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Adopting in Ashburn

What began in France moved to Washington, DC and then the suburbs. Let the adventures in Ashburn continue.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

One Nerdy Gamecock

Today I got a late start. Then I sat in the DMV/MAV for ages. However, I did get my license - thank goodness. I came home and did a little laundry, had leftovers, and read the paper. Tonight's class was incredibly good. It was exactly what I had been hoping for, really. It is all about conducting research surveys and polling ... I can't wait. We are going to learn by actually administering some questionnaires and surveys ... this is so exciting.

I am a little bummed that my "tailgate" shindig for tomorrow isn't going to happen, but I will still be cheering like crazy for my Gamecocks and hopefully the other alums I know in the area won't all be busy for one of the next games. (If you still can make it though, leave me a comment and I'll get you directions!) For this evening I am off to read a little more of one of the ever growing stack of textbooks in my room (I bought 4 more today to add to the 6 on my desk). I also checked out the syllabus for tomorrow's class on blackboard ... in addition to the 6 mandatory texts, there are 10 article readings (on average) for each of the class sessions. I am going to be reading like a mad woman. Makes me feel like I should have come straight to grad school! Gotta love those books. Then again, if I had come straight here I would've stayed and Eagle and never become a Gamecock. And there ain't nothin' like bein' a Gamecock.

Go ... Fight ...Win ... Love always, ~Heather

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A New Chapter

Classes started today. Of course, after all my hype, they were in the end just classes. Nothing overwhelmingly interesting. Opening day kind of stuff. I am a little afraid the first professor things I am unfocused or not entirely devoted to my communication degree (I will relay this story if next class reveals more proof). But, he is pretty cool nonetheless and I think I may just enjoy taking a writing class with him. He is an awful lot like Professor Bockman, but less animated and pretty strict on the "no food or drink in the lab" rule.

My classmates so far are very cool. I got a chance to know Erin today and am doing a mini-biography on Aman for my first assignment. Speaking of assignments, reading liberal arts literature is kind of like reading The Scarlet Letter; awful. (What punctuation mark is supposed to go before awful? I am sure that is wrong.) I had to read two articles on "research" and "experiments." I have never seen anything so subjective in my enitre life. The enitre goal of making a theory in communications is apparently to arrive at enough data so you can create another theory. Facts, as I read today, are once in a GENERATION type things that don't really exist in this highly subjective universe.

I wonder a little what I have gotten myself into. It took six pages to convert my brain to comprehending the convoluted message. Once past pretending that this stuff was actually an experiment and not just sampling or non-empirical data collection, the substance wasn't bad. I can say one thing for certain: this will be new and (hopefully) exciting material and if nothing else I am going to learn to learn in a new way.

After a nice fajita supper (thanks roomie!) I headed back to school, articles in hand, freshly printed discussion questions pasted in french-style to my notebook for Communication Theory. I must say that the first portion of the class was like being in a room with a masculine veela. I will say nothing else on that subject except you know it is serious if I am mentioning it. I quickly recovered and spent the rest of the class taking notes and trying not to speak. I usually speak out alot in class, but my lack of comprehension for how they throw around words I've been using for years in a completely different sense was blowing my mind. After two moderately embarrassing mishaps (that felt much more like Mrs. Gross' 2nd grade sex ed than I'd like to admit) I just shut up. Theory is not the same. It is sort of the same but not. Variables, dependent and independent, have taken on new dimensions in the abstract and conceptual worlds (I think this is because of the subjectivity thing?). The only word that remained the same was hypothesis. Thank goodness for familiarity.

I hope the professor was nervous, because he was pacing around alot and basically breaking every Toastmaster rule ever invented. I know I am an oratorical snob, but I figured a communication specialist would know better. Hence, I am blaming it on nerves and hoping he recovers. I know now from my Chanzy experience that a room full of students really can be intimidating.

I got an email about my assistantship, I successfully took public transportation to and from school, did not spill my tomato sandwich on myself while eating at the bus stop, washed my sheets, and read a few more sections of the newspaper ... this was a good day. My new beginning really. With all of the chapters I am going to read this semester, it is nice to know that at least metaphorically I am writing my own. Time for bed, this brain's worn out.

Love always, ~Heather

Monday, August 28, 2006

DMV aka MAV

It is like acronym heaven, all these state and local and federal government buildings in and around DC. What I was looking for was a place to get a new driver's license. Though mine is still "valid," it is from an address I have not officially lived at since 2004. Now, because I was in and out of the country and uncertain of my states-manship I did not renew. Now I have a permanent and temporary address combined in one. Super!

The DMV is called the MAV in Maryland. I can come up with no reason to do this but to confuse people. However, my determination was much stronger than their tactics ... I prevailed and discovered, in my fist internet try, the name. The location was slightly more difficult, because there are only two places (of eight) in a forty mile radius that can actually give me an exchange license (meaning no new test, etc). So I drive to Gaithersburg, about 20 minutes from here.

Besides discovering that 270N has an exit 10 and 270S does NOT, the trip went well. It was more of a detour than getting lost. So I arrive and am astounded by the size of the facility and the jam-packed parking lot. There were easily 100 spaces - pretty much all full. I got inside and got my ticket number - thrilled that I had everything I needed (go internet research) and was set. I sat down. I looked up at the board and realized I was 50 people away from being helped. With about 10 tellers working though, I figured it wouldn't be that bad. In about 5 minutes, I figured out exactly why they changed it to MAV; they want you to think they are more effecient but really they are just tricky. My ticket included a letter, A238. It was A189. Then there were B34 and C78 mixed in there. People with other letters were getting to go ahead of me!!! I was not just 50 people away, I was 50 people and a weird variety of other letters away from being helped!

This is what I was expecting though, and had brought a book, The Stupid History of the Human Race. I think it was an especially pertinent choice. Almost 2 hours later my number popped up. I hurried to the station where they took my picture, did my vision exam, and I handed over my paperwork, stacked neatly with all the supporting documents. Then the hellmouth opened up under my chair and started sending out demons.

Apparently, because my landlord lives in the same building as me, I have a "Boarder" contract instead of a "Residential Rental Contract." I tried to explain and was expeditiously sent away. I thought about crying, regained my senses, and left for the supervisor's station. I was greeted, smilelessly, by someone who repeated the same thing. She left to find someone else to help. This supervisor was significantly more impatient and had something blocking her brain from comprehending. Here was the situation: I share a mailbox, so my contract isn't real. This to me is like equine excrement. She got tired of my well defended armument fairly quickly and called with a code over the loudspeaker (while I was still talking) that sounded an awful lot like a call for a security officer to remove me from the building, "Nasim 363, Nasim 363." Turns out Nasim is the manager.

I explain to him that my unit is different and separate from the home above me. He grasps this and says that it doesn't matter. I show him the form, MAV issued, that says a Residential Rental Contract is a valid proof of residency. He says they didn't mean Boarder contracts. I took a deep breath and just logicked the heck out of them: "You say my apartment does not count because it is part of a residence. The landlord often lives in an apartment building. I have a legally binding contract sitting here. I still pay rent. I am liable for my apartment and must cover it with my own insurance. And this indeed is a rental contract. So, can you please tell me how this does not qualify?" I showed him the form again and said it was ridiculous that they do not mention, with every other possible detail on that paper, that my type of contract doesn't count. I really couldn't tell if he agreed or just thought I wasn't going to leave until he helped me. Either way, he wrote me an override so I could get my license. I needed to go back to the waiting area for just a moment and then a clerk would handle my forms. Thank you Nasim.

Five minutes later, as I watch him hand the override to the clerk, all the other workers stop typing. The system has crashed. They use the loudspeaker to tell everyone that they are rebooting the system and if we stick around, they'll still help us today, even though it is already after hours. Thirty minutes later they come out and say to the crowd of 60+ antsy people, "If you come back tomorrow through Thursday, preferably between 8 and 10am, go to station 36 and tell them you were here today and they'll put you at the front of the line." Not even an "I'm sorry for the inconvenience."

Going back any day that early in the morning is like a death sentence for traffic getting back into the city. Also, as I start classes tomorrow, I'm not really looking forward to the idea of having to drive 17.83 miles one way to get a license I already waited in line and fought for! Oh well. The result is that MAV is actually worse than DMV, and one of my first policies as president will be the nationalization of the driver's license situation. Federalism is wonderful, I love that marble cake. But, I think I want the upper tier taking over this one. Then again, they are in charge of passports, and that seems to take forever too.

All I can say is "Thank goodness!" that I didn't encounter a random situation like this when trying to get my firms filled out in France. I wouldn't have even been able to express my confusion. Here, I can use my poise and wit. Oh, and being relentless certainly helps.

Grocery shopping and then reading for my first class tomorrow (two journal articles and a description of the research/resource system in the library are on the syllabus). I am very excited about school. Oh, and thanks to Garrison for chatting it up with me last night - those two hours made the two hours wasted this afternoon sort of cancel each other out. Life is good friends, life is good.

Love always, ~Heather

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Blackboard

Blackboard was, unintentionally, the bane of my existence as an undergrad - particularly in regard to French classes. All the assignments were online and if the internet went out or my computer was screwy, I was dead meat. Blackboard has resurfaced in my life, and I am actually feeling rather pleased about it.

At orientation yesterday they entioned that Blackboard was a system highly favored by AU professors. So this morning I checked it out. I got to read the syllabus for one of my courses and will even be able to do the appropriate reading before classes begin. Yes, this is graduate school, I have homework and I don't start class for three days. But this really made me feel good. One, because I will now be prepared, and two because after spending a year on another continent, I am significantly more at ease with using the internet as my means of communication.

For the class that already had its documents posted, I was able to discern that I have exactly four assignments due the entire class long. Three of them are related and one is the final exam. Write a paper about the topic you intend to choose. Write an annotated bibliography for the subject you intend to write about. Write a review/synthesis of the subject you have chosen. Now I still have plenty of journal articles to read and questions to answer before classes, but I am thrilled by the discussion-like outline of the course.

I can't wait for school to start. Really, I am mad with excitement about it. I love the idea of my assistantship. I am going to try my darndest to work school like a 9-5 job (with a little variety in the hours since I have two evening classes). I have really seriously been considering getting another job or internship or something to keep me busy, but now feel like I came to DC for a reason. Most people come because they can find excellent job/internship opportunities outside of school. As an undergrad, I would have probably taken advantage of that. Now as a graduate student, I am looking at a different level of involvement.

I am seriously considering taking the time I would have spent at another occupation sitting in on oral arguments, interviewing Representatives and Senators, touring all of the government agencies that will let me, and then really delving into making myself an expert on something. This is something that really interests me. I am incredibly unsure how to work it out - what I want to be an expert in that is.

Feminist issues are obviously something that interests me, but I fear that I will paint myself into a corner on that one. Science issues are great, and since I already have the background I can understand it, however I am left only with the political backwash of that one since I am not actually a scientist. Politics is an obvious choice, but I feel like familiarity is more important than expert status here because politicians, issues, and parties change dynamics all of the time. Whatever I choose, I don't want it to be inflexible and I want to be able to grow with it. I want to be able to bring something to my employer's table that not a single other person can offer.

For this afternoon though, I am going to start work on a data analyzation project I am doing for HOBY. I am hoping that my work with them on this project will lead to a long distance internship through the VA Commonwealth office. I'll also try to find some local volleyball clubs (at school maybe?) that I can participate in for my physical well-being. My work is cut out for me. And I love it.

Love you too, ~Heather

P.S. - It is less than a week to USC Gamecock kick-off!!!!!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Orientation

Orientation did everything it was supposed to do. It introduced me to my program, the faculty, aspects of the school, and some fellow students. I got to fill out paperwork, see some of the facilities, listen to speakers, and take notes on a few things I should really be doing before school starts. It did all of this, but that isn't what made it great.

Orientation absolutely, positively, rocked my socks! After the mixer at the Press Club, I was nervous that the program was going to be all public relations (exactly what I did NOT want to study), that I was incompetent because I was only going to be working 10-15 hours a week in addition to taking 12 hours of graduate level courses (which is 3 more hours than full time), and that there was the distinct possibility I was one of the least experienced people around. However, when I heard about all the exciting lectures, outside projects, the alumni mentoring program, and available resources; the only thing I could think was: "I am not going to have an ounce of trouble filling my "spare" time.

The Play-by-Play
Breakfast and words from a few people. Most interesting thing is the description of the new faculty members. My two favorite from the list are actually teaching me too. How exciting! Dottie Lynch was the CBS Political Editor and signed on in May. She is an expert on the gender gap and polling. Matt Nisbet is a rather young but very accomplished guy who focuses on science and the media and how the more scientific policy issues can be put into greater focus on the political agenda. Loving the idea of taking classes from both of these people!

Scavenger hunt for people in the program "who have ..." I was excited to be able to fill the "Has lived on at least two continents" box in addition to some other more general things. Abbey blows everyone away by managing to meet basically half of the room. I am hoping we get to hang out more - I love her initiative!

Break-out groups into divisions of the School of Communication. Lenny Steinhorn, the Division Director talks to us about our division and introduces more faculty members. I am thrilled to have this former congressional speech writer and political consultant for my professor as well. My fourth professor is not there, but has an excellent resume as well. During the Q&A I ask a relatively silly question (as stupid questions do not exist), "Is there a dress code?". (My mother has been telling us every night at the dinner table about how the students in her grad program have to be sent to get more appropriate clothes before attending classes ... so I was a little nervous.) Prof. Steinhorn replies by making a joke of my question, which doesn't thrill me until he apeases his response by talking about the importance of choosing appropriate apparel before going places besides his classroom. Phew. Getting made fun of the first day would have been a serious bummer.

At the end of the break-out the woman next to me turns to me and says, "I think you are in my class." It is Dottie Lynch, who I have been psyched about taking a class from since May when I heard she was coming in. And she has recognized me from my name tag. She applauds my question about the dress code. I was thrilled, relieved, and super excited to talk to her. Afterwards, on the way out of the room, Prof. Nisbet calls me over. I figured he saw my name on his roster too. No such luck. Instead, he wanted to tell me I was his new Graduate Research Assistant. I get to study science, communication, and politics simultaneously under this man. It is seriously as if God has blessed me 100 times over in the period of five minutes. I cannot even begin to tell you how joyous I am about all of this.

Lunch was superb, and we got to sit with a different professor and talk to her about her specialties and ideas. She primarily works with non-profits, but has a PhD in Film from UCLA. Wow. Oh, and the mozzarella (from the water), tomato, italian spices sandwich was heavenly.

After lunch things were slightly less amusing with a very RA-training like introduction to campus resources, offices, and lists of things we were supposed to have already done but never knew existed because the communication school has surprisingly bad communication skills. One interesting fact is that over 80% of AU students do an internship. I wonder if I will fall into their crowd or not. Also, I can check out books from 8 colleges and universities - including Georgetown - in the DC area for free. How exciting!

I filled out the paperwork for my employment stuff (I had not received the email about bringing appropriate identification with me though, so lacking my passport or birth certificate, I now have to go and hunt down the HR office ... slack me not reading my email the NIGHT before orientation (it was sent at 6:17pm)). But the good news is I will be getting paid. Hooray.

I came home after that because I needed to kind of veg out from sitting in the rather uncomfortable folding chair right next to the bar from the folding table (inability to move legs = bad thing). I was bummy for about an hour and then all the amazing feelings of exhiliration hit me and I had to go do something. So I went back to school and watched the AU volleyball team play George Mason in the DC Metro Classic. They lost 16-14 in the 5th game after four pretty tight games before that. I won't regale you with all of the highlights, but I chose a great school to watch volleyball at as the Eagles have been Patriot League champs for 3 years running. And it is just one more FREE feature of having my university ID card. Marvelous.

And that was pretty much my day. Wasn't that exciting!?! I hope you think so too. Love always, ~Heather


Original Post
{I went to orientation today. It was incredibly cool and very fun. But after that and the AU volleyball game I went to tonight, and the lingering headache I have from not eating dinner until 10:30pm ... I am going to finish watching Monk and then I am going to sleep. I'll delete this tomorrow and fill in the exciting details of my day .... really going. Love always, ~Heather}

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Figurative Language

Here is a figurative language based email I got from my father today:

Analogies and Metaphors

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are last year's winners.....

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.
8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.
9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.
10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.
12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.
14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.
16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.
18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.
25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Thanks Dad for the nice, literally out-loud laughs.

Today I did something exceptionally girly; I went shopping. Now, I still have a very limited budget, but the shopping wasn't for me, it was for Dana. She wanted to get something to wear to orientation, and I had nothing too specific to do this morning. I discovered a new "working on a budget" store, H & M. It was good to see shirts and such cheaper than you would even find them at Target, but with that classier look. We also headed into Nine West for her shoes. Did you know that the ballerina slipper is now the new "going out" look. At least they'll be more comfortable than the usual spiky heeled, pointy-toed stuff.

I picked up my textbooks and started reading one of them this afternoon; yes, I know I am a nerd. It is pretty good so far. Hmmm. I have nothing else interesting to tell you. Wow. I hope you have a fun day! Always, ~Heather

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Book Themed Day

I am sitting here contemplating the value of $12. I know that seems silly, but I am wondering if it is worth the aggravation that may ensue if the books I am considering ordering online don't arrive in time for class next week. Now I only have one class a week of each course I am taking, but figuring that, and about 16 weeks in the semester, I have the feeling I'll probably be doing reading from the first night. That being said, the people in the bookstore were pretty snotty today. I know I was rude in return (shouldn't do that) but I seriously started sweetly enough.

I HATE lying. This is just about the worst thing you can do to me. I take it as a personal afront that you think I am either too weak or too stupid to handle the truth. Let's clear that up: I'm neither. I am neither over-confident nor idiotic, so please treat me like the adult I am and tell me that you will not give me the ISBN codes because you don't want me to be able to go and get the book someplace else for cheaper. Do not tell me you do not have them, because they are imprinted on the stickers you have attached to the back of all of your used books. This is not a school for the blind (no offense intended to anyone who suffers from blindness). This is AMERICAN UNIVERSITY! Don't screw me around. Especially if you are the assistant manager - you are setting a bad example.

Out of principle, based on their behavior, I would normally shop someplace else. But like hundreds of colleges and universities across this great country, they have the monopoly on the textbook sales at the campus bookstore. Therefore I must resort to the internet (a tool I love, but don't entirely trust). All this leads me back to wondering how much my pride and $12 is really worth. Well, I can almost eliminate the pride - I could really care less what the bookstore clerks think of me.

Except ... they were the first other American students I've met, and I haven't made the best of impressions. I know I will do better in other situations, but I dislike how having my intelligence insulted turns me into quite a snotty witch (with a b). I mean, they shouldn't insult anything because, first of all I was a customer, and second of all I am a person - a person who was smart enough to get into this semi-private, incredibly well-ranked institution of higher learning. But I shouldn't retaliate in kind. It isn't nice. And I'd like to be nice. But when the clerk slid in, "The first day of class is mostly syllabuses anyway." Boy, I would have liked to wop him upside the head, or at least correct his grammar. I didn't look like a college freshman when I WAS a college freshman - thanks for the age reduction though.

In other less whiny news, I made baked salmon for dinner tonight. I was really happy with how it came out. It peeled right off of the skin and was not dry at all. It was a cooking accomplishment I will certainly try to repeat sometime. Oh, and Dana and I discovered some interesting things about the buses that run on our road (namely that one only operates until 9am and then again after 4pm!). We have now both submitted our photos for our student ID's courtesy of my digital camera. She managed one of the best head shots of me ever on her first try, so thanks roomie!

Also, I finished a very interesting pseudo-historical fiction novel, The Librarian today. It was written by Larry Beinhart, author of American Hero which became the Dustin Hoffman movie Wag the Dog. It definitely plays into the politics of our world right now and election year tactics for a presidential win. The end is a little easily fabricated and poorly closed up, but the story in general was good. It had a good mixture of characters you either love or love to hate and fictional counterparts that gave the distinct impression of being someone you might know... I would recommend it to anyone who likes politics, stories about librarians, or who wants to understand the workings (mind you this is the pseudo-history part) of the backers who so dilligently support people from their respective parties.

And now I am off to have some dessert, hang out in front of the television, and perhpas absorb some more random facts from the DC guide books during the commercials (why watch when you can read?). Missing all those great pillars in my support network here and abroad ... Love always, ~Heather

P.S. "The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation." ~Jacob Bronowski
The quote of the day seems pertinent once again. I will seize the world, or at least my textbooks, at the bookstore tomorrow. My contrition for using "zingers" on deserving, yet unsuspecting victims. $12. I'll save it with the Ride-On pass plan. Sigh. I don't think I'll ever escape myself; but I don't know that I'd want to anyway. ~Heather

P.P.S - And check out my roommate's blog (left column). Woman cracks me up ... the phone number will be coming out in email form soon. ~Heather

Monday, August 21, 2006

Apartment Photos

Finally pictures! I was so excited about the apartment being clean and tidy today I took the pictures I have been promising for weeks!

But before I show you, check out the pictures I added to the Ocean City entry and this Astronomy picture of the Day (the one from Aug 19 is the one I was intending to link there).

This is my room:
From my door to the left


Caroline, doesn't your table top look cool??
and the right







The center section or common area of the apartment:
Dana's "office" and the stairs (to the landlord's house)

The view to the right from the office

And the view from the left



Our fabulous little kitchen!

Omar, as the baker's rack is known, adds to our very limited counter space.



This is our sitting area ("my" couch is the one with the big beige pillow on it)


And these are the pillows we made at Grandmother's house!



I think my blogging program might kill me if I tried to add any more photos, so for now, this is what you get! It is extremely cute and homey, and exceptionally ours! I say this because I have never had an apartment before and this being our first makes it all the more special. Plus, we are lucky because it is huge and we don't have to pay extra for cable or parking. Now if we could only get the crickets to stop jumping out of the furniture .... (as one did today while I was straightening the quilt and another hopped out onto Dana's bed her first night) ... I guess every place has its quirks!

Signing off for now ... Love always, ~Heather

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Steamy Sunday

(I was lacking creativity with the title there. It was steamy because it was hot and it rained today. Lame, I know.)

This morning we went to Little Flower Catholic Church. We were concerned the Phantom might be getting married during the service based on the organ music ... but it was a pretty good service nonetheless. Oh, and the Gloria was definitely staccato; a new innovation in musical variation.

Lunch and lists later, we went out to get some incidentals and four new apartment mates: our new fish. Names will be posted soon. Shopping was exhausting, as usual. We came back and put stuff away, got the fish in their new home, and then I started in on making dinner. We had eggplant parmesean. There are a TON of leftovers even though I didn't even use a whole eggplant. I think I am going to restrict the casserole-like dishes for when we have company.

After dinner we drove up to northern Bethesda for the Comcast Summer Film Festival. We saw The Princess Bride in camp chairs outside the Strathmore Mansion. It was really wonderful weather for an outdoor showing and the crowd was good sized too. And since I have already been disowned by my sister for my apparent appalling to the film, I have no qualms about saying that I enjoyed it and even laughed a little. As usual, Billy Crystam was hysterical. In my family, falling in love with the Princess Bride is on about the same scale as appreciating good italian food. So, when I said that I liked it but didn't really love it or fall out of my chair laughing about it, I was condemned to no longer being a member of the family. Oh well, I'll just have to work my way back in somehow.

But despite the temporary "missing" sister, today went really well. I am entirely wiped and have a pretty interesting day planned for tomorrow so, off I go. However, look forward to some comments on the articles in the Washington Post I read today. They did not deliver the best section of the paper the Magazine and the comics. I'll be calling the paper tomorrow. OKay, seriously need to head to dreamland. Perhaps you'd like to pay me a visit there? (More evidence of exhaustion right there.) Goodnight. Love always, ~Heather

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Boiled Paupers

"If this is not the body of the man who was killed in your vat, pray, Sir, how many paupers have you boiled?" ~Thomas Wakely, 1839

That was one of the quotes on the wall of the Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body exhibit I went to see at the National Library of Medicine inside the National Institute of Health this morning. The exhibit went through most of the history of forensic pathology, including entemology, radiology, chemistry, and the politics behind the differences in coroners and medical examiners (amongst other things). I learned about Bertillion cards (mug shots) and saw some pretty cool "nutshell" case replicas (a woman made dollhouse size EXACT replicas of crime scenes that were used as teaching models for the Maryland police force - some are still in use today).

Some of the best parts of the exhibit however were fingerprinting my own thmbs electronically (I don't match anything in their system, phew (wiping sweat from brow)), watching a virtual autopsy on a computer imaging table, and guessing what I was looking at in a microscope. The most interesting thing I got to use though was the Faces program. This is the program that authorities use to create those digitized mugshots. I got to create my own (it is surprisingly difficult to describe your own face) and did an observation exercise where I had 4 seconds to memorize a face and then choose the features that had been on it. It was very cool.

I was alone for most of the time in the exhibit because I don't think that this library gets alot of tourist traffic. This is exactly how I like museums. Not alot of people pushing around you while you are trying to read everything, you can just take your time. It helps that the NIH is in Bethesda and not in DC. Moreover, I don't think there are alot of people who would consider the Institute of Health a tourist attraction. Well, as you know, I am a pretty big nerd.

For more information about the exhibit, check out their website. The following quote is one of my favorites from the exhibit and really pertinent (considering sections of the exhibit emphasize the stories of idenitfying the Unknown Soldier, the bodies in mass graves after the "Dirty War" in Argentina, and of course, helping release prisoners from Death Row (and convict the true criminals)).

"Science is armed with a microscope, while justice is blind. ~Theodore H. Tyndale, 1877

In other exciting news of the day ... obviously I got out of the apartment for awhile. Dana and I had lunch when I got back and then headed down MacArthur to hit up the DC Public Library. It is farther away than either of us remembered it being, but we got cards and checked out some stuff. I got two guide books for DC, Frank Capra's classic with Cary Grant Arsenic and Old Lace on DVD, and The Librarian. Like I said, I want to read as much as I can before school starts!

I've already learned all sorts of interesting things about the area of DC where we live, and can't wait to get out exploring a little this week. Here are some interesting facts you might not be aware of:

DC is 6o-something square miles.

The original shape was a parallelogram, but the District gave the land on the south side of the Potomac River back to Virginia (I'll be looking up why soon enough!).

The lettered streets run east to west and the numbered streets run north to south. There are no X, Y, or Z streets. This is understandable because it is the end of the alphabet. So why isn't there a J street either? (More things to discover!)

There are gargoyles of a dog named Kiddo and Darth Vader on the National Cathedral. The National Cathedral is so large that you could lie the Washington Monument down inside of it. And although you can see the Monument from a greater area away, the Cathedral is actually the highest pointed construction in DC. It was started in 1907 and not completed until 1990! It also has about 800,000 visitors per year. I will definitely be contributing to that number!

A woman named Toni Cherry is a history cop in DC. I should say THE history cop. The sole person in her job, she is responsible for noting whether or not the historical buildings are being maintained in the appropriate historical fashion in all of DC. There are 23,500 designated historical buildings in DC. So this is pretty much the busiest woman in all of the District of Columbia I think.

And this is just a random fact I know ... no buildings in DC are taller than 10 stories (or the equivalent in feet. It isn't just to keep the city pretty or the monuments visible either. Back in the day (I don't know the year), the District government was trying to save a little money and had a law passed for no buildings to be built higher than ten stories because they didn't want to have to buy new fire trucks and ladders since the ones they had topped out at nine stories.

So there you have your history lesson of the day. I know it is nerdy, but I just can't help myself!

Oh, and finally the funniest thing to happen today: when we got home from the library Dana was unlocking the door to get in the apartment. There was something about rabbit sized moving along the wall near the door and I screamed. Dana turned around to see what I was yelling about and in the process created a barrier that the field rat (not rabbit) then ran into, i.e. her leg. It got all confused in its attempt to escape, ran across the patio, tripped on something, flipped over on its back, righted itself and then ran off under the fence and probably fell down, as the other side of the fence is a little cliff before the neighbor's yard. Neither of us could stop laughing for almost five minutes.

Okay, off to get reading one of the now 5 books I have started. Talk to you soon. Love always, ~Heather

Friday, August 18, 2006

Pick-up

I discovered that my posts have been going up on European time still ... changed that. Amongst other things, I have been picking up aroud the apartment and town.

Yesterday (Thursday) I cleaned the apartment for the finishing touches. I organized the two storage closets, eliminated the boxes in my room, and did a few other random things. I also tried the walk to school from here. 2.7 miles is pretty warm at 11am. I did the walk then because I would be walking around 12:30-1pm actually to arrive on time for my classes and I wanted to get a sense of the weather. The path is pretty well covered with trees for the first half of the trip. I din't know about the rest of the way yet, because I didn't make it that far. There were two main reasons for this: it was blasted hot out there and I had not brought water and I encountered "the Beast."

The hill by Sibley Hospital will henceforth be referred to as the Beast because it goes up at between a 45 and 50 degree angle and will severely inhibit my ability to ride a bike to school without having to get off and walk. It was seriously like climbing stairs just to walk up it. But, I am going to drive the rest of the route and try to fairly evaluate the terrain, because I would really like to double whammy saving money on transportation at least two days a week and making sure I am exercising.

Speaking of exercising, I jogged a short bit of my "walk" to school. I also searched the internet and managed to find a pick-up volleyball game about 5 miles from the house. Off I went to play some well earned fun games. The net wasn't quite men's height. It was senior height. More than half of the guys there were over 50 and the rest were pushing it. But they could still play pretty well. And boy were they sticklers for the rules more than even competitive kids are. It was good fun, though I think I'll try a few of the other local places first before going back - just so I can play with people a little more inclined to do position work. Don't get the wrong idea - three or four of the players have played at Nationals in the past three years or so and one even made the America's team (in his age bracket); I just like playing with people who call the ball and aren't weirded out by my energy.

When I got home I took out the trash and recycling and then spent about two hours fiddling with the television (with a little attempted assistance by my landlord Steve). We can't figure out how to get the DVD player to work in the family room - and Steve and I agreed that the TV is just too old to support it. However, that assessment took about ten minutes. The rest of the time wasspent reprogramming the DirecTV and the TiVo because the guide stopped popping up. In the end I determined two things: one, that I should turn the unit off completely more often and that the "daily call in" feature is a gigantic waste of time. (The number programmed for it to dial in was so old it didn't work anymore but you had to dial in to retrieve other possible dial in numbers. I didn't figure that out though until I had carried the entie set up across the apartment to the one phone jack that happens to be working at the moment. I will not be doing that again.)

So I picked up stuff, a television, and volleyball. But the most impressive picking up was yesterday afternoon. I filled an entire wheelbarrow (a real sized metal one) with future kindling. All of it was collected from along the path to our apartment. I hate how there are really unmanicured lawn and garden patches all along the dirt path, so I decided that if I picked up the sticks, it would improve the look and help eliminate places for all those stupid bugs to nest outside. I came in after filling the bin, although the "gardens" (boxes that are supposed to be gardens but are actually full of wild plants and weeds) still have a fair amount of stuff in them. I didn't continue there for:
A. lack of storage place for the kindling at the moment
B. the mosquito bite on my face (very irksome considering I was wearing long sleeves and pants to avoid bites)
C. The strange holes that populate the path and "gardens."

I have no idea what may lurk in these odd sized, yet perfectly circular, holes everywhere, but figure that it is not worth the risk to get bitten by some strange bug or snake or small mammal just to make the path look nicer - especially when I won't be landscaping there after I clean it up anyway. When Dad comes to visit next week I'll ask him about the holes and hopefully then I'll know if they are benign or not.

Okay, that brings us to today, which was pretty much more of the same in terms of getting stuff done, except I haven't left the apartment all day. I am going to go stir crazy if I don't get out of here tomorrow, so I will probably search the internet for free stuff going on in town tomorrow. I was supposed to be heading down to Richmond to hang out, but I simply cannot afford the gas prices (sorry J).

As much as "being stuck" in the apartment has been frustrating, I have gotten alot done. Much more than I have ever done when moving into a new place. My stuff is organized except for one very short stack of papers that has been sorted and not filed. I called the school to confirm my course listings before buying books (the ones listed so far look so good I would have read them if I ran into them in a bookstore anyway!). I am waiting for one of my rerouted pieces of mail to arrive from basically anything looking official so that I can get my new driver's license. And tomorrow I should be able to get started on some work from HOBY that I promised to do.

I can't wait for all of you to see my new place. More than that, I can't wait to see some people again! I want to try and catch most of my friends before they run back to school smeplace farther than an hour away. But for now, I am going to use my newly re-established Guide on the TV, grab my knitting needles and relax for an hour or so before resuming my place in The Right Stuff or The Essential 55, the two books I am reading right now. Okay, my dinner is officially cold, Gotta run. Love always, ~Heather

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

One More Day

I think by tomorrow that everything in the apartment is going to be straightened out. Today was relatively productive. I definitely had my lazy moments, but we got a phone number, decided on a Netflix plan, arranged the fish tank, hung the posters and frames in the common area, and my dresser is looking amazingly clear. In addition to that, my laundry is fresh, clean, and folded in my basket.

This morning I was up early, even for me. I had Eli (the landlord's son) on a monitor in my room, and everytime he would flip over it would wake me up. I was listening for him this morning because their daughter had to have tubes put in her ears. As I had that surgery more than once, I was more than happy to be of some minor assistance. The procedure has certainly changed since I had it. They left here at 6:30 and were home by a little after 9am. I am glad it was quick and relatively painless for her, I know she slept most of the afternoon. Anyway ... (as memories of my ear suregeries wander around in my head and I ponder whether or not I accidently called the surgery tubal ligation earlier when I was talking about it to someone else. I know there is a HUGE difference - but maybe the other person didn't notice?)

Dana has a "very Jewish" friend over for a few days, so I made my first intentionally kosher meal this evening, vegetarian couscous. Eggplant, onions, and carrots as the hot vegetables and tomato and cucumber as the cold veggies and then a finishing course of french bread and brie. It was as close to a full french/morrocan meal as I have had in a while. Gosh I miss being in France. I miss the people, the language, the market in the Place Ducale. I miss my friends and family there ... I know it was only a few months ago, but it seems so far away. I mostly miss how carefree my life was - how I didn't seem to have to worry about romance, family arguments, planning the rest of my life ... The only concern that I have now that is the same as then was how I am going to manage my money.

In my times of procrastination I often sit and wonder about all the things I shouldn't worry about. I really have no idea why I am being so sullen the past two days. My depressed mood is starting to annoy me already. I hope I can pull myself out of it by tomorrow. I know I hit slumps sometimes, but it is really no reason to feel like this. I have a wonderful life. I am blessed with so many amazing things. I think perhaps I'll try to find some volleyball in town tomorrow. Physical exercise is exactly what I need to get my mind moving again. (Wouldn't hurt my waist either.)

Tomorrow I'll have a fresh to-do list that is sure to keep me occupied, especially since the master to-do list is far from complete at the moment. As I turn my attention away from my dwelling place and onto the start of school, I have to clarify my schedule, buy books, figure out the best route to get to school and whether or not using the bike my neighbor offered me is feasible for my daytime classes (I really hope so). There are also some fun social events coming up. There is the party on the 31st for the first televised USC game of the season (all local Gamecock fans invited, other football lovers will be considered), my parents and Bobby visiting, the happy hour at the National Press Club, and The Princess Bride on the outdoor screen in Rockville on Saturday. For someone so new in town, I am proud to say I actually have things to do!

But this day has already drawn to a close and so should this entry. I would side note perhaps reading Shopgirl by Steve Martin, which was a very interesting story that is so true to real life it is scary. Also, it is rather short. I am trying to get in as many books as possible before school starts so expect a few more suggestions in the coming week. Alright, time for bed now. Thanks for listening, I can't tell you how theraputic it is to be able to inanimately talk to someone. (And thanks to Tiffany for animately listening.) Goodnight. Love always, ~Heather

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ocean City & 1812 Canons

So you probably spent the weekend sighing from relief that I wasn't inundating you with a barage of words. Well catch-up can be a kicker. Hehe.

Saturday night Dana and I left town and headed up to Ocean City, NJ for a mini-vacation. The drive went exactly 3.5 hours and was an omen for the rest of the trip - easy, light, perfection. Sunday morning was crumb buns with Uncle Gavin, church, hanging out and chatting, lunch, the beach, some beach volleyball (shut outs kind of bite), dinner, more story sharing, and then a stroll on the boardwalk including a little stop at Kohr Bros. and watching Clark DDR himself sweaty.

It should be noted here that the only acceptable choice for a Kohr Bros. cone is peanut butter / chocolate. Adding jimmies of any flavor or color is distracting. Though I have never had it sipped in chocolate sauce, I cannot imagine that making it more heavenly. Just a note.

Monday was equally relaxing. I got in some classic movie time, figured out how to fix my knitting project, and shared more stories. I also did fairly well at air hockey and miniature golf. Oh, and I spent some time getting the seashells out of my hair from the beach the day before. (That seems strange unless: 1.) I explain that I had been body surfing 2.) You have ever seen my hair.) Later in the afternoon we drove to the mainland for shopping and got the fabric for a project in our apartment and some other items we hadn't been able to conveniently find near home. We picked up a pizza and then had some fabulous cheese and tomato sauce on a light fluffy crust. Yum. Dana and I spent the rest of the evening sewing.

Morning came at an early hour so we could go to the early Assumption mass. Then we had chocolate muffins for breakfast and Grandmother taugh me how to add on to my scarf. Afterwards we went to see my Nanny in the nursing home. This incredible woman is almost a century old and hasn't known who I was in years. However, when she saw me today, she recognized me immediately, kissed my hands and started talking to me, as much as she talks. It was really wonderful. It was such a good day. I'm glad I got some pictures of us!

We went back to the house and Dana and Grandmother used Satin Hands and then I gave Grandmother a cream pedicure. All in all it was entirely relaxing, productive, fun vacation. We got back home in the early afternoon and I took a nap to recover from the drive (I alwasy feel like I walked the distance I drove). Also, as a special bragging note, we found gas for 2.78/gallon in NJ. I was thrilled. Last week it was 3.44 near the house. It is 3.33 now, but the difference was still worth it. Ahhh.

So the coming home in the middle of the day served two purposes: avoiding traffic and getting home in time for another event. Tonight Dana and I took our first city adventure to the Washington Monument for a free concert. The US Army Band was playing the 1812 Overture (amongst other things) out on the hill tonight. We drove to the metro (congrats for Dana's first parallel parking job ever!), took it into Metro Center and then walked down 14th to the site. This was the moment where Dana and I just looked at each other and said, "This is why we live here."

The concert was magnificent. There was a world class accordionist along with the Army Chorus and a fabulous soprano and tenor. I hope I am never so jaded that I don't want to go to things like that. We took the metro home and didn't get lost once. We so rock. And so ends a perfectly wonderful weekend at the shore followed by an enchanting evening on the Mall. (Yes, 23 shots from guns mounted on Howitzers can be enchanting.)

Tomorrow is finishing touch day in my room. I can't wait for everything to just fall into place. It is organized and basically everything is hanging up on the walls that should be. However, I still want to clean up my desk and make it as functional as possible before I run down to the bookstore in search of my textbooks. Okay, I am feeling pretty lazy now, so I am gonna go. I'll try to be slightly more upbeat and together tomorrow. Hope you all had a wonderful start to your week. Oh and happy feast day today and happy Wednesday tomorrow. Love always, ~Heather

Friday, August 11, 2006

Phase ? Complete

Immediately before Dana arrived, I made a strategic plan for our apartment. I have no idea what phase of the plan we have completed (because I never numbered the plan), but today we finished the kitchen and the bathroom. Omar, our baker's rack, arrived from Walmart and we successfully relocated the towel bar in the bathroom. We only have to change the shower head now. Excellent.

Before Dana's dad left, he fixed the floor in the kitchen, the fan, the doors, Dana's lighting fixture, found studs for us to hang things on - there are not enough thank-yous in the world for all the handiwork he finished around the apartment. With all his fabulous work, the bug spray and the weed killer outside, and getting the trash and recycling out. By the way, hooray for finally being able to recycle again. It is such a relief to not be poisoning hte environmentwith every trash bag I throw out.

We also had a huge breakthrough today - only one creepy crawly, knock on wood, found in the place. Additionally, I finally think I got my furniture placement right and my closet is finished. I'll probably be as close to finshed as I get by Sunday evening. If I can get done sooner, I'll hop on the road and head out to the shore for a few days. It would be nice to relax, get some sun, and even eat some Kohr Bros.

I know that all you have gotten lately is snippets of cleaning and packing and unpacking which can't be overwhelmingly interesting for you. I wish I had more interesting stories, trust me. Instead, let me tell you about a few rather fun/funny things that have happened recently.

In Costco, Dana pointed out a mouse scurrying across the aisle.

While putting together Dana's bookshelves, I discovered the quality Target furniture secret: tape. That's right friends, in addition to the dowels and screws Target bookshelves come with tape so you can tape the backing pieces together. One piece is clear (for the back side) and the other side is "maple" which sort of looks like the fake laminate on the "wood" shelves. Who knew?

After taking apart part of my portable closet so I could add the additional hanging bars off the sides I discovered a hitch: the support bars only fit the small side of the unit. You think it wouldn't take a genius to notice that they weren't square frames but rectangular, but I am obviously even below that. Thank goodness I dropped those engineering classes, I would have totally failed out.

While returning the original Omar to IKEA Dana's mom definitely could not find the keys because she had left them in the ignition and the car was running. Dana was the genius who found the keys. I stood there aimlessly looking around, leaning on the running car, not noticing.

Using extension cords as a tape measure because although we both own one, neither of them could be located.

Finishing a bottle of wine while watching reruns of Sex and the City.

Eating cookies and losing brain cells watching Who Wants to be a Superhero?

And the best part is that it is gorgeous outside and tomorrow we are going to spray for bugs and tape up the screens so we can leave the windows open a little.

I think this is the part of college I missed the first time because I always lived in a dorm. I loved having Jess as a roommate and Melissa and Pam as suitemates ... I had an absolute blast building duct tape spoons and paperclip chains and storing chocolate finger paint in my fridge and the best, the writing on the bathroom wall. Then as an RA, I had about 38 roommates a year and not to mention all my fabulous co-workers who helped me feel totally at home ... but this place is a different type of home.

Here we are again, typing away on our respective sofas, with You've Got Mail in the background. Our kitchen stocked and modestly decorated, the bathroom with a blue space/star theme, and our common area just slowly becoming personalized ... it ... Maybe it is because it is my money this time. I mean it was last time too, but I knew it was a dorm and I never had to write a check. I'll be paying the loans later on, but it doesn't feel like the same thing. It isn't like paying my rent and phone and newspaper service. It isn't quite a permanent address, but it is as close as I've had while not living with my parents.

I feel like I am ready to start this new life. I have a short term plan and a long term plan with alot of holes in it. Like the plan for my apartment, I have not numbered it. I don't know what order I'll do things in (except school, start job, then family), but I am comfortable with the uncertainty of it all. It seems like the parts I can't plan are almost the parts I am most looking forward to - the surprises. Don't get me wrong, I am still the homebody who loves definites you remember; but I am ready for a little adventure. DC is going to be a perfect place for me to start this new experiment in life.

So for now, I am going to take off. I'll keep you updated on the adventures - planned or not. Have a magnificent day (or night). Love always, ~Heather

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Encore

Encore un jour tout plein des choses a faire. J'ai passe au jourd'hui avec le menage, l'exterior de la maison, et aussi un petit "dodo." A cause de les araignees et autres "insects" c'est obligatoire que je laver, netoyer, prendre soin de les entrees (la porte, les fenetres) et au coin ou les murs touchent le sol. Les cartons sont plus et plus vide.

Ce soir, les parents de ma collacatrice ont m'invite au diner. On a mange au restaurant specifiquement pour les poissons, et j'ai jamais goutee le mahi-mahi comme ca. Servait avec un sauce BBQ d'ananas, les legumes, et le riz. Trop bien. Apres, le dessert ... un torte des pommes avec la cannelle et aussi un glace de cannelle a cote ... on est reparti d'ici.

Maintenant, je me calme sur le canape. Pas grand choses pour demain. Plus de rangement, moins des choses dans les cartons, un autre voyage au supermarche, les choses normal pour un nouveaux apart. Desolee que je n'ecris pas beaucoup ce soir, c'est vraiment tard et je suis fatiguee encore. J'espere que bientot je vais arriver avec un blog longue en francais. Je suis sur que mon francais se deteriorer avec vitesse. D'accord, bon nuit pour le moment. Je vous manque beaucoup et pense de vous souvent: ma famille (Alice, Hugues, Martin, Bebe!), mes amis, et mes eleves. Je vous embrasse. Toujours, ~Heather

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Full Day

I am too exhausted to be complete ...

Woke up. Little Dawson (love TBS). Shower. Dana's parents arrive. Breakfast and direction searching. Trips to IKEA (swedish meatball lunch), Home Depot, Linens 'N Things, drop off at home, and then to Costco. Home to unpack food, heat up dinner, build things we bought at IKEA. Draping and tucking of slip covers. Dinner. Receipt deciphering. Unpacking of movies. Boiling strange utensils left in drawers and rinsing packed items. Furniture rearranging. Chat with parents anf Grandmother. Vacuuming of baseboards. Arranging movies and games on shelves. More furniture arrangement. Quick pick-up in kitchen. Addition of duvet cover and final furniture moves. Sliding of boxes. Brushed teeth. Typed list.

All this and I think I only squished like four bugs and sprayed two others. Life is good. I am exhausted. The Advil just kicked in, which means I am off to the land of nod. I'll see you in the morning - bright and early. I sometimes question my ability to be productive, to do anything. Then on days like today, I prove that my ineptitude is only in my lack of faith in myself and the awesome powers of a God who is DEFINITELY doing everything he can to make life easier. Including helping me not get lost on 395 today. Hooray God. Love always, ~Heather

Monday, August 07, 2006

Changes

People say that the only thing that stays the same is tha people change. I guess that is probably true. I am totally living the life I don't know that I ever thought I would have. I am still me, of course, but my life is just ... moving.

I'm not saying moving in the changing location way, I mean in the advancing way. Dana moved in today. I officially have a roommate again. And right now I am sitting on my couch, she on the other, and we are both sitting with our feet propped up, laptops on our laps, doing our own thing. I don't know that I would have ever envisioned this for myself. However, unlike the other things in my life that I wish I knew, I am so content to just have this be my life.

Our family room is going to be brown and purple. Our bathroom will be navy and space themed. I am going to have all of my green stuff in my room. We can choose our shelves and end tables from the collection of furniture in the garage or we can buy our own. We presented the list of issues to the landlords tonight and they were able to take care of some of the stuff right away, promising to take care of the rest soon. I promised myself I would be forceful about the issues I wanted to present, but then I wasn't. This is typical me. I know we are in a business arrangement - evident by the check I had to write them - but I still feel like it would be a pretty bad idea to upset them. Let me explain.

As I had previously mentioned, the bugs and the dirtiness of our apartment upon arrival was completely unsatisfactory to me. I scrubbed the grout in the bathroom white, took a scrub brush and cloth to the refridgerator surfaces (exterior) and the cabinets, sprayed all the windows for bugs, vacuumed out the fireplace, and cleaned all the baseboards and furniture pieces. However, I spent hours on this. Basically my first two days in the apartment were spent cleaning. I haven't unpacked anything really since the first night.

All that being said, I felt like we should get some compensation for all of the stuff I had to do. I talked to one of the landlords this morning, and she said they had paid a cleaning service upwards of $300 to clean the place up. I am wondering how awful it must have been under all the clutter I saw when I walked through that they honestly thought that cobwebs and dead bugs behind the furniture, brown grout, and marks and bugs on the window sills and all over the screens was clean. If you know me (and aren't Marco) you know how messy I really am, how cool I can be about things - heck, I had an old sideboard as a desk once and used cinderblocks as storage! - but perhaps because this place is so much more of an investment for me I am much more invested in its cleanliness.

Whatever the reason, I had it in my head I was going to ask for a two day proration on the rent for the days I spent cleaning. I went through my twenty-something long list of things that were broken, damaged, missing, or that I had questions about and in the end I felt like I was really just being pushy or something. I know I wasn't and that I have a right, for as much as I am paying a month, to demand that the apartment be liveable and in good repair. I just know that we are going to have to live with these people, in their home, for the rest of the year at least. I don't want to screw that up early by coming on too forceful or demanding. I have no idea if they would be accepting of it, based on the business aspect of it, or if they would make my life rather difficult as recompense. So instead of taking that risk, I am going to have to suck up what I think is fair for the well being of our living arangement.

I just kind of needed to write all of that down, sorry if I was rambling. Back to changes. I might be rearranging my room to make it more friendly to my future desk and my current port-a-closet. I can finally start unapcking after the furniture is in it's destination location. Tomorrow I am going to the grocery store to stock our place. We cut coupons today - yeah for being frugal. And one more change - I am exhausted. It kind of just hit me. It may just be time for a Krispy Kreme and then sleep. Maybe not. But I'm off for now.

Oh yeah, and did you notice the change of name? I decided changing the whole blog was not a superb idea, so I changed the title so the link would remain the same. Laziness or sheer pleasure in the constancy in life? I mean even with change, some things have got to the same. I'm trying way to hard to be existential, and I am not evn 100% sure I know what that word means. That must mean it is time for bed. Goodnight. Love always, ~Heather

Bed bugs

You know that really popular saying, "don't let the bedbugs bite"? I really am afraid I might have to fight them off. I have actually taken to turning on lights on the other side of the apartment to draw the bugs away. The cleaning has taken the back burner to the bug killing at this point. The turning point was this morning.

I walked into my room and on a portion of my ceiling that drops down, there was a large bug that looked like a cross between a roach larvae and millipeed and 'squito eater. I sprayed it with the bug killer Dad and I bought last night. Spraying has recently been deemed safer not only for its distance from the target but for the paint; there are little dead bug splotches partout. So, I sprayed this morph bug and it fell off the wall, landed on the bed and crawled under the comforter. I shooed it out in one swipe of my hand, and it died almost on contact with the carpet. (This is one good spray!) But like the spider video from the 5th grade and the story about my uncle putting the snake in my mother's bed as children, I am now SUPER paranoid about bugs being in my bed.

This reminds me of a time...
In the third grade, Chad Potter used to put dead cockroaches in my hair, books, desk, lunch box ... anywhere he could. It scared the bejeebers out of me. The challenge, as Mrs. Hussein so rightly put it, was to not scream, because this only served as a stimulus for more dead invertebrates in/on/near me. Here is my question: now that I've stopped screaming, how do I get rid of the fear that incited it?

I am still super annoyed/terrified of bugs. I think the annoyed is much stronger, because I fear only that they will be crawling on me and I won't notice .... hence not sitting on the floor or anywhere near where bugs have been recently. But as those places become fewer and not far between, I am being forced to face my fears. I still get the creepy-crawliness though. I see/feel those bugs all the time, even when they aren't there. Don't sign me up for the mental institution yet, I'm not hallucinating (I don't think), I'm just ... scared.

That being said, I need to be done thinking about it for awhile. And no one give me statistics on how many bugs you swallow or crawl in your orifices during the night ... I think I might mail you a dead bug if you do. Just pray the bugs stay away. I will too. But I'm sleeping with the Raid can just in case. (Arms length, obviously I don't want to poison myself accidently.) Squishingly yours until tomorrow, love always, ~Heather

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Arrived!

I have arrived in my new place. It is not exactly what I expected upon arrival, but I think that after a little hard work, the place should be looking top notch by the weekend. Moreover, I am connected to the internet and I can return my router to the store, because I can just tap into the one upstairs. I am officially wireless. 6 years ago, I would have never believed it to be true.

So the router is $40 back plus I clipped coupons today from the sunday Washington Post. I love being able to buy the full Post with the comics, the magazine, PARADE, coupons, and like 10 individual sections. It is going to take most of my free time this week to read it cover to cover (if I try to, which I probably won't).

Anyway, I'll give you some more details later, but I am safe, I am sound (though I never really was sound of mind), and I am within connection (internet and cellphone) of the rest of the world. I think I "might could" get used to this. Indepedence, space, and responsibility. Oh yeah, and more bugs than I think I am willing to be comfortable with. The supplementary bug spray purchases start tomorrow. Keep in touch. Love always, ~Heather

Friday, August 04, 2006

Not Sleeping

I am supposed to be sleeping. Well, I am supposed to be sleeping in about an hour and a half. I have about ten minutes left of packing to do and have yet to force myself to do it. I know I'll finish before I go to bed, but I have just been wrestling a little bit with my mind.

The plans are all set for tomorrow. For the first time ever, I feel prepared. I know everything is going to go just fine, so why do I get down and whiny about it? Why don't I just suck it up and feel fine? Why is moving like some sort of psychological twister?

Every time I move this happens. Usually it is stress from not being ready, packed, or cleaned up. This time it is just ... because. Which makes me think the other times were pretty much "just because" too. Della taught me how to take care of this, but I know that for the past few days I have been deflecting instead of aggressively trying to beat down these unhappy thoughts. Thing is, there is nothing to be unhappy about.

I'm not looking for pity or cheering up, because by the time anyone reads this, I'll be in bed and have woken up totally refreshed, thrilled about the prospects of moving, and will actually probably be on the road (since it is a Saturday, you sleepyheads!). Maybe this is because I don't usually get sad about moving. Maybe this is how my real feelings about leaving the place I had been calling home reveal themselves - in night before move out terror. Perhaps cold feet?

Nah, it is too hot for that, plus I still want to go. I just need to concentrate, focus, channel my energy to something productive. It is about 90 minutes before bed - I think I can run through getting the rest of my stuff done now so tomorrow can be a thoroughly uneventful morning (or at least allow spare time for something unplanned yet eventful that may occur). Off I go. And so does the computer. See you in Maryland. Love always, ~Heather

24 to Take-off

One day. I only have one day until the move. This is getting pretty exciting! If everything goes to plan, I should be on I-95 near the Virginia line at this time tomorrow.

The rental van is waiting for us at Enterprise (call to confirm). The stuff is in the garage and arranged in a fashion (via chalk lines) that would make it so it can go directly into the truck with absolutely no complications. My car is half loaded, waiting on the fish tank (tomorrow AM) my television (trunk or passenger seat?), stereo (needed for entertainment during remnants of packing in my room), and our overnight bags.

Tonight could very possibly be the last night I ever sleep in my bed. It has long since been broken (since about 7th grade) but it has been in my room since late elementary school. My parents are going to rearrange my room. And although I still have plenty of stuff in there (wall decorations shelves of books and a desk area full of my stuff (freshly organized)), it really won't be MINE anymore after today. And I think I may be okay with that.

I know that I will always have a home with my family, even if the room isn't mine. [And if you aren't in your room, is it really still your room anyway? - Firefly excerpt] Speaking of family, I talked a few days ago about a friend who "drained me." I swore I would give four more days of helping and then stop. As I typed the last line of that blog, he called. It was an emergency - he needed a friend to come and get him. It isn't fair to give details about his story, but suffice it to say small mindedness resulted in inhabitable living conditions.

He stayed at my house for a few hours after that, while he tried to work out a plan. A little later, I drove him to his uncle's house on the other side of town. He called the next day to tell me things were going well and that he had reunited with his father and step mom (who he hadn't talked to in quite awhile) and that his family at "home" was slowly turning around. It had seemed a deplorable circumstance, and God opened a window for him to become closer with his entire family at once.

So, in my musings, and with some sage advice from a french friend, I have decided to re-evaluate my decision to extricate myself from one-sided friendships. Instead, I am going to spend a little time trying to improve them. If I approach each of these "non-fair weather" friends and explain my feelings, maybe I can bolster my friend base and create more meaningful relationships. It is optimistic to think it will work with everyone. It is practical to not get hurt. But in the long run, it isn't going to hurt me to help others - especially when they are in need. It might be draining sometimes, but to hear the joy in his voice in knowing that things were going to be okay and his family loved him ... it's worth it for that, even if he never speaks to me again.

I wouldn't be here without my family. They annoy me, make me cry, yell at me, and sometimes even hurt me; but they also love me. I mean, what else do you call moving a ton of stuff into a van and out of a van after driving for five hours just to turn around the next day and drive home? Oh yeah, with a predicted temperature of 100 degrees (40+ C) with possible thunderstorms. Or asking a million and one questions to make sure you haven't forgotten anything? Taking in your friends even though you aren't home? I call that love.

So for everyone out there who thinks their parents may not understand them, that their siblings are incomprehensible, that their family might be the picture portrait for "dysfunctional home of the month" (to our credit, I don't think I have ever actually thought some of that myself), I challenge you to call your family tonight or this weekend. Tell them you love them unconditionally, even if you do not like or understand them. Tell them that you wouldn't be here without them. Tell them how important they are. Because you never know when you might not be able to do it again. You never know how it might brighten their day. And isn't it always wonderful to hear "I love you" in return?

I think I may have ventured from my 24 hours until take-off plan a little, but you were getting pretty tired of reading my to-do lists anyway, weren't you? Have a fantastic Friday. I'm off to see the wizard ... I mean off to finish packing. Love always, ~Heather

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

100 of 4320

Three days. 72 hours. 4,320 minutes.

I have three days left to accomplish everything on my to do list. My goal for today is to accomplish something. As horrible as it sounds, I have just been dead lazy today. I did organize the garage, take down my mirror, and fill a box (this being around midday, I don't think that's too shabby). It is just that I am uncertain as to my next step. I have about ten things left on my to-do list, but none of them seem appealing. The thing is, if I set my mind to it, I don't think one of the things I have left to do would take more than ten minutes.

So, I have three days to do 100 minutes worth of work. Wouldn't it just be wonderful if I could suck it up and spend that less than two hours this afternoon and finally be done? Relax for the rest of the week? It seems against my nature to be basically finished right now. But since I am, wouldn't it make a marvelous start if I could just set my tailbone in action long enough to - for the first time in my life - not be running around like a chicken with my head cut-off on moving day?

Yesterday, I was a extremely lazy. Then I went and took care of a friend who needed me. Same one I talked about yesterday, but I couldn't just leave him (quite literally) stranded. So I went. What an interesting life I lead - it seems so bizarre ... I spend all day doing seemingly nothing, I get stuff done .... I'm rambling.

I'm going to eat lunch. Then I will do at least three things. Then I will go to the pool and get some semblance of a tan (more likely I will need a spatula to remove me from the chair or raft). I will come back and do two more things before meeting Mom so we can go buy my build-your-own-closet thing. Half of the list today. Half tomorrow and Friday to do all the things that weren't actually on a list but still need to get done. Sounds like a good plan to me. Love always, ~Heather

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Karma

I think the karma from my last post just swung around and beat me in the head with that fishing pole. More to come soon, I imagine. Love always, ~Heather

Go Fish

Four.

Today Emeline, a student of mine from France, wrote me an email. I was so thrilled to hear from her. I felt so ... happy, for lack of a better word. Also, about four people had written on my facebook wall. Glad.

Then someone came over. One of those friends who only calls when they need you or they are feeling guilty they haven't called. He was in some serious need, because he has to face up to a situation tonight he had been planning on avoiding for a few more years. I tried to be helpful, and then I ran out of juice. I didn't even give him a hug when he started crying. (I did bring him tissues, I'm not completely devoid of emotion.)

I realized that RA Heather had taken over again; that part of me that drops everything to help the person who walked in needing me. And as I thought about that, it occurred to me that I am not an RA anymore. It is not my job to be the friend of everyone I come in contact with if they aren't willing to do the same for me. This seems so bitter and unjust, but I just don't see the point in taking on the pain of others and stopping my life to take care of their problems when the second the solution they want arises I'll be forgotten.

So in my countdown I want to include this: four more days of fishing for others, then they are just going to have to fish on their own. I want to be friends with everyone who wants to be friends with me. But instead of spending time helping resolve problems for people who could care less about me, I am going to take that time and be a good penpal to Emeline. I am going to meet my friends for lunch and catch up with them. I'm going to finally start putting together that scrapbook I've been saving stuff for my whole life. I am going to take every second I would usually spend on taking care of others who won't take care of themselves and create stronger, better friendships with the fabulous people in my life. I'm going to create memories I can share with my family some day. I am going to reclaim part of my life.

I don't think the RA in me is ever going to actually disappear - I like it too much. I love helping other people, I really, really do. I miss it when I can't. I just want to focus my attention on people who might need it more, or who are at least interested in the person who is helping them. Don't worry, if you are reading this, you are not one of those people who is getting crossed off the list. More packing to go. Love always, ~Heather

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