Spooky Season as a Scaredy Cat

Uncategorized

I’m sure if your local stores are anything like mine, you’ve had Halloween candy and pumpkin spice candles on displays since July, but the season doesn’t quite feel right until that first morning when you step outside and get a gust of cold air that reminds you that you are wearing seasonally inappropriate attire. The atmosphere that comes around when the leaves start to change colors and the air gets that nice crisp feeling.

I enjoy fall, but I will happily admit that I am a scaredy cat. The spooky season comes not only with crunchy orange leaves, but with haunted houses and scary movies and all the things that go bump in the night. And I spend much of the season with my hands over my eyes hoping to avoid nightmares.

To enjoy the atmosphere of the spooky season while being easily terrified has become a challenge. I try to only watch scary movies in the middle of the day when all the lights are on and I’ve confirmed the doors and windows are locked. I reach for more atmospheric fair over your classic jump scares. I enjoy films aimed classically at children like Hocus Pocus or Halloweentown. I find my music taste moves away from summer bops to more seasonally appropriate music. And all of a sudden I start craving apple cider donuts.

Most of the time I can avoid the worst of the season – I skip friend’s invites to watch the newest scary show and have a firm line about not venturing to any haunted houses, but sometimes I am convinced (FOMO is real, y’all). One such instance was my first year of college. I told myself to say yes to every opportunity, which is how I ended up on a ropes course and how I ended up a part of a gospel choir.

So when my RA came around asking if anyone wanted to go to a haunted house in one of the campus fraternity houses, I was reluctant. She convinced me by saying that we were going on Wednesday, which was “kids night”, so it couldn’t possibly be too scary. I said alright and signed up. When we arrived, our group of six was led around to the back of the house and sent in. We lined up and held on to each other’s shoulders as we made our way through. I have to apologize to the girl in front of me because her coat had permanent claw marks from when I held on for dear life. It’s not the gory or the gross, and clowns aren’t even that frightening. It was the jump scares of which this particular house seemed fond of. My eyes might have been closed for the majority of the adventure and that breath of fresh air once we left was wonderful. On our way back to the dorm, I joked with one of the people who had run the event that it was awfuly scary for “kids night” to which they replied “Kids night was yesterday”.

My RA didn’t hear the end of that for a few months and I made a friend from across the hall confirm that there wasn’t anyone hiding in my room before I went to sleep for the night. And I haven’t been to another haunted house since.

Will I ever happily watch a scary movie? No. Will I let that keep me from enjoying autumn? Also no. But for now, I’ll avoid cemeteries at night and playing with ouija boards, and instead enjoy a handful of candy corn.

Williamsburg in the Fall

Travel

Yesterday, I took a day off from work for the first time since February. This special occasion was used to take a family trip to Williamsburg, Virginia.

The trip had a few core goals:

  1. get out of the DC area. Sometimes it’s necessary to venture out of the city for a bit.
  2. fulfill some autumnal traditions. We wanted to see orange and yellow leaves, and enjoy the few weeks of cool, crisp fall weather before we descend into winter. A bonus perk: our favorite fall tradition was moved online this year, so we needed something slightly autumnal and slightly historic to replace the hole left by the Waterford Fair.
  3. give my father an excuse to bike somewhere new and give me an opportunity to peek at a possible law school option. (Spoiler: both were successes.)

The drive usually takes about 3 hours, but due to light traffic and the fact that we drove down in the middle of the morning, the drive from DC to Williamsburg was pretty easy. The leaves aren’t quite ready to change yet, but every once in a while we would spot a bright orange tree. Once arriving, we had two priorities: park the car (preferably for free) and get something to eat. We were able to find a parking spot next to Bicentennial Park, just a few blocks from where we wanted to eat lunch.

Some basic preparatory research led us to having sandwiches from The Cheese Shop in Merchant’s Square. Though the house dressing had been slightly overhyped, the bread was yummy and the cookies that came with our meal were perfect snacks for that mid-afternoon nibble later on.

Once we’d finished eating, we set our game plan. My father would ride to Yorktown and back, which he guesstimated would take two and a half or three hours. During that time, my mom and I would pop over to William and Mary Law School and take a peek, before wandering around Williamsburg for a bit. Unfortunately, there are no tours right now and the campus is pretty quiet while most folks take their classes at home, but it was still nice to see the location and size of the school. (I’m a big fan of the idea that the most important part of applying to schools is getting to know their vibe and feel, and then going with your gut about whether you’d fit in there. Those feelings are tough to experience through a computer.) Fun fact: William and Mary Law School is the oldest law school in the U.S. (bonus points to anyone who can guess the oldest continuously running law school – W&M had to shut down for the pesky business of a civil war taking place just miles away.)

Unlike college campus visits, law schools don’t tend to be particularly large, so we decided to continue our walk. We lucked out that the date we’d picked a few weeks in advance for our visit ended up being a gorgeous day in the 70s with the sun in the sky and the occasional breeze. We made our way back towards Merchant’s Square, turning early into the neighborhood. Our path led us towards William and Mary‘s undergraduate campus. Despite many visits to Williamsburg over the years, neither my mom nor I had been on their campus and we were both surprised at just how large it is – every time we thought we’d reached the end, there were more buildings.

Once we’d finished with our campus tours, we decided to stop for a snack. We grabbed milkshakes from Baskin-Robbins and found a bench in the shade in Merchant’s Square. While resting our feet, we had the chance to do some people watching, an activity I haven’t really been able to do in the last six months. The nice weather brought out tourists, locals, students, and the occasional puppy to entertain us while we rested a little.

Following our break, my mom and I made our way through Colonial Williamsburg. There’s no ticket required to just wander about and there were very few tourists or groups out and about. We walked the length of Duke of Gloucester Street admiring the historic homes and the blue skies. For our return to the car, we opted for a side road, Francis Street, that would provide a different view. It rewarded us with a shady walk and a field of sheep. Our timing was pretty good as we made it back to the car just as my dad arrived.

I cannot vouch for the length of the car ride home as I was worn out and took a nice nap in the backseat, but overall, I’d say the day was a success. Now to plot the next day trip…

Tackling a Reading List

Uncategorized

I find myself motivated by a challenge. I am a competitive person so challenges (even if I’m the only one participating) move me to actual tackle the things that I’ve been interested in doing. Whether the challenge is to not buy new clothing for a month or reading every month, I like chasing the feeling of completing that last step to finish a challenge. All that being said, last year I started using Goodreads seriously and challenged myself to read 12 books in 2019. And I did, which only encouraged me to read more in 2020. Seeing how comfortably I finished 12 books, I decided to push myself in the new year and try to read twice as many books.

But I understand reading isn’t for everyone. Or maybe you’re like me and every time you finish a book, you find yourself adding three more to the pile of books you want to read. Either way, I’ve written down the tips and tricks that have encouraged me to read more this year and hopefully long term.

First up: read what you wanna read. Now, this may sound obvious, but in case you haven’t heard, you should enjoy what you’re reading. If you’re like my dad and you find large tomes on the life of dead American generals interesting, read that. If you wanna read YA books, but you’re scared you’re too old – do it! If you finally want to admit that reading Great Expectations wasn’t fun in high school for a reason – ditch it! Unless you’re reading for school, what you pick up in your free time should be enjoyable.

And there’s no shame in what you’re reading. It’s okay to not read classics all the time. Sometimes you want to pick up a graphic novel or a childhood favorite. And you should! Those are fun too. (And yes, I’m saying this as much for myself as for anyone else.)

If you’re a busy person and sitting down to read isn’t always the best for your schedule, audiobooks have really improved in the last few years. No longer do you have to pull out the twelve disk set – now, you can listen on your phone. Apps like Libro.fm make listening to audiobooks easy, and if you don’t want to spend money, I know my library system has started to provide audiobooks through their Overdrive site. I’ve started listening to books while I play games on my phone or while I’m scrolling Pinterest and it allows me to fit in books that I might otherwise not get the chance to read. Listening to an murder mystery book while you’re taking a late night stroll isn’t recommended…

Maybe audiobooks aren’t for you, but you don’t really have space in your purse for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ve found that renting E-Books from my library gives me access to books on my phone (or Kindle if I ever remember to charge it) and I can read on my lunch break. E-books are just generally more convenient – reading a chapter on the train or while waiting for your doctor’s appointment is a lot more productive than scrolling Instagram or trying to beat that level of Candy Crush or 1010!.

Speaking of doctor’s appointments, I’ve found myself enjoying books of essays recently because they allow me to read a short burst and not have to worry about forgetting the characters or getting confused by the plot. (My most recent reads were Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom and Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay.) Alternatives with the same benefits are books of poetry or short story collections. Lots of little stories are just as valid as one long story.

I’ve learned that I enjoy books best when I sit down and just devour them, dedicating an afternoon to reading and nothing else. I understand that not everyone has that ability, but the next time you sit down to binge watch The Office or Friends (again… [I will fight anyone who says these shows were worth watching to begin with]), maybe reading that book you bought back in the day might be just as entertaining. I get it, television binges are easier, but sometimes turning off Netflix for the day can come with some benefits. I’ll let you know the next time I follow my own advice on that one.

Pics or It Didn’t Happen

Travel

I was very fortunate as a child in that my parents took my family on many an adventure. In between trips to visit family in Indiana, upstate New York, and West Virginia, they dragged my brother and I from coast to coast. This started when I was very young and can’t remember much about some of these earlier adventures. My mother however refuses to let me complain because she has photographic proof that I had an adventurous childhood. As an adult (though I struggle to admit I’m old enough to fit that category), I’ve re-added some of those places to my list of places to explore. Yes, I have photographic evidence of my toddler self in these places, but it’s not quite the same as an adult memory.

First up on my list is one that is relatively close: Chincoteague Island. As a child, my mother and I spent a day on the beach here and the ocean tried to claim me. Fortunately, a kind lady was able to grab me before the waves pulled me too far from our spot on the sand. I have no memory of this, but the story remains in the family history book. I’d like to revisit this beach (though I will try to avoid being swept out to sea). This is on our list that reappears each summer of places we want to take a day trip and just haven’t managed to quite yet.

Next up is San Francisco. Allegedly, I’ve been to the Bay Area and I’ve heard all sorts of things about that part of California, but have no memory of any time spent there. After seeing friends visit over the last few years, I figured I would like to see for myself whether or not it’s a place I’d enjoy.

Let me paint a picture: imagine tree lined roads curving through the wilderness with bison blocking your path and pull offs for gorgeous waterfalls. And imagine you want to take a video of said waterfalls but the audio of your video is just a Nintendo soundtrack. That would be most of the footage from our family trip to Yellowstone. Sorry, mom! While I remember this trip more than others mentioned, there is so much to see and do in Yellowstone that it seems unfair to not include it on this list.

Another family trip was to Montreal. (See photographic proof above.) Now my memories of this trip include being stung by a bee on the back of the neck outside a McDonalds with a menu in French and forcing my mom to spend way too long waiting for me to get my hair wrapped like all of my friends did each summer. Unfortunately neither of these memories are particularly about the city, which I would like to revisit (perhaps once I brush up on my French).

Some of the places that might have a place on this list have already been revisited, including London and Luray Caverns. And I’m sure I’ll post this and my parents will both say “Well, what about….” and they’ll be right. But for now, I’ll stick with this list as my starting point.

Hanging On To Summer

Uncategorized

I know that the weather will fluctuate over the next month or so, going from classic DC area summer weather to true chilly autumn weather. However, I am not quite ready to give up on my summer yet. You would think that Labor Day would have served as the traditional reminder that summer is over, but it wasn’t until I had to open my sock drawer for the first time in five months that I realized I would soon be transitioning from sandals to snow boots (okay, probably not snow boots, but I couldn’t skip that opportunity for alliteration). So for the next month or so while I can still justify it, I will be pretending it is still summer.

Being an adult is weird because the concept of summer isn’t quite the same as it was during school. Summer is no longer determined by having a designated set of days of relative freedom, but is instead marked by taking full advantage of three day weekends and sunny lunch breaks. I “started” my summer a little late because I was trapped inside working, but I happened to binge watch Outer Banks on Netflix and had immediate nostalgia for summertime. The show is good ole trashy fun, but it really reminded me of the perks of summer (when previously I had been focused on the negatives of summer in DC: mosquitos, sweat, humidity, the constant sound of A/Cs running).

I missed that feeling when you’re driving with the window down and you don’t have to rush anywhere. I missed that moment when you stepped in from the heat and the A/C hit you. I missed reading a book outside under the sun. I missed having a cold beverage after an hour spent toasting outside. I missed it all.

Now some of this nostalgia is misplaced. I never spent my summers running around with friends (I was at camp or work or my friends had left the area). Unlike the tan teens of the Netflix show, I burn – my Irish skin and I are meant for the shade, not the sun. And I have spent very few days lounging about on a boat. But the semantics don’t really matter.

I want to spend the next few weeks soaking up any sunshine I can find. And I want to go for drives with no set destination with music playing on my car speakers. I want to listen to the birds chirp and (now that it is less humid) I want to go for late night walks and read a book out on the deck. I want to pretend that life doesn’t start up again at 9 a.m. on Monday morning and the biggest worry I have is whether or not I’ve reapplied sunscreen recently.

I mean, I get the love for crisp autumnal days and spooky season, but can I linger in my summer haze for just a few more days?

Huntley Meadows

Hometown, Uncategorized

I follow a former professor of mine who posts pictures and videos from her hikes, providing a “soothe” to those who weren’t able to get out into nature like she was. The videos are often of flowing streams or leaves blowing in the wind. The pictures are usually of mountain tops and tree-lined paths. And with everything happening in the world, sometimes the soothe is just what is needed.

This weekend, while visiting my parents, my mom and I took a walk at Huntley Meadows. Despite being relatively close to Route One, once you’re in the woods, the sounds and smells disappear for a while. It was a sunny weekend day, so it was relatively busy, but never got overly crowded. It is kind of nice to wander past older folks going for a walk and young families exploring the boardwalk and birders with cameras the size of a small child. (Everyone wore a mask.)

Huntley Meadows is home to many a bug, a bird, and creature. Our walk was spent with our noses turned down searching amongst the marshlands for a frog or a turtle, before quickly looking up to try and spot an egret or an osprey.

The weather has gotten a little chilly around here, so an afternoon spent searching for sunshine and friendly little creatures was a much needed soothe.

September Stress

Uncategorized

With summer ending, I’m officially into my law school application season. This of course means that I am just a little (read: a lot) stressed out. And I’m not handling it the best. This is to be expected, but still isn’t fun.

Two weeks ago, I commandeered my childhood bedroom to take the LSAT Flex exam. Because of the global pandemic, the LSAT has moved online and has a shortened version. Based on my attention span, I’m hoping that the shortened version will benefit me, but we shall see. I am currently in the middle of waiting for score release which won’t happen for another week. I don’t know what my score will be and I don’t want to narrow down my school list until I know whether I am happy with my score or whether I will be studying for the LSAT again and taking it in November. Not ideal, but if necessary, doable.

Which means I get to do the worst possible thing when I’m stressed: wait.

In the meantime, I’m taking advantage of the time I’m not spending studying by prepping everything else I’ll need for applications. I finished up my resume; I am drafting my personal statement; I’m collecting my letters of recommendation; I’m submitting my transcripts. So I’m spending a lot of time doing things that make me uncomfortable – asking for praise and talking myself up. It’s pushed me out of my comfort zone quite a bit.

With all this, DC has been floating between really gorgeous weather (that gave me one heck of a sunburn) and really gross rainy weather. The flip flopping hasn’t helped with my mood.

So I’m giving myself a little bit of a mental break. Less social media, more books. Less worrying about everything that needs to be done for my applications, more simple tasks. I spent Labor Day weekend chilling at my parents’ and avoiding adulting. And it worked. I came away much more relaxed, but my to-do list is still long.

So we’re diving back in, one step at a time. My next big task is to take the LSAT writing portion (now online proctored), which shouldn’t be too bad. But I need to just do it.

I just keep telling myself this will all be over by December. Fingers crossed.

Cities Worth A Wander

london, Travel, Uncategorized

The United States is not particularly conducive to walking about. Yes, you could point out that I have made posts about wandering Georgetown and Old Town, and you could try to convince me that New York city is walkable, but the perferred mode of transportation here is not by foot – we prefer our cars. And don’t get me wrong – there’s something to be said about driving hours at a time with constantly changing scenery and your favorite music playing on the radio. But it doesn’t have quite the same experience as wandering down streets and stumbling upon little spots of sunshine and history.

Unlike the U.S., where our cities were built with straight lines and strategic planning, Europe is a great place for wandering. European cities contain thousands of years of adapting and expanding with the practicalities of day-to-day life with no straight lines in sight. (For instance, when someone in Europe asked how far a store is, telling them it is four blocks away means nothing.) Through my travels, my feet have carried me through many a strange alley and up plenty of subtle hills, fulfilling my monthly step count in just a few hours. And I truly enjoy the experience of getting just a little bit lost and having to work your way back to a landmark or pulling out a good ole fashioned map to check street signs.

The city I think of the most when I speak about walking is Venice. Because of the canals and the narrow streets, there’s next to no chance for a car to get you from point A to point B. Your feet are your best option (and we won’t speak about the super expensive gondola rides every tourist seems to want to take). I loved my time in Venice, because I felt like a little kid again, walking down streets, into courtyards, and generally getting lost. The best part: once you hit the water, you know you only have two options to get back home – left or right.

Sweden in general is not particularly compact, but the historic section of Stockholm is really wonderful. Gamla Stan is a small island connected to the rest Stockholm but a series of bridges, but it feels like a completely different place. Whereas most of modern Stockholm is, well, modern, Gamla Stan (literally Old Town) is not; instead, Gamla Stan is a series of smaller streets, which all kind of look alike, but each have their own personality. In the center of the island is the Nobel Museum, from which you can head any direction and find cute streets that will lead you back to the edges of the island (similar in many ways to Venice, but without the overly expensive gondolas). Bonus shoutout to Malmö and Gothenburg for also being really wonderful to wander.

If you’re a big fan of canals, let you tell you about Amsterdam. Like Venice, Amsterdam is a city of canals, but unlike Venice, they’re a little larger. One of my favorite parts about my time in Amsterdam was wandering from my hostel towards the more central parts of the city. Every time I’d cross a bridge, I had to stop myself from taking thousands of those perfect Instagram shots. And once you get past the bridge, you’re faced with a cute line of buildings with someone biking by with a basket full of groceries. The entire city is a dang postcard.

London is a wonderful city for a thousand reasons, one of which is its walkability. I loved exploring its various neighborhoods, hunting for Wisteria in Kensington or exploring the classic look of Notting Hill. Now don’t get me wrong, London also has great public transportation. But just like with all of these places, when you’re walking through London, you get to spot the little things you might have missed, like a historic plaque about who lived in a home or a little pocket garden tucked away behind a fence. These kind of little sparks of personality are hard to catch when you’re in a car or on the second level of a bus.

Now, maybe you’re not in Europe or not able to get there quite as easily. Well, I have a spot for you: Melbourne, Australia. I loved my time in Australia, but if you have to ask my mom about the best part, there is a strong chance she’d say Melbourne. Despite being on the other side of the planet, Melbourne has a lot of the personality of a smaller European city. There’s the compactness of its central city, its alleyways filled with graffiti art, and its general walkability.

Basically, what I’m saying is I miss wandering through European cities. Did I miss a lot of good ones? Yes, yes I did. Will I be heading back as soon as possible to get lost a few more times? Yes, yes I will. Maybe, we’ll run into each other…

Harper’s Ferry – A Day Trip

Uncategorized

Though it seems like years ago, last September some friends and I hopped in a car to visit Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia. The trip was semi spontaneous, but as I do nothing without research and preparation, I did a quick Google for local hikes and packed some snacks in my trunk. And off we went…

The drive to Harper’s Ferry is a little over an hour and relatively straight forward. We parked in one of the public parking lots on Shenandoah Street, which was quite crowded for a nice sunny, late summer day. The public parking lots ask you to pay for your spot, so bring a couple of dollars. We walked along a nice, shaded path towards the town before deciding to start our hike.

We were in the search for a relatively easy hike, but were hoping to reach the pretty Instagram-famous overlook. A quick chat with folks at the Information Center (Harper’s Ferry is a National Historical Park, so they’ve done work to preserve some of the history of the area. The Information Center held a brief overview of the area, including the relevance of John Brown and other historical events.) and the Gift Shop gave us the route we were searching for.

Harper’s Ferry is literally on the corner of West Virginia right where the state comes to meet Maryland on one side of the Potomac River and Virginia on the other. We crossed the river to Maryland, which was filled with folks out tubing (and drinking), via the Winchester and Potomac Railroad Bridge. (We crossed as a train came through, which was slightly frightening, but also pretty dang cool.) The walking path was pretty easy to follow and there were a couple of different options for easier hikes. We took the Maryland Heights Trail that ends at the scenic overlook.

What they didn’t tell us is that it’s a pretty decent hike to get there. I am a hiking wuss (and watching small children run up mountains next to you doesn’t do much for your pride). There are some pretty steep sections and it isn’t a short walk. We made it, but I did some huffing and puffing (quick reminder that I need to hit the gym). The view was worth it.

After many an Instagram shot and a snack, we made our way back down and back across the river. By this point, we’d spent enough time hiking that we were in the hunt for ice cold water and some food. Luckily, the town of Harper’s Ferry provided. We stopped at the Coffee Mill and ate at their outdoor patio. I don’t know if I’m the person to speak to the taste of the food (I may have been very hungry and scarfed it all down), but my memories are positive of the experience.

We finished off our day with a walk uphill to see the rest of the historic town, stopping when the houses looked a little too much like our own suburbs. On our way back down the hill, we popped into Tessoterica for a couple scoops of ice cream and a look at the local goods before heading back towards the car.

The car ride home was definitely filled with a little less conversation and a few more snores, but overall, it was a well spent day.

Halfway Through

Uncategorized

This year, I didn’t really set any resolutions for the new year or for my birthday. Instead, I’m focusing on little mindset changes like reading more and finding joy daily. (I also need to take the LSAT, but that’s a longterm struggle …) The year is flying by and it just occurred to me that we’re (more than) halfway through 2020. This year was kind of lacking in firm plans – I didn’t have any big travel planned, I didn’t have any massive goals that I wanted to hit, I had no plans to move or start a new job. Instead, I was (and am) treating 2020 as a breather before starting to adult more. And by adult more, I am referring to going to law school, saving money, living by myself confidently, etc. So being in the middle of a total mess of a year really hasn’t stopped me from hitting any big goals.

Well, I’ve caught my breath and now I need to set some expectations for myself for the second half of the year:

One: take the LSAT and apply to law school. It’s time; no more procrastinating.

Two: continue reading at the same pace as the beginning of this year. A book or two a month is a baseline goal, but I’ve gotten to the point where four or five books each month is not only appealing, but sustainable for my current routine. (I’ve already smashed my Goodreads challenge out of the park this year, so now it’s time to see if I can double or triple it!)

Three: see the sunshine. Like many folks right now, I’ve spent a lot of time indoors. Without baseball to give me a weekly sunburn and without my daily walks to and from work, I’ve been missing that natural vitamin D. I’m trying to absorb some sunshine so I’m pale as a ghost – lunch breaks include a thirty minute wander outdoors (with sunscreen) and that post-work, pre-LSAT study time includes a nice loop around my building.

Four: stretch everyday. I’ve recently had some tightness in my back that’s probably directly related to me spending all my time on my couch for the last four months, but I’m trying to build the habit of stretching beyond my twice weekly Zoom yoga classes.

Five: write. When life gets a little hectic, the time I used to reflect and write goes down the drain, thoughts linger in my head. To combat this, I’m carrying around a little notebook to write in (even if no one will ever read it) and I’m convincing myself that posting blog posts once a week (ish) will make me feel better. We shall see how that goes…

Basically, what I’m saying is that 2020 has been a bizarre year so far and it’s not looking like it will resolve itself in the next six months. So, I’m asking for the internet’s accountability as I spend the second half of the year taking a breather and pushing myself to do little things that will hopefully be good for me longterm.