Sunday, February 12, 2006

Snow! Posted by Picasa

Parking Lot: Before Posted by Picasa

Parking Lot: After Posted by Picasa

Russet Area in Laurel, Maryland Where I Currently Stay Posted by Picasa

My Temporary Apartment - Top Floor Posted by Picasa


February 12, 2006

They said it would snow Saturday but I didn’t know it was going to snow this much! A foot! I am so glad I brought a pair of snow boots to temp housing; I needed them today. And good thing I stopped by Wal-Mart for an ice scraper for the car last night. (Me and a thousand other people.)

When I got up this morning the electricity was off. And it stayed off till after noon. The hardest part about that ordeal was not having any coffee to wake up with! Not much to do inside, so I bundled up and went out with a broom and large dust pan that came with the apartment. It took me an hour to clean the foot of snow from off my car – and from in front of it. It was a chore I had to do.

There’s no way I was going to miss work tomorrow.

Note: Your attitude toward work changes drastically when you are no longer a salaried employee and instead get paid by the hour. You are much more motivated to show up on a snow day.

I didn’t realize how much work snow removal was. I'm used to having a garage, so it's been 12 years since I've had to clean snow off my car. By the time I was done this morning, I was soaked with sweat and my back hurt. It had been a while since I needed a pain pill for my back, but I took one today. I must say, Oxycontin works.

I was born in southern Maryland in 1964. My dad told me on the phone today that we got enough snow that year to break records – about 23” in a week.

Welcome to Maryland!

Friday, February 10, 2006

TGIF and TGI Can Afford Grapes Now

February 10, 2006

Within one hour of starting my new job Monday I found out I had a deliverable Friday - just five short days for my first deliverable. Actually, two deliverables. I’m new to the entire Common Criteria project, not to mention the company, so I had to bust some serious hiney to figure out what I need to know to start and finish two annotated outlines – one for a user’s guide and one for an admin guide. I really wasn't sure I'd finish in time.

But by 4:15 today I’d handed in both outlines. (And my peer, a company veteran who had just one deliverable due today, was unable to meet the deadline. My lead kept prompting me to push this guy to get his work done. I tried, but you know you can't make the horse drink. The guy just wasn't able to focus. In fact, by end of day he'd barely even begun his outline. Guess who's working this weekend?)

My office-mate—a wonderfully smart and funny woman by the name of Rashmi—told me to give myself a pat on the back. And so I did!

I celebrated by going to Costco to buy another fake plant for our office, which Rashmi and I have been decorating together (item by item) all week. Normally I wouldn’t be too keen on having an office-mate, but I adore Rashmi. She is one of these quiet, shy, sweet people - but ironically she has me in stitches half the time. We have a lot in common, and we laugh a lot - probably to the point of annoying other people on the hallway. She even takes my recycling home with her since the apartment complex where I live doesn’t provide recycling pickup. Blasphemy. After years of heavy-duty recycling training in the crisp, clean Pacific Northwest, I found it unbearable last week to throw away a plastic milk jug and several plastic soda bottles. Rashmi to the rescue!

Living in suburbia is so different from the City. I think I’ve been to Wal-Mart ten times since I got to Maryland two weeks ago. Why? Because I can. And I’ve been to Costco four times. And the grocery store many times. Last week I paid $1.79/lb. for green grapes. The same would’ve cost me $3.99/lb. at Food Emporium on 49th Street and 8th Avenue in NYC. (I went most of 15 months without eating grapes because I wasn’t going to pay that.) This week I paid 58 cents a roll for Charmin toilet paper – the big rolls – instead of a buck a roll for the skimpy sandpaper rolls. Oh, and the best deal of all—I got my usual 30-lb. bag of kitty litter for just $9.99 instead of $18.99. Yay! I can afford kitty litter again! Martin is oh-so-pleased.

Yesterday I took my portable hard drive to work to copy some key files over to my office computer. When I realized I had all my photos on that drive, I pulled up some of my favorite NY shots and set up one of the night shots of Times Square as my desktop wallpaper on my PC. That way I can still pretend I live in the City. I smile every time I look at that picture. I do miss NYC. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like my new life . . .

. . . which will finally be back to normal on March 3rd when I move into my new townhouse. No more moving!! I just want it to be over with so that I can have some sense of “home” and stability and security and…well, not moving!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Movin’, Movin’, Movin'. . . Rawhide

February 5, 2006

- “Susie, what did you do on your vacation?”
- “I moved.”
-“What about last year?”
-“I moved.”
- “And the year before that?”
- “I moved.”
- “Well, then what’d you do last weekend?”
- “I moved from Manhattan.”
- “What about this past week. You do anything different?”
- “Nope, I moved from Columbia to Laurel.”
- “Aren't you done moving?”
- “Nope. I’m moving to Ellicott City at the end of this month.”

Today my brother Pete turns 44. Next month my sister will be 43. And I’ll be 42 the following month. By then I will have moved 42 times. What happened to that number being just 41, you ask? Elephants. That’s what happened. I had elephants living above me in my temporary apartment in Columbia, and I’m pretty sure they were bowling. Yes bowling. In the living room.

The newly built apartments look nice from the outside and are pretty nice on the inside, but I'd swear they were constructed of cardboard and Saran wrap - unlike my Manhattan apartment that was walled in solid cement.

The pounding and stomping from my upstairs neighbors (dogs and kids included) got so bad that the corporate housing folks had to call the apartment management office. My first complaint was passed on to them last Monday. The second complaint went in on Tuesday. When that didn’t work, I called the apartment people directly last Wednesday night, after hours. In turn, they called a state patrolman who lives on site and acts as community watch.

The young, strong, good-looking officer with his military haircut came to my door that evening. He wasn’t surprised about my complaint; he said he’d been up to that apartment responding to complaints on several occasions. He said they have a history of slamming doors and running up and down the stairs a lot (bam! bam! bam!). I agreed wholeheartedly. So he went up and knocked loudly (like cops do) on their door.

From inside my apartment, I heard the upstairs neighbor run to his front door and stop to look out the peep hole. He saw the cop and didn’t answer the door. The officer tried knocking again, saying, “Maryland State Police. Please open the door.” Still the tenant refused to answer. (Guilty much?) The nice officer stood there knocking for several minutes to no avail. He came back down and told me that they were standing right behind the door but wouldn’t answer. I’d heard the whole thing and told them I knew they were there too. He indicated that they’d be getting a nasty letter from the landlord.

It was quiet the rest of the evening, but with people like that who don't care about their neighbors, chances are they aren't going to change. So I decided to cancel my short-term lease and move out. So much for settling in. I went home-hunting again the next day and found another corporate apartment in Laurel. This one is on the top floor of a 3-story apartment building and is more expensive, but I took it for the peace and quiet.

I spent Friday moving to Russet. It took two car trips and a zillion trips up and down stairs, huffing and puffing. Four hours later I was done moving, and Martin was scoping out the new place. It only took him a matter of minutes to get adjusted this time. He even slept with me the first night. This moving stuff is old hat for him now.

So tonight is an exciting, long-awaited event: Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Yay, go Hawks! And tomorrow is the big day. I start my new ‘beltway bandit’ job as Security Systems Engineer for a large scientific research and development company in Columbia. I can’t wait to start working again. Not that moving isn’t work – but I’m ready for some brain work. Oh yeah, and a paycheck wouldn't hurt.

As it turns out, the house I was going to buy in downtown Laurel fell through at inspection last month. I decided that, after failing at purchasing a home after at five costly house-hunting trips, I would just rent for a while - as much as I dreaded moving twice...something I wanted desperately to avoid. I found a nice 2-bedroom, top-floor loft apartment to rent at the Elms at Mont Joy in Ellicott City and was all lined up for it. I’d done everything but sign the lease, which they were going to mail to me in New York.

On my way out of the Elms complex, I had to pull over to write down a phone number. If someone had been behind me in their car, I wouldn't have pulled off the road into a parking lot. As it happens, the parking lot that I was forced to stop at was adjacent to a model town home. I had the car in reverse, ready to leave, when I noticed the model. I decided “What the heck,” and got out to look. I figured I had time to kill, and I'd look just for fun.

The model was beautiful. Just astonishing. I fell in love with the gorgeous kitchen with its Zodiaq counters, and the huge master bedroom, thinking “No way I can afford this.” I talked to the agent. Yup, the place was around $550,000. Too rich for me. However, she told me that they were running a special on their less expensive Freedom models - $40,000 off. She pointed me to that model, and I drove over to take a look. I’d seen it earlier and been tempted to stop, but I drove on past it with the thought, “Nope, I’m going to just rent – no more house-hunting!”

To make a long story short, within a week I’d decided to buy a brand new town house on Mont Joy Place in the new Mont Joy subdivision. This was my serendipity, so I knew it was the right thing to do. I’d totally given up on buying when the right place just fell in my lap. As it turned out, I bought the last one available. So I knew in my heart it was meant to be.

It’s still being built and should be ready for closing the last week of February. This will be the first brand new place I’ve ever owned! (Thank goodness I got in soon enough to change the color of the kitchen counters!)

So my future home is in Ellicott City, Maryland, voted one of the 25 best places to live by Money magazine. I can’t wait to move. Um….again. Gad. I’m going for the Guinness Record for most moves in a lifetime. . . .

Oooooh - Seattle just won the toss. It's kick-off time. See ya!!!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hello, Suburbia

February 1, 2006

On a beautiful nearly-seventy-degree Saturday, my Manhattan movers moved most of my stuff into a 10x20 storage unit in Catonsville, not too far north of where I’m staying. We said our good-byes, I tipped them heavily, and then I finished moving the rest of my stuff into a temporary apartment. Since then I’ve been enjoying sleeping and shopping and car-driving in this strange new environment called suburbia.

Everything is so-o-o-o-o convenient. This area near Columbia is a great location – close to all the major roads including I-95. And convenient to both D.C. and Baltimore. I haven’t had to fight traffic. Grocery stores are wonderfully huge – with aisles that can fit not only multiple people simultaneously but also these metal things on wheels that you can carry your groceries in. They're called carts. It’s amazing how many groceries you can fit into one of these carts. And you don’t have to carry it all home on both arms – you can put it in your car and drive it home! What an amazing concept. I’d forgotten what real grocery shopping is like.

And Costco – wow! I hadn’t been in a Costco in a year and a half. That was fun. I bought a new faucet for my future home and some jeans for my new job (which, by the way, is casual dress - no more Wall Street suits, yay!). Suburbia also has lots of malls and huge department stores like Wal-Marts where you can buy just about anything. Shoe stores the size of Bill Gates’ house. Discount clothing stores that sell scarves for under $640 and purses under $850. There's a Pier 1 on every corner....and even a Sears in the Mall at Columbia.

I haven’t shopped this much in a year. Although I miss the excitement of New York, I’m adjusting easily to suburbia and loving my new Ford Escape Hybrid. It makes around 30 mpg, which is twice the mileage I made in the Explorer. It has some cool features – including a GPS sensor and navigation system, a mileage meter that shows fuel consumption as you drive, and a graphic display showing when you’re using the gas engine, the electric motor, or both.

Just a few more days of errands and getting to know the area...oh, and the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl...then I’m off to my new job!