Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to my blogging roots

  1. Every time I hang something on the wall, I am utterly convinced the mechanism used to hold it will fail and it will come crashing down.  I even stand and watch it, wide-eyed and waiting, for a minute or two before accepting its stability.  Not a "let me make sure this is straight" moment, more like "I know that wire is going to give out any second" feeling.  Like a child for whom something not visible is not existent, I just don't believe that the wire caught on to the nail.  I know, I can't help it.
  2. Pretty sure I'm going to watch the opening to the Emmys every morning for the rest of my days.
  3. Tell me, wouldn't you be sad if you were House, and you 'rewrote the understanding of the antihero,' and you were nominated BUT passed over for the nod all your years, and you didn't even get to present a different award?  Maybe it's better not to present what you didn't win.  But I would be so sad if I were House.
  4. Of course I would go and get obsessed with a hilarious blog that decided to update once every Haley's Comet.  In the meantime, awful cakes and DIY meets WTF (and, you know, season 3 of Dexter) have been holding me over.
  5. Parked in our neighborhood for TWO DAYS was the one, the only, Virginia HGWARTS.  I almost a) died and b) made Justin go get the camera.  Isn't it crazy how an objectively gross pair of nouns (fine, noun acting as an adjective and noun) now conjures up the most supreme, most magnificent magic and majesty worldwide?  Also cruising up BW Parkway was LUVUTOO.  Siiiiiiiiiiigh!  LUV U THREE!!!!
  6. Fall is going to bring SO MANY THINGS: 
    1. teacher class
    2. painting class (?!)
    3. MODERN FAMILY &c.
    4. demise of dancing?  Time-wise, that would be, in fact, the wisest; Justin says I am less fun when I don't (not a big surprise).  Hm, is it finally time to revise?

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I maintain that my eyes make this picture EVEN MORE awesome
GUYS: I DID NOT DIE.  You can probably fathom the triumph I am feeling, but I cannot.  If you're one of those people who runs marathons or other great feats of physical (and/or mental) demand, you understand.  If you're not, well, then you probably still understand.  I am feeling REALLY, REALLY victorious.  Look at this thing!  As explained by my friend and yours, Wikipedia:

The Billy Goat Trail (also written as Billygoat Trail) is a 4.7-mile (7.6 km) hiking trail that follows a path between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River within the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park near Great Falls in Montgomery County, Maryland. The trail has three sections: Section A, the northernmost, is 1.7 miles (2.7 km); Section B is 1.4 miles (2.3 km); and Section C, the southernmost, is 1.6 miles (2.6 km).

Section A of the trail, by far the most popular, is on Bear Island and traverses rough and rocky terrain, including a steep climb along a cliff face along the Potomac River's Mather Gorge. At another point MOST POINTS in the trail, hikers are required to scramble over and around huge boulders. [edit mine]
So I alluded in posts past about how unwilling -- nay, terrified -- I was of this.  It was a lot like going on my first roller coaster: Dave my junior year physics partner "made" me go on -- and front row of the Superman, at that -- and I informed him the whole 45-minute wait that I very much did not want to do this, I couldn't believe I was still in line, and I was going to murder him when we got off.  Not only did I survive, but I was instantaneously obsessed with roller coasters and demanded to know where they had been my whole life.  Sorry, Dave.

me, trying to keep up with Chuck Norris
Much the same with this trail.  I was so averse, partly because I knew in advance that this was for Highly Skilled Hikers, partly because hiking can sometimes be just a really annoying, steep walk filled with branches in your way and bugs in your face (rendering this an annoying and dangerous steep walk filled with branches in your way bugs in your face), and partly because I didn't want to not look awesome in front of John and Kathryne.  Kathryne spent several emails reassuring me, and I accepted the fact and even got myself psyched up for it.  The morning came, I filled 4 water bottles ranging from normal to huge, packed a bag of pretzels and an apple just in case, and off we went.

I'm not sure how or when, but somewhere along the line, I decided to dominate.  I mean, own the trail.  At least compared to my previous, silently-whiny self from pre-hike.  There were boulders 94% of the way, and I hopped all over them.  I climbed and crawled and was light on the balls of my feet and didn't overthink it.  And it really is a metaphor for a lot of things - once you start thinking about it, you freak yourself out.  And then a bunch 10-year-olds scamper past you, hardly looking where they're going, much less agonizing over every step, and you wonder what their secret is.  Oh, yeah.  Don't think about it, trust your body.  Kids do that innately, adults learn too much and forget it.  I did things I never in a million years would have thought I could handle.
Kathryne and me showing some rocks who's boss

If someone had come up to me pre-hike and said, "Pam, your limit is somewhere above you hurtling yourself over enormous boulders and to the edge of rocky cliffs hundreds of feet raging rivers with nothing to stop you from plummeting to your doom save your own self," I would have said, "What are you smoking, my limit is definitely like fifteen miles below that."  But it turns out that person, had that person said that, would have been right.  We saw awesome sights and lots of friendly people and also a choking lady whom John saved.  I also totally lost my footing at some point past halfway and sent my shin and forearm straight into rock-edges, which unfortunately messed with my head way more than it messed with my limbs.  I stepped way more conservatively after that and cursed myself for realizing all those awesome things and then losing them to this mental block because of my fall.  But, as Chuck Norris said, it's not a hike if you don't fall.  But even so, even so!  Those lessons stay with me, and my triumph has stayed with me even more strongly than my bruise.  How inspiring, energizing and motivating to start the school year!  Let it inspire, energize, and motivate you too.  Go out and do that thing you do.

you can't tell, but we're REALLY high up in this picture

Sunday, August 15, 2010

So, about these things that I said would happen

Several of them have happened, or are happening, but several others are too lame to warrant updates.  Here is a convenient numbered list:

  1. Yoga:  HAPPENING.  I did it the quick and dirty way, especially after post-room-painting yoga turned out to be very much not yoga.  I got a 7-day pass from the gym that would get me into the last two daytime yoga classes before school started and went to my first one on Tuesday.   I was every bit the super lame new kid who had to piece together shredded and bacteria-ridden mats from the communal mat-cage featured in the studio, so that was kind of sad and gross. The nice Indian man that led it went at an almost grueling pace filled with way more core-exploding asanas that resembled my arch nemesis, the nearly-impossible Pilates, than I had remembered yoga entailing.  But he was super great, and included in his instructions every so often "...and smile."  For some reason that detail made everything part holistic healing and exercise, part photo shoot.  He also led us through a meditation at the end where we were butterflies, landing on flowers, feeling breezes on our wings, then eventually flying into the Bally's down the street from our flower.  I loved him.  Good thing there's a Modell's next door to my butterfly's Bally's, so that I could purchase a real, live yoga mat for future butterfly impersonations.  I Netflix-streamed yoga videos video until Friday, my second free class, for which I came fully prepared.  Unfortunately, this class too started out on an awkward, unpleasant note: a woman towards the back announced that she wanted to be able to see the instructor.  We all do, honey, and you can't really claim that if you put yourself in the back row.  But in any case, the upshot of all this is that I am well on my way to being a master yogi. 
  2. Not Dining Out: HAPPENING BEGRUDGINGLY; MAY NOT BE HAPPENING SOON.  Some of us have truly enjoyed making new delicious meals.  But others of us have underestimated how much we rely on the going-out-to-eat process to break up our evenings and indeed, the drudgery of our weeks.  Some of us happen to see this less as a fun teambuilding exercise of awesome challenge and opportunity for creativity and more as a dire punishment that inspires sadness and anger.  As of right now, we've held to our word, but I am pretty sure restaurants will get the best of us in the very near future.
  3. What Are the Haps, My Friends: NOT HAPPENING IN COOL WAYS.  Our last two weekends have involved 24 hours in Chicago and 36 hours in Leesburg, VA.  Blog-worthy haps on the imminent horizon include searching for a late summer county fair, going to a shooting range and hiking the Billy Goat Trail.  I might, however, die on at least two of these haps, so farewell, dear readers.
  4. Finishing My Peace Book:  HAPPENED.  I also emailed the author my aforementioned concerns about peace and motivation, peace (with) sadness, and being so thoroughly into peace that you can't any more relate to the humans you hang out with, so much that anything that happens or doesn't happen is fine, so much that you can marry pretty much anyone and it'll be great.  His email back to me shall be in two parts!  He is very nice, and his name is Bear.
  5. Thank-You Notes: ALMOST DONE HAPPENING.  Wooooooo
To balance those out, here are things that I didn't think would happen, but did:
  1. I am now signed up for community college art classes!  Well, class; I have to cancel the one that my teaching class conflicts with, once I get that schedule.  But isn't that exciting!  It was much more exciting when I finally wrangled the in-county tuition rather than the out-of-state tuition.  You should have seen what I brought in my folder of marriage and name-changing goodness: the real certificate, copies of the certificate, lease, a bank statement printout and a credit card bill, half-filled out forms about my passport, and the receipt that I applied for a new social security card.  Now.  If all those things had my name and address on them, would you believe that I lived at that address?  Well, let me tell you, the good people at PGCC did NOT believe it!  None of those things fell on their accepted-proof list, even though 1/8 of that was good enough for the DMV, and put together, I am pretty sure they more than convince that I do, in fact, live in Prince George's County.  "No, we don't accept those, anyone can get a license," I was told.  Hmph!  Trust me, I am ALL FOR following the rules, but it was getting to the point where I don't own the things she needed to see: a lease with a seal (?!) listing every month (?!!) that I have lived there, car registrations, a dated passport application.  It was only by not leaving the counter that she changed it in the system.  Let that be a lesson to you all.  Stand up against ridiculousness. 
  2. Seasons 1-2.5 of Dexter.  Oh man.  I have to cover my eyes for 20% of the show, and even still sometimes it gives me nightmares, but he is SO NICE!!! 
  3. This.  And I feel like I'm late to an awesome party, but not fashionably late, you-were-doing-something-more-awesome late.  It's the kind of party that knows it's SO AWESOME that nothing you were doing could possibly compete with it, and once you get there, everyone just kind of feels sorry for you that you were missing from it for THAT LONG.
  4. I have also watched this over and over.  I love it and don't understand why it hasn't gone viral.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Two excited paragraphs and one sad paragraph

Oh my!  Let's talk about how the school year is pretty much here!  Silly things:  It will be crazy and fun to get used to my new name in a very real setting (besides addresses on cards and thank-you notes), there will be a new teacher, so I won't be the newcomer anymore, and I got handed down a whole trash bag of professional clothes (skirt-suits!), which I can use to look like a completely different person in the colder days where I can't wear my pretty skirts.  Sad things: MY DEPARTMENT CHAIR IS LEAVING to a new school and a new position, and I COULD NOT BE SADDER.  Really.  I am so sad.  I love her.  We clicked, you know?  The other teacher I clicked with left, but she started saying that halfway through last school year, and I never worked with her directly.  This one, I did.  Bus duty will never be the same.  :'( .  Wonderful things:  I HAVE THE BEST CASELOAD.  I love these children, I've worked with over half of them last year, and there are NINE.  Last year I had FOURTEEN.  In TWO grade levels.  This year, both fifth grade classes, and I hear those teachers will be phenomenal to work with.  I am so excited and so happy.  I will have a consistent, reasonable schedule!  I will be productive and chart their growth!  And we will make AYP!  Oh yes.

Speaking of school starting, I am so excited for fall.  I am jazzed.  To the max.  Not only because there's that hum in the air as school starts, not only because that means it will decline below 89 degrees once more, not only because I will be earning wages at long last, but because there's a sense of ownership that is totally new to me.  In my new era of cooking (and cooking SEASONALLY!  Imagine that!  I am so sorry, but seriously, Smitten Kitchen has changed my life), crafting, having adult couples friends, and earning two incomes has me feeling so legitimate.  Cooking with the seasons means fresh and tastier than I am ever inclined to notice, but it's the knowledge that I am following along that is so fantastic!  As the longest standing member of this house, I've really made it so pleasant to live and be in and look around in.  Justin has helped.  I feel like I can be such a great homemaker in this environment, with these new and creative and healthy things to eat, and with the style and energy infused in the house, as much as we can.

I didn't mean for this post to end sadly too.  I didn't mean for them to go in this order.  But my friends, I had to do something for the second time in my life (and an even more dire situation than the first time):  I had to pull out my pumpkin plants.  I know.  I know.  I was devastated too.  There were three of them, and yes, eventually they all sprouted, but from the moment they went into the earth, I was concerned.  That dirt is not meant to hold intentional plants.  Weeds, bushes - fine.  Grass, vegetables - almost no chance.  The quality is ridiculous, and though my pumpkins grew fairly quickly at the start, and although they reached a few feet and sprouted a tendril or two, the roots never thickened.  And this worried me greatly.  They were always these spindly things, and, not wanting to relive the MiracleGro Disaster of '99, I just stuck to watering it in between torrential downpours.  I tried to give it better soil.  Nothing was strong enough, and as I saw when visited it the other day, the storms had all but torn it to shreds.  I pulled them up, and sure enough, the roots may as well have been thread.  Sigh.  We must cultivate our gardens, better, next year.

Update 6/28/11:  All ye who found this post by searching "sad paragraph," see the label of the same name for your tutorial and more sad paragraph paraphernalia. 

Monday, August 9, 2010


So here's something I've been thinking about quite a bit recently.  This whole wedding experience has brought into, and sadly, yet inevitably out of, our lives a parade of long-lost friends.  Which has been incredible.  Especially for the Park Ridge party, I invited people with the attitude that it was basically my funeral, you know, come see me for this excuse-less occasion.  Gather everyone.  And that's largely what happened - fortunately, many of the most important people were in town or could swing by or could stay the whole time, and that was magnificent.  But it has me thinking about friendships and debt and obligations.  Justin has grad school friends who flew out for the wedding itself, and then ending that all-nighter, our hugs were only temporary goodbyes; we'd see them in a month.  Now, that temporary goodbye was pretty indefinite, with no future obligations tying us together. 

In hopes of getting around that, I have decidedly not fulfilled various promises I have made, especially to one particularly good and particularly old friend of mine.  One year, many years ago now, for his birthday, I told him his present would be a future trip to see Blue Man Group.  I had just seen it, and I knew he'd love it.  We'd always been pretty inconsistent gift-givers - one year, a phone call; the next, New Pornographers and Belle and Sebastian concert tickets.  So it wasn't that out of place that I piped up with this invisible present, figuring we'd work out our college vs. home schedules soon enough and go see this group of blue men do their thing.

It has yet to happen.

Notice I very much didn't say, "we never did."  "We never" is such a final, dire phrase.  I'd make fun of extremist Justin all the time for his petty "we never"s ("Pam!  We never went bowling!"), the premise being that there is still time.  ("Justin.  There is still time to go bowling.").  There is always still time, as long as both people are alive, and presumably both still at least theoretically interested in each other, and in doing whatever activity there is still time for.  But for me, somewhere along the line, this has become a debt that, once repaid, severs one (albeit tiny) connection to my good friend Mickey.  Hundreds of miles apart, we don't have too many connections that bind us, and my undelivered present has, at least to me, become one of those.  Apparently I also gave him in high school an artfully rendered IOU for a pudding-filled chocolate Otis Spunkenmeyer.  I guess we imagined one time how amazing such a creation would be, and it looks like I vowed to make that happen.  But once I do, check!  We can cross that one off the list.  This list can't afford to shrink!  These obligations (necessarily more specific than "I promise to come visit you"), without their date of fulfillment, are so hopeful in the saddest of ways.

Trust me, if these were to happen, I know they would be awesome memories.  But without them actually happening, I look forward to them indefinitely. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

As summer ends, accomplishments climb

Today, I walked shelter dogs for the first time.  I was so intimidated, but they are so happy!  I should have known better.  Dogs are friendly. 

Today, I made a cake from scratch for the first time.  Much like gourmet food, sometimes you just prefer the taste of the boxed kind.  But I am still proud of myself for doing it the old fashioned way, at least once.

Today, I went to town on my LinkedIn profile.  How come no one talks about LinkedIn?  It's just Facebook for professionals; instead of favorite music and movies, I have my resume.  When I first heard of LinkedIn, probably through Google searches gone slightly awry, I was pretty sure it was a scam.  Yes, we have WHATEVER name you're looking for!  Just sign up here, it's free!  Fill out a profile to message WHOMEVER you're looking for!  Invite WHOMEVER you're looking for to sign up for LinkedIn!  See?  Super sketch.  So imagine my surprise when I figured out that it was pretty legit.  I have sent many connection requests, feeling mostly ridiculous, but a network has to start somewhere.  Incidentally, my only picture where I don't look absurd is me on my most recent birthday, relishing a Coldstone creation.  At Coldstone.  Maybe at our October photo shoot I'll have her take some that I can remotely use for things like, you know, LinkedIn.

Yesterday, I signed up for a new Google Voice number, with a semi-new email address, and took more consideration in choosing my digits and scored a number whose last four spell HUGS.  HUGS!

Stay tuned tomorrow for painting Kathryne's condo and my first official venture into yoga since high school.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

These posts will no longer be so depressing

Ta da!  To illustrate, here is Justin, making the best of our magic-less situation amid statues and flowers:


Here are further fantastic things:
  1. I ate a mango yesterday, and as I bit into its juicy deliciousness, my first coherent thought was "why do I ever eat anything else."
  2. So many MORE people are coming to celebrate our nuptials Saturday in Chicagoland!  It will be like This Is Your Life.
  3. Justin and I have imposed upon ourselves an idle challenge:  We Shall Not Dine Out During August.  We also shall not forsake friendships for our silly endeavor, so if we happen to have invitations to eat out with friends, then so be it!  We like having friends so much, we are willing to bend the extremely strict rules of our extremely strict game.  We're going to prepare everything from grocery stores and farmers' markets until September 1.  Wish us luck!  Hoo boy!
  4. Two more weeks of freedom!  Of walking puppies and petting kittens, of practicing calligraphy, of researching compost piles, of reorganizing the spice cabinet.  I lead such a baller life, I can hardly stand it.  Really though, I'm excited for school.  Dare I verbalize my goal of reinstating the greenhouse?

Monday, August 2, 2010

In which I complete my life's goal amid countless disappointments


In a stellar BuyWithMe deal, I found tickets to a magic show for a certain husband's birthday.  Now, said husband has wanted to go to a magic show FOREVER, and these steeply discounted tickets landed in my lap.  And I was overjoyed.  I was overjoyed in secret for several months, and then I FINALLY told Justin, as it had transformed into (one of) his birthday present(s) (how this became Year of the Justin, I have no idea.  Between Jim Gaffigan and this magic show, coworker lunch AND surprise friend lunch at Buca di Beppo, this birthday season has been celebrated extensively.).  So the Races have been extremely excited, together, for a couple of weeks leading up to the actual Magic Show Night.  We leave ridiculously early due to my fear of finding the hotel and getting good seats.  We trek downtown in rush hour.  We make it to the swank hotel to find Glenn Gary's showroom.  The staff doesn't appear to know what we're talking about.  Then other staff murmur something about how they hadn't seen him today; yes, we're in the right place; yes, he's usually here Wednesdays and Fridays -- oh, is it Friday already? -- hold on, let us get the manager.  The manager verifies what has become increasingly apparent:  No Glenn Gary tonight.  We sadly stumble downstairs, bumble through an explanation of why we don't need a refund, yes, we'll call for future Wednesdays and Fridays to make sure he's there and reserve a spot.  SIGH.

Other disappointments were far sillier, like walking the mile and change to the ATM only to see that the lines were too long for us to wait before turning around so I could drive to the animal shelter.  Or that our mini-golf outing was less putt-putt and more wait-wait.  Or that Largo Capital Centre Boulevard is actually a super lame excuse for an outdoor mall, or that Golden Corral is not only really expensive but also shrewdly in charge of all your drinks, severely dampening the buffet experience.  Or that no one at CVS knew how to handle my raincheck for a free box of self-sealing envelopes.  Or that the DuPont Farmer's Market was, unbelievably, still overcrowded and still overpriced.  But they were still disappointments, and even though I was with my adoring husband, I still felt them more deeply as they progressed.  I tried to remember to be peaceful.  I was successful at times.

But then.  But then!  We're walking through DuPont to kill some time before our 1 pm Buca lunch.  And there, there before my very eyes! is a group of friendly-looking Indians, apparently from Karma Kitchen, exploring new outreach adventures while their restaurant was under renovation.  They have a table filled with paper bags (that, it turns out, are filled with bags of chips and granola bars) and bottled water, all free for the taking, asking only a smile in return.  I see a cardboard sign leaning against their info board.  COULD IT BE?!  IT COULD!!  There it was, spray painted in its dripping glory, "FREE HUGS."  I nearly bulldozed the girl holding one of the signs, and got my own free hug, and apparently begged with my extremely eager face to hold the other sign.  I had about ten glorious minutes to be part of a Free Hugs site.  I got some funny looks, some skepticism, some smiles, and some free hugs.  Thank you! they would exclaim.  No, thank YOU!  Have a fantastic day! I would answer.  I got complimented on my hug.  I hugged a small child.  I was basically Juan Mann.  It is all downhill from here.

In other news, am also still trying half-heartedly to find a bike.  A used bike.  A cool bike.  Craigslist is slow and ironically way too serious for what I'm thinking, and (speaking of disappointments) some guys who always go to Georgetown Flea Market to sell bikes weren't there last week due to ridiculous heat.  Here is me in Baltimore (speaking of disappointments), on the day we didn't know that the Twins/Orioles game was moved back three hours, trying to ride a statue bike.  I am not getting very far.