Thursday, September 6, 2012
Top Five Signs Your Work-From-Home Arrangement Just Might Include Too Many Potato Chips:
1. You know that the keys you use most often on your computer are "A" and "E" because they are the most encrusted with salt.
2. When you walk into your office, the dog automatically stations herself under the desk with her mouth open to catch dropped chips.
3. Whenever you stand up, inches of crumbs fall from your lap and slowly drift down toward the floor (and the dog, see #2).
4. You find yourself thinking they go with everything; nothing garnishes banana bread quite like a nice crispy Sour Cream & Onion potato chip.
5. You consider having potato chips with your lunch, but think to yourself, "Oh, but I had chips for breakfast."
Monday, September 3, 2012
I'm feeling particularly sunny and happy today. Maybe it's because it's sunny outside, with a clear blue sky and delightfully cool temperatures. Maybe it was almost 30 miles of biking on country roads before 10 a.m. Maybe it's because a new neighbor delivered a fresh hot loaf of banana bread to my door this morning. Maybe it's because it's now been a full month since the last time I had to commute on the Washington DC Metro (which, don't get me wrong, provided pretty good service so long as you were willing to be crammed into a train with hundreds of other sweaty people and get your ass groped once or twice a month). Maybe it's that we're finally nearly unpacked and at last I know where my other pair of running shoes are.
|(Mike and our chariots in downtown W3, note they are not even locked up!)|
|(There is a special place in heaven for guys who volunteer to be the rodeo clown with the pooper scooper in a horse-filled parade)|
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Sunday, August 12, 2012
I was going to try to sum up my thoughts about leaving Virginia after six years, but right now Virginia is nothing but a place I was seven states ago. So instead I'll just post July's monthly report and promise Very Deep and Profound Thoughts on starting over--sort of, not completely, since happily I still have my job, my dog and my husband (in no particular order) carrying over from the last chapter--at some later date. Probably from an empty house while I wait for the movers to arrive.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Saturday, July 7, 2012
If you read the papers--or if you have friends or family in the Greater Washington DC who, like me, tend to revel in complaining about the weather--you'll know by now that at the end of June we got one helluva storm here in Ol' Virginny, followed by a blackout. While losing electricity can be a sort of adventure, a chance to live all "old-timey" and eat by candlelight, the fact that this one came in the midst of a heat wave was....problematic. The fact that it lasted for days was nerve fraying.
We retreated to the basement, hiding from searing heat during the day and sleeping on makeshift beds formed out of sofa cushions at night. The dog was panting and looking at us beseechingly, "Really, you guys can open the dog food cans but you can't do anything about this damn heat?" One night as I lay there suffocating under a wet blanket of humid air I thought about how millions and millions of people all over the planet live like this every day; subject to increasingly violent and unpredictable weather they suffer through without refrigeration, without air conditioning, without coffee makers for the love of god. I silently acknowledged how very lucky I am to live when and where I do.
But because I am a very good multitasker, in addition to this compassion for others less fortunate I was able to feel a deep and abiding pity for myself. It is this ability to redirect my attention to my own suffering that makes me a true American, I think. I proved that I am not equal to our pioneer forefathers. Hell, I wouldn't have lasted long in about 1950. Also, any plans I may have been entertaining about becoming Amish have gone out the window--the solidly-closed-to-seal-in-the-air-conditioning window. Now, a week later, we once again can contribute to global warming by keeping our own living space cool, we are slowly refilling the refrigerator with expensive foodstuffs, and with the cushions back on the sofa the dog can once again take up all the space while we watch our stories on the Tee Vee. And I am able to boot up the computer and do the monthly report for June. Enjoy!
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Friday, June 8, 2012
I am trying to keep my heart open. I am trying to see the value in the process. I am trying not to have a nervous breakdown at the very thought of having to pack up everything I own.
This is an opportunity to unburden myself. This move--is it number 28? 30?--is a gift; a chance to think about the role that my possessions play in my life. This is a time to run my fingers over the binding of a book, recall the joy I felt submerging myself in that world, to feel again the way my heart pounded when the heroine was in danger; and then to let it go into the bag for donations. A moment in which to hold each bowl, each running medal, each crazy little Virgin de Guadalupe tchotchke (and how is that for a multi-cultural reference?) and really see it, sometimes for the first time in ages. If they are covered with dust, unused and unloved, then they should go in the hopes that they can bring beauty or joy to someone else. This move represents a time to release the anxious grasp on material things.
Oh, who am I kidding? This move is a pain, and I'm half inclined to burn the joint to the ground.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
- Stay Strong. When we started our twice-a-week sessions last March, you couldn't even comprehend a 3.1 mile race. We did a few laps around the confines of your school yard and you begged to rest. But week after week, we ran. When our legs hurt, we ran. When our chests heaved, we ran. And at one point, much to your surprise, we did a full three miles just to prove we could. Each and every one of you has had an afternoon when you wanted to just stop moving, but you didn't. We put our hands on our hearts, and we caught our breath, and we kept running (left, right, left, right) and somehow we found the strength to get it done. Remember that feeling. When people are cruel, when the work becomes hard, and when all you want to do is lie down and quit, you remember just how strong you are. Feel your heart beating, take a deep breath, find your strength and keep on moving.
- Stay Beautiful. We are short, and we are tall. We have braids, and we do not. Our skin is every hue. Frequently, our socks don't match. When we run, we grin and we laugh. We jump and we skip. We nourish ourselves with healthy food (well, mostly, though we do have a penchant for Jolly Rancher candies). We feel the power in our legs. We pump our arms up and down. We feel the energy emanating off of us. We are happy in our bodies. Hold onto that joy. Keep that pride in the connection between your body and your mind. If the world tells you that you are too dark/heavy/short/tall or that you should be blonder/skinnier/curvier to be "pretty," you remember all the incredible and beautiful things that your body can do, then use your powerful legs to move away from that narrow thinking. You are luminous.
- Stay Together. There are so many things our society somehow neglected to provide for you: plentiful and warm clothing, access to fresh food, ample housing for you and your siblings, safe streets. Right under the noses of our national leaders, you are starting your race having to hurtle over joblessness, little access to health care, low graduation rates and high rates of substance abuse. And you know what, it is absolutely not fair and we have failed you. But you do have parents who love you, and siblings to help you. Your teachers are there for you, as are your coaches. Most importantly, you have each other. During our season you argued, and sometimes you disappointed each other; but you also talked it out, supported each other, and hugged each other in the end. You are each others' secret weapon, and together you are unstoppable.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I’ve also learned interpersonal skills. Molly has shown me that if you are feeling tired or overwhelmed, slowing down and visiting with people is both a chance to rest and to broaden your social circle. Taking the same route each day is not a reflection of being stuck in a rut, but an opportunity to see familiar faces and to check in with acquaintances. And if you approach a person eagerly with a broad smile, they will more than likely stop to talk to you and possibly even share a biscuit from their pocket.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
In going over the stats for this month's Monthly Report, I realized that I was sick pretty much all month long. And do you know who I blame? I blame Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, one of those meddlesome 19th century lady busybodies, and her partner in crime, First Lady Helen Herron Taft. Because of these two, Washington D.C. is virtually crawling with cherry blossom trees and I spent pretty much all of April sneezing my brains out. Way to go, ladies. Couldn't you have just built a goddamn school or started a book club like all the other "civic improvement" types?
Anyhoo, here you have it: running the numbers for my April. WARNING: There is some math involved.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
But children, I am learning, are also remarkably generous little creatures. When my girls' running team got headbands for every lap completed, and Alliyah ended up with two glittery ones and Shoyanna had none, Alliyah simply handed one of hers over. This required no conversation or cajoling; she just assumed that the bounty should be evenly distributed if everyone is to have a good time. When Paul toddled by a platter filled with cherry tomatoes, he gleefully handed some to anyone within reach not already eating. (Ok, they were covered with drool because he's two and so, ultimately, maybe not super appealing, but it's the thought that counts.) Max used his skills at hockey to raise $1800 to help the homeless, and while I'm not sure how much of the story of struggle, loss, incarceration, and ultimately redemption Max was able to absorb, I suspect that someday he'll remember the parallels in his life and that of Marque and will retain the empathy and compassion that he demonstrated raising money for this charity. Keira reminded me how to count in French and gleefully shared that most precious of possessions: knowledge that can makes one's world seem boundless. Even the littlest one, Sophie, never stinted on the smiles.
For weeks I have seen one impulsive expression of altruism after another from these children; small little humans who are of many races, sexes, ages, religions and socio-economic backgrounds. While I'll concede that eleven children do not a scientific sample make, I will nevertheless conclude that those under ten maintain an embrace of concepts like "fairness," and "kindness," and "munificence," even in the absence of their being able to understand those actual words.
So what happens? How do we end up with so many selfish, uncaring adults? Are our teenaged years really so terrible that we lose these instincts? Do we lose our moral bearings in the same way that we do that incredible physical flexibility that allows kids to hunker and put their feet in their mouths? (I can't even touch my toes, what the hell happened over the last 34 years?)
All of these children are growing up in the shadow of a Congress that seeks to hoard so much of the nation's wealth for so very few people. Worse still, it seeks to punish the least powerful among us, denying children food and withholding from their parents affordable homes or wages high enough to care for them. I think that were these children and I to have a conversation about politics--which quite frankly none of us are inclined to do when there are so many more interesting things to talk about, but if we did--these kids would find these policies baffling, too. If there are dozens of tomatoes, why shouldn't everyone have one? If I know how to do something special, why not use that skill to help others or teach them how to do it too? If an ex-felon can become a mentor with just a little help, why deny him that aid? I suspect that, as is typically the case, these children would have so many questions (so, so many questions...always). I wish I could invite Eric Cantor to running practice so that the girls and I could ask him at least this one: just how many hairbands do you and your friends really need?
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Well flash forward, check your calendar, and note that we are now squarely in the midst of the vaguely defined future. And time is totally flying by. I finished grad school TWELVE years ago. I moved to Virginia (for the second time) six years ago. It's been more than a month since my last pedicure (appointment tomorrow then wine with my gal pal M., whew!). But having to sit down every day--if only for a few seconds--and review how many sodas I consumed, or record how many push-ups I managed to do before my arms collapsed, does serve to make me note time passing. And it is passing. That's right people, it's already April.
Here's the perfectly prosaic monthly report. Bless me Interwebs, for I have sinned. I didn't do even close to enough banjo practice this month.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
You deserved a better end than this. Six years ago I brought you home. I won't say "I bought you," because it was less impersonal than that. You'd called to me at the bike shop; sleek and dark grey with slightly bulbous lines to your frame, tucked in among brawny mountain bikes and trembling carbon-framed racing bikes. You weren't super fancy; you were a working bike, a steady bike, a commuter bike. We were kindred spirits.
You sped me along the river when I was first learning my way around DC. Together we braved the congestion of the Mount Vernon path, harsh headwinds and even the occasional blast of hot air coming off a jet warming up on the tarmac at National airport. Later, we rode together in the car 35 miles each morning from our little house in the countryside to the Metro parking lot. Then you and I took off on the path for the last 15 miles into work, most often in the dark. And over these last couple of years, you were my stalwart partner in moving from the Hard Core Suburbs to the District. You were the Sancho to my Quixote, the Tonto to my Lone Ranger, the jelly to my peanut butter.
I had other plans for you. I was going to keep riding you for at least another year, and then give you to one of the guys at the homeless shelter so that you could take him to work, or I would donate you to Bikes for the World so that somewhere in Africa or South America you would change the life of a child who could get to school or an adult who could get to the market. It was going to be a meaningful and dignified next phase for a steady friend, and you were going to continue to be loved and appreciated.
I spent all day today eying bike racks throughout DC. Where are you? Are you still in one piece? Are you being treated okay? I know your brakes were temperamental; is somebody easing into them to keep you from squealing in protest? Your little brass bell was just the right tone, is somebody ringing it jauntily? Is there enough air in your tires? Those friggin' rims of yours are really a pain--I can't count how many tire levers I busted trying to change tubes--but those nice tires rarely puncture.
I am trying to tell myself that the person who stole you from me is a person in pain. He's probably in the throes of some thing or another that has in turn stolen his will and his pride from him. I am trying to tell myself that he'll try to sell you, and that maybe somebody will see your bright pink seat and give him a few bills to bring you home to his daughter or his wife. Maybe you will bring a sense of liberation and possibility to another girl someplace, a girl who can't just go online or to a store and buy a new bike like I can.
Maybe starting tomorrow you will soar through the streets of DC again. I hope so. I miss you.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
For over a decade now, much of my time has been spent with data. Spreadsheets, reports, powerpoints, testimonies; you name it and I've done the research and produced the materials. And so, I thought why not keep some data. This is my first monthly report, in movie form. It sums up my month in 10 slides and less than 1 minute. It also represents the first time I have ever had to calculate how much toothpaste I use (about 1 inch per toothbrushing) or who is impeding Metro escalator flow. I'm going to produce one every month, though not tracking the same stuff. While I know this makes me a bad statistician, would you really want to count how many times you brush your teeth every single month? Yeah, I thought not.
So here it is, set to jaunty music: Anastasia's Perfectly Prosaic Monthly Report
Thursday, February 23, 2012
1. Don't let anybody tell you different, Northern Virginia is a hilly place. Plus, you'll discover that against all rules of nature, there is always a headwind.
2. You are statistically most likely to get hit by a taxi driver, swooping across three lanes of traffic (without using a signal, natch) to nab a fare from another cabbie. Ironically, the fare is most likely a tourist who doesn't realize he's already only three blocks from the White House.
3. It doesn't matter that you are wearing a bright yellow jacket. It doesn't matter that you're nearly 6 feet tall when you're sitting on your bike. It doesn't matter that you have more randomly flashing lights going than a Donna Summer revival concert. Somehow those suburbanites driving their SUVs still manage not to see you.
4. 83% of people under 25 don't actually appear to know their left from their right, so calling out "on your left" is really just wasting everyone's time and your breath.
5. The salesman who sold the hip young man his shiny new Jamis commuter bike ($950), Brooks saddle ($150), and matching Brooks panier bags ($500) did not give him the free advice that a very busy bike path at 5:20 p.m. may not be the best choice for slowly and repeatedly trying to learn how to use those snazzy new toe clips on your pedals ($50).
6. No matter how beautiful you think the sunset is from inside your car, it's nothing compared to how incredible it looks from on a bike.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012
The room itself was not glamorous, a well-used podium set up in front of dozens of mismatched chairs with florescent lights overhead. But the view was appropriate for the evening. From the 11th floor much of DC was laid out below us; expansive and seemingly limitless. We were gathered to honor 41 accomplished men and women. They are restaurant workers and landscapers; they wield tools at construction sites and haul boxes in stockrooms. They care for their children and comfort their aging parents. They pay rent and bills, and they put aside savings to fulfill their plans for a larger apartment or to start a business of their own. And they continue to confront the legacies of substance abuse, incarceration and homelessness. They are the first alumni of the Washington DC chapter of Back of My Feet.
Together they ran more than 8500 miles, though in the stories that volunteers and friends told about them it’s clear that these are men and women who were running toward something. The words we heard most often were “proud,” “friend,” “supportive,” and “inspiration.” We celebrated “leadership,” “focus,” “determination,” and “strength.” We heard about men who once couldn’t run a single mile digging deep and finishing a half marathon. We heard about women who came out three times a week—every week, in the snowy winters and the sweltering summers—to join with others in logging their miles. We shared stories of challenges overcome, of laughter, of love and of the occasional song belted out in the streets of DC. Honorees stood shyly as we read messages of congratulations and pride from their teammates, sometimes looking as if they couldn’t quite believe the effect they had on so many others.
And afterward we clustered together like you always do at a family gathering. Nibbling on cookies, catching up on the daily goings-on with those we haven’t seen in a while. We joked about pounds gained when work starts to encroach on training time, and compared notes about races we plan to run this year. We cheered recent promotions and admired sharply pressed suits and well-shined shoes. As the crowd slowly broke up, with some moving toward buses home and others cadging rides, one thing became clear: against tough odds and the expectations of many, but with the support and love of their Back on My Feet family, these alumni had made it.