The first time I had a macaron, it was in Paris. I was working with the White House and me and my stenographer friend Jenny, were relegated to the Press Filing Center for the day. Imagine being in Paris for the first time and having to sit inside a windowless, non-desrcript conference room. The only thing that was different was that the food was marginally better than in other locations. Not as bad as Ankara, Turkey but not as great as Waco, Texas. I didn’t necessarily agree with Bush’s politics, but you can’t hate a dude that supplies nonstop ice cream to a bunch of grouchy media types.
Anyway. So the bread, the butter, everything is better, even in the crappy conference room in paris. I’m never one to turn down dessert, and on the dessert tray were these funny looking cookies. Kind of like Oreos, but pink. I had one. It was dry and mealy. I thought, meh!
Fast forward four years- I’m on a fancy four star staff, working at the Pentagon. Very rarely does the never ending paperwork relent for us workers to have a little camaraderie event.
At our Holiday Potluck, there was a small container of these puffy little cookies, much like the ones I had had in Paris. Immediately I skipped over them, one mealy tasteless mouthful being enough to put them off me forever. Then, I saw a group of females from the staff bunched together eating those puffy cookies excitedly- talking to the cook who had made them the evening before.
Not being one to avoid peer pressure– I decided to try one after all. These were not a fancy color and they were much larger than those I had seen before.
The first bite was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. Crispy has always been my favorite texture and that was the first feeling these cookies have. My teeth sunk through the crisp layer to reveal a sugary and chewy interior. Then sandwiched in he middle was just enough icing.
A fresh homemade macaron is a revelation.
Doing some research I realized that while Chocolate Chip cookies are easy, macarons are easier to fudge up. (Get, it fudge… I’m talking about desert? nevermind).
So after reading no less than 30 recipes I attempted to try it. First, buying all the ingredients I don’t normally have on hand… cream of tartar, almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, etc. Then buying the gear- the sifter, the parchment paper, the pastry tube and tips. It’s a lot of stuff you need. However, after two or three failed attempts I finally made one recipe that made sense to me.
First go at this recipe, my macarons were flat as pancakes. Flatter than good pancakes too. No beuno.
Second attempt and those babies rose and baked beautifully. I only had to read 30 more recipes and be extremely, holding a newborn baby, type careful. After instagramming those beautiful cookies- i realized that people love these cookies (Duh) and that my recipe could help other people realize the beauty of these little french beauties.
Oh this blog. I love it, and yet I almost never post to it. As kindly pointed out by my lovely friend, Andrea. (Who is one of three of my followers!)
It’s Chief Select Season, or CPO365 Phase II as it’s called now, and I’m the proud co-sponsor to my very own Chief Select. After a training session, we were talking about the progress that his group has made on their various projects. His answer to most of my inquiries was, “well… we’re waiting on this that or the other…” And in all my chiefly wisdom I said to him, “Don’t let the idea of doing things perfectly get in the way of getting them done!”
Man, I am wise. I’m also a hypocrite, I realized. I let the idea of perfection stop me from doing stuff all the time! Exhibit A- this blog. I want every post to be a perfect flawless amalgam of witty and entertaining information. No mistakes, perfect grammar, on point memes.
But you know what? Being perfect is impossible, even in a blog. Even if it’s perfect to my standards someone will always not agree or find humor in the things I do. I’ve got like ten blogs saved on my desktop. They are great but I wait, I procrastinate. And when I really think about why I wait, it’s because I’m afraid of what people will think, of sharing my ideas with you fine internet trolls—with the world.
Two reasons why the goal of perfection that is unhealthy and unproductive.
Something that is perfect but hidden away does no one any good.
Perfection, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and Khaki pants which look good on me. All things that don’t exist.
We shouldn’t do it because it can’t completely solve the problem.
We should do the best that we can to improve the situation.
So, in my quest to get things done I’m going to post two entries (on macarons and the balcony makeover I’ve been working) this weekend, perfection be gosh darned.
Today, I sat a Career Development Board (CDB) for two of my Shipmates in my department. For you non- Navy types a CDB is a meeting among senior Sailors and Chiefs and an individual where we counsel and discuss with the trajectory of their career and life plans. Think high school guidance counselor meetings. But instead of one guidance counselor, you have six nosy teachers, and they’re all wearing the same outfit.
Figure out what you want, and figure out how to get it.
Figuring out what you want, not always an easy nor simple task. Throughout my career and life I believed “what I want” was actually “what other people want for me.” Pursuing what other people want for you leaves you feeling drained, because you’re basically fighting for something that holds no intrinsic value for you. Only you can decide what is right for you. Horses and water and all that. However, once you do figure out what it is the rest is simple. (Not easy. Nothing worth having is easy. Goes for women, goes for goals).
How to Follow My ‘Magic’ Advice (I just decided now, it’s magic)
1. Set a goal.
The word goal comes from the Middle English gol, meaning boundary limit. It was first recorded in 1531. So basically, the internet is telling me goals didn’t exist prior to 1531.
Goal- is a desired result a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines. It is roughly similar to purpose or aim, the anticipated result which guides reaction, or an end, which is an object, either a physical object or an abstract object, that has intrinsic value. Thank you, Wikipedia.
As of today my life goals are: be independent, be healthy, travel the world. If I accomplish these three things, then anything else that comes my way just kind of a bonus mushroom. Personally, having those three broad goals gives me a sense of perspective and keeps me grounded. When I get mired into the minutiae of the grind of work and worries, I think of these goals that I’ve accomplished and the progress I plan accomplish over my entire lifetime.
So for you, reader, setting a goal is finding out where you want to go in life, what you want to get and why. Here’s where the Alice in Wonderland reference becomes relevant.
Alice is wandering around, asks the Cheshire cat which path to take. It figures the cat is a sarcastic asshole when the chick is really lost, but cats are jerks even in fictional scenarios. But jerky or not, the feline has a really excellent point. It doesn’t matter what path you take if you don’t know where you want to end up. So, sorry Lindsay, but the limit (or goal, if you’re following my clever point) does exist.
Most people have a general sense of what they’re doing in life and why. If you don’t, your goal should be figuring out what your goal should be. Read a book, make a bucket list, try new things,
So let’s take this acronym and apply it to one of my goals as it stands today.
Main Goal: I want to be independent.
Specific: What is it exactly does that mean and why is it important to me?
I want to be financially independent and secure by the time I can retire from the military in 2022. It is important to me because I want to be able to travel, and do whatever I want to do at that time in my life. Work, have or adopt babies (human or otherwise), own a bakery- whatever.
Measurable: How will I measure progress toward this goal?
Yes. I’ve definitely fallen in the overwhelmed/burnt out trap before. Rule of thumb, under achieving little steps will always be more than overloading yourself and quitting altogether.
Relevant: Is this goal relevant to my general purpose in life?
Sure, all three of my life goals are interrelated. I want to be healthy so I can be independent for as long as possible. I want to be independent so I can travel wherever I want to go. I want to travel so I need to be financially independent. So on, and so forth.
Time-bound: What is the time frame I’d like to complete this goal?
Long term: 20 years in the Navy to retire, get pay and benefits. I’m 12 years in, got 8 left to go.
Short term: Before I rotate or choose orders- I try to set myself up so I’m not compelled by financial reasons to stay in position I don’t like or want. Rather, I choose to stay Navy because there’s a job I want to take, because I want to do the work involved, and because that job contributes to my ultimate goals.
So there you have it. I try to think of anything I’m doing in those terms, goals and steps toward goals. It’s the best way and the only way I’ve figured out how to make progress toward the things I want. If you know a better way or have other goal setting tips I always welcome advice. Only a fool thinks they know everything. I’m sure that was said by someone important at some point.
So, how is the Paul Rudd movie “How Do You Know” relevant to this post? After being cut from the USA softball team and feeling a bit past her prime, main character Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) finds herself evaluating her life and in the middle of a love triangle, as a corporate guy in crisis (awesome, Paul Rudd) competes with her current, baseball-playing beau (douche-canoe Owen Wilson).
Two scenes I think of often from this movie. The first, Lisa goes to a shrink to get some guidance before her medical insurance from the Softball team runs out. She gets embarrassed and leaves- but before she asks the doctor a question.
Lisa: So I was just wondering if there was one general thing that you’ve found over the years to be generally true in a general way that would help anyone in any situation? Psychiatrist: That’s a great question, yes, I would say figure out what you want and learn how to ask for it. Lisa: OK. Those are both really hard.
Yes, I basically copied my life’s philosophy from that one scene. Inspiration comes from the most unlikely places.
The second scene is below, which always gives me hope when I feel frustrated with my progress or lack of progress (and contains a fun fact about play-doh)-
“We are all just one small adjustment away from making our lives work.”
So any chance I get to see animals of any kind, I’m usually pretty stoked. I pet the dogs I meet in the elevator. I talk to the squirrels and birds I see on my walks to work like a delusional Snow White. In Hawaii and Florida I pay sketchy looking street urchins to hold their birds. If Carly Collins hadn’t guilt-tripped me/had a brief intestinal distress I would have ridden elephants in Thailand.
What does this have to do with the Zoo, and prison?
I love being able to see these beautiful animals here in my hometown, and in places I end up traveling. I do feel a pang of guilt when I see these animals in the custody of humans. I’ve read lots of articles and documentaries (Blackfish!) about the mistreatment of animals in captivity. It’s well documented that captivity for wild animals can cause them great mental pain and stress. I mean as I type this blog post my cat is doing some truly weird stuff. I can help but think of the Zoo as a really large fancy jail for the animals. It’s sad to think of what their lives must be like, compared to what they’d be like out in the wild.
But what’s the alternative? Not having Zoos and places like Sea World would make it so millions of people would not be exposed to these creatures. We may have HD television and National Geographic but seeing a Panda stare you down or a Cheetah move stealthily along its enclosure it a sight to see. Watching a grouchy lion dad swat at his annoyingly playful cub son is an experience that can’t be replicated through a screen.
Anyway, I’m sure this is all stuff you’ve probably contemplated at some point. My final thought: the good outweighs the bad. Zoos help with education, experience and conservations. At the very least they inspire the younger generation to go into science and environmental careers.
The National Zoo in particular: it’s pretty good. I think it had improved a great deal in the last couple of years. The enclosures seem larger for the elephants, and all the baby animals are very cute to watch. The baby panda is ridiculously cute. My friend Chris and I went at 0900 on a Sunday– before the herds of parents descended on the park. The animals had just gotten fed/let out so they were extra active and visible. Also, despite the $22 parking per car, it’s free to get in. The parking lot is in the middle of the Zoo, so for me it beats taking the metro and having to walk from the station. If you haven’t been, I’d definitely recommend it for all ages.
Bottom line: Go to the Zoo! Buy some overpriced stuffed animal or outrageously expensive snacks. Help the inmates, it’s good for their morale.
I joined the Navy to see the world. It just happens that about 60% of the Navy is in my home state. Not a very well-thought out plan, but hey I was 16 when I decided to join.
Home is where the Navy sent me. No, that’s not a delightfully crafty sign hanging in my living room- it’s a fact. My Dad, after retiring from the Navy, decided to settle in Northern Virginia. I then joined the Navy when I came of age entering Naval Service through the Richmond Military Entrance Processing Station. After a nine week stint to Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill.- I ended up back in the DMV (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia) at the Defense Information School in Ft. Meade, Md.- a mere 1.5 hours from Mom and Dad.
At school, I filled out a “dream sheet” of where I wanted to be stationed: Hawaii, Italy, San Diego. All these glamorous and tropical locales every little E-3 dreams of going. Where did I end up? Yep, haze gray and underway at Naval Station Norfolk aboard the USS Iwo Jima, another mere 2.5 hours from Mom and Dad. Luckily, ships do what they do best, and I got underway for two deployments to the Mediterranean and a few visits up and down the eastern seaboard.
After Iwo, I got selected to work at White House Communications Agency (WHCA), which as it happens to be, is in Washington, D.C. Through that assignment I got picked up to work in the Pentagon, where I’m stationed now. Closer to home than ever.
On June 27, I’ll celebrate 12 years of service to the Navy. Most of that service will have been served all within a 100 mile radius of my hometown. Am I spoiled? Heck yeah, I’m close to my parents, I get to see my best friends on a regular basis, and I’m home. Everything is familiar to me here.
There are downsides of living near home. There are frequent awkward run-ins with people you hoped you’d never see again, that recurring feeling of high school anxiety when you drive past your alma mater, your mother lovingly reminding you that you need to get married and have babies on a weekly basis. I definitely feel frequent pangs of jealousy when I see shipmates moving to Hawaii and San Diego. Yeah, I’m talking to you Tanya Whitner. But you take the good with the bad, and the bad isn’t so bad really, especially when your mom makes fresh lumpia.
I love Virginia. Most people who move here, hate it. They hate the traffic, the swampy and unpredictable weather, the not-so pristine beaches. I love the history, the culture, the mountains, the sea sides and everything in between. I love living near Washington D.C., a place that so many people travel to see the monuments to our democracy. But mostly I love living near the people I love most in this world- and I am grateful that the Navy keeps sending me home. Hopefully, if I can sustain this blog, I can share some of what makes VA kind of Okay.
Will I stay in VA forever? I guess that’s up to the U.S. Navy. Would I mind? Probably not.
It’s like Dorothy said, there’s no place like home. (Always trust a girl with cute shoes).
I’m a lifelong Virginia native, was a Navy Chief, a domestic savant, media addict and a world-traveler. I love to write. I have a curious nature so I tend to know a lot of things about a lot of things (Thank goodness for the internet). I also am in the midst of fixing up my 1945 Cape Cod… It’s a lot of work. So that’s what you’ll find here… food, DIY, life.