A New Year…A New Beginning

It’s been a while, blogging friends. Although I did have a few good reasons. Since I last left you, I’ve moved to Portsmouth, VA and had a wonderful son. 2012 was quite the busy year.

But it’s a new year. And with the beginning of the new year, tradition dictates that we set resolutions. So as to not break with such a time honored tradition, I have made a list of my resolutions for 2013.

Tradition also dictates that we fail to follow through on most of them but we’ll see.

(With such an optimistic outlook, how can I fail?)

So what are my resolutions?

  1. Write, whether here or in a journal, on a regular basis. I’m sure my husband and chat friends are tired of hearing my brain dumps on a regular basis.
  2. Do a better job of planning meals for my family. We throw out an obscene amount of food that I forget we have bought and order pizza more than can conceivably be healthy.
  3. Get out of the house. I have the great privilege of being a full-time remote worker now but, with working until 5 and the Bear Cub (my son) going to bed at 6:30, it means that I rarely see outside the four walls of my house during the week. This results in something very near to stir craziness.

Three seems like a number of resolutions that will not doom me to failure. Years where my reach exceeds my grasp and I set closer to 10, I have never actually achieved even one of them. Hopefully with only three to keep track of, I will actually succeed in all of them.

Happy New Year to you all!

My DC Bucket List

It dawned on me last week that I have less than a year left here in the great city of Washington DC. Approximately 10 months by my count. I can’t believe that my big moving day, the one I never thought would get here, is so freaking close. I figure that the only way I’ll be able to do all the things I want to do before leaving, and ensure those things get done, is to make a list. A list of all the museums, memorials, bars, restaurants, events, and street fairs that I have always wanted to visit but haven’t gotten around to yet. My DC Bucket List.

  1. Visit the Albert Einstein Memorial
  2. Visit 18th Street Lounge
  3. Eat at a Poste Roast (or just go to Poste)
  4. Drinks at Columbia Room
  5. Drinks at P/X
  6. Visit the DC Science Museum
  7. Watch a movie at Screen on the Green
  8. Watch a movie outdoors at a venue that is not Screen on the Green
  9. Attend E Street Cinema’s showing of Oscar nominated short films
  10. Attend the Crafty Bastards street fair in Adams Morgan
  11. Drink on one of the many DC rooftop bars
  12. Eat at Good Stuff Eatery
  13. Eat at Minibar (if it reopens; if not, eat at American Eats Tavern)
  14. Go to the “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit at the National Archives
  15. Eat at Raiska
  16. Eat at Hush…again
  17. Visit Arlington National Cemetery 
  18. Attend the Maryland Renaissance Festival (shut up, it’s cool)
  19. Actually go to Eastern Market
  20. Go to the National Archives
  21. Bike the entire length of the Mount Vernon Trail
Anyone want to help check things off this list? Any suggestions for things I should add??

Lessons to Learn

So I knew this wouldn’t be easy.

But I never thought it would be this hard.

We did fine dating on opposite coasts. I thought being married on opposite coasts would be the same.

I thought wrong.

Every feeling I have seems stronger than before, which is great when the feelings are good and not so great when the feeling is akin to neglect.

It’s not neglect; it’s a learning what sacrifices are involved in being a “military spouse.”

It’s learning that it’s not just us; it’s us and the Coast Guard.

It’s learning how to fight over the phone on borrowed time and that, sometimes, it’s not worth it.

It’s learning to communicate what’s needed and what I’m feeling without laying blame.

It’s realizing that being angry and frustrated with the situation is ok but that it’s not the same as being angry and frustrated with him. (Although the two can go hand in hand.)

When it comes down to it, it’s understanding how much I truly hate this situation.

Notes on Airplane Sick Bags

Do you know what that is? That, my readers, is a blog post that I outlined for myself last November on a flight from DC to Scottsdale, AZ. I wrote it after beginning to read a career advice book that should have been called “Carrie, Pay Attention. We’re Talking to You Here.” The book was really titled “Wander Woman: How High Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction” and my boss had handed it to me as I left the office to board the flight.

Not to put any pressure on or anything, when she handed me the book she told me that our company’s President had identified me as one of the high performers she wanted the book given to as a way to help cultivate their career paths. Oh and that she wanted to speak to me about the content in the book once I got to Scottsdale.

I read the entire book before my flight landed in Scottsdale. While reading it, I was so flustered, taken aback, creeped out by how directly the content of the book spoke to me that I literally could not stay in my seat. I spent a good five minutes pacing the aisle of the coach cabin because of this book. (I’m sure the flight attendants hated me.)

I was so excited by this book because it was exactly what I needed at the time. It provided me excellent insight into why I was having such a hard time completing what should have been a straightforward task (figuring out what steps I wanted to take over the next year to develop my career path). The book spoke about how women who have been classified as high achievers in their lives tend to develop a career path based solely on project work because it’s easy to show results on project work. (It also lessens the risk of failure, which is something I’m terrified of.)

That was it! That rang more true than anything on career planning that I had read before or read since.

So what happened to that blog, you may be asking yourself? Like most other things in my life over the past 6-8 months, it got sidetracked, put away in a drawer, and mostly forgotten about. And now I find myself in the same place I was in November – feeling stuck in my attempts to figure out what it is, exactly, that I want to do over the next 1, 5, 7 years, other than remain employed.

I’ve approached one of the VPs not in my department at work to be my mentor as a first step. The problem is I now have to define my goals for the mentorship, which means that I’ll be breaking out the book again to kick start the part of my brain that responded so viscerally the last time. And who knows? Maybe the reaction will be just as strong and you’ll get a chance to read a version of the blog I outlined on the back of an airplane sick bag.

One Last Goodbye

My Grandfather was 96 years old. He raised three children, brought electricity to rural South Carolina, fought in WWII, baked chocolate chip cookies for six grandchildren, charmed four great granddaughters, and made his only granddaughter feel like the only person in his world.

I was lucky that I got to see him at least two or three times a year growing up, despite the fact he lived 7 hours away. Our family would always get together for a week at the beach (every year for the past 26 years); at Thanksgiving (although once the cousins started marrying, it would only be the entire family every other year); and many Easters. We also would spend every other Christmas with our grandparents.

Despite the variety of times I saw my Granddad, all of my best memories of him revolve around food.

At the beach, we would hoard the chocolate chip and cake mix cookies that Granddad would bake. I’m not sure how long he would spend baking in the week leading up to the beach; I just know that there were always plenty of cookies but they would always be gone by day three. Then there was his chili con queso. Again, I’m still not sure how he made this; I just know it was addictive and I would haunt kitchen on the day I knew he was making it.

My Thanksgiving food memories are not about turkey or stuffing or mashed potatoes. They are all about pancakes. Every year, one morning, my granddad would make us silver dollar pancakes, but, somehow, he would make them so they had crispy edges. (I suspect light frying was involved. Yes, my Granddad fried pancakes.) I would wake up the earliest and get a seat at the table hours before Granddad woke up I was so excited by these pancakes. I never ate them with syrup; just powdered sugar. It was the highlight of Thanksgiving for me.

Food aside, Granddad loved his grandkids. Whenever I talked to him on the phone he would always tell me how good I looked. As a little girl, I loved this. He was thrilled by his great granddaughters. Even as infants, they had him wrapped around their little finger. He would make faces, funny noises – anything to make them smile.

He was also the most independent person I knew. Until he was 94, he lived alone inBarnwell, SC. He drove himself everywhere, from church to the grocery store to checking on other family members younger than himself. He never asked for help from anyone; he was always the one to offer help.

Then, two years ago, he fell. One subdural hematoma later and it was decided that it would be better to move Granddad to a nursing home in Richmond since he was no longer independently mobile. Once he was in the nursing home, he fell again and suffered a second subdural hematoma.

He was 94 years old, had two subdural hematomas and was still coherent. He became the bane of the hospital wing of his nursing home. He disassembled his wheelchair. He escaped from the wing. He broke a second wheelchair. When he met my fiance, only a few months ago, he was engaging, totally coherent, and trying very hard to have a good day. And he succeeded.

Then something happened. We’re not sure what. The nurses suspect a small stroke. But Granddad stopped eating. And drinking. Last weekend, I made the trek to Richmond to say goodbye. My parents, my brother,and I spent an hour with Granddad telling him how much he meant to us and reliving our favorite memories.

How he would always respond to the question “What time is it?” with the response “Quart of milk.”

How he would stand in his driveway, wave, and yell “Yee-haw!” whenever we left.

How, when courting Grandma, he took 20-foot roll of accounting tape and wrote her a letter horizontally using the entire roll because she had asked for a “long letter.”

How, one year at the beach, he and Grandma sported felt Cat in the Hat type hats for the yearly family picture.

While we were sharing our memories, Granddad woke up. I could tell because one eye was cracked slightly wider than the other. He started making this “ha ha ha!” sound during our stories. I like to think that he was laughing with us and remembering the same things.

Tuesday night he passed away. I’m lucky that I got to say goodbye. I’m even luckier that I got to call him “Granddad.” I’m luckiest that I know he and the lessons I learned from him will be with me the rest of my life.

Rest in peace, Granddad. You are sorely missed.

Our Story

Let the countdown begin! There are only 18 more days until I am officially married. As the day gets closer and closer and since I just left the fiancé in LA, I’m feeling in a nostalgic mood and figured I’d share our story,

Being of a literary mind, I never pined for the perfect man, but the perfect story. Something with a little drama, a little suspense, some laughs, but, in the end, a happy ending. Sound like something straight out of a Meg Cabot (or insert chick lit author of choice) novel? You bet. I feed on those things like some women feed on Disney.

So I am exceedingly happy to report that, not only is James the man I love, but he comes with a fantastic story as well. If I do say so myself.

Depending on who you ask, the story either beings 3 years ago OR 9 years ago. See, my best friend Rebecca decided that her friend James would be perfect for me and set us up on a blind date 9 years ago. As these things go, James had just gotten out of a relationship and wasn’t interested in dating at the time. So he did the most logical thing he could think of…and brought a friend. On the double date.

Aaaaaaaaawkward.

Needless to say, nothing happened.

Fast forward 6 years and you’ll find me bright eyed, fresh out of grad school, and ready to take DC by storm. Once again, fate, in the form of Rebecca, intervenes and says “Since you’re moving to DC and I have a ton of college friends in DC, let me take you to one of their parties and introduce you around!”

Of course I go along! Who’s going to say no to a pre-made friend group?

So I go and, of course, James is there. I don’t immediately make the connection between this James Anderson and the James Anderson who brought a friend on our blind date; I’m too busy making the connection between this James Anderson and the older brother of my good friend Matt Anderson. But eventually, after a good bit of flirting on both sides, it clicks.

He doesn’t remember a thing.

Now he’ll tell you that my bringing it up jogged his memory but, really, he has no recollection of our first “date.”

I tease him good-naturedly about this and he uses it, oh so cooly, as a segue into asking me out. As he is tall, blonde, handsome, and charming, I couldn’t help but say yes.

We proceed to date for about 3 months. Which is funny to me since, over those 3 months, 3 dealbreakers emerged for me:

  1. I didn’t want something serious.
  2. He did.
  3. And how do I put this nicely….He wasn’t serious about much except wanting a relationship.

So we ended things and vowed to stay friends, which turned out to be harder than I anticipated at the time.

You see, and lord this sounds self-centered, he never gave up on wanting to date me, going so far as to woo me…in front of subsequent boyfriends.  I was not the biggest fan of this and always tried to keep him at arm’s length, but never out of the picture. I like to think that, deep down, I knew there was something special there just waiting for the right opportunity.

That opportunity came almost exactly 12 months ago. James realized he needed a change and enlisted in the Coast Guard. This made a world of difference in his life. He was still the goofy, funny, kindhearted guy I knew, but there was something more. A gravity and centeredness that was missing when we first met.

As cheesy as it sounds, with this new centeredness, he realized that the best thing he could do for our story was to actually be my friend. Not be “my friend that not so secretly wants to date me and lets everyone and their mother know,” but my true, honest to goodness friend who just wants what was best for me.

And, as cheesy as it sounds, that’s when I fell in love with him. When he gave me the space to see what we had and why it was special, I realized that there was a reason I was never able to fully extricate him from my life.

However, I wasn’t quite ready to declare us a couple again. I was still hesitant. Until last November.

Last November, I took my yearly business trip to Scottsdale, AZ. I did not mention this trip to James until the last minute and I did it in an offhand “oh my word I hate packing” kind of way. I didn’t mention it because I knew (ok I googled) that Scottsdale was 6-7 hours south of LA. There was NO WAY someone would make that trip.

I was wrong.

Not only did he drive the 6-7 hours to see me, he also rearranged his schedule so that he would have the entire weekend to spend with me.

I couldn’t pretend anymore. I was falling hard for this man, and he obviously felt the same way about me.

We officially started dating in November; began talking about marriage in early January; got engaged in March; and will be pseudo-eloping in 18 days.

I really have it all; a great man AND a great story.

Lessons from My “Big Girl” Lunch

It should come as no surprise that the least favorite aspect of my job is networking. I am much more comfortable communicating and expressing myself in writing than in person. For one thing, I can edit myself easier. For another, my inevitable pauses disappear in writing because I have to finish a complete thought before publishing, whether by hitting the “publish” button on WordPress or the “send” button on an e-mail.

This little fear of mine gets all the more interesting due to the fact that I am a registered lobbyist. Which essentially means 85% of my job should entail networking.

Yeah. That’s fun.

I’ve managed to power through the fear and nausea in various ways. By telling myself they know less, they have less experience, they don’t care as much about the issue. I always was able to cast myself as the “expert” which made me feel more confident.

Lately, however, my boss has started backing off the lobbying and started transitioning her lobbying duties, such as networking lunches, to me as well. Meaning, I am now responsible for being our company’s liason with other lobbyists.

That is, people who have more knowledge, more experience, care as much, and are older than me. Essentially, my boss is sending me into situations as her stand-in and trusting me not to screw it up.

As someone who has pretty significant communication anxiety, here are some lessons I’ve learned through this trial by fire:

  1. Act Confident. No one will know you’re shaking on the inside if you have a firm handshake, friendly smile, and good posture. Granted, confidence isn’t all physical, but just like fake smiling can lead to a sunnier outlook, physically faking confidence can lead to the genuine thing.
  2. Be Prepared. Just like the Boy Scouts, if you walk into a situation having done your homework, you’re more likely to know the answers to questions thrown your way.
  3. “Let me get back to you on that” is always an acceptable answer. No one is going to know the answer to every question they’re given and no one expects you to know the answer to every question you are asked. Now, you can’t say this to every question asked and you do have to get back with them in a timely manner but it does take the pressure off in the moment.
  4. Recognize you’re not being set up for failure. Now this one sounds kind of paranoid but there really is no other way to put it. Your boss would not put you in a situation they don’t think you can handle. They also do not want you to go into the situation feeling uncomfortable and would probably be more than happy to sit down with you before to cover the goals of the meeting and what she wants you to walk away with.
  5. Get to know people. Trust me on this, it’s practically impossible to be intimidated by someone whose weekend plans you know.