Tuesday, December 25, 2012

In Honor of Christmas Break


Top Ten Ways I Will Have Culture Shock In Tennessee Over The Holidays

10. Dinner does not cost as much as a car payment
9. People at cash registers are actually nice to me
8. People have houses. With yards.  And driveways.
7. Everyone roots for the same sports teams
6. Everyone has the same accent
 5. My social plans will not be altered by protests, motorcades, or security threats
4. There are parking lots. With multiple spaces. For free. And I can park my car in any of them. At any time of the day.
3. People will not honk at me if I hesitate at a green light (ha! Like I ever do that, but still…)
2. I will at no point during the week be wearing a suit or ID badge
1. Big. Trucks.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jingle All The Way 8K

I'm just now getting around to posting about my last race of 2012 -   The Jingle All The Way 8K

Why has it taken me weeks to finally post? Because work is busy. So busy that the other day I caught one guy on my team being dragged away from his desk to answer yet another client question and as he passed my desk he whimpered "I just want to eat my lunch!...."

it was 6:30pm.

So yeah, things are a little hectic in life but I did want to share the ridiculousness of this race.

I hadn't planned on doing another race this year, but my friend Rebekah (the one I ran my first half marathon with without training HERE.) had done this 8K before and said it was fun.

I mean, they tie jingle bells to everyone's shoes. It's either going to be fun or I'm going to lose my hearing. Sure! Let's find out!

The start line was fantastic. Most everyone was at least wearing a Santa hat or reindeer antlers. Some much more:

I also saw Green Man:
(I can't remember where I got this photo so if you took it, THANK YOU.)

That's not the first time I've seen Green Man. I guess this is some kind of spoof from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia but I did not know that the first time I saw someone wearing one of these things. As they were running down a street on Capitol Hill. At night. Yes, I thought I was hallucinating....

But back to the race. Rebekah and I take off and are immediately passed by several hilarious characters. In fact, we got passed a lot throughout the race. The rundown went something like this:

Mile one: we are passed by Santa and his reindeer:
They looked similar to the pic above and ran while all tied together. And still passed us.

A few steps later, the entire nativity scene also passed us:

They. Were. Awesome. The men's head scarves flapped in the breeze, one of the wisemen carried a gold box the entire time, Baby Jesus rode in a jogging stroller, and The Star was complete with a sign on her back saying "follow me!" Which is just what I did, as if I too was one of the Wisemen....until The Star stole the stuffed sheep that one of the shepherds was holding, causing the shepherd to chase her through the crowd and leave me in their dust.

Later, I heard a bunch of voices behind us and turned to find a group of Christmas....bunnies:

Yeah I didn't get it either, but they made me laugh. Especially when they kept yelling at the other runners who we'd pass on some of the out and back stretches through the city.
"Yay Santa!"
"Yay Penguins!"

And on it went. Until they too passed us.

Did you catch that? We were passed by bunnies. New low.

But one of my favorite racers of all was a guy who started playing Christmas carols before the race started -

on a tuba.

He then jogged while carrying that thing through the whole 5+ mile race, stopping to walk and play more carols every mile or so. He played We Three Kings as the nativity set passed us all. Appropriate.

Tuba guy was one of the few who never passed us. This was good news for two reasons: one, because I would be really embarrassed if I couldn't run faster than someone playing a giant brass instrument; and two, because I loved hearing him start up another tune behind us. Everyone within earshot started cheering after each carol. So fun.

Somewhere around mile 4, the nativity set pulled off to the side, apologetically announcing that "Baby Jesus is crying!"

So they too ended up behind us and after they rejoined the race, they started singing carols, so that was another fun addition.

In fact, I barely heard the jingle bells on all our shoes. There was so much else going on I got used to the incessant ringing and just got into the zone.

We were so in the zone that during the last mile, Rebekah looked around and noted, "Huh, seems like we're actually passing quite a few people!" I also then looked around and reminded her that we were passing people wrapped in lit Christmas tree lights, so we really couldn't count that as a huge score....

But we definitely did score just by being a part of this ridiculousness. More photos are below - enjoy!

The Juggler was there! He's in most all the races in this city and I even ran with him during part of a race once -- so fun to see him as Santa....

We had no idea why this guy was wearing a suit but we didn't need to know. Awesomeness.

We had initially wondered if he could keep that cookie head on...smart choice.

Just try to improve this photo in any way. Not possible.

My happy feet when it was over.

(Most of the photos on this post are from: http://swimbikerunphoto.zenfolio.com/jingle_all_the_way_8k_2012)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Stories from the Campaign Trail finale

I did nearly get chased while knocking on doors as well. It was one of the last houses I knocked on and the lady that answered saw my Romney sticker and immediately began yelling at me so much her young son had to be the one to point out that she "shouldn't be rude!" Even as I started backing away, making it known that I got it! She wasn't voting Republican! - she continued to yell about how would I feel if she knocked on my door, blah blah blah. 

And I'm sorry, yes - I knocked on your door. I didn't strangle your cat or key your car. You have a doorbell on your house - I rang it. Sue me. You have the option of not answering your door at all. (Next time, I'm totally keying her car... JUST KIDDING!) 

But choosing to exercise the option of just not opening your door did not occur to the people in this area. Other folks campaigning with us said they encountered everything from a man opening the door in nothing but a speedo, to a woman sticking her head out the 2nd floor window from her shower to yell down that she couldn't get the door right then. 

Just ignore the bell, folks. Trust me, I'll happily just leave a door-hanger and jump right back in my clown's pocket and move on.

There was one house, however, where I was glad the person (we'll call him Hot Guy) opened the door. ...for a second, anyway. Rebekah and I switched off all day on who would do the talking, and would jot down the person's answers. (we had to ask questions about their intent to vote. It got to the point where I felt like I was saying "yes and what time do you plan to vote on election day? What are you planning on wearing? Do you believe you will have anything stuck in your teeth at the time of your voting experience?....." I got tired of hearing myself....)

I also just got tired, period. Which brings us back to Hot Guy. Hot Guy opens his door and I was trying desperately to ask "can Governor Romney count on your support" but I could not get it out. I stammered "Can Romney.." then I got tripped up in my head about the fact that I just referred to a presidential candidate as "Romney" as if we are frat brothers. Meanwhile Hot Guy keeps staring at me with an amused look on face. I try again "Can the support...governor....can I count ...support...." finally Rebekah has to jump in and explain that it had been a long day....


But I wasn't the only one having trouble staying coherent. At another house, the person I was with blurts out "we are here for the Ryan/Romney campaign!" then immediately shoots me a look like, "did I really just demote Mitt Romney to the Vice President portion of this ticket?" So we all had issues.

I had other issues as well. One house we stopped at had a man wearing a baseball cap with writing in another language on it. He was super friendly and at one point he pointed to his hat and asked, "Do you know what language this is?" And I've traveled fairly extensively and I've definitely seen that writing before but in my tired state, couldn't figure out where, so I guessed - "Arabic?"

It was Hebrew.

Yep. If you are trying to win friends, you definitely want to mix up those two groups of people: Arabs and Jews. I am awesome. The man's face agreed.

Anyway, we move on to another neighborhood and this one. is. niiii-eeece. I'm so busy looking dreamily at these huge houses that I barely realize how cold I'm getting. But it was getting super cold, so much so that I finally breakdown and put on the big headband thingy I brought just in case. I never wear headbands, I don't think I look very good in them, so I ask Rebekah if I look stupid. She cocks her head and surmises "No. You look like a rich skier." Which, given the neighborhood, we agreed was probably a good look. Here's the final outfit:

Pointing to my campaign sticker

I posted that on my Facebook and my friend - a prominent Democrat - posted something about how much I looked Republican in that photo because "ain't no one in the Democratic headquarters dressed that well." 

Ha! At least we could continue to joke with each other through the election. You know, instead of ending our friendship in a fiery crash of political dissent -- which I feel like probably did happen to some people.

All in all, the campaign was a fun experience. Even the dreaded bus trip back had bright moments, like when they showed the movie Elf, or when the guy across the aisle asked to borrow Rebekah's phone because he had somehow accidentally dropped his in a cocktail he had apparently made himself on the bus ride up. (That happened to be the same guy who nearly fought a man wearing pajamas while door knocking -- makes sense, right?)

In any case, I'm just glad the election is over and I have four long years to decide whether I ever want to go door knocking again....

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stories from the Campaign Trail Part 2

After a long day of knocking on doors, we would go back to the campaign office to make phone calls. So while it was hard enough to talk to strangers all day face to face, you then get to "rest" while speed dialing more strangers. I sat there trying to read the names staring back at me on the automated phone screen and stuttered out hesitantly a "Good evening, is ...Brian Jones there?" "...Mary Smith?" "...Ah-neeesh Chop...too..tur...todo...doo..reee? o? ee? there?...." (It was those types of incidents when I hoped the person wasn't actually home and thus spared my horrific pronunciation.)

Then we'd get the people who would just cheerily state that if they get one more call like this, they were just not going to vote at all, thank you very much!

I'm really feeling good now!

We finally went to bed and woke up the next day to start knocking on doors and ride in some interesting stranger's car all over again.

Thankfully, the stranger we got this time was not as chatty, and not as crazy. I.e., he didn't say things like "Yeah, the Democrats are early voting because they'll do anything they can to cheat!"

Ummmm, sir, I understand you believe the Democrats are always wrong and because we are both Republicans, you believe I'll agree with you on anything you say whether illogical or not, but early voting is not actually cheating in any way...

But I couldn't say anything to him because he held our lives in his hands. And in his Clown Pocket car. So I just made a weird face and continued to stare into the blackness that was my window in silence...

I will miss the Clown Pocket car a little though. I fondly remember the time we pulled over for a second just to check our maps and the elderly gentleman inside the house we were in front of saw those giant Romney posters and promptly flipped us off....

I had heard, before this trip, stories from other people who have done this in the past. Stories about funny things that would happen, or ways in which our two major political parties would fight each other on the trail. Like the time, years ago, when supposedly Party 1 rented up every single rental van in an area just so Party 2 wouldn't have any rides to go door to door.(The unused vans then just sat in a parking lot....where Party 2 allegedly proceeded to slash the tires....)

Sounds mature, right?

But I have to say, I was all fired up for some fun competition so of course when we ran into some Obama campaigners on the sidewalk, I have to say I was very disappointed that they didn't want to engage in fake friendly combat.

Even after I initiated football tackling motions towards them.


But onto my stories about the actual door knockees we encountered.

For the most part, people were friendly. Like I said, we already knew which people were likely voting Republican and which were undecided but leaning that way. However, there's always a chance you get it wrong and end up yelling to an angry man from the other side of the street to "go ahead and come get me in your PAJAMAS, mister!"

That thankfully did not happen to me but it did happen to another guy on our trip. At the time of him telling me this story, he was sheepish for taunting the man about his pjs but the man did come out of his house - in pjs - to chase our campaigner for knocking on his door....hilarious.

I did nearly get chased as well, though. I'll explain in the next post.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Stories from the Campaign Trail

I hesistate to even bring up politics given the intensity with which my friends all fought during our recent Presidential election. Can I just say to everyone:

If your guy lost, move on.

If your guy won, move on.

No one ever said "you know, that last meme that made fun of my political party really changed my mind."

No one.

Ahem. And my guy lost but I still thought it'd be fun to share the funny parts of my brief stint campaigning for him in middle America. It started with a seven hour ride.

On a bus.

Actually, it started with me running from work, to the bus, and getting stuck in the metro doors, dropping one of my bags outside the train and tugging helplessly at the other one stuck in the door until strangers helped me pry the door open and toss my bag back to me. But I digress...

Which reminds me of one of my favorite metro stories that my friend Rod, the other Goldfish Poodle, witnessed. One day, strangers were all standing around inside a metro car when it stopped and one of them got off. But a random bag was still lying on the floor of the train. So all of a sudden, a startled passenger yells out to the person who just got off and says "You forgot your bag!!" then before anyone could register what was happening, that person flung said bag OUT of the train as the door closes. ...then, one of the other passengers looks down then yelps "what did you do with my bag!?" and had to jump off at the next stop and catch a train back to where their bag was. Ha! People's misfortune is funny....
Anyway. So I show up outside the Republican Party's headquarters, and there are masses of people and several giant tour busses loading up and we all go to different places and of course my bus has the longest journey. Overnight. So we are supposed to sleep on this bus where our knees are up in our chins and that doesn't happen so we arrive at our destination sometime around 3am and then have to wake up at 6:30. And knock on doors. And be friendly.

I'ma need quite a bit of coffee for this, friends.

So we head out to one of the campaign centers in this town and we get paired up with a local volunteer who will drive us around while we jump out and knock on specific houses that the party has already determined are either undecided or voting for our candidate. And we get a script and some materials to leave behind if no one answers, and we get maps and are unleashed on neighborhoods 7 hours away from where we live. And both parties do this. And we all do it for free. In fact we clammor to make sure we GET to do this for free, in the cold, over a weekend. Silly politicals...

Anyway, my friend Rebekah is with me and we join another DCer and all jump in the car of a local man who will be a driver for that day.

And he's chatty.

And he's uber Republican. Like enough to annoy me and I'm obviously also Republican (see: my years working for President Bush. like HERE). And he has plastered giant black  Romney/Ryan signs across both back windows of his car so that when Rebekah and I get in, we can no longer see out.

It was like that Frasier episode where his neighbor put a giant American flag over his windows and Frasier couldn't see outside and finally yells "I feel like I'm living in a giant clown's POCKET!"

That's how Rebekah and I felt trying to look out our windows. Like we were living in the pocket of a giant black shirt. It made for easy spotting from the outside though. After we'd been walking around random neighborhoods for a while we'd hear "looks like your ride's here!" as those giant signs and car attached would round the corner...

But of course, we couldn't help find addresses from the inside, yet the driver continually would ask anyway. "Hey, do you guys see 2214?..." Me and Rebekah look at each other. "Yeah - nope! We really can't see anything back here...." But he was too busy talking to ever realize.

The other thing it took him awhile to realize was that his car automatically locks its own doors once you start driving, so every time we'd try to get back in, the doors would be locked. Every. Time.

So we spent all day jumping out of the clown's pocket, knocking on doors (of people whose names Rebekah couldn't be bothered with so I'd end up saying "this is the house of Mr. Vaclovas" and Rebekah would repeat "Baklava -- got it" and on she marched to ring the doorbell....), and walking back to the car, trying to open the door, being denied, then finally getting back in.

But we haven't even gotten to half the stories yet. I'll  have more in the next post but I'll leave you with a pic of my favorite sign from the campaign headquarters -

I should probably note that Rebekah and I never were given yard signs...

Sunday, December 2, 2012


You'll be happy to know, nothing disastrous happened during my class presentation. But there were some close calls:

Right as I was leaving work to head to class, I look down and realize -

I'm wearing two different shoes.

(I keep several pairs of shoes under my desk -- it's like a DSW down there.)

Already off to an excellent start.

I narrowly avoid that disaster, get to class, and am told one of our team members has kindly made color copies of our presentation and that we'll all be splitting the cost of those copies. The other team member looks at me and says "the copies were ninety dollars."

I'm sorry, what?

Ninety? What did we print the presentation on, Kobe beef?

I try to shake that off and regroup in time to settle in to the first part of class which would entail listening to another group present before my group's turn. As if that wasn't enough to set me on edge, it turns out one classmate was sick in Florida and was attending class virtually through another classmate's iPad.

If you don't believe we are living in the future, just try sitting next to an iPad face that talks and responds and is propped up on your own purse all during class. I kept having to check and make sure my elbow or waterbottle wasn't blocking class from the face. Very unsettling.

Then, right as our group was up to present, the fourth member of our team - a girl who has proven a bit challenging every step of the way- shows up looking harried and mutters something about not having already printed off her notes. We spent the next 10 minutes trying to get those notes printed somehow, while our professor and our fake potential clients waited.


Finally, we start the presentation. And I, as expected, have trouble remembering to exhale but I do manage to get through my part and hand off to the next person. We continue through until I realize we are on track to go way over time. So I, in my typical impatient fashion, simply wait for a second where the professor and client seem distracted and I walk up to the podium and quietly state that "we need to wrap it up" to my teammate, while giving the universal "wrap it up" motion with my finger.

So subtle.

It wasn't until the end of class that I remember the professor has been video taping all the presentations so we can see how badly we all are at public speaking. And that camera totally saw my subtle "get a move on, already" move. So professional - ugh.

At least we got through it and I think we'll pass. Can't wait to watch the video footage next week....

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Gift of Public Speaking

That’s what you all can get me for Christmas this year seeing as I DON’T POSSESS IT.
Tonight, my group project team and I present our final presentation that will basically determine our grade for this semester. How can I describe to you how bad I am at public speaking?
- I get anxious in staff meetings with my colleagues who I am friends with and see every day.
I get anxious just having to announce my name and what I do in a room for of people (I actually left a meeting - acted like I needed to take a call – last week and came back in only after I was sure the Everyone Introduce Yourself To The Group portion of the event was over. *bowing head in shame*)
- I get anxious talking on conference calls when no one can even see me.

There’s just something about having the stage that I can’t handle.

I take that back, I actually love attention. I love regaling groups of people at parties with my strange stories.  I loved dancing on stage when I took ballet as a child, loved playing the piano at recitals, and loved singing on stage when I was a part of a cover band for 4 years here in DC (YES. I may not have mentioned much about that before but I did, in fact, sing in a band. There are photos and videos somewhere. I’ll try to find some to share. Maybe.)
But when I have to speak on command – when everyone stops talking and stares at me, forced to listen to whatever I’ll say no matter how uninteresting or discombobulated it might be –
I can’t take that pressure.
I’ve mentioned the first time I realized I could break into hives HERE. Since that happened, I can distinctly feel myself getting blotchy whenever I speak in front of a group.
I also forget to exhale.
I also make weird jokes.
I also get too informal and am tempted to use “y’all” or end every thought with a “ya know what I mean...”
I once gave a presentation in front of my church and kept talking and talking, continually inhaling without letting any breath out, until finally I reached a point where I was either going to squeak out one last word right before blacking out, or force myself to push air out of my lungs.
I chose the latter.
And did it into the mic.
And everyone laughed.
I’ve given presentations at large company meetings and started discussion about the work I did during a serious national disaster by saying:
“this mic is too short for me. I’m gunna need to squat up here and work on my quads during this.”
So you can see why I’m living in dread today. Hopefully I won’t have any new embarrassing stories after presenting tonight.
But I promise to share if I do. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tunnel ----> Light

I'm essentially a week away from being done with this semester/year of grad school - hooray!!

But that means that this week, I'm still crazy and don't have time to post much. I will, however, give a run down of yesterday for your enjoyment.

Halfway through the work day, a coworker hands me a letter, asks if I think it looks "sparkly," then informs me it did NOT go through the usual inspection it should have and that he found it rather suspicious.

After he hands it to me.

Sooo - 2:00pm: receive possible anthrax exposure.

4:35 pm: Head to class - late, as usual.

4:40pm: First set of escalators to the metro train: broken

4:50pm: have to switch trains and find that the second set of escalators I have to take are: also broken

5:00pm: get off metro, realize I didn't bring anything to eat, so I stop at a street vendor and buy animal crackers and Ritz with peanut butter. For dinner.

5:20pm: I'm sitting in class and bite into the animal crackers, realizing: they are terrible. Possibly poisonous. Should go nicely inside my body with the possible anthrax from earlier. I have to throw them away, thus I'm down to "dinner" being -- Ritz with peanut butter.

7:45pm: finally able to leave class and need to somehow sprint in the cold half a mile away to meet up with friends.

7:46pm: my classmate graciously offers a ride with her boyfriend who is picking her up and will be driving close to where my friends are.

7:47pm: classmate informs me the ride is a van with no seats.

7:48pm: I'm riding through D.C. perched in my work clothes on top of a stereo speaker in the back of a van.

7:50pm: I meet up with my friends and instantly report that I just hitched a ride there,  on top of a stereo speaker in the back of a van. I'm very pleased with myself. My friends are vaguely confused but not surprised.

10:00pm: Friends and I head home and on the walk back to the metro, have a rousing conversation about how pedestrians in D.C. need to watch for cars even if said pedestrians have the right of way.

10:10pm: My friend Laura finishes ranting about how if a car hits her while she has the right of way, it serves them right and they can pay for her funeral. She then starts to cross the street, stops last minute and says "ugh, I don't have enough time on the walk sign to make it afterall."

10:11pm: BAM!

Two cars ram each other full speed in the intersection we are looking at.

I know, right??

Now, by this point, I'm getting fairly used to being first on the scene of accidents as I mentioned here. So I jog over to the car full of people frantically trying to get out because the car is smoking (and, as shown here, I tend to run toward danger, rather than away...cuz I'm smart like that....) and I'm simultaneously pulling out my phone to call 911 while mechanically cooing at the two girls now sitting down on the asphalt, freaking out. "mm hmm, you're ok honey....um...you're going to be fine, yada yada...." (Kidding, it was more heartfelt than that but this whole scene is starting to feel very routine...)

Thankfully, no one was really hurt, just shaken up. And since me and my friends didn't really see how the accident happened, we leave and continue on, now a bit jumpy ourselves.

So Laura heads one way, and my other friend Sean and I head to the metro. And the train stops and we start to get on -- and only half the door will open to let us in.

What is up with tonight?

I finally get to my stop where I get in my car to drive the rest of the way home, and as I'm heading over a bridge, I see a car swerve around something in their lane and I realize it's a big orange construction barrel. No sign of construction. Just one big random barrel on its side. Why not.

I reach into my purse to report it - and realize my phone is still in my coat pocket from the last incident...


I finally get home and get ready for bed, trying to think positively about having a short work week and the semester being nearly over.

I just hope the light I see at the end of the tunnel isn't just another car turning into oncoming traffic.....

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Running While Glowing

Sorry I've been neglecting you, Internet. Between hurricanes, elections, grad school and work, I'm struggling a bit. I do have some fun stories coming up from my time on the campaign trail but first, I'll tell you about my latest race- DC's first Glow In The Dark 5K Dance Party, yet another event I couldn't resist from LivingSocial. Everyone wears all black and as many glow sticks as they want, and we run for 3 miles then all join a giant dance party inside the DC Armory.

Now, the video above kind of explains the event except we didn't actually run through the streets of D.C.

We ran around a parking lot.

Stay with me, it was still fun. But first let me start at the beginning of the day.

Since the race was at night (hence the Glowing In The Dark part), I brought my race clothes into work with me and was planning on catching a ride from there with a friend to the start line. And as I’m parking in my garage at work, I pull into a spot and inch up –

And hit the car in front of me.


I’ve had this car, oh, 4 years. I’m pretty familiar with how long the front end is. I don’t hit things typically but for whatever reason, this morning I misjudge and get to see the car in front of me rock from the impact. Thankfully, it didn’t cause any damage but of course I'm surprised it happens. And just wait, because it becomes funny later on.

For now, let's fast forward to mid-day, when another girl that is running the race tells me that apparently we are getting “misted” with glowing paint during the race.

This is the first I’ve heard of this.

So now I’m thinking – the shirt I brought to wear is from my first marathon (well, the first attempt anyway, the Country Music race that was explained here) and I really don’t want to get it stained with whatever they are “misting” us with. So now what?

Well, there are some random clothing stores in the basement of the building I work in. So I pass one that has a black shirt in the window with the words “First Lady Obama” bedazzled on the front.

That is so going to be my race shirt if I don’t find something at the next store.

Sadly (?) I did find a slightly more appropriate sweatshirt on sale at the next store, but even it still had the name of a Pennsylvania hockey team emblazoned across the front in shiny gold letters. But let's face it, I’m about to be covered in some kind of radioactive mist, I suppose I shouldn't be worried about how “serious-racer-like” I look at this point. I buy the sweatshirt.

I change clothes just in time to jump into my friend’s car and head to the start line outside of RFK Stadium. And as we pull into a parking space, my friend pulls his emergency break and looks down at his phone. And I suddenly realize we are still moving forward and I can’t even get the words out before – BAM! I see the car in front of me rock from impact for the second time today! Seriously, how weird is that!? Twice in one day?? I immediately just apologize to my friend because he knows me well enough by now to know I’m bad luck and totally made that happen somehow. He agreed. Sigh.

Anyway, back to the race. We meet up with some others and head to the start line and realize – we sure are just running laps inside the RFK parking lot. But, in retrospect, I suppose it’s probably not the best idea to unleash 8,000 people wearing black clothing onto the streets of D.C. on a Friday night. Good call, LivingSocial.
Me at the start line. Yeah, not so easily seen.

But it ended up being really fun because they pumped music throughout the course, created different stages where we could take dance breaks, had lit up archways, and of course -the misting tents.

Which ended up all being broken when we ran through them.

Every. One.

I bought that stupid sweatshirt for nothing… Kinda wish I’d chosen the First Lady shirt now. At least I'd have something new to wear to cocktail parties…

So after running and dancing (and skipping, ballet leaping, doing the Gangnam Style dance – pretty much whatever we felt the urge to do...I definitely swung a glowstick over my head like a lasso through a good portion of the race…gotta say that was a first…) we started to lose steam and decided to start cheating and cutting through the course wherever possible. (Stop judging – it’s not like they time this thing.) But the funny part is, we were so busy dancing and being silly that we started just making random turns until we realized we didn’t even know if we were going in the right direction anymore and in fact may have made our race longer by rejoining waves behind us accidentally, thinking we were joining waves in front of us.

I forgot to mention this thing had multiple waves. I suppose it was to prevent us from stampeding over each other in the dark but it was a little annoying at first because we had to stand for quite awhile before our wave was finally set free. But you know what made it worth it? The fact that our Wave name was: “The Hustlers.” Best. Wave Name. EVER.

But now we’ve spun around so many times we don’t know how close we are to the finish line and at one point, we actually pass a race volunteer and we hear “why are they running that way??”

Not a good sign.

Thankfully, we finally did find the finish line and was able to join the Dance Party portion happening inside the Armory.

And now that I think about it, the last time I was inside that place for an actual event – was for an Inaugural Ball for President and First Lady Obama. I SO WAS MEANT TO BUY THAT FIRST LADY SHIRT.

But back to the party. We get inside and it’s like an adult playground. First, everyone looks like varying degrees of ridiculous. Three girls who ran with us were in tutus, a guy near us was wearing a Banana Costume, and another guy ran by wearing what looked like a football helmet made of glow sticks. And everyone is just dancing with abandon and tossing around glowing balloons. There was even a Twister mat where various glowing bodies were playing and I heard there was limbo somewhere as well but I was too busy trying not to lose my friends in the dark to go find it. We left not too long after the Balloon Drop, very satisfied with our random race.

The only other race I have left this year is an 8k where everyone wears jingle bells. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not I lose my hearing and/or sanity. Until then, enjoy the pics of this one:

Rockin' the new "fly" sweatshirt - pun intended. (I have no ties to the Philly Flyers but the UT Vols shirt I found next to it was too small...and lacked the tacky gold letters, so, obviously also inferior.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Katrina Part 3.

And so we continue the story of the first and only time I've been in the back of a police cruiser.

As I said, life was frenzied (so frenzied that one day, while I was living on a tour bus with my male coworkers, I open the door into the tiny bathroom on that bus -- right into my boss using it. That is the definition of Awkward, just so you know). And I barely left the area where we were living and working. Until one night I was invited to dinner with a group of people that included a Cabinet Secretary. So I figured it was ok to actually leave, after ensuring all my duties were taken care of. And I don't even get into the restaurant before I get a call on my cell phone that something needs to be taken care of right then back at the emergency ops center. So I frantically look at my friend who had invited me to the dinner and he jumps into action to figure out how to send me back.

So he commandeers a police car.

I had to admit, I was pretty impressed. Some of us had official flip-top badges so he might've flashed that, who knows. All I know is the next thing that happened was he and the group went with the Cabinet Member, and a nice helpful policeman let me into the back of his car and he whisked me back to my home base.

The only other time I tried to leave for actual downtime, I was nearly accosted by a local yelling at me that I was with the government and had the gaul to just be out having dinner. I'm pretty sure my exhausted, over-worked self started tearing up at which point my coworker sat down with the man and explained how hard we'd been working for many days and that we were simply trying to decompress for a second. They ended up being buds and I gratefully got to actually finish that meal.
And I mentioned other random "politicos" running around. It became this funny game of connection, where I'd be getting emails from DC on my blackberry to go find so and so on a corner outside the JFO who I'd never met but was another politico and needed help navigating the area or something. Even after I left and returned to DC, I'd get calls on my cell from others who had just gone down for another shift, and I'd be standing in the middle of DC trying to explain to someone what road to turn on in Baton Rouge. Insanity.

But before we go into my return to D.C., there's one other person I met while down there that is pretty funny.

Jesse Jackson.

For whatever reason, he felt the need to insert himself into the operations down there, which at the time I found really annoying. And I remember walking past his aide one day in the EOC and his aide asking me if I wanted to meet Mr. Jackson.

I said no.

Which was probably considered rude but I didn't care at the time. However, later, he ended up near me again and my coworkers and I decided to go ahead and snap a photo. It's blurry and I'm smirking -- pretty representative of how I felt right then so very appropriate:

I went on to interact with other folks and continued to work until my direct bosses were sent back to D.C. with short notice again. I wanted so badly to stay and even had one of the military liaisons offer me a place to sleep on a naval ship he was living on right off the coast, but in the end, I knew I needed to go with my bosses.

Then they almost left me.

Sigh. The exit happened so fast that they couldn't find a flight out of Baton Rouge and instead decided to drive to Houston and fly out the next morning (or maybe my boss did it on purpose because of the bathroom incident....). I literally jumped into one of the suburbans as they were heading out.

And that's how my Katrina experience ended. As abruptly as it started, full of emotion.

God Speed, Sandy responders.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Katrina Part 2.

So thank the Lord, Sandy didn't devastate the DC area like we feared, although it obviously did terrible damage in other areas so our thoughts and prayers are with those digging out now that the worst of the storm is over. Since I still have power (and I should be working on someone's annual work assessment but don't want to) let's continue with my Katrina story.

We had just landed and were about to find out where we'd be living. Turns out, we managed to get music tour busses -

off the Ozzfest tour!!

Shut. Up.

Because any hotel rooms rightfully went to the victims, those working the response had to get creative with their own housing and someone, somehow, got several busses, some of which did in fact come from that tour. I was simultaneously feeling awesome and scared of STDs all at the same time.

And here's where one of my favorite "Internal Homing Device" moments occur. Since I frequently run into people randomly connected to my life, it shouldn't surprise me too much when it happens. But this one was extra random. The bus I ended up living on was driven by a man who I started talking to one day.

I was in charge of a lot of the logistics for federal staff so one of the many things I did down there was organize sleeping arrangements for folks, including coordinating when our "homes" -- aka these giant busses -- could go get gas, where they should park, etc. I also put multiple rental cars on my credit card in the heat of the moment just to get staff moving before I later found out the government has a fleet of cars at much easier disposal. You can't say I'm not mission-oriented and resourceful. But you can say people need to tell me these things beforehand!! Ahem. Not that I still have resentment or anything....
So I'm talking to this driver about logistics and of course I have to mention that this is not my first rodeo when it comes to living on a tour bus. I told him my friends are musicians and I ran off with them briefly once and slept on the top bunk and sold merch at their shows.

And he knows! them!

He blurts out the name of the band and I'm like "YES! How do you know them?!" Because this band is from a tiny town in Tennessee and they play bluegrass -- not exactly the same as saying "yeah, NSYNC - you've heard of them too?!"

And he pulls out his cell phone and shows me that in his contacts is the driver of my friends' tour bus -- the driver who I used to go to church with. The driver who is the uncle of one of my ex boyfriends.

Small. Freaking. World. I tell ya.

Anyway, moving on to other funny connections. During Katrina I was still working in a political position and when you're doing anything that involves politicals, you end up running into people you know, even though you are now in a totally different part of the country than usual. And the same goes for the disaster response community. A year or so before Katrina, I helped in response efforts for a series of hurricanes that hit Florida. So I met people "in the field" during that who I would see again running around the joint field office (JFO) in Louisiana a year or so later.

But the politicals were funny. Because people were getting sent left and right down there to do jobs they normally don't do from all different types of federal agencies. And some were self-deploying without orders so they'd just show up and be like "what do you need me to do?" while they bedded down at night on the floor in the JFO. And they'd ask me what to do. These guys were Assistant Secretaries of the Departments of Important Things and they were asking Me, a girl who felt barely out of college still.

Upside down world.

But it was cool to see these powerful people ready to do whatever was needed and to see everyone's compassion and intensity. I distinctly remember the day I landed and walked into the "Red October" (the name for one of FEMA's  "mobile operational command vehicles" that I spent a lot of time in. It's basically a semi-truck that turns into a command center with computers and stuff - very cool.) to find one of my friends whose normal job was to communicate things to congressional staffers but he had been in Louisiana since the storm hit - and he was clearly running on pure adrenaline. He raced through telling me how he couldn't sleep at night because he would think about the people who might have water up to their chests, and how if he goes to sleep, will they have water up to their necks? And he wasn't a first responder so his work didn't directly affect anyone being flooded but he felt that responsibility nonetheless. And that set the tone for what I continued to see around me.

People were high on adrenaline, urgently searching for anything to do to help, fear and sadness behind their eyes. I remember thinking about the national guard units who got back from Iraq only to turn around and have to defend their own community from the mahem that was ensuing among their neighbors. How policeman and fireman had to focus on the job at hand not knowing whether or not their own families were alive. I remember the first-hand accounts from my coworkers who went into the Superdome and how they needed professional counseling as a result of what they experienced inside. Completely unfathomable that this all could happen so quickly in a major U.S. city. So incredible.

But I promised not to get in too deep with these posts. So back to my lighter experiences.

We were in and out of mobile units, JFOs, and emergency ops centers (EOCs) that basically all looked like this:


It was a frenzied mix of first responders, civilian staff, media, military, the Mayor, the Governor, and the occasional cabinet secretary or the President himself. I started running into people I had worked with (or dated...) before. My days were so unpredictable that one minute I was getting a Hep A shot in the back of a tractor trailer, the next I was driving down streets in Baton Rouge getting Subway sandwiches for then FEMA director Mike Brown. The next minute I was giving the shoes off my feet to a coworker who was spontaneously about to take a helicoptor tour of New Orleans and she needed closed-toed shoes to confront whatever disease-ridden waters they might land in.

I barely ever left the compound we were working in, until the one evening I did --

and ended up in the back of a police car.

Stay tuned....

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Me and Hurricanes: Katrina, Part 1.

We have yet another crazy weather situation heading towards D.C. right now.

You know how disaster prone I am, and how I'm even getting stalked by bad weather at my races now (tornado during my first attempt at a marathon, and then another one brewing during Tough Mudder). I originally started this year planning to do the Marine Corps Marathon tomorrow which would've been so typical given D.C. is now prepping for Hurricane Sandy to hit us. But I ended up deciding against the race so I'm now left to just prep me and Chloe and think about the thing I always think about when I hear the word Hurricane -- Katrina.

As part of the disaster trend in my work life, being a part of the response to Hurricane Katrina was the second in a string of incidents I worked on (the first being 9/11, the subsequents being H1N1 and an Oil Spill. Some people like a nice, stable work environment -- me? Dangerous levels of chaos please! Which could also describe my dating life at times...but I digress....).

There are so many, many things I could say about what I experienced and learned through that disaster but that starts to get heavy and possibly too revealing of people I worked alongside. I will, however, tell you some of the more funny parts about my own personal experiences during the response.

Before Katrina made landfall, I knew I was likely getting "deployed" down to Louisiana but that was about all I knew. In the end, I was basically given less than a day's notice, left work that afternoon to pack, and jumped on a plane the next morning.

First of all, I was told to "pack for a month" but to plan on being gone "indefinitely." I was also told we didn't know what the conditions were. So of course I go crazy, pack way too much, and foolishly pack things that required electricity...like a hair dryer....and a small portable fan.


Yes, I endured much ridicule for that one. In my 20-something year old brain, I was thinking - Louisiana is hot. We probably won't have AC So my coworkers will love me for bringing this.

Except you know why we might not have AC? Because there might not be electricity. Which is what my fan ran on. Sigh.

So there I am with my giant suitcase at the airport and I discover our transportation for the day is -- a private plane. Various corporations were donating anything they could think of for the response efforts so the group I was heading down with just happened to be heading down on a very nice plane courtesy of a professional sports team. Which was so strange because as soon as we got off the plane in Louisiana - we were going to be sleeping on a bus. Private plane ---> sleeping on a bus. And so began the Upside-Down world I lived in during that time.

And let me reiterate that my stories here are just the interesting or humorous parts of my experience but I in no way mean to belittle the enormity of that tragedy or sound like I'm bemoaning any of the conditions. I gladly would've slept on the floor, gone without food, stayed there for months -whatever to help. I'm so glad I was able to be a part of the response in a tiny way. Now, onto my ridiculousness....

Friday, October 19, 2012

A DC Dana Birthday

I celebrated my birthday this week. And the number one wish people gave me was that I would have a semi-normal, non-awkward/strange day - for once. It almost happened.
First, I have to tell you one of the most exciting things that happened this month (exciting only in Girl World - calm down). One of my stylish friends decided to have a closet purge and let just a few friends come over and take whatever they wanted. for free. and she and I are the same size.
I'm still beaming.
Anyway, so on my actual birthday, I ended up basically wearing an entire outfit of my "new" clothes to work. Including purse and shoes. And I loved the outfit and was told I looked very Jackie O and for whatever reason it's 100% more fun when the clothes cost me nothing so I'm walking around my office to go meet with my supervisor when -
it happens.
My shoes backfire.
Maybe I'm the only one this happens to, but there are certain shoes that - when you're feet start to sweat the slightest bit as you are walking - fall off. And you don't realize it's going to happen until it actually happens out of nowhere. This day was one of the worst I've ever had. So bad that at one point I'm in front of an entire half of the floor -- which is an "open office floorplan" meaning everyone can see everyone else -- and I actually have to stop walking multiple times and regroup. And I think "I might actually have to go barefoot to get the rest of the way to my boss' office!" Which is just so typical because here I am, feeling all nice in my new outfit, on my birthday, and now I'm paralyzed while coworkers look on and I have to do a weird butt-clench looking walk to keep my shoes on until I reach my boss.
In any case, I say all that to let you know that that is the only weird thing that happened on my actual birthday - WIN!
The night of my birthday, one of my friends who works at the Pentagon brought me a sheet of U.S. Army tattoos as my gift (because we all know I love hot men in uniform our faithful Armed Forces.) So I of course put on one of the tattoos immediately (it went nicely with the Happy Birthday tiara I was already wearing. In public. In my 30's.). And the next day I don't feel like taking the time to rub it off with alcohol so I instead decide to just wear a shirt with sleeves. And here is my Facebook post on that day. Proof that Murphy's Law is not done with me just yet. Enjoy :)
"While yesterday, the Universe gave me a break for the most part (except almost falling out of my shoes at work), today it's back in full force. Instead of taking the time to remove my little temporary ARMY tattoo, I just decided to wear long sleeves. Except I didn't realize until I got to work that my sleeves are totally see-through.... and this just happens to be the one day a year we have Dept of Defense staff at my office for an all day workshop. I'm dying right now. Dying."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ragnar: Hours 20 something - 30

I forgot to tell you about the shower situation.

I keep forgetting to mention things that happened earlier, but that's actually perfect. Because it keeps you confused and not knowing what hour in the day we are, or what leg we're on, or who's running at the time. Which is exactly how the entire race felt..

So back to the showers. First, I'm super grateful we had them, as I don't think that's always the case on Ragnar courses. The high school we used just happens to do this to get donations from Ragnar for their sports programs in return for them letting us use their facilities. By the time you get there, you'd offer them a kidney for food and a shower, so it's a win win.

But when I get to the showers, we have two options.
One was a giant room with shower heads where everyone is just straight up nude in front of each other. Which is awkard enough, but there was also no place to set your stuff down in there, so I went with option two, which was standing in line waiting for 4 curtained off personal showers.

Except the 4th one was broken, so make that three.

So you wait for awhile, and you keep hearing the girls in front of you come out and say something about not being able to adjust the temperature.

But they seem fine enough when they emerge, so I'm trying not to worry about it. Then it's my turn and I get in -

and the water. is. SCALDING.

Like, so bad that I can only stand under the water for a few seconds until I nearly yell outloud, so I have to keep jumping out of the shower to regroup, then going in again and repeating the process. At one point I start giggling at how obsured it was and all the while I hear the girls waiting in line outside say things like "well this would work if people got in and got out quickly, but you can't ponder life in there...."

I take pleasure thinking about those girls later getting scalded themselves.

Anyway, back to the race. We all get through our night runs like so:

And the sun starts to come up and yep...still running!

Who came up with this idea again?

And I failed to come back to the fact that, as I mentioned, one of my teammates is a highschool principal. And his school is an alternative school, where kids that get into trouble go. So while we are dealing with all our other situations, and keeping up with runners, and living in  increasingly smelly vans that might not make it through the race, we also hear one half of random phone conversations that go like this:

"Ok, so we'll need to check into what legal action needs to be taken for when someone with that disease spits in a teacher's food...."


"so you're saying the fight started because one boy accidentally walked into the other boy's bathroom stall..."

So that added fun to the rest of our strange days.

And by this point, we've now wound our way back into D.C. so I'm feeling more comfortable because my last leg is actually on a piece of my regular running trail, so at least if I get lost this time -- I can just walk home.

And somewhere around Chevy Chase D.C., we find an exchange that offers pancakes.
That is the extent of possible excitement after this many hours of a race
and more folks tried to catch some sleep

Again, we paid to become this....
And I forgot to mention that another aspect of this was the fact that I was in a van of Tennessee boys. And I've never met funnier people than Tennessee boys, for whatever reason. They just have a way about them and the things they say combined with the accent never fails to make me laugh all the time. And after we take off for yet another exchange point, we pass one of the other racers - a male wearing gold lamé shorts and a superhero sign on his bare chest - and Captain America in my van opens the van door as we roll down the street and yells:

"I like yer britches!"

And the other Tennessee boys in the van are all "Dude, they don't say Britches in these parts! He's gunna have to look that up in the Urban Dictionary...

...or..Rural Dictionary....."

Ha! Anyway, we continue on and we are starting to get to the last few legs of the race, and realize --

we are now completely out of water.

And the worst planned race ever continues.

And I "only" have a 4.4 mile leg left and supposedly there's a water stop during it, so I'll be fine but still. I've been dehydrated before and it's not pleasant. And some of our other runners have longer legs left to do than mine.

And the only other female runner is pregnant. Yep, found out right before the race. Totally fitting, considering all the other things happening here...
So I take it upon myself to go find us all water.

After I asking around if there's any water at the exchange stop we're at and finding nothing, I naturally go to the creepy van offering free candy.

I try to be cute and ask "I don't need candy, but would you possibly have a bottle of water you'd let me have?" *batting eyelashes*

And I get a big fat no.

Jerks. You'll never kidnap people with that attitude!

But I persevere and stalk another van and -jackpot! They were so kind and wouldn't let me just take one little bottle, but gave me an entire jug of water! Aw! I love runners.

So I triumphantly bring my spoils back to our van and we take off yet again. And eventually I start preparing myself for my last leg by laying out my iPhone, headphones, and bottle of water (in case there ISN'T a water stop or I just need more for some reason).

And I get to my exchange point, jump out of the van as it continues on to find parking, and I realize:

that darned bottle of water is still sitting on my seat in the van.

Fine, it's not that crucial.

Then I realize -- I didn't attach my headphone to my iPhone so now I'm music-less.

That needs to be fixed, dang it!

I text FGB Robert who brings me my headphones and I get the "baton" slapped on my wrist and take off.

And by this point on a Saturday, there are a ton of regular runners on this trail so I can only tell if I'm passing Ragnar people if they happen to have the Ragnar symbol on the back of their leg like I did:

And the other normal, non-Ragnar D.C. people out on the trail probably were wondering why I looked so tired and I really wanted to announce to each one that I'd been in a race for over 24 hours already, but I didn't. And the water stop I was depending on -- ended up being poorly placed right at the start of my leg, leaving 4 more miles of me baking in the sun without hydration. Whatever - HOME STRETCH!

We finally drop off our very last runner -- FGB Robert, who has been running like a mad man through each of his legs. And we all race to get to the finish line before him so we can all cross the line as a team. And by this point, we're all hobbling a little, pretty sore, very tired, and we see Robert round the bend and we all gather around and try to join.

But he's still kinda truckin'. So I hear one of my tired teammates yell out a "Easy! Robert. Eeeasy!" and Robert adjusts and we all trot across the finish line and officially become - Ragnarians.

The End.