Thursday Things

1. Behold! My flowers!

flowers2017

My usual flower purchasing method has been, “Buy first, think later,” which has consistently proved to be a bad idea. I inevitably end up with more flowers than container space and have to make a trip to the hardware store to buy more flower pots. This year, in an attempt to avoid that problem, I took inventory of how many pots I had to start and brought that list with me when I bought my flowers so I could plan exactly which plants would go in which pot. This worked out well, but I was disappointed that Home Depot didn’t have the exact type of begonias I wanted – ones I had last year that grew like weeds with little effort on my part.

Everything was going just fine until I started planting, when I realized I bought topsoil, not container dirt, because apparently not all dirt is made equally (container dirt, according to my mom, is better at draining). I only had enough container dirt to fill two pots, so another trip to Home Depot was necessary. My initial flower shopping took place at one Home Depot, but my second trip brought me to a different Home Depot. This second Home Depot had the begonias I couldn’t find at the first Home Depot, and even though I knew I should resist, I couldn’t convince myself to resist, so I came home with two bags of dirt and four plants for which I had no space.

I thought I could wrangle everything into the 18 pots I already owned, but I was wrong, so last week I made my annual, “Oops! I bought too many flowers,” trip to the hardware store to buy more pots. Maybe next year I’ll have some self-control.

extraflowers

2. This year, I bought begonias in three varieties, lobelias, and fuchsias. I did not buy impatiens because I am sick and tired of them dying on me, so I didn’t even bother. I had a lot of success with begonias last year, so I’m hoping that happens again.

begonia2017

Lobelias are entirely new to me. I hadn’t heard of them before I bought them, so we’ll see what happens. I took too long getting them in the ground (well, the potted ground), and some of them looked pretty pathetic when I planted them. We’ll see what happens, I suppose, and now I know better than to assume that an overnight downpour is enough to keep flowers in little plugs hydrated for 48 hours.

lobelia

Fuchsias are also a new experiment for me. Some things I’ve read online said they prefer temperatures in the 80s or below, so I’m hoping that either turns out to not be the case or that the internet was wrong. Or that we have a summer where it never breaks 80. I’d be perfectly okay with that, too 😛 For now, though, they are definitely the stars of my show. I have a bunch of blossoms and blooms, and they seem to be thriving.

fuchsia

Any care and keeping tips related to lobelias or fuchsias are welcomed and encouraged 🙂

3. Finally, to keep the flower theme going: a story.

Due to the aforementioned overbuying and consequential need for additional flower pot purchasing, I didn’t have a chance to finish planting until this past Monday. After my run, I headed outside to plant my remaining flowers.  I thought the soil looked a bit dry and decided to water them, despite the promise of rain later that evening. So I filled up my (new!) watering can (twice the size of my old one, which means half as many trips back to the faucet to fill it up!), watered my freshly planted flowers, and then decided to water all my other flowers for good measure.

When I finished watering, I noticed plastic in one of my fuchsia pots. I assumed it was trash that had blown in and tried to pick it up. To my great surprise, it seemed stuck in the soil, so I tugged at it. I saw that this was not a piece of plastic, but rather a plastic bag, and discovered that the bag contained…something. I couldn’t tell immediately what it was, but, for whatever reason, my first assumption was drugs. I was OUTRAGED. Which neighbor that shares my backyard had the GALL to bury their DRUGS in my fuchsia?!?

I pulled some more, and saw that the substance in the bag was more of a light brown than a green or a white, like I would’ve presumed with drugs. Butterflies flitted about in my stomach as my apprehension grew. At last, I pulled the bag all the way out of the pot, and discovered…

A chocolate chip cookie.

o.O

So, the good news is, none of my neighbors seem to be drug addicts, squirreling away their stash in my flowers. The mystery still remains, though, over who on EARTH buried a chocolate chip cookie in a plastic bag in one of my fuchsias! I haven’t spoken with the squirrels who live in the garage recently, but right now, they’re my top suspects. It would (mostly) add up, after all: squirrels bury their food, chocolate chip cookies are food, there’s a nearby alley with dumpsters I know the squirrels pillage, since I’ve seen them there before, and the squirrels live right by my flowers. Why the squirrel would KEEP the chocolate chip cookie in a plastic bag (not a sealed plastic bag, mind you) is beyond me, but maybe they’re smarter than I give them credit for and expected the bag would keep the cookie from disintegrating.

I threw the cookie away and went about with my life. We got a lot of rain Tuesday night, so when I woke up Wednesday morning, I planned to check on my flowers and dump out their saucers if they had filled with water. To my HORROR, this scene greeted my eyes when I looked out the window:

brokenpot

MURDER!

Because this pot was near the back and had survived all of last week’s wind storms, I can only assume the squirrels are responsible for this travesty. I don’t know how they manage to navigate the rest of the setup without disturbing any of my flowers, since there isn’t much room to maneuver around there, and I also don’t understand why they have to bother MY flowers, rather than any of the various abandoned containers elsewhere in the backyard. But, since we clearly aren’t as good of friends as I presumed and my trust has been severely violated, I moved the pretty blue pot on the right of the picture away from the scene of the crime, because that was a Christmas present from my sister and no squirrel will take that away from me!

Do you garden?

Friend-Making

Here we are, once again, after a weekend trip I haven’t had time to blog about. While you all wait anxiously for me to tell you about the penguins and Tigers I saw this weekend (any guesses as to where I went?), I shall subject you to my philosophical musings on friendship. You’re welcome.

I stumbled across this article a couple weeks ago, and holy smokes, it felt like my entire life suddenly made sense. The article summarizes a study done by Janice McCabe, a sociology professor at Dartmouth, that aimed to understand how friendship structures impact academic success. In doing the study, McCabe discovered that people generally fall into one of the following three categories of friend-making:

Tight-Knitters
These people have one friend group with a lot of friends who all know each other. The article doesn’t give examples of what any of the three friend groups look like in the “real world,” but if I had to guess, I’d imagine this would play out like a sorority or fraternity.

Compartmentalizers
These people have multiple, distinct friend groups that don’t know each other. Think of someone who divides their time between band, the basketball team, and the school newspaper, and has friends from all of those activities.

Samplers
These people have multiple, one-on-one friendships. I think this one is pretty self-explanatory and can’t come up with a well-known, college-based analogy to explain it further 😛

This was so revelatory for me. If I have ever had a long-standing social insecurity, it’s been around my lack of a friend group. I have never had a friend group. Not in elementary school, middle school, high school, college, or any time after. That’s not to suggest that I’ve never had friends, of course, but my friends rarely were friends with each other, and I always felt on the periphery. After reading this, it all made so much sense. I’ve been a sampler and a compartmentalizer, and as a result have never had MY friend group.

To explain: a diagram, representing my high school social existence.

highschool

In this diagram, a line between my name and another name indicates that I would consider myself friends with that person, i.e.: I hung out with them specifically. The boxes represent friend groups, where all the people in that box know each other and are friends with each other. Some people in the boxes may be closer to one person in the group than the others (in the pink box, for example, it was common knowledge that Rachael and Kate were best friends, and that Kalee and Leah were best friends), but regardless, if you printed out the names of the 112 people in my high school class on individual strips of paper, presented those strips of paper to anyone in my class and asked them to sort them into friend groups, the names in the boxes would be put into the same group.

Now it would stand to reason, based on my social connections, that I would fit into the blue box. Not only did I have three friends in that group, but the blue box is also made up of the AP/Honors kids. I was second in my class, so even though I didn’t take all the AP classes my high school offered (I wasn’t smart enough for AP Calculus, and for reasons I no longer remember, I decided to take regular U.S. History instead of AP U.S. History), you’d think someone with a 3.99 GPA with existing friendships inside the smart kids group would be part of the smart kids group. But nope. In fact, I couldn’t remember everyone who fit into this group, so I consulted old photos from Katie’s Facebook page, and came up with a good amount of this list from pictures of a birthday party she had in high school that I didn’t attend and have no recollection of knowing of its existence. I was FRIENDS with Katie! Good friends with Katie! And even THAT wasn’t enough to warrant an invitation to a group outing celebrating HER birthday!

I suppose this illustration makes me seem more like a sampler attaching herself to tight-knitters than a compartmentalizer, and in terms of high school, I don’t think that’s entirely off. The Quartz article mentions samplers feeling a sense of social isolation, and if that doesn’t describe my high school experience, I don’t know what does. I can remember one–ONE!–Friday night of the course of my entire high school career when I hung out with people outside of a school function (basketball game, football game, track meet, dance).  I constantly felt excluded and lonely in high school, and I’m sure that’s a HUGE part of why I ended up gravitating towards the internet and making friends like Annie there. On IdolForums, I finally found my tight-knit group in the American Juniors fan fiction forum (don’t judge me) and the Class of 2008 thread that I longed to have in real life. We couldn’t hang out in real life, obviously, given that we were spread quite literally across the globe (my best friends from IdolForums lived in Scotland and Canada), but it was the only place I felt connection to other people. I don’t know if I can accurately explain how important that was to me.

Anyway, let’s talk about the present day. If you asked me if I have friends, my answer would be no, because I’m dramatic and prone to overstatement. I no longer have “sampler” friends: individuals unconnected to larger groups. I had a couple sampler friends for my first few years of living in Chicago, both of which were holdovers from college, both of which tried my patience more often than not, and, consequently, quietly faded out of my life after I realized I was absolutely not obligated to hang out with people I didn’t want to hang out with. Because I don’t have those individual friendships anymore, it often feels like I don’t have friends anymore, period, but that really isn’t true. These days, my social existence looks more like this:

now

My dance friends live in one box, my CARA friends live in another box, and my blogging friends live in a third box, and the only overlap between any of those groups is me. None of my blogging friends know my dance friends, and none of my dance friends know my CARA friends (I assume. Chicago isn’t even half as big as I often think it is, so I suppose it’s possible that there’s overlap that I don’t know about.). The exact people who make up these boxes changes over time–people come and go from dance, people run the Chicago Marathon one year and not the next, people start or stop blogging–but this has definitely described my social life lately.

I suppose this is how adult friendships often plays out, assuming the friends you have as an adult aren’t the ones you had in school. When you meet people through different environments, you’re less likely to have one friend group. It’s one thing to have an established friend group when you all see each other in the hall between classes; it’s another thing to have an established friend group when you see some of the people for an hour every Tuesday, other people for anywhere between one and three hours every Saturday during the summer, and other people whenever you happen to sit down to read blogs.

While I certainly appreciate all the friends I’ve made this way, having my friends segmented like this makes my social life feel disjointed. When I was in Nashville and saw dozens of bachelorette parties, I kept thinking that I would never feel comfortable doing something like that, and not just because I don’t drink much, but because I don’t have a clue who I’d invite. I don’t have a group of three, four, five, fifteen close girlfriends to travel with. I don’t know if I even have ONE close girlfriend to travel with.

Obviously, this is a ridiculous thing to stress about for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that I’m, you know, not engaged, and therefore not in any sort of need for a bachelorette party any time soon, nor is there a law requiring that women who are engaged must have a bachelorette party prior to getting married. I could quite easily not have a bachelorette party. Heck, I could easily not even have a bridal party if I didn’t want one. Regardless, I feel somehow deficient, like I got an F in having friends, for not having “my group” of friends.

While the article didn’t solve my non-existent bachelorette party not-problems, it at least made me feel a little less socially inept, which was nice. I have no idea if anyone else has ever felt like a weirdo for the way they make friends or not, but I found the whole article interesting, so I thought I’d share.

How do you make friends?

Thursday Things

1. I did a crazy thing last weekend. I stayed in Chicago.

While perhaps that doesn’t sound like the most radical thing a person could do, let me tell you, it sure felt radical to me. I haven’t been in Chicago since Easter weekend (and even that weekend was hardly low key), and it was so, so nice to just relax and live out of drawers instead of a suitcase. It was also a little weird, though, I have to admit. I had gotten used to the routine of ending my week earlier and earlier (I left the office at 10 a.m. on Friday when I went to Champaign, didn’t work at all on Friday when I went to Nashville, and didn’t work at all Thursday or Friday when I went to D.C.), and it felt strange to not have any major travel plans for the first time in four weeks.

On a related note, I haven’t worked a full, 40 hour week since the week of March 27, and I won’t work a full, 40 hour week again until the week of June 5. That will be a rude awakening, let me tell you!

2. Since I was in town this weekend, I had a chance to go flower shopping for the year. I haven’t gotten around to taking any pictures of this year’s flower haul yet, mostly because I hadn’t finished planting by the time I wrote this post, so I’ll save my flower talk for next week and instead introduce you to the friends that have kept me company while I’ve planted.

squirrels2

Meet my backyard squirrel family!

Many, many weeks ago–sometime in March, maybe, or even February?–I was close enough to a back window that movement in the backyard area would catch my eye. Something did move, so I took a closer look, and saw a squirrel sitting on the fence. Between the design of the fence and the way he was sitting, it almost looked like he was guarding a fort, and I found this extremely amusing. I figured he was a visitor, since I had never seen him before, and carried on with my life.

A couple weeks later, I saw a squirrel behaving similarly on the fence. Assuming this must be the same squirrel, I came to the conclusion that he must live locally and considered the fence part of his territory.

Then, last week, I noticed TWO squirrels on the fence! They most certainly weren’t fighting, so I came to the conclusion that they must be friends, or, even better, a couple. By this time, I had also discerned, primarily from their coming and going, that they live in a garage that backs up to my back yard. I started to wonder if they had babies inside the garage, since I saw the two of them together on more than one occasion last week. According to the internet, squirrels have babies in February/Marchish, so it didn’t seem entirely unreasonable that maybe there were baby squirrels in the picture, too.

On Monday, I was outside planting my flowers when I heard the distinctive sound of claws against a gutter. I looked up and saw my squirrel friend sitting on the fence, looking down at me. I said hello, as one does, and carried on with my planting, but not before noticing that there seemed to be some sort of area on the squirrel’s belly not covered by fur. A few moments later, I heard another scuttle, and saw another squirrel emerge from the hole they’ve used to get in and out of the garage. It was climbing all around the first squirrel, and I got so excited, assuming that the first squirrel who came out was the boy, and this, smaller squirrel was the girl, and she was cuddling with him, as I can only assume woodland creatures do. The little squirrel kept nuzzling and climbing, and then eventually attached its mouth to that previously mentioned not-furry area on the bigger squirrel’s belly. Suddenly, everything came together: the big squirrel was not a male, as I had assumed, but a female, and the little squirrel was its baby, hungry for dinner and chasing Mom around so it could nurse. Nature!

squirrels1

This, as far as I was concerned, was even MORE exciting than having squirrel lovers in my backyard (as a side note, I have since done more research into the life and times of the Eastern Grey Squirrel, and learned that not only do they not mate for life, but after the male impregnates the female, he ditches her and she’s stuck raising the kids entirely on her own. Damn the patriarchy!). I watched for a bit, totally fascinated by this, when ANOTHER baby squirrel emerged from the garage, followed, eventually, by a third baby squirrel!

squirrels3

So many furry friends!

squirrels4

Realistically, I know it’s probably not super great for the squirrels to be living inside a garage that may or may not be abandoned (though I suppose if it’s abandoned, then it doesn’t really matter), but I don’t know who owns the garage, and I’m not in a particular hurry to contact animal control about rodents living in other people’s property. (I also am guessing, based on what I learned about squirrels, that these babies are close to being fully weaned, at which point they’ll be off on their own in the great wide world anyway.) So for now, I’ll keep squealing over them and enjoying their company, unless they take a liking to my flowers. Then it’s ON.

squirrels5

3. I was playing on my phone last week when I suddenly had a horrible realization: I couldn’t remember the last time I had used my NTC app. I quickly opened it, went to the Activity tab, and threw a temper tantrum (not really, but I was mad at myself) when I discovered my last NTC workout was in March.

My NTC usage goes in fits and spurts, but I’ve used the app at least once a month every month since May of 2015. Since I forgot to use it in April, though, my streak has died 😥

This is a very small non-issue in the grand scheme of things, but I was pretty bummed! I was also a bit embarrassed, because I use NTC almost exclusively for strength training and at the gym, which meant that I hadn’t darkened the door of the gym since March, and likely hadn’t done much in the strength training department since then either. Oops. I blame the insanity of April for those two oversights, but I’m still kind of shocked that I didn’t even realize that I hadn’t strength trained or been to the gym since March until it was almost the middle of May. Though, given the fact that I couldn’t remember just about anything I didn’t specifically write down by the time my D.C. trip rolled around, maybe that shouldn’t be so surprising.

Do you have any upcoming travel plans? I have one more trip in the near future, and then, as far as I know right now, I’m done for awhile. Thank goodness!

Nashville

As I’ve already documented, I spent the last weekend of April in Nashville, running the hottest, slowest half marathon of my life. Even though the half marathon took substantially longer than usual, it didn’t take close to 48 hours, and there were plenty of non-running ways to occupy myself in Music City.

I had never visited Nashville before this trip, and honestly didn’t associate the city with much other than country music. Granted, I really like country music, so that didn’t bother me, but once I started digging into things to see and do and Nashville, I was SO overwhelmed. Between the country music sights and historic sights, I had a really hard time narrowing down what I wanted to do and see while there.

Regardless, I did eventually come up with a short list, and thus the trip started with a visit to the Belmont Mansion.

belmontmansion

For $12, you can tour the mind-boggling mansion of Adelicia Acklen, a multi-millionaire socialite from the 1800s. Adelicia had Belmont (Belle Monte, to her) built as a summer home, having made her permanent residence in Louisiana with her first husband, a plantation owner and slave trader. After her death, the mansion became a women’s college and, over the years, evolved into Belmont University, whose campus now occupies the majority of the grounds that belonged to the Belmont Mansion.

belmontmansionlighting

Touring the house and learning about Adelicia’s wealth was mind-boggling. Being a multi-millionaire in today’s world puts you in a pretty good financial place, so you can only imagine how much that was compounded when you consider Adelicia lived during the 1800s. She had multiple sets of furniture that cost a normal family’s entire decade of income for one set. Her home was filled with artwork from her year-long trip to Europe. The estate had its own gas refinery, for crying out loud.

belmontmansionteteateteroom

The home has been fantastically restored, and nearly half of the items in the home are original, having been reacquired by the mansion from various individuals who came to own the home’s original pieces at some point.

belmontmansionmasterbedroom

Our tour guide was fantastic and provided us with tons of information about the history and architecture of the home, along with an abundance of details about Adelicia’s life. I didn’t feel rushed during the tour at all, and would definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in antebellum homes, or Civil War-era U.S. history in general.

belmontmansiondiningroom

Running a half marathon on Saturday clearly wasn’t enough activity for one day, so after showering and lunch on Broadway, it was off to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Like I said, I’m a country music fan, so I really enjoyed both learning more about the history of country music and seeing all sorts of country music memorabilia.

taylorswiftguitar

I hoped they’d have one of Taylor Swift’s sparkly guitars, and when I saw it, I expected that would be the highlight of the Country Music Hall of Fame for me, right until I walked around to the other side of the exhibit and started freaking out.

carrieunderwooddress

I knew the second I saw that dress that it was the dress Carrie Underwood wore when she won American Idol. Carrie Underwood was far and away one of my favorite contestants of all time on American Idol. I’ve watched Carrie Underwood win American Idol so many times (shoutout to The Best and Worst of American Idol Seasons 1-4 DVD) that I could describe in remarkable detail exactly how that moment went down, so I’m quite familiar with the dress Carrie Underwood wore that night. Seeing it in person (behind glass, but in person nevertheless) was enough to turn me into a squealing 13-year-old fangirl all over again.

After the Country Music Hall of Fame came two hours on a Pedal Tavern, which was less of a tour than I expected/hoped and more of a self-powered bar crawl, but I enjoyed the experience nevertheless. There was a group of girls on the pedal tavern who it seemed were friends from college but now live all over the country (primarily in California). Well, one of the non-California girls lives in Chicago, and upon a very short amount of investigation, I learned that she lives about four blocks away from me! What a small world.

My sister has friends who used to live in Nashville, so I had her consult them for suggestions. Both of those friends went to Belmont, and consequently recommended  several places in 12 South. Stops in 12 South included Las Paletas for fancy popsicles, also known as my favorite thing about the South, and Edley’s for delicious barbecue.

laspaletas

Normally Rock ‘n’ Roll has their headlining concert immediately after the race, but for whatever reason the concert for Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville was at 7 p.m. (really more like 8 p.m. by the time it got started) that night. The Band Perry played the Ascend Amphitheater for our free (but ticketed) show, and it was awesome.

thebandperry1

I’m not entirely sure I loved their new music, but they were fantastic live, and being only a couple rows back from the stage was really cool.

thebandperry2

Sunday was mostly reserved for travel, and let me tell you, it was quite the adjustment to go from 90 and sunny in Nashville to 45 and rainy in Chicago! Even though the trip was a bit of a whirlwind, I had a great time visiting Nashville!

Have you ever been to Nashville?
Have you ever had fancy popsicles?
Seriously, I so wish these were a thing in the Midwest. I understand why they’re not (see: winter), but I think they’re the greatest!

Thursday Things

1. I spent this past weekend in D.C. for my cousin’s wedding. Being there for a wedding obviously added a bit of a wrinkle to the usual sightseeing extravaganza that is visiting Washington, D.C., but I still got a few good stops in while I was there, starting with lunch on Thursday at Ted’s Bulletin.

tedsbulletin

I came down with one heck of a cold last Monday and was still feeling awfully lousy by the time I got to D.C. on Thursday, so a s’mores milkshake with a side of grilled cheese and tomato soup definitely hit the spot. I didn’t feel up to any additional sightseeing on Thursday, so that took up Friday, Saturday, and Sunday instead.

I spent most of Friday at the Library of Congress, looking at a bunch of old maps in the Geography and Map Reading Room in the Madison Building (nerd alert 😛 ). I did eventually make it across the street to the Jefferson Building as well, though time there was limited.

libraryofcongress

Being the Hamilton fan that I (and everyone else) am, I particularly enjoyed the exhibit on Thomas Jefferson’s library. It was awesome to see a bunch of books he used to own! I tried very hard to find the Reynolds Pamphlet in his pamphlet section, but to no avail. I don’t know that he actually even had a copy of the Reynolds Pamphlet in his library, but if he had, I would’ve had quite the geek-out moment haha.

libraryofcongress2

Saturday brought a trip to the National Zoo. I’ve been a couple times before, but this was the first time that I had nearly all day to spend at the zoo. I saw good number of the exhibits, and particularly enjoyed the pandas:

nationalzoopanda

the orangutans, especially the eight month old baby orangutan, who you can kind of see in this picture (the first baby orangutan at the National Zoo in 25 years!):

nationalzooorganutan

the raven, who was subjected to my quoting Edgar Allan Poe and my instance on saying, “SQUAWK! NEVERMORE!” every time the poor bird let out a call:

nationalzooraven

and the unexpected but exceedingly delightful surprise that it was, apparently, International Migratory Bird Day, and the exhibits that resulted due to the occasion, particularly the bird banding one, which allowed me to get up close to a catbird:

catbird

This almost made up for the fact that the Bird House itself has been closed since January and won’t reopen until 2020 *sobs*.

Then on Sunday, after all the wedding festivities had ended, I, at long last, fulfilled my dream of attending church at the National Cathedral.

nationalcathedral

The service was a little different than I anticipated, though still nice, and I enjoyed wandering around the sanctuary afterwards to take in the sights. I haven’t been to the National Cathedral since my first visit to D.C. in the early 2000s (2004, I believe?) and really enjoyed visiting it again.

nationalcatherdralwashington

Plus, they happened to have a bunch of flower displays made by different embassies that weekend, which I found exceedingly cool.

nationalcathedralflowers

2. Because I was in D.C. for a family wedding, obviously a lot of my family (and my cousin’s fiance’s family) was in town as well. Instead of spreading ourselves out among dozens of hotel rooms, my aunt rented us a house for the weekend. We lived at the Uptown House from Thursday until Sunday, and it was so beautiful!

uptownhouse2

The house was built in 1908, and my history-loving self could not get enough, that’s for sure. I don’t know how much the house has changed since its construction nearly 110 years ago (I can’t imagine it was built with 11 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, but who knows?), but whatever sort of changes or restoration had happened were done thoughtfully and respectfully, with an abundance of antiques (including furniture) throughout the home.

uptownhouse1

The one drawback–and this was definitely a fairly major drawback, at least from a tourism standpoint–was that the house was so far away from everything. It’s on 14th Street, which means it’s easy to get places (like 14th and U Street, or the Mall), but being SO far north, it certainly wasn’t fast to get anywhere. There were three bus lines that stopped right outside the house, but the closest Metro train stop was over a mile away, and buses, much like Ubers, Lyfts, or cabs, get stuck in traffic, of which there is PLENTY on 14th Street. That was definitely a bit of a bummer, because it took forever to get anywhere, and there really wasn’t any sightseeing to do in the house’s area. On the other hand, it allowed me to see a part of D.C. I probably never would’ve seen otherwise, so that was kind of cool.

3. I flew home out of Reagan on Sunday afternoon, and the absolute craziest thing of my life happened–even crazier than having a yellow-bellied sapsucker fall out of the sky and land on my purse.

First, some backstory. In a previous life, I lived and breathed American Idol, and, more specifically, American Juniors (a spinoff of American Idol). This is not the time to document my all-encompassing obsession with that show, but you should know that my obsession with the show prompted me to join an online forum dedicated to American Idol and its many, many spinoffs. I joined in 2004 (8th grade) and actively used the site probably until 2012 or so. I’m not kidding when I say that that forum got me through high school. It was my first experience making online friends, and I found it infinitely easier to connect with people over the internet than it was to connect with the 110 other people in my high school class, nearly all of which I had known since sixth grade, if not kindergarten. I felt free to be myself on that site, and made several good friends as a result.

Finding my flight’s gate on Sunday proved to be a small struggle, which led to me being in front of the departures sign in terminal B, trying to figure out where to go. After realizing the departures TV screen was displaying information from the morning of May 4–it was, at the time, May 7, so that information was clearly irrelevant–I walked away and passed a couple. I saw the girl, and thought, “Oh my gosh, I think that’s Annie from IdolForums.” Now, mind you, I have never met Annie in real life. She lives in California, and though we’re Facebook friends, I haven’t regularly communicated with her (or most people from IdolForums, for that matter) since 2012 at BEST, but really more like 2009 or 2010. I’ve lived long enough to know that lots of people have doppelgangers, so I figured it wasn’t Annie and moved on.

Well, the Annie lookalike and her boyfriend stopped at the departures sign as well, and I happened to see the luggage tag on the Annie lookalike’s backpack, which had Annie’s name on it, thus confirming that it was not at all a lookalike, but in fact this girl who I had known through a website for well over 10 years. I tapped her on the shoulder and she turned around.

“I’m sorry, I just had to say something,” I said. “I’m Bethany? From IdolForums?”

“OH MY GOD. I thought it was you!!” Annie responded.

This was, WITHOUT A DOUBT, the most insane coincidence that has ever, ever, EVER happened to me. I had no idea Annie was in D.C. that weekend. I really only follow my family and a few select friends on Facebook, so even though I’m Facebook friends with her, nothing of hers shows up in my newsfeed, but it turns out she was in D.C. for a wedding just like I was in D.C. for a wedding, and we both just happened to be at the exact same airport at the exact same time for completely different flights on different airlines to totally different parts of the country.

I still can’t believe it happened, to be honest. I mean, the chances of something like this happening seem even smaller than the chances of a yellow-bellied sapsucker hitting a window RIGHT as I happened to be walking under it, you know? We chatted for a few minutes, mostly about how this was the most insane thing that had ever ever ever happened, before heading off to our separate flights. But man, let me tell you, that was definitely one of the highlights of my weekend.

What’s your favorite thing to do or see in D.C.?
Have you ever met internet friends in real life? Totally by accident in an airport or otherwise? Haha. I met another girl from that website when I went to Scotland in 2011. Actually, if I’m being honest, her living there was a huge part of the reason why I went to Scotland in the first place. She was definitely my best friend in high school, even though she lived on the other side of the Atlantic, and meeting her in real life was a really, really awesome moment.

Goals for 2017: April Check-In

*insert witty intro here that I’d write if I weren’t absolutely losing my mind from traveling three weekends in a row, taking a half day, a full day, and two days off of work for the past three weeks as a result of said traveling, AND being absolutely, insanely swamped at work due to a coworker leaving with six days notice and needing to have all of her work transitioned over to me–work that I have never done, mind you–in that time*

Goal #1: Publish at least one freelance piece
Still not making much headway on this one. I pitched another piece in April and never heard back. I meant to follow up, but basically anything involving free time on a computer got pushed to the very, very bottom of my priority list this month (see: previous paragraph). I have had roughly two free hours per week–per WEEK–to do computer work for the past four weeks, so just trying to keep my head above water in terms of emails and blog responsibilities has consumed all of that time.

I did hear back from the publication I pitched in March this month, though. It was a rejection, but the editor told me to let her know if I had any other pitches, which, after analyzing it with the same enthusiasm and thoroughness eleven year old me analyzed instant messages from any of my manifold sixth grade crushes, I have determined to mean, “We think you’re a fabulous writer, even if this piece wasn’t exactly what we’re looking for, so keep submitting and eventually we’ll publish you!” That may or may not be a correct conclusion, but I certainly filed the “please let me know if you have pitches in the future” phrase away to return to once I have time to, you know, breathe.

Goal #2: Get rid of at least 50 things
Success! I hit item #50 on April 8. Woohoo! I got up to 53 items this month, and would’ve gotten farther if I had had time to actually fold the laundry I did two weeks ago (yes, I do still have clean laundry that I washed not last Wednesday, but the Wednesday before that, on my floor. I’m not kidding about this lack of free time situation!). But since I only got through folding the laundry that actually mattered (i.e.: non-workout clothes), I didn’t get around to the clothes I plan to get rid of, so my total stayed at 53. I do expect to have a lot of free time over Memorial Day weekend, however, and hope to get that number much, much higher this month!

Goal #3: Finish Dutch on Duolingo
I got through six more lessons this month and only have eight more to go! I was really surprised when I saw that I’m so close to the end. I’m excited to finish this, if not in May, then definitely in June. Then I can move on to reviewing instead of just forging ahead with new content.

Goal #4: Stay healthy and out of PT
I’m healthy and not in PT, so I’m successful on that front. In terms of more specifics:

– Strength train once per week, minimally, during running season: I don’t remember the last time I strength trained. It might’ve been mid-April. Oops.
– Stretch after every run: 😦
– Foam roll after every run, even if that means with a Moji rather than a full-blown foam roller: 😦 x2
– Do at least three PT exercises twice per week: 😦 x3

Most of these 😦 are a result of having a totally wonky running schedule for the last two weeks of April with the two half marathons and the 5K. Stretching and foam rolling after all the races wasn’t particularly feasible, and doing PT wasn’t on my mind, either. While my May doesn’t look like it will be particularly low key, but it won’t be busy due to racing, so I think my workout schedule will return to normal soon.

Thursday Things

1. I had one of the most traumatic incidents of my life last Wednesday, and I’m still not sure I’ve recovered emotionally.

I was leaving my apartment Wednesday evening to go to therapy with my purse hung across my body, so the strap hung off my left shoulder while the purse itself rested against my right hip. As I walked out the door and stepped onto the sidewalk, I heard a bird make quite the squawk over my head. In the split second after hearing that noise, I looked up, saw one bird flying over me, and heard the stomach churning thud of its companion hitting a window on my building. My heart didn’t even really have time to sink, because immediately after I heard the thud, I saw the bird falling right by me. I put my arms up to protect my head, thought I maybe felt the bird brush against me, and then looked around on the sidewalk. I looked in front of me, to my left, and behind me, and didn’t see the bird anywhere. This seemed to defy all logic. The bird had clearly been in trouble, and I didn’t understand how it could’ve flown away without me noticing.

Then I looked to my right and let out a yelp. Somehow, without me noticing at all, the bird in its stunned state had latched onto my purse strap. This was not just any bird, either – your standard house sparrow or starling or even a pigeon. It was, unmistakably, a woodpecker, and it wasn’t even just any ol’ woodpecker: I was absolutely sure it was a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. Some further research confirmed my suspicion, but also told me that this was a juvenile Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, which just made everything that much more traumatic, since I worried that he’d get lost without his mom 😦

yellowbelliedsapsucker

My immediate thought was, “Oh my God, this is happening to me!” A week or two before this incident, I read an article on DNAInfo about a video a guy recorded years ago  who had a stunned woodpecker attach itself to his car as he drove through downtown Chicago. I was awfully jealous of him, getting to be that up close and personal with a woodpecker, especially toward the very end when it hops into the car and clings to the man recording the video. I mean, what more could you possibly hope for in life?! (Okay, probably a lot if you’re not obsessed with birds like I am, but for me – wow! As far as I was concerned, the guy in the video was The Chosen One.)

My second thought, approximately .0002 seconds after my immediate thought, was, “Oh my God, I have to do something!” I’m not lying or exaggerating: I honestly can’t think of another time in my life where I’ve been so distressed. I took my purse off and the bird kept hanging on, so I laid it down gently on the grass next to the sidewalk while my mind raced on who to call for help. I first thought about calling 911 to see if they could connect me to someone, then considered animal control, then remembered that that same DNAInfo article had concluded with information from a group that rescued and rehabilitated birds who had run into buildings, so I pulled my phone out of my purse and frantically Googled the article.

Mercifully, the article included the phone number of the Chicago Bird Collision Monitor’s hotline right at the very end, so I tapped on the number and called. No one picked up, so I left a message telling them where I was and what had happened. I was sobbing by this point, I was so upset about this bird. His eyes were open and he was breathing really, really hard, and I didn’t see any signs of bleeding, so I was pretty sure he was just stunned, but it absolutely broke my heart into a hundred million pieces to see this bird so distressed and not know what I could do to help him.

I called my mom (who thought I was having a panic attack over earlier unrelated anxieties I had had on Wednesday) and once I finally got the story out, she told me it would be best to just leave the bird there and continue on to therapy, so that’s what I did. I did have to pull the birds claws out from my purse strap, though, because obviously I couldn’t just leave my purse sitting on the ground. Let me tell you, I definitely understand how woodpeckers attach themselves to trees now! The bird was too out of it to fight me off in any way, but even without any resistance, it was tricky to get his claws out of my purse strap, because they were really, really sharp!

The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors called me back a few minutes after I got to therapy to get more information on where the bird was, and sent a volunteer out right away to rescue him. By the time the volunteer got to my apartment, it was almost an hour after the collision and they couldn’t find the bird anyway. I presume this means the bird recovered and continued on on his own, because no alternative really makes sense (by which I mean there’s too much foot traffic in my neighborhood for a coyote or fox to come over and eat him at that time of day).

While I SINCERELY hope this never happens again, I now know that if it does, you should put the bird in a clean brown paper bag or cardboard box until a volunteer can arrive. They’ll then rehabilitate the bird as necessary and release it in a forest preserve so it can continue on its journey. But if I never need to use that information, that’d be perfectly all right by me!

2. In substantially less traumatic but equally unexpected encounters, I saw Jesse Tyler Ferguson on Monday and I’m still not over that, either.

I absolutely love Modern Family, and while I’d like to say Mitchell (played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, for those unfamiliar) is my favorite character on the show, that would be a bit inaccurate, because I’m not really sure I can pick a favorite. When I found out late last week that Jesse Tyler Ferguson was hosting the James Beard Awards in Chicago on Monday evening, I had grand visions of happening to see him in town on Monday, fulling realizing, of course, that he’d most likely be traveling with some sort of entourage, shielded from the eyes of peasants like me, and that there wasn’t actually really any chance in the world I’d actually see him.

Under normal circumstances, I never would’ve been at the corner of Washington and Wacker, directly across the street from the Lyric Opera Building where the James Beard Awards would take place, at about 4 p.m. on a Monday. No fewer than three dramatically different-than-usual events conspired to put me on that corner at that time, and if even one of those events hadn’t occurred, I wouldn’t have been there. But I was, and as I was approaching Wacker on the north side of Washington, I saw a black SUV cross Washington and stop in front of the Lyric. Even then, it didn’t cross my mind that this could somehow be related to Jesse Tyler Ferguson, until I looked again and THERE HE WAS. I don’t know if he had arrived in the SUV at that moment or if he had forgotten something and the SUV was coming to the Lyric to bring it to him (from how he was positioned, it didn’t look like he had just gotten out of the car, but I don’t really know for sure). Regardless, he was RIGHT THERE (well, right there on the other side of Washington, but whatever), and I lost my mind. This was WAY cooler than seeing Rick Bayless in the West Loop a few months ago! (Coincidentally, Rick Bayless’s restaurant, Topolobampo, received the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant on Monday night.)

I didn’t say anything, because as we learned from the Rick Bayless encounter, I apparently become mute in the event of unexpected celebrity sightings. Plus he seemed like he was on more of a mission than Rick Bayless a couple months ago anyway, and I wouldn’t have wanted to annoy him (though I think my desire to not annoy celebrities in general, regardless of their likeliness of being on a mission or not, also plays into my silence. If I were famous, it would drive me crazy to not be able to do anything, even running out to my car, without people fawning over me or trying to get my attention because they had seen me on TV, and I certainly don’t want to be the cause of that.). So instead, I unearthed my phone from my pocket and took photos like a creeper.

jessetylerferguson

I still can’t believe this actually happened.

3. I have SO many things I want to talk about from my trip to Nashville, but that’s going to have to wait until life settles down a bit. I’ve been swamped at work and in my out-of-work life, and have barely had time to sit down at a computer, never mind write a blog post. Things for you to look forward to later 😉 In the mean time, here’s a preview of the trip:

countrymusichalloffame

I’ll ask it again: have you ever seen any celebrities in the wild? Now I’ve seen two! And in the space of about three months, no less!
Have you ever been to Nashville?