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Circus Trip 2018: The Soldier’s Home

Day 62, Saturday, September 15, 2018
President Lincoln and Soldier’s Home National Monument, Washington, D.C.

Visiting the Lincoln Cottage at the Soldier’s Home has been a dream of mine for years.  The cottage first came to my attention when I read Lincoln’s Sanctuary, a book by Matthew Pinsker, in 2012. The book documents Lincoln’s use of the home during the summers and early falls of 1862-1864.

Lincoln was bereft after the death of his beloved son Willie in February 1862, of typhoid fever.  So that summer, he and Mary moved to a cottage on the grounds of the Soldier’s Home, a retirement home for aged and infirm war veterans.  Little did they know, it would be a respite for three summers, and would be where he undertook some of the most important decisions of his Presidency, including firing McClellan and drafting the now famous Emancipation Proclamation in the summer of 1862.

Lincoln’s cottage was only declared a National Monument on July 7, 2000, and opened to the public in 2008.  It is still on an active military installation, known today as the Armed Forces Retirement Home, Washington.  As a result of its fairly recent designation, many people, even Lincoln enthusiasts, have not heard of this important Presidential site.  Interestingly, Presidents Buchanan, Hayes, and Arthur also used the home as a summer retreat during their Presidencies.

The home was built between 1842 and 1843, by George Washington Riggs, who later went on to found the Riggs National Bank.  He sold the home and 251 acre property to the government in 1851, when they were looking to establish a home for veterans.  Lincoln and his family fell in love with the relaxed atmosphere of the home.  It was only three miles from the White House, and afforded the President a relatively easy commute on horseback.  Tad made friends with the soldiers who lived there, and was accepted as their mascot of sorts.

Poet Walt Whitman lived along the route of Lincoln’s daily commute, and the two took to greeting each other with a bow each day as Lincoln rode by.  And in a sad ending to his time at the home, the President and Mary were actually there before they took their last carriage ride to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.

As the cottage is on an active military installation, you have to go through a check point and show ID to get there.  While you are onsite, you can only visit the cottage and its Visitor’s Center.  There you can purchase tickets and view exhibits, mostly related to the drafting of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Outside, there is a statue of Lincoln and his horse.  Perfect for selfies!

But the cottage is the real star.  Cottage is a bit misleading of a term, since it is actually a fairly large home.  It is built in the Gothic Revival style, with ornate gingerbread and gables everywhere.  So pretty!

The tour was fascinating, with the docent sharing stories of Lincoln entertaining people in the sitting room, late at night, in his pajamas and slippers.  Or writing at the desk; the desk here is a replica of the desk that sits in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House.  The cottage is unfurnished, but you can imagine what it would have been like in Lincoln’s day.  I am always in awe when I get to walk in the footsteps of such a great leader.  My visit here was nothing short of incredible, and truly a bucket list item fulfilled.

Book Review: The Templar Legacy

The Templar Legacy, by Steve Berry

I have several of the Steve Berry thrillers among the audiobooks that I’m working my way through, so I pulled another of them off the shelf for some entertainment on my commute.

The Templar Legacy (Cotton Malone #1)

Cotton Malone is a retired government operative, who gets tangled up in the quest his former boss is on; this time it has nothing to do with national security.  His former boss, Stephanie Nelle, is trying to discover what her late husband was looking for, that led to a journal of mysterious clues.

Malone learns that the mystery has to do with the riches that were supposedly stockpiled by The Knights Templar hundreds of years ago, and have now been lost.  Stephanie’s husband has been searching for the treasure, and plenty of people think he was onto something, and they want a piece of it. 

This thriller has the usual intrigue, mystery, and plenty of exploration of the myth of the Knights Templar and their continued existence following their arrest and destruction in 1307 AD.  Berry paces his novels well, and keeps his reader interested from beginning to end.

3 stars.

COVID Diaries: Day 617, Thanksgiving

It’s hard to believe that we are doing another edition of COVID Thanksgiving.  But still, I’m trying to remain thankful.

Mass this morning was about choosing gratitude, peace and joy, even when it is difficult to do.  I do try, but sometimes it sure is hard!

One of my employees did a gratitude moment each day with her toddler daughter, and the kiddo is very thankful for many of the best things in life, including cheese, outside, animals and pasta.  So I’m sure we can all take a page from her book.  I’m thankful for my employees too, as they make the crazy work life more enjoyable.

Yellow has discovered the joys of sleeping on the bed.  It only took him six months!  He has jumped up two nights now, and learned that Cora doesn’t chase him away.  He gets purring up a storm, he’s so happy.  And then he conks out and sleeps for hours.

Mom and I have been watching a Gilmore Girls marathon on television.  I loved that show back in college, and I still enjoy the witty banter and intelligent writing.  It’s such a great show!

I’ve gotten a lot of reading time in, including my current read about the Pilgrims.  Seems relevant for Thanksgiving.

The weather this year doesn’t give much to be thankful for.  After last week’s flooding, we got a few days of sun, but now we are back to a weekend of rain and wind.  Meh…  So I will focus on the fact that “the darkening” will only last for 26 more days, and then the days will begin to get longer.

I’m able to work from home two days a week, which is awesome!  I have every other Friday off anyway, so this works out to five commutes in two weeks.  It’s a nice balance of in-office and work from home time.  Next week at work, they will be considering approving that for another year, so fingers crossed!

Since travel still hasn’t returned, I have been saving my vacation time, and boosting my savings.  It’s bringing me closer to my early retirement goals.  I keep reminding myself that this is only temporary, and soon enough, I’ll be back on the road sightseeing, and the stress of the workdays will melt away.  And gas prices are hopefully going to be lower by then too!

I hope you are all enjoying a peaceful, grateful day of Thanksgiving with family and friends.  Cheers!

 

COVID Diaries: Day 613

I have to go to work tomorrow, but it’s a short work week!

Last week the flooding we expected was worse than anybody imagined.  One man died after he was last seen clinging to a tree, but no one could get to him quickly enough and he was swept away.  Thousands of homes were flooded.  Businesses were ruined.  But amidst all that, there is hope.  The communities affected have pulled together in a way that is heartening.

My mom’s and my homes were fine, with no flooding (I live on a hill).  Getting home from work was a bit challenging one day when the freeway was closed due to repeated landslides, but since that’s the worst that I faced, I really have nothing to complain about.

Here are a few videos, if you would like to see just how bad it was.  Sumas is a community about 40 minutes NE of me, at the border with Canada.

 

This video is much closer to home.

Thankfully, the weather was pretty nice this week and weekend, and the floodwaters have mostly receded.  A lot of community members will have weeks or months ahead before their lives will be back to what they were before. 

Friday night was book club, which is always a nice time with friends.  Over the weekend, I went to a holiday fair with some friends, with lots of rocks and crystals.  Then we went out to lunch and it was so delicious!  We went to the Greek place for a gyro!  The rest of my weekend was spent doing some yard work and chores. 

Back to work tomorrow!

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: More of DC

Day 61, Friday, September 14, 2018
The White House and The Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Wow, I was just seeing how long it has been since I posted a travel post.  Time to try to break through this writer’s block!

On one of my days of sightseeing in Washington, D.C., I wandered over to check out both the US Capitol and the White House.  They are such impressive symbols of our nation and democracy! 

The city also has some amazing architecuture, and you can see I clearly like horse statues.  I mean Ulysses S. Grant did win the Civil War, and General Pulaski represents my Polish heritage as one of the most important figures of the Revolutionary War!

Enjoy the photos and I’ll try to get back on track with my trip posts!

COVID Diaries: Day 606

I am currently living through an “atmospheric river.”  I swear the weather people are just making it up as they go along, but my mother assures me that this has been a thing before.  So if mom is correct, then clearly I’ve just blocked out my previous traumatic experiences. 

For those of you not living through an atmospheric river, it basically just means that the hard rain continues on and on until you feel that you will surely die of rain.  Inches and inches of rain…  It’s endless.  As in never ending.  UGH…  Some towns in my county are flooding now and the rivers aren’t expected to crest until tomorrow.  I live on a large hill and have no risk of flooding, but it isn’t looking good in some parts of my community.   

I finished my latest puzzle on Friday night. That makes nine this year so far.  And yesterday I booked a weekend getaway to the coast for December. Some sightseeing and agate hunting will be just what the doctor ordered, even though it is possible that we will still be experiencing the “atmospheric river.”  Let’s hope the river is gone by then.

In less rainy news, last weekend I went out for dinner with some girlfriends and had a wonderful time, laughing and catching up.  It was a much needed night out.  I’m constantly remembering that I need to make time for social events and time with friends, even when I might otherwise be tempted to not leave the house.  Girlfriends are good for the soul.  My burger was pretty darned good too.

Thursday I had the day off and my mom and I went out to lunch and checked out an antique shop and a thrift shop.  I picked up a large, awesome glass jar, that I will one day fill with large agates (I dream big)!  I also got a couple of hiking books, including one of local winter hikes.  For when the pouring rain stops, of course. 

And I caught this photo of Yellow and Cora teaming up to check out something outside.  They are getting along!  Yes, Yellow does look a bit skeptical, but he didn’t run away.  They aren’t cuddling up together or anything, but they also aren’t hissing or growling at each other, except on the rare occasions when Cora wants to chase Yellow.

I hope you all are having better weather than we are here in the Northwest!  I leave you with some wisdom – this very thing has been on my mind a lot lately.

Book Review: The Wednesday Sisters

The Wednesday Sisters, by Meg Waite Clayton

What a heartfelt novel about friendship.  The Wednesday Sisters is the story of five women who meet on a Wednesday morning with their children.  They meet by chance, and forge a friendship that lasts through the years.

The Wednesday Sisters

The beginning of the book is set in the late 1960s, when women’s identities were still largely defined by their husbands.  Throughout the novel, they grow by supporting each other’s interests, goals and life plans.  But their approach is unconventional.  They support each other through writing.  Each of the Wednesday sisters commits to writing each week, and offering up their writing for critique.  And in doing so, they reveal their inner secrets, their wildest dreams and their darkest fears. 

They sometimes bumble through, especially when they deal with the thornier issues of life, including education, interracial marriage, infidelity, and infertility.  But in the end, they still have each other.

This was a book club pick, and I loved it.  I stayed up late multiple nights when I had to work the next morning, not wanting to put it down.

5 stars.   

Book Review: The 9th Judgment

The 9th Judgment, by James Patterson

This was another of the CD audiobooks I’m working my way through.  James Patterson is a prolific series writer, but this is the first book I’ve read by him.

The 9th Judgment (Women's Murder Club, #9)

In one night, detective Lindsay Boxer gets two major cases thrown her way, a jewel theft turned murder of a high-profile celebrity wife, and the execution style killing of a woman and her infant child.  As heinous as the murder of a baby is, the celebrity killing becomes the priority, until they realize they have a serial killer on the loose. 

Boxer is trying her best to investigate and find the killers, in a race against time before more murders occur.  The book is fast paced with lots of twists and turns, but it is a novel of cliches.  Boxer is blonde and gorgeous, and at times not all that intelligent.  She is repeatedly outsmarted by the killers, but I guess you can’t have a case that gets solved in the first 24 hours! 

2 stars.

COVID Diaries: Day 598

Perhaps the only constant is time.  Regardless of what’s happening in the world, and in your life, whether good or bad, time continues to pass. 

As an adult, you are the only one responsible for how your life turns out.  The only one responsible for whether you are happy, or satisfied, or doing what brings you joy.  Yes, external forces often bring shit into our lives, and we can’t necessarily change that, although I would argue that a fair amount of it can be controlled by the decisions each of us make.  Surround yourself with jerks?  You can reasonably assume they will treat you like a jerk too.  Stay in a job that doesn’t inspire you?  I’m going to guess that you aren’t going to feel very satisfied when you go to work everyday.

But back to the time thing.  It’s been 46 years and change that I’ve been puttering around on this Earth.  There have been joys and trials in that time. 

It has been 28 years since I graduated high school.  So 28 years since I’ve been an adult and responsible for my own decisions and my own life.

It has been 20 years since I got my Master’s degree in business.  20 years since I launched a successful HR career.  10 years since I was first promoted to management.  2.5 years in my current position. 

It has been 3 years since I went on my road trip.  Yes, I’m still not done blogging about it – it’s been a busy 3 years!  I think regularly about how I’m going to make that sort of travel a reality again. 

It has been a little more than 2.5 years since my Dad passed away.  The man I credit with teaching me responsible finances and how to kick ass at making my money work for me.

It has been over 31 years since I got my horse.  I had him for over 30 years, and it has been a little over 1.5 years since he died at the age of 32.

Biz, looking regal before the sedative…

I have lived a blessed life.  I have worked hard for what I have in life.  I have enjoyed many joys.  I’ve had the luxury to travel and have had some incredible experiences.  

But unfortunately, I’m tired of the work I do.  I’m saddened by what I see coming.  I’m burned out.  I entered my career and public service to make a difference, and I am having a hard time feeling like I’m able to do that lately.  I see my friends and colleagues fleeing the state for the first time in my career.  I’ve seen friends and colleagues who are being ruined by the policies that are being enacted in my state.  I’m ready for a change.

I’m a Virgo.  A planner.  A strategist.  Making spontaneous decisions is massively difficult for me.  I think and ruminate and ponder and evaluate for a long time before I’m ready to act.  But I like to think that gives me a good result.  Believe me I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and evaluating about my next chapter and getting ready for what that will bring.  That is giving me hope. 

We all get a finite amount of time on this Earth and we all get to decide how to spend that time.  I’m getting prepared for the next chapter and there are great things coming!  I’m ready to get on with new adventures!

 

COVID Diaries: Day 592

It was a beautiful, sunny weekend, but boy was it cold!

Cora and I snuggled in for some TV watching on Friday night – we watched the 20/20 show on Gabby Petito’s disappearance and murder.  Such a sad story. 

I finished my book for my book club meeting that’s in a couple of weeks, and started the book for next time! 

I went for a couple of hikes in the mornings, just at a local park in town that has a few miles of hiking trails.  It was a good workout, and a nice relaxing time.  I also took a walk down at the waterfront and met some friends for a late lunch.  We even saw a Great Blue Heron relaxing in the sunshine!  Don’t worry, his wing was fine.

I swept all the currently accumulated leaves off my deck, and filled up most of my yard waste toter.  And I did a bit of purging in the closet and drawers, collecting a large shopping bag of shorts and pants to go to Goodwill.  I’ve been having trouble getting motivated to purge stuff, but I was happy that I managed to get some done.  So I feel decently productive.

Time to gear up for the work week, and the arrival of November!  I’m definitely not ready for winter.