Onward

Today is my last day working for the company that gave me my first full-time job after college. While it may be exciting and invigorating, it is certainly not easy to decide to leave somewhere that you’ve grown comfortable with and accustomed to.

I started working here when I was a week away from turning 22, in November of 2008. I’d graduated in May, jobs were sparse (especially for a liberal arts grad), I lived it up in Blacksburg as long as I could, moved home, taught at a leadership program for two months, and applied to countless jobs every day.

When I started I was young, living at home with my parents, and navigating a long-distance relationship. I commuted two hours each way every day — I’d drive to the train station, take the VRE to Union Station, take the metro to Dupont, and walk from there. I had no friends in the office — on my lunch breaks, I’d take my sandwich outside and call Hugh because my mornings were too early and his nights were too late to touch base any other time.

Some of my best friendships have grown out of working here, as have some of the best lunch and happy hour adventures. This organization let me move from my job in publications to uncharted territory in fundraising where I have learned more than I’d ever thought a job could teach me. In 2008, I had not ever once used a V-LOOKUP in Excel, and now I can’t get enough of them.

It’s easy to get comfortable somewhere in almost five years. The place, its people, operations, dress code, generous PTO, and nearby happy hours become a cocoon of familiarity that’s difficult to want to leave of your own volition. Starting somewhere new, with more responsibilities, new people and unfamiliar practices is daunting. But when it’s time for a new challenge, an opportunity to continue learning more, you just move onward.

I’ll miss my friends and the coziness of my desk when I start my new adventure on Monday. But until then, I’ll be the unemployed gal sunbathing at the pool.

A Toast to Lady Friends

Last night I hosted Bunco while Hugh was playing softball.

We still call it Bunco even though it’s really just wine, snacks, and catching up on everyone’s happenings.

We had jalapeño hummus, spinach artichoke dip, and bruschetta. All simple, all homemade, all delicious.

And as we all started sharing what we’ve been up to, I realized we could spend the whole night toasting each other.

A toast to a ladyfriend completing her grad school program and another beginning hers in the fall.

One for a just married ladyfriend and two more with weddings in the coming months.

A brand new job recently started and two new jobs starting in the next few weeks.

Commitments to run races, hit the gym first thing in the morning, and renovate a home.

That’s a lot of awesome things going on among nine pretty great girls and I feel pret-ty lucky that they let me hang out with them.

The Disney Adventures of a Grumpy Old Lady

I got back from Orlando last night, where I was attending a conference for users and developers of the association management system software my company launched back in June.

Yawn, I know. But I actually found a lot of it interesting and brought quite a few notes home.

And while it was educational, informative, and even a touch enlightening, you can’t go to Disney World for a conference and not see at least a little bit of the Disney magic.

My colleague Vicky and I flew down early in the day so that we could spend at least an afternoon having fun before the conference started. After following Mickey’s steps through the airport, boarding a shuttle called The Magical Express, and fighting a system outage while checking in at the hotel, we at long last made it to Epcot.

The first highlight for me was stumbling onto an Oz display. Since The Wizard of Oz is secretly my favorite movie, I hadn’t quite decided how I felt about the new movie coming out and traipsing all over the classic Oz that I’ve known since childhood. I had had the same feeling toward Wicked until I saw it and realized that rather than being a terrible adaptation of my favorite movie, it was in fact was amazing.

A similar thing happened when I saw this overturned hot air balloon, which led me to a yellow brick road (which led into a toddler play area, but that’s not the point), which was surrounded by poppies.

Disney magic, y’all.

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Eventually I came out of my childhood fantasy haze and we got to the real business of Epcot: beers around the world. First stop, Canada.

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And then England where I spotted Peter Pan (another childadulthood favorite) on top of what I can only imagine is an Abbey of the Downton variety.IMG_0175

In France I spotted Belle but did not want to wait in a long line to get my picture taken with her. The result was the first of many creepy photos I took with characters from afar. Also please note the sunglasses I purchased in an Epcot gift shop immediately upon our arrival — they have clear frames that are splatter-painted with neon colors and there’s a Mickey head in the corner where normal folks’ sunglasses say something like RayBan.

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In Morocco a beer vendor did not believe that I was of drinking age and then did not believe that my ID was mine. “This picture is brown,” he said. To which I responded that yes, though I am currently sporting my winter whites I do get tan in the summer, which happens to be when that picture was taken.

Then I put on a hat while clutching my hard-earned Moroccan beer and not wearing make-up.IMG_0177

It turns out that Orlando was experiencing record low temperatures while we were there, which is why we may look sunny and warm in front of the giant golf ball but our beer-holding hands are actually frozen.

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Sticking it out through the cold and the wind was worth it when, by the time it got dark, most of the families with children left and we could hop right on exciting rides like the Norwegian boat ride and the Mexican boat ride and Spaceship Earth.IMG_0189

Since our Epcot adventure was such a success, we decided to give Magic Kingdom a go after the conference ended Tuesday evening. I was a little tired, and perhaps not prepared for what I was getting myself into — crowds and scooters and strollers, oh my! — but as soon as I saw Cinderella’s castle I was ready to take it all in.

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We took Tomorrowland’s people mover to get acclimated, spotted a 25-minute wait for Space Mountain, and headed directly to the line once our ride on the ‘transportation of the future’ was over. Even though the wait time was underestimated by about an hour and the gremlins in line were on my last nerve, Space Mountain didn’t disappoint. It is such a good, classic roller coaster.

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In New Fantasyland, the only thing wrong with Gaston’s Tavern was that it didn’t serve beer.

IMG_0224I reached my waiting-in-line limit pretty quickly and didn’t get to see the inside of Ariel’s grotto, but the addition of details from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and the under-construction mine from Snow White will at least be exciting to see when if we bring our kids to Disney one [far off] day.

In our free time during the week and on our surprise extra day, we soaked up as much warm sunshine as two winter-weary people could handle.IMG_0214

We stayed at the Contemporary Resort where the conference was being held. Having a beach nearby for lounging during lunch was pretty sweet.

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Actually — by the looks of my bright red raccoon face, I may have soaked up a little more sun than I could handle.

Snowquestered in the Most Magical Place on Earth

I was supposed to fly home from Orlando yesterday, but due to an apparently huge snowstorm headed toward DC my flight was cancelled Tuesday afternoon.

As a result, I spent an extra sunny day in Florida and I’m flying out this afternoon. Also as a result, I’m on a conference call in a hotel room overlooking this:

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Things could be worse.