Visitors #5 and #6

November is National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo), but instead of writing pages of a novel every day this month, I thought I’d try to catch up on the blog. 🙂

Mid-November 2018 brought visitors #5 and #6 to DC. This time, it was two former students turned friends of mine: Karla and Llayra!


Llayra, Karla, + me waiting for the Metro

These two were in one of my pre-AP English II classes way back in 2013. I wish I could find the pictures of them acting out chapters of Bless Me, Ultima. So. Great.

Anyway, we had a great time over the weekend. We did some traditional DC stuff like the National Mall, monuments, and the Newseum.

And thanks to Karla, we also caught Beetlejuice in its pre-Broadway preview.

We also ate a ton of junk, the girls did some shopping, and we spent each night watching random animated movies on Netflix. Cars 2 and the Scooby Doo movies stick out in my memory. 🙂


All in all, I think they had a fun time, and I LOVED having them here. One perk of teaching high schoolers is that it takes much less time for your students to grow up and become adults you want to be friends with. Come back any time, ladies!

Make this place beautiful,

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Visitor #4

I am SO behind on this blog. Time to play catch up!

Sweet Daniella came to visit the first weekend in November, and we packed in the fun!

We hit up the Archives and wandered around the National Mall recreating some photos from our trip to D.C. several years ago.

We also managed to fit in the deliciousness that is Shake Shack before checking out the Museum of the Bible.


I still think about this meal sometimes. Real talk.

Daniella works for an organization that works to translate the Bible into every language, and the illumiNations room at the museum really brings home just how few languages even have a translated copy of the New Testament. All of the yellow book spines represent languages whose Bible translations have not begun.

After the museum, we went back to my apartment to hang out, eat dinner, and binge watch Madam Secretary. 🙂

On Sunday, we went to church and then visited GW’s campus where we happened upon a highly entertaining mother-daughter photo shoot.


There were outfit and location changes, dance poses and jumps, carry-on luggage…we probably watched these two for at least twenty minutes and had the BEST time. It was just so. random.

Then we walked to Georgetown and had a HUGE brunch at Pinstripes before doing some “modeling” at J.Crew. I’m pretty sure we spent three hours at brunch.

Our last pic sums up the rest of our time together:

IMG_7025.jpgWe talked and laughed and watched more Madam Secretary late into the night. It was SO good to have Daniella here for the weekend. Great friends are a treasure, and I truly have no shortage of them.

Here’s to a shorter gap between blogs!

Make this place beautiful,

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Visitor #3

The third OPG (Original Parma Girl :)) and my final Texas roommate, Megan, came to visit the first weekend in October. She got here in time for a late lunch on Friday and flew back to Dallas Sunday morning, so it was a pretty quick trip! We managed to pack in plenty of fun, though.


My Madam Secretary-watching friends know this as “where Henry writes sometimes.” 🙂

After lunch at the 24-hour diner down the street from my apartment, we took the metro to the Archives station and then walked to the International Spy Museum.

When you first get into the actual museum, you are instructed to choose an alias and memorize the information because you’ll “need it later.” We didn’t know it at the time, but Megan and I both chose “Greta Schmidt” as our new identity. After choosing our new name, we watched a short video about the history of spycraft (which now has me super suspicious of everyone I meet here) and then entered the first exhibit.

There is SO much to see and learn at the spy museum! At one point, we crawled through an air duct to spy on the unsuspecting tourists below. We were excellent at staying in the green on the noise meter until a group of rowdy kids came in behind us and jacked that thing up to the uppermost red level. Boo.

Along the way, there were two or three computer checkpoints where we were asked questions about our aliases. This was a little disappointing because we were expecting to be stopped by real people and quizzed or something. Neither of us passed our exit questionnaire, though, so apparently we don’t have futures as spies! LOL.

We walked around a bit after leaving the museum, and then we grabbed pizza from the place below my apartment before starting season 3 of Quantico on Netflix.

Saturday morning we stopped by campus so Megan could get a GW t-shirt for her school’s college shirt day. While we were there, we took the requisite pics with George Washington himself. 🙂

After GW, we went on a food tour in Old Town Alexandria. We ate some good food and then finished with some fantastic desserts! The tour lasted around three hours, and then we went back to Gadsby’s Tavern and took a tour there. It was really cool to see one of Washington’s hangout spots! Old Town has some fun shopping options, so we walked around a bit before taking an Uber back to my apartment. We promptly switched into our pjs and watched three or four more episodes of Quantico. (We are nothing if not committed.)

Sunday came too quickly. We took the metro to the airport and said a quick “see you later!” before parting ways. I made it to church a few minutes late and then had two meetings after, so I didn’t get home until after 3:00. It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but it was worth it!

You could make this place beautiful,

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Visitor #2

Coworker-turned-confidant Jordan was Visitor #2 to see me in D.C. She was here September 21-23, and we had so much fun!


riding the Metro bus home from the airport

Prior to Jordan’s visit, I hadn’t really had any “interesting” Metro encounters. While she was here? AT LEAST one every time we rode the bus or train. Every. Time. I don’t think she was scarred for life, but she definitely had some concerns. Ha!

We had the prettiest weather to work with on Friday, so we did some walking. We visited the Newseum – where we thought it was fitting to take a picture with “Act up!” in the background. (That’s basically all we did when we worked together. LOL) Then we trekked across the National Mall and stopped by the National Air and Space Museum. Jordan’s maiden name is Langley, so we checked out the Early Flight exhibit and learned a little more about Samuel Pierpont Langley.

After leaving the museum, we walked straight over to the concession stand outside and treated ourselves to a funnel cake. We did NOT share with the squirrel. (He found a french fry instead.) We finished out the day with dinner at a Mexican restaurant down the street from my apartment and possibly the most harrowing Uber ride of Jordan’s life. (I was in the backseat trying not to laugh while she rode shotgun.)

Once we picked up my car and arrived safely back to my apartment, it was Netflix time. Jordan is my most recent Madam Secretary convert, so we had to get in several episodes. I think we managed five before she left on Sunday!

On Saturday, we made a quick drive over to Langley, VA, so Jordan could get a pic with her maiden name. We also drove by CIA Headquarters. Good times!

We then headed back to D.C. and stopped by GW’s campus, so Jordan could see where I go to school. Urban campuses are different than what we’re used to! Campus is fairly close to the White House, so we meandered over there before joining the last Capitol tour of the day. Even though I’ve been a few times, I still find the Capitol so interesting! Our guide was British, so I’ll forgive him for the inaccurate Hamilton info he told our group. (The touring company had visited the week before, so he was telling us to go check out the show. It ended on the 16th. Bless him.) We strolled past the Supreme Court after our tour and then took an Uber back to my apartment where we had pizza and watched more Madam Secretary.



drying off at Shake Shack after church

Jordan was able to go to church with me before heading home to TX on Sunday. It poured rain, but we had a good day anyway! Church was really good, and then we walked to Shake Shack (yes, in the rain). Lunch was delicious!!! We had some good hangout time at the apartment, and then it was time for me to take her back to the airport. I still have no idea what was happening at DCA, but traffic was so bad that we couldn’t even get up to the actual drop-off spot before Jordan needed to get out and make a run for it. Thankfully, she made it through security in plenty of time. Meanwhile, I sat in traffic. INSIDE THE AIRPORT. It took me about an hour to get home. I live 10 minutes away.

Despite the depressing send-off, Jordan and I had a great visit, and I can’t wait until she comes again! Visitor #3 has already been, and #4 comes this week. (I’m clearly behind on blogging.) Hope y’all are well!

You could make this place beautiful,

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Visitor #1

My best friend Deanna came to visit over Labor Day weekend, making her my very first visitor in D.C.! (My mom and Aunt Tina helped me move in, but they really didn’t get the guest treatment. It was more of a “mostly work, very little play” type of deal. Sorry, ladies! Please come back.)


There are so many great things to see and do here, but Deanna’s #1 requirement was that we do things I’d been looking forward to doing with a friend. ❤ Her flight arrived late Friday night, so we got off to a relaxed start on Saturday.


We headed to the National Archives specifically to see the Hamilton exhibit where they paired lyrics from the musical with corresponding letters. There was one from George Washington recommending Ham for Treasury Secretary, one from Hamilton himself about his finances that he wrote the week of his fateful duel with Burr, and one from his wife, Eliza; she wrote to Congress to request that Hamilton’s papers be published. It was so cool to see them all! Unfortunately, photography wasn’t allowed in that section. While we were there, we also looked at the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights plus a fascinating exhibit about Vietnam.


We popped into the U.S. Capitol just before an afternoon downpour. Isn’t the pic on the right awesome?! (The last 14+ years of my life would be MUCH less documented without Deanna and her photography skills.)


On Sunday, we spent several hours enjoying The Yards along the Anacostia River. We ate brunch outside at Due South and then walked along the river before grabbing dessert at Ice Cream Jubilee. So tasty and so fun!


We returned to the Capitol that evening for a free “patriotic” concert with the National Symphony Orchestra. They were excellent, but “patriotic” isn’t the adjective I would’ve gone with. Deanna and I definitely knew the national anthem, “God Bless America,” and the “Salute to the Armed Forces.” The other 80 minutes or so were more of a nod to American composers through the years.


On Monday, we went to the Newseum. Before you even go inside, you can peruse the day’s front pages from every state in the U.S. plus the District of Columbia. We spent a couple of hours here but didn’t even visit every floor. I’m seriously considering an annual pass because I enjoyed it so much!


Two of the most breathtaking exhibits were the pieces of the Berlin Wall and a piece of the antenna from the North Tower of the World Trade Center.


The whole thing was just really well done. Big shoutout to the First Amendment! 🙂


last picture of the trip

We spent the rest of Monday running some errands and completing some tasks in my apartment that required an extra set of hands. Deanna was so kind to spend part of her trip helping me get things done! The airport goodbye was SUPER sad, but I’m so thankful she was able to come at all. It was so nice to see a friendly face and to get to experience my new city with my best friend.

Visitor #2 arrives this weekend, so maybe it won’t be as long between posts! Maybe. 🙂

You could make this place beautiful,

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Good Bones

(The title of this post is borrowed from my current favorite poem, introduced to me by my current favorite TV show. More on that later.)

I love stories. I’m a life-long avid reader, TV watcher, and movie goer. My list of favorite, formative books is too long to mention, so I’ll stick to TV and movies. As a kid, I rented the same Strawberry Shortcake, Popples, and Care Bears videos so often that I had most of them memorized. In middle school, Walker, Texas Ranger was my show. (I do not need your judgement. It was a simpler time.) The movie Dangerous Minds made me want to teach English; then high school brought JAG and during college came Law & Order: SVU.  I also have a well-documented love of NCIS, Hamilton, and most recently, Madam Secretary. Different shows for different stages of my life.

photo grid

My childhood faves notwithstanding, all the others share two things: careers in public service and strong female leads. I think most people who know me will agree that I clearly watch/read/obsess over too many A LOT of stories. (I haven’t had cable in 3+ years, but Netflix and libraries are enablers. What can I say?) Thankfully, my family and both of my church homes also made sure I knew the Bible — lots of individual stories pointing to the greater story of Jesus and God’s love and redemptive work through him. When I look at my life today, I can’t help but see a tangle of all these stories.

I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was in first grade, but I didn’t know I wanted to teach high school until Dangerous Minds. Then, during our junior year, my friend Amy and I served as pages in the Mississippi Senate. It was so fascinating to me that I almost went to MSU as a political science major. (I didn’t get their specific scholarship, so I went in undeclared. Praise God, every credit transferred when I switched to secondary education sophomore year.) I didn’t join the military or the police force or become a lawyer like my favorite leading ladies. I did become a public servant, however, and my years as a teacher irreversibly shaped who I am.

Teaching is a difficult profession for many reasons, and sometimes teachers just need to commiserate with colleagues in the lounge between classes. But in their classrooms with their students, good teachers push everything else aside and respond to what matters: the kids. Occasionally that means they teach a state-sanctioned subject, but more often it also means being a parent, a nurse, a counselor, a confidant, a coach, a judge, a cheerleader, etc. until the most pressing needs are met. (Students do not care about a state English test if they have not eaten since yesterday, just broke up with their boyfriend or girlfriend, and/or have no idea where they will sleep tonight.) In addition to concerns about their own families and themselves, teachers bear the burdens of many of their students. It is an awesome responsibility, and it can wear on you after a while.

In a season 3 episode of Madam Secretary, a policy advisor reads an excerpt from Maggie Smith’s poem “Good Bones” after a particularly tragic day at the office. The last part of it resonated with me during a difficult part of last semester, and I kept the poem open in a browser tab for pretty much the remainder of the school year. The speaker talks about how the world is dark and dangerous, but she keeps that from her children because she’s trying to “sell them the world.” She compares herself to a realtor walking a buyer through a terrible house but trying to point out its good bones: “This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.” Each time I walked into my classroom, I had the opportunity to make it more or less beautiful based on my attitude and actions. It didn’t matter what was going on outside those walls; I was only in control of me. So I did what I could in that classroom until I couldn’t anymore.

Public education has a long way to go, but I believe it’s worth fighting for. So here I am, beginning work on a policy degree. Doing my best to make public education — and my corner of the world — more beautiful, not less.

You are where you are, with your specific gifts, loving the people and things you love for a reason.

This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.

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Transportation Fun

I have now successfully walked, driven, Ubered, and taken both the metro train and bus in my short time here.

Metro station

waiting for the train after church

By far, the most entertaining of these has been Uber. I first used Uber on a solo trip to NYC in 2016 and have nearly always had a good experience. My Uber trips in D.C., though…those take the cake!

Thanks to my generous friend, Gloria, I started my time in D.C. with an Uber gift card. Wanting to make the most of it, I’ve used either the “pool” or “express pool” option each time. For those of you who don’t use Uber, let me explain. If you want a taxi-style experience, you choose the UberX option; it costs the most, but you’re the only rider, and the ride goes from your pick-up point straight to your drop-off point. I’m cheap and don’t mind carpooling, so I don’t use this option unless I have friends with me who are splitting the cost anyway. If you’re willing to carpool and your time is flexible within ten minutes or so, you can choose to pool; it costs less, but you’ll have to pick up/drop off other riders. If you’re cheap frugal, don’t mind walking a block or two, and your time is flexible, the express pool is your friend. You won’t get a ride door-to-door, but you can save a chunk of change.

I unapologetically fall into that last category, and it is the root of my fun Uber experiences — all of which have reminded me how little people actually read. My first non-reading Uber-mate didn’t understand why our driver needed to drop him at the corner. He just kept pointing across the street and saying, “But I need to go there!” The driver was super patient, gave a short explanation of the express pool rules, etc. When the guy still seemed baffled, our driver finally said, “Look, I have to turn left at this light. You have to get out!” (We needed to cross three lanes of traffic to make this turn. We were sitting AT the intersection already. BUT HE MADE THAT LEFT TURN LIKE A CHAMP.) My second non-reading Uber-mate was a bit more dramatic. Our driver had picked him up first and then stopped for me. We went just a few blocks before Uber sent her one more rider, and this meant turning around and going back to very near my pickup point. #2 in the back was not having it. He kept pointing to the exit on our right and saying, “But I just need to go that direction. Right now!” (We were stuck in a long line of cars at a red light.) The driver on this day was less patient, so she immediately jumped to a very weary, “Sir, this is EXPRESS POOL. We have to pick up other people. This is what you get when you pay less!” (Meanwhile, I’m trying not to laugh in the front seat.) He grumbled a bit until traffic started moving again. We make the turn at the light and immediately get stopped at the next one. #2: “I’m sorry. I have to go!” That joker hopped out of the car and crossed several lanes of stopped traffic to get to safety where I guess he figured out another means of transport. Unfortunately, he didn’t close the door all the way, so our driver frantically asked me to. Somehow I managed to get my right arm twisted around my seat enough to open it far enough to let it slam closed, and the Uber lady and I had a nice chat — and a bit of a laugh — on our way to pick up the next rider.

Non-reader number three is my favorite. He was in the front seat when they picked me up for church on Sunday, so I sat in the back. He almost immediately got a phone call which he took in a foreign language except for repeated use of the word “bus.” In English, he asked the driver how long until he got dropped off. Our driver told him five minutes, but he got back on his phone and told his family member it would be just two more minutes. (Lies.) #3 stayed on the phone long enough to hear that the bus was leaving without him. He asked our driver if we could catch it. Along for the ride, I chimed in with “I can be a little late!” (There was no way I was missing a bus chase!) We could see the bus leaving the Lincoln Memorial and legit tried to catch it — very thrilling, I must say, but the stoplights were not on our side. The bus’s next stop was at “a harbor,” but neither the Uber driver nor I knew where this was. Cue #3 “negotiating” with our Uber driver in their shared language. In English, the driver let him know that I had to be dropped off and that he could either get another Uber or travel with me and be delivered to his new destination later. #3 switched back to English, thanked me for letting them try to catch the bus, and then got out at the next stop sign. (He at least managed to shut the door correctly, unlike #2). For the rest of the way to church, my driver filled me in on what happened. It turns out #3 had already been in the car for nearly an hour when they picked me up. The poor guy and his family got all the way to Union Station before realizing they’d left their passports at their hotel near Tyson’s Corner (30 minutes away); he Ubered there to search for them with the hotel’s maintenance staff. He and our driver were on their way back when Uber booked my ride; because it was the pool option, the driver was obligated to pick me up. #3 was peeved but took it in stride. Until he missed his bus. Then he tried to get our driver to tell me to get out and just take him to the harbor. And that’s when our driver switched back to English and politely explained Uber’s rules and made it clear that I wouldn’t be getting out yet. Poor #3. I sincerely hope he caught up with his family at the next stop and didn’t miss his whole tour!

Reading is important, people.

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