A Very Bostonian Weekend

All of a sudden, I got thrown head-first into Boston fun, y’all. I don’t even know what to do with my burgeoning social life! But never fear – I have been taking plenty of pictures and mental notes to share with you all. So RELAX already.

Most recently, I started to trade in my sweet tea for Dunkins with the celebration of the HEAD OF THE CHARLES. Besides having a dirty name, this is some annual event that brings a bunch of boats to Boston where they paddle around. See how athletic I am? You may go ahead and be impressed.

And so I celebrated in the best way I know how: artistically and fan-ically! Or whatever. What am I, a doctor?

First up: a trip to Paint Bar painting the Head of the Charles! If you’ve never been to one of these, please drop everything you are doing and go immediately. I’ll wait. They basically walk you through step-by-step how to paint a specific picture, and you drink. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!

Painting, wine, and Katie: three of my favorite things.

Painting, wine, and Katie: three of my favorite things.

We got there before our other friends and, in addition to prepping the stations and doing the paint-gathering thang, brought in a GIANT delicious pizza and Katie-made desserts for munching throughout our artistic process. We were the best darned prepared artists there.



I had this not-so-secret-because-I-told-everyone belief that I was going to turn out to be really awesome at this. When I was seven, I was utterly convinced I would become an artist because I was really good at painting sunsets. I don’t know if that’s true, but I CAN say that my aunt still has a picture I drew of my dog in her house 15 years later, so you know.

Anyway, the end result was, shall we say, less than impressive, especially compared to some of the other ones. To be fair to me, Bob the Bartender was very generous with his pours because Katie and I got there early and got our harmless flirt on. Thanks, Bob!

Also pictured: Bob in the background on the left. I shall write of you favorably in my memoirs.

Also pictured: Bob in the background on the left. I shall write of you favorably in my memoirs.

Artistically talented or not, it was still a darn good time and I am ABSOLUTELY going back.

To pair with our painting of the Head of the Charles, on Sunday I headed over to the actual Charles for the actual Head (or something) to cheer on my alma mater with two of my favorite fellow Colonials: Katie and Josh! (Y’all, I swear I have more friends than them, I just REALLY like them so they are often blog-featured).


Things I learned:

  • Once a GW student, always a GW student; as soon as I saw the free food, I was opening up my purse and sweeping in as much of it as possible. OMG THEY’RE FEEDING ME MUST TAKE IT ALLLLLL
  • You will never feel more Bostonian than walking across the Charles, cheering on the teams below you, sippin’ your Dunkins
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  • As a society, we may not know a lot about crew (or whatever sport was happening during this event) but we know enough to hate Canada. When I was hanging out on the sidelines it was a fairly tame crowd as the announcer said which teams were rowing by, but when he said, “And here’s our own Team USA coming up on Team Canada,” the entire crowd erupted in a chant of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
  • There is no good way to take a picture with those weird megaphone things.


Nailed it.

Nailed it.

Snapshots: Maine

I harbor this secret (or not so secret, given my fascination with shows like Gilmore Girls) desire to move to a small, quaint town, where I can gossip with the local color in the post office and go shopping in a teeny market instead of a big grocery store. This fantasy almost always takes place in my head in New England, where I sit by a fireplace (that’s probably in an old-fashioned woodstove) at night and do outdoorsy things during the day like hiking and skiing.

This fantasy has its basis in my Aunt Carol, who actually did live that life in a small town in Vermont for most of her adult life. She’s since moved from that Vermont town to far choicer digs: a GORGEOUS house (mansion? homestead?) on Islesboro, an island accessible by ferry off the coast of Maine. Every time I visit I think, “Huh. I should really move here. Then I’ll eat all-natural foods and probably learn to like seafood.” Of course, every time I mention this my mother reminds me that I’ve only ever visited Maine in summer when it is BEAUTIFUL, and maybe I should come sometime between October-April to decide for sure. Fair point, mother.

While my fantasy of living in that small town may never come true, I did get the chance to visit for a getaway from Boston. Enter unbelievably gorgeous weather and, even better, FOOD that didn’t come from a dining hall! My aunt and uncle were hosting “camp” for all of their grandkids so I got some veritable kid-wrangling and QT with my cousins and stepcousins (once removed, that is!).

Feast your eyes, friends:

First things first – this house. The view from the living room (one of my many reading perches) at sunset… the exquisite details in my bedroom flooded with sunlight… and most importantly, the beautiful view out the window that was the first thing I saw every morning when I opened my eyes. Not a bad way to live.

After I finally managed to roll out of bed and close the book (and the laptop… gotta work like a dog before departure!), I went for a walk along the bay. Not too shabby, eh?

But the things that made me most breathless were undoubtedly the beautiful sunsets over the water. I never quite understood the image of a “painted sky” until I sat outside as night fell in Maine.

And of course, the most valuable part of my experience – spending time with my family and getting to know the littlest members: my cousins/stepcousins-once-removed. A moment of peace now means spending time with my aunt and uncle to watch the little ones kayak across the bay as the sun set over the water, with the oldest boy grabbing life vests for his littlest girl cousins to join him in his canoe.

Oh, Maine… I will be back.

Kristen McCarthy, Harvard Graduate

I’ve already talked about how I suffer from “what if” syndrome (as in, what if I had gone to X university? Lived in X place? How would my life be different?). I think this kicks into overload when I’m wandering around those “prestigious” universities like Harvard. (Perhaps you’ve heard of it?).

I cannot recall a SINGLE moment in my childhood in which I had a desire to attend Harvard, but now I wonder – what if I had applied? What if I had GONE? I would probably be a doctor by now. Yes, at 24.

My pal Lauren and I engaged in this discussion when we were wandering around Cambridge today after a delicious diner lunch. (Side note: the bathroom in this diner was THROUGH the kitchen, down a flight of rickety stairs to the basement that guest starred in every person’s nightmare and was featured in a few horror movies.) The whole concept of applying to the Ivies just wasn’t even part of our lives, and we wondered if that’s due to the fact that we didn’t grow up in New England and just weren’t part of that whole private school, golf course, school uniform life.

Even though I never actually attended Harvard, I am proud to announce that I have now gotten lost there so many times (i.e. two) that I know my way around! Today I was just bounding around the streets, instinctively turning at the right corners, knowing where I can go to get water. I think that means I can call myself a graduate of Harvard.

Most importantly, I got the chance to sit outside and enjoy the area – from chess-playing men to views of the river.

(However, I’ve also learned why I am NOT a graduate of Harvard – because it took me three tries to spell “chess” correctly. “Okay, no, c-h-e-s-e doesn’t look correct, c-h-e-e-s-e is cheese…”)

It’s okay. ANNIE STILL LOVES ME! Cat picture!

Snapshots: Opsail 2012

I’ve already proudly proclaimed how I call America’s First Region home, but one of the greatest benefits is undoubtedly the mix of history, a dynamically changing military area, and the incredible location. Growing up next to the water (whether it’s the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, or one of the ten million rivers around) has strangely NOT made me more comfortable with putting my head under water, but I do enjoy a nice chaste ankle-dip.

This is all just a painful introduction into the main event – Opsail 2012 AKA the tall ships! According to The Wikipedia, it’s a series of sailing celebrations where vessels from around the world stop in different ports in a giant parade of worldwide peace and cooperation. Literally the only thing I knew was what my father kept saying: “It’s the tall ships!”

This year the celebration popped into Norfolk with a War of 1812 theme, meaning we had folks in Regency dress wandering around the streets (my parents live literally next to the harbor and where the main festival took place), which I feel added a nice festive air to everything.

Behold! My pictures!

During the “Parade of Ships” – this was a representative from another country but clearly I have totally forgotten where.

Wandering the harbor and taking in the sails

Part of the 19th century wonderment!

My parent’s house. No big deal. HA just kidding, but wouldn’t that be awesome?
Post-dinner sunset walk

Views like this are why you gotta love living next to the water. 
And a fireworks show to finish it out.

And now, I am headed home to this:

Laura Maas, Tour Guide

As someone who, admittedly, does not transition well (who me?!), I have spent a considerable amount of time and energy trying to build a support system in the place where I maybe-maybe-not want to move – Boston. I delight in finding out another friend is thinking of moving there, despite the fact that a) I, myself, do not live there, and b) IF I get a job, I probably STILL won’t be living there for at least a year.

This is pretty much how the conversation went when I met up with the inimitable Laura Maas (of the delightful Maasachusetts blog) a few months ago in DC. Maas and I are old-as-dirt GW friends (house staff together back in the day… oh how far we have come!).

Just two youngin’s, with so much ahead of them!

When she took a road trip around the country and I managed to score a lunch with her, she told me her dilemma: she was considering which grad school offer to accept – one in South Carolina and one in Boston. Naturally I spent the entire lunch convincing her Boston was the place to be, ENTIRELY so she could be added to my collection of friends – despite the fact that I had no job in the city at that moment. I like to think I was the deciding factor in her choosing to move here.

AND – the best part! I did end up getting a job at a Boston university! Granted, I’m only in the city for a month before going abroad to work for said university, but we actually are currently employed by the SAME institution and living on campus together!! Basically it’s like we are back at GW.

This is all just a really long way of saying that Maas and I did the Freedom Trail together. She was our Tour Guide with the Mostest (…), mostly because of her delightful way of inserting what I am calling “Maasisms” to almost every site. And now, a tour of the Freedom Trail, with Laura Maas.

Every good Trail of Freedom is kicked off with the Declaration of Independence (even though I saw this more towards the end…) (Also, could the people in the background look ANY MORE like tourists??)

Aaaand, we start, with the trusty book!

First Maasism: as I take this picture, she starts to read about Mary Dyer, the “Quacker.” It took me a few seconds before I turned around and realized – “Wait. Do you mean Quaker?” Oh Maas!

Next Maasism: “So with this building, what Berkley was to the 1960s, this was to the Colonial era.” Me: “That is SUCH a good Maasism!” Maas: “Oh, that’s not a Maasism. That’s a bookism. See page 98.”
“See this building with the golden dome in front of us? It’s definitely gotta be important. It’s got a golden dome!” Unfortunately, it turned out to just be the Transportation and Tunnel headquarters.
The one building we actually paid to go in to: the Paul Revere house. Boyfriend not only had SIXTEEN kids (wowza) but also a house filled with excellent fake food, although the fake meat looked a bit dodgy.
We ended outside the Washington Memorial Garden, as happy (and sweaty) as two Colonials who had just walked a zillion miles could be.
In conclusion: Laura Maas is incredible. Publishers, please pay her to write a book.
No cute cats to end the post but I do have ducks!

If She Weighs the Same As a Duck… SHE’S A WITCH!

One of the best parts about being in Boston is that I get to bring out my hidden (or not-quite-so-hidden) nerd side and geek out about history. Having spent a large chunk of my life proudly living in America’s First Region (it’s real – look it up), pretending I live in colonial times just comes naturally.

(Fun story, albeit post-colonial times: I participated as a re-enactor in the area’s Civil War Days festival and wore an AWESOME period costume and bonnet that I later repurposed to be my Halloween costume as Laura Ingalls Wilder. Some people just walk in the light, you know?).

I was lucky enough to snag a ride with my dear friend Lauren and her fam, heading 30 minutes up the cost to Salem for the day. I’ve been vigilantly prepared to mock New England’s so-called history (oh, so you were established in 1620? You’re only thirteen years too late, NERDS. And way to settle in a freezing area of the country!), so this was a great trip for me, obviously.

The Old Town Hall. The basement is a liiitttle smelly.
(But doesn’t it look like a great place to have a wedding? Look it up. New life plan.)

None of the Hey family is buried here, as they were in Haworth

My top observations for the day:

1) It is simultaneously hilarious and slightly awkward to tag along on another family’s vacation. I think I fell a little bit in love with L’s mom when she welcomed me with “Okay, so from 12-1 we have a walking tour, then lunch from 1-2:30, then a play at 2:30…” MARRY ME. I told her this and she responded, “How do you feel about overhead lights?” NEGATIVELY! We bonded over our mutual preference for floor lighting.

2) My top points of reference for Salem are Hocus Pocus and The Crucible, both of which kept rollicking through my head at inappropriate moments. And obviously I am at this moment re-watching The Crucible.

Bridget Bishop being brought to trial. I voted for her innocence, partly
because I’ve watched a lot of SVU and partly because I know how the story ends.

Indeed it is. Although I have no idea what they sell.
Oooh, I know what they sell!

3) As beautiful a town as Salem is, rewatching The Crucible and learning more about the witch trials is making me feel icky for society. I need to go visit somewhere where only good things happen. Maybe Las Vegas.

4) Finally, I ALMOST! forgot to include a picture of a cat at the end. Doesn’t everyone just love that little tradition?!?! BUT when I was delving into my archives to find one, I was reminded of something I saw a few weeks ago – the monkey rodeo! It’s real. It happened. I saw it. Since I was too astonished to take any truly excellent pictures, I found one for you fine folks to enjoy.

PIcture via authorbkwalker.blogspot.com

The Journey Is Only Beginning

I’ve spent the last two weeks working insane hours, pouring intricate information and policies into my head, and navigating survival in a college dorm without the essentials (i.e.: MICROWAVE/cooking utensils. Hello, cereal, dining hall, and restaurants. As a side note, I would estimate I spend 63% of my time plotting and/or stealing cereal from the dining hall – I sneak in a GIANT ziploc bag, fill up three bowls with dry cereal, and casually stroll over to a table cleverly out of sight of staff. Yes, snotty girls at the table next to me judging my food choices, I AM planning to eat all this. DUUUMP!).

In between the madness that is training, there has been the quadruple madness that is orientation. I have cleverly disguised this in my past, but I’m not particularly fond of orientation, either as a participant or a staff member. But even I grudgingly admit that it is valuable – but only once I am on the other side of the 15-hour days that working orientation entails (and that’s as a pro staff – I mostly just have to wear a suit, sound professional, seem trustworthy so parents feel comfortable sending their children abroad with me, and I don’t have to do the evening activities).

But my predictions were true – this was my lovely self for pretty much the last two weeks. (TECHNICALLY, last night I celebrated by watching A League of Their Own. I had a craving.)

Last night in the debriefing someone mentioned how they were sad: “Man, I can’t believe it’s all over!” Then they started and realized – wait a minute – it’s only just beginning!

As long-term planney as I am (technical term – I have a Master’s degree, after all), I somehow repeatedly manage to forget the fact that, you know, I haven’t even started my job yet. I’ve had these parents come up to me and tell me that it makes them feel soo much better knowing I will be there with their child and all I think is “THIS GUY?! REALLY?!” A month from today, I will be LIVING in London, preparing to welcome little freshies into my American arms. Before that happens, I have to actually gain a grasp of what I will be doing, sightsee the hell out of Boston (something I have failed UTTERLY to do thusfar), have my “final moments” with all of my friends, and go BACK home (and finally eat what I’ve been craving – orange pork chops with rice – I had no idea how difficult it would be to live without kitchen stuff – WHAT DID I EAT FRESHMAN YEAR?!).

Literally the only thing I remember eating.
So I will spend the next few weeks getting my wits about me and trying to do as much as I possibly can – which started today with casually getting lost. I was never aaactualllly lost, since I knew the general direction I needed to go, but I intentionally selected my route based on which streets were prettiest. Very official. But it did allow me to stumble across hidden gems like this community garden:

After that? Besides eating a few Oreos, I have no idea. I know I get on a plane to Norfolk August 7. I know I get on a plane to London August 14. But the steps I have to take before those things occur? Complete and utter mystery.

Told you I would end with a cat.

"You work for a university? So do you, like, teach?"

The problem of working in higher education can be boiled down to two points: the “what if” syndrome and the dangerous combination “I’m so old/how dare you think I’m a student” syndrome.

The “what if” syndrome attacks me almost every time I’m on a new college campus, and has an alarming tendency to start me down a path of doubting almost everything I’ve done in my life. I’m walking around this campus, which is obviously more beautiful than anything I’ve ever seen, with well-rounded photogenic students attractively lounging around on the quad under the sun (because it’s ALWAYS a beautiful day). Suddenly I’m struck with doubt: “OHMYGIDDYGOD. GW is terrible. Only devil children go there, and it smells like a urinal. I’m surprised people are still allowed to walk on it and it hasn’t been declared a SUPERFUND sight yet.”

This is, of course, ridiculous. GW has no need to pass out HAZMAT suits at orientation. Sometimes you get a whiff of urine, but once upon a time I was wandering down the brick paths, gazing at the lines of tulips along the sidewalk. I have also been that incredibly attractive and well-rounded student posing on the quad like there’s a photographer shouting instructions.

I actually delved into my MYSPACE to find a picture I took on my first campus visit… and it’s literally of nothing important on campus at all. I think I was overly impressed by the flags and the tulips.

Nevertheless, I always have to wonder “what if?” when I see people relatively my age living a different life. What if I had decided to go to X college? Would I have still studied International Affairs? Would I have even heard of International Education? Maybe I would be some sorority girl dance team captain who purchases clothes on a regular basis and not continue to wear the same (plain) tshirt from high school.

You see how dangerous this is. And this is my life! I actually caught myself thinking today (as I was strolling down a beautiful gardened and shaded path on campus), “I wish I could just, like, live fifteen lives and do everything I want.” Well… yeah. I think everyone wants that, ya idiot.

The second syndrome is the combo “I’m so old/how dare you think I’m a student” outrage. I am in the delicate stage in my life where I am beautifully ageless (or so I like to think). While this is a bonus for my modeling side career, it doesn’t work so well when a parent wants to feel their child is in capable hands. (Yes… their 18 year old children. I know.) So I stress over how to do my hair so that parents think I’m trustworthy, what shoes to wear to promote my “stylish yet mature” aura, and if stenciling in wrinkles would be overkill.

However, I also have a tendency to prematurely age myself. In all honesty, I’m not THAT much older than the undergrads and I like to think I’m relatively hip (or at least as hip as I ever was in my hippest youth). I think I age myself because I yearn for the day that I can go to bed at 9pm with no shame or judgement. But every time I see widdle freshies walking around campus with a pair of khaki-wearing and map-toting parent, I feel a twinge of, “That was me! but now I’m ADULT! If I were living in the 1500s I would have 32 children by now!”

In conclusion: today, I spent an INORDINATE amount of time talking about my cats (old maid Kristen) but ALSO talking about my mother (little baby Kristen). I think this point brings it home. AAAND scene.

THE BELLY! (maybe I’ll just end every post with a cat picture).

The Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

I sit here on my bed as a terribly hot day drifts into the evening, enjoying the breeze from the ceiling fan and listening to my cat breath next to me (and she has a chronic sinus infection – very attractive, I know, so she’s not so much breathing as wheezing. She is perfect). I’m only two sleeps away from stepping on a plane that will carry me north, and into the next blank chapter of my life.

For the oddball stranger who stumbled here thinking this was some awesome travel blog (no doubt impressed by my amazing header) you can find a delightful and humble description of myself and my journey thusfar here. That and the aforementioned header pretty much say it all – scaredy-cat girl from Virginia, heading out into the great blue yonder. (Which, according to The Google, is about death. Soo… that’s not happening. I guess I’m heading into the just-okay blue yonder).

I’ve spent the last six years (for the most part) living in Washington, DC, taking classes for the entire time – masochist! – and working fairly constantly, in at least one position but mostly two+ and a volunteer gig at the same time, for the past five. That all changed in May, when I switched my tassel to the other side (for the second time at my university) and clocked out for the last time. One speedy game of Tetris-packing of my dad’s truck later and I was charging out of the city, hemmed in by every single one of my possessions and rolling down back country roads to my hometown in southeastern Virginia (where, amusingly, we almost hit a wild turkey so large my mother thought it was a dinosaur). Quite a change from six years ago, when little 18-year old Kristen first pulled into DC on a rainy September day and then spent the next four months crying from homesickness.

So here’s all-grown-up 24 year old Kristen now… living again with my parents… in their empty-nest city condo… the life, I tell you! It’s also a fairly sobering experience to realize every single one of your lifelong possessions can fit into one closet. Saves on storage space, though.

For the intermission of my life, between graduation/livin’/workin’ the DC life – which any self-respecting Washingtonian will tell you basically involves lots of happy hours and brunches – and what happens next, I’ve been happily ensconced in my parent’s lovely condo next to the river. My month of sloth relaxation has involved reading like it’s going out of style (not to brag or anything but I think I’ve read about fifteen books in the past month. I’m quite literate. AND humble.), tracking where my cats spend every hour of the day and wandering in for belly rubs, and watching SVU.

But – all good things must come to an end, or at least evolve into equally-as-good or better things! And so, as this publishes, I’ll be bopping around Boston, seeing dear old friends, making new ones, and digging into my next step and the rest of my career and LIFE! It’s strange – I feel more like that scared little 18 year old than the 24 year old that I have become. I guess that’s what living the life of luxury in your parent’s house will get you, eh?

Stay tuned, because it only gets more exciting (and hopefully less wordy) from here. There will be tales of adventure, I’m bound to cry at least once, and I will definitely be using paratheses way too often.

P.S. I won’t be talking specifically about my employer, cause, you know. Privacy ‘n’ stuff. But you probably already know it anyway.