Sunday, June 29, 2008

Weekly Update 6/29/08

Joy

Another productive and fun week. So far, my early 30s, have been the best period of my entire life with more days of happiness and internal sunshine than cloudy despair. Everything seems so orderly and pleasant; the universe seems to make sense in a way that just wasn't within my grasp during my 20s. I wonder if it only gets better from here and I'll love my 40s as much or if this decade is really the peak. We shall see.


Theology

We enjoyed a really good fellowship discussion with our new associate pastor over dinner on Monday evening. We explored the ins and outs of Calvinism, missionary work, and the Christian approach to taking risks and decision making. Jon and I are both fond of this new guy and think he is going to be great for our congregation.


Guns

In the past week Jon and I had the pleasure of trying our hand at gun sport. Anna and Ron invited us as well as Danielle and Clayton out to the range in Alexandria to shoot for sport. Within the group we had a 22 rifle, a 38 rifle, a 22 pistol, a 9 mm pistol, and a 40mm pistol. Exciting! I was quite nervous about the potential loud noises - I don't do well even in a room of balloon popping much less gunfire. But there was earphones and after awhile I desensitized myself to all but the very loudest gunshots. I worked with the 22 rifle first as it was the only gun I had any sort of experience with - my father had one at home growing up and he used to let us kids use it for target practice outside. I liked the 22 rifle a lot but felt a stab of uselessness when I found out it really has no ability to put down an animal for hunting much less an attacker in self defense. So I moved onto the 38 rifle. A little more force, but not much, and still very easy for me to handle. Again though, not a sure bet if you're trying to beat back an intruder. For that, I'd have to get comfortable with the pistols. I started with the 22 pistol as I'd watched the rest of the group fire it with ease. Well, really I finished with it too as I shot it a grand total of one time and it scared me silly. The flash at the end of the barrel when it goes off, the jerk in your hands as the bullet flies out of the gun, the noise. It was all too much and I quickly said, "Ok, done with that" and went back to exclusively using the rifles. Jon, on the other hand, had less use for the rifles and really enjoyed pistol firing. So all hope for preservation under an attack is not lost- at least I can take comfort in my husband's ability to shoot a weapon of truly deadly force should it ever be necessary for my protection. Thank God for masculine alpha males. :)


Also on the gun front this week of course was the landmark Supreme Court decision "officially" recognizing the 2nd amendment and advising Washington, D.C. that their citizens are under its protections as well. Three cheers for the inevitable declining murder rate we are sure to see now that DC folks can legally defend themselves and their property from criminals.


Travel Research


My big project this week in my spare time is to complete a massive Excel spreadsheet I've created that lists every country and territory of the world (I downloaded the list from Wikipedia) and has columns to record best time of year to visit and other details. I plan to use it as our master travel reference list so that at a glance I can figure out when tickets go on sale if it all makes sense to go to that destination at that time and what I'll need to know for the trip. Mostly I learned that I never want to visit Bolivia or Algeria and probably not Bangladesh either.


Jon and I have also been reading the culture guide Anna gave me last year that lists the important cultural behavior differences between our country and others. For example, in Morocco everyone eats with their right hand, even the left handed. And in France food is always eaten with utensils, even sandwiches and fruit. And frequent smiling to the tune of American style (we smile a lot apparently) is considered improper throughout most of Europe. Very interesting!


Weekend

Yesterday Jon and I spent the morning with friends walking up a mountainside in nearby Sky Meadows State Park. The view was lovely but at times the trail was tiring. After that we headed over with Tracy and others to enjoy an afternoon at Naked Mountain Winery eating BBQ and wine tasting. All of that walking and eating in the sun tired us out so we promptly headed over to Debby's for a few hours of lounging in/around the pool. Today will be a very relaxing day - after church my only official plans are to take Julia to our doggie playgroup at the Dogtopia spa so she can play with friends and all the toys for a few hours and then to drop her home so I can treat myself to a pedicure. Somewhere in there I also want to do something special for Jon and bake him a chocolate cake.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Paris anyone?

Ok, so now Jon and I have added a Paris trip to our Calendar for the winter. Christmas day specifically! There is about $1000 savings per person by flying during the low season (winter) and especially on the slowest days of the low season. We fly out Christmas, late in the evening, spend 6 nights in Paris including free breakfast and a riverboat cruise tour, and fly home on New Year's Day. All that for just $1499 a person. Take a look at summer trips to Paris and you will see they are easily $1000-$1500 more. Gotta know when to time these things. We are opening up the trip to our NoVA travelers group and I wanted to open it up to you readers as well. If you fly out of NYC or DC airports the price is the same; other airports may be slightly more ($100 or so). Let me know with a comment if you're interested in tagging along. People will be put 2 to a room. It's the perfect Christmas present to give yourself!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Summer is Here

So finally summer 2008 has officially shown up for the party. Fantastic!


What's In:

~Traveling! I started a new meetup group this week. NoVA Travelers. We've already got 45 people signed up the first week and growing. Our first two trips on our calendar are a Dewey Beach, DE weekend retreat Aug 15th and a NYC Culinary Tour I'll be leading Columbus Day weekend. Looking to put some more weekend trips on the fall calendar and a cruise in the winter. If you're local and interested you can sign up for the group at http://travel.meetup.com/1256/. It's nice because it allows me to travel frequently and brings in a little extra spending money each month. I think Jon is worried I'm going to quit the IT world and become a travel agent, but he has not nothing to fear- its no fun planning OTHER peoples' trips. I wanna go on them too or I don't want to do all the planning work.


~Traveling part deux: we're headed to Savannah, GA for labor day weekend this year. It was supposed to be a surprise but someone let the cat out of the bag early (Thanks Anna). As a side note, why would a cat be in a bag for a surprise anyway? Where does that expression come from? I'm really looking forward to touring all the squares in Savannah as neither Jon nor I have been there before.


~Sponsorship! A few weeks ago a gourmet food company (Roseda Beef) contacted me with regard to the Supper Club meetup I run to offer to sponsor a group supper by providing the main ingredient - sirloin burgers and buns. "What a great idea!", I said to myself and decided to not only accept but solicit sponsorship from other gourmet food companies. So I used our Supper Club letterhead and faxed about 50 gourmet food companies to offer them the opportunity to sponsor us. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far. The next supper event under sponsorship will be in Sept - Omaha Steak company is sending me 50 filet mignons and lobster ravioli, spices, and other goodies for our group. Its not often I have brilliant ideas, but when I do, watch out! :)


~Embracing our 30s. Jon and I are putting together a Thirtysomething group for our church. It looks to be a promising group and the best part is that its going to reach a lot of non-believers. Its an every-so-often-lets-get-together and hang out group versus a small group bible study. A lot of the women I've called so far told me they were thrilled to have a social group like this because their husbands are not believers and they could never get them to go to a bible study. This way they're going to meet and hopefully bond with Christians but in a low key no pressure situation. I gotta give props to Jon's parents and their In-Betweeners group they belong to at their church in NM because that's what we're patterning our group dynamic after.


What's Out:


~Working from the office is definitely out- coming down the road this fall at my main client/employer is a switch for all employees who normally work out of the office to working out of their homes and telecommuting. That will save the company on office lease space and the best part is we now get the tax deductions for the home office. Well actually the best part is getting to work from home everyday. :)


~Bad dreams. At least I wish I could push them out. I've been having the strangest nightmares lately. Last night I had a dream that I noticed a tiny hole in my face near the right side of my lips. I tugged on it and the tear spread all the way up to my eye like a broken seam on a cheaply made dress and my skin was falling off and I could see my muscles and bones underneath. It was pretty terrifying. Then there are the dreams I've been having frequently starring my best friend in which she is yelling at me and throwing things. Very very bizarre and disruptive to my sleep.


~HOAs. I never really had experience with HOA (homeowner association) groups in NM but now that we live in VA hardly anyone we know does not live in an HOA controlled subdivision. Frankly, its annoying. Especially when they send you warning notices about something silly or become heavy handed parking lot Nazis. Seems to totally fly in the face of private property rights if you ask me.


What's Up:

~Harry Winston Diamond Company and Hermes Stock (I recommend you take a look). I love these guys; solid performers.

~The price of gas. $4.00 a gallon now?? OUCH.


What's Going Down:

~my waistline (yay)

~our home value (still in freefall thanks to the housing crash)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Life continues to be pretty good, despite a few minor annoyances.


I lost six pounds this week. A lot of exercise (3 walks with my walking group on top of my regular cardio/weight lifting AND a focused effort on watching calories). Plenty of fiber (this has been my biggest secret to weight loss so far - loading up on high soluble fiber foods), and remembering to take my multivitamin every day (which is also making my skin softer and my hair glossy).


Getting everything in place for the big party on Saturday. Expecting 30+ people to descend upon our house. I'm cooking up a 4 course buffet with a lot of food and I hope it will be a success. It's going to included smoked salmon and ribs, duck quesadillas, and baked Alaska, among other items.


Annoyances include a speeding ticket (78 in 55 - $177 fine ouch!) and a strange conversation with a woman in my walking group. We were chatting about work - hers - and she mentioned she is struggling with her new job and not getting along with her supervisor at all. She asked me if I ever had a black boss and I said "What?" and looked at her funny because I didn't understand where that question came from all of a sudden. I said no (completely forgetting that my proj mgr last year is black; that's how much I pay attention. Its like asking me if I ever had a red headed boss. Who pays attention?) She went on to say that her boss was rude and aggressive and overly demanding. I still did not see what that had to do with being black, but apparently in her mind it was somehow related. She pontificated that she had observed this new supervisor talking about race a lot and that it made her feel uncomfortable. Always bringing it into the conversation. Well, ok, that is a bit strange - who does that?- but I still don't see overall how she can assume that being black is somehow tied to being rude or aggressive or hostile. Apparently her circle of white people has been pretty limited if she's never had a white person be rude to her. Or maybe (probably!) she has and just not attributed it to their race. So overall my reflection on her, just based on this brief conversation, is that she harbors some sort of racism. It always shocks me when I hear that kind of nonsense from someone. I can't believe its 2008 and some people are still making character assumptions based on someone's race. I think its absurd and no different than trying to use eye color or hair color or height to divine character and personality.


In other news, have you seen EPT's new commercial and ad slogan? Their new slogan is "the most advanced technology you will ever pee on" . Makes me giggle.


And, last but not least, my sister-in-law Melissa was on national t.v. last night! It was a segment of HGTV's show Designed to Sell. The clip of her appearance is here :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0MmQNMzxKg