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Monday, November 30, 2015

Bye, Atlanta

I remember the first time my father told me he was moving to Atlanta. We were in a car on Woodman Road getting ready to turn left onto Glenside. I don't remember exactly how he said it, something like "we're going to be moving to Atlanta". It was sunny that day, a bit chilly.


What does that mean?

Will I come visit you then?

Did you even consider how this will affect me?

I barely see you now.

What does that mean?

I was a sophomore in High School I think. My parents had split up a few years earlier so I had already settled into the groove of having divorced parents, but I was still so angry at my father. I was also subconsciously terrified that he would leave again, want to see me even less if I gave him a reason, so I tried to always be as accommodating as possible. I tried to be funny enough and polite enough and pretty enough and smart enough. I wanted to make sure he was always happy with me and that I made things easy for him. For him.

So on this day I said nothing about how I was really feeling. I said nothing about how I felt discarded and unimportant. I said nothing about how shitty it was that he said it so nonchalantly like he was saying we were going to Olive Garden for dinner. I said nothing about how he should have had words of reassurance for me letting me know that we would see each other, that he was still my dad and would be there for me.

I don't know if he thought about any of that. Maybe he didn't. Maybe he did. Maybe it's too much to expect that he would have. Maybe he was worried I would be upset so he tried to keep it as brief as possible, because he couldn't handle me getting mad any more than I could handle him getting mad. Who knows. Either way, on this day, I said nothing. I think I mumbled "oh ok, so when is this happening?" and then tried to seem excited about the move. Why am I writing about this? Well, because next year I'll be saying goodbye to Atlanta.

Along with my father, his then-wife Cathy and my little brother and sister naturally accompanied him on the move, and so began many years of visiting what came to be a second home of sorts. After nursing school, my sister Genie moved down as well. I toyed with making the leap myself during college, living in the big city, but that was mostly because I was unhappy about where I was in that time in my life, not because I liked Atlanta. In truth, I hate it.

I hate the traffic. I hate the newness. I hate that everyone is from somewhere else. I hate the suburban sprawl. I hate the disparity of wealth. Did I mention I hate the traffic? That being said, I have come to know it very well. I've spent holidays, graduations, weeks and days within it's neighborhoods. I've eaten at it's restaurants and shopped at it's malls. I've been to two hospital rooms where I kissed my niece and nephew for the first time. I buried my father there. It's comfortable to me.

My sister and her family will be moving from said comfortable zone sometime next year. I hope a good decision for them and one that will bring them closer to me which I'm very happy about. With dad gone, that will just leave my little brother and sister, whose current early-twenties schedules leave little time for their big sister. I will always visit them. I will always be their big sister. I will always go visit my dad. But something feels different. After more than 20 years, Atlanta won't be a part of me anymore.

I will miss the traffic, I will miss the restaurants, I will miss the big city feel, I will miss my favorite Waffle House on 85 that makes the best cherry coke's ever! I'm also afraid that life will do what it always does, it will keep going. Days will turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. I'll rationalize why it really hasn't been that long since I visited, and my schedule is so crazy, I can't possibly afford the plane ticket or have time to drive the eight hours down until next year. See how I'm already doing it?

To make sure that doesn't happen, I will need to be vigilant and present. I will need to be aware of how my actions, or lack thereof, will affect my brother and sister, unlike my father at that stage in his life. In the end I was lucky, my father realized the mistakes he'd made. Divorce was not the problem, it was what he did afterwards. It was the almost ten years afterwards that he wasn't there for us and that we couldn't count on him that were the problem. We finally had that discussion we hadn't had in the car that day, and countless others where we both talked about how we really felt and what we wished had happened. I no longer have any regrets about what I should have said.

I will always love the good memories I have from Atlanta. The good times with my father that made up the last 15 years of his life. The visits with my sister, watching her become a mom. The visits with my little brother and sister, watching them grow. I will always love Atlanta because of what it represents. Remind me of that when I go on a tirade about the traffic.

I wanted to write about this because I found myself really sad when I heard that my sister was actually moving. I was surprised at how much. I think it's because it's one of the last physical ties I have to my father, to that time in my life. It means another layer of things are moving on. Another time has come and passed. Another moment that I'll never get back.

Bye, Atlanta......

{ With my dad on the river near Stone Mountain }

{ Having fun with my brother at the original Coke Factory }

{ The Fitzgerald siblings on a an aquarium outing }

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanks For Bourbon

Special occasions call for special cocktails. Here's one you might try for Thanksgiving. Assemble (in my case) a little apple cider, a lot of bourbon and a pretty good dollop of prosecco in a cocktail shaker, mess it about and then pour over ice. Your measurements will be entirely up to you, depending on how sweet you'd like it to be and how much bourbon you need to take the edge off your family questioning your life choices. Finish it off with a sprig of fresh rosemary and enjoy. Hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving tomorrow....

Monday, November 23, 2015

What Does A Lobbyist Do?

My name is Kelly and I'm a Lobbyist. I started making a point of using that term a few years ago, as opposed to saying I do Government Relations, or I do Health Policy work, or....well, I work in politics on the legislation/how a bill becomes a law side. Nope, I'm a lobbyist. I had had so many discussions with colleagues over the years about how it was safer to tell people what we did, but make it sound a lot less like Jack Abramoff, and under absolutely no circumstances use the term Lobbyist. After a while I decided, excuse my french, that that was bu$$sh#!. Are there some people like Mr. Abramoff, absolutely. But are there also some good people who work very hard every day to make an impact on people's lives through the legislative process, yes!

Once I tell people I'm a lobbyist they generally say two things. 1) Wow, I've never met anyone who actually does that! 2) What do you actually do? Well, I do a lot of different things. Some days are spent in Washington, DC working on federal issues and some days are spent in State Houses across the country on state issues. I work for a non-profit organization so we try and cover the most ground we can with a department of three. This means that I never have the same day twice (which is awesome), but also that I have to shift gears very quickly (which can be challenging).

Last fall I went through a day in my work life which you can read here. Since then, more and more days are becoming like this. Last week I found myself on the Hill in DC working on a piece of federal legislation that we just introduced. I thought I would take you through what I did that day in the hopes of giving you a glimpse into just that..... "what I do"......also note that I did the pics in black and white so they would look more like the opening credits of the West Wing and therefore make me look cooler. Enjoy!

Step 1: Get a bill introduced.

Well, that's actually like step 27. First you have to determine what the problem is that you're trying to fix. That's never hard for me because the people I represent are chronically ill and therefore very expensive. No one wants them, so they encounter a lot of barriers to care. If legislation is needed to overcome these barriers, that's where I come in.

First, I have to assess what we might actually be able to accomplish and in what time frame, what the bill language might look like and gather data and patient stories to make a case that it's necessary. Then I hunt for a sponsor, a Member of Congress or a State Legislature (depending on the scope of the problem) who might be interested in introducing the bill. It is also extremely helpful if you have a sponsor who is on the committee that your bill will be referred to. This means they'll be more aware of similar issues and also have more influence as the bill makes its way through committee.

That brings us to last week. Our bill was introduced by Congressman Kevin Cramer (At large district-ND) and now it's up to us and his staff to move things forward.......

Step 2: Hold a briefing.

A briefing is basically like a press conference. The sponsors speak as well as other Members that might be supportive, organizations who are leading the effort and everyday people who are affected by the issue. The goal is to generate awareness and try and gain support for the issue.

These are some of the people who came to our briefing. We had a packed house so I was happy. They're on their phones the whole time, but trust me, they're still listening.

This is a staffer taking notes at the briefing. She will then most likely go back to her office and write a memo for her boss (Congressional Member) about the issue and recommend whether or not they should support it. Let's hope hers was a favorable recommendation.

Step 3: Get co-sponsors.

You need as many co-sponsors, or other Members to "sign on" to the bill, as possible. Think of it as a formal show of support. In most cases, you need bi-partisan co-sponsorship as well, so an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. One way to help get co-sponsors is to bring constituents, or people who live in a Members District, to DC to tell their story and explain how they would directly benefit if the bill was passed. Here's a pic from one such meeting that day in Congressman Price's (D- NC) office. 

I like NC offices they always have peanuts.........

Step 4: Continued Publicity

I take a lot of pictures. These go on our social media sites, newsletters and publications. It helps us show that people are taking an interest in the issue.

Step 5: Don't kill the tourists!

These are the people's houses so they're public. Anyone can enter. This poses certain advantages and challenges. I'm mostly challenged when I have a meeting in 3 minutes in a adjacent building and I have to not run over a kid in a stroller.

Step 6: Work with staff.

The staff in most offices are great! This young lady maybe didn't want her pic taken. Sorry. They have literally dozens of meetings a day with different groups who all have legitimate issues and need help. They have to keep all of these issues straight, help their boss, do constituent services and liaise with other offices and committee staff. It's certainly not an easy job and I appreciate all of their help.

Step 7: Eat.

Well, sometimes we get to. After the mid-morning briefing we had several meetings and I got about 20 minutes to shove some food in my mouth. I don't look very attractive in these moments just FYI. Also, I think that's chicken on the salad but it could have been goat. Who knows...

Step 8: Take in the beauty around you.

At the pace we go, it's easy to overlook the beauty that surrounds us in these historic buildings. It really can be breathtaking. I hope if you have the chance to be in DC, or at your local capitol, that you'll take the time to visit and enjoy all they have to offer. Just call your elected official's office prior to your visit and they can let you know about free tours, etc.

Step 9: Rest.

It's really important. Our days are long and, especially for me, being around people all day and talking drains my battery. The couple hours home from DC on the train cocooned in my seat really help. I answer all the emails I haven't from the day, get ready for tomorrow and have a glass of wine.Yup, the train has wine!!!!!!

I hope you've enjoyed this tiny glimpse into what I do on a daily basis. It's hard work, but I really love it. Please remember that the next time someone denigrates my profession on TV or social media. The phrase "they should all be" is an extremely dangerous one. We are not a "they". If your car breaks down you call a mechanic. If your toilet breaks you call a plumber. If you need a piece of legislation passed you call a lobbyist. It really is that simple. There are bad mechanics, bad plumbers and bad lobbyists, but our professions are all still needed. I'll get off my soap box now:).

Friday, November 20, 2015

It's Friday, Love

{ But I don't want to get out of bed Mama }

I can tell the holidays are right around the corner. I'm already getting overly-reflective, as I'm known to do when special occasions are on the radar. Where was I this time last year? What's happened since? What hasn't happened since? Oh shut up Kelly and have a glass of wine! I sincerely hope that one day I won't come to regret sharing with you the fun (insane) little conversations I have with myself.

On another note, this 5pm darkness thing is kicking my a!#. I'm literally in bed by 9:05pm most days. Maybe it's a good thing. They say humans too should hibernate a bit in the winter. A little hibernating sounds good, but I'm having trouble shutting my brain off to relax even in the moments I'm free to do so. It's sort of like coming down from a summit. It takes a while for your brain and your body to say...oh hey! We don't have to worry about anything for a little while! By the time you've caught up to this notion, relaxation time is over.

As far as the week went, it was a busy, but great week of work as we launched a new piece of federal legislation that I hope will do a lot of good. Haven't gotten back to my regular exercise schedule yet and I can really tell a difference in my energy level. Anyone up for a bike ride this weekend? Definitely need to get on that. And whoever decided that feather pillows were comfortable should be shot! Yes, I'm talking to you Liason Hotel in DC! Your pillows are horrible and I didn't sleep a wink. Thank god for Mac under eye concealer. Oh, and Opus One Red is my favorite new bottle of wine. Have a great weekend everyone!

{ A great run in fall weather is awesome }

{ Had a great dinner, as always, at the Capitol Grille in DC }

{ If you're looking for a good leave-in conditioner, this one is fabulous }

{ My sexy new slippers from Target }

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Roasted Pears With Blue Cheese and Honey


Don't let this post fool you. I said no healthy posts for the rest of the year and I'm a woman of my word. Although the main ingredient is luscious, juicy (but healthy) pears, the accompaniments are pure decadence. Peel, half and roast your pears, inside down, in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Before you tuck these little lovelies into the oven, drizzle (completely immerse) them in butter, honey and cinnamon. I like to keep basting throughout the cooking process as well. They're best served right out of the oven with toasted walnuts, blue cheese and even more honey drizzled on top. Enjoy!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Almost Famous


I am back in the land of the blogging living after weeks of computer problems and being under the weather. Yeah! However, the irony of that statement is not lost on me, as today's post takes us to a cemetery. Most RVA locals will recognize Hollywood Cemetery immediately. For those of you non-locals, it's worth a Google.

After my extremely high and ridiculous fever broke the week before last, and I didn't get the traditional cold that normally accompanies these types of things, I thought I was cured. A long walk will do me good till I can get back to my normal exercise schedule thought I. Yea......not so much. Even though I didn't get a traditional cold, it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest and I should have rested instead of cleaning out my shed and then taking the aforementioned walk. The next day my fever was back and I cried Uncle! Two weeks from the onset (today), I feel actually healed and extremely happy to be so.

As for Hollywood, well..... cemeteries have never made me sad. I actually think they're great places to think and find some quiet. There are a lot of things that will be changing next year and I can already feel the shift starting to take place. Some things I will be saying goodbye to. I'll probably get around to writing about it in the next few weeks. That always helps me sort through the jumble and begin the road to saying goodbye. For better or worse I am an overly-sentimental person. I think that means that sometimes it takes longer for me to get over things than other people. But it also means that I will always have monuments in my heart, like the ones in Hollywood, so I can remember them.