Sunday, September 30, 2012

Life in the Cage

It's funny how things change.

A few years ago, I would wake up on Saturday mornings, drink coffee (that part hasn't changed), and cruise apartments on Craigslist in Washington, DC or even New York City.
I dreamed of living in a high rise with a grocery store in it, and taking the Metro everywhere.

Then, I did it.
And then, I got married and moved out to the suburbs.

Now, I'm a commuter.
I don't have the worst commute, but it would be nice to have those two hours back every day to do something meaningful, or at least - productive.

In the last week, I've gotten TWO speeding tickets from speed cameras in DC.
I am so mad.

Yes, I was speeding, I was breaking the law. I get that.
It's just crazy to me that you can get a ticket for this without a human police officer even being involved.
Then - I read that the DC Mayor is trying to discourage people from driving!?!
Argh! Who is he to decide how I get around?

This - paired with other parts of city life - are really getting on my nerves lately.
old press pass

People in the city walk around with lanyards around their necks.  At least, journalists do.  Mine has my White House pass, my Capitol Hill pass, my work ID, a fob to get into the parking garage at work, a fob to get into my apartment complex, my Metro Smartrip card and my Starbucks card.

So many ways that I have to prove I am who I am before I enter ANYWHERE I go!
I'm sick of it!

Particularly the stupid gate at our apartment complex.
I guess the gate is supposed to make me feel secure, like I live in this nice, "luxury" gated community.
I shook my head at that stupid gate when I was walking the dogs this morning.
Because THIS is how it makes me feel:
This is not helped by the fact that I travel a lot. So, that means lots more proving who I am, and going through security. And - covering the presidential race brings a lot of that too. The Secret Service likes to know who you are.

All of this has left me feeling like I'm ready to live here:
I want wide open space, where I can come and go as I please, and maybe even speed - just a little - if I want to.

Friday, September 28, 2012

This Time Last Year

You have probably noticed I've been blogging quite a bit about Fall this week. Well, that's because I've been participating in a SITS girls challenge. They dangled the possibility of winning a $25 Starbucks card, and I jumped!
The final challenge is to link up to a post from this week last year.
So, here you go.

What was I doing a year ago?
I was covering the presidential election, of course.
Yes, already.
If I remember correctly, that was the debate in Florida that I watched while sitting on a bean bag in the Google hangout.
And, I had a great hair day.

So, there you go.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Favorite Fall Recipes

I once pondered the idea of having a Pumpkin-themed birthday party for myself.

I'm an October baby.

I never did go through with that pumpkin party idea, but maybe I need to.

Next year.
You know, after the election.

I do love all things pumpkin.

Remember like three years ago when there was a canned pumpkin shortage? I thought I was going to die.
Clearly, I survived.
And I'm now a canned pumpkin hoarder.

Here are a few of my favorite pumpkin recipes.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (one of my favorites!)
Side note: this dough freezes really well.
And my ULTIMATE favorite: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

I shared the pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe with you the other day. 

And, just in case anyone from Aldi is reading my blog - PLEASE bring back your pumpkin pancakes again this year!
Because, last year, they were amazing.
What are YOUR favorite pumpkin recipes?

Note: If you want to follow my recipes, you can on Pinterest.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Happiest Fall Memory of All

October 17, 2008 - right in the middle of a presidential campaign, Michael Ritter asked me if I'd spend the rest of my life making memories with him.
I blubbered, which meant yes.

And here we are - in the middle of the next presidential campaign - married, more in love than ever - and we have definitely made some memories together, and we're looking forward to many, many more.

Side note: I miss that Roxy sweatshirt.
If you want to read the story of how Michael proposed, you can find it here, in the archives.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Okay, Fall. You're Here. Let's Do This.

(pic taken last November, at the Franconia-Springfield Metro station)

The key to Fall is admitting that it is here, and enjoying it.
This is not easy for me. It's harder for my husband.
We are both Summer-lovers.
But, I do love the colors of the leaves, all things pumpkin-spiced, the fact that both of our birthdays are in Fall, and I love being able to wear a hoodie and flip flops at the same time.

I don't look forward to changing the closets out. Both of us have twice as many Spring/Summer clothes than Fall/Winter clothes.
Oh well.
Black pants erry'day it is.

A bonus thing about THIS Fall? Election Day. More importantly, the Day After the Election.  You know, when I will get my life back.
Looking forward to that.
And Thanksgiving.
And, hopefully this Fall will be WAY better than last Fall, which happened to - um - suck - to put it eloquently.

I made my first batch of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies today. Cheers.

 (photo taken at Shenandoah National Park, September 2010)

Monday, September 24, 2012

How a 7th Grade Heartbreak Taught Me to Never Give Up

I'll bet you had no idea I was a middle school basketball star when I was in the 7th grade.
I think I was about 4'3."
I had one year of rec center basketball under my belt, where I may or may not have used growling in defense and earned the name, "Pit Bull."

Okay - so, maybe "middle school basketball star" is a stretch.

Here's the back story.
I really wanted to be a cheerleader.
But, after an extensive career as a rec center cheerleader, and even teaching a new girl in my neighborhood how to cheer, I didn't make it.

When I tried out in the gym of Indian River Middle School the Spring of 1992, I messed up.  They started the cassette tape, and I started the little dance routine that I had DOWN, but I had a brain fart about :10 seconds in, and I did the unthinkable: I asked if I could start again.

I remember there were three judges. I could see my pain in their eyes.
They re-started the Casio.
I smiled through tears, and did my little routine, then went back to the other gym with all of the other girls who were also trying out for the squad.
The girls who made the squad would get a phone call that night. The girls who didn't make it, wouldn't get a phone call.

I hoped against hope in my dad's red and white van as he drove me home that evening.  We ate dinner, and me, my mom and my dad all acted like we weren't waiting for the phone to ring, but we were.

And you know what? It rang. My eyes busted out of my head, and I answered it.  It was Cathy Hockman, the cheerleading coach. But, it wasn't a congratulatory call. She said she wasn't calling everyone who didn't make it, she was just calling me, because she thought I was really good - but I didn't make it because I had to re-start, so at the end of tallying up the scores, my score was too low.

Heartbroken is an understatement.
My parents took turns consoling me.

I also got to learn a lesson that Summer about what it's like for your friend to get something that you wanted.  The new girl in the neighborhood who I had befriended who had never cheered before, she made it. I was so jealous, but we were still friends.

But, I was determined to be an Indian River Brave.  Somehow.  Some way.

My school had volleyball, but I didn't try out for that. I had only played that a couple of times, in gym class, that year.

Then, I heard about girls basketball tryouts.
And, something compelled me to put my name on that sign up list.

I think my parents thought I was crazy.
But, they bought me some new basketball shoes.
I practiced with my dad and brother in our driveway.
And, somehow - at the end of the week - my name was still on the list.

I was an Indian River Brave.

I sat and sat on the bench that year, when I played basketball.  I made good friends with the other white girls who also rode the bench. Sometimes, when we had a 20 point lead, our coach would put us in, and we were all terrified we would shoot at the other team's basket. 

The most action I saw was when we first ran out of the locker room, because I was the shortest one - so when we ran out, I carried the ball.

But, when I played the 2:00 I played that whole year, my dad LOVED that the cheerleaders were cheering for ME. 
I didn't care.
I watched the cheerleaders at every game, plotting tryouts the next Spring.

Spring came, I tried out for cheerleading, and I made the squad.
And I was a cheerleader from 8th grade all the way through my Senior year, when I was the Head Captain. 

I learned a lot of life lessons along the way in my five years of cheerleading for the Braves. Maybe I'll tell you about them sometime.

But for now - take it from 12 year old Dana Brown: Don't give up. Sometimes things don't go according to plan.  But, that doesn't mean you have to give up, or that there's only one way to be what you want to be. Try harder. Try something else. Then, rock it out harder than you would have in the first place.

After the Election

Completely unrelated photo of pie. Because pie and sunlight are both good, no matter what you're talking about.

It's 7:25am on a Monday, I think.
I’m at Panera.
I just swallowed a Pumpkin bagel with Hazelnut cream cheese, almost whole.
I am so hungry lately.
And, I’m fat.
Dangerous combination.

I can’t deal with that until after the Election.

“After the election,” has almost become this sort of mythical time and space.
A land far away, in another time – in my imagination.

The reality is, it’s 44 days away.
That’s not long at all.

It’s kind of like Daylight Savings Time.
You know, when you get that extra hour, and you think just one extra hour is going to make you more rested, more productive, better looking and happier?

Then, it happens - and you are shocked to realize that you didn’t get extra sleep, you didn’t get anything extra done, and you feel like you missed an opportunity because you spent that hour watching football and doing something completely mundane, like unloading the dishwasher.

I don’t mean to sound like a Dana downer. I’m just saying, this is how it happens, when I’m not looking.

After the election, I’m going to get healthy.
After the election, I’m going to read again.
After the election, I’m going to go on dates with my husband.
After the election, I’m going to write a book.
After the election, we’re going to try to have a baby.

It sure seems like I have my life planned out until the midterm elections in 2014, right?

This is what I do when I’m not looking.
I am very task-oriented.
In the business – and journalism – world, this is great. I prioritize like a pro, and I have no problem bragging about how productive I can be.
But, sometimes in life – in my walk with the Lord, and my relationship with my husband – my “to do list” thinking can make me miss out on some things.

The things that you have to stop – or slow down – to enjoy.

So, yes.
That election, 44 days away – I have at least three to do lists for each day until that day.
I will continue plowing through those like a pro.
But afterwards, maybe  - just maybe – I will be able to slow down and look around.

I’m going to vote today.
That means the mythical, magical place is getting close.
Now, back to my ultimate comforter, my to-do list.

Friday, September 14, 2012

We Are Still Alive

Just busy. Very, very busy. The good kind of busy, though. Not the bad kind of busy, thank God. I went to the RNC Convention in Tampa.
This guy met me and helped me carry my luggage, then I spent two nights at home.
Then, I went to cover the DNC Convention in Charlotte.
Then I was home for one night, then Michael and I went to the Joni and Friends Wounded Warrior Getaway in Maryland.
We've been home for two nights and we leave tomorrow (one day later than planned) for my nephew's wedding.
So. Um. Yeah.
I do still love all of you and I think of this blog and this little community we have often.
Very often.
I will be back soon.
A little, before the election.
Then - full force - a week or so after November 6th.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Product Review: Dove Damage Therapy Daily Moisture Conditioner

What girl doesn't love trying a new beauty product, right?
So, when I was offered the chance to review the new Dove Conditioner, I signed up.

First let me tell you a little bit about my hair:
My hair is thin and fine, but I have quite a bit of it. My hair is also highlighted. And it's long right now.
I have to use conditioner every time I wash my hair, or it looks and feels dry. But, if I use too much conditioner, my hair will get greasy and limp real quick.
I was sent a bottle of Dove Moisture Therapy "Daily Moisture" Conditioner to review.

First, let's talk about the bottle.
I'm so glad bottles of things like conditioner and lotion have increasingly been designed to have the opening on the bottom. Makes way more sense, it's super easy to squeeze out. I like that. Win.

The Dove Conditioner smelled really great. It has a pure, refreshing smell. It's not an overly girly smell, so anyone can use it.

It's thick and creamy, and lathers easily. The first time I used it, I used way more than I needed to. Oops. A little bit goes a long way. I like products like this, because it means the bottle will last longer, a good thing because you won't have to buy it as often (save $) and you won't create as much waste. Win.

The Daily Moisture Conditioner is designed to help protect hair, and prevent future moisture loss. It definitely made my hair soft, silky and smooth. But the first time I tried it, my hair was limp. The next time I tried it, I used WAY less, and it was perfect. My hair was smooth and not frizzy, but still listened to me when I tried to beat it into style submission with my curling iron.
My husband also tried it. He doesn't use conditioner nearly as much as (I think) he should. The Dove Conditioner gave him so much body, he had a mini-afro. Full disclosure: His hair was long at the time, and it is naturally curly.

This is my first product review, so I hope I did okay, and you feel informed. Now, the fun part for you, a chance to win a Spafinder gift certificate, AND, make sure you scroll all the way down to get a great coupon so you can try the Dove Damage Therapy Daily Moisture Conditioner for yourself, if you are interested.

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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. Winners will have 72 hours to claim the prize, or an alternative winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 9/4/2012 - 9/30/2012

Be sure to visit Dove® to get a coupon for $1.50 off Dove Hair Therapy products.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

We Have Our New Van

I am home for just a couple of days in between covering the RNC convention and the DNC convention.
When the cabbie dropped me off Friday afternoon, there was a silver van in our parking spot!

The busyness of the last week in Tampa left me in a state of blur as far as home goes, so I was kind of surprised to see it there, even though I was the one who parked it there exactly the previous Friday.

Typing it out like that makes me realize we need to go somewhere today, so it is driven more than once in a couple of weeks!

Here's the story of the van coming to it's new home.
This very nice man came to pick me up at our place. His name is Charlie Brown!! This made me happy, because my dad's name is Charlie Brown.  So, in the middle of our political discussion, he agreed to being photographed.

He drove me from home to Ride-A-Way in Beltsville, Maryland - about an hour away.
There were a couple of service doggies waiting in the waiting area and they were so calm and sweet.  I love seeing service dogs because dogs generally make me happy, but you know, you're not supposed to pet service dogs, so it also kind of makes me sad. But these dogs were "off duty," so I was allowed to pet them. Random aside, I know.
One of the ladies in the office pulled up my paperwork, and one of the guys went to get our van!

They pulled it out front and showed me how the door and ramp were fixed to automatically deploy.  They also put a mat down over the carpet in the back. This is helpful for two reasons: 1. It will be easier for Michael to roll on than carpet. 2. It will be easier to clean than carpet.

Then, Randy, the Ride-A-Way General Manager informed me that they did all of the repairs AND serviced the van for us COMPLETELY FOR FREE!!

You guys, this blessing just keeps getting better!
That's me (standing on the ramp, otherwise I'm way shorter than everyone else) with Tammy and Randy.

Ride-A-Way just happened to be having lunch there that day, so they invited me to join them.
After the van presentation at Walter Reed a couple of weeks ago, I was already impressed with how these people work together to get adapted vehicles to our wounded warriors, but I got to see all of them in action and it was awesome!
This is the shop where they work on the vehicles.
This truck is for a quadruple amputee named John Peck.
It was so nice to meet him, and his mom, and see Tammy in action!
Pretty soon, I was on the road home. I didn't plan well, though, and I was heading home without a GPS, and an almost-dead phone.
So, yeah - those things plus the fact that I felt like I was driving a giant silver school bus - were a little crazy.
Michael had the dogs out in the courtyard when I got home.
He was so ready to check everything out.
Here he is on his inaugural roll-in:
Princess walked up the ramp like she had done this a million times before. I guess she kind of has, because she was around for Michael's old van - which was a full-sized van and had a lift, not a ramp.
But Brokaw... he was not feeling the ramp!
He only wanted to enter through one of the front doors. He doesn't like walking on metal. I have no idea why. He is just quirky like that. Like, when we are walking him, he refuses to walk on a street grate or a manhole cover. And once he was in the van, he did not want to walk down the ramp to get out!
I had to drag him down the ramp.
After I got Michael all tied down, we went for a little drive.  Around our apartment complex.
I felt like I was in Driver's Ed. Mini-van driver's ed.  I tried braking suddenly and turning quickly - to see how Michael was able to hold himself up.
He did pretty good.
Because Michael doesn't have any control of his abdominal muscles, he has a hard time holding himself up, unless he is holding on.
So - we ghetto-rigged a way for him to stay upright while riding in his wheelchair.
Don't laugh.
Yes, that's a backpack.
No, it's not a back to school thing.
It's a hold-his-shoulders upright kind of thing.
And it worked just great!
That very night, we took our new van out for date night.
We went to Macaroni Grill. And I wore a dress. And heels! People. You don't realize how big of a deal this was! Because we have this van, I am able to be a woman again. I able to wear a dress without having to hike it up and show my world to the world if you know what I mean. I'm able to wear heels because I don't have to lift my husband into an SUV.

This was just the FIRST of many dates we are going to have because of this amazing van. Thank you again to everyone involved in sharing this gift with us. A special thank you to Ride-A-Way Beltsville for hooking us up with some awesome, free service!