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28 June 2012

Making decisions like a grown-up ...

... I don't like it. Not one bit.

I woke up this morning and called the school in Baltimore that I had interviewed with on Monday. The head of school had called me last night and asked me to call back as soon as I could. Happily, he offered me the position. I was thrilled, and my wheels immediately started spinning. And the he told me the salary that accompanied my offer.

And the wheels stopped. I knew instantly that I couldn't afford to move to Baltimore. The salary he offered me was the exact same salary as I am currently making. Which doesn't allow at all for the cost-of-living difference between here and Baltimore. I told him that I would get back to him this afternoon while I considered the offer.

I spent the day thinking.

And thinking.

And then thinking some more.

I moved between thinking with my heart ("I love this school! I can survive on a small salary! I'll just cut food out of my budget! And everything else I like!") and my head ("That's not enough money to survive on. You've got a great job here with all of your friends. Why would you leave? Are you crazy?") There was a solid battle all day long, and it was pretty exhausting. Because I am such an emotional thinker, it was really hard to consider this situation from a rational, logical, long-term-happiness perspective. Despite all of the challenges and frustrations I face at my current employment, I had to step back and look at the whole picture.

And I finally came to a decision I'm okay with.

I'm staying put.

For now.

I'll work to make the best of my situation and find happiness here for the time being. It's not my ideal, but it'll do.

But, just for the record, thinking and acting like a grown-up really isn't all it's cracked up to be.

27 June 2012

Beach music and more s'mores

Today was a fun day with Leah. We walked early in the morning before it got too hot, and, if you ask Leah, it was a death march. But that's only because she can't handle the heat down here! And she hates walking. Aunt Mary is all about torture these days.
The Beast and Leah by the lake

Kid. In a tree. 

She pretty much gave up after mile 3. 
Of course, what summer day in North Carolina would be complete without a trip to the pool? I've lived in this apartment complex for the last 3 years, and I've been to the pool more since Tuesday than I have in all three years combined.

After the pool, we headed to Waverly Place for some beach music with my friend Sheila. The weather was gorgeous, the band was fun, and Leah had Chick-Fil-A for the first time. Granted, it was only a lemonade, but she's dabbling in southern culture!

Aren't we a gorgeous pair?

After the beach concert, we headed to Sheila's for s'more fest. As always, the spread was impressive. 

Ladies makin' s'smores
The Georgia Peach - honey graham, marshmallow, peaches, and dark chocolate

Leah, preparing a masterpiece
Perfectly toasted, courtesy of Sheila
Done! And ready to eat!

26 June 2012

Introducing the newest blogger ...

Leah's mom gave her a journal to keep track of her adventures this summer. I love the idea, but, let's be real. That's so 1995. :) On the suggestion of a friend, I set her up with her own email and blog. She's not writing rough drafts of posts in her journal. She then types them into Blogger and adds photos. It's pretty adorable, and I'm pretty excited for her. It was a pretty cool experience to give her her very first email account. I've never given someone their first email account, and it seems like such a big step in life. She was SOOOOOOO excited. Lots and lots of "I love you, Aunt Mary!" and "You are the best!" I'll take that.

So now our evening activities include blogging together. It's pretty awesome.

The littlest blogger ...summ

If you'd like to check out her adventures, you can do so here.

The Summer of Leah begins

For some crazy reason, I'm taking care of my 9-year-old niece for the entire month of July. I'm pretty sure I suffered a minor brain stroke or something when I agreed to this. But seriously, it should be an fun and interesting month. We may kill each other by the end of the summer, but we'll have fun getting there. 

I picked up Leah in Baltimore after my campus visit on Monday. My mom took her and her little sister to the National Aquarium, and then we met up at Wegman's (!!!) afterwards. From there, we headed to my cousins' house for the night. We went out to dinner and then left early this morning to head back to NC. It's been over 24 hours, and we're still doing well. :)

Leah, checking out Annapolis harbour. 
I've also decided that this summer will be Leah's summer of "new things." She is going to try all kinds of new things -- foods, adventures, experiences -- to broaden her horizons. We started right out of the gate at dinner last night. She tried blue crab. Which she didn't like. But the important thing is that she tried it! She much preferred smashing the shells with the hammer. 

The "new things" continued this morning. She had her first crepe! It was filled with peanut butter, honey, granola, and bananas. Mine had nutella in it, and she had a bite. And, of course, fell in love with nutella! But, really. Who doesn't like nutella?

Leah's first crepe.
We sat on the harbour dock and ate our crepes in the morning sun. It was pretty fantastic. 

Leah at the harbor. 
Headed back to NC

Once we got home, it was unpacking and straight to the pool. Where she promptly turned into a mermaid.

I'm looking forward to what this summer brings. If nothing else, a lot of memories will be made. 

Baltimore Bound?

For those of you keeping up with me, my interview in Bal'mer was on Monday. I left Raleigh around 7am and had AMAZING weather and the traffic gods smiled upon me and I had smooth sailing the whole way up. In fact, I made it to the DC beltway in record time ... just over 4 hours!! I swear to God I wasn't driving like a maniac!!! Well, no faster than I normally drive.

A pretty day in Richmond.
Anyway, the campus visit went amazingly well. First off, it was a beautiful campus. Driving up the long driveway, you would have had NO idea that you were just a few miles from the city center of Baltimore. It reminded me a lot of home. Lots of established greenery and walking trails. Even a pond ... with a fountain!!

There are geese and ducks there, too. And lots of turtles. 
And they even appealed to the "greeny" in me. Look! Designated parking spaces for eco-friendly transportation!!

Everything went amazingly well. I loved the people. I loved the campus. I loved the philosophy. I loved everything. In short, I fell in love. And I think they fell in love with me, too. I feel very confident that I'm going to get offered the job. Everything really pointed in that direction. I'm just feeling pretty certain that they won't be able to meet me salary requirements. And having to walk away from a job that seems to fit me so well because of money may possibly break my heart. I'll now for certain either way by Monday, and you'll either be able to hear my sobs of sadness or shouts of joy from wherever you are. 

22 June 2012

What does complaining get you?


This morning I was at the dealership a few minutes before 8am (!!!!!) to have the service done that should have been completed yesterday. I nestled down with my dissertation while I waited the hour until it was done. I decided not to say anything right away about my complaint to see if they made any efforts to rectify the situation on their own. I did notice that my ticket large red letters written in Sharpie that said "WAITING." :)

In just over an hour (record time, I'm sure), my car was done and they checked me out. As the cashier handed me my paperwork, she gave me a shiny new aluminum water bottle as a good faith gesture. Which I 100% appreciate. I still wanted to speak to the service manager, but I figured I would call this afternoon if I hadn't heard from him.

He called a bit ago, and my file has been annotated to receive detailing and a wash during my next visit. I'm happy with those results. :) 


And now I will tweet out a "job well done" to @VW for their follow-through. 

21 June 2012

A fun new toy! Er, I mean tool.

A colleague sent me the link to a new website for compiling photographs, and I gave it a test drive tonight. While I only played with it for a few minutes, I kinda love it already. See?

(Make sure you turn on the sound on both your computer and the widget.)

The power of the @

This morning at 9am, I dropped my car off at the VW dealership. I had an appointment for 9am, and I told them I would back in a few hours to pick it up. Rather than wait for 90-120 minutes in a noisy and smelly (there is an odd smell in the waiting room there, and it gives me a headache) waiting room, I went to a puppet show and lunch with Q-Money and her momma. We had a fun morning and even hit the Farmers' Market (see previous posts) before returning to the dealership at 1:30 in the afternoon.

When I walked in to pick up my car, they told me that they hadn't even brought it in to the garage yet. I asked why, and they told me that since I dropped it off, it wasn't a priority. I was confused since I had an actual timed appointment at 9am, and I told them so. I also reminded them that I had told them I was only going to be gone for a few hours and would be back to pick it up. Again, they told me that because I had dropped it off and left, it wasn't a priority. I still didn't understand since I had made an actual appointment. They could sense the irritation in my voice (I'm not very good at hiding it) and told me they could get it done in the next hour or so. That wouldn't work since I had produce from the Farmers' Market that needed to get into the fridge. They then offered me another appointment at 8am tomorrow morning. I had no other choice but to take it since I need to go out of town on Monday, and I need my scheduled maintenance done.

Of course, as soon as I drove out of the lot I called the service manager and left a detailed message expressing my discontent. Of course, by the time I was home, I was still angry and still not satisfied. 

So I took to social media. 

I tweeted out the following:

Less than 30 minutes later, Volkswagen responded, asking me for more information, which I happily provided. Shortly thereafter, they sent me this:

Social media provides consumers with a much broader platform on which to voice complaints as well as compliments. I have used Twitter as a means to give shout outs for fantastic service as well as unsatisfactory service. Companies who use Twitter and other social media platforms have to pay close attention to customer complaints in these forums because they are public and reach a much wider audience than the traditional phone-call or comment-box complaint method. It's easy to ignore a phone call or brush a customer off in face-to-face situations. It's not so easy to ignore the consumer when the complaint has been made in a public forum. If customer service is important to companies using social media, they cannot risk having customers voice complaints without paying attention to them. 

No matter what happens with my complaint, I'm already happier with my VW experience simply because my complaint received real attention. VW has saved public face because their attempts to rectify the situation has been done in a public way, and they have made efforts to make good on the situation. I've also had similar experiences with Time Warner Cable, and good things came from that interaction as well. 

Social media gives consumers a voice that hasn't been there in previous eras. But that voice shouldn't be abused. When a consumer is genuinely and legitimately frustrated with service they have received, taking to social media is appropriate. Of course, people will always take advantage of any situation, but having social media as a forum is a wonderful thing.

Flowers to celebrate my 1,000th post!!!

This is my 1,000th post! How exciting!! And it just so happens I have flowers (and fruits!) to celebrate this milestone.
Happy 1,000th post!!

It just so happens that today included a trip to the NC Farmers' Market, and I always buy fresh flowers when I go there. I had to resist the sunflowers, which I love, because they were too fall-esque. I wanted something more summery and light. So I settled on zinnias. In shades of pink, of course!

And, of course, I bought some fruit and veggies. The smell of strawberries and peaches filled the air, so I couldn't resist picking up a few of each.

I just want to eat it now!

This may join my "kitchen print" collection.

Fingerling eggplants and squash.

I LOVE eggplant. Not just to eat but to look at it. I like the intensity of the purple and the smoothness of the flesh.

Another for the "kitchen print" collection?

The Farmers' Market

I don't go to the Farmers' Market enough, and, whenever I do, I'm reminded of how much I love it. I love the fresh produce that makes me want to go home and cook. I love the vibrant flowers that make people smile. I love the smell of dirt and fruit that permeates the air. And I love the color that fills every nook and cranny of the barns. It makes me want to take photographs because the stands are the perfect subject. Because I wasn't planning to go to the market, I didn't have my camera. But I was armed with my iPhone, and, in a pinch, it works well to capture the beauty of the market. 

Shades of green

Red, red, and more red



Barrels and rows

19 June 2012

What dreams may come

Last night I had a weird dream. I was high atop a ladder. It was one of those A-frame ladders, not the kind you just lean up against a building. I was on the very top step -- you know, the part that they tell you NOT to stand on -- and I was trying to fix something on a roof. When I looked down, I saw that I was probably your stories above ground. I immediately got very nervous, and, of course, the ladder started to wobble. I held on for dear life, worried that I was going to fall. The more I tried to stand still and make the ladder stop moving, the more it because unsteady and shaky. Of course, I kept looking down, growing more and more terrified. I gripped the eaves of the roof more tightly and became resigned to the fact that there was no climbing down.

And then, of course, I woke up.

Now, I don't believe in the supposed "power of dreams" because I know the scientific reasons behind why we dream. I don't believe they predict the future or have significance that needs to be interpreted. They are dreams. They are how we process and digest and compartmentalize the information and experiences from the previous day. Dreams are our brains converting information into long- and short-term memory.

But this dream resonated with me. But not until about 2 in the afternoon.

I'm currently in the middle of a potentially life-changing moment. As I've alluded to before, I'm not 100% happy in my current position, and, since my focus this year is working to find my own happiness, I've been pursuing other options. I didn't think anything would come of it because it is so late in the year, but something has come of it. I have an important interview on Monday in a certain Mid-Atlantic city. Making the decision to either leave a place that has been good to me and has given me so many wonderful friends and experiences or stay and deal with some significant stressors is a hard one.

I've reached the point where I have to decide between what makes me happy and what could potentially disappoint those I care about. Part of my problem in life is that I'm a people pleaser, and I often sacrifice my own happiness to ensure the happiness of others. And I'm there now. I'm caught between what I want and what I feel like I should do because it is deeply engrained in my psyche. The thought of disappointing those I love makes me nauseous, but the thought of not pursuing something I want makes me feel so defeated.

So right now I feel like I am standing atop that wobbly ladder with no good choice for escape. Either way I go, it's going to hurt. But my foundations are shaky, and a change needs to be made.

Of course, all this may be moot if I'm not even offered the job ...

17 June 2012

For my father

Today is Fathers' Day. For the last 7 years, I've only been able to "celebrate" this day with a phone call home. Living 700 miles away prevents me from giving my dad the huge hug and kiss that he deserves on this special day dedicated to the greatness of fathers. This makes me a little sad.

I recognize that not all people have had the privilege of having a great father. Some even haven't had a father at all. And realizing this makes my value and honor my father all the more. I am lucky to have him in my life, and the fact that he has been an amazing father only makes me all the more appreciative. What is the most astounding for me is that my father had amazingly poor role models for parenting, yet he has turned out to be an amazing father. It's almost as if he saw all that his parents did wrong and vowed to never do the same. While it makes me sad that my father didn't have the wonderful parenting that I've been lucky enough to experience, I'm glad that he turned out the way he did.  

My dad wasn't a perfect dad. He made mistakes along the way, but he taught me the value of persistence and dedication because he never gave up on anything or any of us. Even when we had tested the limits beyond all reason, he has always loved us and been there to guide us. And, let's be real. A few of us tested him far beyond what any reasonable person could take. But he loved us and still loves us. He's our father, and he's there to show us the right path, even when we refuse to see it ourselves.

Dad and I dancing in a room filled with some God-awful wallpaper. 
My father taught me the value of hard work because he never gave us anything growing up. That sounds harsh and mean, but it's not. He gave us food, shelter, clothing, unconditional love, and amazing experiences. But when I wanted my first car when all of my friends' parents were buying them new cars, I had to buy my own with my savings. When I wanted new techy gadgets and other things that fell firmly into the "want, not need" category, I had to earn them myself. Of course I resented this when I was younger, but I realized quite early how valuable this was. And it has shaped me into the person I am now. To this day, I value hard work and enjoying the fruits of my labor over being handed gifts and awards that I'm undeserving of.

My father taught me a respect and reverence for the natural world that surrounds me. As a hunter and an outdoorsman, my father made it a part of our raising that we respect nature. I'm sure that's where my environmentalism started. We were taught to tread lightly, to leave no trace, and to appreciate all that nature provides us with.

My father taught me to respect my heritage and my history. I can remember so many afternoons when Dad and I would jump into his truck and take a drive through NY and PA, Dad narrating his family history and childhood antics. I didn't have the opportunity to know most of my dad's family, but, through his stories, I feel like I do know them. He shared stories about his cousins, his aunts and uncles. his friends, and just growing up in general. Those afternoons with my dad are some of the fondest memories I have of my childhood.

My father taught me to be a patriot, but not an unquestioning one. My father is a proud Vietnam Veteran, and this was something I always knew about. I've had some great conversations with my dad about his service, and it has made a distant and unreal sacrifice far more concrete and understandable. Because of my father, I have a deep and reverential respect for military service. And I'm proud of that.

My father taught me about commitment. My father taught me that when you make a commitment, you follow it through. Of course, I've struggled with this (obviously with a failed marriage!), but I know the importance of following through with the promises we make. My father has always worked hard to keep his promises to my mom, my brothers and sister, and all of the people he has worked with in a variety of capacities. Even when it is difficult, he works his hardest to fulfill his commitments. Aside from my abandoning of the bad marriage, I work hard to meet all of the commitments that I make.

My father taught me to appreciate good music. While my friends were listening to pop rock and other garbage (I hate to be judgmental), I was listening to CCR and The Eagles and other great classic rock music. To this day, I appreciate the older stuff far more than the newer stuff.

My father also taught me to love. He has always been there to support me, even when he disagrees with my decisions. He readily tells us he loves us and always has an embrace for us. His love has showed me what love is: devotion, dedication, compromise, and joy.

Happy Fathers' Day, Poppo! Thank you for all of the gifts you give us each and every day. I love you.

16 June 2012

Playing around

I haven't played with my camera in far too long, so I busted it out this evening. I've been thinking about creating some macro prints of different food items for kitchen prints (if I ever get a real kitchen to decorate), so I made good use of the food and plants I've got around the house.




All three, grouped together

Some basil.

A succulent. Not a food item, but still pretty. 

A lily. Again, not food, but still pretty.  
More lily. 
Someday, when I have a real kitchen, I'll have these printed and matted for my walls. A girl can dream, right?

12 June 2012

Ewwww. Gross.

My wicked sunburn has blistered. I have little blisters all over my back, sides, and on my side-boob (which also somehow escaped sunscreen application). It burns (no pun intended) and is horribly uncomfortable. 

The funny thing is that I haven't had a sunburn, let alone one that blistered, in at least two decades. I didn't know what to do, so I had to call the school nurse for advice (after I had to have my kickboxing instructor check me out to verify that, yes, I was indeed covered with little blisters). On the way home from the gym, I picked up some kick-ass aloe vera with lidocaine (a topical pain killer), and now I'm feeling pretty good. 

I'm just a little skeeved out at the prospect of them starting to ooze ...

A small selection of my blisters. Gross. 


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