Category Archives: dc metro

10 Things I love About Biking

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I have been wanting to write this post for a while, especially since I wrote the 10 Things I Hate About Biking. So here it is:

10 Things I Love About Biking:

  1. Biking is Challenging – I love a good challenge. I tend to be singular in what I challenge myself with. Mostly, the only challenge I really have is my work. Last year was particularly difficult and work took up a huge amount of my time and focus. Biking offered a counter balance to the work challenge. It was personally challenging for me to get on the bike. I forced myself push a little farther every day.
  2. Biking is Fun! – Honestly, it really is. I have said many times it was hard work, but the pay-off for that hard work is that I get to bike. I love the feel of the sun on my face, the wind in my hair. I love flying down hills, or the steady pedaling of riding on a flat trail. I feel free in a way that I do not feel walking or *gasp* running, or doing any other kind of exercise.
  3.  The “Biking Community” –  I am not sure if it is the same in every community, but in Arlington, there is a big informal, (and probably formal if I looked into it more), biking community. A lot of people bike here. There are bike trails everywhere and most of the streets are accommodating to bikers. And other bikers kind of look out for one another. This is something I was not really aware of. One day in August was particularly hot. I was thirsty and pulled off the trail for a moment to drink some water. I’m sure my face was red and I was very sweaty and panting. One girl slowly road by me and asked if I was OK. I assured her I was just thirsty and she pedaled on her way. Occasionally, you get the person who is aggressively concerned with your biking. Annoyingly so, in fact. “That bike is too small for you!” One such person yelled to me as I was slowly riding up hill. “You need to raise your seat! You’ll blow out your knees!” I had to stop and walk the bike up the hill and he came over to try to show me how to raise my seat. Dude! Seriously? At that point in my biking I was just a few days out and feeling very unstable on the bike. Raising my seat was not something I was quite comfortable with yet. I waved him off and told him I was OK, and he grumbled his disapproval and walked away. Creepy. Fortunately, my experiences with other bikers has been much more pleasant.
  4. Supportive Bikers – This is probably a sub-group of the biking community, but I have really come across so many bikers who have been very supportive of my efforts. There’s the girl who offered to fix my flat tire. The guy who stopped to see if he could fix my handle bars. And bikers who just acknowledge me with a polite nod as they pass. But my favorite person, I “met” on one of my first rides. I was re-entering the Four Mile Run trail from South Glebe. There is a slight incline as you enter the trail. I was really struggling to get up the teeny hill. I wanted to push myself to the top. I was traveling at a snail’s pace. A woman rides up behind me and announces she’s passing me on my left. I was literally about to give up and get off my bike when she said as she rode by, “Keep pushing! You got this!” Her words were just the impetus I needed. Two, maybe, three pedals later, I crested the hill and yelled out, “I did it!” She raised her fist in the air in solidarity and rode off.
  5. Being Outside – I could go to gym and ride the stationary bike or join a spin class, but that really never held any appeal for me. I love being outside. The feel of the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. Amazing. Plus I get to see all the beauty around me. Spring and fall are my two favorite seasons. I love the feeling of renewal in the spring air, the blooming of the cherry blossoms, azaleas, budding trees. And the last splash of color and cool air of autumn. And everything in between.
  6. Pushing Myself – I love pushing myself. This past year, I have ridden harder and farther than I ever thought I could. I love to see how far I can go. There have been times I have pushed too far, but I’ve always made it back home, even if I had to walk. The farthest I ever pushed myself to date is my ride from home to Chinatown in DC. It was much farther than I thought it was. Google Maps initially said it was only 6 miles from my house and would take an hour. Google lied. On the bike trail, it was probably 10 or 11 miles. And it took almost two hours. I do not regret doing this though. It was hard and a little scary, but I had a lot of fun.
  7. Riding Downhill – Need I say more? Yes, it is a little scary, but man is it ever fun! I push myself to ride a 4 miles on a slow steady incline on my regular ride. The reward is, I get to ride about 4 miles on a slow steady decline on the way home. The downhill part of the ride is what everyone who dreams of riding thinks biking is like, pedaling effortlessly down the trail and enjoying the ride. And that is what it is like sometimes. But you do not think of the long slog of pushing up hill to get there. The uphill is what makes the downhill really worth it though.
  8. It Is Hard – I like that biking is difficult. One of my favorite movie quotes is from A League of Her Own when the obnoxious Tom Hanks character says to star player who is walking away from the game, “It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” Of course, in Northern Virginia, I think everyone does bike, but that’s not the point. The point is, that I have forced myself to do something that was difficult for me. And the rewards have been immeasurable.
  9. Being Present – There are numerous articles about the benefits of being present in your life, living in he moment, appreciating the here and now. So many of us just coast through our days. Or our schedules are so full, we are just racing to get to the end of the day so we can collapse on our beds for a few hours of respite before we begin again. I often say that when I’m at work, I feel like I’m wishing my life away 8 hours at a time. I’m never fully there. Always planning for the next thing. When I’m biking, I’m not doing that. I have to be focused and present all the time. There are so many things that can derail my ride, cars, traffic, pedestrians, obstacles on the trail errant two-year olds running in front of the bike. You have to pay attention if you want to be safe. Of course, my mind wanders and I think of other things while I’m biking. I think about writing, and all the things I have to do when I get home or get to work, but always, I’m paying attention to the trail, the bike, how I feel, am I hydrated, should I rest, how far I am from home. Biking is one of the few parts of my life where I’m not just waiting for the time to pass so I can get to the next part of my day. I am happy just to be in the moment biking and loving it.
  10. Overall Feeling of Well Being And Accomplishment – I feel better when I bike. My health is better. My breathing is better. I feel stronger and more confident because of biking. I know something about myself. I know that I can push myself physically to achieve a goal. This is something I have not always felt I could do. As someone who spent most of her adult life morbidly obese, the idea of excelling in any kind of physical activity was almost unthinkable. That is no longer the case.

A Strange New World

I sat on my couch in the morning on Friday, January 20, 2017 to watch the peaceful transfer of power that our country is known for. It is one of the things that makes our country great. We can disagree and fight during election season and even after, but on Inauguration day, one man, one party hands over the reigns to another, relinquishing his power and the keys to the kingdom, so to speak.

This is something we usually celebrate. This year was different. I did not see anything to celebrate as Obama transferred his role to a mean-spirited man who campaigned on division, hatred, and fear. I sat there as his supporters booed his opponent, former First Lady and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. And I listened as they cheered him and his American Carnage speech. There were protesters and violence. It was very disheartening.

I so wanted to attend the Women’s March the next day. I needed to feel something positive and a connection to other people who were also as angry, sad, and frustrated as I was. I was unable to attend Obama’s inauguration in 2009. I weighed 300 pounds and could barely walk. In 2013, I had just had surgery. I had lost a lot of weight and was sure I could do the walking, but I was trying not to push myself too hard as I was still recovering. I was looking forward to attending for Hillary, but alas, that was not to be.

Family and friends were concerned for my safety this year after watching the violence that took place on Trump’s Inauguration Day. I was also scheduled to work the mid-day into evening shift. I asked for the day off, but my boss was unable to grant the request. That only made my mood worse.

Then suddenly, something changed. Towards the end of the day, my supervisor came up to me and told me to call in the am and if it was slow, I could “come in late.” She left it sort of open-ended.

I went home and made my plans. My mom called and told me to “be safe.” My sisters cheered, as they were in California and could to make it. I had no idea what to expect. I read a lot of the “How to be safe at a protest rally” articles that had been floating around internet. Take one bag. Take food. Take an extra phone charger. Take something to wrap around your face in case of tear gas.

I was anxious, but excited.

I woke up early Saturday morning. I think I had four hours of sleep. I had everything all laid out. I got ready and made my way to the parking garage in my building. My plan was to drive to the metro and take the train into the city. In the parking garage, was another woman getting into her car with her friends.

“Are you going?” she asked.

“Of course!” And we both raised our fists in the air in celebration.

Already, this day felt different.

I arrived at the metro station at 730am and already the lot was full. That should have been a clue to what I was about to face, but the station has a small lot, so I didn’t think anything of it. I parked at the hotel across the street and ran across the street.

To say the station was packed is an understatement. There was probably a 30 minute line to fill or buy a fare card. Fortunately, I have one that I keep full from my days of commuting into the city. So, I got in the line for the turn-style to get into the  station.

I knew where I wanted to go. A friend had been messaging me telling her to meet her and her friends. And that was certainly my plan. I waited for the second train, as the first was stuffed to the gills. I entered the train holding my Starbucks coffee and my fare card in my hand. I had my purse slung across my body so that I would not have to worry about that swinging around.

My face was maybe two inches from the woman standing in front of me.

“I know you!” She said to me. She did look familiar, but I wasn’t sure if it was because I had actually met her somewhere or of she just had that look of someone I know but cannot place.

“You do? My name’s Colleen. What’s yours?”

“Danni. Are you a Geek?” Now that is an odd question to ask someone. Or it would be if I hadn’t almost immediately known what she meant. “I mean are you in the NOVA Geek Group on Meetup?”

“No, but I went to Sarah’s Jewish Christmas! You were there!”

(A quick note here…I worked all the way up to midnight on Christmas Eve and was unable to make plans to go out-of-town to see family and the family that lives here went to Disney for Christmas, so one of my friends from my writer’s group invited me to Chinese food and a movie with her friends for Christmas.)

“Yes!”

Danni, and her friends allowed me to tag along with them since once we arrived in the city it was clear there was probably no way I was going to be able to find my friends. I called work as soon as we got there. Which is a good thing, since I very quickly lost all cell service.

I could not to get over the number of people. We could barely move once we got close, to where the rally was, which was not very close at all. I spent the whole day near the Air & Space Museum, actually about a block and a half across the street. We could not even get close to Independence Avenue. Occasionally, we could see the jumbotrons or hear the speeches. But mostly, we just walked around and talked to people. It was great to feel a sense of solidarity with women. At the time, we had only an inkling of what we were a part of.

The DC police were so nice. It was almost as if they were in solidarity with us. They were directing people, answer questions, keeping an eye on families with children. So many women brought their daughters, sons, husbands, babies.

At one point, I lost Sarah’s friends. The one girl was pregnant and was racing around looking for a bathroom, of which there were very, very few. We were crossing a street that was packed with people when a sea of people going in the other direction cut me off from them. I knew where they were going and walked in that direction to no avail. So, I used my solitary status to push my way as close to Independence as I could get. I saw a corner of the screens sometimes, but at least here I could hear the speeches.

People were getting anxious and wanted to march. The chant, “MARCH! MARCH! MARCH!” came and went several times. At that point, it was announced that the streets were too chock-full of people to march and the route they received the permit for was blocked. We knew it was crazy-crowded, but still, we had no idea what the rest of the world was seeing on TV. Or what was going on in other cities. At one point, someone did say that women were protesting in Antarctica. I didn’t know there were people in Antartica, let alone protesters!

I did get to do some marching and chanting, but at that point, I made the decision to leave. I still had to get to work and I knew the metro was going to be crazy. If there was to be no marching, people would start to leave and I would never get out.

At one point during the protest, I started receiving random texts that had been delayed getting to me. I received one from my sister-in-law who told me my niece wanted to come to the city, but her parents told her, “no we cannot go today because of the protests.” We regularly take her to DC to the museums and monuments. When she was told about the protests, she expressed her displeasure with Trump and made her own sign!

 

I had heard Mr. Trump many times during his campaign say that he was leading a movement. That people didn’t understand what was going on. I agree that he did tap into an anger and frustration that working people in this country have had for the last 30 years as real wages have stagnated and labor has lost a lot of its political clout. I’m not sure I would call it a movement. All he has to do is not deliver on bringing jobs and higher wages to his supporters, and they will turn on him.

When I got home and was actually able to watch the news, I was astonished. I knew it was a lot of people, but I had no idea. There have been estimates that 2.6 million-2.9 million people protested nationwide and maybe as many as 11 million worldwide.

I suddenly stopped feeling bad I was unable to march through the city with the rest of the crowd. Just showing up, I decided, was enough. Adding myself to the numbers that made it impossible to march was just as important. I stood with my fellow Americans in solidarity supporting our values. And that, after all, was part of the point. It was also to send the message that although we may not be in power, we are not powerless. We are here, we are many, and we are not going away.

Trump’s election denied us celebrating the first woman president. We have denied him our silent acquiesces to his negative agenda.

That, Mr. Trump, is a movement.

Commuting Confusion

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A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about my daily commute into the city.  I was so excited that I was able to do the commute without pain or difficulty. It is so liberating to be able to walk and stand without a problem.

Since I wrote this post, my commute into the city has changed, quite drastically.

Let’s start with this cool new train line called the Silver Line. The Silver Line is eventually going to make it’s way out to Dulles airport, which is not far from Sterling, Ashburn, and other far away lands in the exurbs of DC. But for now, the Silver Line only goes out to Reston. The addition of this train completely screwed up my morning commute.

I live and work on the Blue Line, which shares tracks with this new line for part of the trip. Now, the Blue Line trains already have a pretty raw deal. It shares tracks with the Yellow Line and the Orange Line in different areas. Where it shares tracks with the Yellow trains, you could see 3-5 Yellows before an over crowded Blue train shows up. The same is true where it shares tracks with the Orange Line trains.

Now that the Silver Line trains have been added, they reduced the Blue Line service. One now shows up every 12 minutes during rush hour, because that’s what the over crowded Blue Line trains need, less trains.

Fortunately, there is a bus that travels directly from in front of my apartment building and now drops me off 4 blocks from the office. To make up for the loss of train service, the genies at WMATA re-routed this bus. During the summer, I was walking 1.3 miles from where this bus dropped me off. Now, I only have to walk 4 blocks. It’s cheaper than the metro and closer to my office. What could possibly go wrong.

Let me tell you…

The bus drivers do not know the new route.

Today’s driver, missed her turn onto 18th Avenue from Constitution. She then did a u-turn on Constitution, which I didn’t even know was possible during rush hour, let alone on a bus. I was a little bit terrified. Then, she turned right onto Virginia Avenue and not 18th. This is generally not a problem because in 25 feet you can then just turn right onto 18th from Virginia. She didn’t do that. She continued on Virginia Avenue for a few blocks.

I don’t know where she went after that because I got off the bus. Perhaps she just gave up and drove back to Virginia to start again. I walked from 20th and C to 20th and M. That’s about a mile. It’s not a bad walk, and I do not mind doing it, but for the love of all that’s holy, can we please get some bus drivers that know how to drive in DC?

I really do not want to have to move just to get a better commute into the city. And I really do not want to drive! I only live six miles from the office. Surely, it does not have to be this difficult to get to work every day! Maybe I should just walk.

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Blossom Walk Update

This gallery contains 19 photos.

As many of you who follow my blog know, I set some goals for myself this spring. Two of those goals were to walk around the Tidal Basin and to attend the Cherry Blossom Parade. I walked around the Tidal … Continue reading

Saturday Awesomeness

I love Saturdays.  Who doesn’t, right?

I had a really rough day yesterday at work.  Nothing really bad, just busy and stressful.  So, I went home and had dinner.  Then I flopped down on my bed and curled up under the covers and felt sorry for myself.  So much for the gym.

Then I decided that I needed to get out of the house.  This was maybe at 930pm.  I sent a friend of mine a Facebook message and asked him to meet me down the street.  We went to my favorite little place, Busboys and Poets, and talked for a bit.

I walked both to the restaurant and back home even though my friend offered me a ride.  I guess I just needed to blow off some steam.

Then this am, I had plans to meet my brother and niece in DC to go to the museums.  Of course, bugs were the main item on the agenda and the Natural History Museum has a great bug display, the irony of its sponsor being Orkin not withstanding.  She had to go visit the bees again.  We tried to get her interested in seeing the butterflies, but no.  Spiders and bees were foremost on her agenda.

We also walked around the butterfly garden outside and looked at the pretty flowers and we took a short walk through the sculpture garden as well.  Then we went to the Air & Space Museum so she could have lunch at “Old MacDonald’s.”  They normally don’t feed her McD’s, but she does like their chicken nuggets.  She has a ton of food allergies and the nuggets are the only thing there she can eat.  My brother says that’s because the nuggets are not really food.  I agree.

Then my brother and I went back to my neighborhood and went to Cheesetique.  We had a cheese board and he had a glass of port and the key lime pie.  I have been a big Cheesetique fan since they came to Shirlington.  Apparently their first store is in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria.  I have taken cheese to my brother’s for holidays and stuff, but this was his first time eating in the restaurant.  It’s a small store, but the atmosphere is awesome.  The food is so good.  He was quite impressed and bought some of his own cheese to take home.

I think he was getting a bit tired of always going to Busboys when he comes to visit.  The food there is great too, but it’s nice to get out and try something different.  We have gone to the Mexican place several times, and it’s awesome, but we needed to do something else.  Shirlington has lots of great choices.

Now, if I could just get a hold of my sister, I could get a visit with her in today.  In the meantime, I am going to write and then hit the gym.

It’s nice to get back into my normal routine of museum jaunts and visits with my family.  I love being able to do these things.  My life has really made a complete 180 from where I was 9 1/2 months ago.  I can hop on the metro, go hang out on the Mall at the Sculpture Garden and listen to jazz with my friends, walk all over the Mall going to the museums with my brother and niece, go to the gym, go shopping at the mall with my sister, and walk down the street to my neighborhood to walk around or just hang out at a coffee shop.  Before last October, I could not have done any of this, at least not easily.  Now I don’t even think about it.  I just put on my walking shoes and go.

The choice to have the surgery was a difficult one for me, but I’m glad I did it. The quality of my life has completely changed.  It happened so quickly, I can hardly believe it sometimes.  And yet, the person I was before seems so far away I don’t even know who that was.  Well, whoever that was is gone and I love who I am now.

Going to the same museum over and over to look at bees with a 5-year-old, eating at a new restaurant with my brother, and shopping at a mall with my sister may seem routine and mundane, but I love that I can do it. I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for anything.

Hilarious Morning Encounter

Today, because I have a flight at 3:00pm – ish today, I took my luggage, personal laptop, my work laptop with me on my daily commute.  Fortunately, my luggage had wheels and a place where I could strap one of my laptops down, so it wasn’t too bad.  My neck is killing me from carrying my other laptop bag, but I’ll live.

I arrived at the Pentagon Metro stop without too much trouble and decided to take the elevator down to the trains instead of trying to navigate the really big escalator with my bags.  I was waiting for the elevator and a woman comes up to me and says, “Excuse me, but can you tell me how to get to the Metro?”

I looked at her like she was mad and said, “Um, this…is…the Metro.”

It was all I could do to not laugh.  I nearly asked her if I was being filmed for some crazy Youtube video where they go up to people and ask them ridiculously obvious questions, but I didn’t. 

Then she asked me, “Yeah, but where are the trains?  I can’t figure out how to get to the trains.”

OK, so that’s fine.  If you’ve never been to the Pentagon Metro stop, it can be kind of confusing, I guess.  I mean, you could just follow the other 1.5 million people getting off buses and crowding themselves onto to the escalators to get to the trains.  Or read the signs and follow the arrows, but you know, that’s just me. 

I did point out the very obvious escalators she had to walk by to get to me.  And I told her that the elevator that I was taking will get her there, too.  I was a good fellow commuter and helped her on her way, but I still thought it was funny and I appreciate the bit of levity it provided for an otherwise crazy morning commute.

Adventures in DC

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Yesterday, I was getting ready to head out and explore my world.  First, I had to buy a new headset for my iPhone.  I fell in walking home a few weeks ago and smashed my other headset.  Thanks to the new iPhone cover my sister bought me, the iPhone survived the fall, but the headset did not.  Could have been worse, definitely.  Then I was going to head out to a different coffee shop, one I have not been to in a while, to try to write a bit.  I wanted to finish up an essay for a contest and the early deadline is Monday.

I was walking out the door when my cell phone rings.  My brother called me and put my niece on the phone.  She informed me that after lunch, they were coming to Auntie Colleen’s house.  Oh really?  I’m glad she called me before I was too involved in my own plans.  Obviously, this required me to rethink my entire day and reschedule everything, which I was more than happy to do.  When the five-year old requests an audience, you don’t ask questions, you simply adjust.  It’s kind of like getting a summons from the Queen.  I talked to my brother for a few minutes and decided I had enough time to go get my new ear-pods and get back home before they arrived.

When they showed up, it was clear that they had no plans.  I saw an open-air street flea market of some kind in at Court House near Clarendon and suggested that.  There is also a pretty large park nearby and I offered that up as well.  We ended up going to Busboys & Poets to get fries to feed the child and then trekked into the city, and by trekked, I mean we drove, found parking and walked to the museums in DC.

I love that I can do this.  Just six months ago, walking all over the Mall and wandering in museum after museum would have been at best an extremely painful and difficult venture bordering on impossible.  Now I can walk around for hours, which we did, with no struggle.  I almost want to cry from sheer joy every time I venture out on one of these excursions.

My brother and I had a short conversation about this.  He said that he and his wife used to struggle to find excursions that they could do with me that I would be able to do.  Usually, dinner out, movies, sitting at home and talking, etc were safe activities.  Going to fairs, festivals, The Mall, etc were out of the question.  Now he says they don’t even think about it.  They just call me and make plans.  I love hearing this.

But I digress…

My niece always loves going to see the dinosaurs, she cannot get enough of them, actually.  We went to the Natural History Museum.  Then there was bird chasing and kite watching on The Mall and then the American Indian Museum, which is really cool.  I had never been there before.  Unfortunately,  we arrived there about 30 minutes before it closed, so we did not get to see much of it, so we will definitely be heading back there.

Then we went to “Old McDonald’s” for chicken nuggets.  I’m horrified that my brother feeds her MCD nuggets, but it’s something she can eat and she loves them.  She has food allergies, so their choices when eating out are limited.  Plus, she is fussy, as most kids her age are. So, I keep my opinions on MCD to myself and just let it go.  She does not have a weight problem, which is good.  She’s always been very thin, even as a baby.  She eats all the time too, and she has no problem asking for food when she’s hungry.  In fact, she was so hungry by the time we got to MCD that she was literally singing a chicken nugget song she made up.

That little girl is something else.  I am just  so glad that I can go out on these adventures with her when she leaves the confines of the DC exurbs and ventures into the city with her dad.  Maybe this summer we will make it down to the American Folklife Festival with her.

Commuter Colleen

“This is my right; it is the right of every human being. I choose not the suffocating anesthetic of the suburbs, but the violent jolt of the Capital, that is my choice. The meanest patient, yes, even the very lowest is allowed some say in the matter of her own prescription. Thereby she defines her humanity.”  (emphasis mine) – Virginia Woolf, The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

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I love the violent jolt of the morning commute into our Capital city.  I don my commuter gear, my sunglasses, my ipod, and a thick veneer of commuter indifference to protect myself from the crowd, screaming street vendors, and panhandlers alike. I take a bus to the Pentagon every morning, which is cool in and of itself.  I arrive one minute before my blue line train arrives.  Today I had to charge my fare card again, but being a pro by now, I can add money to my card and run (yes, I said run) to catch my train, weaving between yellow line commuters to get to the doors.  Because I have done this 1,000 times, I know the perfect place to stand so that  am as close to the doors as possible. 

I stand on the train because there is nowhere to sit.  Besides, sitting is for sissies.  Commuter Colleen stands.  I hold onto the rails for dear life while sifting through songs on my ipod and turning epages on my electronic device.  I wear my sunglasses on the train which helps me ignore the crushing hordes of people on either side of me. 

I exit the train at Foggy Bottom, the center of GWU and GW Hospital.  I push my way up the escalator.  I know the unspoken metro escalator rules.  Stand right, walk left.  I emerge from the metro tunnel in blinding sunlight, weave through the crowds to begin my 5 1/2 block trek to my office, my feet pounding on the sidewalk in time to whatever fast-paced music I am listening to.

I know it is a grind.  Waiting for the bus, dealing with the crowded metro trains that are forever delayed.  The crowds in the city.  The increased potential for crime.  But still, I love it.

Some days are worse than others.  One day on the way home the trains were so crowded that I was crushed up against the exit doors.  I had to step out of the train at the Rosslyn station to let other commuters off.  But that station was so crowded, I could hardly take a step back.  One guy, in his frustration reached out and pushed me hard as he exited the train.  I pushed back and loudly called him an asshole.  Commuter Colleen is aggressive and tough.  She takes no crap!

My brother and sister each live out in the ex-urbs of DC in a far away land called Sterling, which is a mere 25 miles from where I live in Arlington.  It might as well be a different country.  My sister lives about 2-3 miles from where she works and would not have it any other way.  My brother does work in Tyson’s, but still prefers to live as far away from the city as possible.

I have to admit, where they live is very nice.  They each have a big yard and land.  They live in nice, quiet neighborhoods with lots of children.  Play dates and nice leisurely strolls through well manicured streets and parks galore. 

I pay probably about the same, maybe a little less, for a studio apartment.  The best place to go walking has many shops and restaurants.  And I’m not far from a bike path.  The area where I live is pretty nice, but just down the road is a much more modest neighborhood that is sometimes kind of sketchy.  Still, I love living this close to the city.  True denizens of DC consider where I live in Arlington to be the boonies, and I am six miles from my office.

When people ask me why I live here or why I don’t move out to nowheresville, I am always surprised.  I usually give them my stock answer…it’s closer to work and I would hate to commute into the city from out in the middle of nowhere.  And that is true.  It’s more true, however, that  I would probably die a slow and lingering death living out in the safe, calm, anesthetic land of manicured driveways and safe clean parks. 

The most exciting part of the commute for me is that I am able to do it at all.  Just a couple of years ago, I used to commute into DC for my job.  I worked a block from the Metro station and I really struggled to get there.  Between back pain and an inability to breathe made the short walk and ride on the metro train unbearable.  I used to sometimes take a cab into the city just to avoid the hellish commute.  But that’s $20 each way, and I cannot afford that often.

Now, the commute is not quite so hellish.  I look forward to my morning and afternoon walks to and from the metro station.  I’m thankful, even that I have such a hike to give me a chance to get some exercise in.  I even find that long walk is not enough.  I am going to have to add an evening walk through my neighborhood or even on the treadmill, which I can hardly believe.  Before the surgery, I could barely walk to the bus stop.  Now I’m standing on the metro, running to catch trains, walking through the city, and planning additional walking because apparently 10 blocks a day is not enough.

Besides, not every commuting experience is stressful.  I was in the “commuter zone” during one of my morning jaunts into the city.  The blue line train was taking forever.  I can take a yellow line to L’Enfant Plaza, which by-passes Foggy Bottom.  I then have to change trains and back-track through the city to Foggy Bottom.  It’s not my favorite route, but sometimes I just cannot wait.  I had to do that one day.  I walked onto the crowded blue line train in L’Enfant Plaza and nearly tripped over a baby stroller that was sticking out from under someone’s seat.  A man with a baby on his lap apologized to me and told the child sitting across from him (clearly his other child) to make sure she kept the stroller folded and under the seat.  I told him it was fine and stood there tuning him out for the rest of the ride. 

Shortly into the ride, I felt a tug on the front of my jacket.  I looked down and this adorable little girl who was maybe ten months old with cute brown eyes and little brown pigtails looked up and smiled at me through her pacifier.  She reached up with one hand and took the pacifier out of her mouth and curled her cute little fingers on her other hand into a small wave.  She smiled again and said “hi.” 

What could I do.  I felt the commuter veneer of indifference melt away and I smiled and said “hello” back to her.  Her father immediately corrected her and said, “Leave the nice lady alone.”  I just smiled back and said, “She’s just fine.”

Being Prepared: It Is Not As Easy As It Looks

Now that I am working at an office again, I have to spend a lot of time preparing and being ready for my day as far as food and vitamins go.  Staying on schedule as far as food/drink/protein/vitamins is very important post surgery. 

When I worked from home, it was pretty much a no-brainer.  I could cook when I want.  Take my vitamins and drink my protein as necessary.  Everything was right there with me.  It was easy.

Now I have to make sure that I have two protein supplements, all of my vitamins for the day, my lunch for the day, and money to purchase food in case I forgot something.  Not to mention, I have to factor in a 30 minute breakfast window into my morning routine.  I normally just barely have time to shower, dry my hair, style my hair, get dressed – keeping in mind that he getting dressed portion of my routine includes squeezing myself into some Spanx – find everything I need to take with me and dash out the door in time to catch the bus to the metro.  Now I have to take 30 minutes to have breakfast?  What a P.I.T.A.

I tried eating breakfast while I dry my hair and get dressed, but that has not been working out too well.  I start eating and then forget I was eating and end up throwing it away.  Or I eat too fast and get a stomach ache.  Not good.

I could wait to get to work to have breakfast.  If I do that, I have to carry one additional meal with me on the Metro.  Plus that puts my breakfast too close to lunch.  So, I either put off lunch until later in the day, have my meals too close together, don’t get enough water in, skip a protein supplement so that I’m not too full for lunch, or some combination of the aforementioned.  It just throws my whole schedule off if I wait. 

It has been a struggle to get the combination right, but I think I have a good system going.  I have also done some things to help me streamline the morning process.  I pick out my clothes the night before.  I prepare at least 3-4 days of breakfast and set it aside in refrigerator to only be used for breakfast.  I make 3-4 hard-boiled eggs, small pot of oatmeal, and some kind of fruit.  I also keep extra non-fat plain greek yogurts handy just in case.  I make my lunches ahead of time too.  Then I pack up everything I think I might need; laptop, keys, vitamins, protein supplements, etc.   In the am there is less gathering and less prep work.

Here was my am schedule last week:

  1. 6:30am  – wake up and shower
  2. 6:50am  – dry hair
  3. 7:10am – get dressed
  4. 7:20am – gather everything I need
  5. 7:30am – dash out door

Here is my new and improved schedule for this week:

  1. 6:00am – eat breakfast
  2. 6:30am – shower
  3. 6:50am – dry hair
  4. 7:10am – get dressed
  5. 7:20am – gather everything I need
  6. 7:30am – dash out door

In between all of this in my crazy morning routine, my sister calls me nearly every day.  We have our daily sister-chat in the morning otherwise we would never have time to fit in a good gossip.  Some times we talk for a full 30 minutes, but most days, we barely have 5-10 minutes to talk.  It’s quality not quantity that counts right?

I hate getting up at 6:00am.  It is so early, but I found I had to make starting my eating schedule off properly a priority.  Some days this may shift a bit as I have some flexibility with my starting time.  And days like yesterday where the government was closed, I can work from home which helps. 

I just cannot afford to lose focus just because I am working in an actual office now.  Staying on the proper food/water/protein/vitamin schedule is too important if I want to continue successfully losing weight.

 

Commuting in DC

metro

So, now that I am able to walk some more, commuting to DC is not the hassle it was a year ago.

When I used to work in DC at a client site, my office was located about a block and a half from the nearest Metro station.  I also had to walk across the street from my apartment building to catch a bus.  I did not have to walk a lot, but it was still more than I could handle.  I had to sit when I arrived at the bus stop.  After I got off the Metro in DC, I had to stop at least twice to rest my back before getting to the office.  It was awful.

Now, I am back to working in DC and no longer working from home.  My office is nowhere near a Metro station.  It is at least 5.5 blocks from the nearest station. Well, OK that’s not entirely true.  There are two stops that are about 4 blocks from the office, but then I have to go two stops out of my way and take another train, and the stop where I change trains is still adds another two stops to my trip.  It’s worth the extra block to not have to change trains and keep my metro stops down to three stations.

Five blocks are really not that far.  Normal people walk this much all of the time without even a thought.  I used to before I became so morbidly obese.  Now that I have lost 81 pounds, (OMG 81!!!!!), walking this much is easy.

I am also standing pretty much from the minute I leave my apartment until I get to the office.  I stand out in front of my building to wait for the bus…OK that’s not true.  I sometimes sit at the bus stop.  But once I get on the bus, I stand until I get to the metro station because there is often not a seat.  Then the metro train is so full, I stand for the three whole stops until I can pry myself out of the train.  There is not even time or quite frankly the room to read anything on my kindle app.  Seriously, some days you need a shoe horn to get people out of there we are packed in so tightly.  Then I fight to get up the escalators and out of the station before I begin my hike to the office.

Sometimes, I go to the little French café (where they play middle eastern music, btw…not that I mind middle eastern music, it’s just that Americans have fanciful notions that every French café should be playing Edith Piaf singing Non Je Ne Regrette Rien all day long, but I digress), that is next to my office to get a cup of decaf.  There I sit and enjoy my last moments of solitude before entering the snake pit.

Honestly, the three stops are not bad.  Even the 5.5 block walk to the office is not bad.  I just hate being crammed on the train with about 10,000 other people with nowhere to move or breathe.  I am convinced with every jerk of the train that I will lose my balance and fall into the person next to me.  There is no real room to fall, so I would probably just body slam into the person next to me and cause people to tumble into one another like dominos.  Then there is the constant stopping and waiting for no reason without explanation.  And I haven’t even mentioned the broken escalators and elevators.  The train ride is stressful.  I thank God I only have to go three stops.

I am also thankful that I can do it relatively pain-free.  I still have some pain in my feet.  And occasionally my knees and back hurt a little.  But for the most part, I am enjoying the fact that I can do this.

Two other points…I lost 81 pounds!!!!  Omg I can hardly believe it!

The other thing I wanted to mention, I kind of put on my Facebook Page yesterday.  Yesterday, upon exiting the Metro station in DC, I ran into a friend of mine whom I have not seen in about two years.  She had a gastric by-pass 9 years ago.  We used to work together.  She looks great.  I also did not know her before the surgery.  She told me over and over again that she has no regrets.  I thought about her often before and since my surgery.

Well, I saw her and walked right up to her and made eye contact and she looked at me like she has never seen me before.  Then I told her who I was and seriously, her jaw dropped.  She asked me what I had been up to so I told her that I had the surgery.  We only had a moment to talk because we were both in the mad-commuter-rush-to-work mindset, but she told me that I looked great.  I have her email address, so I am going to send her an email.  I need to tell her how her experience really helped me make my decision when I reached my breaking point.  I may not have been ready to do it when she and I talked in the past, but I thought of her often through everything I have experienced.