Babies on a Plane

I love people watching. There are few places that offer a better chance to observe human nature than an airport. It’s been a while since I shared an air travel story, so put your tray tables up, your seat in the upright position, and buckle up for a story from 10,000 ft.

My flight from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles requires a quick layover in Dallas, by far one of my least favorite airports. Mostly, I find that the whole “Everything’s bigger in Texas” thing also applies to the people sitting next to you on your flight. As I get to my seat, I’m elated to see I will not have to rub shoulders with my neighbor, but little did I know that my flight would be less than comfortable.

Just as the final passengers are trickling onto the plane, I notice an odd sound coming from the row in front of me—the sound of four distinct breathing patterns. I freeze. The plane is full, there’s nowhere to hide. I close my eyes and say a prayer for peace on Earth and peace within the heart of the baby placed on her Mother’s lap. My prayers go unanswered.

Within minutes, before we’ve even pulled away from the gate, the stale air of the cabin fills with a piercing screech that would shame

even the shrillest of banshees. It’s a sign of the times that the bouncing bundle lacking joy wants to play with an iPad. But wait—there’s another child flying with them, a girl between the ages of three and five. Like a broken record accompanying the baby’s squeals, the older sister begins repeating ad nauseam, “Mommy, you’re closing your eyes.” As if that was news to her mother. At that volume and with that much repetition, it’s news to no one on the plane.

And then, something happens that I could never have predicted, and yet should have expected. The baby’s shrieks have excited another baby a few rows back. They embark on what can only be described as an all out scream off. For each round, the blessed babes elevate their screeches just one pitch higher and louder than the other.

If I’ve ever been thankful for being childless, now is the moment.

I admit I was already pretty peeved this morning. I woke up at 5am after only a couple hours of restless sleep, hindered by a long-standing fear of oversleeping and missing a flight. My exhaustion was tested when the cashier at Dunkin Donuts poured me a coffee with cream even though I explicitly ordered a black coffee. I was too far down the terminal to turn back by the time I’d taken my first sip and realized her mistake. My coffee-addicted, lactose-intolerant body has not been handling the surprise well.

As the babies test their lung capacity (and their respective mothers’ will power), the captain announces that we’d be a bit delayed because the ground crew needs to defrost the plane. Something tells me this won’t be a problem when I’m leaving LA to come back.

Just as the diva infants begin to bring their war of wails to an end, a third baby chimes in. Rather than join his peers in eardrum shattering cries, our latest entrant opts for an onslaught of coos. It’s like baby acapella of the worst possible sort. I try to find a melody in the trio’s vocal eruptions. Alas, no baby Mozart’s in this group. To my dismay, it’s simply a continuous mix of dissonant tones. Maybe it’s a post-melody, post-harmony arrangement—seems perfectly plausible.

I remember one of the first flights I look as a child. At least I think I do, though I shouldn’t be held the accuracy of my recollection. My brother and I flew with my parents to Hawaii. We were on one of those big planes with the long center rows. Our parents seated us on the inside of the row—even then I felt suffocated. The flight felt endless, but we entertained ourselves with our shiny new Power Ranger toys. I can only imagine that there was some caffeine-deprived passenger wishing my own mother had decided against taking us along.

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Baby 1’s name is Dar. I pick up this information midway through the flight when her older sister rats her out for spilling popcorn. Her mother, like a pro, continues to chat to her neighbor as though oblivious to the clear and utter chaos around her. Older Sister alerts her mother that Dar is now eating popcorn off the floor. Mother continues to chat with her neighbor (how exactly the baby managed to reach the popcorn on the floor is beyond me).

The floor-popcorn distracts Dar enough to halt the screaming. A moment of silence, but I know this glorious break won’t last long. It’s just an intermission in a show I never asked to attend. I close my eyes, welcoming the possibility for rest. Just as I’m about to drift off, Baby 2 begins to sob, surely missing his or her new companions. I’ve never been so happy to hear that the plane has begun its descent into the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

Almost home!

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Philadelphia – The Early Years from an Early Riser

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Greetings from the city of brotherly love! It’s my first time in the great Philadelphia and I couldn’t be more excited. Unfortunately I’m still waiting on my friends and city tour guides to wake up! In the mean time, I’m getting a head start on my Philly facts and history.

Did you know the city of Philadelphia is coming up on its 331st birthday this month? In the year 1682, on October 27 (just a day before my own birthday *hint*) William Penn founded the city after being given a fairly large chunk of American land in repayment of a debt the king owed William’s father, Admiral Sir William Penn. Today that land is Pennsylvania (get it?)…and part of Delaware.
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I often wonder what I would name the kingdom I was born to run, but something about Weissenbergersylvania just doesn’t have a great ring to it. Lianeville seems far too provincial. I’m open to suggestions from the crowd–an indication of my fair, just, and humble leadership style.

For a student of history, Philadelphia rivals Washington D.C. for it’s prominence in the American story. In fact, I think it’s clear that when it comes to Team USA, Philly made the team far sooner. Let’s not forget that Philadelphia’s Carpenters’ Hall housed the First Continental Congress in September 1774. It was in the Pennsylvania State House that they met again in May 1775, and ultimately in July 1776 to write and sign their official FU to England, the Declaration of Independence.

While the Nation’s capital was being built down south along the Potomac, Philly kept the seat warm by serving as a temporary capital for 10 years between 1790-1800. Congress hung out in (suitably) Congress Hall, formerly the Philadelphia County Courthouse, while the Supreme Court took residence at City Hall. The executive branch, the big GW, lived at 6th & Market Street in the donated home of Robert Morris (who is more or less the economic mastermind of the US financial system). His home was renamed President’s House-again, super creative times for naming things. I guess we can’t all have the artistic expertise to choose titles like “White House.”

A note on Robert Morris: This dude was the first guy to officially use the dollar sign. Now that’s bada$$!

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Keep checking in for history from the field!

“Philadelphia is my greatest inspiration. — filmmaker David Lynch

Career Advice

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Last week, my jaw hit the floor when I received an e-mail asking me for career advice.

“My internship is almost over and I’m trying to get the most from my experience by meeting with some of the global communicators with fascinating jobs. I was wondering if I can call you for a bit tomorrow to informally discuss your background, your job, and how you got here.”

People ask me for advice all the time, normally about food or fashion. I love what I do for a living, but I didn’t realize it was enviable enough to put me in a position where someone might ask how I got there. To be honest, sometimes I’m not quite sure how I got here. It feels like I woke up one morning and suddenly I was 3000 miles from home, with a Virginia voter registration card, a 401K, $50,000 in student loan debt, and a closet full of awesome clothing. Going to graduate school while working full-time can do that to you–it’s like a 2 year roofie.

As I think about it more and continue to watch so many of my friends struggle to find solid ground in the working world, I realize that I’m definitely not the worst person to ask for advice. Without further ado, my words of wisdom for the career-hopeful and newly-employed:

1. Forget Your Dream Job

Stop waiting for “the one.” There’s a very good chance you don’t know yourself very well, so don’t limit yourself to what you think you know. Find something that suits your skills, your talents, and your passion, not just your interests. Just look at House, he may not give a damn about the health of his patients, but he loves solving the puzzles of the human body. Given that you’re not yet set down a defined career path, you still have plenty of time to try out new and different things. Worst case, at least you still have a paycheck while looking for something else to come along.

2. Don’t Suck Up

Sucking up is a great way to encourage all of your coworkers to hate you, while also demonstrating to your superiors that you don’t have a mind of your own. In my experience (or at least in my theory), the best way to get yourself a real gold star in the workplace is respectfully disagreeing, and expressing self-confidence and conviction. Especially with the toughest bosses, being able to hold your own, demonstrating critical thinking skills, foreseeing (their) possible missteps, and having the guts to put someone in their place can go a long way.

3. Act Up

They say you should “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” I think a similar principle applies for your work performance. Conduct yourself as though you have the job you want, and bring ideas to the table that will get you there. Don’t be limited by your job description.

4. Be Lazy

I always think its funny when people say I’m a hard worker. I’m not. I’m a smart worker, and I’m a smart worker because I’m extraordinarily lazy. I like to be efficient not for the sake of efficiency, but because the alternative is a waste of time, money, and energy. Sometimes investing a little extra work and energy up front means you can be so much lazier later. The shortest route between two points is a straight line–exploit the straight line. Be lazy, be efficient.

5. Show Up, then Leave

Show up, on time, even early, and make your presence known. I don’t mean have a parade when you show up for an interview, or constantly talk about how early you got into the office, but do something to stand out. Be proactive in meetings. Be more than a seat warmer. Share a good idea, baked goods, a joke or funny story. Leave your mark on every room you enter, because if they don’t remember you, they won’t miss you when you’re gone. Conversely, when possible, leave. Don’t burn yourself out. When you leave the office and have down time, take care of yourself. You’re no good to anyone if you have no mental energy left. This is also called “work hard, play hard,” but as I said, don’t work hard–work smart!

There you have it. Want to be successful in life? Just remember: forget your dream job, don’t suck up, act up, be lazy, show up, and leave! Also, I’m completely unqualified to provide any advice whatsoever, so I’m asking you to leave a comment, answering:

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? 

Go West, Young Man!

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This blog, brought to you by the linguistic styling my  star-spangled sidekick, Captain Amurica.

Seeing as the Star Spangled Girl decided that she wanted to regain her cherished independence from the clutches of DC’s public transportation system and my work schedule, it was decided that a cross country trip driving the aforementioned Yellow Submarine was to be had. Engaging in such a trek was something I had talked about and wanted to do for awhile, and seeing as how such an opportunity might not present itself in the near future, I willingly agreed to be a travel partner, navigator, and general co-pilot on our trek across the wide open nothingness of middle America. With stops planned in LA, Las Vegas, Denver, Jefferson City, MO, and Morgantown, WV the stage was set to traverse nearly 2600 miles and 41 hours of driving time. Needless to say the trip would be a lot of open road in a very small and enclosed space. I just hoped that by the end of it I wouldn’t be hitchiking it home.

Los Angeles

My first impression of LA, having never been there before, was nothing if not an odd sense of familiarity. Having so many movies filmed there, it almost seems as if one has been there before, with the palm tree lined streets and wide open 5 lane freeways conjuring images of every movie I’ve ever seen that was filmed in sunny southern California. And sunny it is no doubt, with gorgeous weather and even better beaches. Coming from the East Coast where the humidity has been between 90-100% , the lack of swampiness in the air was quite a welcome relief. The sheer expanse of LA was also noticeable, as it seemed almost impossible to get anywhere without having to hop on a freeway with a million other people. The lack of any sort of real “downtown” are a la New York, Boston, or DC was also something that I had trouble wrapping my head around, but all things considered LA is pretty awesome. While there it was a whirlwind of family 4th of July BBQs, eating lots of food, and doing all the toursity things that must be done upon a virgin visit to any major metropolis such as LA. It is at this time that I would like to extend a special thank you to the family of the Star Spangled Girl for taking me in like family and providing endless hospitality. Thank you for everything.

While in LA we decided to do tours of Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Westwood, where I had possibly the best ice cream sandwich on the planet. A quick word about each:

  • Hollywood – As a lover of movies and someone who could carry on an entire conversation based solely in movie quotes, Hollywood was great. We toured the Chinese theater, the Walk of Fame (if only to find Alex Trebek’s star), and Hollywood Blvd. Lots of tourists, lots of shops and lots of hustlers tryin to squeeze a dollar out of 15 cents.
  • Santa Monica  Saw the famous pier, the end of historic Route 66, and played some skee ball at the arcades. Not too shabby.
  • Venice Beach – Ahh the boardwalk at Venice Beach, where I saw the greatest collection of artists, stall hockers, and general weirdos. The kingdom of the eclectic is what I would refer to it as, with everything from hand carved African art to $40 medical marijuana cards all available on a stretch of sandy Boardwalk. Stopped by Muscle Beach to take some pics and Marvel at the athletic endeavors of a couple of rather large men engaged in what YouTube has dubbed the “24 hour prison workout.” The sights, sounds, and especially smells were something I won’t soon forget.

Stay tuned for more from our courageous partner later this week.

There and back again

Today, I embark upon a journey. From the muggy swampland of Northern Virginia, I’ll venture to the mystic and plastic land I once called home: Los Angeles. Then, in my golden chariot, I will ride across this majestic country, through 13 states, to return to my Capitol City-adjacent home in Arlington, VA.

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Along the way, my trusty sidekick and I will face perilous obstacles that make us ask ourselves questions we’ve never explored before, like “How much is too much BBQ?” and “How long can I hold it so I don’t have to stop at that nasty rest stop?” Our path will take us through

  • California
  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Virginia

With stopovers in Las Vegas (Nevada), Denver (Colorado), Jefferson City (Missouri), and Morgantown (West Virginia), it promises to be a thoroughly blog-worthy adventure. Stay tuned to the Star-Spangled Girl and the “Everywhere in Between” tab for more on the sights and sounds from across the U.S. of A.

A Different Kind of Post

The metro is a swamp. I checked the weather last night—89 degrees with 70% humidity and a 30% chance of rain. It’s impossible to dress appropriately for this weather. I wait through the first train that comes. It’s packed and I don’t want to have to stand in other people’s sweat.

I get to work. My desk is at the opposite side of the office as everyone else, but sometimes people make small talk as they walk by me. They don’t slow down.

I read about health policy. I realize that putting together the morning issue updates might make me one of the more up-to-date people in the office. This scares me. I hope it’s not true.

The morning drags, but I have plans at noon. Last week, a classmate invited me to lunch. I checked my work schedule to make sure I wasn’t on any calls or attending any meetings or events—nothing. I agree. He suggests Old Ebbitt Grill because it’s midway between our offices. I agree. He sends me a Google Calendar invite. I accept.

When I get to the restaurant, I discover he made reservations. I’m glad. The line is long and I hate being out of the office. I order the soft-shell crab. It comes with asparagus, a potato cake, and remoulade—not enough remoulade. I had a conversation last week with my British friends about remoulade when they were visiting. I said it was “Like mayonnaise or aioli.” They asked the waiter anyways. I hate that. They hate it when I say “awesome”, but they call eggplant, “aubergine,” and zucchini, “courgette.”

The food is good. We talk about our weekends. Mine sounds more eventful, but I envy his. After splitting the check, we part with a hug and a promise to do it again soon. I smile as I walk away because we aren’t just saying that.

I get back to work. It’s a big day. An important bill is coming to a vote and it looks good. One executive jokes that I’ve single-handedly put the bill through. Later, my boss introduces me as the girl who does all the work. I wonder if they think I’m a workaholic. I wonder if I am.

I ride the metro home. The sign as I get off at my stop says “Welcome to Virginia”. I’m a Virginian now, but I can’t decide if that means I live in The South.

A friend comes over for dinner. It’s nice not to be alone. Over plentiful heapings of chicken and orzo, I talk about my brothers. I haven’t seen them in almost 6 months. If someone told me last year I would go that long without seeing them, I would have never have believed them. I wonder what they are doing. “Looking in the mirror,” I think. I smile. I look in the mirror. I’m vain. The Brits said that too. I didn’t deny it.

I had a can of soda with dinner and I feel the caffeine. I work off the jitters by making macaroons. I don’t have any bar chocolate or chips so I melt M&Ms with soy milk and butter. It’s good. I’m proud.

I watch basketball with my friend. He doesn’t stay for overtime. Even with the chatter of the TV, the apartment seems quiet.

I open my computer, deciding to write a different kind of post. I finish it and hope that no one—and everyone—read it.

Cheers, to no one and everyone.

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
~Virginia Woolf

Good Tweet, Bad Tweet

A couple weeks ago, my parents and grandparents stumbled their way from Los Angeles to the District. Somewhere in between getting lost on the wrong side of the Key Bridge and chowing down at some of DC’s finest, I got stuck on a topic that I never talk about–social media.

Techies aren’t just born, they are bred.

I filled the 8 days I shared with my family with talk of tweets and pins, teaching them how to check-in on Facebook and explaining Twitter and Pinterest. The result? I was tagged into every restaurant we went to 3 times, and my grandpa (@MillenniumMayor) has been spam tweeting Karl Rove, Glenn Beck, Martha Maccallum, and Sarah Palin.

It’s not surprising when social media noobs like my family ask how to do Twitter the right way. I hesitate to say that there is a right or wrong way to tweet, but there are definitely better, more effective ways. Have I lost you?

Don’t fret–I have a perfect DC meets LA way to explain!


Bad Tweet

Earlier today, the US Embassy in Brussels tweeted:

The tweet references the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) which had an event on the topic of women and counterterrorism (#WomenAndCT) yesterday afternoon. It’s a well-done tweet, with the exception of using the wrong handle for CSIS. On the other hand, CSIS does a terrible job with their response:

I have a ton of respect for (and would love to work for) the Center for Strategic and International Studies, but this tweet is simply bad form. CSIS has forwarded a modified tweet from the US Embassy in Brussels that looks like it was written by Justin Bieber after he raided his parent’s liquor cabinet. Why did they shorten keywords like instrument and expert and remove the space between 4 and peace, but leave important and according complete? This tweet could have read:

MT‏ @usembbrussels #Women are important weapon against terror & instrument 4 peace say experts @CSIS http://bit.ly/HXg9jG #terrorism #Verveer

Is this better? What do you think?

Good Tweet

If you are scoffing at seeing my own face listed under the title of good tweet, fear not. My vanity has not yet taken over.
Earlier this week, I had an exchange on Twitter which I think demonstrates best practices for political and advocacy Twitter usage. As an extra bonus, it also includes one of my favorite topics, Kim Kardashian!

Kim Kardashian took headlines by storm this week when she said on her reality show that she might consider running for Mayor of Glendale someday. The city of Glendale, sometimes referred to as “Little Armenia” by locals, is very close to where I grew up–in the same congressional district, in fact. Congressman Adam Schiff represents the district, and so I thought I’d poke a little fun at him and the situation.

I never expected a response, and yet within 24 hours:

What can politicians take away from this tweet? The response (1) demonstrated that he was actually listening and engaging rather than just broadcasting, (2) took the opportunity to share one of his positions that his constituents feel strongly about (Armenian Genocide), and (3) it felt personal and real, not stiff or like a form letter. These are the kind of interactions that politicians should be aiming for to maximize the impact of their online discussions.

But the conversation didn’t end there. No, Kim Kardashian didn’t chime in. @CharaGG, however, did:

The link posted goes to an indiegogo website that asks people to donate to her documentary project that deals with Armenian genocide. My guess is that she either follows Rep. Schiff due to his strong support of Armenian Genocide recognition, or she searched for Armenian genocide on Twitter and inserted herself into relevant conversations. In doing so, she tapped into a conversation that was already occurring online with people who care about a topic. This is good social networking. This is digital engagement.

Until next time.

A toast, “To Mayor Kardashian, may the stress of politics not make her want to pull her own extensions out.”

“The people drawn to Twitter are people on the cutting edge, the real nerds who are resentful of the fact that the general population have found and taken over Facebook”

~Steve Dotto, host of Dotto Tech