Sunday, June 30, 2013

Still Wondering What To Be When I Grow Up

I'm going to re-post yet another old post because it once again accurately describes my current life.
I mentioned that I've decided I want to get back into disaster work somehow. But I didn't mention that I also have an interest in doing something pertaining to: international travel, homeland security, defense, and/or being a roadie for the Foo Fighters.

Okay that last part is false. Actually, no it's not, that would be awesome.

Anyway, I'm once again looking for "what's next" as far as work projects go so I'm once again canvassing my networks for opportunities. But it's hard to explain what I want to do since my interests are, like me: all over the place. 

Here's to hoping for a job where I travel internationally with a band while simultaneously fighting terrorists....

(Originally Posted Thursday, August 4, 2011)

Resume Ramblings

In my line of work, you work on projects. They can be for one day or for many years. But whenever they end, you have to find another one. I'm currently on the market for my next one and my philosophy is, Go Big Or Go Home, so instead of just sticking to my "team" within our company - I've reached across ALL the teams in our company. Just to see what might be available. I mean, maybe I'm actually really gifted at Rocket Science and just haven't had an opportunity to test that out, ya know?

So of course this casting-the-net-wide approach to finding a project has returned some interesting responses and I had to start laughing after one too many replies asking "do you know how to do this?" "do you have experience in this?" "how 'bout this?" I told my coworker that I expected to start getting emails like "how about underwater basket weaving?” "dental hygienist?" "used car sales?" And my answer is always "not specifically, but I’m willing to try..."

It reminded me of a story an old friend told me about her time as an Army Mechanic (a profession she thoughtlessly chose after she "came off a three month bender"). When I asked her if she knew what she was doing as a mechanic, she said "Nope. You just hammered it 'til it fit, then painted it to match!"

HA! I feel like I'm trying to do that to myself these days....

Anyway, one man recently looked at my experience and could not stop saying "You have a lot of 'oh crap! Stuff's going down!' expertise!" referring to all the jobs I've had dealing with national disasters. (Incidentally, I was also recently told I should wear Caution Tape around me, but that was referring to my Disastrous Dating life and how it was only fair to warn unsuspecting suitors, so not really work-related, but I digress...)

I thought his description was hilarious. I suppose that's one way to put it. Maybe that should be a bullet point on my resume. "Deals nicely in Oh Crap! environments"

Side note: An acquaintance of mine once had someone give him a resume with a bullet point that said, "Can withstand large amounts of pain for prolonged periods of time." I had to be impressed by that, but wonder - what kind of job was that person LOOKING for that would necessitate that skill??

Anyway, I really hate writing about my experience and tailoring my resume, etc. We have annual assessments at my firm and every year I find myself just wanting to say "I did a bunch of things. Well. The end." I'm horrible at remembering details and I always walk the line of "did I overstate that or understate that?" Like, "Can I call myself Her Majesty of PowerPoint Presentations, or is that a stretch?...."

Usually I understate - and that is not good either. I once had a manager talk through my assessment with me and someone else who was talking better about me than I was. Everything was accurate, but it was worded in a way that even I was impressed. Like, "I did that? Really? I should get a RAISE!"

After the discussion, my manager looked at me and said:

"I had no idea what you've been doing. I was treating you like some old shoe!"

Some. Old. Shoe. Excellent title....

Another Side Note: I once had a client who insisted I ride with him in between meetings on a trip we were on. I had set up the meetings, prepared briefs, etc. I even mapped out directions just in case our local driver needed them. The "title" my client gave me for that trip? SHERPA. Now you might think that's a respectful title given what Sherpa's actually do, but I'm fairly certain he just meant I was the "Briefing Book Lug-Arounder" Sigh.

So I'm now re-tailoring my resume almost daily and struggling to figure out what exactly my real skills are. And what I actually enjoy doing. "Thrives in Chaos" is definitely a skill I have. "Enjoys coordinating a hundred different things simultaneously". "Has a very random network so if you DO need a Rocket Scientist, I know a guy..."

Anyone out there have similar problems? Am I the only one in her 30's who still doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stream of Consciousness

I'm sitting here doing homework and sadly realized how much joy I feel because  the assignment I'm typing is all in different fonts and with little to no proper punctuation and I don't even care. It doesn't matter because I don't have to turn the page in, I just  have to read it on some online sharing tool. But the fact that not having to worry about proper formatting gave me such joy reminded me of a post I wrote two years ago about my need to revolt against structure. 

Additionally, the fact that it was written when we were enduring a Cicada infestation and the fact that we are apparently in one again right now (though I've yet to hear those annoying little things) just confirmed for me that I should repost this. Enjoy: 

(Posted 2011)

Nothing In Particular

I feel like I should post something now, but my head is so clogged with grad school final paper stuff that my brain is mush. And I’m so tired of having to write in an “organized fashion” (insert air quotes ala Chris Farley here) and "actually be interesting" and have a flow in a paper that “makes sense,” that I think I’m going to rebel and just have this post be:

Dana’s Random Stream Of Consciousness!

See below, in no particular order. Or rather, in any order of my choosing. Take THAT logical thought processes!

The sign in the ladies restroom at work says: “This Commode is not designed to accept paper towels.”

Ok - who calls it a "commode"?

And - designed to “Accept”? I’m not giving the “Commode” a tip. Or a compliment... (I’m also not giving it paper towels because THERE IS TOILET PAPER. Who would use a paper towel instead?! Ouch.)

I wanted to take a photo on my phone but realized then I’d be the creepo taking photos inside a bathroom stall.

Maybe tomorrow though.

Did I mention we had an EARTH. QUAKE. In D.C. That ain’t normal. Can I list some of the 47.5 Not Normal things I’ve encountered since living here?
-terrorist attacks
-the D.C. Sniper
-a hurricane
-the worst winter D.C. has ever seen
-the highest temperatures D.C. has ever seen
-the worst earthquake D.C. has ever had.
-a PLAGUE of LOCUSTS! No joke. Well, maybe not a plague, but once every like 17 years we get an infestation of Cicadas. They are very similar to locusts and attach themselves to EVERYTHING (like the back of my skirt in Target. Ahem. I only knew this after a child screamed about it to her mother...) and they sound like crickets BUT WITHOUT A BREAK IN NOISE. They were here for like two weeks. I'm sure people went deaf.

And now we have a hurricane supposedly coming this weekend. I seriously can't keep up anymore.

I recently met a man who gave me his business card. It was all black and on the back it just said:
Get it.
I’m now considering doing something similar but putting better instructions. Like:
Buy her gifts.
I’m still working on it...

My coworker and I are awaiting badges for my new project site so we are left at the mercy of others to escort us for everything from letting us upstairs in the morning to letting us use the restroom (where the toilets won’t accept paper towels, no matter how nicely you offer). Today, when she and I came back after having the AUDICITY to get lunch, we couldn’t get anyone to escort us. We finally saw a random guy we recognized, but didn’t know by name, about to get in the elevator. To which we BOTH simultanesouly began yelling “OOOH! OOOH!” like kids trying not to be last picked for dodge ball. Pathetic. When we filed in sheepishly behind him, the guy asked what days we came in during the week...so he could work from home those days.

I’m really considering using this “numbering” system in my every day life. Just to keep folks on their toes.

I'll sign off now and prepare for the impending hurricane. I can't keep up with all the protection measures we need around here anymore so I fear my brain will do something similar this weekend that my friend Steve's did when he accidentally caught his sleeve on fire at a party and tried to remember the mantra "Stop, Drop, and Roll".


He could only remember "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"

Wish me luck, Internet....

(And as a bonus to the post above, here's an update regarding me and hurricanes. We had another one last year, in 2012, Sandy - you may have heard of her. Thankfully my area was completely fine, but leading up to it, I was preparing for the worst. Well, sort of preparing. Below is my Facebook post right before she hit:

This is where the flashlights are supposed to be. This is what every shelf  within 100 miles of DC looks like right now. I raced two guys from a CVS to a RadioShack and still had to settle for a Star Wars light saber. I wish I was kidding... 

Yep. Stiiiill haven't gotten that whole preparedness thing down after alllll the disasters I've been through. Go figure. 

And with that, I'll end my Stream of Consciousness, and....my consciousness in general. Good night, Internet! ZZZzzzzz.........

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Playing the Victim...Literally

I've decided I want to get back into the disaster management world in some way (see my Hurricane Katrina life HERE and my uncanny knack of ending up near disasters of all kind HERE and really across this whole blog.) It may be as a volunteer or it may be a project at work, but dang it - I am an adrenaline junkie/disaster chaser! (which is the description a Red Cross staffer used last week when he was describing to me the typical personality of people he works with.)

So then I get an email at work that there is a simulation (something like this) taking place in the near future where first-responders need "victims" to practice with.

So I volunteered to play one of those victims.

Now, granted, this may be a really silly idea given the fact that I have to get up at an ungodly hour on a Saturday and am only getting paid with lunch. However, I'm looking at this as a way to experience the emergency response world again (since I miss it and I've yet to be contacted by another organization sending people to help with the Oklahoma tornado recovery. The answer is yes - I do sit around in my spare time and hunt down new activities. Because no, MOM, I can't just "sit still for once!" I'll DIE.) Plus I'll also get CERT credit (Community Emergency Response Team. I'm supposedly a local member of one but have yet to get direction about anything.) This is also a way to potentially connect with people in that world again, which could open doors, who knows.

Also -- I'll be put in makeup representing gnarly injuries and I'm supposed to act out scenarios. And who doesn't want to start their weekend that way?

The final reason I'm still considering doing this (even after I tried recruiting friends to join me and was met with either "are you crazy?" or blatant silence) is because I know from past experiences that you just never know what butterfly effect, chain of events reaction you set off when you just do something.

People ask me about how I get involved with different things and I want to say you just have to do things. You have to show up. You have to try new things, volunteer to work for free, show up. I've had so many people say they wanted to get involved with something too but when it comes down to setting an alarm or leaving their house, they bail. And then they wistfully talk about "living vicariously" through other people's adventures. You can find your own! They don't have to be extensive, they don't need to take you out of your city or cost anything (although I've found that eventually the need for more adventure does end up taking you out of the city and costing something if you're as addicted as I am. See: every post on this blog about international travel. Ahem.) But seriously, just try something.

It's definitely not all glamorous and you won't like everything you try but if you're open-minded you always learn something. And often make new connections. I sometimes just shake my head in disbelief in looking at chains of events in my life and it makes me want try more new things to see what new strange ways my life expands later because of them. Below is just one example:

-I heard about an all night food serving gig for the people investigating and cleaning up the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks.
-While doing that, I met "P"
-"P" later joined the military and routinely asked me from far away places to show his military friends around DC as they moved here one by one
-(I thus took over P's friends and made them mine *Evil laugh*)
-One of those friends, "T," was in my friend group when I met a new friend "M" and brought her into the group
-T and M are now married
-They have Baby H

Thus -- Baby H would not exist had I not given up a night of sleep to serve food in the parking lot of the Pentagon in 2001.

See what I mean? Mind. Blown.

Ok, yes you could argue that if things are meant to be, they'll happen anyway. But I can't tell you how many ridiculously convoluted lines runs through my life that start with random first-steps and I feel like life just gets richer the more it expands.

PHEW! I did not realize I would go off on such a tangent but short story long -I think I'm doing this weird paint-your- face- act- like- you- have- an -injury -hang -with -strangers thing on an early weekend morning. Because who knows, maybe the course of my life will change because I showed up.

...Or maybe I'll just get free lunch and the knowledge that I started my Saturday 87% more strangely than normal. And that works too.


Monday, June 10, 2013

The “I did it my way” Award

In Japan, a couple of my friends made some poignant assessments of me that stuck in my head.

1. While we were all discussing my knack for strange things to constantly occur in my life, my friend Sean mused something to the effect of,“ it’s like you aren’t compatible….” To which I asked “not compatible with what?” And, in confused amusement, he finally answers “….with….everything…..else.”

Ha! I think that’s pretty accurate, actually.

2. While my friend Rebecca was explaining to her mother the reason why she ended up naked in a public bath that electrocuted her, she began with “well Dana is the kind of person that once she knows something exists, she has to try it….”

Again, pretty dead-on.

3. I can’t even remember what we were discussing but at some point Rebecca joked about me being bull-headed and I proudly announced that I did, in fact, earn a “I Did it My Way” superlative during my semester abroad in college. To which she, without hesitation, agreed, “of course you did.”

And I really did. After nearly four months living in Europe with a group from my University (detailed in the posts starting HERE), we had a little ceremony before heading back to the States where we all were given cute little awards describing traits that were seen in us throughout the semester.  And to my confusion and surprise, mine was called “I did it my way.”

Perhaps it was because my professor was just as bull-headed as me and at times, just as immature, which I pounced on. Perhaps it was my little stubborn stint of “finishing” my homework in order to go to Spain for the weekend (homework written in three different handwriting styles given that my friends sat in the floor and scribbled with me furiously while the cab was on its way to pick us up). Perhaps it was jokes I made, like when the professor left a little snarky note in our living area that said “there is no dish-washing fairy so wash your dishes,” and I later realized the name of the dish soap we had was “Fairy,” leaving me no other choice than to point out that there was, in fact, a dish-washing fairy….

Or perhaps it was because I ended up getting a grade below what I thought I deserved and I fought for so long with that professor about it that she actually hung up on me during our last phone conversation. In any case, after seeing various traits in other people, she saw in me – determination to go my own way.

But regardless of the reason I end up doing things “my way” – be it that I’m just being stubborn or because it just doesn’t occur to me to do things “normally” – I feel like it usually works out. But that can be difficult to explain to other people. Like everyone these days pushing bucket lists and "life coaches."

I feel like I’m constantly being pressured to tell people my “plans.” What do I want to do “next”? What are my “goals”? What’s my personal “development plan”?  I always end up sitting there looking back on how my life has “developed” thus far and the only way to describe it is how most people describe my “not-compatible-with-other-things” life in general: Random.

I ended up in my career because I was tired of being in small towns and my friend told me she spent a semester in D.C. – so I did that. Even though I knew nothing about D.C. or politics or cared. I just went on a whim in order to get to a big city.

I ended up in grad school because my ex-boyfriend wanted his Masters and didn’t want to go alone. So I did it too.

I ended up in a band because I got bored one day and started perusing Craigslist for some kind of creative outlet. Even though I'd never sang in public before outside of church or school choirs. 

I’ve “ended up” in a million different places that turned out great just because a door opened and I happened to be curious. I feel like I trip into things, rather than laying out plans and steps to get there. Like how my friend ended up a helicopter pilot because she fell off an elephant playing polo in Thailand and was air-evac’d to safety, making her think on the ride “huh, I bet I could fly one of these things….”

(I freaking love that story….)

But how do you explain ‘elephant polo accident-like events’ as your only “plan” for figuring out your future? “I’ll know it when I see it” also doesn’t seem to work when serious people ask what your ideal next step is.

So I end up stammering in general terms about wanting to “hone the skills I’ve developed” and “use my experiences to create world peace”...etc. etc. And in the end, I figure I’ll just do it my way, and see what happens. After all, I did win an award for that approach....

Thursday, June 6, 2013

In Honor of National Running Day and my race this weekend

Happy National Running Day (yesterday)! I'll be celebrating this Saturday morning by attempting to get through what will likely be a rainy 10K trail run that - surprise!- I feel under-prepared for. Again. I'll leave you with my account of this race last year. (And Team X.T.R.E.M.E I will try not to get in your way and/or vomit behind you this time. Try not to.).

Monday, June 11, 2012

(From:June 2012)

Running on Inspiration

This past weekend, I ran my fifth Xterra 10k Trail Run in Richmond, VA. I wrote briefly about this race last year here but this year had even more excitement. I didn't find out about part of that excitement until after I finished, when I learned my race partner Sarah had taken a nasty spill, pulled a hamstring, and suffered a deep cut to her knee. 

She still managed to finish before me.

Ahem. But that's ok, because *I* got to finish with these guys:

Those are guys from Team X-T.R.E.M.E., an organization that raises awareness for wounded service members through extreme feats of physical endurance. They always run the Xterra wearing gas masks and often have injured servicemen with them. This year, their pace man in front had lost part of his leg and was running on a prosthesis. So if I had any bit of whining in me about running in the heat early on a Saturday, these guys hushed that right up.

There were several of them this year and as we all lined up at the Start line, Sarah joked that if she passed them during the race, she was pinching their butts.

Turns out, I was the one who ended up running with them. (I guess my pace is what a really in-shape person would run....when their breathing is restricted. Sounds about right.)
Somehow, I got tangled up in their little formation at the beginning and as two of them passed by, breathing like Darth Vader, the third put his hand on my back and gestured for me to get in front of him on the path.

So I pinched his butt.

Ha! No I didn't. I should have, but instead I got all worried that I was in their way so I stammered an "I'm sorry!" and fell in line.

Eventually they all passed me. But I stayed not too far behind and whenever I felt tired, it was nice to look up and see them all. Strong. Consistent. Supportive.



What were we talking about?

Right -- the race. So after I fell behind, I continued along all the obstacles, through rivers, across boulders, etc. without incident until I got to the last bridge about a mile from the finish line. A guy jogged next to me and upon seeing the Team in Training shirt I was wearing, asked me if I was doing a race with them. I told him I had done a marathon with them a couple years ago and we exchanged pleasantries, wished each other luck, and he trotted away.

And I instantly felt nauseous.

Like, stopped me in my tracks, heaving over the side of the bridge nauseous.

That's only happened to me that one other time after I finished my first 1/2 marathon and never during a race. I couldn't believe it. I'd take a few a steps and bend over the railing again. The whole episode lasted so long I'm sure several other runners got to enjoy the sight. I finally felt better and started jogging again and saw the Gas Mask guys up ahead. So I'm thinking how cool it would be to come in right with them.
So I jog faster and do fall in behind them again, settling into their cadence. And it is cool to be near them because everyone along our route starts cheering wildly for what they are doing. Which is inspiring, and helps me get all the way to the finish line. And it's so great to cross the finish line basically with these guys.

So great, that is -

until they get stopped immediately after the line for photo taking and handshaking and what not.

And we are in between ropes.

And I am stuck behind them.

And I get nauseous again....

So in the end, there may be great photos of this awesome team of guys in gas masks --

and a girl behind them losing her Gatoraid.


Finally, a race attendant tells me I can go around them and I find Sarah in time to swap stories and get her knee washed out. And as we are hanging out at First Aid, we get to see Gas Mask boys start doing pullups at their testosterone tent. Because, you know, why wouldn't they have that much energy left after a race that made me vomit? Twice.

Sure made for good inspiration though....

Team member carrying a triple amputee through the tough course. Amazing.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Iraq 7 - Back to Erbil and Happy Newroz

We ended our trip driving back to the capital, Erbil. I chose to ride in the car with one of our hosts rather than with the group in the shuttle and it ended up being one of my favorite memories of the trip. Not just because the host told me more stories, like about how he and his wife met, how they came to find their faith, and about his time in the Peshmerga and how he felt during the Saddam horror years. But also because I got a front row seat to Crazy Kurdish Traffic Patterns.

At one point, I remember listening to Iraqi music blaring, watching a crazy dance of cars in front of us, on a two-lane highway, where cars would take turns swinging out into oncoming traffic to see if there was space enough to pass the guy directly in front of them. Eventually they'd shift and the car that was hanging out on the wrong side would slide back in front of us while the car in front of them would slide out into oncoming traffic. Occasionally one would find an opening just long enough to make the brave little dart around the car in front of them, then they'd slide back where they belonged and the whole dance would start again. Our own car took part in the dance as well and at one point, we were trying to pass a large truck in front of us and kept swinging out to see if there was room, and finally -- I kid you not -- we just passed the dang truck anyway, not waiting for a break in oncoming traffic. The driver just figured the oncoming traffic would part like a river flowing around an unwanted rock and that's exactly what happened. We straddled the middle line and passed that truck while driving into oncoming traffic. On a high. way. not a sleepy back street where we're only going 15 miles an hour. Nah, full on interstate. I just sat in the backseat and laughed.

We met a lady at one point in our trip who said she told her fearful relatives in America that they needn't worry that she would be bombed living there, they only needed to worry -- that she'd perish in a traffic accident.
I so understand that now.

We finally arrived safely back in Erbil where we started this crazy adventure. We visited a local church and helped stuff food bags for the needy. We met all walks of life including some of the refugees out of Syria. Our leader also befriended a deaf man who we all fell in the love with. He had a huge smile and worked so hard alongside us even though it was clear he had other physical ailments besides lack of hearing. It was sad to learn that the disabled population is often ignored and the man didn't really have any way of communicating since sign language wasn't prevalent. The crazy thing was our leader had just been discussing his interest in the deaf community there just a couple days before (he himself knows American Sign Language) and no one he spoke to seemed to know much about that community. And then our leader just ran into this man unexpectedly. And lit up the world of this man when he started signing to him. Even though the man only understand a few words, just the fact that our leader paid attention to him, tried to enter his silent world, made such an impact. It was beautiful and definitely felt like a divine appointment.

The rest of my memories about Erbil pretty much revolve around Newroz.

Newroz celebrates the traditional Iranian New Years. But more than new years, for the Kurds, Newroz also celebrates deliverance from tyranny. The legend of it centers on an ancient tyrant but now it's also a celebration of freedom from Saddam and a celebration for the Kurdish cause in general.

Our hosts had loaned us their own Jili Kurdi (the traditional dress attire I mentioned earlier) for the ladies to wear to a couple different events. And I'll never forget what a moving experience it was to be in Iraq, exactly 10 years after the U.S. invasion, and be singing and dancing next to Kurds celebrating their freedom from Saddam. Incredible.

However, it's not just Kurds who flood the streets in Kurdistan during Newroz. People from neighboring countries and Southern Iraqis (Arabs, rather than Kurds) also come to Kurdistan to party.

And that's when our tough, former Kurdish military host got real nervous about his little herd of Americans.

I personally couldn't tell an Arab man from a Kurdish man except maybe by the way they were dressed, but apparently "southern Iraqis" were everywhere which meant potential danger for us. I did notice quite a bit more interest in us than I'd felt before. And at one point, one person in our group was talking to someone up from Baghdad and they mentioned a couple of us would love to visit to Baghdad, to which the southern Iraqi laughed heartily with a "ha! You'd be shot!"  And they were serious.

Welp, maybe next trip. (Just kidding, parents!)

Back to Newroz. Everyone takes to the "countryside" (aka every square inch of dirt along side any major highway) to picnic and dance the day away. (Below is from when our group joined in a southern Iraqi group dancing in the street. One of our guys decided to "Bernie" his way through the dance, which is why he looks like he's losing consciousness...kids these days....)

The traffic out of the city was again ridiculous and at one point I asked The Boy who was on our trip (the 16-year old fearing kidnapping on our way out to visit orphans) how many lanes of traffic there was supposed to be.

His answer: "three I think?"

then I asked how many there currently were.

His answer: "five I think?"

Which seemed about right. And people were waving flags, blaring music, sitting on top of their cars and loving the fact that we were there with them. Below is just a snippet of the chaos:

Then there are fireworks at night. And people jump over fires. And there was a gigantic party at some park that our host refused to let us attend because it was just too dangerous for us to be there. Which was fine because only men are out at night there (seriously, no women anywhere in sight. It's very strange to walk around and see.) so I personally wouldn't feel welcome -- or would feel too welcome -- and it was nice to watch it on t.v. in the comfort of our host's home. We even went up on their roof to look for fires and fireworks. Although I know each of us stood there imagining what it was like there when those flashes of lights and booms were coming from things much more deadly than fireworks years ago.

But that was then. And now, Kurdistan seems to have great things coming its way.

We left feeling that sense of hope for Kstan and full of love for its people. We made a day-long stopover in Istanbul on our way back to the U.S. and then arrived back in D.C. to disbelief from the customs agents that we'd actually go to Iraq for vacation. ("No really, who were you with?" was a favorite phrase of my agent...)

Such an amazing experience. Zor supas, Kurdistan.
Picnics on Newroz

me in my Jili Kurdi dancing on Newroz

picnics. everywhere.
group of guys just dancing along the street on Newroz
Dancing on Newroz
The ladies in our Jili Kurdi
Watching Kurdish President speak on Newroz
Love rolling around with giant thousand dollar bills in my pocket
maybe next time, Baghdad
I always want my water to be "familiar"
Seriously, found these in a mall....lol
Not if, *when*.
You da furniture? No, *I* da furniture! (found on a table)
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Be careful, the stairs are very "sleepary"
Miss you Kstan!