Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

May 30, 2012

Hi friends, how are ya?!  Tell me what you did this weekend, I must know.

I did lots of important things, like tanning….

and eating lots of Tex-Mex….

and making a general fool of myself with Les…..

And somewhere in between all of those things, Madison got married!!!!

She looked absolutely STUNNING, and I lost it for real when she walked down the aisle.  Mad, I am SO SO HAPPY for you and Bryce and am so thankful I could be there to celebrate with you two. 

Les and I had some extra time after the wedding to roam around Dallas, and after firmly deciding that we did not, in fact, like Texas at all, I unilaterally chose we wound up at the Sixth Floor Museum at the location of President Kennedy’s assassination.  I was actually really excited to be there, because I had just finished reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63 for my book club.  (Did I tell you I’m in a book club?  Once a month, ten of us get drunk on red wine and talk about sex.)  The book, while convoluted and complicated, is essentially about a time traveling man who tries to prevent the Kennedy assassination from happening.  As you can imagine, the book references tons and tons of details about Dealey Plaza and Lee Harvey Oswald,  and as I was reading, I realized that I knew very little about the assassination.  Essentially, I knew that a president had died, but I didn’t know much about the president himself, or the motivations of the shooter, or the chain of events, or the worldwide repercussions.  So even though I had read the book and enjoyed it, I was really excited about getting some context in which to place the books’ events.

The museum is on the sixth floor of the book depository from which Oswald shot the president.  It’s an all-audio tour, which I really appreciated because it moved you along briskly and you didn’t feel obligated to linger over any specific exhibit.  It was devoted mostly to Kennedy himself, and spent lots of time discussing his presidency and his various policy achievements and failures.  It then moved into a play-by-play of the 30 minutes surrounding the shooting, followed by in depth looks at the worldwide responses and the various conspiracies.  I wish it had delved a little bit more into Oswald and his background, because the book really made him out to be a tortured young man who, while utterly despicable, had a tough life and various conflicting beliefs.  Aside for minimal information on him, I thought the museum was extremely well done, and really a neat place to visit.  Especially for someone who did not live through the event, it did a great job of making you feel the urgency of the afternoon and the following immense sadness that not only enveloped the country, but the world. 

Photography wasn’t allowed in the museum, but here is the original building sign that has been preserved:

(Aside for the sixth floor, the building now houses city offices.  Wouldn’t you find it a little creepy to work there every day?)

Les and I then wandered over to the JFK Memorial, which is, well, unusual.  Have you ever been? 

I suppose the symbolism behind the monument is meaningful (a strong, quiet refuge within which one finds the strength to stand firm and steadfast against the world), but to me it screams 1970s architecture and is less impressive than what I expected for a president with a story as compelling as Kennedy’s. 

Were you alive when President Kennedy was shot?  I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but the 1960s fascinate me and I am embarassed at how slight my knowledge of this event was.  I’ve heard that it was the 9/11 of my generation–people remember where they were when it happened, a moment that signified a shift in the world as they knew it.  Perhaps what I’m even more curious about–were you watching TV when Jack Ruby shot Oswald?  I didn’t realize that the prisoner transfer was broadcast over live television; imagine the trauma young children must have felt at literally witnessing death. 

Anyways, if you’re ever in the Dallas area, I suggest the Sixth Floor Museum as a must see.  That being said, however, it costs $13.50 to get in, whereas all the museums in DC are f-r-e-e, so come visit me first. 

In other news, check out this HUGE-ASS engagement ring that my friend Lis got this past weekend!  Her boyfriend proposed while they were in Paris (awwwww!!) and I swear to you, I don’t know how she can even lift up her hand.  Mazel Tov to you, Lis & Adam, I couldn’t be happier.


November 1, 2011

Happy Day-After-Halloween!!  Did you dress up this year?  I pulled out my standby firefly costume, which is a general crowd pleaser and super comfortable.  Win-win.  Les was creative and threw together a jellyfish costume, and Colleen was a self-explanatory nurse.  Moores was…comfy? 

virginia swimming!

Anyways, our truest-to-Halloween celebration actually came on Friday night, a freezing and rainy evening.  We all hiked down to Old Town Alexandria for a ghost tour!  Boo!!

Beales had done a ghost tour when her friend Gemma was in town, so the activity came highly recommended.  I had also heard nothing but good things about it, so I was anxious to go on one myself.  We all figured that there was no better time than Halloween to be spooked, so reservations were made. 

After dining at the always good Pizzeria Paradiso–I had a beer called “The Hopsecutioner,” muahahahaha!–we met our tour guide at the Visitor’s Center.  She turned out to be none other than Sarah Fairfax herself–of the very family that Fairax County is named after!

sarah fairfax showing us her grave

Knowing that I was going to be blogging about this event later, I wrangled all the wonderful tour guides into a picture with us.  They could not have been nicer!

I loved that they were in character.  A ghost tour is one of those activities where the more into it everyone is, the more fun you have.  There is no such thing as too nerdy when participating in a ghost tour.  (The same cannot be said of activities like, say, learning square dancing in seventh grade P.E., or the remedial drivers ed classes at the DMV.) 

Sarah Fairfax took us all over Old Town, through graveyards and into historic churches.  She would tell us creepy stories every time we stopped, usually about a haunted house or a corrupt undertaker.  She spoke in Yoda-talk: “Strange, is it not, that these flowers are blooming at the end of October?” and “See here, you shall, the grave of my husband’s second wife–speak of her you may, but I refuse.” 

in the graveyard!

My favorite story was one about an undertaker who, always interested in earning an extra buck, “invented” a new way of preserving corpses.  It was a common problem in DC summers that bodies would deteriorate quickly due to the heat and humidity, and so corpses had to be buried within a few short days of death.  At one point, a young man died, but his family was too far away to see him before he was buried.  They offered the undertaker a large amount of money if he could keep the body intact until the whole family arrived, and he unwittingly said yes.  Having no idea how he was going to fulfill his promise, but motivated by the money, he begged the butcher across the street to loan him a corner of his freezer.  And suddenly–this entrepreneurial undertaker had a new way to keep corpses looking presentable.

BUT the story is not over.  Sometimes the bodies he would lay on his blocks of ice were not in the cleanest conditions.  Soldiers were dying in the Revolutionary War, and were coming to him bloody and unkempt.  When the ice got too dirty for the butcher to allow in his freezer, the undertaker would buy it from him at a very reasonable rate.  Then, always greedy, the undertaler would resell his dirty, bloody ice to unsuspecting bartenders, usually under the cover of night to avoid unhappy buyers.  And when that dirty ice made it’s way into customers’ drinks, the bartender had to think on his feet–and so came the Bloody Mary, Strawberry Lemonade, and Cherry Coke. 

Creepy!!!  And actually pretty gross. 


We ll decided that the ghost tour was a great Halloween activity, but probably could have been a little better.  My thought was that with the increase in quantity of tours (due to Halloween), the quality might have decreased a little.  There were so many groups combing the streets of Old Town that not everybody could go to the coolest places, leaving some tour guides with less scary material.  I also wished we could have asked Sarah Fairfax questions–she was usually very far in front of the group, and didn’t seem open to pesky tourists asking her things.  But all in all, it was great, and I highly recommend ghost tours around Halloween, and also when you have visitors in town.  A great way to see the sights and get in some history! 



fall fest
October 24, 2011

Hi friends!  Hope you had a great weekend enjoying some true fall weather.

One of the things that used to excite me about being All Grown Up was the prospect of living in an apartment and throwing my own little soirees.  I would daydream about the endless chip-and-dip trays I would own, and the eight sets of coasters I would buy, one set for each holiday, and the closet full of gowns I would have, each reserved just for entertaining. 

Unfortunately, my road to this entertaining utopia has been long and twisted.  I think I broke the very first wine glass I ever purchased, and didn’t own napkins in my new place until some were gifted to me.  But, I have remained dedicated to my dream, and this past weekend it finally started to materialize. 

Given my love for east coast falls, I was determined to corral all my friends into my apartment and force them to participate in any fall-themed activity I could think of.  So on Sunday evening, everyone came over to my place for some ol’ fashioned pumpkin carving and spiked cider. 

I had made a trip to the local Crate & Barrel Outlet (HEAVEN!  New favorite place in DC.) on Friday, which had some amazing deals on decorations and all things entertaining.  I also grabbed a very handsome pumpkin at my little neighborhood grocery store, and dubbed the haul back to my apartment as my workout for the day.  I also made some really fun cupcakes from a little booklet my mom had sent me, which was stressful but ultimately ended well. 

We took all of our goodies, plus the two pumpkins, up to my roof for the last of the sunlight.  We got to enjoy the beautiful sunset, drinking warm cider and nibbling on candy corn, and I know that I couldn’t have been happier.

themed cupcakes

ready to carve!

hot cider & candies

my beautiful friends: les, beales, colleen

ali & her pumpkin, hank

my scary bat pumpkin

group shot

{Side note: the girl in the middle of the shot, next to Jen in the red sweatshirt, is my new neighbor, Rachel.  As we were getting to know each other in my kitchen, we realized that we are both from Pleasanton!  Her best friend is actually a girl who I was really close with in grade school–we have since grown apart, but we remain Facebook friends.  Isn’t that crazy?!  It really is the smallest of worlds sometimes.}

It was a great evening, and even though it got pretty chilly on the roof once the sun went down, I think everyone had a nice time.  I am still enjoying the benefits, as I have leftover cupcakes and a spotless apartment.

As another side note, I would like to take a quick second to recognize that yesterday was the one year anniversary of Fran Crippen’s death.  I know that Fran has inspired me to truly “Live Your Dash,” and I’ve pushed myself to experience new things and to take advantage of each day.  My thoughts and prayers were with the Crippen family this weekend. 

*Read a great article about Fran here, see Claire talk about her brother here, and donate to the Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation here.

bobby’s burger palace
August 30, 2011

Happy Tuesday, Bloggies!  After weathering Hurricane Irene without a single problem, I am looking forward to a long swim tonight and a fun-filled Labor Day weekend.  Can you believe summer is almost over?!  There was a teensy chill in the air this morning on my walk to the metro, and it made me soooo anxious to splurge on new fall clothes.  Another sure sign that summer is waning–my local bar has now switched their Sam Adams seasonal ale from Summer to Oktoberfest.  Wahhh.

Anyways, work friends and I tried a new restaurant last night– Bobby’s Burger Palace.  Following our celebuchef stalking trend (think: Spike Mendelsohn), we were anxious to visit the recently opened Burger Palace in hopes of sighting Bobby Flay himself.  It opened its doors two weeks ago, and has recieved largely positive reviews so far, so we thought it would be great inspiration to get us through a grumpy Monday.

The restaurant is an extremely casual place, with a super funky, seventies-ish decor.  You order at a register, and then the burger comes straight to you in a matter of minutes.  There’s a really cool long, curved “bar” area that faces the kitchen, which is where we sat.  (We also saw tons of loners at the bar, so if you were ever craving one of Bobby’s burgers but had no one accompanying you, you would be in good company at this “bar.”)

The other seating option is large, communal tables, which is also a cool idea to me.  Because honestly, what else are you there to do besides wolf down a humongous burger?  You don’t need your own private table in a secluded corner to do that.

The menu is limited.  Bobby offers about 10 burgers, all with regional influences.  He has one meatless salad, but zero other veggie options (besides fries).  That seemed a little callous to me–vegetarians are people too!  I didn’t even see a little asterisk saying that any burger could be substituted with a veggie patty.  Hmpf.  Anyways, with the mindset of “Go big or go home!” Lis, Michelle, and I all went for it.  Lis ordered the classic burger–but “Crunchified:” Bobby Flay’s signature addition to burgers. 

That mystery layer is potato chips–an artery clogger if I ever saw one! Yum.  (Also, please note the lamest little leaf of lettuce a poor burger has ever seen.)

I went for the Dallas burger: bbq sauce and coleslaw. 

Michelle attacked a Philadelphia burger: grilled onions and peppers, smothered in Provolone.

Lis even managed to fit her burger monstrosity into her mouth!!  I call that talent.

1,000 calories later, the three of us had empty plates and bulging bellies.  Almost ashamedly, Lis and I decided that we liked Spike’s burgers better.  My Dallas burger was good, but didn’t have a crunch element that I was looking for.  Lis said that the potato chips on her burger didn’t add anything to the taste, and that the whole thing was a little underdressed.  Michelle, having never been to Spike’s, was perfectly happy with her Philly burger. 

Bobby’s is undoubtedly a good deal.  There’s no denying that the meat on the burgers is delicious–and there’s a LOT of it.  Also, beers are only $3.50–WHAT?!  So I got a burger and an Anchor Steam for 12 bucks, which is really hard to beat in this city.  That being said, however, Bobby’s didn’t blow us away.  While Bobby seems like less of a butt nugget than Spike, the flavor in Spike’s burgers is just remarkable.  So, glad we tried the Burger Palace, but we’re not itching to go back. 

lis, michelle, me


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.

August 24, 2011

I know I’m a few days late here, bloggies, but I hope everyone had a great weekend!!  I had a whimsical three-day weekend, beginning with a visit from old Pleasanton Seahawk friend Matt on Friday and ending with a scary summer thunderstorm on Sunday.  In between, however, I went to a new bar in Ocean City that is now one of my very favorite places on Earth.  (Other favorite places on Earth include Jim’s Country Restaurant in Pleasanton, Bergdorf Goodman’s in NYC, and the Lawn at UVa.)  Colleen is spending this entire week at her beach house before heading to a wedding this weekend, so some of her high school friends and I decided to drive up to Bethany to see her–and, more importantly, to visit Seacrets

We had been hearing tales about Seacrets from friends in all walks of life, and decided we had to experience it ourselves.  We weren’t sure what to expect, and even had to emergency dial a few of those friends to get more information, but Seacrets did NOT disappoint.  We arrived late in the afternoon, paid a measly $5 cover (by the way, the cover goes up a dollar every hour after 5 pm), and walked into a sandy, palm-tree-filled oasis. 

I felt like the only thing missing was a rail track with coconut-shaped cars to take us around the gigantic place and offer informational tidbits on what was what.  Seacrets could LITERALLY be a ride in any trendy theme park. 

While the tables in the water looked appealing, we decided to forgo them when we saw a drunk man with a huge bandage on his foot who said he stepped on a broken bottle in the sand.  They sure make for a great picture, though!

Seacrets is hard to describe.  It is a huge place, with sandy paths running through it and at least four stages occupied by bands.  There is a “Nite Club” with dancing and confetti falling from the ceiling, as well as a restaurant with stunning views of the bay.  The signature drink is a “Pain In De Ass,” which consists of a pina colada swirled with run runner.  YUM. 

jen r, meghan, me-- and lots of Pain In De Asses me & colleenme & colleen

me & colleen


me, jen r, meghan

jen r, colleen, me, meghan

Seacrets really was the best place ever.  It was so much more than just a bar–is was a whole experience.  We were sad that Colleen wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t stay evey long, but now we have an excuse to go back soon.  If you ever find yourself in the Ocean City area, you NEED to check out Seacrets.  (Note: adults and babies are welcome!  Not only did we see couples with infants, but also couples in their eighties dancing the night away.  Seacrets does not judge.)  I ended up not staying very long to tan on Sunday, and I still felt that my drive and quick visit was well worth it.

A DC earthquake post is coming soon!

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!

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!!

all is well.
July 17, 2011

If you are a Harry Potter nerd, you will recognize the title of this post as the last sentence in the seventh and final J.K. Rowling novel.  Sigh.  I finished that book a few summers ago while I was visiting my Grandma and Grandpa at their house in Redding, and I vividly remember being wide awake at 3:30 in the morning, sobbing over the death of Dobby, in the butterfly-decorated room that used to be my Aunt Gail’s.  In the way that only Harry Potter can, I was captivated through the entire book, and pulled the closest I’ve ever been to an all-nighter to get to the end.  Of course, in true irony, the minute I read the last page, I realized the saga truly was over, and contritely wished I had read the book slower, to savor the final 700 pages of Harry’s magical world.

On Friday, I saw the final Harry Potter film installment with Les and Michelle.  I thought the movie was just fine; a fitting adaptation to the hefty, complicated book.  About halfway through the movie, where Professor McGonagall and the other teachers start casting their spells to protect Hogwarts (if Harry Potter was not such a popular and accepted phenomenon, I would sound like an incredible nerd here), I became choked with emotion as I realized that this wild ride, the immersion into every child’s magical fantasy, was really coming to an end.  The end of the book made me sad, yes, but the movie put the period on the last sentence of Harry Potter.  I started crying in the theater, and my friends looked at me, mystified, and reminded me that Jen, this part isn’t even sad!

I’ve read numerous articles this past week on the significance of Harry Potter to the world.  It seems that there is no aspect of life he hasn’t touched: reinvigorating childrens’ desire to read; teaching young adults the power of good versus evil; instilling the value of patience in fans waiting breathlessly for the release of each new book; offering a true success story in single mom J.K. Rowling’s rise to riches; pouring money into Hollywood’s emptying coffers.  But for me, Harry and I had a bond that was so natural, so easily made and striking in its longevity, that it is hard for me to imagine my childhood without it.  (Cheesey!  But I’m in a weepy mood, so bear with me.)

I did a book report in fifth grade on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, before anyone even knew it was a good story.  I was a voracious reader as a kid, and I commend my mom for supplying me with so many things to read.  (The humongous Redwall series kept me occupied for years.)  I think she was in the bookstore browsing, and saw that Harry was both in the kids section and 300+ pages, and brought it home without another thought as a means of confining me to the couch for at least a week.  Well, Harry cast his proverbial spell over me, and I was hooked.  Harry was every child’s alter-ego: an under-appreciated boy who can actually perform magic–AND is idolized by society!  Let’s review: 1. Nobody sees Harry’s true potential; 2. He’s a wizard; and 3. The whole world loves him.  If you were a 10 year old, semi-nerdy, super lazy kid, you wanted desperately to BE Harry Potter.  Man, he had it good.

The first three books came out very close together, so once I was into it, I had fodder for a while.  I think what really drew me to Harry was the parallel between our lives–yes, he was playing Quidditch and fighting evil wizards, but he was also developing crushes on girls, and taking final exams, and never turning homework in on time.  He was simply an ordinary boy in an extra-ordinary world.  When he first fell for Cho Chang (aka Cho the Ho in my book, as I despised her), I was crushing on some 7th grader in my middle school.  When he had to go to that formal dance and was stressing about his robes, I was shopping for my 8th grade promotion dance and worrying about my hair.  When he had to take his O.W.L exams, I was struggling through my AP classes.  I literally grew up with Harry, and I knew that I could always go home after a bad day and immerse myself in his world, while not completely losing touch with my own.

The Harry Potter experience, books and movies, is over now.  I will be re-reading Harry for the rest of my life, and I will most likely buy the outrageously expensive boxed film set when it comes out, but there’s nothing like cracking open a new Harry novel that you’ve been anxiously awaiting, knowing that the words are about to wrap themselves around you like an Invisibility Cloak and whisk you away to a world that is outwardly exactly the same as the one you just left, but with plenty more space for imagination.

I don’t think Harry Potter taught me patience, like all the over-analyzing opinion writers have been saying, nor do I think he left me with an overwhelming sense that good will always triumph over evil.  He did, however, cradle my childhood gently between the Sorcerer’s Stone and the Deathly Hallows, two bookends keeping precious memories of early love, long school days, good and bad sporting events secure within their pages.  I’m 23 now, and I still forget that “home” is no longer my house in Pleasanton; “summer” is no longer empty days filled with naps and sunbathing; “bills” are no longer the green things in my wallet, but things I am now responsible for paying.  It is too much of an exaggeration to say that with the end of Harry, I finally realize that it’s the end of my childhood, but that sentiment is definitely buried somewhere inside me.  I hurt that there is no other saga within which I can mindlessly lose myself, while at the same time caring so much about the characters and their destinies.  I ache for nights where it was just me and Harry up late, rebelliously reading past bedtime.  My waning imagination has guided me to books with little room for creativity, books that are all smarts and no fun, and I yearn for the playfulness and drama that were so prevalent in Harry Potter.

I feel like I am in mourning over the loss of my friend Harry, and I’m curious if any other people feel the same way.  The amount of emotion I felt during the movie caught me off guard, and I was surprised it was so much more tangible after the film rather than after the book.

So, to Harry, the Boy Who Lived: I thank you for feeding the fire of my imagination and for being there as I grew up.

les, me, michelle


bethany beach retreat
July 7, 2011

Last week marked the return of BFF Colleen from her studies in Manchester, England.  (It was also the return of other BFFs Les and Beales, who came home from a month long European excursion.  You can read their half-hearted travel blog here.)  Needless to say, I was over the moon to have her back, since I don’t have the equipment to BBM her nor did our schedules ever line up for consistent Skype chats.  She came home just in time for arguably the most American of holidays–Independance Day–and insisted on getting the long weekend off to a great start by taking a quick trip to the beach.  She extended the invitiation to me (she wears it wasn’t simply a courtesy invite) and I gleefully accepted (she swears she wasn’t caught off guard that I said yes, immediately infringing upon her family time).  Her wonderful family owns a beach house in Bethany, up the coast in Delaware, the perfect distance away for a quick 36-hour trip.  (Side note: this was only the second time I’d ever been in Delaware–the first was with the same family on our way home from Fran’s funeral.) 

After spending the first night in an adorable room with some stunning art by a four-year-old Colleen, we spent the entire next day either on the beach or at the neighborhood pool.  The sky was cloudless and the water was refreshing but not too cold–perfect tanning conditions.

I made sure to load up on high SPF sunscreen, as I feel it’s only a matter of time before my 11 years of outdoor swimming catches up to me (and let’s be serious: I’m 23 now.  Wrinkles are not far away.), but Colleen and I still managed to get nice a brown.  We marveled at how much better a girl feels when she has a nice golden tan; it’s not completely unfathomable to understand how people can get addicted to tanning beds in the middle of winter. 

During our switch from beach to pool, we wandered around Bethany’s boardwalk, a quaint and super family-friendly few blocks along the ocean.  Colleen and I indulged our inner tween with yummy snowcones– which was my personal treat of choice at summer swim meets years ago.  I went with the sickly sweet and notably artifically flavored watermelon, which was an excellent decision that left my mouht blood red, an effective way to ward of ambitious teenage wannabe surfer dudes.

That evening, Colleen, myself, and her parents went to nearby Dewey Beach for a drink at an oceanfront bar.  We thoroughly enjoyed the stunning sunset and took numerous photos, to the chargrin of the waiters who were trying to clear the deck for an impending night of dancing.

me & colleen

The sunset didn’t fail us:


And the photo ops just kept coming.

me & colleen (again)

We had a great time catching up (isn’t it weird how, with your closest friends, you can be apart for 6 months but reconnect like it’s only been days?) and rehashing the past few months of our lives.  I’m so glad to have Colleen back in the US, and wish her the best of luck as she applies for jobs in DC. 

I hope you had a great 4th of July!