Day Two: What's really going on here?

Wow, on my second day of work. the House introduced a bill for a National Watermelon Month (HR 578). Now I know what our elected officials are really doing with their time on the Hill. Nope, they are dealing with the important issues of Iraq, the economy, education or crime. They're talking about the fact that almost every state grows watermelons and that "everybody loves watermelons." Okay, fine. I do love watermelons ,and the fact that a little town in Georgia is the top U.S. watermelon producer is great. But seriously, isn't there a bunch of other super-important matters to discuss today?

Don't worry, I won't blog everyday about the problems with the House. I just had to get this off my chest.


My first day

My first day of work went well. I wasn't too nervous and everyone was nice. Throughout the day, I couldn't help comparing my new job/coworkers/workspace/schedule to my old one. I really missed seeing my old work friends this morning.

My hours are reasonable (830 to 530 and not the 830 to 630 I feared!), and my tasks seem doable. In fact, I feel confident/cocky that it will only take me a month to master them. But in the meantime, I'll have to pay attention, ask lots of questions and give 110% percent.

I fear that means that I won't have much time during work hours to write lengthy pieces for my blog. But I will try to submit a few thoughts during the weekdays and submit longer pieces on the weekends. I apologize to all of my loyal readers, but as soon as the transition is over, this blog will be back to normal.


The day before my first day

In a few short hours, I'll be on my way to my new job. I’m still both nervous and excited but I feel prepared. My bag is packed, my snacks are organized and my clothes (for the week!) are ironed. I hope that all goes well and that my new tasks are good. I also hope that I make it home early enough for yoga. I know that I’ll need to stretch and de-stress after working 9+ hours each day. Most of all, let's hope that I don't hate my new job--at least not until 8-9 months have passed and it's time for Peace Corps. Wish me luck!


Final Hour

Wow, this day has been crazy. Fortunately, I got everything done. I said many of my goodbyes and done what I can to pass the torch on to my replacement.

In an hour, I'll be able to let my hair down and drink off all my anxiety, sadness, excitement and fear with friends and coworkers.

Although it hasn't entirely sunk in that I won't be reporting to this office on Monday, my departure feels right and I am ready to go.


Will you sign my yearbook?

I'm starting to get this odd feeling. It's the same one I had during the final days of my senior year of high school. Back then, it marked of the end of an era--the end of my life as a child and the beginning of my life as an adult. It's the same feeling I have now. I'm ending this two year transitional period that I spent between school and one of the most challenging experiences of my life. No, I'm not referring to the Hill, though that should be a very meaningful experience. I'm talking about the Peace Corps. The move to the Hill puts me one step closer to the Peace Corps, and signals that my plan is on track (My plan is to spend my last year in DC doing everything I wanted but hadn't had the chance to do).

Tomorrow is my last day of work and I'm both excited and sad. I work with some of the most amazing people that I've ever known, and I've made some really great friends (I heart the Lunch Bunch!). I hope to find such sincere, passionate people at my future jobs. It's so odd how fate throws people together for such a short timespan. I can only hope that I've learned and experienced all that I was supposed to. I think I have.

I hope that I can keep in touch with the Lunch Bunch, even if it's just a random holiday card or an email about a new baby or job.

So one more day and it will be over. I'm so excited, yet so very sad.


Farewell Lunch @ Work

Today, I had my farewell lunch at work. I was amazed by how many people attended--many more than my core group of assistant friends and program coworkers (almost 20!). My supervisor gave a very touching and humorous presentation of gifts. I was floored and overwhelmed because it was so nice and humbling. Of the gifts I got, I am most happy that I got a copy of the Dr. Seuss's The Lorax--the quintessential environmental book for kids. It might even bring along with me to Peace Corps to share with the community kids.

So, I have less than 2.5 days left at work. I still have some outstanding projects but all is well. I'm ready for my new position and ready for all the challenges that adjusting to a new work schedule, new coworkers and new tasks will bring.

My boss finally offered the congratulations that I'd be waiting for. He apologized for his less than excited response when I gave my two weeks notice and noted that it was a good "next step" for me. It is. So now, my boss is back on my good list and I'm ready to forgive all of the not-so-great things that have transpired during the past two years so that I can move on--without burning every bridge on my way out the door.


Happy Earth Day!

I didn't have time at work today to write a fiery speech about the need to make everyday Earth Day. I apologize. One would hope for more from a tree-hugging hippie (at heart) like me. I've been passionate about environmental issues since I was a small child and I only hope that I can inspire others to join me in the crusade to ensure that future generations (of all species) are able to live in a safe, clean world that is full of diversity. We only have one planet.

The main thing is to be mindful. Everything on this earth is connected. Behaviors and attitudes you hold can affect systems and individuals far away and far into the future. Don't be selfish or indifferent. Do your part today!

Check out the EPA's carbon footprint calculator and environmental tips for more info about your eco-impact and what you can do to be a part of the modern "green" movement.


Monday, already?

Yay, I didn't get electrocuted! I attend the GreenApple Festival Earth Day Event on the National Mall on Sunday. I got to check out a few booths and hear some interesting music. The highlight was definitely seeing Ed Norton and Chevy Chase, but the cool music I heard when I first arrived (before it started pouring) was great. I haven't heard good live rock music in a while so I guess a trip to the Black Cat or the 930 Club is overdue.

Gosh, the rain never stopped. In fact, I was drenched by the time I made it to Union Station and therefore, I was unable to check out the sale racks. But nevermind, I already scored a brown suit last Friday at Macy's. I think that my Hill wardrobe is now complete--at least until mid-summer, when I'll start getting tired of my clothing combinations.

It's amazing that I only have one more week until I start on the Hill. Everything has been so surreal, and I don't think that I'll wake up until after the "honeymoon period" at my new job. I will truly miss my current job--mainly my coworker-friends. I know that it is very rare to find good friends at work, let alone a bunch of people that you can go camping with or invite to a crazy night out in Adam's Morgan. They have been my advisors, editors, jesters, psychiatrists, alcohol enablers, etc during the past two years and I will miss our shenanigans. I know that I will have to find new peeps on the Hill, but I will always stay connected to those who know me best.


"I quit this b$*%&!" (the Moodsetta)

I have one more week until I start my new job. The past week went by very quickly and I accomplished a few things and generally ignored a few others. It's amazing the assignments that you get when you put in your notice. As my mother said, "do as much as you can, but when 5 o'clock hits next Friday, pack up and leave."

I plan on devoting most of my time next week attempting to finish a long-term project that suddenly has become a priority. But mostly, I want to spend quality time finishing a guidebook to help out my replacement.

I still haven't had a totally positive talk with my supervisor. He did announce my departure during a meeting and through an email, but he still doesn't seem totally okay with it yet. Thankfully, I got lots of support, congratulations and validation from friends, family and other coworkers. The "good job + okay" I got from a higher up in my department felt particularly good. The RD noted in an email and later in an IM session, "I always knew you could do a lot better!" That statement validated the fact that it was time for me to move on and try to achieve other goals and get new challenges. It would have been nice to get that message from my own supervisor, but beggars can't be choosy.

I'm finally ready to forgive my supervisor for any transgressions during the past few years. But I won't forget any of them. I want to always remember to be assertive and vocal in expressing my needs and viewpoints, even if it goes against my supervisor's wants and opinion. That was my own fatal flaw during the past two years at my current job. I didn't push back hard enough against rejection, and I didn't reveal the situation to the Director, his boss, in hopes of resolution. Things might have gotten better (or worse!) if I had. But, either way, I still would have been itching to get on the Hill.


She kissed my hand

Yesterday, I was running errands in my hood when I was approached by this lady asking for money to buy food. Over the course of the many years that I've been in D.C., my heart has hardened to requests for money. You would think that after spending time with Charlie at GWU, I would be very giving to others. Plus, I can still remember the time I was without my wallet on Capitol Hill and had to rely on the kindness of a stranger to get back to work. But no, I haven't given out money in a while. I'm too suspicious and though, I could care less if the person uses the cash for liquor and cigarettes instead of food, I just wonder how helpful my money is in the long term (money to a shelter/soup kitchen vs. to an actual homeless person). Perhaps, the wall around my wallet and heart stems from the time a homeless person threw a Whooper at me (wtf, I was only trying to help!).

But yesterday, I was in a good mood. I scored some great cufflinks to give as gifts to the Hill staffers that helped me with my job search. A woman approached me and asked for money for food. As usual, I was skeptical and scanned her attire. She looked well-off enough, but I knew that looks can be deceiving and so many people have to choose between paying the electricity bill/rent and buying food/medicine on a regular basis. So I told her that I would buy her food but with a credit card. At this point, I still thought it was a scam and didn't want take out a wad of cash. I bought her a meal at the food court and she was very grateful. Apparently, a few of the other people that she had asked were indifferent or started to talk about their own money problems. Then, she kissed my hand.

Whoa, I'm not royalty or anyone of importance. No one, but a playful lover should ever kiss my hand. I'm no different than her. I may be comfortable financially, but given a little misfortune or a few bad decisions I could easily be in the same predicament. In fact, most Americans are just a few missed paychecks or a life emergency (death of breadwinner, disability/medical accident, etc) away from major debt that can lead to homelessness. That's why an emergency fund is so important! In this woman's case, she was on disability and was having trouble meeting her needs in between checks.

We shook hands and hugged before I left. As I turned to walk away, she noted that my good deed would come back to me 100 times over. Sorta like that commercial with the chain reaction of folks helping out each other. Sure, I believe in karma. But I think that fortune has already smiled on me. After a year of anxiety and disappointment about my career, social life and love life, I'm on my way to living a few of my dreams. Sure, it took a lot of a hard work cultivating skills and relationships, but I believe that where I am today is also the result of opening my heart to new opportunities and experiences. I finally got a job on the Hill, I started learning Spanish, and I'm on my way to the Peace Corps. All three are things that I've been dreaming of for many years.

I do hope that yesterday's good deed will come back to me, but mostly I think it is really my turn to send good karma and positive energy back into the universe.


Suiting: Part II

Yesterday evening, I took a stroll down to Georgetown to look for a black suit. It turns out that even the smaller size suit jacket at Banana Republic doesn't look right on me. So, it looks like I'll have to return the suit. I also checked out the suits at Anne Taylor, Benetton, J. Crew and BCBG. Most of the suits I saw were too trendy/old-ladyish, unflattering on my figure, with icky fabric, or way over my budget.

But, I lucked out! Benetton is having a 40% off suit sale right now. I scored a great black pinstripe suit (suit, jacket, and slacks) for a little over $200. That's compared to the jacket I bought at BR for the same price. It's true that you get what you pay for. I've purchased things at Benetton and the quality of their clothing is okay. The key is that the suit fits my shape properly and I have cash left over for other professional wear (e.g., basic brown suit and tops). Also, I've decided that Peace Corps is still the most likely option in 2009 and that I shouldn't spend lots of cash on a suit that I might not be able to wear when I return. I've heard that female PCVs tend to gain weight during service while most of the guys lose weight. So, I'm prepared to return from service with a little extra padding.

There is one problem, or at least something that I need to accept. My suit pants are pleated. Yes Organica, I know. I made a face when the sales clerk showed them to me. I thought that pleated pants were outlawed in the 1990s, but apparently not. They were just outlawed for fashionable folks. I'm not fashionable so I can get away with it, right? I just hope that I don't look like an old lady. The good thing is that the pants are low-rise and have lovely wide, long pants legs.

So, I think my suiting problem has been solved, and I can focus on mentally preparing for a new commute, schedule, office space, and work life.



My new job seems to necessitate a new wardrobe. At my current job, I normally wear business casual clothes--a nice mix of slacks and shirts and an occasional skirt. I love the ease of my business casual wardrobe and the fact that I don't have to worry about pantyhose or suiting. But everything will change April 28--my first day of work on the Hill.

When I was a Hill intern in graduate school, I scoured Nordstrom Rack and Macy's for reasonably priced suits and invested in a few pairs of shoes fit for the hard, marble floors. I also bought lots of hosiery and even a garter belt (I heart stockings! They slip but you don't get the stuffed sausage feeling). I still have most of those clothes and I'm very happy that I spent the money back then on a few basics. Unfortunately, my body has morphed a bit in the past 5 years so that a few of the items I used to wear as an intern no longer fit (too much pizza and chocolate, right?).

To remedy my wardrobe predicament without breaking the bank, I'm hoping to invest in a basic black suit set (jacket, skirt and slacks) that fits well and is of a good quality. I think that I can rotate a black suit during the week—mixing and matching tops and shoes—and throwing in my other non-black suits to make my repeats less obvious. Eventually, I will acquire one or two more reasonably-priced non-black suits, but I think that right now, I should save my money for the upcoming drop in my salary.

The suit search has been very frustrating so far. I didn't realize how expensive suiting can be ($300 for a jacket?!). But time is running out and a basic black suit, like the little black dress, is a staple of any professional women's wardrobe.


Two-week notice in; The countdown begins

Today was an normal day at work. I thought that my boss would have sent out an email to folks by now, but he hasn’t. Supposedly, the news will break tomorrow. Nevermind. I’ve already told most of my coworker-friends and they are all happy for me.

It is bittersweet to start packing up my desk and finalizing my assignments. I am mostly sad to be leaving my pet project, a website redevelopment and update plan, but I know that whoever takes my place will carry-on. That’s the thing I have to remind myself. I’m replaceable. I’m an entry level worker who has taken on more responsibility over the course of the two years, but still, all the stuff that I do can be done by an intern—or a trained monkey.

That’s one thing that makes leaving easy. I know that my department and the organization will carry on without me and also, that I’ll be just fine without them. I will miss my coworker-friends, the Lunch Bunch, but I’m sure that we’ll stay in touch long after I leave.

It is the end of an era. The end of my first full time job and the end of the transitional period from academia to the real world. It’s been fun. I’ve learned a lot and made a lot of good friends. But it’s run its course and I have bigger dreams that I want and need to fulfill right now.

Thanks to Organica for this rallying cry:

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.


Hippo on the Hill

Quick announcement

I got a call from the Hill this morning. I got the staff assistant job I applied for! I start in two weeks on April 28!

I told my supervisor a few hours after I got the call. There was definitely a little drama after I told him but he calmed down by the end of the day.

Thank you to everyone who’s been cheering me on during the whole process. I could not have done this without you!

Hi, My name is...

I just finished reading this article from the NY Times about people connecting with folks that have their name.

We have the same name? Let's be BFFs!
One of the basic psychological principles is that people like people who are like them or remind them of themselves. This explains why folks have an affinity for people, places and products that share their name.

I, for one, do tend to particularly like things with my namesake. And, I feel that my full name is quite unique. My parents named me after a famous actress (first name) and after my grandmother (middle name). My European surname probably harkens from the slave trade. Accorinding to HowManyofMe.com, there are only 4 people in the U.S. with my name. But I wonder how accurate that is…

I'm always interested in meeting other people with my name. The first question I ask when I meet someone with my first name is "were you named after the actress?" The few people that I've asked have said no, but I'm quite sure that I'm not the only one. I've never met someone with my last name, which is probably because it isn't that common in certain parts of the U.S.

I think that it would be very interesting to meet someone who shared my full name but unlike some of the people featured in the NYT article, I have no plans of trying to connect with them.

Yes, I regularly google myself
I haven't found my Googlegängers, or Google twins, yet. Like most people, I regularly google my name. The results normally consist of a few hits related to my work or school ventures or to the networking sites I've joined. There does seem to be a person with my name in Florida but otherwise, no one else has claimed a website for the namesake.


Old Friends

Make new friends
but keep the old.
One is silver
and the other's gold.

Yesterday, I left work quite disappointed and frustrated about my Hill job search. I was headed to Banana Republic to check out a new suit, when I ran into a old friend from college. He gave me the biggest bear hug ever and instantly put me in a good mood.

I haven't seen this guy since graduation and it was so nice to talk to him. He was a good pal during freshman year and though we drifted apart as upperclassmen, we did try to regularly connect. I had the biggest crush on him when I was a freshman and I think, in his own way, he liked me to. I say, in his own way, because he came out to me when we were seniors so he liked me only a friend—though at the time, I didn't know it. When he came out to me, I was like, "yay, my first gay friend!"

I gave him my business card and I hope that he drops me a line soon. He is such a fun guy to hang around and I can only imagine what sort of stories he'll have to share whenever we finally do meet.

I love reconnecting with old friends. They remind me of my younger self, when I was more innocent, idealist, and spontaneous. I don't want to go back to being a naive and crazy 20 year old, but I do like to be reminded of who I used to be and how far I have come.


Hill Interview #3

This morning, I had another Hill interview. It went well and I have a follow-up interview tomorrow. It's for a Staff Assistant position in a Member office. I hadn't anticipated actually having to working as a Staff Asst but given that this particular office can serve as a fast-track to bigger and better opportunities, I'm open to it.

The problem is pride. I had imagined that I'd leave my current position for an environmental LA position with a great office (like the one I interviewed for 2 weeks ago…). The ideal position, if it really was the right fit, could have been so great that I'd defer PC just to be amid all the action in 2009. But now that the reality of Hill employment and my PC dream have hit me, I've become more open to whatever comes my way. In particular, this Staff Assistant position, though I'd be doing nothing but answering phones all day long, would be the perfect 9-month Hill position that would beef-up my resume for any future Hill job and not be a position that I would feel bad to leave after only a short time.

So if I am selected, I must swallow my pride. In a way, it will be a demotion but something that will have significant value on my resume if I ever decide to come back to D.C. and try the Hill again. In a way, it's not a demotion, and that's the crazy thing about the Hill. There are PhDs serving as unpaid interns and staff assistants while others without advanced degrees are serving as LAs and LDs. It really is all about who you know and as a Staff Assistant in this office, I'm quite sure that I'll get to know quite a few important people who can help me out later.

But, is this what I really want and what is best for me right now? Though there are a few special "pet" projects that I love at my current job, I am ready for a change. But I am also scared of change, and how this decision will impact all my other 2008 plans of moving to DC, learning Spanish, getting ready for PC, etc.


Masterpiece Theatre's production of Sense & Sensibility

I'm sure that my readers will be happy to know that this will be my last entry on Masterpiece Theatre's The Complete Jane Austen series. Part two of Sense and Sensibility aired Sunday night. It is the last production in the series, and also the final complete Austen story. Check out a review here and here (The second one is very thorough).

It was a very enjoyable production. Although I do favor the 1995 version, there were particular scenes and depictions that I favored in the BBC version. For example, the revelation of Lucy's secret engagement to Edward is beautifully and ironically depicted in the BBC production with a full cast of characters—unlike the memorable scene in the 1995 version with just Fannie and Lucy. Yet, there were also scenes that were evident extrapolations from the text.

The actors did a great job of capturing the essence of the work, and there were many times throughout the movie that I was quite moved. One of the most memorable lines from the movie is when Marianne asks, after finding out Willoughby's true nature: "What do men want from us? Do they just want us as playthings?" (paraphrased). Amazingly, women today still ask this very question. I guess cad-ism never truly goes away, and women will forever (knowingly and unknowingly) fall for those silly cad-tricks.


I heart teachers!

I’ve decided that I want to marry a teacher.

My family is full of teachers, and growing up, education and teaching was always a dinnertime topic (to my chagrin). So, given that I love the profession and admire and respect educators so much, it seems only natural that I would marry an educator. In fact, I couldn’t see myself marrying anyone who wasn’t a public servant. Sure, it would be great to marry a rich investment banker or entrepreneur, but I think that I’d be most happy and feel the most fulfilled if my husband shared my passion for service not only in his extracurricular pursuits but also in his career. This means that I'll probably have a moderate income all my life, and that's fine. As long as I have food and shelter, who am I to complain?

I know that this limits my pool of eligible men, and I imagine that if I find myself truly in love with a rich Exxon employee or hedgefund manager, I will push aside this silly idea. But until then, I will seek to find a guy who is just as fired up about social issues as I am and just as willing as me to dedicate his life to the “greater good.”

Friday Night @ Play Lounge

I went to Play Lounge on Friday night to celebrate a friend’s pseudo-birthday. I had a very good time. I met some interesting RPCVs who I hope to connect with again to talk about PC. One of whom, I am so sure I met before or at least he reminded me of the “I eschew you” guy that I met through L-M’s friends (Remember him, L-M?).

As soon as we walked in, my coworker observed that Play Lounge, in person, is absolutely nothing like the way it is characterized on its website. Some of the dĂ©cor is reminiscent of you parent’s or grandparent’s 1970s basement. And I warn you not to plop down on the benches as they are very hard and clearly meant to be dance platforms for the girls. I did spot the striper pole and while I was there, only a handful of girls were bold enough to swing on it a bit. The pole really isn’t placed well as any trained dancer would quickly run into the wall if she started doing the normal moves.

The highlight was that it was a First Friday (and unfortunately, the last promotion of the year/season?) so there was an hour of open bar and $3 drinks thereafter. With the help of my friends, I stocked up on about 5 free drinks. So I was feeling pretty good.

Play Lounge isn’t a place that I’d recommend to my friends aside from the happy hour specials. The guy-girl ratio favored women and as expected, there were the normal groupings of wannabe players. Another unfortunate aspect is the coed, open bathroom. I kept getting a stall after a guy and of course, none of them are potty-trained (lift the seat up when you pee!). What a difference from the open bathrooms at Badlands/Apex. The girl’s bathroom was spotless so I didn’t mind sharing it with guys. Ah Badlands, good memories…

So Play Lounge gets a B+ because of the happy hour specials but take them away, and it’s only a grade C locale.

Next on my list is Fly Lounge.


Tax Time!!

The bane of my existence every April is finally over. I completed my federal tax forms!

Like most people, I hate filling out tax forms. They are unbelievably confusing, and there are so many loaded/unrecognizable terms and phrases in the forms and explanation documents. I guess the forms just reflect how immense and convoluted tax law is. But, if I, a college-educated individual who likes to play around with numbers, have problems with tax forms, I can only imagine how hard the process is for folks that aren't as informed.

I had the hardest time with one of the Schedules this year, and due to absent data, I had to fudge some numbers. My "guesstimation" translates to no more than a $50 difference so I doubt that the IRS will be knocking on my door anytime soon—especially when there are so many individuals and companies who owe thousands or even millions of dollars. The lesson I've learned is to keep good records.

Once I file my federal taxes, I'll be put into the computer for the federal tax rebate. I doubt that I'll get the full $600 but it would be great to get a few hundred dollars from the government (get a rebate estimate from the IRS here). And yes, my rebate is going straight into a high-interest earning account. No new wardrobe/television/vacation for me!

Remember that everyone must file their federal taxes this year—i.e., if you want a rebate check. This is particularly important for low income groups, the elderly and others who don't normally file but to whom the rebate checks are aimed at (low income groups, in particular, are expected to funnel that cash directly back into the economy).


Other options for work

Okay, so I'm starting to resign myself to not being able to work on the Hill. And that frees up my brain to think of other enjoyable ways to spend my remaining workdays in D.C. So far, I've toyed with the idea of convincing Floyd to let me crash with him in San Diego. I've also thought about going home and volunteering at the neighborhood nature center while taking Spanish classes down the street at the community college. I thought of working on an organic farm in southern Georgia and of getting a campaign job, but both of those options probably wouldn't mesh with a summer class schedule. The other problem is that I need health insurance at least until I get medical clearance. Given that I've already paid for the first round of Spanish classes, I'm pretty sure that I'll be in D.C. until round 3 (the final round of intermediate Spanish) ends in December. So, I must start thinking creatively about job options in D.C.

Please don't let me be at my current job for more than another 1-3 months!!

So, what should I do? If I get a reasonably priced room somewhere in the city, I'd be free to work just about anywhere. Perhaps, as a retail clerk? A tour guide? I don't know. I had so many odd jobs back when I was a student, and it's exciting to think that I don't necessarily have to be tied to a "career position."

It would be awesome to get a job at a natural center as an environmental/outdoor educator. I could spend lots of time outdoors in all sorts of climates and working with kids and families. It's what I'll probably be doing as a PCV, so it would be good preparation.

I really need a change and it would also be awesome to do something truly different during the rest of the year. We'll see what happens. Right now, I need to focus on preparing my taxes (blah!) and reviewing Spanish.