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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.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Old Friends, Vieux Amis

I watched this great episode of My So-Called Life tonight about old friends, and how even after you've gone your own way, that old friends can be incredibly valuable. So tonight, I just want to say, to all my friends: I don't tell you how awesome you are enough. I wouldn't be able to live in this happy, little Heather-world without you.



Mes amis en France: vous me manque tous les jours. Il n'y a pas une journee qui passe qui je ne pense pas des heures que j'ai passe avec vous. J'attends le jour quand je peux rendre une visite et vous embrasse encore.

Tout mon coeur to my friends here et lesquels loin de moi. Gros bisous.

~Heather

CF Select after we swept the competition at Hershey park (or was that in Williamsburg)?

Part of the grad school crowd picking pumpkins.

















More grad school buds at Hoops for Home.







The bests in Barcelona.









Il Etait Une Fois cast from USC






L'Aumonerie (youth group) at Taize in France







USC Club Volleyball Paper team (of Rock, Paper, and Scissors) at the Clemson tournament.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rocking Weekend

... and I don't mean in a chair on the porch.

Friday night I picked up my cousin from the Greyhound station. It was so awesome to have him come to town. The big impetus was a P.O.D. concert at the Hard Rock Cafe on Saturday night.

So Saturday a.m. we got up late because watching Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels kept us up much later than our regular bedtimes. We ran to Home Depot to get some gardening supplies (yes, the townhouse is now in good enough shape that the yard is on the agenda). We swung by Harris Teeter for lunch supplies and bought ribs and asparagus.

Clark made tons of barbecue sauce and I fixed a potato/egg salad and the veggies. An hour or so later we were chowing down. In the late afternoon we took a walk through Old Town, checked out Christ Church and the cemetery, the Confederate statue at Prince and Washington, and then we were walking towards what I thought was Captain's Row when we came across an open house.

This guy waved us in the yard to a historic house kept in superb condition with antiques EVERYWHERE. It was awesome - it was better decked out than Mt Vernon. Anyway, the lady who had arranged for the tour of the house kicked us out when she realized we were there (the owner didn't care, why should she?). Anyway, it was fun.

We walked to the waterfront and stopped in to get custard/chocolate raspberry truffle ice cream. Um, delicious expounded. I'm going back to try the orange chocolate chocolate chip in the near future. The weather was wonderful so we strolled home, Clark battling the hiccups the whole way.

He napped and Rachel (roommate - permission to name granted) and I worked on the yard. Then it was time to get going to the Hard Rock. We metro-ed up. Gosh, I love living so close to the metro.

We stood in line, both of us not wearing enough jacket for the drastic temperature drop (from the high 60's to 42). We got to the door and had to get in a different line to get bracelets (though neither of us were indulging). Ah, lesson learned: get your tickets at will call to save money and line standing.

Okay, so the concert was much better than I expected. I am not a huge rock music girl. I love me some Aerosmith and have been known to listen to Nirvana and a few other groups from time to time, but in general, not hugely into the rock scene. But the concert was actually really good. Not too much yelling into the microphone, quality lyrics, ticket proceeds going to support charity, it was a fabulous combination.

The funniest incident (we were about ten people back from the jam packed front group) was when someone crowd surfed across the Hard Rock. Security pulled him down and literally threw him out the door. I have to say, that kind of entertainment doesn't often happen at the concerts I frequent.

We went out for late night Chinese at one of my favorite divey places in Chinatown before catching the metro home. All during dinner these very loud older Chinese men were yelling at each other at one of the only other occupied tables in the back. We had some fun a la Mystery Science Theater 3000 creating dialogue. We chatted much too late before completely collapsing. I dropped him off at the bus station this morning before church - and though the trip was brief, it was so good to see him.

Other things that made this weekend rock:
  • I installed a light with a dimmer switch in my closet. So with my newly installed closet bar, it is fully functional.
  • We found archaeological treasure (like a sock and the railing to a file cabinet) underneath the dried leaves in the backyard. There was also a rodent trap and weeds enough to fill the remaining paper grocery bags in the house (oh, how I love curbside recycling). Rachel and I have agreed that the yard will probably take a couple weekends to get going.
  • My room is neat (courtesy of the closet functioning and my mad rush for floor space before Clark's visit).
  • Singing songs with incredible harmony at church.
  • We have purchased more of the necessary supplies to create functional storage in our kitchen. Though it is large and full of cabinets (and 90% of my kitchen stuff is well-packed and in the attic) there still isn't much space in the cabinets for all the pots and pans, so we're going to hang them. When one of your roommates is over 6 foot tall (not to mention tall friends and relatives) it can be difficult to find a good place to hang things out of the way and yet still accessible enough for everyday use (since us girls are tall, but not quite tall enough to use shelves placed well above the 6 foot line).
  • I finally have some confirmations on speakers for HOBY. This is a gigantic relief since not having them was stressing me out. I still need quite a few more, but a start is better than nothing.
  • Chatting it up with the roommate about all sorts of things.
  • Bought the New Orleans jazz fest tickets for Theresa and I. It is going to be an amazingly fun "work" trip. I'm so glad she is coming with me!
  • Discovered a few more things for the landlord to fix - including a spastic oven that can't stay at a constant temperature. This is good, because it means they'll be fixed soon.
That's pretty rocking if you ask me.

Love always, ~Heather

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Friday, March 28, 2008

An Educational Connundrum

I just read this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, titled "My 'Little' Professor."

I can't stop thinking about this boy and his plight. I don't know if he realizes what an outsider he is - or if that is a shield the syndrome protects him from. I have no concept of what his life will become as he moves beyond elementary school into the increasingly socially-driven aspects of education.

Though while teachers will spend hours working with him and others like him (as they well should!), there are hundreds upon thousands of students getting lost in a No Child Left Behind system. Students with no measurable differences except their desire to learn in a society that treats "smart" like a dirty word. I long for the day when I can help make that disparity disappear.

I don't want to leave the impression that those with Asperger's or other learning differences are stealing all the attention. It is, in fact, so horribly the opposite. Spectrum disorders are just now becoming diagnosed. In all the hullabaloo about vaccines and autism (created by those who see both rates rising equally), people are forgetting that there have been great advances in autism awareness helping children who need it get the attention they need, accounting for the increased numbers in diagnoses.

But whether you learn fast, slow, kinesthetically, verbally or visually; whether you are a social butterfly or library hermit; whether you can run and scream on a soccer field or blow audiences away with a musical recital; all these children deserve individual attention and education. In other words, let's really not leave children behind their potential just because it is easier to play to the mean, median, or mode.

It is a challenge I send out to the world not knowing the solution, but optimistic that a smarter person than I will meet it.

Always, ~Heather

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lead up to 50 days of Easter

Joyeux Paques!

Happy Easter (for the next 48 days)

I had an amazing holy week/weekend. Palm Sunday was relaxing and I got a bunch done around the house. Then Monday was St. Patrick's Day (I know, it was really the 15th, but whatever) and I fixed corned beef and cabbage for Dana, Bill and I. Then Tuesday we had four of our annual events at work.

If I ever complain about my job, please just remind me that I got to spend five minutes talking to Andrew Von Eschenbach, director of the FDA at work on Tuesday. Not to mention all the other cool people who served as panelists on the forum (heads of CDC, NIH, AHRQ, AARP; a corporate VP of Johnson&Johnson; and the director of research for Veteran's Affairs), Susan Dentzer as moderator, and then the sundry other notables (former members of Congress, major non-profit heads, director of PARADE magazine, etc.). It was an amazing (and very long) day.

In true Heather-sense, I managed to have an adventure even under the most structured of circumstances. I decided to drive up to the Press Club, since it would mean I wouldn't have to haul my clothes and supplies for the day with me everywhere. I parked in the Reagan building. (It may be wise to skip the next paragraph if you have never been to the Reagan building as it will not be half as funny to you.)

Now, after the awards luncheon there earlier this year, I knew it was a confusing place, so I was thrilled that I didn't get lost as I left the parking garage at 7:40 a.m. (though I did get lost in the parking garage and had to get special permission to park in monthly parking since I couldn't find my way back to daily without leaving the garage). I went back around 3:30 p.m. to change clothes and put on make-up (my version of dressing up) and got horribly lost trying to leave the building. Then when I went back for my car (around 9:30 p.m.) it took 30 minutes to find an elevator that went to the level my car was parked on that actually accessed the side of the garage where my car was (yes, they split everything up into little sections - hence the confusion). Things that could only happen to me: getting lost in the same building three times in one day.

Back to Holy Week ....
Wednesday was a recovery day at work, which meant that I had five meetings back to back starting at 9:30 a.m. It wasn't actually that bad, because I love when work is fun and exciting. We actually won our volleyball game at night, so that rounded off a nice day.

Thursday was a pretty normal day. The service was amazing at St. Mary's. The priest went into exactly how our Holy Week services replace the Passover services that Jesus would have celebrated - it was basically the historical breakdown of Passover versus the traditions of the church. Then he took a big sip of water, apologized for being "long-winded" and went on for another 20 minutes about the washing of the feet, beginning of communion, and the formation of the priesthood. It was probably a 40 minute sermon. No matter how hard I try, my mind tends to wander a bit during homilies - but I was riveted during this one. If I didn't love my church in Bethesda, I would definitely start going to St. Mary's instead. But even that wasn't what made the service so great.

During the washing of the feet, a small army of altar boys spread out across the front of the church. I thought they were there to help, as they usually do, with the ceremony. Then the priest invited them to sit and he washed their feet (with the help of two older altar servers). After all of the explanation of the power of the priesthood beginning on Holy Thursday, and what it truly meant to wash the feet of others, it was so beautiful to see the leader of a parish encouraging vocations like that. I can't even explain it. It was as powerful as having my own feet washed.

Good Friday, thank goodness, our CEO gave us off of work. I started the day at the doctor (more tests necessary - boo) ran home to get changed, and drove up to my church. I sang at three services: a seven last words of Christ lecture, an ecumenical walk, and then a veneration service (at Blessed Sacrament). All three were as fun as they can be for serious services. There is just something so uplifting about church, even if the celebration is about death.

[Photo: GW Parkway]

After all that church, I went to a friend's and watched my newest Easter present, Enchanted (the Bunny came early by US Postal Service with handwriting amazingly like Mom's). It wasn't quite as good as I had hoped it would be, but cute. We had pizza (that was extra crispy because she put it in a panini maker) and then sat and talked with her husband while we listened to interesting music (he was playing DJ).

Here I would like to go off on two tangents.
Tangent 1: When you are hanging out at someone else's place and everyone appears to be having a good time, how do you gauge the appropriate time to leave? I know that as a hostess, unless I am really tired, I won't encourage my guests to leave - even if I might be hoping for a little alone time. Maybe this is why I am always so paranoid. Or, it could be that my parents were always reminding me to not overstay my welcome and annoy people. So, while I was there I asked three times if she wanted me to head out and she always said no - but was she just being nice or did she really want me there? Why, if this is my friend, can I be open with her about a million other things, but feel odd about potentially over-staying my welcome? Is this an individual phenomena, or do other people feel this way too?

Tangent 2:
I love watching other people's marriages (obviously others', I'm not married). I was incredibly lucky to grow up in a two-parent, loving household that exposed me to morals, religion, education, and values (and other craziness that doesn't relate to this tangent). But, I also believe that there are a number of different models on how to raise a family and live with someone else. So, while at my friend's house, I felt really at home watching the interactions between her and her husband. They are a model so different (and yet so similar) to my own family: affection sharing, communication, structure. Anyway, I love looking at these things and contrasting them to what I'm already familiar with. Some girls dream about their weddings, I dream about my life with someone else; so similar, and yet so different.

I finally left my friend's place around 9:30 and came home to get a few things done around the house and relax. Saturday morning I got up and spent time with one of my roommates (I really need to ask them about using something to identify them). We chatted as I cut coupons and pulled together a shopping list. I ran out for supplies in the early afternoon and spent most of Holy Saturday cooking, doing laundry, and watching My So-Called Life on DVD.


I made Easter Bread (two wreaths!) from G's recipe (and an emergency lat-night call to Grandma for advice on making bread). I had no idea you had to let yeast bread rise before you baked it and I started rather late in the evening with my prep. One rose and one didn't (I may have killed the yeast with too hot of water). I think I liked the one that didn't rise even better. The wreaths (as you can see) include dyed hard-boiled eggs which were fun to make. I also used another of G's recipes to marinate the Easter lamb. I finally crashed about 12:45 am - even though I needed to be at church by 8 am.

And that is the story of my lead up to the 50 days of Easter. I have rambled on and on for ages and will get to the other exciting things (post-resurrection) in a later post. For now, have a fabulous night (or day). I look forward to reading about all of your weekends soon!

Always, ~Heather

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Reminiscent

My blogging tonight is reminiscent of my year in France, when I blogged at night to fill time, because I had nothing else to do.  Tonight I have plenty of other things I could be doing, but am unfortunately restricted to a location that prevents me from doing them.

So, in this interlude of internet access and spare time, I thought I would share with you a few stories from the past couple of weeks.  And, in true late night fashion, ramble a bit about what is going on between my ears.

First, I have moved in with two fabulous roommates.  As I have not confirmed their being okay with me using their identities, I shall call them roomie 1 and roomie 2.  I've known one of them since graduate school and the other we met online in our search for roommates.  I was, admittedly, nervous about having a "random" roommate (do roommate counseling enough times and roommates will scare anybody!).  However, the two of us get along famously already.  We have a number of things in common, even though we come from two completely different points of view.

All three of us headed down to IKEA last weekend to get new furniture for the townhouse.  I needed bookshelves for the library of books I've been hauling around, and we needed another ENTIRE shelving unit for all of our movies.  I should note that all of our movies will not actually fit on this piece of furniture, despite its enormity, so my VHS collection will be living someplace else.  Our trip was adventuresome and fun, but no more than the average IKEA field trip.

In telling you about the stuff we bought, I realized I haven't shown you pictures yet - and won't until we're actually unpacked.  But, trust me, it is a pretty awesome place with huge common spaces.  It has come with a few minor quirks: the kitchen faucet not working, and the sprayer nozzle attacking me; the downstairs toilet first running all the time and then (today) over flowing into the foyer; some serious door handle issues; the phone wiring not working; the fireplace needing repairs; you know, all the things you really want when you are moving into your first townhouse.  The landlords have been fairly efficient in getting repairs done, it just seems like the needed repairs will never end.  And, not being able to be home to do stuff (like hang a bar in my closet so I can get the mountain of clothes off my carpet) is a bit frustrating.  Hopefully, I'll be able to knock a bunch of that stuff out this weekend though.

Personal story of relative achievement: I applied, under influence from a friend, for a position as a director for the musical Scrooge! at a local theater.  I didn't get the gig, solely based on a lack of experience.  This didn't offend me too much, as aside from my senior thesis and the kids'  shows at St. Thomas More, I haven't directed many musicals.  They did , however, offer me a directing position for their upcoming one-act play competition.  It was a perfect opportunity to get my foot in the door, get involved in theater locally, and have some fun while beefing up my theater resume.

This is the part where the achievement comes in: I said no.  Those of you who know me know I am an insane over-achiever who will do anything to fit one more thing into my regularly jam-packed days.  I actually enjoy being busy that it never really occurs to me to say no to new and interesting challenges - especially if they'll help me get where I want to be.  So, for maybe the first time, I looked around at my other commitments, realized I would probably set a record for a youthful stress heart attack come May, and turned down an incredible opportunity.

I'm not sure how much I like that stage of growing.  I know it is important, but closing an open door always seems like such a bad idea.  Then again, trying to manage directing, HOBY, and potentially an event at work doesn't seem like the best plan either.  One thing at a time.  Okay maybe two - but I'm cutting myself off at three.

I've been thinking alot lately about appropriate interference too.  Not in my life, but in my friends' lives.  This seems simple - don't interfere.  But in many of my relationships I tend to take on a more grown-up role and am sort of a "mom" as much as a friend (don't forget to sleep, I'll drive you home, please eat something other than frozen dinner, etc.).  So, with friends and siblings, when is it okay to step in and say "Nope, that is the dumbest idea you ever had."  and when do you just be supportive?

In our twenties, people are making a huge number of life choices that will (seemingly) make a huge difference in our future lives.  So, if I can see the absolute stupidity in a choice someone else is about to make AND they ask me what I think (if they don't ask, it is 99% be quiet time) then aren't I under some sort of friendly obligation to say, "No, actually, that is not a financially sound decision and this is why," or "If you really thought about that, I think you'd agree that sleeping with that guy is not actually going to make him like you or get you your ex back."  Where is that hazy line between being supportive and intervening for "their own good?"

Also, as I reached my official six month mark at work, I've been doing some soul searching about my future career.  As I suspected would be the case, the more I get involved with different projects, the longer I see myself staying with the organization.  This has been the case with any group I've ever joined.  But, aside from school, nothing has quite required such an investment of time.  So, I've been thinking about what things I love/like about my job and the things I don't; what would have to change for me to be willing to stay there for another couple of years; what is likely to change; and whether or not this is something I'm doing because it is a available and I can or if it is truly something I'm passionate about.

I'm petrified I will "drink the kool-aid" and start believing some of the things the organization believes that I truly do not.  I wonder what the breaking point will be before some of this ridiculousness becomes ingrained in my psyche.  Also, what I am happiest doing. 

While I was working the Janney show a couple weeks back (I was stage manager for some elementary schoolers doing Damn Yankees), a number of parents asked if I was a professional in the theater.  Of course, I'm not.  But, in comparison to others, I knew what I was doing back there.  Then at work this week, I was putting together a fun, learning activity for a really long staff meeting and one of my colleagues asked why I was working with our organization when my calling was so obviously in being a teacher or counselor somewhere.  Which I've never ruled out entirely, but have some serious hesitancies about.

All this to say, I have a number of other options in my current career path and potentially other career paths I could choose after this one.  I will choose whatever makes me happiest, but it is hard to know which thing that will be.  

For now, what I'm doing is not bad at all and learning to filter myself - something I tried to teach myself NOT to do - will probably serve me well wherever I go.  If you can't truly be yourself until you are the boss, and it takes a long time to become the boss, what are the chances you'll still be yourself and not some jaded version of a formerly idealistic person when you get there?

Okay, I'm yawning like a mad person and I still have about two more hours before I can go home.  I'm off to try a different keep me up activity that doesn't involve you all having to follow my tangential thinking.

Hugs to all, ~Heather

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