Archive for the ‘Bucket List’ Category

spring garden tour
April 23, 2012

It’s crazy to me that as I write this post, it’s in the forties with an outside chance of snow later–blech.  Get me back to bed.

On Saturday, it was sunny and gorgeous and surprisingly, just on the verge of being humid.  I had stumbled across some article advertising the annual White House Spring Garden Tour, and quickly harassed asked my friends if they wanted to go.  Long story short: most said no, two said yes, alarms were set, hangovers ignored, blah blah blah helllooooo garden party.

We showed up at the little visitor’s kiosk at EIGHT AM to get our tickets, and were astounded to see a line of extremely motivated tourists winding through the streets.  Luckily, after stuffing their tickets into their fanny packs, the rabid tourists sped away on their Segways to go snap up all the dehydrated ice cream from the Air & Space museum so that they would have enough sustenance tonot walk upthe metro escalators.  Ahem.

Guys, this tour is pretty legit.  I can understand why so many tourists seemed to plan their vacations around it–you can literally step right up to the White House.  Despite the fact that it must be the biggest security nightmare of the year, it’s a really amazing way to feel a connection with the daily, more mundane aspects of the President’s life.  The lawn was littered with pretty, educational signs showing past presidents and their wives planting trees–did you know that almost every tree on the White House grounds is commemorative for something?  It’s weird to think that if, say, the Oklahoma City bombing had never happened, this pretty whatever-tree behind us here wouldn’t exist.

lis, me, colleen

Look at this view!!  I had no idea that the monuments all lined up like this. 

We all noticed immediately that the gardens felt completely secluded from the city.  They were quiet, and there were actually a fair amount of places tucked away that would be completely hidden from any public eye.  In our little pamphlet we read that President Ford had built a swimming pool somewhere–and even though we looked, we didn’t see a single sign of it.  Sneaky sneaky, Gerald. 

This is the Rose Garden, site of some press conferences and countless photos of pensive, pacing Presidents.  (Alliteration!) 

Oh heeeyyyyy, Barack.  Let’s hang out because literally, I’m on your balcony.  Whattup.

The Presidential/National/Royal Band was on hand, playing all kinds of patriotic songs and even a little jazz.  Without a doubt, they put the party into garden party. 

We stopped by Mrs. O’s vegetable garden, which I actually found fascinating.  It was small, but our trusty pamphlet said it produced over A THOUSAND POUNDS of produce it’s first year.  One third of all the produce goes to a local charity that helps feed the hungry here in Washington.  In a little corner of the garden were plants that had been grown from heirloom seeds sent over from Monticello.  What a neat way to incorporate a little founding father action into your veggies. 

Oh look, Barack, now I’m standing on your putting green. 

lis, colleen, me

I am happy to say that my hair was doing a really lovely thing where it greases itself back so as to suggest that I am bald with a seven inch forehead, so we will never discuss these photos again.  But on another note, how pretty are my friends? 

Okay, enough about the friends, back to me, this is my blog, no?  I spent the rest of Saturday deep conditioning my hair (no joke, takes two hours), realizing that I need new clothes for spring (just kidding, Mom), and aggressively pursuing a new man who may or may not now be my boyfriend.  You will never know because then I would have to show him the above pictures in which I imitate a greaser with a never-ending forehead. 

Have a great week.

discovery
April 17, 2012

It’s been, ermm, a while since my last post and all I’m going to give you here is one teensy photo.  Sorry.

I snapped this picture of the space shuttle Discovery on it’s way to a new home in the Smithsonian from the window right outside my cube.  

I hope everyone is having a lovely April.  My March was pretty rough so I really appreciated the fresh start and warm weather that April brought.  Time to bust out the SPF moisturizer, baby!

earthquake day
August 26, 2011

So by now, I think that the majority of the U.S. is aware that the east coast experienced a 5.8 earthquake on Tuesday.  Luckily it appears that, besides a few toppled angels at the National Cathedral, there was minimal damage and no one was hurt.  As for me, I was at work in my Arlington high rise, just finishing up a meeting, when the whole building started swaying.  Everyone immediately started playing a game of prarie dog, poking their heads up above their cubes and looking around anxiously.  My supervisor was actually in the elevator during the quake, and was positive that the cables were about to break.  When he got out of the elevator, he told us all to go outside, so we joined the mass exodus flooding the stairwell.  Someone later said that there were cracks in the walls, but I don’t remember seeing them.  (I noticed that people had a tendency to over-exaggerate in the aftermath of the afternoon: I overheard my coworker tell her dad that the earthquake lasted two minutes!  False.)  We all gathered in an empty parking lot, rattled, each trying in vain to get on our phones and call all the necessary people.  Luckily, I have a Twitter (so THERE, all you nay-sayers!  Twitter IS handy!) and was thus able to get the most up-to-date info.  We milled around outside for about an hour before the building briefly opened back up to allow everyone to get any belongings they had left behind.  I wasn’t sure if the metro was running, and didn’t want to battle it out on a crowded platform with stressed women and farty old men, so I hitched a ride with coworker Suzannah to her apartment only a few blocks away. 

Surprisingly, we proceeded to have a WONDERFUL afternoon.  We popped in a movie (Something Borrowed–not as good as the book) and opened some Woodchucks (can you say Monroe Hill #2, spring semester of fourth year??), and relaxed.  I also found her new iPad, which was an endless supply of entertainment for two girls looking to blow off some steam after a tumultuous few hours.

Her iPad (and most Macs) has a photobooth app, which lets the user distort pictures in a variety of ways.  I proceeded to make myself as beautiful as possible:

Just kidding guys.  This NEXT one really shows me at my best:

Stunning, I know.  Photobooth really captures my best features.

Suzannah and I had so much fun just messing around with her iPad.  It was one of those semi-surreal five minutes where everything is funny–all the circumstances align to make the most ordinary events hilarious.  Perhaps we were so wound up from the earthquake, or from being out of the office at 3 in the afternoon, but we were cracking up.  Her dog, Bitsy, kept wanting to join the fun, but this was an adult-only party.  (Obviously.)

Suzannah also found her most flattering angle:

She was also wildly successful in giving me nightmares for the rest of the night.

I don’t remember the earthquake being particularly scary–it would be better described unsettling because so few people had ever experienced one, and the DC metro area was so inadequately prepared to deal with it.  I don’t think anyone was ever fearful for their lives, but it was certainly a jarring 30 seconds that forced everyone to deviate from their typical Tuesday routines.  (And don’t we all hate that?) 

I know that everyone in California snickered and adopted their favorite know-it-all position, but the earthquake was an unknown phenomenon here.  Imagine L.A. going through the 2009 Snowpocalyspe–all the career lifeguards would be running around with their heads cut off, using their surfboards to try and clear paths to the beach.  (I tease.)  Everybody has things they never have–and never want to–experience, and for many Washingtonians, an earthquake is one of those.

Luckily, Suzannah and I recovered our wits in the amound of time it took to pop open a beer, and had a really great afternoon.  If a casual observer saw the crazy pictures we spent an hour taking, they would have no clue that we had just lived through an earthquake.  (Dramatic enough??) 

I leave you with one last gem before I abandon my computer to buy a flashlight and bottled water in preparation for a lovely weekend with Irene.

guns & lace
August 15, 2011

It’s a rainy and surprisingly cool Monday here in a capital slogging through August and reeling from Michelle Bachmann’s straw poll win.  I had a pretty eventful weekend, meeting tons of new people and finally getting my headstand in Saturday’s yoga class.  Also of note was my very first (and probably only) time at the local shooting range.  Surprise!–socially liberal Jen lost her pistol and rifle virginity in a two hour shooting bonanza, and emerged a considerably more bad-ass woman than before.

Shooting has been something that has gradually crept its way onto and up my bucket list, due in some part (I believe) to the large number of ex-military men I work with.  My coworker Suzannah, of Canadian embassy fame, has a Marine boyfriend who reluctantly allowed me to tag along on their shooting adventures.  I met them at their gym out in Courthouse and even earned my seat in their car by loading ammo in preparation.

suzannah surrounded by bullets

I had been running errands all day, and had absolutely ZERO idea what one wears to a shooting range, so I was in a lovely lace tank and leopard flats.  Needless to say, when we all got to the range, I was the obvious answer to a game of “What does not belong?” 

no shame

Now, I had never in my life shot a weapon.  I had never even held a gun.  I was beyond nervous–I was so worried that I would be the one airhead girl who fell over from the gun recoil, like in that “How I Met Your Mother” episode where Marshall goes shooting to get over Lily.  I don’t think my heart stopped pounding until I got back in my apartment that night. 

Luckily, Suzannah’s boyfriend was a great teacher.  (He also owns any gun one person could ever want to shoot.)  He started me off with a teeny little .22 caliber (get ready for all my newfound gun lingo!) and it took me about 7 minutes of standing completely still with that gun before I could actually fire it.

Aaaannddd–TA-DA!  Weapon fired.  It was scary.  There are a lot of things one has to think about when shooting a gun, and keeping everything together while pulling the trigger is no easy feat.  But, I did it.  I fired three bullets over 15 minutes, to the exasperation of Suzannah’s boyfriend and the rest of our party, and never once fell over or waved the gun around in a panic, like I thought I might have done.

I moved on to a .380, the gun made famous by James Bond.  I actually didn’t like this one very much, so I fired my one little bullet and then let someone else have all the fun.  Suzannah persuaded me to try the Glock 9 mm next, and after I fired that big guy, I felt the line on my Bad-Ass-o-Meter rise considerably. 

My arms were hurting from holding the guns for so long, so I took a little break.  When I came back, it was rifle time!

shooting the M3

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I loved the rifles.  The way they nestle right into the crook of your shoulder, the cold metal soothing against your hot cheek, an anticipatory breathe of air leaving the barrel right before you pull the trigger.  The recoil is absorbed by your body, a relationship forged between you and the bullet as it begins its deathly journey.  An exhilarating boom! that reaches your ears only after the bullet has hit the target; an afterthought that brings you out of your gunpowder-induced reverie.  A few more hours with those rifles and I would have been a partner in a full-fledged love affair.

suzannah with her rifle

I shot an M3, an M4 (the only one with a holigraphic sight, therefore the only one with which I could hit the little target man), and an AK-47.  I rule.

shooting the M4

Let me tell you: when I shot the AK-47, I felt like a freaking movie star.  My elation dimmed slightly when I opened the paper this morning and saw that the attacks on the governor of Parwan in Afghanistan were done with AK-47s, but I was blissful in my ignorance on Saturday.

shooting the AK-47

I fired one shot, then, stunned by the groups of people I had joined by firing that weapon, I set it down.  (Not before another photo, though!)

On our way home, I spent a little time reflecting on my time at the shooting range.  One girl in our party, upon hearing the rapid fire of an M14, loudly exclaimed, “This is against my religion!”  Despite my lack of religiousness, I felt that her sentiment came the closest to summing up my feelings.  Shooting guns is, without a doubt, one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done.  (See also skydiving.)  I honestly had a great time, and was so glad I took the plunge and just went for it.  That being said, however, I felt that there was something innately wrong with my casual firing off of a few rounds.  Perhaps it was the fact that we were shooting at disarmingly life-like sketches of men, but it was hard for me to ignore the little voice in my head reminding me that these guns were meant to kill people.   Yes, I felt like a superstar shooting all the different guns, but I also felt like I was partaking in an unnecessarily vicious and altogether unrequired activity.  It scared me to see a young boy, probably under the age of ten, helping his father load bullets and fetch guns.  At what point does a person lose their awe of and respect for weapons?  In swimming, the more I swam a 1650 in practice, the less nervous I was when it came time to swim a mile at a meet.  Can a person go to a shooting range so many times that the line between sport and real life disappears? 

I don’t want to step on any toes with my musings, especially Suzannah’s boyfriend and the wonderful people who protect our country every day by firing their weapons.  But it was scary to me to think about what those weapons I was firing could become in an entirely different situation– the idea of becoming dependant on such a ruthless tool is frightening to a sheltered little lady like myself.

I loved my time at the shooting range–and I got to check another activity off my bucket list.  Learning about all the guns and their idiosyncrasies was very interesting and enlightening (and BAD-ASS!), but I don’t know that I’ll ever go shooting again.  One of those things where now that it’s done–it’s done.

On the 100% upside, however: I now have enough bullet casings to make this fabulous DIY bullet necklace!  Wooo craft project!

Hope you all had a great weekend!  If you get a minute, I’m curious on your opinion of shooting for sport–leave me a comment!

skydiving
August 1, 2011

As is evident by the title of this post, I went skydiving this weekend!  Yay! 

I think skydiving is one of those things that people either want to do or don’t– there’s no room for halfheartedness when you’re plunging out of an airplane.  I’ve been wanting to go ever since high school, and finally saw a Living Social deal I couldn’t resist and booked a jump.  After getting cancelled on twice (with extremely poor customer service–I would not recommend Sportations to anyone), Michelle and I were hoping the third time would truly be the charm.  Luckily, we ran into no issues and our jump went off without a hitch.

michelle getting strapped in

This particular place only offered video, no pictures, and were charging a pretty fee of 90-something dollars.  Michelle and I, having only paid $100 for the entire jump, were reluctant to essentially double that for just a video, so we sadly have no evidence of the physical jump.

 

the teeny plane

Skydiving is tough to explain.  I think the best way to do it is to simply say that it’s exactly like what you would expect it to be.  When I finished, I didn’t feel like my world had changed at all; it was certainly exhilarating, but not earth-shattering in its unexpectedness.  The views were stunning, and I had a full 5 minutes to absorb them on my gentle ride down once the parachute had opened.
 

me & michelle

As we rode up in the teeny plane (up to 9,000 feet!), I kept thinking how lucky I was to be crossing this off my bucket list.  When I put on my hideous goggles and started scooting toward the door of the plane, I wasn’t nervous, merely curious about what was coming.  When we got to the door of the plane, I had a number of things that I had been instructed to do, but the wind basically sucked me out before I could do any of them.  My guy took me into an unexpected somersault and we were free falling!!  I think I was screaming, but the one thing I was really thinking about was my earrings!  I had in my real pearl earrings from my mom, and I kept thinking my earring backs were going to come flying off and I would be in BIG trouble for losing my expensive pearls.  I mean, of all things to be worrying about–I guess the mind just has an instinct to think about something trivial and harmless when it senses that danger is near.  Anyways, my earrings stayed safe, and except for my poorly-selected boat shoes coming untied and a halo of tangled hair, I landed exactly the same as when I went up. 

I loved my jump–if it wasn’t so expensive, I would book another one right now. 

P.S.  Someone at work found this comic for me before my first scheduled jump and I just thought it was so funny…

…And then shoved a handful of lifesaver candies at me before I left.  They came pretty handy when we landed because our mouths had gotten pretty dry, and sucking on them helped get our saliva going until we could grab some water.  I snapped a picture for proof to show the coworker–he was thrilled!!