Reinvention

When I was in high school, I planned to major in drama when I went I college. But then I didn’t get the lead role – or any role for that matter – in the senior play, crushing my Broadway dreams. I went to the other extreme: I decided to major in pre-law.

My step-mother talked me out of it. “Do you really want to be a lawyer?” she asked. “You’re too diplomatic for that.”

Diplomacy wasn’t a major so I went with International Relations. “What kind of job are you going to get as an IR major,” the adults around me asked. I didn’t really know. I figured I’d travel the world and eventually become a diplomat.

Senior year, the need for a respectable job looming, I took the Foreign Service exam.

(As an aside, my creative writing instructor encouraged me to become a writer. “You’re talented. You should really consider this writing thing.” His words still ring through my brain on a loop.)

On the Foreign Service exam, I scored one point lower than the cut-off for an interview. (14 years later, pregnant with Colin, I was offered that interview as part of the settlement of a class action lawsuit, but I wasn’t really in a position to take a post in a third world country, as amazing as that sounds to me now.)

I wanted to go abroad, mostly because I was in love with a foreigner. I applied for the Peace Corps. Got an interview. Was told my liberal arts degree didn’t arm me with any applicable skills. “I want to volunteer,” I pleaded. “I can teach English as a Second Language.” I needed experience to prove it.

So I applied to a program to teach English in the Czech Republic for a summer. It was a fabulous experience. This was the answer. I’d go home, get a Master’s degree in Education, travel the world teaching English.

I got a job teaching ESL in Boston and went to school at night. But three days after graduating with my M.Ed., I had an epiphany: my lifelong dream was to work on Capitol Hill.

I didn’t know the first thing about how to get a job on Capitol Hill. I flew to DC. Walked unscheduled into Senator Susan Collins’ office.

“Hi, I’m from Maine. I’ve always wanted to work on Capitol Hill and was wondering if someone could talk to me about the process.” That “talk” ended with a job offer.

I moved, driving solo in a U-Haul truck with all my worldly belongings to a city where I knew two people. I made friends. I figured out what “recess” meant and how to get to the Senate floor. At some point I was given the responsibility of writing letters on environmental issues, which led to a job on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

A moderate republican environmentalist was born. The rest is on my LinkedIn page.

Everything opportunity I’ve had in DC happened by accident. I’m some weird poster child for being in the right place at the right time. But were all these career moves right?

While I balance consulting for myself with writing my novel, more and more of my passion flows toward the latter. Just have coffee, lunch, a drink with me and time how many minutes I spend talking about the book versus talking about lobbying. I don’t picture myself pounding the marble halls of Congress forever. In an ideal world, I don’t picture myself pounding the halls of Congress next year. I know how dangerous it is to put that in writing; some future employer or client could use it against me. “She’s not dedicated enough to policy. She just wants to write her book.”

But that’s far from true. I’m still passionate about my issues, and as long as working on them helps me sustain this dream of being published, I’ll continue to pursue energy work with gusto. It’s admittedly hard. This isn’t a town that embraces the unconventional. By my own invention, I don’t fit the norm.

But for now I’ll wear the label of wacky lobbyist-slash-aspiring-writer and hope that my professional luck continues. Maybe someday, that long ago writing instructor will see my published book and remember my name.

Hive on the Hill

There are no fashionable women’s shoe stores on Capitol Hill unless you want to make the trek to Union Station, and who shops at Union Station except passersby and Hill staffers on their lunch break?

That all changes for one brief and shining weekend (as in, this weekend) when the Old Town based boutique, the Shoe Hive, comes to Tabula Rasa on Barack’s Row.

Beginning tonight from 7:00-9:00 with a cocktail reception hosted by my favorite Alisons, DC Celine and Wardrobe Oxygen, and running regular hours through the weekend, all sorts of wonderfulness will be available. From shoes to handbags to jewelry and other accessories, they promise to have something for everybody. Need gifts? Walk away from Amazon Prime for one night to support a local small business. Looking for the perfect holiday shoe? Maybe you will find it here. While I have never actually shopped the Hive since I usually make my big shoe purchases from SimplySoles, I’m impressed by the photos I’ve seen on Twitter and Facebook of not only new arrivals in their actual store, but the goodies they are busy unpacking on this side of the river. And they are super responsive on social media, which feels like good customer service to me.

Who knows? Since I already indicated to the Hive-ess that my feet take a size 8, maybe I will find a happy birthday to me present.

inching closer

The title of this post could be itching closer since I’m still plagued by the worst case of poison ivy I’ve ever had. At least today I made it to the doctor, as unsympathetic as she may have been.

Doctor: Yes, you have poison ivy.

Me: You went to med school to figure that out?

She actually asked me if I’d tried calamine, benadryl and the usual antidotes. No, I’ve had poison ivy for over a week and I haven’t tried any over the counter meds.

But I digress…

This morning’s fall temperatures inspired the first wearing of my riding boots, which I paired with a navy and white striped dress and a denim jacket to hide my evil arms. I added a flame scarf for color. But what I really loved most about today’s look is my new(ish) sunglasses. They were so difficult in the ordering (first the prescription was incorrect and then the sizing proved complicated) but I really love them, and they were worth waiting for.

While today climbed into the 80s, I continued my homage to autumn by visiting the Periwinkle pop up shop to see what fall items I could cross off my wish list. I walked away with a teal cardigan that will work for both the soccer field and casual Friday (or casual any day I don’t have a meeting), a shift dress in gray, black and red with amazing zipper details for an edge factor, and a pair of jeans (the AG tomboy, which is funny because I usually don’t buy jeans that have the word “boy” in the description). I’m happy not only to have these additions to my wardrobe but to support a local boutique doing business on Capitol Hill.

Today is also my baby’s birthday eve. You know how I love birthday and birthday eve. He’s with his dad tonight, but I baked his cake and wrapped presents and am thinking of the night 11 years ago when I knew it was really “time.” I can’t think of a better way to spend his birthday tomorrow than to have our opening soccer games in this nice pre-fall weather. I know there’s another heat wave in our future, but for now these crisp cool nights and the promise of more in October has me feeling balanced and energetic.

If only the itching would stop.

what are you waiting for?

If your closet needs an infusion of fall fashion, head on over to the Periwinkle pop up shop today from 11:00-8:00, tomorrow and Saturday from 10:00-8:00 and Sunday from 11:00-4:00. Owner Elizabeth Mason (a woman I want to know better given the transition she made from politico to style maven) and her team will have on hand goodies from her three boutiques and we wouldn’t want her to have to drag any of these items back to Virginia or National Harbor, would we? For these four days, Periwinkle will house a fourth boutique at Tabula Rasa, located at 731 8th Street, SE. Going to Barracks Row for lunch or happy hour? Or maybe a workout at Biker Barre? You have no excuse to not at least pop your head in and support this tiny moment in time when women’s retail comes to Capitol Hill. Maybe we can show enough support to talk Elizabeth into a fourth permanent Periwinkle outpost.

fashion happenings

If there is one thing that I absolutely hate about Capitol Hill (aside from a dysfunctional Congress) it’s the utter lack of fashion commerce. (Union Station doesn’t count.)

But this week, for those of us who work, shop and/or live on the Hill, there are two style events you need to put on your calendars.

The first happens to be tonight. (Sorry for the last minute nature of this information, but remember, I’m writing a short story.)

If you wear button-up shirts or blouses and are tired of  “boob gape” – that unsightly gap your shirt makes when it pulls across your chest – you need The Shirt by Rochelle Behrens. And tonight you have your chance to pick one up. A trunk show is being held from 5:00-8:00 at Johnny’s Half Shell to feature this ingenious blouse with extra (hidden) buttons to keep you from inadvertently flashing your boss. Come check out the Summer 2012 collection, receive 20% off any purchase you make, and let yourself be enlightened by a patented technology that is an Oprah Mush Have Item of the Year. I own two of these shirts, which I bought five years ago when I was working in the Senate, and I can attest to their functionality and durability. Quality fabrics and vibrant colors and patterns distinguish them from your average blouse. If the Farm Bill ends up in a quorum call all night, you have no excuse not to drop by for 15 minutes. No one will miss you. Really.

The second event I encourage you to attend is the Periwinkle Pop-up Shop at Tabula Rasa, located on 8th Street in Barracks Row. From 11:00-8:00 on June 21st and 22nd and 10:00-4:00 on the 23rd, you can shop the wears of this popular Northern Virginia-based boutique without having to cross the 14th Street Bridge. Are you, like me, looking to supplement your summer wardrobe? Need a dress for a wedding, garden party or maybe a hot date? Like funky jewelry and shoes you won’t find on the feet of the woman standing next to you in the elevator? Make sure you drop in to see what unique items Periwinkle is offering. I definitely plan to attend, so if you are interested, let me know and maybe we can add lunch or drinks or dinner to the agenda.

I dream of a day when I don’t have to drive/metro far and wide to find the quality shopping I crave, and fashion events like these will help draw attention to the shopping deficit in the area of DC (that’s you, Capitol Hill) that needs fashion guidance the most. Help encourage more such events (and maybe, gasp, a permanent boutique) by showing your support.

Be there or be forever mediocrely dressed.

current obsession: biker barre

Spin in the morning. Spin in the evening. Barre at lunch. Spin-barre doubles on the weekends. Anytime of day everyday of the week is a good time for a class at the newly-opened Biker Barre in the Barracks Row district of Capitol Hill.

I won’t ever be able to run again, but a year and a half after my back procedure, I can finally spin. Varoom, just like that, I have found my new favorite cardio.

While I still miss the flexibility of being able to lace up a pair of running shoes regardless of the time of day, in any location, to hit the road for a run of any length, the robust schedule at Biker Barre presents numerous opportunities to get your workout in, whether you are a morning, noon or night worker-outer. And while my runs typically lasted longer than the 45 minutes you spend on a bike in spin class, the instructors (especially co-owner Katie Fouts) are especially diligent at ensuring you don’t leave an ounce of energy untapped. But if you do have something in the reserves at the end of your virtual bike ride, I recommend following spin with a barre class. The perfect combination of pilates and yoga, barre’s emphasis on core strength has been key to alleviating the residual back pain I still get from time-to-time. And it tones you in all the right places.

I truly consider both exercises lifesavers.

But don’t take my word for it. Find your way to the Biker Barre studio. There are several pricing options available, whether you want to buy a one-class pass (with the second class free for newbies) or do what I did and buy the one-month unlimited option (there’s a special on that too).

Come to class. Prepare to sweat. Just don’t take my favorite bike.

on interns (guest post)

The following was submitted to me after my skin-tern post, and I loved it so much I asked the author if I could share it. This person needs to stay anonymous for obvious reasons but anyone who has ever hired, supervised, cursed or been eternally grateful for an intern will relate to this piece.

There was intern drama today of the unnecessary kind. The kind that comes with accepting an internship on Capitol Hill, a place where you may have landed because of your last name, but once you walk through the door the playing field is leveled by the likes of me.

Maybe it is because I have risen through the ranks from intern to senior staff because I kept my head down and worked hard. I let my work speak for itself. I showed up on time. I did more than was asked of me, but not so much people thought I was kissing anyone’s ass. My daddy didn’t write the campaign a check, my uncle didn’t go to college with the Boss, and certainly it wasn’t my GPA or SAT scores that got me in the door.

Capitol Hill is not summer camp and yet parents some how find a way to send their kids off to Washington, D.C. for six weeks and expect young staff, who let’s face it, aren’t much older than the would-be intern, play Camp Counselor to their kids.

For many interns, this is their first experience in the real world – they’re thrust into a well-oiled machine, a respected institution, and have the first chance to build a name and a reputation for themselves.

When you walk in the door, I take notice of details like what you’re wearing and how much make up you have on.

Yes, DC is hot, but you need to wear a jacket.

Yes, you have to give three tours today,

Yes, you have to take your Toms off.

You are a reflection of the Member you are interning for and more importantly, you must respect the hallowed halls that American heroes have also walked.
LBJ, JFK, John McCain, Shirley Chisholm, Barack Obama.

You are privileged to be here. We all are.

If you want to skate by and use this opportunity as another notch in you belt of extracurricular activities or as a topic for your grad school admission essay, fine. But don’t be offended when I don’t remember your name. You have four, maybe five weeks to give me a reason to remember you – how I remember you is your decision. But I promise you, if you show up everyday ready to hit the ground running, humble, eager, and do what is asked, you will earn the trust of those around you and you will be remembered. This will serve you much better than being remembered for poor attitude, tardiness, inappropriate language, or short skirts.