Friday, November 30, 2007

sometimes, all you need is shoes.

I've been in a serious funk for the past couple of days over some personal issues (yes, they're even too personal for my blog) and I kind of hit the low point last night. I left work at a reasonable hour because I wasn't able to focus on anything and decided to walk for a bit instead of hopping on the bus. As I walked down the street, listening to incredibly depressing tunes like "We Might as Well Be Strangers" by Keane, dragging my feet, tears welling in my eyes, I told myself that tomorrow would be different. I'd give myself that night to mope, but then that was it. No more.

I went to bed early but couldn't sleep. It's the most frustrating feeling in the world: being exhausted and miserable and not able to completely shut down. I finally drifted off in to a restless sleep around 2am and still woke up feeling surprisingly refreshed.

As I examined my closet, trying to figure out what the hell to wear, I saw them. My boots. My incredible Donald J. Pliner 4-inch heel calf-skin zebra print boots that I hadn't worn since last spring. I always feel amazing in these boots: I take longer strides, hold my head up high, feel incredibly sexy, and they make my legs feel long and lean (no small feat for these chubby stumps). I knew at that moment that today needed these boots.

As I left my house on this gorgeous late fall day, I really did feel better. I flipped my iPod to a much more upbeat version of Keane (Bend and Break), slipped on my sunglasses, and, quite literally, strutted to the bus stop.

So to you, whether it's with that little black dress, red lipstick, or sparkly earrings that make you feel special, my boots and I say "happy weekend!"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

my xmas list....

.... if I was a gazillionaire (although I guess I would already have all of these things).

1. a Macbook. My laptop met it's end over a year ago and I've realized that my new job may not come along with personal computer use.... all day. It might be helpful if I could do my yelping, blogging and chatting at home. Although we all know that wouldn't happen, it'd be good to have it as an option. This is the most realistic of my xmas list, as I really really need a computer. Any contributions to the cause would be most welcome. :)

2. Katie Holmes' Armani Prive shoes. They are just the most fantastic things ever.

3. This isn't so much an item as a service, but if I was a gazillionaire I bet I could get it anyway. Why on earth is H&M not online? It really drives me absolutely crazy. It's 2007 and most of us prefer to shop online! Grrr. Also, Zara, Club Monaco, could y'all pick up the pace as well? Thanks.

4. The Audi S5. Oh my, it's beautiful. What can I say? I am my father's daughter.

5. A little love muffin. Watch out, this post is about to get too cute for words!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

a musical meme.

Well kids, I'm feeling lazy and non-creative (it is Tuesday, after all) so I'm just going to entertain y'all with another one of these funky things called memes. You finally get to see how truly spaztastic my music collection is.

MEME Rules:
1. Put your iTunes/ music player on Shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

After you’ve answered all of the questions, tag 5 other people and then let them know they’ve been tagged to do the meme themselves!

Susudio- Phil Collins
He's right, I mean "susudio" is an incredible word. So much fun!

I Go to the Barn- Band of Horses
Hmmm... I don't go to barns all that often. Although I do like horses, and miss riding them very much. I do love this song though, it's so pretty.

Most People are DJ's: The Hold Steady
Hmm... I've never dated a DJ, and I feel like most of them are pretty lame, but I do have an obsession with the Hold Steady's lead singer's voice. It's like the Boss'. Yum.

Kill The Power: Snowden
Oh lordy, sooooooo true.

The Impossible Dream: Robert Goulet.
Hahahahahhahaa. A little *too* classic.

Stronger: Kanye West.
Ooooo, I likey.

Ndyahimbisa: The African Children's Choir.
Well, considering this song is all in some African language and I don't understand a word of it, I'll just assume that my friends think I'm fun to dance to??

Bright Smile: Josh Ritter.

Hey Jude: The Beatles.
But I don't know anyone named Jude!!! Dammit.

WHAT IS 2+2?
Green Gloves: The National.
Hmmm..... maybe because it's an alliteration?

Spot In My Heart: Josh Ritter.
Awwwwwwwwwww again.

Try Again: Keane.
hahahaha. haha.

Silver Bells: Bing Crosby.
I do love Christmas!

Mr. Brightside: The Killers.
Hmm... how about Mrs. Brightside??

Hate It Here: Wilco.
Honestly, iTunes knows I'm single. Jeez.

Step it Up: The Bamboos feat. Alice Russell.
Oh man, this is perfection.

This Is Why I'm Hot: MIMS
That would actually be pretty perfect.

Open Your Heart: Madonna.
I fully condone any Madonna music at my funeral.

Crazy About You: Whiskeytown.
I guess my crushing could be considered a hobby.

I'm Moving On: Rascal Flatts.
Hm. I think everyone knows I'm ready to move on.

Lost to the Lonesome: Pela.
Well now, that's kind of sad. Although this song is my jam... it talks about crashing parties, which is something I'd totally do with my friends.

Optimistic: Radiohead.

Monday, November 26, 2007

ho ho ho!

Hello, friends!

No, you haven't come across a new blog, it's the same old Kiki, just in holiday fashion! I love love LOVE Christmas (*some* may say it's leaning toward obsession) and I just felt like my blog should share the love.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I spent my 12 hour drive back with a whole lot of Christmas music and even a little Delilah (quite possibly my biggest guilty pleasure) and it definitely got me in the mood. I can't focus at work today because all I want to do is get home and DECORATE. Instead I'm stuck here with my constantly growing Christmas iTunes playlist, waiting for 5:30 to come!

Here's a sample of my all time top 10 Christmas songs (in no particular order):
1. Little Drummer Boy/ Peace on Earth: David Bowie and Bing Crosby
2. All I Want for Christmas is You: Mariah Carey
3. The First Noel: Josh Groban (the one time of the year my love for Josh Groban can be out in the open)
4. What Child is This: Harry Connick Jr.
5. Last Christmas: Wham!
6. So This is Christmas: John Lennon
7. The Lord's Prayer: Barbara Streisand (it's nostalgic, I suppose. Her "amen" at the end is a classic in my house. It's right up there with her version of Jingle Bells. Whoever told this woman to make a Christmas album was insane... or an absolute genius. I'm not quite sure which.)
8. Christmas Canon: TransSiberian Orchestra
9. Winter Wonderland: Perry Como
10. Where Are You Christmas?: Faith Hill

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

happy turkey day!

Well friends, I'm off.

Headed down to South Carolina for a highly dysFUNctional family Thanksgiving. Think 19 adults, 3 babies, and a slew of dogs. It'll be fun, as long as we all practice the family Golden Rule, which means that you must be buzzed at all times at family gatherings. It usually works out pretty well.
I'd love to say that I'll come back 10 lbs. heavier and full of food, but unfortunately I'm not a big Thanksgiving food fan. I know, I know. I'm un-American. I also don't high-five.

Monday, November 19, 2007

i don't even know how to pronounce the word "meme."

So I'm stealing this from VA's blog because it's the Monday before a whole lot of days off and I have absolutely zero creativity. Kate also "tagged" me for a meme but I don't have 7 blogging friends, so I don't feel like I can really pass it on properly. Plus the whole thing seems like chain letters, which my mom told me were very very illegal. To this day I don't know if that's true, but I'm still a little miffed that I could never participate in the panty swap or whatever other chain letters came my way. Still, I won't ever ever send a chain letter. Freaks me out.

Anyhoo, on to the meme!

I give you money and send you into the grocery store to pick up 5 items. You can only pick one thing from the following departments...what is it?
Produce - Vidalia onions. Yes, I eat them like apples, but that doesn't mean you can.
Bakery – Un baguette! Hon hon hon! Foux da fa fa.... (see video below)
Meat - Boeuf! (I can keep going with this...)
Frozen - CPK Pizzas. Yummmm.
Dry goods - 'Nilla wafers.

Let's say we're heading out for a weekend getaway. You're only allowed to bring 3 outfits with you. So, what's in your bag?
Let's say that this is my worst nightmare. 3 outfits for one weekend?! Not likely.

If I was to listen in on one of your conversations throughout the day, what 5 phrases or words would I be most likely to hear?
1. So, last night... (insert insane drunk story here.)
2. I should yelp this.
3. Fabulous.
4. I hate my job.
5. How long till happy hour?

So, what 3 things do you find yourself doing every single day, and if you didn't get to do, you'd probably be in a pretty irritable/bad mood?
1. Going out with friends.
2. Yelping.
3. Eating.

What are 3 things that you have in your bedroom that have been with you for the longest amount of time?
1. My mattress. I stole it from my old bedroom in the ATL.
2. My mom's signet ring that she gave me when I turned 13.
3. My sheets were my mom's when she was a kid. Soooo soft. :)

If you were only allowed to listen to 5 of your CDs for the rest of your life, never adding anything else, which 5 could you listen to & be content with?
Hmmm, I don't really listen to CD's any more, but I'm relatively music-spastic and I don't think I could choose regardless.

You are driving down the road, and suddenly you're hit with this sense of road rage. What 3 factors probably contributed to it?
1. Poorly timed lights are the bane of my existence in DC.
2. When the street that has no traffic and is actually moving relatively quickly becomes a one way in the wrong direction.
3. When I'm running late and I hit traffic or a moron who drives too slow or anything that impedes me from going far beyond the speed limit.

Sweet, you just scored a whole afternoon to yourself. We're talking a 3 hour block with nobody around. What 5 activities might we find you doing?
1. Napping.
2. Watching bad TV (Oprah!)
3. Running.
4. Shopping.
5. Drooling at the gem room at the Smithsonian.

We're going to the zoo. But, it looks like it could start storming, so it'll have to be a quick visit. What 3 exhibits do we have to get to?
Welllll, since the zoo in DC is FREE (thanks, tax dollars!) I can go as often as I wish so I wouldn't be too upset. Still, I miss the giraffe so if I was at a different zoo I'd definitely check them out. I also love elephants and of course, the pandas.

You just scored tickets to the taping of any show of your choice. You can pick between 5, so what are you deciding between?
I'm assuming this means a TV show...
1. Oprah
2. Price is Right (back in the Bob Barker days, and as long as I don't have to sleep on the street the night before).

Eh, I'm really over TV. 3 concert-shows that I'd love to see:
3. Josh Ritter (yes, AGAIN).
4. The Kooks.
5. Ryan Adams, if I could make the set list.

You're hungry for ice cream. I'll give you a triple dipper ice cream cone. What 3 flavors can I pile on for ya?
1. Mint Chocolate Chip.
2. German Chocolate.
3. Peppermint.

Somebody stole your purse/ order to get it back, you have to name 5 things you know are inside to claim it. So, what's in there?
Well, my purse's nickname is "Mary" as in a Mary Poppins bag so all I can tell you is that if you wish for something, it's in there. I promise. So to keep it a little less "open" I'll do my wallet.
1. Two pictures of my little brother. Awwww.
2. Absolutely zero dollars in cash. Maybe 1 or 2, on a good day.
3. Waaay too many club cards, some to groceries in cities that I don't even live in anymore.
4. A hot Irish waiter from Fogo de Chao's phone number.
5. Some "You've Been Yelped" cards.

You are at a job fair, and asked what areas you are interested in pursuing a career in. Let's pretend you have every talent and ability to be whatever you wanted, so what 5 careers would be fun for you?
1. Fashion designer.
2. Boutique owner.
3. Dog foster mom. (yeah, if only I could make money doing this)
4. Own a ranch for injured/orphaned/homeless wildlife.
5. Greenpeace crazy-ass protester. Right now I'd be in the boat trying to fight the whalers from Japan. Bastards.

If you could go back and talk to the old you, when you were in high school and inform yourself of 5 things that were going to happen, what would it be?
1. Study harder. It doesn't necessarily matter, but you know you're smarter than this.
2. You won't know what real friends are until you're out on your own, but Camille is just about the best thing that's ever happened to you. Although you know that already.
3. This, this is a straightening iron. It will change your life.
4. Not everyone in the world was lucky enough to be raised like you were. Be openminded to those you disagree with and be understanding towards those who just don't know what the hell you're talking about.
5. You're going to live in Ohio for 4 years. No, I'm not joking.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

runway rundown.

Ok, it's officially back. We can all breathe again.

I had forgotten what the show was like with so many contestants all trying to prove themselves. It was difficult to keep up with who was who, especially since it seems like this season they've seriously upped the number of "alternative" folks. I understand that this is an art competition, but does everyone have to be so stereotypical? It kind of makes me miss the (ack!) Wendy Peppers of the world.

Ok, sorry, I didn't really mean that.

Anyhoo, on with the recap. It's hard to play favorites after only seeing one outfit, but I managed to do it last season with Jeffrey. Needless to say I don't see quite so much of a standout this time around, but I've managed to pick 3 folks that I'll definitely root for, due to both their design skills and their personalities.

1. Kit. I'm sure I'll get some flack for liking her as much as I do, but I can't help it. She's cute, kinda crazy, and I just really like what she did with this dress. I'm excited to see what she'll pull out next.

2. Rami. I think everyone in the free world can agree that this dress is gorgeous. And screw Michael Kors for his comment on the rosette-- I think it adds a wee bit of architecture, which is necessary with all this draping. Rami seems pretty laidback and drama free, which is always good.

3. Jack. In my opinion, this dress is pretty boring. Especially for the first episode when you have so many options. Still, I just love Jack's personality and I think this dress is a sign of what he *could* do.

Obviously I agree with most people in that Elisa-the-crazy should have been sent home, but it doesn't surprise me that they sent home who they did. The crazy always stays around longer than the boring. Also, did you notice at the end while the credits were rolling they said something to the effect of that the producers of the show have a say in who gets voted off? That's definitely new this year, but again it doesn't surprise me.

Also, why are the models so freaking fugly this year? Most of their faces look busted and they can't walk to save their lives. Looks like we need to do a little fashion reality show combo and get Tyra up in there!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

the sexiest man in the history of the world.

Because nothing is sexier than good fashion.

Expect a full Project Runway rundown tomorrow!

sexy rexy!

People Magazine has published their list for the Sexiest Man Alive, 2007. Aside from the problem I have with grasping the idea of this changing a lot from year to year (do that many sexy men die each year?) I have to contest some of their choices.

People's #1: Matt Damon.

My #1: Clive Owen.

Matt Damon is cute and all, but if we're talking about sexy, we're talking about a tall, sleek, strong-jawed, well-dressed man, with an awesome accent to boot.
People's #2: Patrick Dempsey.
My #2: Leonardo diCaprio.
I've even surprised myself that I've put Leo here-- I was never into him during the whole Titanic thing. He was just too pretty for me, like Patrick Dempsey is for me now. Everyone loves a hot environmentalist.

People's #3: Ryan Reynolds.

My #3: Daniel Craig.

Ryan Reynolds?!?! WTF? His PR people shoud get a SERIOUS raise for that one. I love Daniel Craig for his piercing blue eyes, snappy clothes, ears that stick out a little, and that oh-so-wonderful badunkadunk. (I can't believe I just said that either.)

People's #4: Brad Pitt.

My #4: Brad Pitt works for me!

People's #5: James McAvoy.
My #5: Taye Diggs.
I do find James McAvoy cute and charming and I thought he was awesome in The Last King of Scotland (totally deserved an Oscar) but I wouldn't call him sexy. Especially in this picture. Does anyone else think he looks just a wee bit like Claire Danes?

Other insanity on People's part:

Ok, so Javier Bardem looks rather sexy here and I understand he's got these two huge movies out right now that are going to completely change his career. I get it. But for those of us who have just recently seen No Country for Old Men this is terrifying. He is by far the most creepy, scary, genius-pyscho villain that I've seen in a movie in a loooong time. I had nightmares. So I'd rather not see him staring up at me from the glossy pages of my overpriced People magazine. Thanks.

And let's counter that terror with this!
Ok, new crush here with Dave (People's #7). He's precious, his dog is precious, and we have the same favorite pick-up line! (let's not discuss that I have a favorite pick-up line. I know it's weird.) I absolutely love him (and the equally gorgeous Rob Lowe) on Brothers and Sisters as it's the only show that I actually keep up with these days. But Justin, stop doing the drugs! Your family loves and supports you. Save that pretty face of yours. :)

my boys.

Well, kids, the news is good. Very good. It's sounding like Tom Glavine has finally re-found his soul and is going to get out of that icky Mets uniform and come back to Atlanta. I never understood why Tommy left in the first place: he is loved by Atlantans, actually gets along with Bobbby Cox, and his family still lives there. The final decision will most likely be announced this afternoon, but things are looking good for a reunion from the Glory Days.

It all just takes me back to the '91 and '92 seasons, when I was just a wee girl who loved baseball. But it wasn't just me, EVERYONE loved baseball. The Braves were more important than God. Literally. We prayed for them and did the tomahawk chop in church. We got time out of school to recover from watching the World Series until the wee hours of the morning. The grocery stores were decorated, lightposts turned in to tomahawks, and it's all anyone could talk about. John Smoltz and Tom Glavine were the Golden Boys-- they could do no wrong. People around the country may talk about where they were when we landed on the moon or when they first discovered my blog (it's true, everyone talks about it) but in Atlanta we talk about where we were when Sid slid. It was an incredible time to live in Atlanta and even though both seasons ended in final disappointment, I think all Atlantans still view them as the best seasons in Braves' history. I can't even watch this video without tearing up, and I'd assume that I'm not the only one.

I just love my Atlanta Braves, and no one can tell me otherwise.

Here are some excerpts from a great article I found. You can read in its entirety here.

Cabrera's Lightning Stroke Anoints Braves
By Thomas Boswell

ATLANTA - When a former president of the United States jumps the box seat railing, dodges police horses and breaks the law so he can run onto the field to hug and kiss the players, you know it was a pretty good country ballgame.

Actually, when the hometown Atlanta Braves score three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the playoffs for a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the National League pennant, it's not really a ballgame. It's a piece of mythology dropped into our communal life like some ultimate innocent confection. No, it hasn't been done like this -- three runs in the bottom of the ninth to pull out the pennant -- since Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard 'Round the World in 1951. So we can talk about it forever and feel warm and silly every time. We can spend the rest of our lives saying, "Don't leave until the last out. Remember Francisco Cabrera."

Yes, the name is Francisco Cabrera. You never heard of him. Now, everybody who loves the Atlanta Braves, everybody who loves baseball, loves Francisco Cabrera. Whoever he is. From now on, whenever the bases are loaded with two outs and your team is a run down, you'll pay attention, because if Francisco Cabrera can rifle one into left field to win it all, then anybody can.
"It's ironic," said Pirates Manager Jim Leyland, "that the guy they added on the 31st of August is the guy who beat us."

At 11:52 p.m. on Wednesday night, Jimmy Carter -- of the peanut-farming Georgia Carters -- wanted to kiss this Senor Cabrera. However, it's unseemly for an ex-president to crawl to the bottom of a pile of 20 big league players, heaped up along the first-base line, just to say, "Hello, Francisco. Wanted to tell ya that's one helluva way to win the pennant for us, son. They'll probably be talking about you 'round here after they've forgotten me."

Almost nobody had ever heard of Cabrera until last night, unless you follow the Richmond Braves. He came to bat just 10 times for the Braves this season. With the National League season down to its final out, he was all the Braves had left. The bench was empty. It was either Cabrera or activate the batboy. With the Pirates still ahead 2-1 and pulling fresh miracles out of their pockets each inning, Cabrera -- pinch-hitting for tiny Rafael Belliard -- was the last chance.
He was all the Braves needed.

Now, he'll be remembered as long as they play softball in Plains.

Where David Justice, Terry Pendleton, Jeff Blauser and Ron Gant had failed -- sometimes agonizingly, sometimes by a hair's breadth -- Cabrera succeeded. On a 2-1 pitch from Stan Belinda -- poor sidearming Stan Belinda who never hurt nobody but will now live forever next to Ralph Branca and Donnie Moore -- Cabrera hit a clean bullet of a single in the hole to left field.
David Justice trotted home to tie the game. But what about Sid Bream, the slowest Brave, the human moving van, the guy with the knee braces, what about him? You going to send him home from second or hold him at third?

Send him, for the Lord's sake. It's only Barry Bonds in left field. The best left fielder in the league -- the fastest at charging the ball and the man with the strongest arm. But, go on, send Sid Bream. Lend him a dolly.

And here Sid came, running faster than he ever had in his life and slower than you could imagine your Uncle Ralph on Sunday afternoon. Where was Barry? Playing on the warning track? Well, almost. Bonds played a conspicuously deep left field the entire inning. But he came charging, scooping and, finally, unleashing as strong a heave as you'll see to the plate.

If it had been on line, Sid Bream would have been back out at first base with a glove in the 10th inning and they'd be measuring third base coach Jimy Williams for a coffin in a shallow grave in the morning. If the throw had only been a little off line -- a pretty good throw -- you can bet umpire Randy Marsh would have called him out on general principles. If you're Sid Bream, you've got to score clean to get any calls.

But Bonds's throw was at least two paces up the first base line. Spanky LaValliere did all a catcher can do. Which means Bream was safe by six inches.

Nobody ever gets to make any wisecracks about Carter and softball again. The man he sought out in the postgame melee -- and it was a world-class mess -- was third base coach Williams. Carter gave him a long The-Buck-Stops-Here hug.

In baseball, you wait and wait, crushing peanuts, ordering another beer, filling out your scorecard, all in anticipation of the split-second that will decide everything. You wait for the moment of lightning.

Perhaps redemption really is at hand, alive in every moment as the Plains preachers say. His name is Francisco Cabrera of the Dominican Republic. Bats right-handed. Career average, .257. Position, catcher. Last man activated for the playoffs, on Aug. 31.

He is baseball's perverse idea of fate. And he may be remembered down here in Georgia longer than quite a few presidents.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

a VERY belated rip.

I've been meaning to write this post forever, but it just keeps slipping my mind. My blog wouldn't be complete without a post dedicated to the man, the myth, the legend: Mr. Robert Goulet.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

seriously, this is how my brain works.

1. I realized today that you can put any consonant in place of the blank here: skee-ed and it describes the feeling of beingly slightly grossed/weirded out. The same goes for skee-y. I'm serious! Try it out.

skeezed, skeeved, skeeted, skeeped, skeebed, skeeked (ok, that sounds dirty), skeered...

2. I have a little calendar that has a quote for every month. This month's is:

"Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."- Leo da Vinci (yeah, I can call him Leo).

The perplexing thing about this quote is that usually the quotes have something to do with the month for which they are displayed: flowers in May, summer in July, etc. It's rather interesting that they have this random-ass quote about flight for November, the month of Thanksgiving, when we all sit around and eat a mostly-flightless bird.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

daily randoms.

1. Only in DC would one walk by a homeless woman who was not asking for food, or money, or even a cigarette. No, the woman was asking for lotion. She was SCREAMING "Oooooo, I'm ashy! You got lotion? I need lotion!" The thing is, if I had some, I totally would have given it to her.

2. Tonight is the Yelp Elite shindig, which means tomorrow is the monthly day of Hangover. Big hangover. Scorching hangover. Oh, and trivia that night. Woot!

3. Had my first Annandale experience on Sunday night. It was... special. Annandale isn't too far away but it's like a whole other world full of Koreans and strip shopping malls. And Korean shopping malls. It's bigger and more "accurate" (for lack of a better word at the moment) than DC's Chinablock and also has a lot better food. Seriously, this place should be called yelpland because I think I recognized the name of nearly every place as a yelp favorite. The soondubu at Lighthouse Tofu was no exception, at least until we got kicked out for being too loud. Ooops. Apparently Annandale can't handle the loudness of we yelpers.

4. I was sitting at a work luncheon today, and just happened to notice that every single man had a wedding band and only one woman did, and the room was a pretty even 50/50 gender split. I'm too tired to really comment/analyze, but I just found it interesting.

word of the day: jorts (j├┤rts) n. jean shorts. icky.

office-mate banter of the day:
o-m: you know, i don't think that proper working women wear those, um, you know, fishnets to work.
me: well at least my legwear came from the adult section of the department store, unlike those obvious kids-department socks you've got on there.
o-m: yes, you OBVIOUSLY shop in the ADULT section, if you know what i mean.

Oooo, innuendos at work. They don't translate so well into blogdom but it was all pretty hysterical. At least to those of us who are strung out at the end of the day at work.

Friday, November 2, 2007

a bit of light reading.

Sorry for the copy and paste, but this article just resonates with me. Especially since I applied to 6 jobs today. Oy.

Fulfillment Elusive for Young Altruists In the Crowded Field of Public Interest
Ian Shapira Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, November 2, 2007; Page A01

Armed with a Georgetown University diploma, Beth Hanley embarked in her 20s on a path hoping to become a professional world-saver. First she worked at nonprofit Bread for the World. Then she taught middle school English in central Africa with the Peace Corps. Finally, to certify her idealism, she graduated last spring with a master's degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.

But now the 29-year-old faces a predicament shared by many young strivers in Washington's public interest field. After years of amassing so many achievements, they struggle to find full-time employment with decent pay and realize they might not get exactly what they set out for. Hanley, a think tank temp who dreams of aiding the impoverished and reducing gender discrimination in developing countries, is stuck.

"I knew this would be difficult," said Hanley, an Illinois native who lives in Adams Morgan. "A lot of people say, 'At some point, you're going to have to decide to explore other options,' and I guess I would start applying for jobs in other fields I don't care so much about. But I haven't gotten at all to that point."

Numerous young Washingtonians bemoan the improvisational and protracted career track of the area's public interest profession. They say the high competition for comparatively low-paying jobs saps their sense of adulthood, forcing them to spend their 20s or early 30s moving from college to work to graduate school and back to work that might or might not be temporary.
These wannabe world-changers, ubiquitous in Washington, New York, and San Francisco appear to be part of a larger demographic trend in which this age group is pushing off marriage and kids. The do-gooders' wanderings often clash with the expectations of parents who want them to stay longer in jobs and settle down.

"The public interest sector is a poorly funded one, and its organizations cannot afford to pay highly educated young people anything like what they would command on the open market. That makes it difficult for these young adults in their 20s to contemplate long careers," said William Galston of the Brookings Institution, author of "The Changing 20s," a study published last month. "But that doesn't mean they're willing to forgo the opportunity to work there."

Many globally minded people choose to work for nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, that advocate certain causes. Others opt for higher pay at the State Department, the World Bank, financial firms or consulting companies that specialize in emerging markets and international development. But getting any of these jobs, especially those based overseas, is tough.
Those who select the NGO route say they have it the hardest.

Valerie Schaeublin, 28, a program officer specializing in international affairs for a Washington nonprofit, was fortunate to begin her career at one organization and stay for five years. Now, she is restless and fears that her NGO has limited upward mobility. But she also worries whether her ambition has atrophied.

"It's a stagnant time. It's confused by the fact that I am happy, but I know I need to move on to something else," said Schaeublin, who coordinates State Department-sponsored trips by foreign leaders to the United States. "Maybe you forgo the next step because you're comfortable. But responsibilities are weighing in on you. You're not 22 anymore."

Even though premium NGO jobs have always been relatively scarce, more people seem to be angling for that world. The number of international affairs grad school applicants to Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and George Washington universities rose 63 percent in the five years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, compared with the total from the previous five years, data from the schools show. Enrollment in the programs increased more than 30 percent in the five years after the attacks, and the percentage of applicants admitted declined.

Those who graduate from the prestigious schools often start with a salary comparable to the annual tuition. At GWU's Elliott School of International Affairs, where tuition exceeds $40,000 a year, graduates who pursued nonprofit work found a market in which the average salary ranged from $38,000 to $48,000, according to the program's 2005-06 employment report.

Dina Khanat, 26, in her second and final year at the Elliott School, said she is grateful for her job but at the same time feels stalled.
"I feel like I am doing so bad. I think about this all the time. I graduated at 21 a year early with a double major. . . . Now I am going to graduate with a master's when I am 27," said Khanat, who just got a job as a program assistant at an NGO that promotes democracy. "But I really feel like by 27, I expect to be two or three years into work. You're supposed to have a career; you know what you're doing. . . . I don't feel settled."

Of thousands of NGOs in the region, many focus on such issues as children's health or farmer education in developing countries. But the supply of jobs is limited because the organizations have lean budgets built from government funding and private donations, said Barbara Wallace, vice president for membership and standards at InterAction, an NGO umbrella group.

Chief executives for NGOs, Wallace said, have told her: "Well, yeah, if we had the money, we'd be doing more. We can never hire as many as we want to hire." Wallace said her organization drew more than 100 applicants for a policy associate position. "The industry really needs to look at how to provide more avenues for young, educated people," she said.
Grad school officials say that the issue surfaces constantly.

"We spend a lot of time here on goals clarification," said Martin Tillman, associate director of career services at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins. "Students come into my office and think, 'I am a smart kid; I got into a great graduate school. I had wonderful grades in college. It should be a piece of cake to identify a position for myself.' One has to clarify that -- and one has to be clear about the range of salary."

Young people maneuvering within the NGO landscape say an odd feeling settles in by the time they are ready to start a job: They feel "old," but they don't truly feel like adults because they earn modest salaries and have limited responsibilities. Galston's study reported that about 30 percent of those in their late 20s and early 30s had mixed views on whether they had reached adulthood.

One night last month, Hanley had beers at the Topaz Hotel in Dupont Circle with a friend who had also just earned an international affairs degree and was job hunting.
"I have friends who did investment banking," Hanley said. "They were making more when they were 22. I don't think I'll ever make that. They seem more grown-up. But they seem miserable. Wait -- they seem fine. I would be miserable if I were them."

She continued: "A couple of them made comments to me suggesting I haven't grown up, like, 'I've been working for five years -- isn't that incredible?' "

At least for now, Hanley said, disillusionment has not set in. Indeed, she just turned down an offer from a for-profit consulting firm to manage a government contract. It paid well, but she was not ready to jump off the international aid track.

She's still holding out for the ideal: a job that takes her to Africa for health projects and gender relations issues. As she continues temping, Hanley scours e-mail forums for job possibilities and sets up interviews -- some with real stakes, some informational.

One evening, she stumbled onto an intriguing posting. The Open Society Institute was advertising a "mid-level" position to develop strategies and identify priorities for its mission in Africa. "They want someone with a law degree, but they will consider advanced degrees in a related field," she said, head nodding, hopefully. "I could apply to this."

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Today's Horoscope: Gemini: Check your SPAM filter or junk mail this week or you might miss something important that ended up in there by accident.

Honestly, this is the best they can give me? I checked my SPAM folder and unless the heavens are trying to tell me that I need an enlarged penis, this is complete bullshit.

I promise a "real" post will come soon but I'm still a bit frenzied with post-dinner stuff. I made it through, though, with no real problems. Phew!