Circus Trip 2018: Antietam

Day 64, Monday, September 17, 2018
Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland

I was due to start heading west to Michigan for my cousin’s wedding and to spend some time with family.  But along the way, of course, I planned to sightsee!

Antietam National Battlefield was on my list.  I had visited back in 2008, but a freak snow storm deposited approximately 1/4 inch of snow that had shut down the Visitor Center (and I thought we were bad about snow in Washington state).  I was determined to return.  Too bad the rain this time was insane!

Antietam (called the Battle of Sharpsburg in the south), was a Civil War Battle that occurred on September 17, 1862, and remains to this day the bloodiest day in American history.  22,717 Union and Confederate solders were killed, wounded or missing that day.  Of course, it also has other historical significance.  Although it was technically a draw, General McClellan and his Union troops were able to stop Confederate General Lee’s advance into Maryland.  That was enough of a victory for President Lincoln, and he used the opportunity to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, which would take effect on January 1, 1863 in Confederate controlled areas.

The battlefield land was established as a park on August 30, 1890 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Approximately 385,000 people visit each year.

I first stopped at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, which was supposed to be open that day.  It was just starting to rain.  The Pry House was General McClellan’s headquarters during the battle and now has Civil War field hospital exhibits inside, so I was very interested in seeing it.  Unfortunately, it was locked up tight – thwarted again!

So I headed over to the Visitor’s Center, and was happy to find it open.  I sat in on a Ranger presentation about the battle; where things happened, and how the battle unfolded.  The Visitor’s Center has a viewing area for these presentations on the second floor, so you get a good view of the layout of the field and can see a visual of what the Ranger is discussing.  It was interesting!

Then I went out on the auto tour.  I stopped by Dunker Church and took a peek inside. 

I drove through Miller’s farm, where the fighting began on the morning of the battle.  I climbed to the top of the Observation Tower.  By this time, it had started to rain really hard, and the wind was kicking up, creating quite a sway at the top of the tower!

By the time I made my way over to the Burnside Bridge, which I REALLY wanted to see, it was a torrential downpour.  I was sad, but ultimately decided to skip it, as I’m not even sure I would have been able to see it if I walked over to it.  Which just means I will have to go back!  One day, I will see Antietam as it should be seen.

Book Review: The Broker

The Broker, by John Grisham

I haven’t read anything by John Grisham, but I have watched a few movies that are based on his books.  This was one of my dad’s audio books, so I popped it in for a quick read on my commute.

The Broker

Joel Backman was a high powered attorney in Washington, D.C., trying to broker a deal between the U.S. Government and three young middle eastern men who have hacked into a satellite system and want to sell the technology to the highest bidder.  In the process, things go wrong and Backman goes to prison.  Fast forward to the beginning of the novel, when he has received a Presidential pardon (that he didn’t ask for) and is set up with a new life in Italy.  Things seem to be looking up!

However, things are not as they seem, and as it turns out, there are multiple people trying to kill Backman.  The problem is, he doesn’t know who…  He does realize that he can’t trust the government operatives who are supposed to be helping him.  So he’s on his own… 

The Broker is a fast-paced thriller with plenty of intrigue and seeing who can outsmart whom. 

3 stars. 

Book Review: The Stranger Beside Me

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story, by Ann Rule

I wasn’t even born yet when Ted Bundy started killing women in Western Washington.  I still wasn’t born when he moved on to other states and continued to kill women.  I was only a toddler when he was finally caught for his murders in Florida.  Yet somehow the story of Ted Bundy was frequently told while I was growing up, a cautionary tale told among friends.  It didn’t help that I also grew up in a time when the Green River Killer was murdering south of Seattle, and that Ted Bundy was executed when I was in middle school.

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story

Author Ann Rule knew Bundy, spending a few years in the 1970s working with him for, of all places, a Rape Crisis Hotline.  Once a week she worked a volunteer shift with him, answering calls and talking during the quiet hours.  She described him as kind, attentive, sweet, intelligent, and not someone she ever suspected of murdering multiple women in his spare time.  Except there was enough of a nagging doubt that she did turn his name into investigators when eyewitnesses described a young man named “Ted”, who drove a Volkswagen Beetle, talking to one of the murder victims.  She wasn’t the only one who had doubts.

Rule was writing crime stories for a local magazine, and trying to break into writing a book.  So she knew she had her subject when her friend Ted was arrested in Utah for kidnapping and murder, but he swore he was innocent.  She continued to correspond with Bundy while he was awaiting trial, always being honest and letting him know that she would use their correspondence in whatever she wrote.  Of course, he insisted that the book would be clearing his name.

The Stranger Beside me details almost 20 years of history between the author and the murderer, detailing his murders in six different states, his arrests, his escapes, his trials, and ultimately his execution in 1989.  She writes candidly about the conflict of coming to a gradual realization that the man she saw as kind and gentle, was really a sadistic, violent, psychopath.  The book goes into detail on the nature of his crimes, juxtaposed with his assertions of innocence, his frustrations with law enforcement and his public defenders, and a system he believed was unfairly portraying him as a monster.

Now, of course, it is clear that Bundy was a monster.  But as Rule shows, that wasn’t always so indisputable.  Bundy was probably one of the very worst, but unfortunately after reading, you can’t help but realize that there truly is evil walking among us.

4 stars. 

Book Review: C is for Corpse

C is for Corpse, by Sue Grafton

What if you knew that someone had unsuccessfully tried to kill you, but failed?

C is for Corpse (Kinsey Millhone Mystery)

In Sue Grafton’s third private detective story, Bobby Callahan hires private detective Kinsey Millhone to discover who tried to kill him by running his car off the road nine months previously.  Bobby was in physical therapy still trying to heal from his injuries from the crash that also killed his best friend.

Kinsey has to figure out if Bobby really was the victim of attempted murder, and not just some terrible accident.  Things aren’t very clear.  But soon enough the waters are muddied even further, when Bobby is in another car accident.  Was he the victim of another attempt, or is his battered body the cause of the tragedy? 

This novel had a lot of twists and turns, and in the end, Kinsey discovers the truth.  It’s an easy, quick read, but it did make me wonder at times if what she described was even possible.  Take it with a grain of salt…

3 stars. 

COVID Diaries: Day 661

Ugh… So far 2022 isn’t looking any better than 2021 left us.

I gotta say I have winter fatigue.  After three snowstorms, a treacherous commute over black ice, multiple experiences with freezing rain, and then a big rainstorm to wash it all away, I’m really just ready for summer.  The plus side was the snow kept me from having to work from the office a few days, and I just got to stay wrapped up all cozy and working from home.  I managed to avoid any freezing pipes despite the frigid temperatures, so that was a positive.  But my skin is suffering from the dry air…

One evening I walked downtown through the snow to get out of the house and have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.  It was pretty quiet when I got there, and I had a chance to just sit at the bar and read my book while sipping my wine.  The mussels and pork belly poutine hit the spot!

My cousin was going through old photos and texted me this one.  My brother, my dad and me – probably 1978.  I don’t know who got cut out over on the left…  I miss my dad so much still.  It’s been almost three years, and it still feels like yesterday.

New Year’s was quiet, because my friend who was going to come over couldn’t.  But I got treated to three days of her in the last snowstorm this week because I live within walking distance of her work, so she stayed with me to make sure she could get there.  We started a new puzzle.  And we walked to dinner and I got fajitas!  Oh boy, how I love steak fajitas…

 

Now I’m just trying to get motivated to clean the house.  Meh…

In other good news I have a four day work week next week and a four day holiday weekend!  I live for the long weekends!  I have a couple of friends coming up too, so I’m looking forward to that.  Maybe the year will start to turn around!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Alexandria, Virginia

Day 63, Sunday, September 16, 2018
In and around Alexandria, Virginia

My last day in D.C. was a relaxing day with friends.  In the morning, I went horseback riding with a friend of mine in Silver Springs, Maryland.  Alexis rides at a stable there and was able to use two horses for the morning!  Mine was a 16.1 hand mare named Rosie.  She was very sweet and we had a great trail ride. 

Later in the afternoon Alexis, Jason and I went to a place called Vola’s in Alexandria for drinks and appetizers.  The day was warm and the outdoor seating was lovely.  I had a Whiskey drink and it was soooo good!  It was fun just catching up with friends.

On the way home, Jason and I stopped to check out the George Washington Masonic Memorial.  It is such an impressive memorial!  Construction was started in 1922, and it was dedicated in 1932.  However, the interior was not completed until 1970!  It is designed to look like the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt.

It is such a beautiful building!  We were there in the evening, so we didn’t have a chance to go inside, but maybe one day.  The interior is supposed to be pretty interesting, with murals and displays honoring George Washington.  We did get to walk up the stairs, so at least we got some exercise!  It was a nice, relaxing final day in the Washington, D.C. area. 

Book Review: Mayflower

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick

It was my turn to choose a book for book club, and I really wanted us to read some non-fiction. So I brought four choices, and this was the one that won.

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Mayflower is aptly named, being the story of the Pilgrims and their journey to America in 1620.  The book covers a time span of over fifty years, beginning with their persecution in England, because they chose to break away from the Church of England, believing that it had moved too far away from the tenets they held.  They sought to find a place where they no longer had to worship in private, and first moved to the Netherlands.  While they found religious freedom there, they found life was difficult because they didn’t have land, so they were forced into menial labor jobs. 

102 Pilgrims departed for American in September of 1620, and set anchor off of Cape Cod on November 21, 1620.  Due to their late start, they stayed on the ship for the winter, and didn’t begin to build their settlement until the spring.  Due to an outbreak of disease, and not having enough food, at the end of the winter, only 53 people remained…  They were assisted by the Native Americans almost from the beginning, along with some stores of corn that they found buried nearby and stole (they did eventually replace the stolen corn). 

The book details the establishment of alliances between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, which held for about 50 years.  Unfortunately, eventually these relationships broke down, due to a lot of suffering, mistrust, and treachery.  The result was King Philip’s War, a war that I had heard about but didn’t know much about.  The book goes heavily in detail about the war, the alliances, and the cruelty effected upon both the Native Americans and the settlers. 

All in all, it was a very interesting book, but it was a more challenging read than Philbrick’s other books.  Perhaps it is because of the large number of characters described, with multiple Pilgrim leaders, as well as a great number of different tribes and sachems.  I was also expecting it to be more about the way that the Pilgrims lived and worshipped, and it ended up being much more about the war. 

A good overview, but you will probably need to read other books if you want a more detailed look into the Pilgrims’ lives.

And, by the way, the book club meets on January 14, so we will see how many of them read it!

3 stars.

 

Goodbye 2021: Another Year in COVID

I had such high hopes for 2021 at the beginning.  Surely it had to be better than 2020, which basically delivered a whole steaming pile of death, destruction and mayhem (and some significant savings on commuting).  But in fact, 2021 has given us a crazy roller-coaster of whiplash moments that frequently left me feeling like I was a cat watching a game of ping-pong, quietly muttering to myself, “make it make sense…”

There were some silver linings in 2021 though, mixed in with some heartaches.

In May my heart broke when a long-time friend and ex-boyfriend died of a massive heart attack after spending ten days on life support.  Although we were no longer that close, there was a time when he meant the world to me and it was so hard to see him taken so soon.

I also caught Yellow in May, a stray cat who my old neighbor had been feeding, and brought him inside.  Over the last seven months, he has decided that the indoor life is really pretty good.  He sits on my lap, sleeps on the bed curled up with me and doesn’t even mind Cora.

In June, I took a vacation to parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and even a bit of Wisconsin.  The weather was hot and sunny, and good company made for a great trip.  The lakes are warm enough that you feel like you are swimming in lukewarm bathwater!  And the little sunfish come up and nibble on your legs…  

I worked almost exclusively remotely until July, when we all spent 2 months back in the office on a full-time basis.  Now, I’m back working two days a week from home, which is nice as gas prices are crazy with inflation lately.

In August a girlfriend and I got away to the Oregon Coast for a week of agate hunting, trying new restaurants and breweries, and sightseeing.  It wasn’t that warm, but it was still glorious!  We had such a good time!

I took two weekend getaways to the Washington Coast, one in May by myself and another in early December with a girlfriend.  Beach-combing and sightseeing were on the agenda, and were good for the soul.

I did several Sunday Fundays with girlfriends, weather permitting, and found new places close to home to explore.

Sadly, 2021 saw people be viciously mean to others.  A lot of people have stopped living by the Golden Rule, and somehow feel that they now have a right to judge others they don’t agree with.  Unfortunately, the internet helps with this, as people feel more comfortable sitting behind their keyboards and expelling their verbal diarrhea on others.  It has been hard to see.  In the end, we will all be judged by God and him alone, so I hope people take a step back and move back into kindness in 2022.  I have had to step back from people like that, as it just isn’t worth my sanity.

With so much time at home, I finished 11 puzzles and read 38 books! 

We are closing out the year with two big snowstorms and frigidly cold temperatures.  As I write this, the 23 degree temperature is warmer than it has been all week!  Which isn’t a big deal other places, but it is rare that we deal with the threat of frozen pipes and black ice here.  It really is pretty though when you aren’t out in it…

Given that 2021 did not indeed turn out to be the comeback year that I was hoping for, I must now cast my gaze towards 2022 and sternly notify it that it must, indeed be better.  May 2022 bring you blessings…

Book Review: B is for Burglar

B is for Burglar, by Sue Grafton

The second book in the Kinsey Millhone private detective series tells about Millhone’s search for Elaine Boldt, a well-to-do woman living in California, with a second condo in Florida.  Kinsey is hired by Boldt’s sister, who hasn’t seen her for a while and needs her signature on a form regarding the settling of an estate.  What Kinsey believes will be an easy, quick buck, turns out to be nothing but.

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In the end, Kinsey works through a number of twists and turns, including a mysterious woman living in Ms. Bolt’s Florida condo, a fire that killed her California neighbor, and a burglar who seems intent on preventing Kinsey from finding the truth. 

It was a quick read and very interesting, and Kinsey’s love interest in this book was much more subtle than the first in the series.  The audiobook reader, Judy Kaye, has a distinct voice and easy way of moving through the book, enhancing the read.

3 stars.

The Christmas Lead Up

I’m not a fan of the holidays.  There, I said the quiet part out loud. 

I would love nothing better than to just travel on Thanksgiving and Christmas every year.  But alas, as COVID drags on, and I still have to work, and the weather is terrible in the Pacific Northwest, I’ll be teeing up for another one.  Whee.  Once I retire, I swear, I’ll be hitting the road for the holidays!

I can’t really explain why I don’t enjoy them.  It’s just so much pressure.  Decorating.  Baking.  Shopping.  Wrapping.  Standing in line at the post office (ugh that one is overwhelming; thank God for Amazon). On top of the fact that it is one of the busiest times of the year for my work.

Shopping for a turkey or ham that is suitable for one or two people is an exercise in futility.  In my ordinary life, anytime I make food I have to eat it for the next week, but what the heck am I going to do with a 10 pound turkey?  My mom and I still have a bunch of ham in the freezer from Thanksgiving.  Maybe we’ll just pull that out.

Then you see everybody forced into the holiday cheer, and stressed, and cranky and taking it out on you.  I have a couple of exes that did that with a particular gusto.  The days of walking on eggshells.  Dealing with the drunken rants.  Not to mention that having a partner at the holidays shouldn’t mean double the work for me.

Coraline peeks from her favorite spot

One of my previous bosses enjoyed the holidays so much that she forced her management team into a performance of the Twelve Days of Christmas at the annual holiday breakfast.  That was awful.  She probably never had any inkling that some of her staff would have merrily lined up for a root canal to get out of that torture.  Did I mention that there were hats required too?  What makes people so clueless?  Especially at a holiday party that has no booze? 

I should have gotten an Oscar for my acting that morning.

So anyway, if you are like me and the holidays leave you feeling like you want to flee, and lay on a warm beach somewhere away from all the people, please know that I understand.  You are not alone.  Maybe we can share a room; bring lots of books.