Half-way Home

I’m half-way through my 60-day detail in DC as of this weekend! There are only four work-weeks left until I’m back at home full time with H and Leo.

These past 30 days have been long and busy, but time is also flying by. Half of 2014 is gone. I’m nearly half-way to age 29 (how can I possibly be so dang old?!). Christmas is less than six weeks months away. In just a few months, it will start getting colder and colder in Chicago, and I’ll have to say goodbye to arms and legs and shoes worth looking forward to wearing.

I’m not ready. There are so many more things I want to do before this year is over. A lot of my internet friends are posting half-year updates, and while I don’t want to go line-by-line through my plan for this year, I do want to say two things.

First, this year I wanted to attack my life instead of letting it pass me by. And for the small things I haven’t. I’m still more likely to watch television than exercise, or to stay home instead of going out, or to blog or tweet instead of making that phone call. (Sorry Mom, it’s just really hard.).

But for the bigger things, I’m really proud of myself. I have been more intentional about saying what I want to do, where I want to go, what I want to eat. I’ve prioritized traveling and seeing friends and doing what I love. And I took a few big risks this year, including that writing boot camp and my writing conference, not to mention saying yes to this job in DC.

Second, I’m starting to feel like my own person (getting older is pretty awesome on that front, huh?) and feel very confident about my skills and abilities. Over the last year I have been so lucky to work with an incredible boss and mentor; his continued support, guidance, and trust have been incredibly affirming for me. I have a newfound comfortableness in my own skin that feels incredible. I’m no longer afraid to let people see how smart I am. (I dream of a world where all women everywhere fearlessly and confidently use their whole selves and full abilities to make our world a better, safer, healthier place.)

That’s where I am right now, and it’s still hard, but I like it. I’m weirdly happy, even though I’m itchy from a crazy rash and tired from constant flights and sick of eating at restaurants and still using my iPhone 4 with weak battery life and low memory. This year is half-way over and things aren’t perfect but I am happy, and that is awesome.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 7.4.2014

Happy Fourth of July, my friends!  Here are some reads for you.  But if you don’t feel like reading something on the internet, you could also check out, like, the Federalist Papers, or the Bill of Rights, or maybe read that book 1776.  Here at the pink-briefcase, we love America.  And we are fishing and barbequing and enjoying time with family in Michigan today.

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Soraya Chemaly for the Huffington Post with 10 Words Every Girl Should Learn.  Full disclosure: I have a big mouth on all work-related things and I’m typically the interrupter.  But I still find this article incredible.

Penelope Trunk with How to Choose Between Two Jobs.  This is not really a how-to post but I just love it.

On Hobby Lobby Boycotts: Megan McArdle with Hobby Lobby Boycotters not Crafty Enough to Win.  (I’m not quite ready to talk about this case yet. But I do still love HL’s half-priced frame sales.)

On The Origins of America: Randy Barnett for the Volokh Conspiracy with The Annotated Declaration of Independence. (Nerd alert.)

On summer clothing: Jenny Trout with I Wore A Bikini and Nothing Happened.

What I DIDN’T Love: June 2014

I’m supposed to write to you about what I was into in June.  It’s on my blogging schedule.  Well, what’s left of it. 

I was talking with a co-worker about admitting responsibility for mistakes.  If I’m even remotely responsible for something, I take the hit.  I fess up and say “this bad thing happened, and that was my fault, and I’m sorry.”  He laughed and said that the thing we were discussing wasn’t at all my fault, and that my quick acceptance of guilt was probably due to my Southern Baptist upbringing.  (We each just found out that the other grew up Southern Baptist yet now attends a more mainline Protestant church.  So now we have this little joke we make. It’s weird how you find random connections with people, isn’t it?  Anyway…)  And so, here’s my confession:  my blogging schedule has turned to complete chaos because living in a hotel alone without my cat or my husband or my closet or my kitchen is kind of rough.

But while I really want to remedy this issue by telling you What I Loved about June, here’s the thing.  Before I can tell you about the good things that happened in June, I have to tell you about the bad things.  Because, just being honest, June was kind of the worst ever.

You already know that I got a cool job offer and that we said yes to it even though it meant that I would be living away from home for 45-60 days this summer.  And I love my job even though it is super frustrating and I love the project I’m leading even though it’s probably more likely that global warming is no big deal and that we’ll have a Middle East peace agreement by Tuesday than that my project will end well.  But, did you know that on my third day there I fell all the way down a flight of stairs, busting up my leg, breaking four fingernails, and bruising the entire right side of my body?  That totally happened. I’m pretty sure the security guards all secretly know me as “that girl from the stairs video.”

Here’s something else you might not know:  I was so stoked to finally get a new phone, that I went all in:  I ordered a fancy new iPhone 5s with a big memory card for photo-taking and better mobile blogging.  It was the first time I’d ever paid for a phone and I was so excited. Two weeks in I dropped it and the screen shattered, so I had to pay to repair it.  Then, the day after I picked it up and purchased a new case to protect it, it was stolen.  Yes, seriously.  And so that’s several hundred dollars down the drain and, also, now I don’t have a phone.  I’ll be re-activating my iPhone 4 so my adorable tweets and life-changing instagram photos will return to your feeds soon but, since I had been hating on that phone for months and basically living for the day I could upgrade, I’m pretty bitter about the whole thing. 

H and I have started saying that this new phone was probably cursed, so it’s good that I’m rid of it.  Unfortunately I don’t believe that for a second.  (Related note:  having no cell phone while you live alone in a hotel away from your husband is not awesome.)

Oh, and on Sunday I went to brunch with two friends to celebrate a very exciting birthday.  And we all ate a delicious meal and then got food poisoning.  That was really cool too.

So June, I will have to check you later. I need a re-do for Father’s Day and my parents’ anniversary, for celebrating my best friend’s big move and for making a cake for Flag Day. (Yes, Flag Day. All patriotic holidays matter).

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 6.29.2014

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Why the VA Couldn’t Keep Up with IT, by Nicole Torres.  There is truth here, I think.

On babies:  Big Data will Know if I’m Pregnant before My Mom Does, by Danielle Vermeer, and Having a Baby will Simplify Your Life, by Lauren Laverne at The Observer.

This obituary/tribute to retired assistant defender Bill Laswell was incredibly inspirational.  What a good life.

Roxana Robinson for the New York Times Opinionator with The Right to Write.

On sex trafficking and what we can do about it:  Jamie the Very Worst Missionary with A Million Ways to Say it Wrong, and Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan with What I Learned about Sex Trafficking from an Evening with Two Prostitutes.

I hope you had a fantastic week!  If you read anything awesome that’s missing here, please link it up below. 

Long-term Work Travel Advice: the good and the bad

When I decided to accept a short-term detail in Washington, DC three weeks ago, I had only a few days to prepare for my departure. Like any Millennial faced with the unknown, I took to Google to gather information. I searched “long-term business travel” and read message boards from the suitcase brethren who had traveled before me.

A lot of the advice was pretty spot-on, if not a little obvious. Many commenters mentioned how easy it was to forget comfortable evening/weekend wear, and that packing a pair of sweats and a few cute, casual outfits was essential for any non-work activities that might pop up. Others articulated more health-conscious commentary, including the difficulty of maintaining weight-loss while eating so many meals in restaurants, or ensuring that the workout clothes you pack could do double-duty for either a quick jog or an impromptu yoga class.  One of the best pieces of advice was about the dangers of unintentionally over-consuming alcohol: when every dinner is a once-in-a-blue-moon evening out for your friend, it’s easy for a glass or two of wine at a nice dinner to become a glass or two of wine at every dinner. It’s okay to have iced tea, or seltzer with lime, even if you are hanging out with a friend you haven’t seen in years.

But, the one comment that I couldn’t forget was about coming home. Don’t do it unless you absolutely have to, one poster said. Coming home means leaving again, and you want to leave as few times as possible. Avoid coming home as much as you can.

It’s true that saying goodbye is incredibly hard, but I have to tell you that, at least for me, coming home this weekend was exactly what I needed. The stress and anxiety of a new job melted away as I talked with H about my worries, my goals, what I’m doing well and what I want to do better. (I want to arrive earlier into the office each day this week, for example, and do some significant early-morning research so I can stay ahead of deadlines.)

Seeing H and having an intense round of cuddles from Leo the Cat helped me remember that my physical presence in Chicago is not essential to the daily functioning of my family – the boys are just fine without me. I don’t have to feel guilty for leaving or be distracted from the cool and important work I’m doing, because they are just fine and my professional goals are important to all three of us. Well, maybe Leo is more concerned about getting his white fur on my black work slacks than he is about financial outlays or budgetary priorities or spreadsheets or regulations, but he’s a cat so I think we can give him that.

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And just in case this isn’t obvious, spending the weekend in my city was also pretty dang fun. Fun is important, and having fun with the people you love is the most important thing of all.

I’m back in our nation’s capital today, working hard and learning a lot and enjoying hot muggy weather [for America]. Going home helped me remember why I left.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 6.22.2014

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I missed last week’s posting so this week I have WAY MORE than five links for you.  If I read it and I thought it was interesting, or challenging, or for whatever reason saved it for you over the past fifteen days, I’m posting it here for you.  Get excited.

From the Washington Post Magazine, Gene Weingarten with Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car is a Horrible Mistake.  Is it a Crime?

From D.L Mayfield for Christ and Pop Culture Magazine, Women, Infants, Children: WIC Vouchers, Whole Foods, and the Oppressed.

From Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), Rachel Strugatz and David Yi with Incomes Keep Soaring for Fashion’s Top Bloggers.  And this response from Erin Gates at Elements of Style.

From Hannah Paasch at A Jesus Gypsy, with Physical Compatibility Is A Thing.

Dana Milbank from the Washington Post wrote about a Heritage Foundation event where panelists taunted a Muslim graduate student in attendance.  The gracious student, Saba Ahmed, wrote about her experience at the event here.

Ben Moberg for Deeper Story with Tone Policing the “Culture Wars”.

Should Christians Support Reparations for African-Americans?, a guest post by Amy Julia Baker for Thin Places (at Christianity Today).

From The New Inquiry, Autumn Whitefield-Madrano with You’re Right, I Didn’t Eat That.

Janne Robinson for Elephant Journal with Why I Give a Damn about #yesallwomen. {Adult Content}.

Belle at Cap Hill Style with Styling a Navy Cardigan, with a closed second of Four Ways to Style a Navy Sheath.  I basically want every single item pictured here.  It’s like she can read my fashion mind/heart.  If you want to order it all for me and need my sizes just ask.)

Beth Morey writing about her Perfectly Imperfect Book Launch.

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary with Blogger Trips Make (Dollars &) Sense.

Kristen at Wordgazer’s Words writing about rape with We Still Just Don’t Get It.

And to wrap us up, a recipe that really makes me miss having an oven:  Deb from Smitten Kitchen with the recipe for Valerie’s French Chocolate Cake.

These last few weeks have been kind of weird in real life, so I imagine the blog has been a little weird as well.  Things won’t be any more normal in real life for another month or two, but I’ll try to bring this space back to a new normal this week.  Thanks for sticking with me.

 

 

Hotel Living: What I’ve Been Eating

I’ve been living in a hotel for the last ten days, and thought I’d share a little about how I’m doing that.  I always love reading those sorts of things from other bloggers.

I’m very lucky to have found a hotel with a kitchen (two burners and a full-size refrigerator) instead of just a mini-fridge and a microwave.  If you’re ever dealing with long-term hotel stays, I absolutely recommend a similar set-up.  It is the best.

When I arrived last Sunday, my flight had been delayed three hours and I was exhausted.  So, CVS was my grocery supplier.  I picked up a half-gallon of milk (still barely used), a carton of half-and-half for coffee (barely used, but WORTH IT), a box of multi-grain cheerios (barely eaten, but they were on sale), a box of knock-off whole wheat crackers and a container of Sabra hummus.  I didn’t love any of these items, but they were essential in getting me through my first few days in the new job — particularly since I was way too exhausted to think about shopping for groceries on Monday evening after my first day.

Monday evening I grabbed Thai take-out and a six-pack of beer.  (Classy, I know.)  That Thai food fed me for three straight evenings (and the six-pack is still going strong in the fridge, right by that nearly-full half-gallon of milk).  With dinner plans Thursday and Friday, I made it until Saturday afternoon without purchasing additional rations.

I had brunch with a friend on Saturday morning.  It was beautiful, and we ate on the back-patio at Kramerbooks.  I walked her to the metro and then sauntered over to the Logan Circle Whole Foods to do a little grocery shopping.  After purchasing my lunch all week last week, I really needed to eat a little healthier this week.  I could only purchase what I could carry, and wanted to spend as little money as I could while still eating healthy this past week.  Here’s what I purchased:

  • The basics:  olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • A package of quinoa (easier to cook than rice, in my opinion)
  • 4 nectarines
  • A pint of blueberries
  • 2 avocados
  • A pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • A large container of pre-cut stir-fry veggies (broccoli, onion, peppers, etc.)
  • Citrus:  1 lemon and 1 lime
  • Whole Foods’ brand soy-ginger sauce (15 calories per tablespoon and pretty good-tasting)
  • Two fage yogurts, honey flavor (the best flavor that exists)
  • 1 package of Ezekiel  4:9 cinnamon-raisin bread
  • 6 individual servings of Justin’s Almond Butter (80 calories per package)
  • One microwavable packet of brown rice (I hate cooking rice)

All of this together wound up costing about 80 dollars.  But, it was Whole Foods, not Safeway, so I still think that was a pretty okay deal.  It was probably $12 just for the olive oil, salt, and pepper alone.  Here’s how I used the ingredients:

  • I ate a slice of cinnamon-raisin toast with almond butter for breakfast each day, along with a large handful of blueberries and a yogurt (until they were gone.  Then, same thing without yogurt.)  I also had coffee.  Obviously.
  • I made a quinoa salad with quinoa, cherry tomatoes cut in half, one avocado in small pieces, juice of the full lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper, which I ate for dinner Sunday as well as took to work for lunch Monday and Tuesday.  It was a great work lunch because there was no need to reheat.  Nectarines were for lunches too.
  • Stir fry with brown rice, veggies, chicken, and soy-ginger sauce was dinner on Monday and Tuesday nights.
  • To finish off the leftovers, tonight I cooked up sliced chicken breast with quinoa, veggies, and avocado to take for lunch on Thursday and Friday at work.  I’ll squirt the juice of the lime over the top of the avocado once I cut it so it stays green.

I plan to take my olive oil, salt and pepper, and cinnamon-raisin bread to work on Friday and leave it at my desk so I don’t have to purchase them again.  I’ll leave the half-and-half in the office refrigerator too.  Otherwise, I need to finish everything off tonight or tomorrow night and throw out the rest.  I’ll start again next Sunday when I check back into my hotel.

Any tips from your own hotel-living adventures? 

Living the Dream

On Tuesday of last week I was asked to accept a short-term assignment in DC.  It was a fantastic opportunity — doing work that I’ve always wanted to do, that I can’t do from Chicago — and with only 24 hours to decide we said yes.  It was kind of surreal, one of those outside-your-own-body moments.  I don’t know that I actually ever wanted to say “yes! I’d love to leave my home and my little family and my beach-access apartment and spend 45 days in the hot humid DC summer,” but I knew somehow that I was supposed to say “yes!” and so I did.  I don’t like to make uninformed decisions and I don’t like surprises and yet, somehow, I did it anyway.

Even now that I’m here and in the hotel and enjoying my lovely desk (with a window!) and doing the work, I’m still not sure how it all happened.  And I’m not sure it wouldn’t be better if I was in Chicago following my normal routine and making sure Leo gets enough cuddles and H gets sufficient calories from baked goods.

I spent the weekend soaking up the early Chicago summer.  We biked to the beach and went out for burgers and drank my favorite beer.  I purchased a new suit (it’s navy blue and from Ann Taylor!) and packed a TON of clothes and more shoes than I’ve ever traveled with at one time. In one large checked bag and one Vera Bradley duffel, I packed work clothes, hanging out clothes, gym clothes, work supplies and my bike helmet.  (You know, just in case I need to ride one of those  rental bikes around the national mall while I’m here.  Safety first.)

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Everything I’ll need for the next two weeks is crammed into these two bags. There was a little rearranging due to that pesky 50-pound weight limitation.

I spent 8.5 hours traveling on Sunday, due to repeated delays and airplane events and bad luck.  When I finally checked into my hotel in DC everything around was closed.  I was tired and hungry and had just paid $98 for a cab ride that was worth every single penny.  I went grocery shopping at the 24-hour CVS.

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Life essentials: multi-grain cheerios, half-and-half for coffee, hummus and crackers, and 100-calorie ice cream bars.

I’m lucky to have the greatest of friends and family here in DC, which is my first love of cities and was my first “real” adult home.  I’m so happy to be back here, for a little while, making memories and learning a lot and building on my work over the past year.  But while you absolutely can go back (you just purchase a ticket and pack a bag and leave), it’s never quite the same.

It’s hard to really embrace a new home, like my new home in Chicago, unless you let go of your former residence.  If you spend every spare minute talking to old friends and every holiday visiting old places, you don’t give the new things in your life a chance to change you.  These past ten months in Chicago have been hard (and remarkably cold), but they’ve made an impression.  I’m still a DC girl at heart, but I’m not a DC resident anymore.  I miss my skyscrapers and my lakefront views and my ever-present breeze.  I miss my short commute too.  (Seriously, even shorter than my train ride from the hotel!)

It’s a lot easier to be a game changer when you’re just talking about pipe dreams.  Being a fierce independent woman is harder when it means traveling 700 miles from home and seeing your husband every-other-weekend.  But also worth it. These 45 days could open a world of possibilities.  And even if they don’t, a dream fulfilled is a life well lived.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This (Last) Week, 6.09.2014

You’ll have to forgive the tardiness of this wrap-up.  This week . . . it’s been a hot mess.  In a really exciting and crazy way, but still:  hot mess.  The reads for this (last?) week, however, remain awesome.  Check them out!

 
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  1. Belle from Capitol Hill Style with Work Wednesday: An Undercut to the Chin:

    Most people assume that if you’re in a position of power, you deserve to be there and if you project that power, they won’t doubt your skills unless you give them a reason to do so.  But many women assume that they’re being doubted, so they try to compensate for the presumed doubt up front.  All this does is weaken their position and undercut their status.

  2. Why Louie is like Great Literature, by Gila Lyons for the Ploughshares Round-Down:

    Isn’t that what great literature does, too? In telling us a story it makes the water we blindly swim through shimmer, it shows us our world—and our humanity—in a way we understood but hadn’t yet articulated or even noticed.

  3. Esther Emery with When White Women Talk about Race: A Case for Thoughtful Self-Censorship:

    Women, do you remember that time that a man showed up to “help” you? Or take care of you? Or fix you? Do you remember that sometimes that was actually helpful, but other times it was suffocating or condescending?

  4. Brenna D’Ambrosio from Beautiful Things with We Will Call it Good:

    So today I’ll try to write, but I’ll also do some laundry, clean up some rooms, and wash the dishes. I’ll let them sit next to me for a bit, passing over crayons and asking them to do the illustrations. Then I’ll shut the door and take all that love for them, and all my hopes and dreams that I carry for them, and put them on paper.

  5. When an Inability to Make Decisions is Actually Fear of Conflict, by Ron Ashkenas for the Harvard Business Review Blog:

    [T]hey miss some of the basic principles and tools necessary to engage in positive conflict, such as defining the overarching goal to be achieved, identifying common ground, focusing on the problem instead of the person, objectively listing points of agreement and disagreement, listening more than talking, and shifting from debating to problem-solving. While none of these principles are rocket science, they’re also not necessarily skills that everyone is born with.

 

Okay, that’s a wrap!  What awesome things have you been reading lately?

What I’m Into: May 2014

What I'm Into May 2014

Dear internet world, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer today to share what I was into in May:

TSA Pre-Check.

I love you.  Please never change.  Please always pick me every time forever.  That is all.

Comfort eating.  [Sad trombone.]

But seriously — traveling is really hard and I’ve fallen off the healthy eating bandwagon in a major way.  I’ve been resetting and feeling a lot better this past week and I expect that June will be full of vegetables and not going out for lunch every day.

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Burger with egg, avocado, bacon, and cheddar.

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Peach crisp hot from the oven.

 

Spreadsheets and labels. 

I’ve been costing things and calculating savings like it’s my job.  It is.  Doing math for America (loosely speaking) is terrifying yet exhilarating for this English major.  I’m using pivot charts and line graphs and pie charts and formulas and tables.  Each time I learn a new trick, I feel like I’ve conquered math and saved the world.

Also, Avery now has an online label design center that makes label-printing super cool!  Check it out for your next project.

Four-wheel drive luggage. 

Traveling is so much easier with rotating wheels on your luggage.  I have large and carry-on sized bags similar to these, and they are fantastic.

Nashville. 

I spent two of the five May weekends in Nashville and, as much as I have whined about traveling, it was pretty dang awesome.  Tennessee is beautiful and I love being there because that’s where so many of my favorite people are.  I was so lucky to see one of my favorite college friends marry her special someone, I ate some delicious hamburgers with my very awesome wonderful friend and her husband and my parents, I made s’mores and burned sticks in the fire pit, and went fishing/reading in the Fish-and-Ski.  And I got to surprise my grandmother on Mother’s Day.  Win-win.

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Getting a little sun on my feet while reading Peter Orner’s Love and Shame and Love.

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City view from Love Circle in Nashville.

On Demand.

Specifically, HBO On Demand.  Have I told you already how much I loved/freaked out watching True Detective?  It is really awesome and you need to check it out.  It’s just scary/bloody enough to make you think without making you cringe.  Too much.  (For context, I can’t watch zombie movies but I can totally watch this.  It might be Matthew McConaughey though.)  Also, we’ve been watching Game of Thrones and Veep and I’m thinking I might re-watch The Wire.  HBO On Demand is the best ever.

Dryel.

Have you known about Dryel all this time and not told me about it?  My life is seriously changed from this new addition.  Dryel is a zip-up bag and cleaning cloth that allows you to launder sweaters, delicates, and DRY CLEAN ONLY!!! items in 30 minutes in your dryer.  It has saved me so much time.  Sure, my jeans and tops would be cleaner if I did actual laundry, but when you’re traveling a lot there just isn’t time to wash and air-dry your special items.  With Dryel, I can throw an outfit or two into the dryer while i shower and it will be fresh and good-smelling by the time I’m ready to get dressed.  Dryel has been keeping me clothed during my crazy May.

WordPress.org.

I’m still learning, and it’s a bit harder than using wordpress.com to host my blog, but I can already see why everyone raves about the ownership and autonomy you gain when you move to self-hosting.  I’m interested in learning CSS but I want to learn it in one Saturday morning so if you have any resources for a crash-course please send them over.

 

Well, that’s what was I’m into during May.  And probably a whole lot more, but I think we’re probably at capacity here!  Thanks for sticking with me during this crazy month, and Happy Summer!  Thank goodness it’s finally warming up.

So tell me, what were you in May?