23 February 2010

Oh No! Say it Ain't So!

A co-worker mentioned some discouraging news today:

"According to the Farmer's Almanac, we're supposed to get another blizzard in March..."

At which point, I stuck my fingers in my ears and started singing "la-di-da-dee-da"  because in my mind, starting 1 March, it's going to be nothing but blue skies and sunshine forever

Who do you think is right?

22 February 2010

Right Back Where We Started From

As cliche as it might sound, this song was stuck on repeat in my head last week.  (Go on, click the link and press play as you read the rest of this entry so you're in the same mindset as me...)

Why?  You might ask:
Because this girl was lucky enough to be sent back to San Diego for work.  
Yep, that's right.  After a week of being snowed in and stir-crazy, I got to escape to the sun and blue skies of SoCal for a rather tedious training seminar. 

But, before and after working hours, I was on the beach.  It might've been too cold to sunbathe.  And only surfers and kids from snowy climes were crazy enough to actually set foot in the water.  But I was still on the beach:

Where I found random pretties.

And seashells for my collection.

And people-watched.

And saw some absolutely stunning sunsets.

Last year, when I first saw California, I thought it was pretty, but I just didn't get the appeal of living there.  California, to me, has an air of surreality to it.  And that makes it hard for me to imagine living there.  But this time, I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway one night to meet a dear friend for dinner and struggled to focus on my driving because a gorgeous sunset and the California coastline kept distracting me.  At one point, I was sitting at a stop light in Laguna Beach watching a couple of kids shivering under beach towels and giggling, and I thought to myself, "Don't they know just how lucky they are?  It's President's Day and they're shivering under beach towels after spending all day playing in the sand and the surf.  The rest of the country is shivering after playing in snow and ice all day."  And that is exactly when I got the appeal of California living.  

As I stood on the beach another night watching a sunset, I dug my toes deep in the cool sand and reflected on how much my life had changed from the last time I'd stood with my toes in the Pacific:


* Wondering when, if ever, I'd see the other side of the Pacific.  And a mere five months later, I was on a whirlwind tour of Tokyo with Mb and her bro Zab


* Wondering if my planned trip to the Balkans later that spring would sate or further fuel my wanderlust.  Definitely the latter, definitely the latter.  After all, I went back a few months later.


*  Wondering how My Love and I would survive the very long year.  Why I ever bothered worrying, I don't know.  Worrying, especially where My Love and I are involved, is clearly a waste of time.


And as I stood there, toes in the sand, soaking up that sunset, and ignoring my rumbly, jet-lagged stomach, I realized, life is pretty sweet.   (And I'm awfully lucky to have seen both sides of the Pacific and the Atlantic.)

And then I went back to my hotel room to take advantage of having a tv with cable to watch the Olympics.

(And, yes, I am aware I have a tendency to start way too many sentences with "And" in this blog....)

21 February 2010

I Am So Loved




Even though he's living 6,000 miles away, My Love still managed to send me stunning flowers for Valentine's Day.  And, a week later, they're still blooming beautifully.  Every time I glance at them on my desk, I smile, feel so loved, and wish I could give him a kiss for every.single.bloom.  Soon.  Soon enough he'll be home.

19 February 2010

A Challenge for the Girls: Be An Emotional Creature

One of my guilty pleasures is I still flip through Glamour magazine.  Most of the time, it's a lot of silliness, but every so often, they do a great job of celebrating womanhood.


In the March 2010 issue, on page 204 (since there is no online copy I can link you to), there is an editorial that contains an excerpt from Eve Ensler's new book, I Am An Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World.  I haven't read her book yet, but I did love this excerpt:

Dear Emotional Creature:

I believe in you.  I believe in your authenticity, your uniqueness, your intensity, your wildness.  I love the way you dye your hair purple, or hike up your short skirt, or blare your music while you lip-synch every single memorized lyric.  I love your restlessness and your hunger.  You possess the energy that, if unleashed, could transform, inspire and heal the world. 

Everyone seems to have a certain way they want you to be - your mother, father, teachers, religious leaders, politicians, boyfriends, fashion gurus, celebrities, girlfriends.  In reporting my new book, I learned a very disturbing statistic:  74 percent of young women say they are under pleasure to please everyone.

I have done a lot of thinking about what it means to please:  to be the wish or will of somebody other than yourself.  To please the fashion setters, we starve ourselves.  To please men, we push ourselves when we aren't ready.  To please our parents, we become insane overachievers.  If you are trying to please, how do you take responsibility for your own needs?  How do you even know what your own needs are?  The act of pleasing makes everything murky.  We lose track of ourselves.  We stop uttering declaratory sentences.  We stop directing our lives.  We forget what we know.  We make everything OK rather than real.

I have had the good fortune to travel around the world.  Everywhere I meet teenage girls and women giggling, laughing as they walk country roads or hang out on city streets.  Electric girls.  I see how their lives get hijacked, how their opinions and desires get denied and undone.  So many of the women I have met are still struggling late into their lives to know their desires, to find their way. 

Instead of trying to please, this is a challenge to provoke, to satisfy your own imagination and appetite.  To take responsibility for who you are, to engage.  Listen to the voice inside you that might want something different.  It's a call to your original self, to move at your own speed, to walk with your step, to wear your color. 

When I was your age, I didn't know how to live as an emotional creature.  I felt lie an alien.  I still do a lot of the time.  I am older now.  I finally know the difference between pleasing and loving, obeying and respecting.  It has taken me so many years to be OK with being different, with being this alive, this intense. I just don't want you to have to wait that long.
Love, 
Eve Ensler

16 February 2010

Drink for Life

I am a study in contrasts.  I know that.  Sometimes I embrace it.  Other times, I drive myself crazy.  One of the biggest dichotomies are my feelings and beliefs in religion.  One absolute I have in regards to religion is that, like politics, I do not discuss my personal views openly.  As such, religion and politics will not be discussed here: it may start off sounding like a discussion of religion, but please, bear with me and read on until the end.

Tomorrow marks the start of Lent.  I may question tenets of my faith, but I do believe absolutely in the practice of self-sacrifice during Lent.  Every year I have challenged myself to sacrifice in greater ways.  Since it is self-sacrifice, I try to minimize the impact of my sacrifice on others, which means I usually limit myself to sacrificing some kind of food.  My Dad, for as long as I can remember, has alternated giving up his beloved ice cream one year to giving up his favorite cookies another year.  

I am making what will be, for me, a much harder sacrifice:  I am giving up all pop.  I have tried many times to reduce the amount of pop I drink daily.  I know that even though I drink Diet Pepsi instead of regular Pepsi, it is NOT healthy.  I drink at least two liters of water every day, but then supplement that with a lot of pop.  Hand in hand with my desire to prevent diabetes and obesity later in life comes the awareness that pop does bad things to your body.  It makes you crave more food, depletes calcium from your bones, and keeps you from drinking healthy water.  So, for Lent, I will sacrifice pop to break myself of my Diet Pepsi addiction.  

However, the more I thought about sacrifice, the more I realized that even though giving up pop is a self-sacrifice, I could make this sacrifice benefit others.  Another Lenten practice is alms-giving, and I have been slowly trying to increase my charitable donations to causes I firmly support.  I used to abstain from charitable donations because I felt my modest income prevented useful donations, but I have realized that any size donation can help make a difference. 

Where am I going with this?  There's a point, I promise, just bear with me a bit longer here. 

At my last job, I did not work directly on water scarcity, but it was an omnipresent, recurring theme in my office, and I learned a tremendous amount about just how truly scarce water is, and how, as an American, how fortunate I am to have safe drinking water every day.  Did you know that almost one billion people in the world are impacted by water scarcity?  One Billion.  Water scarcity impacts physical health, physical safety, farming and food supplies, economies, government, politics, and international relations.  Even if we are lucky enough to not be a direct victim of water scarcity, we still are impacted by the lack of available clean water.  So, because of that job, I became a strong supporter of the Millennium Development Goals and non-profit organizations that help support those goals. 

One such non-profit organization is Charity:Water.  

Charity:Water works to bring clean water to developing nations, and have had tremendous success in their work.  So, to make my self-sacrifice of giving up pop make this world a just a slightly better place to live, I have decided to donate all the money I save by not drinking pop during Lent to Charity:Water.

The reason I am announcing this intention on my blog is to hold myself accountable -- to make sure that I really do trade drinking pop for water and contribute to Charity:Water so that others may also have water to live.  And if one person reads this blog post and becomes more aware of the devastating impact of water scarcity, I'll consider that a success too.   

14 February 2010

Love Struck

Here's hoping Love struck you this weekend! 

Tokyo.

10 February 2010

Making History by Sitting at Home

Years ago, I escaped the lake effect snowy Midwestern winters of my childhood and moved south, to Washington D.C.  My first winter in D.C., I called home, bragging that I was running errands in February in a t-shirt. Fast-forward five?!?! (already?!) years later, and I'm breaking history records:  snowiest winter ever in D.C. and most Federal Government snow days (four and half days so far....let's see about Friday....).  



I'm not going to lie, the snow is pretty when you look out the window or at the pictures.  But the truth of it is, D.C. has been right to shut down.  The local governments simply do not have the resources or capability to clean up the snowfall the way they do in the Midwest.  Residents do not have the same driving-in-the-snow skills as people living in the Midwest.  Laws about clearing sidewalks post-snowfall vary by region and are not really enforced.  Metro has had to shut down its aboveground tracks numerous times in the past week.  And frankly, who really wants to try to get to work in all this?


The downside to all this?  I live alone in an itty bitty studio apartment.  Far from my friends on a Metro route that includes aboveground stations.  So, all my social contact has been limited to phone calls and internet, and other than the latest snowfall report, I have nothing to talk about.  Which is why I've been so quiet this week.  


On Monday and Tuesday, I worked from home.  I was thrilled to be doing some particularly contentious data reconciliations because I could focus on the work without constant disruptions, AND I had something to distract me from going stir-crazy.  But then I ran out of work to do at home.  So I've been finding other ways to amuse myself.  And now, I share with y'all the patented KtMac Stir-Crazy Prevention Snowed In All Alone Survival Plan:


*  Watch every movie you own
*  Scheme with My Love on how to train our future puppy to bring us breakfast in bed every morning
*  Play Mario Bros until your thumbs beg for mercy
*  Drink lots of wine
*  Try valiantly to keep yourself from flopping into your desk chair and announcing, "I'm snow bored!" every ten minutes to My Love
*  Read yourself cross-eyed
*  Drink a river of hot chocolate and tea
*  Burn off excess energy on Wii Fit
*  Fantasize about moving to a tropical island where the closest snow will be on CNN
*  Laugh at the poor schmucks who own homes and have to worry about things like shoveling snow and falling tree limbs and clearing off snow-laden rooftops
*  Cook all your meals from scratch
*  Try to ignore the fact that the tiny apartment walls are beginning to close in on you
*  Bake obsessively 
*  Ride for miles on an exercise bike to try to keep the baking from counting on your hips
*  Give yourself a sunshine yellow mani-pedi so you can finally see some sunshine
*  Stalk OPM's website every evening to determine the amount of wine you should drink
*  Come up with some creative hair-dos simply because they make you H*-*a*-*P*-*p*-*Y and no one will see
*  Laugh at the Midwest's mere eight inches of snow
*  Thank your lucky stars for Skype, My Love, and distraction of planning his return home later this year


There you have it, peeps, the KtMac Stir-Crazy Prevention Snowed In All Alone Survival Plan.  And mad props have to go out to my fabulous friend Tiger for all the pictures in this post.  Stunning pictures, aren't they?!

04 February 2010

Letter Randoms


Dear Harris Teeter Cashier -

What possessed you to put 5lbs of apples in the same bag as 3lbs of potatoes and then cover both with 1796 yogurt containers?!  I discovered your packing stupidity about a quarter mile into my very.long.painful.slow.mile walk home.  My arms and shoulders still have no love for you.

I will watch your bag packing skills VERY closely next time,
KtMac


*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*


Dear DMac -

I'm proud of you!  Way to chase after that dream internship!  I think you've got a fantastic application package (and no, I'm not just saying that because I've spent so many hours helping you perfect it), and they'll be damn fools not to choose you.

Love,
Sissy


*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*


Dear PMac -

I'm sorry it seems like everything sucks for you right now.  I know it doesn't seem like it, but you will be okay, because truthfully, nice guys finish first.  I promise.  Besides, you have spring break with your fantastically awesome sissy to be excited about!

Love,
Sissy


*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*


Dear Coworkers -

STOP!  Please, for the love of all that is holy.  Stop spending ten minutes at my desk and THEN tell me that you're sick.  *Knock on wood*  I haven't gotten sick yet this year, but I've been running enough random fevers this week, and I blame you all....

No Germs,
KtMac


*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*


Dear Universe -

Thank you for conspiring to ensure that this rolling stone doesn't gather any moss.  And for making sure the travel is on someone else's dime too!  Oh, and for giving me such awesome friends. 

Much Love,
KtMac, Travel Addict


*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*


Dear IcyHot -

Thank you for being my saving grace this week.  Especially after that run-in with the evil apples and potatoes and devilishly long walk home. 

Hot and Icily Yours, 
KtMac


*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*


Dear Beautiful Purple Tulips on My Desk -

You are stunning.  You are gorgeous.  You are the best four damn dollars spent at the grocery store.  The clear glass vase only emphasizes your beauty.  I love having you on my tiny desk to perk me up.  

Much, much love, 
KtMac


*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*


Dear DC Blizzard - 

Bring it on!  I'm ready for you.  And I need a good excuse to curl up, read too much, finally do my taxes, bake ridiculous amounts of yummies, and sweet talk My Love into watching an absurd number of romantic comedies with me. 

Let it snow! Let it snow! 
KtMac

03 February 2010

Stolen Breaths

When I was in Albania for Thanksgiving, we took a little road trip to Southern Albania for a few days in Gjirokaster and Permet to visit friends.  After a wild ride from Durres to Gjirokaster (no lie, I had to close my eyes a few times to the fact that we were passing multiple cars at very high speeds around mountain curves), we were dropped off at the bus station in Gjirokaster.  The bus station  (side note: what does it mean when I keep typing "bus station" as "bust ation"?) is at the base of the mountain, and naturally, the guy we were staying with lived at the very top of the mountain.

About halfway up, we had to stop for lunch at a cafe.  We were so hot and sweaty and tired after thirty minutes of hiking straight up on old, old, well-worn, slick cobblestones that even though it was December, on a mountain, and the waitress was giving us death glares, we sat outside, AND took our jackets off.  Fueled by food, we hiked on, and after we met up with our friend, we dropped off our bags and found this view:

Gjirokaster, Albania.

I was breathless.  From the hike.  From the wind.  From the sheer beauty.  From the crisp twilight air.  From the fact that, for the first time in recent memory, I could breatheBreathe deeply


And I fell in love, again

With My Love.  With the mountains.  With the fresh air.  With the hushed expectation of twilight.  With the charms of Albania.  With the life I live that allowed me to be right there, right then, right in that moment.

Since then, I keep finding myself mentally wandering back to that sunset on the mountain, and those incredibly C--O--L--D, but incredibly wonderful stolen breaths.  And while I love the mental vacation, part of me can't help but wonder when exactly I will be able to breathe like that again. 

02 February 2010

Travel Addict


Addict: (noun) enthusiast: somebody who is very interested in a particular thing and devotes a lot of time to it.

Travel Addict:  See picture of KtMac.

Ahhh!  *Squeals of excitement*  When I returned from my whirlwind, glamour girl tour of New York City over New Year's, everyone immediately started asking me where I was traveling next.  And the truth was, "nowhere." 

But today, it's been exactly one month since I returned home from NYC, and well, one month at home is long enough, don'tcha think?  After all, a rolling stone gathers no moss.

So, today, I just booked two new trips.  WHEEEEEE!!  Thank you, universe, for fueling this girl's addiction.

01 February 2010

Disconnect

Disconnect: (noun) to become detached or withdrawn.  Synonyms: detach, disengage.


To say I currently have a love-hate relationship with technology would be putting it mildly.


Like all of you, I came of age with the incredible changes in personal technology.  But like most of you, I still remember life before iPhones and laptops and internet in airplanes.

Most days I love technology.  What's not to love?  I hear because I'm lucky enough to have a Cochlear Implant.  Instant messages are 1,000 times better than email.  Hulu keeps me entertained when Netflix lets me down.  I feel naked without my cell phone nearby. Facebook has kept me in contact and in the know about people I would otherwise have long lost touch with.  Love, love, love Google and its instant know-all, reveal-all magic powers.  Ordering pizza online has changed my life.

But for as much as I love and embrace technology, I absolutely hate it at times.  I flat out begged my parents NOT to get me an iPhone for my birthday last year.  I despise Blackberries with a passion and probably would quit on principle if my employer ever required me to start carrying one.  If a conversation requires more than five texts total, I pick up the phone and call instead.  I had a Twitter account for all of a week before I deleted said account.  And, sin of all technology sins, I have seriously debated deleting my Facebook account.

Yes, you read that right. 

Now, let's back up for a minute here.  I currently work in a position that requires me to stare at a computer screen for 9 or 10 hours a day as I draft reports and manipulate various databases.  After I get home, I usually get on Skype and talk to My Love for another several hours.  So right there, I can easily spend hours a day on the computer.  Every.damn.day.  O-U-C-H

The result?

Some serious eyestrain and major technology overload.

When I was in Albania, I barely spent any time on the computer.  On an average day, I spent 15 minutes checking my email and Facebook accounts, and then watching back-to-back episodes of the Big Bang Theory with My Love.  Often, I went several days without checking my email or turning on my cell phone.  I never looked at my watch, and saved my iPod for when I got sick of terrible pop music blasting on furgons.

And the truth?

I loved it.  I could've cared less what happened in the "real world."  I had My Love.  I talked to my family often enough to make sure they knew I still loved them, that I was still planning on coming home, and that my Grandma was still okay.  Beyond that, nothing mattered.

But then I came back very late on a Wednesday night and was back in the office by 7 the next morning.  And by the end of that day, I had already had one migraine.

I feel tired and overwhelmed.  Do I really need to know what Suzy's kids had for dinner tonight?  Damn you, Facebook news feed.  Do I really care that I got two advertisement emails from stores I rarely set foot in since the last time I checked my email?  It's nice knowing current events and all, but honestly, the important news ends up scuttlebutt anyway, so I might as well rely on water cooler gossip to at least give me the first exposure to breaking news.  And weather?  It's winter.  It's some variation of damn cold outside.  Layers, hats, and gloves -- always -- and if it's too hot, you start taking them off. 

In other words, I've become apathetic towards technology.  I can't cut back my hours at work, and I certainly cannot cut back my computer time at work.  Unfortunately, my work requires that I be near, if not right at, the extreme cutting edge of technology.  Similarly, I refuse to give up my Skype time with My Love.  But everything else?  Good-bye.

I won't cut out Facebook altogether just yet.  But I've already started cutting back on the times I obsessively check it.  Ideally, I'll get down to once a week or less.  Same thing with my personal email account.  At work, I've started printing out many more documents and writing drafts long-hand before I start typing.  And when My Love goes to bed (about dinner time here in the States), my computer is getting shut down.  The tv is ignored, and instead, I read, I write, I work out, I cook, I chat on the phone, I visit friends, I run errands, I actively live my life.

And maybe, just maybe, someday I'll actually be brave enough to delete that Facebook account.  For good.