consumption but to have national leaders encouraging consumer spending is troublesome.

As was noted in the media regarding consumer spending during the holidays, spending was up but so was the amount of consumer debt. So, people are encouraged to spend money to keep the economic going (yay!), but they are using money that they don't have (boo!). This sort of debt--not slowed growth--is what seems to make the U.S. economy the most vulnerable, at least in teh short term.

I follow (75% of the time) the tradition of saving money for a rainy day--it distinctly follows the Depression-era mentality that my grandmother and father held. And, I plan on being one of the few Americans who uses her rebate check for savings. I don't have any outstanding financial woes, so I see the rebate as a gift from the government not a a free-pass to go out a buy new clothes and furnishings (that I'll have to leave behind in less than a year if the Peace Corps accepts me), but as a gift to supplement my short-term and retirement savings—which though steady, aren't at all where I want them to be.

I urge folks to be mindful when they receive their rebate checks. I know that you've been fantasizing about owning an amazing [INSERT ITEM] for the past year, but might that money be better used for another purpose (savings, reducing debt, etc) even if only 10 percent of it?

I urge folks not to listen to the "spend more money" nonsense of our President and his cronies. I assure you that even if you don't spend (beyond your means), the economy will be just fine in the long term, and most of all, your own economic well-being will be in better shape.


At Work: Passing the time with minimal effort

Yesterday, I had lunch with an old professor/advisor and a fellow geography graduate. Among the topics we discussed was the act of passing the time at work with minimal effort. My professor recently moved to a new job that proved more challenging and fulfilling than a previous position. He admitted that during the last months at his previous job, he gave minimal effort to get the job done but 110% in his search for alternative employment. My grad school friend, who is looking for new job, also finds herself passing the time at work while she keeps an eye out for the next big step.

And I'm in the same boat. As I approach the two-year mark at my current job, I'm becoming more and more restless for a change and a challenge in my career. I know that Peace Corps service will provide the change and challenge that I desire but it can't come soon enough. As I'm sure I've mentioned on this blog before, I would like to work on the Hill before I leave D.C. I doubt that I'd be willing to take a probable pay cut to work on the Hill when I'm older and have more financial responsibilities. So now is my opportunity to try it out. I'm not excited about the pay cut or the reduced autonomy/responsibility that I'll have as a staff assistant or other menial position. But I think it is a small sacrifice to fulfill my dream of working on the Hill.

I'd been hesitant to seriously apply to Hill openings in the past. I felt that I needed to complete at least two full years of service at my current job in order to provide a solid work reference for my resume and give myself enough time to "hit my stride" and be more productive in my position. I now realize that there isn't much mobility at work and as I keep reminding myself, my current job was only meant to beef up my resume while I decided when/where I should go to school for a PhD. Most likely, when I return from the Peace Corps, I will work in ATL for a short-time before moving to NYC or Southern California (another of my life goals) for a PhD program or employment to build my case for the PhD track.

So, here I am once again passing the time at work--giving no less than 85%, just enough to get the job done. It's quite unfortunate that it has come to this, but it is feeding the fire that has finally given me the courage to strike out for more.


Masterpiece Theatre's production of Persuasion

I had a great weekend. I attended a wonderful birthday celebration on Friday, volunteered at the NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo on Saturday, and invested in some super-cool running shoes on Sunday.

But the highlight of my weekend, which has been building up since my last post, was watching the new Masterpiece Theatre production of Jane Austen's Persuasion. It was a very enjoyable. The character portrayals were stellar and the script, costumes and settings were solid. It effectively captured the spirit of Jane Austen's final, completed work. Most of all, I think this production, compared to a previous BBC production I've seen, more closely depicted Anne Elliot's anxiety and distress after refusing a lover and her seeming resignation to her station as an old, spinster at 27 (!). It was a time when class, connections, and money were valued above all else--and those values were very evident in her family's pursuits and sentiments.

I did feel that the ending was a bit rushed. It even felt artificial. I think the root of the problem is that I anticipated a part 1 and 2 Persuasion saga as is common for most Masterpiece productions. So, when the time neared 1030, I was stunned that the story was rushing to conclusion. Plus, I found distressing that some of the outstanding issues (e.g., the reaction of Anne's family to Wentworth's proposal, the exposure of Mr. Elliot's true intentions, and Mrs. Clay's relationship with Sir Walter Elliot) weren't completely resolved during the 1.5 hour show. See Robert Bianco's USA Today article for other significant flaws in the production that most Jane Austen purest would abhor.

Anyway, I checked Persuasion out of the library on Sunday, so that I can revisit the story this week. I hope that rereading the novel will remind me of my own interpretation of the story to contrast that of the BBC's production.

Next up is Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, another story that I enjoy but that also makes me very anxious. I am so happy that I don't live during that time period as a woman's station was so limited by marriage and money. But, perhaps if I hadn't grown up in a post-feminist world, I wouldn't have known of my "plight." Then again, as a "light-skinned" African American woman, I probably would have been limited further. In fact, my career goal probably would have been to become a servant in the Big House, in addition to running an efficient household with ten kids of my own. Gosh, how much things have changed in just a few generations. Thank God, things have changed—though not entirely.


"Running into the sun but I’m running behind" (Jackson Browne)

I ran five miles last night, and my entire body can still feel it.

As a part of my new year's resolution to expand my fitness routine, I tried out the "fun run" in my neighborhood.  Like L-M, I figured that fun run would equal a short run, like a mile or two. You can imagine my surprise when I was told that the "fun run" was actually 5.2 miles long.  I haven't done significant cardio since the summer, and even then it was just step aerobics or swimming.  I feel that I'm in shape because of yoga, but not in shape enough to run 5.2 miles.

As you can imagine, I struggled, particularly on the hills on the way back.  But I made it.

When I was running, I started to think about my father.  He was an avid runner and I can remember watching him run around the high school track as I rode my bicycle or played soccer.  I know that he was looking down at me last night and smiling—proud that I decided to challenge myself and try something that had been a big part of his life. 

Tonight, I'll switch back to my favorite fitness activity, yoga, to stretch out and relax my body (which is still a bit on edge after yesterday) and mind/spirit (which also seem hyperactive right now).  I hope that my knees and legs will recover after tonight's yoga session (in addition to applying proper running form and wearing good running shoes) so that I'm ready for another run this Thursday or next Tuesday. 

I am so proud of my small accomplishment and I hope that I continue to try new things and stick with those that fit.


Attacked by a squirrel!

Given that the weather was unseasonable warm today, I decided to eat my lunch in Lafayette Park.  It's where I normally spend my lunchtimes if the weather permits, and after months, of being cooped inside during my free hour, I jumped at the chance to sit in the park without a heavy coat.

The lunchtime started typically enough.  I had trouble finding a bench, given that the park was overrun with tourists and workers enjoying the false spring.  Finally, I decided on a bench facing the sun with a great view of the White House and settled in to start eating my lunch (a sandwich and apple).

Anyway, I took a few bites of what I'd say was the tastiest (though messy as it was overloaded with peanut butter and honey) sandwich I've ever had.  It was simply divine.  I was sitting with my arms partly crossed with my sandwich in my right hand in front of my mouth and my left arm snug against my belly with my left hand dangling near my waist.

All of a sudden, I felt a delicate nibbling at my fingers. I turned, and there was a squirrel sitting on the bench right next to me.  I grab my things and jumped up in horror.  I quickly glanced at my fingertips, expecting the sight of blood.  Thank God, there was none. 

A guy sitting on the bench next to me noticed and attempted to shoo it away.  The squirrel didn't move.  After much crazed arm waving, stumping and shouting, the squirrel finally scurried away.  But not for long.  It kept coming back to the area right behind my bench—clearly in expectation (damn squirrel-feeding tourists!).

A few minutes later, my neighbor noted that all the squirrels were hanging around a nearby tree.  The coast was clear.  I let my guard down and resolved to relax and enjoy the sunshine, the soft breeze, and my sandwich.

Turning to my left, I was startled once again by a squirrel sitting on my bench.  I'd assume that he was aiming to nibble at my peanut-butter soaked fingers again or perhaps, go after the real thing—what was left of my sandwich.  I jumped up and with my neighbor's help, "scared" the squirrel away.

I was totally shaken by the second encounter.  I had no idea that the tiny rodent would so brazenly attempt to get food from me for a second time.

Of course, the victim's perennial question entered my head: Why me?  I was surrounded by people eating all sorts of tasty food.  Was it the peanut butter that drew him near? Was it the honey? Both? 

I decided that I wasn't going to stick around to find out.  I devoured the rest of the sandwich and an apple before heading back to the office.  The first thing I did when I got back to work (after I related my tale to Organica, of course) was to wash my hands.  Who knows what sort of squirrel-borne diseases I could have contracted from such bold rodents.

I must note that I am a squirrel lover.  As a child my favorite thing to do was to feed the squirrels and birds in my backyard.  I always attempted to feed the backyard squirrels out of my hands, but they never went any closer to me than a foot.  I guess I got my chance to personally feed one yesterday.  It was also a sort of karmic payback for the years I spent as a child "domesticating" the squirrels in my own neighborhood.


Two Names

Daria - This weekend, I went to a friend's birthday party at Solly's on U Street. Let me first note that Solly's is a very cool neighborhood bar. The bartender is friendly and heavy-handed in pouring the liquor. Plus, there is a jukebox and they have a pretty solid happy hour. One of the old guys (50+) that my friend was talking to pulled me aside and commented that I have the "Daria" thing going on. Um…what Daria thing? Do I look like Daria? Although I have glasses, I'm not White nor do I wear all black sans a green blazer everyday. Do I act like Daria? Despite what L-M might say, I don't see myself to be as cynical and antisocial as Daria. So how can a guy, who doesn't even know me, put me in such an outdated mold? I think it gets classified in the "Worst Pick-up Lines Ever" box, though I'm sure that if I was drunk, I might have taken the bait and started a conversation with him (reminiscent of Roosh and Roissy posts about game) . But for the record: old bastards, saying a girl reminds you of an outdated television character is not a turn-on.

Floyd - My ex finally moved to San Diego this weekend. He took a year off to spend time with his family in Texas and once his savings dried out and he started to realize that there wasn't much opportunity back home, he packed his bags for greener pastures. I am so happy that he's finally made it to San Diego. It was as if he was delaying reality during the past year of not working. I wish Floyd the best in his new location and I hope that our still-strained relationship doesn't falter as he embarks on this new chapter.

Although I still wish he didn't leave D.C., I can understand his reasons for going—wanting a change, a challenge, meaning, fulfillment, etc. In actuality, I'm in the same boat right now. I'm slowing getting fed-up with my current position and ready for a change of scenery. I love the life that I've built for myself in D.C. over the past eight plus years, but like Floyd, I realize that there is much more out there for me to experience and that what I need the most right now is a new challenge.


Died & Gone to a Jane Austen/Masterpiece Theatre Heaven

I nearly fainted when I heard about The Complete Jane Austen, a series of Masterpiece Theatre adaptations of all six of her beloved novels (including four new productions!) plus a drama based on her life.  This is a dream come true for me—a true fan of Jane Austen and Masterpiece Theatre.  PBS totally rules!

The series begins next Sunday.  Here's the schedule:

January 13, 2008: Persuasion (new production)
January 20, 2008: Northanger Abbey (new production)
January 27, 2008: Mansfield Park (new production)
February 3, 2008: Miss Austen Regrets
February 10, 17, + 24, 2008: Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth
March 23, 2008: Emma with Kate Beckinsale
March 30 + April 6, 2008: Sense and Sensibility (new production)

In the meantime, check out the second part of Jane Eyre this Sunday on PBS-MPT.  The first part will be aired on PBS-WETA. 


Creative Writing Update

Yay, I finally submitted another creative writing piece to my writer's group.  I'm very nervous about Monday's critique and I fear that the group will tell me that I haven't made any improvement since my last submission. 

It's unfortunate that my routine of writing each night lapsed after my first critique in October.  I guess I was disheartened by the criticism and particularly, by comparing my first work with that of my counterparts in the group and in the published world of chick-lit.

I hope that Monday's meeting--regardless of whether I get a positive or negative critique--will be the spark I need to rediscover my passion for my story and this form of creative expression.  I hope that it will encourage me to start writing again--not with the intention of impressing anyone or getting published, but with the intention of expressing and finding myself. 

I still hope to finish my novel by next fall and of course, I'm totally off track.  I wanted to finish the skeleton/novella by now.  Instead, I have written no more than 21 pages of the first third of the story.  I have a long way to go, but I am willing to sacrifice a few weekends to this undertaking.  I shan't give up.