Fortune's Feast

Savoring life's bounty

Passing the Labels test May 31, 2010

Filed under: family,hard work — KHC @ 8:50 am
Tags: ,

Last week, I ran into a long-time friend of my (future) in-laws at the bus stop.  He’s a well-known figure within certain circles in DC, and since I am never one to pass up an opportunity, I approached him and introduced myself.  Pardon me, but are you Mr. Important?  I’m the Snappy Dish.  I’m engaged to the Captain. And his face lit up with recognition.  Oh, hello!  Yes, we didn’t get to talk too much at dinner last week, did we?  Thank you for coming up.  And we had a very lively conversation.  We talked about my upcoming wedding, the multiple graduations he and I had just attended, and just how hot a DC summer can be.

Over the course of our conversation, he asked me where I’d grown up, where I’d done my undergraduate study, and where I’d been in private practice.  It was with great relief – nay, pride – that I rattled off my stats and saw his face light up again.

I had passed The Labels Test.  He, the managing partner of a BigLaw shop in DC, was pleased with what he’d heard.  Perhaps he wasn’t expecting much out of me, a stranger engaged to his college roommate’s eldest son, but he deemed me worthy enough to chat with again at the bus stop the very next day.  I was thrilled.  See?  All that fancy education was good for something! I can sit with people on the bus!

Which got me thinking – why was I so eager to be validated?  I work hard, I enjoy my work, and I am looking forward to the future.  That should be enough.  And yet.  A major reason why I even have my labels is because my parents knew that certain labels would offer me passage into a better life, a life where I wouldn’t feel shy about approaching a managing partner at the bus stop.  My parents instilled in me the value of education by their words.  By their actions – their continuous, self-motivated endeavors – they instilled in me the desire for more.  Not necessarily more in terms material things, but more in terms of achievement,  of accomplishment.  Of security.  I am exceptionally proud of what my parents have been able to provide for me and my sister, especially because they were immigrants and didn’t have the advantage of a native tongue or culture.  They willed themselves to success.

My urge to be validated, I suppose, is really an urge to show that I, too, have worked hard to have what I have, that I have earned my place and keep.  Which is why I simply cannot stand complacency or smugness.

But that’s another story.  I’m just glad to have a new bus buddy.


A new low May 29, 2010

Filed under: entertaining,family — KHC @ 10:49 am

The Captain and I will be moving to a new apartment next week, and we are thoroughly excited about the new digs.  They’re not particularly big, and we’re still renting for now, but we love the neighborhood.  Love it.

There’s only one downside, as I said to the Captain last night:

Captain, we’re not on the blue line any more.  How are we going to get to the Kennedy Center?!


The right pace May 19, 2010

Filed under: navel gazing — KHC @ 11:04 pm

Somewhere around my mid-twenties it occurred to me: I no longer was riding in the fast lane.  I had insisted upon working between college and law school, but I took so much time finding myself that by the time I matriculated, there were those who were younger than I who had already graduated and earned their first bonuses.

Those Dark Years (2001 – 2005) were not for nought, however, as I discovered Several Important Things About Life, all of which confirmed that I was right for law school and it for me.  The confidence and assurance I had that I was in the right place never wavered, even with the many, many periods of disappointment with my academic results (read: all of 1L year).  Lackluster grades notwithstanding, I was still going to be a lawyer – and a good one.

I bring this up because one of my good friends from Papa Law once asked me whether I was ready to become a “lawyer.”  Absolutely! I replied, saying more or less the same things I mention above.  He was thoughtful for a moment and said he still was getting used to the idea of being a professional upon whom others relied for critical advice, a fiduciary.  His hesitation surprised me because, as I reminded him, he already was a father – with two children under the age of two.  Being a parent seemed so much more challenging, demanding, and stressful than any profession I could imagine.  He considered that, but then responded that his wife had really wanted to become a parent, so there really wasn’t much debate on starting a family.  They got married, they had kids, and then they took their kids to law school.

I suppose that makes sense, given my friend’s priorities in life.  He and his wife really wanted a family, so they planned their careers around that.  Other friends of mine really want to get ahead in their careers, so they plan their families (or singledom) around that.  I have a pal who is so focused on her career that she seems to experience dating as an amusing, but occasional, distraction.  Myself, I don’t think I’ve ever really wanted anything so badly that I planned for it to the exclusion of other pursuits.  To wit, I found a career and a husband in law school – I multitasked.  Which is not to say I attended law school to find a husband, but I certainly was open to the idea.

And perhaps that’s the point – being open to ideas.  My bridal magazines feature brides in their early to mid-twenties who freak me out with their confidence in selecting a mate.  Call me a late bloomer, but I just wasn’t ready to make such life-altering decisions at age twenty-three.  I was still trying to figure it out for myself, and I suppose I still am.  The difference now, I suppose, is that I’ve figured out enough to know that there’s more to life than speed.


Back in the game April 29, 2010

Filed under: current events,navel gazing — KHC @ 8:23 pm

Well, that didn’t last long.

Two days ago, I was lazy and listless.  Today, I am energized and happy.  If a bit sore.  Because I ran a little three-mile race and got back in the game.

What a relief.

I woke up earlier than usual so my ride could pick me up at 6:40am; our mission was to pick up the rest our team and get to the race site by 7:15am.  Downtown Washington is such a pleasure that early in the morning.  The sun is rising over the Capitol and people are just starting to hit the pavement, but the tourists haven’t yet gotten up and mucked up the traffic.  It’s beautiful.

My agency fielded a five-person team for the ACLI Capital Challenge, a little three-mile race that’s been run in DC for thirty years.  Teams from every branch of the government participate, as well as members of the print, broadcast, and electronic media.  Teams must have a qualifying captain to enter, and there are all sorts of criteria to determine who qualifies.  Sitting Senators and Representatives count, as do Cabinet Secretaries (and their boss).  Judges must be Article III judges (President-appointed and Senate-confirmed), and that was my favorite criterion by far.  I could just imagine race organizers making sure that each judicial competitor was, in fact, appointed by a U.S. President.  Other agency, or sub-agency, heads/directors could also be captains, and that’s how I got in.  My co-worker, the Little Buddy, somehow convinced the director of our agency [FN1] to participate, so there we were, freezing our butts off on Hains Point and gawking at Senators Brown, Cantwell, Hutchison, and others.  (“Sen. Brown doesn’t look like model material…”  “I didn’t know Maria Cantwell was so fit!”)

I didn’t post a great time, but I certainly had a great time.  One of the best parts of the race was the team name competition.  U.S. Census Bureau: Everyone Counts on Our Team.  Fox News’: Fair and New Balanced.  My team: Follow the Money.

I think next year we’ll stick a dollar sign on our fastest runner and have the rest of us dress up as bank robbers.



FN1.  Our director is father to a three year-old and a twenty month-old.  He did not consult with his wife before consenting to meet us downtown at 6:55am.  Captain, you better never do that to me.


The Change April 27, 2010

Filed under: current events,navel gazing — KHC @ 8:34 pm

Something’s happened to me.

And I’m not entirely sure what.  But I do know two things:

1.  I’m not as excited as I used to be about running.  I’m still enough of a runner to be horrified by the thought, but the truth is, sometimes I get bored on the trail.

2.  I’m not as excited as I used to be about dessert.  Now this is truly frightening.  There wasn’t a moment in law school that I didn’t think about ice cream, cookies, or cupcakes.  Even after graduation, when a good six months lay between me and BigLaw, I didn’t travel the world – I took a $10/hr  job at a bakery.  Frosting was my thing.

In the last couple weeks, however, I’ve not had that hunger, that sweet, familiar yearning for something even sweeter.   I’m just not in the mood.  It’s an odd feeling, really, and one antithetical to my self-identification.  I am a baker, a cook.  I should enjoy eating.

And I suppose I still do, though not with the same enthusiasm as a mere two weeks ago.  The same goes for running.  I still love it, but perhaps not as much as I used to do.  Instead I’m left with a callous haze, a deadened feeling of….well, eh.  I don’t really feel like doing anything.  I’m tired, I’m apathetic.   I wonder if this is an odd, low-grade anxiety.  The Captain wonders if it’s because my dermatologist tinkered with the dosage of one of my acne medications.

Let’s hope it’s that.


Out of the mouths of babes April 22, 2010

Filed under: navel gazing — KHC @ 9:36 pm

Today was “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.”  I have neither a daughter nor a son, but plenty of my officemates do, so I was able to enjoy the event regardless.  One of the first things I heard this morning was the joyful voice of a seven year-old telling me she liked to wash her hands because she liked to be healthy.  We were both washing our hands in the restroom at the time.

Did I mention it was awkward?

At any rate, her granny, my co-worker, introduced us to each other, and we shook hands – after they’d been washed, of course.  She then looked me up and down, then looked me straight in the eye and said, “You look beautiful.”

Did I mention it was also awesome?


Cheap April 11, 2010

Filed under: wedding — KHC @ 12:41 pm
Tags: ,

When Karl Lagerfeld designed a line for H&M four years ago, he famously quipped that people are ‘cheap,’ and clothes are ‘inexpensive.’  He hated the word cheap and defended his partnership with the discount retailing giant by drawing a distinction between how people make decisions and what they actually buy.  Cheap is when you withhold generosity or kindness. Inexpensive is when you use a promotional code for your online shopping cart.  There is a difference.

I like to think that I’m not cheap, but strategic.  I scour the Travel sections of the Post and the Times so I may find out about deals to far-away places.  I subscribe to RueLaLa so I can look like a fortune without spending one.  At the same time, I pledged to my church and I give regularly to my undergraduate university.  I tip extravagantly, sometimes thirty percent of the bill, and I ponder elaborate Christmas gifts before a look at my financials brings me back down to Earth. Put simply, I try to have more brains and heart than money.

Which is why I had to chuckle at myself the other day when I caught myself being cheap.  As a bit of background, one of the downsides of federal employment is having to purchase my own business cards.  A further downside is that the cards come in denominations of 500.  Since I started at Treasury eight months ago, I think I’ve given away about twenty business cards, as I’m terrible at remembering them.  I’m also not in any particular hurry to distribute them.  At least, not until I realized the other day that I am getting married in six months and that I might want to change my surname.  If I were to do so, however, that would be 480 cards down the drain, a phenomenal waste in my opinion.

And so, that is how I decided to keep my maiden name, at least professionally, after I get married.  Not for any substantive reason of equality or politics, but because I’m just too cheap to buy a whole other set of business cards.  When I get down to the last several cards, or if I’m offered another job, I’ll consider again whether I want to use my married name, but only then.

I actually find it comforting to know that as hefty and significant a decision as my identity can be decided by something so quotidian as money.