Monday, November 1, 2010

This and That: fourth qtr 2010 edition

In September I penned a lengthy update providing a general overview of the happenings in our family. Here we are in the last quarter of the year and there have been a lot of new events since that post. Thus begins a new blog tradition: quarterly updates, filed under ‘This and That’.

Work

In September, I put in my notice at my federal contracting job to coincide with the end of the contract. I had lined up a new job with another contractor – SAS admin work again (yay) for a different agency than the one I’ve been working with the past 4 years.  Regardless of whether my previous employer would win the follow on contract or not, I was ready to move on. My decision was validated when it was announced at the end of September that a competing company had won the follow on. I patted myself on the back for being prepared with a new job and approximately 10 seconds later it (the new job) evaporated as they too lost their contract that I was to work on. Oops.

So it was back to job hunting. I made myself available through Dice.com and started fielding calls from recruiters. It was down to two companies offering competitive SAS admin positions. I agonized over the decision and prayed God would give me a clear sign of which one to take as they each represented a great opportunity. He did: one of the companies was not able to make good on their original verbal offer due to budget constraints – taking the job would have meant a pay cut from my previous position. That put the other company over the top, and they are now my employer (I started mid November). The best part is that while I will be representing the company as one of their consultants for a federal agency contract, I am not hired to that contract; I am hired to the company permanently as a free floating consultant. My job is to be an “expert” who consults on my areas of expertise across various contracts. I’m very excited about this new role.

When things get rolling (right now I am being paid to complete addl training and waiting for paperwork to be processed) I will be working in Washington, D.C. every day, commuting on the VRE. This means I will be very well read in 2011, with 2 hours of commute time a day on the train.  I should be able to make a lot of head way through the bible and best seller lists with all that available reading time.

Christian Walk

Jon and I have fallen in with the folks at Grace United Methodist Church here in Manassas. We really feel at home in this congregation even though we are very new to it. Everyone is so welcoming and for me the best part is that the members reach out to you as a new visitor and help you find ways to plug in and get involved right away. We’re currently attending the contemporary Sunday evening service @5pm, but I reserve the right to drag Jon to the traditional morning services occasionally when I want to feel especially reverent or to hear the grand pipe organ.

I’ve taken a strong interest in incorporating  long standing Christian traditions and rituals into our day to day spiritual life. I’m into my second week of daily devotional readings in the morning and readings/prayer before bed. I start in the morning with the daily thought from Oswald Chambers famous collection ‘My Utmost for His Highest’. Then I’m using this reading calendar for guidance in selecting passages to read and consider prayerfully: Daily Scripture Readings from CRI. Also, this is the first year that we are really going to put our hearts into Advent rituals such as the Advent wreath (and associated readings and prayers), Advent calendar, fast before Christmas, etc. I think ritual and liturgy can be a great part of one’s religious practice (so long as they don’t become shallow or empty; it’s important to keep the focus on God and avoid legalistic attachments to the rituals). I’ve been using one resource in particular to learn more about the religious traditions and rituals of our Christian faith and put them into practice: 'A Continual Feast' by Vitz.

Travel

I marked the first day of my unemployment at September’s end with a trip to Las Cruces, NM to visit family and friends and pick up this year’s supply of fresh green chile. I had a great time seeing everyone and visiting our ‘home’ (where we go married) church. It’s always amazing to touch base with younger adults, now in their 20s that I have known since they were in my Sunday school classes when they were 5 or 6. I also got a chance to sit down and have lunch with my flower girl (also all grown up now and married) and catch up with her. So many wonderful memories and friends still in Las Cruces. I think we may make an annual chile run every autumn as the freshness of the chile flown home (versus shipped to us whole and then roasted here in VA) is unsurpassed.

The next week (first week in October) Jon and I piled a bunch of our friends into our cars and headed for upstate NY to enjoy the autumn leaves. We made it up to CT by Friday evening and crashed for the night at a Hilton.

Saturday morning we were up and exploring New England, spending the afternoon at the Yankee Candle Factory before winding our way to Troy, NY via VT. There was a mandatory stop at Stewart’s to take Jonathan back down memory lane (and to give everyone a chance to try their famous ice cream). We escorted everyone to one of our old favorites- Latham 76 diner- for vittles on Sat night before checking in to another Hilton (this time in Albany, NY) for the evening.

Next morning we made more memories together as we attended church services out at Brunswick Presbyterian (the church we attended while we lived in NY). It was a joy to see all our old friends in the congregation and the pastor. That afternoon we had pizza in downtown Troy at our favorite joint, I got to see my friend Kerry, and we all went apple picking at Indian ladder farms. Our last stop before heading home was Napoli’s bakery. YUM! 

Our group shared a lot of laughter and stories over the weekend and I really enjoyed getting to know everyone better. It was fun to find out that Ryan had a place in his heart for hip hop and that Chris collected old signs. I also was thrilled to have a chance to show our friends what we love about and what is so special about New England.

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Jon, Dani, Tanja, Lauren, Chris, Ryan

Another weekend in October I took a friend from the NoVA Travelers group up to NYC for my annual culinary tour. Changed things up a bit this year, dropping lunch at the dim sum hall and replacing it with a meal at Momufuku, which worked out fabulously. We also actually had time to stop at the East Village Cheese shop this year, and I could kick myself for not doing it on previous tours. Brie for 99 cents a pounds and other steals were to be had in every corner of the shop. They buy wholesale cheese overruns (top quality) and so are able to offer rock bottom pricing. We even had time on Sunday to make our way out to Coney Island. It was a great trip and I love traveling with this particular friend as she always puts me at ease and is a joy to be around.

I’d almost forgotten that I also escorted Literary Elly May on a surprise trip to Assateague Island recently to see the wild ponies. She was very happy to take it all in and the whole day worked out beautifully (except the part where I left my purse hanging on a chair back in McDonald’s in Manassas and only realized it a half hour later on the road and had to call Dani’s husband to go get it for me but that’s another story).

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Wild Pony of Assateage Island

We just returned from our most recent trip yesterday. We spent the week of Thanksgiving in Austria and Germany at the Christmas Markets and I’ve got so much to tell you about it all, but you’ll have to wait to read most of it until it’s published in early December for a travel company site. 

Fitness

I’m in the last week of Couch to 5k, which is where I was before we left for Europe. I just didn’t run at all in Europe; I knew the miles and miles of walking each day and sightseeing would be enough to tire me out and I didn’t want to pile more effort on top of it. I’m hoping to get my last 3 sessions in this week and be a graduate by this time next week. A long hard road, but it has been great. I ran my second 5k race in mid October and did alright, considering the hills (ugh: hills).

I’ve also been swimming and participating in fitness classes at our gym each week, but I need to be more self-disciplined about keeping to my routine and classes even when I don’t feel like going. Consistency is key!

Up and Coming

I will spend this quarter attempting to relearn how to balance work and home life now that I will no longer be working from home where I could easily co-mingle the two when it suited me. I’ve been hatching plans and strategies to keep myself on schedule and focused on what matters. I’m trying to incorporate regular routines into my life for stability and discipline.

The new job offers three weeks of vacation each year, but I’ve got to accumulate it before I can use it so other than Thailand in March I don’t see any major trips in my immediate future. Maybe a few weekend jaunts here and there. Plus of course being out of work for a month and a half hit our savings pretty hard and now we’ve got to put our extra money into building the emergency savings back up instead of gallivanting around the globe every other weekend. I do have two upcoming flights in December but they are straight mile runs (flights to earn miles with no other purpose) and have no sightseeing built into them at all. For example, one of them involves an out and back flight from PIT-ATL-SEA on a Saturday. My total time in SEA will be 40 minutes on layover at the airport. And flying out of PIT of course b/c Delta is still offering the double MQM promo for all flights out of PIT (a 4.5 hour drive from here).  

Tuesday is the Michael Buble concert in D.C. and I’m pretty excited about that. Jon picked us up tickets and we’ve got decent seats.

The rest of our time for 2010 will be filled with the Christmas holiday- shopping, baking, parties, gift wrapping, standing in line at the post office to ship, etc. And all done to the soundtrack of our favorite Christmas carols of course. One of the best times of the year and I’m feeling really festive after attending the holiday markets in Europe and prancing in the snow in Bavaria. This is going to be a great Christmas!

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