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Archive for April, 2013

Back home

Bart and made it back home on Sunday, although since it was midnight when we pulled in I suppose that technically made it Monday. What a long day…

We had a nice trip. I flew in on Thursday, visited with family, and attended Bart’s sister’s baby shower on Saturday morning. Bart saw his folks and worked in the office all week (he normally works at home, so he often takes advantage of going in in person when we make trips back). We both were pretty worn out by the time we left.

This is our first trip approaching our native lands from the east rather than the west. While we didn’t technically move any farther away, we didn’t really move closer, either. It’s surprisingly about the same distance from Denver as it is from Washington.

Over the past seven years, we’ve memorized every exit between Denver and central Arkansas. I will never, ever miss or be nostalgic about the trip on I-70 across Kansas. We lovingly refer to it as “miles and miles of miles and miles.” Now, however, I actually kind of looked forward to exploring a new route, seeing a few things I hadn’t seen before, and enjoying some actually nice scenery instead of the mind-numbing emptiness of the plains.

Google maps estimates the trip to take just under 15 hours over the most direct route. However, we wouldn’t be making the regular trip this time; we would be delivering a whole truck full of baby shower gifts to Bart’s sister in Raleigh. She and Bart scoured the map for a convenient place to meet up that would be convenient for us both, but ultimately it seemed most reasonable for us to drive all the way there and do the drop. While it saved her from six hours in the car, it added two hours to our itinerary. We figured we could swing that for the sake of the pregnant lady.

We left around 5 am and started off making good time, but rain set in around Nashville, and it really didn’t let up the entire trip. Pouring rain slowed our pace across the Great Smokies (which were, as advertised, smoky), and we made a couple of extra stops we weren’t intending.

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Bart and I usually listen to audiobooks to wile away the hours on a trip, but we ended up talking nearly the entire trip. We had some great conversations and joked that we’ve successfully planned out the next five years of our lives in just one road trip together. Ultimately, we made it in 18 hours, safe and sound but utterly exhausted.

I knew that making it to work at 7:30 am wasn’t going to happen, so I slept in and went in during the tail end of the morning rush. I worked a bit later and came home during the evening rush, which is not advisable on a regular basis.

Bart and I then fixed dinner, went to get groceries, and tackled a really miserable yet necessary spring cleaning project we’d been putting off before falling into bed again. So much for unwinding that evening and catching up after the trip. Maybe the rest of the week will be more restful, but judging by our current to-do list, I’m not overly optimistic!

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That’s so Reagan!

Today, I’m making my first flight out of DC as a resident.

I’ve flown in and out of the three regional airports multiple times as a graduate student attending conferences and meetings here, and I flew in twice for interviews before getting this job. But this is my first experience leaving it as home turf.

Since Bart already left, I had to make my way from home to the airport on my own. The most straightforward option turned out to be leaving my car at work and taking the metro to Reagan National Airport from there.

Now, the metro isn’t super close to my work, but everyone in my group volunteered to drop me off so I didn’t have to walk or take a bus, which was super nice of them. My boss ended up taking me to the Woodley Park metro, which, if you’re keeping track, is the metro near the national zoo (another item on our local to-do list). The Woodley Park metro has one of those slow-moving, seemingly never ending escalators down into the bowels of the city; I estimate I stood on it for about two minutes behind a guy carrying a bag full of hockey gear (if the bag weren’t so large, I would probably have walked past him to shorten the trip).

Riding the metro is still a novel experience to me. My friend who has to take it to work every day says it gets old quickly, but I ride it just infrequently enough to keep it fresh. Well, fresh isn’t exactly the word to describe a crowded hole in the ground but you get the idea. I admit that when I’m walking down the street in my spiffy clothes and work satchel, descending down the escalator and expertly flashing my metro fare card at the turnstile, I almost feel like a bona fide, debonair city girl. Then I ruin the effect by walking the wrong direction down the platform and having to turn around, sigh.

My two-leg hop to the airport was uncrowded and successful, and I was in a positively excellent and sociable mood. I helped a teacher with a group of kids navigate to their next stop at Pentagon City, and then I struck up a conversation about (what else) clocks with a retired electrical engineer. It’s not every day you can casually chat on the subway about signal transfer over optical fiber and and GPS jamming. My ability to completely geek out never ceases to amaze me.

I know every trip on the metro won’t be so warm and friendly, but I always feel so good about having meaningful interactions with people that I remember I should do it more often. It’s easy to hole up in my own brain or stare into my smartphone, but I should look up and interact on a human level more often.

The trip to Reagan National Airport was quite easy. This is only the second time I’ve flown out of here, and the first time I’ve flown out of the historical older part of the terminal. I’m a sucker for old, architecturally interesting structures.

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Despite more artificial sequestration woes over the FAA, my flight appears to be on time, and I should be boarding soon. I can’t wait to get home and visit with family for the weekend!

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Bombs…..poison….explosions….. last week was very eventful and tragic. This weekend was time to take a deep breath before trying to get back to normalcy as best we can this week.

Not that my week is totally ordinary. Bart and Murphy, our pup, drove back home this weekend, leaving me to fly solo for a few days before joining them later this week. Coming home with out a wiggly, waggy, whiny dog greeting me at the door or bouncing around every time I move even an inch, just in case I do something incredibly interesting, is a new experience, as he’s rarely ever not at home. Fortunately, he’s in the expert care of my parents while Bart visits with his family, so he’s actually getting a doggy vacay while I’m stuck at home working. That’s okay; I’ll get my vacay on in a few days.

I kept myself occupied this weekend, though. Saturday, after Bart had left, I thought I might venture out a bit and run some errands. However, when trying to locate my keys to no avail, I called Bart, who was then somewhere near the Virginia/Tennessee border. Sure enough, in some mysterious way we have yet to understand, my keys ended up along for the ride. Thank goodness I have duplicates of everything except my office key here. That took the wind out of my sails, however, so I opted for a quiet day at home working on some projects and watching movies on Netflix.

Sunday morning I went to church; visiting a place alone was a bit intimidating, but Bart, being the wise man he is, suggested just the right place for me to go alone. Afterward, I (finally) met up with a friend from high school who also lives in the area. We agreed many times on Facebook that we ought to get together sometime, so we finally made it happen! Look at me being all social and everything for two whole weekends in a row.

So now it’s Monday, and time for a goal of the week, at least for the few days before I head out. Right at this second, I can’t say I’m all that motivated to come up with anything, but there are multiple little things I have on my to-do list. At the very least, I need to return something to the mall and pick up a couple of items for Bart. Sounds like a task for today or tomorrow. And I’d like to paint my nails tonight. I think I’ll count my week as a success if I can manage those.

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This weekend, we had no earth-shattering plans beyond visiting a new church and buying a lawn mower. Exciting, I know. However, before the weekend was half over, Bart and I found ourselves roasting marshmallows around a fire pit and chilling out at a friend’s house.

This is an astonishing feat since, as you may recall, we have approximately zero friends here in DC. Of the few million people living in the greater metropolitan DC area, I know about seven. Those are mostly all from work, and Bart averages about zero, as he works from home. We might also recognize two or three people we’ve shaken hands with at various churches during our months of church shopping. So when we casually strolled about one of the area’s many malls on an unassuming Saturday morning, the last thing I would ever have imagined happening was being in the same store at the same time as someone I actually recognized.

Indeed, it was the girl who has an office right next to mine at work. We don’t work in the same group, but we have chatted a bit since I started, being about the same age and sharing some common interests. Evidently we share a bit of the same fashion sense, too. So a surprise encounter turned into lunch with her and her husband which turned into an invitation to hang out at their place that evening with some friends of theirs. And now I feel confident to finally assert that Bart and I now have approximately two acquaintances that we might be able to call friends living in our general area.

This was by far the most interesting highlight of our weekend, but we did manage to squeeze in a few more notable activities. Sunday morning we visited a church on Capitol Hill; in fact, here’s the view from a block away from the the church:

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Not too shabby, eh?

We also hit a few open houses in the area as we learn more about neighborhoods we might like to live when we get ready to purchase. After that, I came home and crashed; I must have been tired from all that excitement. I rested up the rest of Sunday, and now it’s back to work for the week. There’s nothing too earth-shattering planned for this week, either, but hey, evidently things can change!

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Today is dually notable. First, this marks five months since Bart and I left Colorado for the East Coast. We are finally past winter now, and we are beginning a new season of living here, which should bring some new experiences.

In five months we have:

  • Finally walked downtown when it was warm.
  • Seen (a few) cherry blossoms.
  • Been to (a few) open houses.
  • Attended a Nationals baseball game.
  • Turned on the AC.
  • Made two trips to Raleigh.
  • Bought fresh Atlantic seafood (for Bart).

Things we have not yet done:

  • Mowed the yard.
  • Purchased a lawn mower.
  • Visited the beach when it wasn’t snowing.
  • Gone back to Arkansas for a visit.
  • Visited a Civil War battlefield.
  • Settled on a church.
  • Been to Philly or NYC.

April 12 also marks the day that I defended my PhD dissertation last year. That’s right…I’ve been Dr. Jennifer for one year now. Seems like forever, and also just yesterday. Usually I don’t feel any different, but sometimes when I think about it am astonished again at those three letters at the end of my name.

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Breaking in a new ballpark is not a trivial matter. It takes time, dedication, and personal investment. And a few hotdogs.

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Yesterday, Bart and I attended our first Washington Nationals game down at the Navy Yard in DC. After leaving our beloved, yet beleaguered, Rockies behind in Denver, we felt that we still had room in our hearts to adopt another team, especially if it happens to be one that’s actually good.

Bart’s birthday is always around opening day, and while I’ve not been willing to brave the throngs then, I usually get him tickets for one of the first games of the season. This year, we came across a Groupon deal that lured us out of our lair north of town to venture downtown in the middle of rush hour on the metro and down to the ballpark.

It wasn’t all that bad getting to and from the game, though it was indeed crowded. The metro, while a little long, isn’t that much longer than driving, and you don’t have to pay $40 for parking and deal with traffic. The Navy Yard station is mere blocks from the entrance.

The Nat’s stadium is quite new, since they haven’t been back in DC for all that long. It’s spacious and open and clean. It also has a ridiculously high definition screen. I could almost count the hairs in Jayson Werth’s beard.

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Bart and I had a nice time. The weather was perfect, and a National’s win over the White Sox topped off the evening. One game isn’t sufficient to claim fan status, but I feel like we’re well on our way to root-root-root for the home team.

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As I’ve mentioned many times, one benefit to this area is that it brings people here on various kinds of business. That means that even in the short time we’ve been here, we’ve been able to meet up with various friends and family members who are just passing through or here for a couple of days. Last week, Bart’s mom was here for a meeting, so she got to stay a few extra days over the weekend to visit with us. Since his sister only lives 4 1/2 hours away, she was able to come up for the weekend, too, for a mini family get-together. Last Friday was also Bart’s birthday, so we got to celebrate that together.

On Friday, I was able to leave work early, and we all went downtown to do some sightseeing. We parked just off the national mall and headed east from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. This was the first time Bart and I had been able to walk around down here when the weather was nice, so we enjoyed the stroll.

We veered off to find some lunch, then headed a bit south to the Tidal Basin in hopes of seeing some cherry blossoms in bloom. Unfortunately, except for a couple of over-achievers, they were still a day or two from blooming. However, we had a nice time walking around in the beautiful weather, one of the nicest and mildest days we’ve had all year. Could spring finally, finally be here?

While I’ve strolled the National Mall a few times in the past, I’d never been to the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial before. Seeing another monument honoring one of our founding fathers was really meaningful to me.

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“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” –Thomas Jefferson

We topped off Friday night with a birthday dinner for Bart and some generous helpings of carrot cake. Saturday, we went shopping for baby supplies. Bart’s sister is due in July, so we had to make sure we did baby girl up right with some nursery furniture from Ikea and a heaping mound of adorable little clothes. I think baby girl will be off to an undeniably fashionable start.

We enjoyed having a family gathering this weekend, especially having it coincide with Bart’s birthday. And it won’t be long before we get to see family again soon…

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