Thursday, May 27, 2010


So, we've already covered that I have 8 feet in which to pack my entire life and belongings. To say this was making me anxious would be an understatement. Each night this week, I have had moving-related nightmares. In one, I forgot to buy the new dishes I want at Ikea (horror!), but mostly they are related to packing up the truck. Each night as I fall asleep, I am imagining how I am going to fit each large item into the moving truck.

Mostly my mind looks something like this:

When I'd *LIKE* it to be something like this:

Needless to say, I haven't been sleeping well. This morning I was wide awake at 4:30 am, just laying in bed, thinking. I turned on the news (the news is on this early??) and had seen each story repeated numerous times before I left for work at 7:20. Luckily work has been fairly busy and keeps me distracted during the day.

I'm hoping to come back from Denver this weekend, signed lease in hand, and that will help quell some anxiety. I like to plan every angle of every possible outcome so that I can be prepared, but once I've done that I just have to sit and wait patiently for when I can make decisions and move forward. Patience is not my strongpoint. I've been trying and trying to work on it, but I think it's just in my nature to do research, learn the background, and then make all the decisions as quickly as I can. I don't like waiting. I especially don't like waiting a full 6 days while my dream apartment is just sitting in Denver, waiting for me to love it.

But, true to form, I've planned two sets of weekend activities, depending on whether or not I can lease the first apartment. It will just be much much less fun if the apartment hunting must continue. Fingers crossed!

Monday, May 24, 2010

And so it begins...

As of Sunday, I have officially started packing. I started with the easy things. The myriad of books I had on the downstairs bookshelves. I filled two small boxes (as, after Beth's last move, we all learned a valuable 'don't pack all your books in one box' lesson) and called it a day.

Then I headed to the basement. I had been dreading this. Two years of throwing various items downstairs every time I had no better place to put them. My goal was to bring my things, some of which were stuck way in the back cubby, up in front of my roommates stuff so that I could grab them when the time comes. I was pleasantly surprised to realize I didn't have as much down there as I expected. I daresay it was minimal. Motivated, I headed up to my room and continued to clean out under my bed and packed up my sweaters, hoodies, and winter sheets into my giant suitcase.

Today I bought up some more moving boxes, including lots o wardrobe boxes. Packed up one more box and then sat on the couch, enjoying a glass of wine. I'm digging the fact that I can pack one box a day and feel accomplished.

In other news, I am inches from signing a lease in Denver. I found an incredible apartment. Washer/dryer, reserved parking, free cable - is there anything better?? I am so nervous this apartment will be leased before I get there, that I am considering signing, just on the pictures. Its a calculated risk, but I think it is worth it. Overall, I'm hoping the landlord will send me the lease and I can say "great - I'll bring it Saturday!"

Denver is getting real. I am equal parts excited and scared, but I am really looking forward to visiting this weekend. Stay tuned for more pictures!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bike to Work Day

Today was bike to work day. I'm not sure if this was DC-centric or a national event, but, for the first time in two weeks, I was happy that I was not biking to work. All day I've been trying to think of a comparable event. A one day celebration of people doing something that they don't know how to do.

Biking to work in DC includes many fine tuned etiquettes. Bike on one side of the trail. Let the biker in front of you know you're passing. Slow down so a biker can pass you and cross back into the correct lane. Crossing the Key Bridge? There's a whole 'nother set of courtesies.

My bike is still sadly at work. I watch regular bikers pass me on my walk to the metro and it makes me sad. My sole goal for next week is to bike home just once, so that my bike returns to its garage abode. I hope the hills don't kill me.

Today we finished up the bulk of the public comment work. There is still quality check and report writing to go, but the monster that was following me all week long has subsided. I even got the night off! Sure, I have to work tomorrow, but for now, I'm happily watching a movie and enjoying a glass (or two) of vino. and popcorn. Don't tell mom that was my dinner, as I have yet to make it to the grocery store. Again.

I also indulged in some wine-encouraged REI online shopping. Always a dangerous event. There has been a jacket I've been eyeing up - today it went on sale PLUS I had a $50 gift card. If only I had stopped there...

This weekend will bring work, a bbq, going away party and then the purging of all possible items I own. I'm kind of looking forward to it. I like the idea of getting rid of as much unnecessary clutter as possible before I move. New city, new space, clear the mind, clear the clutter.

And if anyone's looking for a TV, toaster oven, size 6 clothes from 2002, or a year's worth of APA planning know where to look!


The first hotel has been booked! The road trip days are almost fully set. The Echo is ready and waiting (much to the chagrin of my mother, who continues to mock the poor size of yittle Echo).

In even better news, my company has offered to help subsidize my moving costs. YIPPEE!

Things are looking up!

Happy weekend, blog readers!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tales from Berger - Part I

I've been receiving gentle hints that I haven't been blogging. I've been ridiculously busy at work, but its nice to know I've got at least a handful of readers!

As part of my job, I have to read and respond to public comments on our projects. It tries my patience. It definitely is an eye-opening experience and proves the saying "think about how dumb the average American is, then remember half the population is dumber." Even when it requires more effort for me, I really respect when a person submits a thoughtful, well-written, grammatically and factually correct comment.

Quite often, no matter what the project, the NPS is referred to as the Gestapo. The NPS is almost always put between a rock and a hard place. When the agency was created, it was given a dual mission: preservation and recreation. Out of all of the public land agencies, NPS is the only agency that has a preservation aspect, and that word alone has basically wrecked havoc on every action the NPS has tried to implement.

Allow more recreation? The environmentalists sue. Ban off-road vehicles? Communities eviscerate the agency as "land stealers". I don't envy the NPS.

But more importantly, reading these public comments has taught me to never accept anyone else's word at face value; they have an agenda. Reading these comments, it is so easy to tell who is ill informed, who is going off of information from an outside source. Environmental agencies (I'm looking at you, Defenders of Wildlife and Audubon Society) present the situation unfairly and make it seem as though off-road vehicles are a kin to ATVs and that the vehicles are used for recreation within the park, tearing up dunes and eroding the shoreline. Locals surrounding the park present the NPS as heartless goons, trying to privatize the beaches and remove the communities contained within the park. Neither is true. But when people hear this information, they take it as fact and go on ranting and raving in barely coherent public comments. It just makes me take pause whenever I am about to repeat anything I've been told secondhand.

Overall, one quote pops into my head whenever I'm reading public comments. It makes me giggle and makes reading them slightly less painful:

"Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul"

So that is what has consumed the last two weeks of my life.

In more exciting news: Weekend trip to Denver is coming up in under a week and a half!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Only happy if has rained?

When reading before bed (yay! I have time to read before bed again!) this week, The Happiness Project was discussing if the happiness of a person could only be measured after a person is happy in the face of adversity.

This has always been a source of guilt for me. I have led a very fortunate life. From having a supportive family to getting into University of Maryland to finding my job at Berger, my life has not had to face many hard times. Thats not to say I don't work hard at my job and schoolwork, I do, but I realize a lot comes down to just plain good luck.

I haven't experienced the death of a close family member since I was 8 and have never lost a very close friend. I realize how incredibly fortunate I was that my parents were able to afford to pay for my undergraduate education and that Berger is currently paying for most of my graduate school. I make a decent living at a job I like and I have a great support structure of friends. Life is Good.

So, does that mean I'm not truly happy? Overall, it's fairly easy to be happy. Sure, I've had to work late all of this week and most of next, but for once I'm getting overtime, so I really don't mind. The only truly upsetting thing that has happened to me lately was the Computer File Deletion Fiasco of 2010 (I back up in email and on Berger's internal drive now, lesson learned!). And really, in the scheme of everything, that wasn't all that bad. Within 24 hours I had recreated everything and then some.

No real cohesive thoughts today. Haven't had the time to mentally compose this blog ahead of time. Just kind of the inner ramblings of my mind. I think that while adversity can strengthen a person's resolve and appreciation for happiness, the absence of catastrophe and struggle doesn't negate happiness.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Grad School, your days are numbered

This past Friday I turned in my final paper for the Spring 2010 semester. Officially, only 5 credits stand between me and the return of my social life. I also did a little dance of joy: I will never have to attend class after work ever again.

The last two semesters I've been a full time graduate student. Nine credits, three classes. I did this after realizing late August 2009 that I had miscalculated my credits. I was a class short. After surviving the Fall semester fairly unscathed, I realized that if I took another full term, I could move to Denver a year early. I'm really glad I did, I don't think I could have survived another year of grad school. I enjoyed my classes, but I felt like I could not commit enough to either work or school, so I ended up feeling like I was slacking on both.

So my final semester will be Fall 2010. I'll take one online course and finish up my Capstone Practicum. I'm lucky. I found a practicum project that I LOVE. Through talking with various consultants and NPS staff at a recent public meeting, I got connected with the NPS's Human Dimensions of Resource Management Division and will be helping write a presentation for a July symposium which will then become a collaborative governance manual. Still with me? Probably not. It's a little confusing, but essentially I'm interviewing planners and federal agency staffers to discuss the current public involvement process and how it can be improved. It is an interesting topic to me, especially when discussing gateway communities outside of National Parks (such as my current project, Cape Hatteras).

If you've continued to read this far, I commend you (mom and dad). It's boring stuff to most people. I kind of fell into my line of work - I was stuck in that horrible pattern of no one hiring because I had no work experience, but not getting any work experience because no one would hire me! It was the pits. But Berger hired me as an intern my senior year in college, and I can honestly say I love my job. It challenges me and allows me to try new things (even when I regret asking to take on new work and want to go back to a simpler time with less responsibilities!). I have watched friends be miserable in their jobs and I recognize how fortunate I am.

Are you happy in your profession? If not, what would be your dream job?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Heavy Heart

No wit or happiness today. I just found out that last night a girl I went to high school with had passed. I had been friends with Jenn since middle school - we swam on the Methacton Aquatic Club together, always goofing off during practice. We would hang out at her house after school and annoy her older brother. She was one of the happiest people I have ever had the fortune to meet.

We didn't keep in touch after high school and, like most friendships, it became an electronic one held together through facebook. I had known that she had had a liver transplant, but was generally better. Earlier this winter she was stuck in the hospital with a high fever and no diagnosis. I was looking at her facebook profile earlier this week and thought "she looks SO happy in her picture. I should send her a message and see how she is doing" But I never did. The week got busy and I didn't get around to it. I read her facebook wall, now full of postings from friends and family mourning her loss but remembering her joy and laughter. It could not have been more appropriate that her last status update was "Oh Happy Day".

I didn't feel comfortable posting on her wall, but I did finally send her that message. I know that it is our loss that she is gone and that she is happy and healthy now, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Be Rudi

I love the book I'm currently (slowly but surely) reading. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Love it and definitely recommend it. It's basically a memoir of her year of trying to be happier. She has a specific area to focus on for each month, such as "Energy" in January, and sets goals for achieving it. Along the way, she researches happiness and gives her opinions on what she finds. Its very interesting and entirely motivating. I'm a generally happy person, but whenever I find myself in a funk or overwhelmed with school and work, I think about the things she has written about and make an effort to get back to happy.

I would be lying if I said the book has not influenced me. Starting this blog, for example, was partly inspired by it. I won't claim to be a good writer, but I think it is important to have a non-work related outlet. I'm not creative or artistically inclined (that talent went to my sister). Don't get me wrong, I can do home improvement projects with the best of them, but give me a scrapbook and some cardstock and I'm overcome with fear and apprehension. Somehow, forcing myself to find something new to write about each day, well, I actually have found myself looking forward to it.

As she kicked off her project, Gretchen created her twelve personal commandments. The first of which was "Be Gretchen." She talks about really sitting down and determining what she actually likes versus what she wishes she liked. That people often want to like something instead of actually liking it. I can really relate to that and it got me thinking.

Be Rudi. Who is that? What do I like and dislike? As much as I would like to be one of those girls that always looks so put together with summery dresses and accessories, I will always feel more comfortable in jeans and a tee shirt with flip flops on. And that's ok.

I admire people who can define themselves and their likes so easily within that little box that says "about me". I had a harder time. What about me did I want to share with my handful of readers (and the one stalker my mom is convinced will follow my blog). What do I like? Well, on the surface I really do like hoodies and flip flops. And I REALLY like Christmas. Its almost unhealthy. And caramels.

But those all seem so superficial. I like reading. I like having shelves and shelves of books. I think I have reading ADD - I start one book then get really excited about starting another. I can name at least 4 books that I am halfway through right now. I like football. A lot. Namely, the Eagles. I make no false pretenses about liking baseball, though. Even when the Phillies won the world series, I was still bored. It's May and I still really miss football season. I like that every game means something.

I like Garrison Keillor and NPR, although sometimes I'd rather listen to Hot99.5 on my way to class, just to dance in my car and ramp up my energy level. I don't like flossing or taking vitamins, but I do as often as I can remember because, even though I'm 25, my mother will still yell at me if I don't.

I like being active, but I dislike the gym. I like exercise with a purpose. I like biking TO somewhere. I will force myself to go running, but I've never experienced that mind-clearing peace that runners talk about. Mostly I just think they are crazy. I like hiking and camping, but feel ashamed that sometimes I just want to spend a weekend day laying on my couch doing absolutely nothing, just because I can. Weekends without responsibilities and homework are hard to come by.

I really like singing in church choir and I miss it a lot. When I get to Denver, I will be on a mission to find a new church - but I know that there is no church that will have a music program on par with what Central once had.

So, Be Rudi. It's an on-going process.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Murphy's Law

This week has been one of those where, going into it, you think you have your days planned out and everything will get done, but everything very quickly gets out of hand.

I have been managing a project that has been delayed due to a lack of response from the client. I literally haven't heard from them since March. For all I know, they could be dead. Originally, the schedule was perfect and I wouldn't be on the hook to do anything while I was road tripping out to Denver. Now it is so delayed that who knows what will need to be done while I am gone. I really don't want to leave my work for someone else.

Two other projects have snuck up out of nowhere, too, plus that last nagging little paper that needs to be completed before I can rejoice in true freedom. I like being busy at work, but this is overwhelming!

Since starting at Berger 5 years ago, I don't handle stress any better than I once did, but I have learned to get into a zen state about things. Everything will get done, it always does.

No insights or humor today. Just high spirits and a determination to make it to the weekend.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Thank you God for this good life....

....and forgive us if we do not love it enough" - Garrison Keillor.

Its one of my favorite quotes and this morning I could not help but love life. While I was traveling for work, I had my bike in for annual tuning at REI. I hopped on it this morning and it rode beautifully. No cranky gears, no skipping chain. No noises that made me worry that the tires would fall off while I was cruising down M St.

And the morning could not have been more perfect. Mid 60s, cool but warm enough to be back into just my tank top and bike shorts. Low humidity, friendly bike trail riders. And I only hit one light on the way in. Without feeling like I was about to die, I biked into work in a personal record of 17 minutes. The timing has more to do with lights on M st than with my actual speed, but it still felt good.

Its mornings like this one that really get me in the right mindset to take on the day, and I appreciate and enjoy them as much as I can.

Monday, May 3, 2010

So long, dear friend

After a week of traveling around North Carolina for my job and up to Philly for a weekend wedding, I am finally back in DC. Sleeping in my bed last night was glorious. I'm sad to have missed a week's worth of posts, but my brain was so overtaxed nothing would have been coherent.

This morning I was told some very troubling news, though. My favorite bar in DC, where my best friend bartends and I know the owners, has been sold. We didn't even get to say goodbye. We will all hang out on Saturday and pour one out for our fallen comrade.

18th and Red, as we shall fondly remember it (or as much as we are able to remember), has witnessed many a drunken adventure in our lives. It was to be the location of our final goodbye party as Lauren and I left DC, but alas, it was not to be.

18th and Red was with us since early 2007. I've celebrated 4th of Julys, new years, more birthdays than I can count (or remember, for that matter), and she never let me down. Within the strip of bars along Adams Morgan, 18th and Red always welcomed me with open arms, holding a beer. It was a place to unwind and a place to forget whatever was going on in life. "Dance it out" was christened here and will never be forgotten. Your dance floor has witnessed many shenanigans.

So long, dear friend. You will be missed.

18th and Red