snow days!

So Winter Storm Jonas passed through NC. It didn’t manifest itself nearly as dramatically as it did in Virginia where my mom lives:

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But everything shut down anyway, and I spent several days largely homebound.

I was all set to sleep late on Friday, my classes already canceled… but then, at 6 am, I heard pathetic meowing outside my window! I threw on boots and a coat and hunted this elusive meower. At least I found him perched pathetically in the neighbors’ building’s breezeway. I stuck out my hand to let him sniff it, and he acquiesced to being picked up (though then he started frantically wiggling because I was holding him against my snowy jacket). However, then I delivered him into my warm apartment and he purred like a little motor. Loudest little purrer I have ever beheld.

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We went back to sleep for awhile (he slept great, I DIDN’T, because his ultimate goal was to sleep ON TOP OF MY HEAD. We negotiated so he ended up on the pillow next to my head, with his feet in my hair. Gah he was so cute I didn’t even care.)

Then Alli and I went about our next day and a half in the company of this adorable kitty. We dubbed the cat Jonas Nino. Jonas for the name of the storm, Nino for the El Nino weather pattern that produced it.

I did a very minimal amount of homework and little cat friend sat on my lap.

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Alli watched a lot of Scandal with the little cat curled up next to her.

I made some PEACE SIGN PASTA my aunt and uncle gave me for Christmas (so cute!)

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And I figured out that the cat was a kitten, one because he had adorably disproportionately huge ears that he seemed to be growing into, and two because he just wanted to play all day.

I had made a run to the grocery store immediately after the cat’s arrival to stock up on food and kitty litter before the storm got bad. I had resisted getting toys, because deep down I knew this sweet, well-nourished cat had not been homeless and would have a family that would want him back.

So I improvised with the toy-like items I had around, like bag ties, and apron strings.

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After getting a little stir crazy, even with Jonas’s excellent company, Alli and I were elated to learn that our nearby sushi place was open Saturday, though the blizzard had barely ended and there were still snow flurries.

I housed this amazing bento box (eating everything but the rice in one sitting, what?!) Alli had always gotten the sesame chicken and I tried it this time and YUM. It wasn’t at all like sticky Chinese restaurant sesame chicken, but was rather crispy flash fried and not at all greasy chicken dipped in a yummy not-too-sweet ponzu sauce. Also enjoyed some sashimi and a crunch roll, plus salad and unpictured miso soup.

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When I returned from sushi I went to the mailroom, suspecting– correctly as it turns out– that there might be a sign about a missing cat. I called the number and heard the relieved exclamation from the mother of the household, who then uttered “Babe, they found him!” to another member of the household who turned out to be a little girl. Jonas was in fact named Boo. He had snuck out Thursday night and the family frantically searched for him but he didn’t make his way home as he had other times he had snuck out before (perhaps due to it being harder to smell because of the snow?) His family was very happy to be reunited with him. Apparently his sister kitty had been crying for him all night! Awwwww.

I was heartbroken but happy for the family that they got their sweet cat back.

Then the thawing continued and on Sunday I managed to get enough people together to have an excellent clothing swap! This was the lay of the land BEFORE anyone even arrived! Just the combined efforts of me, my sister, and a friend who read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and went crazy on decluttering her house.

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Lots of people came (some on foot!) and lots more clothes appeared and were claimed in the following hours.

The good news was, the leftovers went with my friend Taylor for her annual mission trip to the Dominican Republic, to be worn by kiddos and teens in the school/orphanage where she volunteers.

On Monday my morning class I TA was canceled, so I spent the day fiiiiiinally catching up on work at my favorite coffee shop.

And then when I returned home, I found a wonderful, sweet thank you note from a little girl who was glad to have her kitty back!

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new semester

Just finished my first week of the new semester. Also THE FIRST WEEK OF THE REST OF MY LIFE. I’m in a mindful place and feel like reflecting on life in general. Some trivial, some semi-deep.

  • Somehow I got good enough at biochemistry that I am now TA for the first year students taking it wutttt?! I know all I do is bitch about it in the blog, but… I got honors passes for both semesters I’ve taken, and actually feel rather confident and conversant in the subject matter. TAing is also a practical undertaking- the best way to learn something is to teach it, and I’ll be tested on macro and micronutrients in my MPH comprehensive exams this April (!!!)
  • My current semester is kind of a mixed bag otherwise. I’m not super excited about any of my classes. The current ones are:
    • Food Science- I got kicked out of lab on Wednesday (!!!) because I was coughing too much (!!!) Hahaha, another student did too. It’s reasonable to be obsessive about food safety. I’m curious how this class will go- apparently the professor is prone to mood swings (!!)
    • Nutritional Epidemiology- I think other people are intimidated by this because they didn’t have a great experience in introductory Epi (partly because our professor lacked certain communication skills- she’s a key example of why we need both good scientists and good communicators in this world). I’m less intimidated because I really like reading and interpreting studies because I’m so preoccupied with having the best data and using it to save the world. (Though our anti-fact political climate is probably at cross purposes with that dream of mine). Also the teacher is my advisor and I like her a lot.
    • Biochem- yes really, I’m still not done taking it myself. This semester is all micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). We’ve got an unfortunate situation where none of the professors really know what they’re teaching- they’re all highly specialized research faculty who can talk a lot about one particular enzymatic pathway but sound really stupid when they’re talking about basic, like, what vitamin K does in the body. We’re going to have to teach ourselves a lot. But I had a review session today with my favorite study buddy and I actually think we’ll rock that.
      In the meantime, during class I have been having gif exchanges with my friend Colton. I am not particularly proud of this.
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    • With all that being said, this is my LAST SEMESTER OF CLASSES, and I’m trying hard not to wish it away. Going to school full time is a privilege. Getting to learn all day, and surround myself with interesting people and experts in their fields, is a privilege. I want to take advantage of all the opportunities I can in the coming months.
  • Before the new semester began, I finished out my winter break with a “field trip” that was essentially in my home town. We had a three day conference in DC with nutrition policymakers and representatives from organizations working in federal-level policy and research and implementation and lobbying and such. The conference was a requirement for one of our classes and it was a lot to ask of people! Extra flights, $ for hotels and meals out, a shortened winter break. Lucky me, I got to stay for free with my family in Northern VA (and I had a classmate stay at my house, where she hopefully had fun with my mom and cat!) I also got to play tour guide and show my friends around town a bit. Highlights include:
    • Hearing from Congressional staffers on how nutrition policy gets passed. I thought it was interesting that they say there’s more of a regional divide for the folks working in agriculture (Midwest vs Southern representatives) than a political divide.
    • Going to the White House on a lunch break and seeing Sunny and Bo THE PRESIDENTIAL DOGS THEY WERE SO CUTE!
    • Going to the white house on an evening break before a network happy hour and seeing KATIE COURIC walk inside! (Yeah that was cool but notice I get more excited about adorable puppies)
    • Getting mansplained at by the former president of the Corn Refiners Association and also former Bush appointee as Secretary of Agriculture! That guy. What a champ. My classmate asked him a question about the proprietary nature of GMO seeds and the challenges to biodiversity and he rambled a lot about how GMOs were safe (not the question). Then I asked a question in which I first pointed out that it’s cheaper to buy 200 calories of high fructose corn syrup in a soda than 200 calories of carrots. Then I asked how we could balance the need for farmers to be able to store commodity crops to sell them at a competitive price and at the same time encourage farmers to grow healthier crops like fruits and vegetables which are highly perishable and can cause the farmers financial risks. And he lectured me that frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh, (which of course, again, had nothing to do with my question).
  • I came home from that break and immediately got sick. So I’ve been rocking this wan and dazed look for awhile.
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    I seem to’ve turned a corner today. Took a nice long walk in the sunshine 🙂
  • I have a lot of friends reaching life milestones and it’s freaking me out. Two sets of close friends are in the throes of wedding planning and good GRIEF it’s a lot. Also just found out a close friend is pregnant and it’s SO exciting and I’m actually going to get to be around this friend as her belly gets all big and she gets her sonogram pictures and yadda yadda! And again, also- OH MY GOD MY FRIENDS ARE GROWNUPS AND I AM SUPPOSED TO BE ONE TOO!
  • On the bright side, I am doing something cool with my time that is just for me and that is WRITING CLUB! I have a friend (one of my classmate’s boyfriends) who has a PhD in creative writing and we were chatting one time and I was like “Gosh writing is great and I miss it and the seminars you’ve done over the years sound so cool” and he was like “Get a group of people together and we’ll have one” and then I did! And we do! And our meetings are so fun! Well of course we drink wine and have snacks because that’s important. And we read each others’ writing and give feedback and Zach talks about writing as a craft and makes diagrams (!) and quotes Great Writers (!!!) and it is simultaneously educational and liberating. It’s so nice to use a different side of my brain. And be around people who are smart! Yes, my classmates are smart but it’s wayyyyy different memorizing enzymes than it is coming up with creative ideas for stories and characters.
    It’s telling because the story I’ve written so far has been lauded for its character development but critiqued for not yet having introduced a conflict/question/quest for the lead character. And as I think about my protagonist, and go “What shall she do with her life?” I’ve realized that it’s so about ME wondering what I should do with MY life! #meta
  • Finally, today is my one year breakupiversary. I will confess that I might have forgotten except my best friend texted me yesterday about it being my ex’s birthday and it was like ohhhh yeahhhh weeeeeeeird. I don’t know that I yet have anything deep to say about the past year. There have of course been awful losses in the past year (and may I suggest to people out there that it’s not the classiest thing to dump someone while they have a dying family member?) but at the same time I’ve learned a lot about myself and had a lot of happiness and general… life richness in the past year. I’ve gotten to dig into friendships and see them transform as people have gotten to know me as me rather than me as half of a couple. I’ve gotten to dig into things just for me, like writing creatively. I’ve cried a lot less (it’s absurd how often I found myself crying- heads up, if you are in a relationship where you cry at least twice a week it’s probably not a super great sign). I’ve done a lot less taking on of the emotions of others.
    And yknow I’ve also had some times where I’ve wondered if I have to make my peace with staying solo and not doing the wife/mom thing. If I should be online dating (I joined OKCupid for like two weeks and though it was a nice ego boost it made me realize that one that I was too busy with school to commit my time to casually dating a bunch of dudes, and two that I just honestly prefer meeting people under organic circumstances, even if it’s stupid).

Now that I’ve bulleted this post to within an inch of its life, here are some nice random photos from the rest of my winter break.

While I was still home my cat woke up and was like “I want dinner. I want to make sure I’m awake in case Ileana gets up and goes into the kitchen to give me my dinner. On the other hand, I am essentially asleep sitting up”. Sheila is the best.

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I got SO MUCH TEA for Christmas and it’s amazing. I now have both a tea shelf and a tea box. THANK YOU GENEROUS FAMILY!

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On the food front- so you’ll recall that we got crescent roll dough for my sister to make yummy thingies for our Christmas party. So since we got said crescent roll dough at Costco, that meant we still had a billion more rolls of crescent roll dough to use. So I made a recipe that was both very out of character and very delicious and used some of the leftover ham and cheese from the party to make this ham and cheese crescent roll bake. I put in some spinach, so you know, health food.

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I also was happy to check off my boxes for Northern Virginia- got Ethiopian food one night, Sweetgreen (actually got that twice; the second time also introducing my classmates to it), and Korean another night.

The yummy barley tea and the pickleys-

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The kimchi soup that’s basically a drinkable salad

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And the hot and spicy tofu soup with the fresh egg cracked into it mmmmm

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The Korean place is also near The Yard Where Christmas Exploded, so we made a visit there.

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And finally we got in more family time! My cousin Kate is marrying her Francisco, who hails from Puebla in Mexico. They’ll be getting married there this May. I’ll be missing it because it’s the first week of my clinical internship arrrrgh. But, I did get to attend the Mexican feast that Kate’s parents, my aunt Nan and uncle Andrew, hosted when Kate and Francisco were here for Christmas.

Decorations were excellent.

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We brought this appetizer. “We” meaning I found the recipe and my mom did all the work! How GORGEOUS is this tarte soleil?! It was as yummy as it was beautiful, yay mom!

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Andrew and Nan also went ALL OUT. The chicken tinga was spec-tac-u-lar, and because Nan is so good at baking it is almost frightening, there were many many delicious things of the Mexican chocolate varietals. These little guys involved cayenne and I could have eaten them forever.

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Also, I convinced my cool aunt Kathy to do a shot of tequila with me 🙂 It was great!

Finally, spent some family time with my aunt Jeanie, who made the most wonderful French onion soup. The bowls! The cheese!

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Also spent some quality time with my hairy cousins.

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One could say they were watching the neighbor’s cat. But I say they were looking forward to an exciting and yet to be discovered 2016.