Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Insight into my Cell Phone Contact List

Periodically, I’ll look for a number in my cell phone and realize there's a ton of old contacts I really should clean up. The numbers represent the randomness in my life, and they are organized in the typical “system” I use whenever I’m writing things down on the run  -- code words. Many of which don’t make any sense later, leaving me with notes like the one currently sitting next to my laptop that starts out “did GW Pkway classic 2003, more clothes donation, after girlz swap, 4 shades”

Yep. Iron clad system, that one. Some of the codes in my phone are legitimate nicknames, some are places I've worked, and some are just whatever description I thought made sense at the time. I did an audit today and posted some of my favorite gems below.  Enjoy.

Dana's Contacts
"K9 Dan Ackerman" (took me a really long time to remember what this was. K9 cop? The guy’s a dog? Turns out, he was leading an animal rescue charity event I helped with…)

Amy Yack’s friend (this is only funny to me because A. I don’t know an “Amy Yack” and 2. I sure don’t remember meeting her friend)

Andrea OSC (OSC stands for the President’s Oil Spill Commission. Andrea Oil Spill Commission - I think that has a nice ring to it, really.)

Café Asia (Ok, I really love sushi)

“helpdesk” and “helpdesk guy” – yes , I have both.

 “Bruce the Catholic”

“Caitlin Loose Cannon”

A number that simply says “Call” (I'm scared to actually do that though. No clue.)

“Lebanese Taverna” (Ok, I really love Lebanese food)

“David Christmas Party”

The number for Bill Clinton’s personal aide

Simply the word “Crack”

“Capital Rowing Club Kyle”

"Dominos" (Seriously? How big is that fat kid inside me?!)

“don’t answer” (assuming that was a boy)

“Driver Kurt”

“Driver Mike” (I wish I was Mr. Big from Sex and the City and these were my actual town car drivers, but no. These were volunteers driving me around when I campaigned for MittRomney here. )

The number for a Kinkos in New Orleans

“Room 317” in the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters

“Kevin Football”

The main line for the United States Secret Service

“Marie Iceland”

“Marie Iraq”

“Jim Bible Study”

The number for a former cast member of Les Mis



“Republican National Convention girl”

“Joel Salsa Young Republcian” (as explained here)

“Hotel Security”

“Sign Language Ilana”

“Stenographer for Oct 13”

Random music studio in West Virginia

“Washington Plaza Beverly” (now it just sounds like I’m meeting women in hotels)

And finally -

“Joel ?”

(Hopefully after tonight's New Year's Eve party, I'll be adding something to the effect of "New Year's Sugar Daddy" or "Adam Levine who just happened to be at my New Year's party"....we'll see.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

A DC Dana Year in Review

I've been discussing Christmas letters with various friends and how social media is the ultimate year-around Christmas letter: everyone posts only positive updates about their life to subtly brag to everyone else.

My friends and I were in downward-spiral-into-oblivion moods, and one of them joked about how he wanted to reply to a particularly braggy email with:

This year, I:
Broke up with my girlfriend
Spent a lot of money to deal with that by buying unnecessary electronics
Worked in a job that I wasn't too happy with
Prepared myself for a Holiday Season alone

Ha! Now that would make a great honest Christmas letter.

I told him I was trying to figure out how to do my own year in review without sounding like a smug d-bag, but in the end- we both decided that's not possible for anyone.

I'ma do one anyway. Merry Christmas!

I will, however, try to sprinkle in some less-than-positive and/or embarrassing moments for balance though. And I'll include a photo of Chloe in Christmas attire at the end as an added prize.

Dana's 2013
This year, I:
  • Finished my Master's degree (cue angelic choir, or the George Michael song Freedom...) 
  • Traveled to Iraq and kept it from my poor mother until the day before
  • Got selected to become a Naval Officer and kept it from my poor mother until the day after
  • Discovered I don't fit in Japan

Only one of those races had obstacles, one had glow sticks, and none had mud. Sign of maturity? I think so.

    • Got completely naked in a public bath more than once (there are NO photos of this, don't get scared)
    • Was a bridesmaid (again)
    • Started blogging for the Red Cross
    • Signed up to be a communications "boot camp instructor" (because I have so much free time and because I'm so great at public speaking - if great means hives continually creep up my neck and the fact that I forget to exhale.)
    • Ate turtle for the first time
    • Ate locust for the first time

    • Ate potentially lethal blowfish...twice. (I really like eating, guys)

    • Attended one moon bounce party (>1 from last year- concerning...)

    • Accidentally wore a wedding dress to a formal event (I just thought it was pretty. I didn't realize white should've probably been avoided)


    • Attended my 5th (?) Toby Keith concert (I really like rednecks, guys)

    • Got orthotics. (Yep, 30's rule.)
    • Tried two and a half new diets (The half was a day-long juice fast. It counts.)
    • Met Marion Barry: 
    It just makes me laugh, sorry. 

    • And drank approximately 731 cups of coffee
    I did not squeeze in a season of rowing crew, or enough indoor climbing or hiking, and this year was a slow one for dating disasters, so I'm hoping to pick all that up again in 2014. 

    And, as promised, here's Chloe being forced to be festive. (It should be noted that I made her exit a storage bin under my bed first, so she was already annoyed:)

    "Dear Lord, please forgive me for what I'm about to do to my human...."
    Festive holiday "scarf" wins. 

    Merry Christmas, everyone!

    Monday, December 16, 2013

    More Holiday Party Madness

    This past weekend held more holiday parties, one of which I sort of accidentally crashed last year:

    "The Best Christmas Party Ever"

    (That's actually the title. They go big.)

    This party is thrown by some people who attend my church and they typically have 300+ guests and rent out a Civil War Naval Hospital as the venue.

    Only in D.C.

    Last year, this event showed up on my Facebook somehow but I couldn't tell how I got invited. So I asked two of my other friends who might know the hosts and they said they saw it too. So we decided to go.

    We get ourselves together, head to the party, and realize -there is a line to get in. Are we at a Christmas party, or a Jay Z concert?

    So we stand there, freezing, chatting away, eyeing the tray of cupcakes our friend C is holding as our gift offering for the hosts, and we start to hear murmurings through the crowd that they may not even be letting people in anymore.

    Then we move up closer to the door where a guy is checking names. And we start to confirm with each other:

    "Did one of you send me the invite to this?"
    "Not me, I don't actually know who sent me the invite..."
    "I didn't recognize any of the hosts..."
    "I wasn't on the invite, someone just told me about it...."

    This is not good.

    Finally it's our turn to stand before the gate keeper and he literally says - in our faces - something about how they are at capacity and how annoying it is that people kept passing out invitations for this thing.

    Heh...heh.... yeah...some people...

    We shuffle around uncomfortably and C grips those cupcakes as justification for our presence like she's Baby from Dirty Dancing:

    I Carried A Watermelon.
    We finally gain entrance.

    Phew! We won't freeze to death on the steps of hospital - hooray!

    We enter a world completely packed wall to wall with humans in cocktail attire, military dress uniforms, and festive props.

    This party is intense. But the rest of the evening is your typical fun night of meeting new people, photo booth picture taking, and dancing our shoes off. Literally.

    And it's all fairly uneventful until right before we leave.

    We are standing in one of the many rooms when a guy comes around with a big tray of desserts. And we dive in, still laughing about the fact that we probably don't really belong here, and we learn that:

    he's one of the hosts.

    In fact, I think he might've been the same guy who was checking names off grumpily at the door earlier.

    And he loves us.

    We charm him for several minutes until he finally asks "who invited you guys? I need to thank them!"

    Ha! We've come full circle from this guy nearly keeping us out, to him giving thanks we got in. (To this day, I still don't fully know who actually did invite us all.)

    This year, we actually had legitimate invites -- mostly because I just went to Iraq with one of the hosts (the things you have to do to get into this party...)

    There were no real shenanigans to report this year, though I'll leave you with some of our photo booth shots to enjoy. [A. I definitely grabbed a sign off the table that inexplicably just said "Birthday Boy -->" which I of course held over a girl's head because why is there a sign for that? (it reminded me of the one time I actually attended a WWE event and instead of watching the wrestlers, I was fascinated by the crowd filled with signs that made no sense or had anything to do with wrestling, like "Ceiling- UP" or "I farted"...) B. We definitely photobombed another group and they won't realize that until the pictures come back. Which probably means we'll be back off the list for this party again next year...]

    Sunday, December 8, 2013

    The Giggle Loop

    There's an old British comedy called Coupling that was hilarious, and in one episode, they discuss "the giggle loop." The giggle loop is basically the phenomenon that occurs when you are some place where you shouldn't be making noise, but then something makes you want to laugh. Then thinking "how embarrassing would that have been had I laughed here?" causes you to want to laugh more. And it keeps building until you burst. It used to happen to me and my sister a lot during church, growing up. And it happened to me a couple weeks ago in: Pilates Class.

    The Giggle Loop:


    Actually, this happens fairly frequently with me, truth be told. Like when I'm getting X-rays at the dentist and that cardboard thing they shove back into your mouth makes me gag uncontrollably, so the hygienist keeps patiently having to take it out, then replace it again -- only for me to immediately gag while staring blankly right in her face, making her remove it once again and start the whole process over. The whole thing makes me laugh, which only exacerbates the problem, which makes me want to laugh even more.

    Or when, during every. single. doctor's exam. (and most massages), they hit a ticklish spot and I start giggling so hard I can't breath, which makes them laugh, which makes me laugh harder.

    It's all one big cycle. Or, loop, if you will.

    And usually it's a silent laugh, and I have to go through it helplessly - often for a while - before anyone around me even notices I'm incapacitated. It's even worse, because I'll sit there knowing that eventually I'm going to have to inhale - thus creating a loud and disturbing sound - or, I'll have to violently release whatever beverage inconveniently happens to be in my mouth at the time.

    I've definitely lost a battle or two to The Loop.

    So - Pilates class. I've been going to classes for Pilates Reformer. The Reformer is this thing that looks like a torture device that you can do all sorts of stretching and strength training on, like so:


    You often look ridiculous doing it, and often bang into the person next you (or maybe that's just me), but I enjoy the classes, nonetheless.

    But because my schedule is crazy, I'm often rushing to get to class (I've been known to change into workout clothes everywhere from the driver's seat of my own car, to the bathroom of a Mr. Tire shop while my oil was changed. I may not be classy, but you can't say I'm not determined.) The last time I went, I was rushing to change in the co-ed bathroom at the Pilates studio. As I open the door, I realize the handle's wet, which grosses me out. I try to ignore it and begin quickly undressing anyway, then something takes over and I just can't not wash my hands, thinking about that handle. So I stop mid-clothing change, and go to the sink.

    Then I hear what I think is someone trying to open the door to the bathroom. And I'm half naked, inexplicably standing at the sink.

    And I uncontrollably let out a very loud stepped-on-puppy type of yelp.

    Then immediately start giggling at the noise I just made and how ridiculous my whole situation is.

    Thankfully, no one walked in on me. In fact, I'm not even sure the noise I heard was someone trying to come in. And who knows who actually heard me? It's even more embarrassing if the entire class of strangers all heard me yelping alone when no one was actually trying to open the door. I try to stop giggling, finish dressing, and grab the last Reformer in the row. I start doing whatever motion the class is already in the middle of doing, and I keep suppressing laughter.

    And that's when I realize my Reformer has a slight issue. See, there are springs attached at the bottom that you take on and off to add resistance, and apparently one of those springs needed oiling or something, because every single time I push out, that contraption sounded similar to this:

    Every. Single. Time.

    Great. So I'm already late, I've made an unexplained terrified dog sound from the bathroom, and now my reformer is making noises.

    Then we move onto an exercise using The Ring.

    I forgot to mention that not only do you have the torture device, but there are accessories as well. At different points during the workout, you pluck various items from your personal cubby space along the wall. There are different sized resistance balls, some kind of wooden stick that I still don't know what it's used for (and may never want to find out), a ring you squeeze, and a big black box you can lay on for certain exercises.

    My ring squeaked, you guys. I can't even make this up.

    So now, not only do I have the spring making "boing" sounds, but every time I squeeze that ring during the workout, it makes a squeaky noise. Kind of like a chew toy, but a lower pitch. Just a faint little "you are squeezing me and I don't enjoy it" type sound.

    No one else's equipment is making any protest noises. And I can't take it anymore.

    As we are laying there, repeatedly pushing our reformer things back and forth, I keep thinking of my bathroom panic, the boing, and the squeak - and I have to choke back laughter. Then I have to choke back more laughter, thinking how funny it is that I'm choking back laughter.

    The Giggle Loop is upon me.

    At one point we are told to lay on our sides while we continue to push back and forth -and my shoulders start to shake. Now I'm wondering what the person behind me is thinking. Probably that I'm crying during the workout.

    Oh dear. That's funny too. I may explode. And then not only will everyone in class wonder what's wrong with me, but I could actually injure myself. If I explode mid-exercise, I'll render my muscles useless and likely slam myself back to the starting position on this contraption - wounded - which is also funny and then I'll laugh even harder and it may never end!

    I may die here in a circle of uncontrollable laughter.

    I force myself to pull it together, and we thankfully move onto another accessory which distracts me for a bit. We get - the box.

    We're told to lay stomach-down, palms out flat on the box, which is now on the slide-y part of the contraption. And we have to push this thing up and down with our legs and abs. And it's hard, and I start to sweat. And by the time we are to put the boxes back against the wall, I look down and see a sweat trail in the shape of my hands sliding down the box. It looks like the back car window of the racy scene in Titanic.

    And that too, is funny.

    I have to push down the Loop yet again.

    Miraculously, in the end, I actually made it through the whole class without  losing my battle with the Loop. This time. But I know it won't be the last battle.

    And unfortunately, each one of you reading this are now also a part of The Giggle Loop.

    For that I am sorry.

    Stay strong, my friends.

    Monday, December 2, 2013

    CPAC - The Christmas Party Action Committee

    (updated from original post in 2011)

    Everything in D.C. is in acronyms.

    Some are hideously long, like the OSLGCP (Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness at the Department of Homeland Security) or "Slug Cup" as people say it out.

    Some are funny, like one program that my friend worked with in the State Department that sounded like "wedgie" when you said it aloud. She kept fighting laughter in meetings whenever anyone would have to refer to it.

    But you can't deny, acronyms are useful. It's easy to string several together and form whole sentences using very few actual words. "Did you get the MOU for CTSI to the S1 regarding EIS yet?" We do it without realizing.

    So, when my friends a few years ago started feeling the familiar overwhelming urge to attend every single Christmas reception in D.C., we formed:

    CPAC. (Christmas Party Action Committee)

    There were four of us in the original CPAC, all in different jobs so we got on different "lists." Then we could trade Party invites like baseball cards. "I've got a Mitt Romney fundraiser if you have a Chamber of Commerce reception!" "American Manufacturing Association for a Newseum party?" "DHS staffer's Ugly Christmas Sweater Party for that Festivus party of that guy you used to date!"

    And because D.C. is all about networking and events, there are lists that come out that show when and where different companies or lobbying firm are having their parties. So me and my fellow CPAC member Rebekah have been known to even crash some of those parties just to see if we can. (and also, back in the day, we'd likely crash things just to score free food. Because when you first live in D.C., you don't make enough to pay the crazy rent AND eat. So there are throngs of young adults, likely working for Congressman and powerful officials, surviving solely on free reception food and Ramen noodles. Glamorous, right?)

    But it's really amazing what you can get into just by acting like you belong there. Some of these holiday parties are open, but we've definitely attended some that weren't.

    Which actually isn't new for Rebekah and I. We both have busy schedules but the thrill of getting into something new is too much for us to ignore. It's a challenge. And always makes for good stories. So even if we are already attending something else, if we see something "roped off" -- it must be ours.
    Once, while out with friends on a Saturday night in Adams Morgan, D.C., we heard a house party going on down one of the side streets and decided to see how successful we could be at just crashing it. We ended up finding out the host's name was "John" and effectively bounced around from group to group acting like "oh yeah, JOHN! What a character!" ....until we accidentally met John himself.

    Rule number one - don't blow your own cover.

    Another time, when me, Rebekah and our friend Shannon happened to be hanging out at the same place a Kickball league was having a year-end party, we notice a bus outside that the league had apparently rented to take them to various places all around the city all night. We acted as though we were on one of the teams and successfully stowed away on the bus all night until we actually became good buddies with the organizers.

    We were laughing it up with them at the front of the bus when they finally let us know that they were on to us but that that they enjoyed us so much we could stay.

    Rule number two - if your cover is blown, just be super friendly.

    Come to think of it, people probably always know we aren't supposed to be there but they humor us anyway because are we so pleased with ourselves for "breaking in" to something.  This past spring in Miami (here), Rebekah and I were with several others in our group of friends at a big dance club in South Beach. And the place was giant and gorgeous and we barely got in because of how popular it was, so we should've just been thankful to be in at all.

    But there was a roped off VIP section in the middle of one of the rooms.

    So of course, instantly, Rebekah gets that gleam in her eyes and she charges in. And one of the bouncers inside kicks her back out since apparently you need a wrist band to be in there.

    Rule number three - find out if there are accessories involved as entry tokens and hide the part of your body on which said accessory should be.

    Rebekah returns to me and our other friend. Then she goes in again - this time, stepping over a chair and over the rope.

    So I can't resist anymore and I do the same.

    And I motion for our other friend, as if I'm some crazy mirage beckoning her like "come oooooon! come jooooooin uuuussss!" as I melt into the "exclusive" crowd inside that roped off area. But our other friend has actual common sense and refused to join. (Some people use logic and restraint. Me and Rebekah, not so much).  And for a second, Rebekah and I are so proud of ourselves, and run around in that area dodging bouncers lest they see our naked wrists. And we realize it's a bacherlorette party and nothing special is actually going on inside that area. People are just dancing and talking like they were in the rest of the club. So we just walk out, realizing that just because something is marked "exclusive" does not necessarily make it any better.

    Of course we'll forget that piece of wisdom the next time we see anything roped off.

    Thus far in D.C. Christmas Party Season, I have a few things on the calendar including a Scottish Parade (I'm not Scottish), a party for alumni of a local Prep School (I'm not an alumnus), and another Tacky Sweater Party (sadly, without a bounce house though), among others. But someone already sent me a list of of
    networking events around the city so we'll see what else Rebekah and I can break into 
    attend. I'll let you know.

    Wednesday, November 27, 2013

    Top Ten Ways I Will Have Culture Shock In Tennessee Over Thanksgiving

    I wrote this a couple years and it still rings true. Happy Thanksgiving, Internets! (with an s, because lots of things in the south have an additional "s". Like "The Walmarts.")

    Top Ten Ways I Will Have Culture Shock In Tennessee Over Thanksgiving

    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.

    Sunday, November 24, 2013

    The Downward Spiral into Oblivion

    About a year ago, me, my friend Gina, and The Other Goldfish Poodle were all sitting around in a quaint little restaurant in West Virginia, when the topic of conversation shifted to - turning 30.

    What proceeded out of my and Rod's mouths was nothing short of frantic vitriol being spat into Gina's face about how she should just stay in her 20's if at all possible because once you cross that threshold (and here's where one of my favorite Rod quotes is uttered) you enter a "downward spiral into oblivion."

    Here's the thing. Rod and I LOVED our 20's. Being Goldfish Poodles, everything was so shiny and new and exciting. And everything felt like an accomplishment. Mom, I got a job! Mom, I have my own apartment! Mom, I decided not to eat the inside part of Oreo cookies for breakfast each day even though I totally can. 

    I started worrying that nothing I did would ever be seen as an accomplishment again, because I assumed that once you are in your 30's, people just expected everything. Of course you should have degrees. Of course you should've been promoted by now. Of course you should be able to keep a house plant alive....

    Rod had similar fears. He felt like his major accomplishments all revolved directly around age. He won honors and held leadership positions for things that you age out of. He was always the youngest to do this or that, so he too feared that his best days were left in his 20's. Our best days were still somewhere using plastic crates as furniture and wearing Forever 21 outfits to the office. (Ok maybe that was just me. ...and maybe I still occasionally shop at Forever 21...but you get the point.)

    And before you start judging us: yes, he and I both knew we were being uber dramatic and First World Problem-y.  But it was fun to commiserate and there really was some tiny level of apprehension around our 30s. (Tiny level of apprehension meaning - I literally woke up panicking in the middle of the night more than once during my 29th year. I should switch to decaf and get a life, I know, I know.)

    Oh! oh! And the other thing! For females, I feel like this whole getting older thing is even more pressure-filled because we have those baby-producing expiration dates and all that. And we are bombarded with stories of men who only want "younger models" etc. I just felt like my "value" for marriage was decreasing like a car. A really fun sporty car that splashed through mud, but still. And yes, I know I could've just settled down with someone in order to check off the whole Marriage box if I really wanted to, but I physically can't stay with someone just to check a box. I actually really need to love the dude. UGH. ANNOYING.

    Anyway, Gina is laughing in our faces by this point while Rod and I are nearly making stoic suicide pacts over our chicken salad. At some point, Gina suggests that maybe Rod and I are climbing ladders of "success" based on wrong assumptions. That maybe we haven't reached the top of the ladders of our potentials, like we feared, but that we actually just need to find a new wall to lean the ladder on.

    Ok, I explained that really poorly so if anyone reading this has a psychology degree, maybe you can help elaborate.

    Regardless, it helped. Sort of. Rod and I pondered the possibility of New Walls and in the end, he ended up making a very personal/potentially career altering announcement in a very public forum, and me?


    Well, I'm on my way to joining, anyway.(!!!!) A couple things need to take place first, but I was selected for something in the Navy Reserve.

    And yes, I'm absolutely going to yell "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!" every time I put on the uniform. I know that movie was about Marines, but yelling "MY EGO IS WRITING CHECKS MY BODY CAN'T CASH!" is not as rewarding...

    So -YES! That is the thing I've been keeping from you (...and also my mother). The thing I went after like a spider monkey. The thing that had me running around the Pentagon frantically.

    It's such a long story as to how I arrived at this goal, but I'm just thanking the Lord for the journey because it's been amazing on many different levels. I'm sure I'll have more to share (just imagine the embarrassing possibilities awaiting me in a world filled with physical fitness tests, uniforms, and weaponry...). But you know why I was selected? Because I had years of experience behind me.

    AKA -- I likely wouldn't have had the slightest chance at this if I were still a fresh little 22 year old. Take that, Past Dana! With your wrinkle-free face!

    So, OK, fine. Maybe there are a lot more things to be done even after your 20's. Maybe there are higher walls that I didn't even realize existed when everything seemed so new and shiny and I still felt cute and naive enough to get away with anything.

    I'm now trying to look at 30's more the way Olivia Wilde talked about them in Glamour (yes, I just quoted a Hollywood actress and referenced a fashion magazine. I may be joining the U.S. Military, but I am not turning in my Superficial Girl card, child please.) - "Saturn has now orbited the sun once since you've been alive; make this next go-round whatever you want it to be. Consider your baggage (bad boyfriends, job setbacks, body issues) lost by the airline of life, leaving you empty-handed at your new destination with only one choice: Go shopping."

    I think I'll do just that, Olivia. Uniform shopping. (...and maybe some new stilletos...) 

    Monday, November 18, 2013

    The Deflate Escape

    I just discovered the What would I say site, which pulls random pieces of text from your Facebook page and combines them into ridiculous sentences like:

    I can't resist a snow monkeys to do



    ; we had fun I shot Dog owner sitting behind this, they towed from a massueuse so I suppose I couldn't find my nephew.


    It's almost like playing Mad Libs, or reading the script to a Bad Lip Reading episode.

    One of the phrases it pulled up for me was “Deflate Escape.”

    Ah, the Deflate Escape. Let me explain.

    Like I told you here I met my friend Ryan years ago and we immediately hit it off sense of humor-wise, especially when Ryan started emailing me on a federal account, using my badge photo in the email to make it look like I was saying whatever stupid thing he typed next to it. He used his photo too. Now that I think about it, it might've been the first Facebook Wall pre-Facebook.

    From: Ryan
    To: Dana
    Subject: How non-awesome everyone else is

    (that is not actually Ryan, that is some random dude I found online to protect Ryan's innocence, but you get the gist.)

    We've stayed friends through the years - through ski trips, softball teams, and multiple parties with his former roomates and his awesome wife.  

    I feel like I've never hung out with this group without seeing something completely silly. Fire extinguishers sprayed into hot tubs, holes put into walls from boys fighting while wearing hockey gear. One time, they created a new game where they rode skateboards in the basement while simultaneously jousting each other with swimming pool Fun Noodles.

    Wouldn't you stay friends with these people forever, too?

    The last party I attended was shortly before my trip to Iraq. It was Ryan's annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, and to add to the ridiculousness of everyone wearing crazy tacky clothing, there was also:

    A Bounce House.

    Yes. Like the ones made for children. Not grown adults working in professional jobs in the United States' capital.

    And since this is the same group of people who like to create their own fun with everything, it wasn't enough to just bounce inside of this thing. No -- they had to see if they could break it.

    And thus Deflate Escape was born. As the name implies, the "game" was to throw people into the house then have someone on the outside deflate it, and see how fast all of the people trapped inside could extricate themselves.

    Here's where I feel the need to point out once again that many of these people work, by day, in jobs that support our nation's security. Makes ya'll sleep well at night, doesn't it?

    Since I was about to go to the country where we had just ended a war, Ryan insisted I needed to participate in Deflate Escape as training. You know, in case I got in some type of situation in Iraq where I'd need to free myself from a rapidly collapsing inflatable building. Seemed legitimate.

    What ensued over the next few hours was nothing short of astounding levels of immature mayhem. As soon as the release valve was pulled, people started bouncing off each other, fighting to get to the escape hatch in the ceiling or trying to squish themselves out the front door. From the inside, I just remember giggling a lot and seeing the bottom half of those who successfully reached the hatch before me:

    From the outside, I watched people triumphantly emerge however they could:

    It looked like a big colorful pillow case with giant hamsters fighting inside. I watched one escape episode where the house was still fairly stable and the boys inside shoved someone so hard he flew into the side, which caused the entire thing to immediately break down all lop-sided. And keep in mind, everyone is still dressed in Tacky Christmas Sweaters:

    During the last escape, I'm standing with Ryan's wife on the outside while we hear him inside, yelling something about potentially breaking his back. He starts to attempt an escape out the front door, all while everyone is still jumping inside, which creates the scene where we see Ryan, head first, jostling violently out the front hatch, like some tumultuous birthing process. He's half moaning "I think I'm breaking my neck!" and his wife stands there watching him, shaking her head, and she dead-pans to me:

    "This is a new low for us."

    I love them.

    One day, when we've all fully settled down and spend our days going to PTA meetings, hopefully we'll share these times with our kids to make sure they knew we were awesome.

    ...Then we'll rent bounce houses for the kids and play in them ourselves the rest of the night.

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    That One Time I Tried CrossFit

    You all know how much I enjoy a good physical challenge. I've done Warrior Dash, Run Amuck, Tough Mudder, Muddy Buddy, Ragnar Relay, I've ran a full marathon, I go indoor rock climbing, I rowed crew, I've done kickboxing, worked with kettle bells...I've done pole. fitness. classes. people. (never fear, it was nothing scandalous. I just can't help myself - it's really fun to twirl, you guys.)

    So it only seemed fitting that I also try one of the latest, hottest fitness crazes: CrossFit.

    Aka the sport where "you workout one hour, then spend the next 23 hours talking about it..." (to quote my friend Zak.)
    So yeah, that's one of the reasons why I hadn't tried it before. It has the reputation of being "cult-like," and all-consuming. The other reason I wasn't jumping to try it? Injuries.

    When I hear "CrossFit," I instantly flash to the graphic images a friend posted on Facebook of his blown Achilles after CrossFit. Then I think of my coworker coming to work in a sling because CrossFit had snapped his shoulder out of socket...

    So when my friend Adam suggested I join him for a class, I was hesitant. I decide to try it, then immediately get an email from a friend that starts with: "Ok, I'm not saying 'don't do crossfit'....."
    She went on to warn me someone she knew nearly died from something called rhabdomyolysis... ...from a CrossFit injury.
    *Face Palm*

    I head to class anyway, and learn - it's held inside an MMA gym. So not only am I joining the CrossFit cult, but I have to push past blood-thirsty fighters waiting to jump in their ring before I even get to the workout room.

    (the smell alone in the MMA part should've been enough to make me turn right around and go home, but alas, I persevered...)

    We get to our room - and it's packed. Heavy metal music blaring, bodies all over the room intermingled with equipment I've never seen before, people yelling encouragement to others pumping some of the biggest weights I've ever seen. There are two pregnant women here. Everyone does seem a little obsessed. Dear goodness. This is a cult.

    I'm thinking how thankful I am to be here with a friend and not alone -- then we get split up right off the bat. GAH! THIS IS HOW THEY GET YOU. They are separating me from my herd...

    They put me with three other ladies who are also new. Everyone walks over to barbell racks where we are to get up under a barbell, do one rep of shoulder presses, then put the barbell back on the rack. And we keep doing that, increasing the weight, until we "fail," meaning we literally can't push it all the way up and lock our arms anymore.

    And we are all scrunched up like sardines since there are so many people. My group gets positioned next to -The Boys. And The Boys are raising barbells with giant weights on the end - and they are struggling. It looked something like this:


    Except I never saw someone actually crumple to the ground, but I definitely did see them violently shaking at the top of their extension before throwing the giant barbell down. I started practically running in scared circles trying to make sure I didn't end up underneath them.

    But then I discover I'm able to lift more weight than half my group, and I immediately start feeling competitive. I hear myself beg my instructor to allow time for me to try  just one more rep with heavier weights.
    Oh my gosh. They don't even have to bite my neck, I'm willingly turning myself into a CrossFit vampire not 10 minutes into class...what is wrong with me?! Do they pump Addiction through the air vents here? No wonder people push themselves so hard they get injured all the time...
    We moved onto the "WOD" (Workout of the Day- cult speak, clearly. I bet I'd get a tear-stain tattoo on my cheek if I ever complete one successfully. Or at least some kind of honor patch on the back brace I'd inevitably end up in...). It was called "Fran," and I've gotten about three different explanations for why WODs are named after people, so I'm just going to believe that they are named after people who died attempting them.

    During the WOD, my group ends up practically laying on the floor under the barbell contraption. Rings had been suspended and we were to pull ourselves up using the rings. But because the class is so packed, we end up smooshed against some of The Boys again. And one of them started doing some type of pull-up move I've never seen before. It was as if he was doing The Worm in mid air. It looked like this:


    And he was doing that right above us. Like, I totally watched him nearly kick my partner in the face while she was doing ring pull-up things.

    But ... he was fit. And shirtless. And I finally gave up and just blatantly stared at him, analyzing all the body art he had on his torso. (I'm sorry, if you don't want to be unabashedly gawked at, then don't look that good shirtless. The rule is simple.)
    And at that mesmerizing moment, I may have been close to becoming a CrossFit convert....
    ...but then it was my turn to lay on the floor and attempt to pull myself up on those stupid rings and I snapped out of it.

    I started by foolishly asking the instructor about "proper form" for these pull ups - HA! I'm surprised he didn't laugh right in my face, because he knew what was about to happen. By my third rep, I was doing any kind of motion I could to get my body anywhere near "off" the floor.. This is how it's supposed to look:

    This is more like how mine started to look:

    You know how children who don't want to move will just go limp and you try to pull them up off the floor but their heads just lay there in an awkward angle while you tug at their arms from above? That's pretty much what "form" I had at the end holding on to those rings.

    At some point, my contact lens slipped off my eye during the last rep. Even my eyeballs were working in this class. I had to walk back out past the MMA testosterone ring again to get to the ladies room to fix it, and that's when I realized

    -I could no longer straighten my arms. I was walking like a T-Rex and I couldn't control it.

    ...I won't be joining a CrossFit gym anytime soon.

    I mean, I'm glad I "get" the culture a little bit now, and I did enjoy it, but I think if I decide to join a fitness cult, I'll look for one who's members are just really devoted to time in the steam room, or the juice bar. A Spa cult, really. Until I find one of those, I'll stick to my running.

    (just teasing, CrossFitters! Please don't kill me. Because I know you can with your bare hands...)

    Monday, November 4, 2013

    Pearls and Muscle Cars

    I spent the first 13 years of my life growing up literally in the middle of an orchard in eastern Washington State. I was around nature worshippers, migrant workers, and Germans who wore lederhosen in the Bavarian sister city Leavenworth, a couple miles from my house. 

    My family moved to eastern Tennessee when I started high school and they remain there to this day. There, I was around guys similar to the Duck Dynasty boys or something out of Varsity Blues. Whereas some of the girls went on to be college cheerleaders, models and debutantes. I'd say overall, we were more red-neck than Southern Belle, but there was a bit of both.

    And now I've lived in DC for the last 10+ years, where the currency is power and connections, and everyone drives a Mercedes, Audi, or BMW and likely has a career in government/politics. 

    I'm a hybrid of all three places now. 

    Being in DC, particularly in the Republican circles, means I'm often around what my friend R and I refer to as: Pearls.

    A Pearl: A girl with perfectly coifed hair, preppy clothes, and a constant string of pearls. You can't walk around Capitol Hill or the White House without running into a quintessential Pearl. They know which fork to use at dinner, and they would never do something like Tough Mudder for fun.

    Nothing's wrong with being a Pearl, some are very nice, and occasionally I play the part of a Pearl myself. And you can look and act like a Pearl, but still have...edges. It's the real Pearls that don't appear to have edges, that I have a feeling might be secretly horrified by many things about me, such as the fact that:

    -I like dirt
    -I sang in a rock and roll cover band
    -I shoot guns
    -I like Muscle Cars

    I also really enjoy irreverent humor, sarcasm, and I flaunt my embarrassing moments like some people flaunt Ivy League degrees (because, come on, wouldn't you rather hear about someone splitting their pants open than hear about someone's Ph.D from Yale?...)

    And I also find it fun to display the Washington Hippie or Tennessee Redneck sides of myself in doses, along with the more-formal Pearl side. Which can backfire or be hilarious -like the time I showed up to a fancy Department of Homeland Security event and had my car valeted in front of the nice hotel where it was being held. My car? A Mustang. As I was standing around with former political officials, one of them spotted the car off to the side and blurts out in disbelief "who brought the muscle car?!?"

    When I proudly informed him it was mine, we both giggled for awhile.

    Life doesn't have to be so serious, you guys.

    Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I attended a recruitment event for The Junior League. And it was in Georgetown, (AKA the preppiest part of D.C.) which made me feel like I probably needed to channel my inner-Pearl. 

    I brought reinforcements.

    My friend Cherilyn is also from the south and also assumed we should lean debutant-esque for the day. And as she gets in my car, she's on the phone with another friend and laughingly explains that, she's now "sitting in a Mustang...in pearls." and we both giggle picturing ourselves pulling up to the Junior League in this car.

    We arrive at the event, and at one point I glance over and notice not one, but two Louis Vuitton bags down the row I'm standing in:

    Ah, Georgetown...

    Cherilyn and I start walking around and looking at the building, and we glance out the front window and see the Juicy Couture store across the street. Cherilyn jokes that she bets no one in this room shops at Juicy -

    "well, except you..." she clarifies, since I had just exclaimed that I wanted to stop in there for perfume on the way home....

    We start giggling and feeling out of place again. 

    But things turned around and we met a lot of lovely, nice ladies at the event. We even met one girl we instantly clicked with because -- 

    she had edges.

    She irreverently informed us of how she accidentally ended up with her husband:

    "Well, I first met him in a bar. I thought he was married, he thought I was white...."

    She also immediately blurted out that she thought we were going to a strip club when we mentioned "Frozen Hot Chocolate" (as in, the dessert we planned to consume at Serendipity after this event.)

    We love her.

    We eventually leave and continue our Debutante Day in Georgetown by strolling in a paper store. Yet, instead of fancy, calligraphied note cards that a self-respecting Pearl would send out to thank someone for attending her political fundraising gala, we end up with?

    A package of pop rocks and a Star Wars thumb-wrestling kit.

    We are sucking at being Pearls right now.

    Later, as we were strolling by the pub where JFK proposed to Jackie (The Pearl), I realize I'm outside an iconic Georgetown establishment, wearing appropriate attire, but holding Pop Rocks and a Juicy Couture bag. I feel like this is the perfect diagram of my personal life in D.C.:

    One part Pearl; nine parts Hot Mess.

    We jump back in my Mustang and head back home to take off our lady dresses and get in sweat pants. I love playing Georgetown for a time, but then I need to go makeup-less and laugh until I snort unattractively at something. 

    As we ended our day, we crossed the bridge leading out of Georgetown and came across an accident where two cars had hit each other.

    ...They were both BMWs.