Tuesday, September 29, 2009

walking is not for the weak

A question to ponder today:

Why is it that I can run any distance in my running shoes, even 26.2 miles, and not develop a single blister, but the five miles that I walked on Saturday to/from/around the book festival while wearing my running shoes left my feet a sore, blistery mess?

I've always said that running long distances is much easier than walking them. But these blisters, I simply do not understand. Any ideas?

Monday, September 28, 2009

celebrating the joy of reading: a recap

Gentle readers, I could write at least three blog entries about the amazing, thrilling, mind-blowing, inspiring, and I must say soaking wet time I had at the National Book Festival this past Saturday, but for fear of boring you, I will only remark on the highlights instead (be prepared, for I have several):

1. First, I must say that I hold utmost respect for fellow readers who make an effort to attend this event regularly, especially those who travel considerable distance to do so. My friend Liana and her husband Joel, who used to live in DC, but now live in Tennessee, are faithful attendees of the book festival. Brad and I really enjoyed catching up with both of them over dinner on Friday night and seeing them at the festival on Saturday. I have told Brad countless times that if we ever move away from the DC area, we will always return for the book festival.

2. I attended the full sessions of all eight authors that I identified last week on my tentative plan, and partial sessions of a few others (when I entered a pavilion early to snag a spot before a popular author began speaking). Brad and I arrived on the mall promptly at 10 a.m. and stayed through the conclusion of the very last speaker, Judy Blume, who finished at 5:35 p.m. I even ate my lunch while sitting in on a session. I couldn't bear to miss a moment. And although I was so exhausted that I could barely finish a sentence by the time that we arrived home, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

3. Brad spent the entire day at the book festival too (which is not common for him)! Although we split up and mostly saw different authors, I felt overjoyed that he was engaged and wanted to stay the entire day in miserable weather. (Thank you, TN VOLS, for scheduling a night game! I'm not stupid. I know that that helped.)

4. Speaking of the weather, yes, it was dreary and miserable. But the rain didn't seem to affect the crowds one bit. The sessions were PACKED. I cannot describe to you how many people try to squeeze under these tents. And even though it was raining, most authors still had a substantial crowd clustered ten people deep outside of the tent, around its perimeter.

5. Much to my surprise, the author highlights of my day all occurred in the teen/young adult pavilion. Rick Riordan, Jeff Kinney, and Judy Blume all BLEW MY MIND. In past years, I haven't spent much time in this pavilion. But my experience on Saturday proved that I need to make it a priority from now on. To see thousands of tweens and teens, groups sometimes better known for their angst and apathy than enthusiasm, over-the-moon excited about books, reading, and authors left me an emotional mess. Their palpable energy truly inspired me. These kids screamed, cheered, jumped up and down, and lined up at the microphones to ask questions quicker than any other group that I've ever seen. And the kids that didn't make it to the microphones simply waved their hands in the crowd, writhing from excitement, begging for the author to call on them. Their comments and questions were chock full of adoration and praise, a welcome relief from some adults (especially in the history/biography tent) who take themselves way too seriously and see it as their personal responsibility to publicly critique the author. I do believe that this age group (and many of their equally excited parents) makes for the most enjoyable set fans. I loved this pavilion. No matter who is speaking, I will make it a point to return next year.

6. Did you know that Judy Blume is 71? Yes, 71! And her birthday is the day after mine.:) What struck me most about Judy Blume's session is her timelessness, and her ability to appeal to people of all ages. My eyes filled with tears as an eight-year-old boy expressed his love of Superfudge, and then a tween asked her a question about Margaret. I read those books when I was their ages. And now 20-25 years later, kids are still reading, and loving, the same books. Judy Blume's impact on today's youth seems just as strong as it was on my generation. And that realization filled my heart with happiness.

It was a fantastic festival, and although I inevitably battle the blues when it ends, I am already counting down the days until next year.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

choices

I have too many authors and not enough time at the upcoming National Book Festival this Saturday.

Here is my tentative plan of attack, the authors who made my "short list", which of course is subject to change depending on the crowds and my mood on Saturday:

10 a.m. - John Grisham - I rarely read Grisham novels, but I love his personal story. And, it's John Grisham, so I feel like I have to see him!

11 a.m. - Jodie Picoult - This session is tentative. I may take the 11 o'clock hour to show my support to an up-and-coming author. I've heard Jodie Picoult speak before.

12:10 p.m. - Jeannette Walls - I loved The Glass Castle!

1:20 p.m. - Julia Alvarez - I loved In the Time of the Butterflies!

2:10 p.m. - John Irving - I was awestruck the last time that I heard John Irving speak about his work, so I deem him worthy of a second visit.

3:15 p.m. - Rick Riordan - I haven't read his books yet, but his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is next on my young adult fiction wish list. The first book of his series comes out as a movie this fall.

(Here is where I wish that I could attend David Wroblewski's discussion about writing The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, but I know that I need to claim a seat in the Teen and Young Adult pavilion to attend Judy Blume's session. So, I plan to see Jeff Kinney. At least he's a fellow Terp!)

5:00 p.m. - Judy Blume - The most anticipated session of my day!! This woman's work significantly influenced my childhood and adolescence. I fell in love with reading partly due to her books.

Thoughts? Anyone else that I should definitely try to squeeze in?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

a baby explosion

I have set a new record for myself. In a 24-hour period (from Sunday night to Monday night), I met three brand new children, all younger than one month old.

On Sunday evening, I met Juliet Blair, the baby who almost arrived in time for her shower on Saturday morning. On Monday afternoon, my friend Jeanne brought her daughter, Audrey Marin, to campus to visit. And last night, I had the opportunity to meet Megan's new son, Matthew Lawrence, at book club.

I have never been around so many small babies during such a short period of time!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

a just-in-time shower

Saturday proved to be an exciting day.

For a couple of months, I have been working with three other women from church to coordinate a baby shower for our friend Jennifer. Jennifer expected her first baby to arrive on or around October 15th, and we all agreed that September 19th should be a safe date for the shower.

Jennifer arrived yesterday morning for the shower looking as polished and beautiful as she always does. It wasn't until she declined food that she admitted that she had woken up that morning with cramps and wasn't feeling very well. However, she opened every last gift and endured every single picture with a glowing smile on her face. When the shower ended, close to 1 p.m., Jennifer mentioned that she felt even worse and planned to make a trip to the hospital that afternoon. Her declaration sparked every current mother in the room's personal story about her own false alarm. Jennifer received myriad sympathetic pats and hugs and words of encouragement, but I don't think that anyone in the room really believed that she would have the baby that day.

How wrong we were.

Jennifer left the shower and went home to basically call her doctor and pick up her husband. Her daughter, Juliet, was born at 6:30 p.m. that evening, a petite five pounds and ten ounces and nearly four weeks early, but beautiful and perfectly healthy in every way.

Juliet must have known that there was a party being thrown in her honor, and she tried her best to make it there in person.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I was a teen during the wrong decade

Even though the second book of the saga was my least favorite, and I disliked the first movie, I CAN'T WAIT to see New Moon, especially after viewing the latest trailer.

64 days and counting...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

pavilion schedule

Thank you, Ginny, for sending me the pavilion schedule for the National Book Festival on Saturday, September 26, 2009. Fellow book lovers, it's time to map out your day!

The people who plan the schedule of speakers certainly know what they're doing to draw and keep a crowd. For the fifth year in a row, popular authors are slated to speak during both the first and last slots of the day, which means that I will again be in attendance all day long!

I don't mind, though. The National Book Festival is my favorite annual DC event. I will never grow tired of celebrating good books and the courageous, creative, and diligent souls who write them.

I'd love to meet up with those who plan to attend. I'll map out my schedule this weekend and will post it on my blog next week.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

early Christmas present

One benefit of our burglary last week is that I now own a nice new cell phone, an iPhone to be exact, in a girly, hot pink case (I bypassed the orange case... sorry to my readers who are VOLS fans... I tried to talk Brad into the iPhone and the orange case, but he went with a Blackberry instead).

This device was at the top of my Christmas wish list this year, and because I cannot go without a cell phone for the next three months, this luxury suddenly became more necessary.

I have never purchased a cell phone in my life. In the past, I've always just accepted whatever free phone came with the service plan that I selected, and it has been over three years since I've gotten a new cell phone. You can imagine the antiquatedness of my old cell phone. I'm surprised that the thieves even bothered to take it!

And even though I bought the most basic model, WOW. Let me say it again. WOW. I had no idea that such a glorious device existed. The options available at my fingertips bewilder me. And never having owned an iPod before, I feel as though I have stepped into a brand new world. I just might be in love.

If only I could figure out how to use it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

my temporary wallet


Priority task for the weekend: buy a new wallet! This Ziploc bag is driving me crazy!
(NOTE: I used my office's camera to take this picture!)

Thank you so much for all of the sweet comments, emails, and other ways that you've checked in on us this week! Your good care means much more to us than we will ever be able to tell you. Seriously. THANK YOU.

Slowly but surely, Brad and I are recovering missing items each day. The kitchen window has yet to be fixed and the car still needs to be rekeyed (be forewarned that I may blog/vent about both of these frustrations next week), but I am now the proud holder of: a driver's license, a UMD staff ID, a UMD parking gate key, a Metro Smartrip card, a Safeway card, and a library card. Progess! Except for the metro card (which I don't use much... they were just surprisingly efficient at mailing me a replacement), you can tell where my priorities are. After my driver's license, my library card was the very next thing that I replaced.:)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

another glorious visit to the DMV

Back in April, I bemoaned the fact that our visit to the DMV to obtain new driver's licenses after we moved took over two hours. Well, beloved readers, it has happened again.

Tuesday morning's errands began at my favorite place on earth: the DC DMV. It's been nine years since I frequented any other state's DMV, but I cannot imagine that any other place has a poorer run organization. Brad and I arrived at 8 a.m. and assumed our place in line. The station was supposed to open at 8:15 a.m. Shortly after opening time, an employee announced that the security guard had not shown up for work and that they weren't allowed to open the doors without a security presence. The crowd's feisty attitude only accelerated over the HOUR that it took for a replacement security guard to arrive. I expected to have to walk through a metal detector. But at 9:20 a.m. when I finally entered the building, I realized that the security guard's sole purpose seemed to be to hold the door open for me.

Because Brad and I were near the front of the line, we were both quickly served and we each paid the requisite $7 fee for a replacement license. My mood improved when I was called over to the photo booth only moments later. All the woman had to do was print my license and then I could be off to the next errand. But as we all know, it's never that easy at the DMV. As soon as I walked up to the counter, the woman exclaimed, "The machine just broke!" and then disappeared behind a curtain for about ten minutes. When she failed to return, I suspected that she ducked out for a smoke break. She finally came back with her supervisor, and told me that the machine had broken and that she had no idea how to fix it. Keep in mind that I was one of the first customers to request a license, so I don't understand how the machine "broke" before she even used it. The hour delay in opening obviously wasn't enough of a break for her. I resumed my seat next to Brad and we settled in for the wait.

I couldn't help but ponder the irony that the DMV's cash register never seems to break.

AN HOUR later, after finally being moved to another clerk with a newer printer, Brad and I had our licenses again, and were on our way. We've been forced to visit the DMV three times in the last nine months; I do hope that I will have no need to set foot in a DMV for years.

Now that I have a driver's license again, I am reliving the joy I experienced as a teenager when I opened my first checking account. As a 16-year-old, how I loved scrawling my signature on the bottom line! But now I've turned into the lady at the grocery store who holds up the check-out line because she has to write a check. As I see the other customers' dirty looks and hear their sighs of impatience and groans when I whip out my checkbook, it's all I can do to refrain from turning to them and simply saying, "I'm sorry. Only seven more business days to go and I'll be swiping the plastic just as fast as I can."

Monday, September 7, 2009

not the holiday we expected

After greatly anticipating our holiday, and lazing about in bed, and then going for a run, we came home to a surprise. In the fifty minutes that Brad was gone on his run this morning, someone broke into our house, stole a number of small items, and left our home in complete disarray. The burglary occurred sometime between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. this morning. With it being a holiday, a day that we would normally be home, we hypothesize that someone must have been watching our house and then struck soon after both of us had left. The timing is too much of a coincidence.

Brad returned home first and PRAISE GOD that the thief/thieves were already gone. We can deal with a stolen purse, wallet, ipod, digital camera, cell phone, keys, ring, watch, blackberry, cash, clothes, and the like. I could not deal with an injured (or worse) husband.

The crooks turned over a garbage can in the alley and stood on top of it to jump over our back gate, which was locked. They smashed in our kitchen window, assaulting my beautiful orchid on the window sill in the process, to enter the house. I would post a picture of our now-boarded-up window, but the crooks snatched my digital camera. They pulled items out of random drawers in the kitchen and both bedrooms and tracked mud through the entire house, leaving a huge mess on our nice floors and carpet.

They left our most valuable items, such as the television, computer, china, crystal, silver, etc. and just seemed interested in grabbing smaller items. We both lost all of our identification and means of paying for things (cash, credit, debit cards) because my purse and Brad's wallet were stolen. Guess that it really was time to retire my white purse for the year. Little did I know that it would happen this way.

For unknown reasons, they stole Brad's college class ring, but left his wedding ring. They also bypassed my wedding/engagement ring, which laid in plain view on our dresser (we were running, so we weren't wearing any jewelry). They also left my watch, jewelry and stash of Christmas money (aka my clothing fund) untouched. But they took Brad's flash drive that he uses for work (weird!), one of his sweaters from Zara, and all of his t-shirts from Banana Republic! And it looked like they rifled through all of Brad's drawers of clothes. We can't make sense of their selections. We do suspect that it was a couple of kids who did it though. Their work doesn't seem like that of a professional.

The thieves also took Brad's set of keys, but left mine (we both had only our house key with us, tied to our running shorts). That means that the thugs now have one set of our car keys. But we hope that we've outsmarted them to save our one and only car from getting stolen tonight (the dealership was closed today, being a holiday and all, so we can't get the car rekeyed until tomorrow). We moved the car several blocks away and locked a different club to the steering wheel.

We've dealt with the aftermath of the burglary all day. And it's been extra challenging because with it being a holiday, many places are closed. Our handyman rigged up a temporary solution for our busted window because it can't be fixed until tomorrow. Same with our car. We have no identification, so we have to go straight to the DMV tomorrow morning. And I am rescheduling doctor's appointments until I have a credit card to pay for them! I can't get into my office at work because my staff ID was stolen. And Brad can't get into his office because his keys were taken. Our cell phones were stolen, so we've had to make all of our phone calls on our home phone, which isn't set up with long distance service. All of the things that you don't think about until this happens to you.

I have to admit that I tend to be a hoarder of discount cards that I use at all sorts of stores. And of course I kept every single card in my wallet. I now need replacement library, Blockbuster, Safeway, CVS, Giant, DSW, AAA, Best Buy, metro, and probably myriad other cards. It will take me months to figure out what I am missing.

Brad mourns the loss of his Chop't frequent diner card. He was only one visit away from earning his free salad! The hooligans!

While living in the city for over nine years now should have prepared us for this, it's still a shock when it happens. Unfortunately, we're not burglary virgins. In the nine years that we've lived here, our car and our old apartment building were both broken into twice. Fortunately for us, our old apartment was at the very top of the building, and was never touched, but we still freaked out each time the building was broken into and our neighbors were the victims. We moved into our new house exactly five months and one day ago. I regret that we didn't even make it six months before being targeted.

Overall, we are grateful that no one was hurt. It could have been much, much worse. We are alive and safe. We have home owner's insurance, and after we pay our $1,000 deductible, our insurance company will begin to replace some of our stolen items. And as soon as our replacement credit card arrives in the mail, rest assured that we'll be making a trip to Home Depot to stock up on some security reinforcements for our windows. We may have lost this battle, but we vow to fight again, hopefully better armed next time.

striving for balance

Being a hermit this summer has produced several unexpected benefits. Brad and I have eaten dinner together almost every single night for the past three months. Now that all of my school-year commitments are back in full force, I'm already mourning the two or three dinners per week that we will most certainly NOT spend together until next summer.

My favorite benefit of hiding out all summer is the plethora of reading time that I have hoarded. Let me provide some context. This past January, I vowed to read 26 books in 2009. As of the end of May, I had only finished six books; I was embarrassingly behind on my reading goal for the year. But in June, July, and August, I finished 17 books (13 first-time reads, and four re-reads), bringing my running total for the year up to 23! I only need to read three more books in the next four months to meet my goal.

My running goal took priority in the spring, and reading has taken over the summer. I am confident that I will achieve my reading goal for the year. But I still have 150 miles to run to hit my goal of 720 miles for the year. Time to put away the books and pull out my running shoes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

the week of white

Here we are, only days before Labor Day, and I find that I've done it again: I've worn white almost every single day this week. White skirt, white pants, white capris, you name it, I've worn it. I've even carried my white purse all week.

Why?

Because Labor Day is upon us and I am the most traditional sort of gal. I follow the rules, though most some consider them to be archaic. Although I've given it a valiant effort, I just can't bring myself to wear anything white after Labor Day. So I always cram all of my outfits involving white items into the week right before the deadline, just to wear them one more time, or sometimes for the first time, before the garments resume their permanent place in storage for the next nine months.

Every year I question this madness. Which is the lesser of two evils, spending an entire week parading around like a bride, an angel, or (gasp), a member of a church choir, clad in white, a color that even after a trip to the beach, never compliments my skin? Or is it better to break tradition and wear white whenever I'd like?

Perhaps the third, and better option, for me at least, is to never wear white at all. But I do look forward to adding a new color to my wardrobe come Memorial Day, even if it's only for a short time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

victorious

Brad finished the last book of the Twilight series late Sunday night - hooray! I am still shocked that he agreed to read 2,500+ pages of teenage vampire romance. He's protested reading the books in all sorts of ways for the last seven weeks. And I learned quickly that he has no patience with female teenage narrators... the angst irritates him. Although Brad claims that he doesn't understand the world's obsession with the series, he admitted that he liked the books much more than he expected to.

And that's all that I needed to hear for me to claim a victory.