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Circus Trip 2018: Smithsonian Museum of US History

Day 60, Thursday, September 13, 2018
National Mall, Washington, D.C.

While I was in Washington, D.C., I was able to check out some more of the Smithsonian museums.  I took some time to check out the Museum of US History.  It was so cool! 

I really enjoyed the exhibits there.  I got to see the First Ladies’ gowns, along with Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat.  The museum also includes the U.S. flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  It was the flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner! 

I also got to visit Winchester; Philip Sheridan’s horse during the Civil War.  It isn’t every day that you see a taxidermied horse!

The furniture that Generals Grant and Lee used to sign the surrender at Appomattox is also included in the collections of the museum.  These unassuming chairs and table played a role in the cessation of hostilities after four years of bloody fighting at the end of the Civil War.  If they could only talk!

I also saw the gunboat Philadelphia, which was used during a battle against the British on Lake Champlain, during the Revolutionary War.  Under the leadership of Benedict Arnold, the Americans fought the British to a standstill in October 1776, but the Philadelphia was sunk.  She was recovered from the bottom of Lake Champlain in 1935, along with the 24 pound ball that sunk her.  It is really neat to see how well preserved she is!  Of course Benedict Arnold later went on to become the country’s most famous traitor, but at the time, he was still well thought of by General Washington and many others in the American command. 

There were a lot of other exhibits, and I spent quite a bit of time checking everything out!  This is a must-see museum!

Book Review: The Greatest Battle

The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II, by Andrew Nagorski

I listened to this on audio CD; it was one that I had picked up from a used bookstore several years ago, but hadn’t listened to.  Sadly, when I was about 2/3rds of the way through the book, I realized that the audio book that I had was missing CDs 8 and 9 out of 11.  Unfortunately, I feel like this might have been the best part of the book! 

The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II

The Greatest Battle tells the story of Hitler’s assault toward Moscow in the fall of 1941, as well as the Red Army’s attempt to protect the city.  The author began by comparing and contrasting the backgrounds and styles of Hitler and Stalin.  They were obviously both larger than life figures, but they were also men who had significant similarities in their upbringing.  It was interesting to hear the similarities and ponder whether there was something that could be pinpointed to explain why both men came to power and why they were so willing to resort to such incredible cruelty, even towards their own people. 

The author then explains Hitler’s push towards Moscow; he details the circumstances that gave Hitler an advantage, but also the mistakes that were made that ultimately made the campaign unsuccessful.  The Germans got a late start on their assault, and terribly misjudged the effect of the weather on the roads, and the needs of the troops for warm clothes and supplies.  The mud in the fall, and the freezing temperature and snow in winter severely hindered the army’s ability to complete their mission.

Of course, the Red Army has some major issues as well.  The Russian troops were not well equipped, often sharing a rifle among an entire platoon.  Many of their weapons were outdated or lacked ammunition.  And of course, no story about Stalin’s Russia is complete without speaking of the reign of terror that Stalin inflicted on his own people.  Stalin and the NKVD (the precursor to the KGB) often spied on their own people and troops, and severely punished their own people for perceived transgressions.  Stalin literally murdered millions of his own people leading up to and during World War II.  It’s hard to stand up a successful Army when you are assassinating and imprisoning many of your own officers and troops. 

All in all, it was an interesting look into a portion of World War II history that I hadn’t explored much.  I do want to see if I can find a download of the complete book, so I can catch the missing chapters! 

4 stars.  

Book Review: The Paris Vendetta

The Paris Vendetta, by Steve Berry

This was my first book by Steve Berry, who writes secret agent adventure novels. It came from the collection of CD audio books that my mom sent home with me.  And boy was this one ever fast paced!

The Paris Vendetta (Cotton Malone, #5)

Cotton Malone is a retired secret agent for the US Government, who runs a bookshop in Denmark. He is interrupted at home one evening by a young man creeping around his apartment, and when confronted he spins a tale of being followed and being sent by one of Malone’s old friends.  When two men follow and try to kill them, Malone gets tangled up in a new case.  It involves the mysterious Paris Club, a group that is thought to be working to overthrow the world by creating chaos in the world’s financial markets.  Can Malone get to the bottom of this?

The book interestingly touches on the legend of the lost treasure of Napoleon Bonaparte as a side plot.  After Napoleon invaded Russia, he is said to have carted away hundreds of wagon loads of gold, which disappeared.  It has been searched for over the last 200 years, but never found.  Some of the members of the Paris Club have a side deal to find the treasure, which further complicates Malone’s mission. 

The plot of this novel takes the reader all over Europe, to many of the most famous historical sites, including Westminster Abbey, the killing sites of Jack the Ripper, the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides, where Napoleon is now buried.

I don’t normally read action/adventure books, but this one kept my interest with its fast pace and historical intrigue.  Which is a good thing, since my Dad had several more books by Steve Berry that I’ll be reading in the future.  And a final note; it was narrated by Scott Brick, one of my favorite audio book readers!

3 stars.

Book Review: Martha Washington

Martha Washington: An American Life by Patricia Brady

Think for a moment about how much you know about America’s first President, George Washington.  Now think for a moment about how much you know about his wife.

Martha Washington: An American Life

Martha Washington was born in 1731, and was quite successful in her own right, even before she met and married George Washington.  But how much do you really know about her?  Patricia Brady’s biography goes into detail on the inaugural first lady’s life, from her childhood to her death in 1797.  She explains what is known about Martha and what has been lost to history, and the fact that women’s stories of the time were rarely told. 

Much of George’s wealth came from his wife, as she was indeed a wealthy woman by the time she married him at age 27.  They had a marriage of love, respect and partnership, and by all accounts George genuinely appreciated his wife’s presence, even sending for her to come to winter camp each year during the Revolutionary War.

It was interesting to learn more about this woman, her strengths and failures, and her life within a period when women typically did not run businesses or manage their own affairs like she did.  It was a worthwhile read!

4 stars.

 

COVID Diaries: Day 535…

It’s been a looonnnnggg couple of weeks.  I’m still working everyday in the office, so that’s adding a lot of commute time into the daily schedule.  But what else?

I’m taking this opportunity during my commute to work through some audiobooks on CD.  I’ve finished three so far, after getting a bit of a slow start.  I count this as purging – because after I finish them they can move on to new, bookish homes!  Sadly my most recent book had a recording error and disc 6 had the same tracks as disc 5!  I wasn’t able to hear the end of the book! Thankfully the library has the audiobook version, so all is not lost.

Yellow had to go back to the vet yet again today.  This time to have his wound staples redone.  About a third of his armpit wound has closed, but the rest of that sucker is stubbornly holding on.  He was not pleased when I picked him up to once again rudely shove him into the carrier, so he expressed his strong dissatisfaction by peeing on me.  I mean, some might say he was just scared, but let’s be real, I’m pretty sure he was just pissed off.  I can’t blame him.  Once again though, within a few minutes of our arrival at home, he was willing to forgive me.  He has been enjoyed some loves, and some lap time and and extra lunch meal as I suck up to him.  Of course, I did get smart this time and trimmed his claws last night before this morning’s caging attempt.  I do, at least sometimes, learn things.

I continue to be disappointed at the divisiveness and meanness that is exhibited by so many.  I wonder if when we all look back on these days in a few years, if some people will reflect and feel the slightest bit of shame about how they treated other people.  I guess we will have to see.

My dad’s birthday was last week.  I miss the conversations about world events and his guidance on things.  I miss sitting with him watching the evening news.  Each year is another year where I have new experiences that I don’t get to share with him, and that is hard.

Last night I had book club – a chance to talk about interesting reads with a wonderful group of kind supportive women.  It is still summer, but the evenings have cooled off, so we spent the evening in my friend’s conference room, which has a nice view of the city and the bay.  Sunset photos anyone?

I’ve been on some nice walks around town and the beach, and that always helps me find my happy place.

I hope you are all enjoying the Labor Day weekend with friends, family and loved ones.  Cheers to the last days of summer!

 

 

Book Review: Unsheltered

Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver

In poking around on the library’s website, I found a novel by Barbara Kingsolver that looked intriguing. It had been a while since I had read her work, but I had enjoyed the Poisonwood Bible several years ago.

Unsheltered

Unsheltered is the story of two families who live on the same block of Vineland, New Jersey 140 years apart.  It is a planned, utopian city, founded by Charles Landis, a notable eccentric who wanted the community to abide by his rules.

In the present day, Willa Knox and her multi-generational family move into a large, run down home that was willed to them when an aunt passed away. She goes looking for ways to help fund a renovation of the home, including seeking out grants based on the preservation of a historically significant home.

Back in the 1870s, Thatcher Greenwood lived in Vineland, a high school science teacher who is at odds with his principal for teaching evolution based science. Thatcher meets an unexpected ally and friend in his next door neighbor, Mary Treat, a middle aged woman with an interest in botany and small animals and insects.

Kingsolver weaves the two stories together, in her characteristic style of switching back and forth between the families and time periods.  It is effortless and interesting, with her complex character development.  You find yourself invested in their lives, cheering and cursing their decisions, and feeling their pain. 

The historic context of this novel was the real win.  Because Mary Treat is real, and the town of Vineland, New Jersey and its founder, Charles Landis, are real.  Kingsolver makes these real life characters come to life on the page, and tells a part their stories for a new generation of readers. 

5 stars.

COVID Diaries: Day 517

A few months ago it seemed that things were looking brighter.  The economy was opening up.  The lock downs were over.  Summer was starting.  I ended the COVID Diaries because it seemed that we could finally move on.  Tonight I am revisiting. 

I’ve been staring at a blank page for a few days, trying to find the words.  And not finding them.  Not finding the means to express the utter disappointment and anxiety I feel about the state of the country. 

I feel like I have never before seen people so pitted against each other on social media.  Maybe it’s true that people say things there that they wouldn’t say in real life.  But it is sad.  It is heartbreaking.  To see people calling others names for having an opinion that differs from your own.  To be attacking someone for their belief system or their choices because you would not have made the same choice.  To assume ill intent when all I have seen is sincere, educated people trying to make the best choices for themselves with the information that is available. 

And then you add in the world crises.  People dying around the world from the decisions and policies of governments over a good portion of my lifetime.  I have limited information, and my opinion is simply that – my opinion.  I try not to judge.  I tried to not cry as I drove to work this morning.  Exhausted. 

My therapist and I talked about the worry box this week.  A place to store those things which you cannot change.  To pack them away until such time that you give them attention, but only for a little while.  And then pack them away again to worry about only those things that you can control.  Tomorrow I will drive to work, write emails and plan for recruitments and counsel managers.  I will revise employment policies and implement insurance policies and get ready for our fall medical renewal.  I will look at old contracts and determine which ones can be destroyed because they are outdated.  I will talk to employees who have the same worries as I do, and keep mine hidden.  I will do those things which I can control. 

Help me to believe that people are inherently kind and good, as my faith is faltering. 

 

Weekend Musings: August 13, 2021

Today I had the day off, and I spent it running errands.  I picked up my new glasses!  Got paint for a deck repair project.  Took Yellow to the vet again.

Yeah.  Poor Yellow.  He has decided he really doesn’t like going in the carrier.  He peed on me as I was manhandling him in…  I can’t blame him.  When I first brought him inside back in May, he had an abscess in his armpit.  A surface wound, that was raw and oozy.  Off to the vet we go for an antibiotic shot.  It didn’t help.  So a stronger antibiotic – pills.  I mean who doesn’t love pilling a cat!?!  No effect.  The abscess was still there.  So then he had a procedure, under anesthesia, to debride the wound and suture it up.  Well guess what?  The sutures didn’t hold.  My poor guy!  So that brings us to today and the peeing incident.  We got to the vet, he cleaned it up again and Yellow is now sporting about 10 staples in his armpit.

He is now lying beside me and seems to have forgiven me.  Let’s hope that the staples hold.  He doesn’t seem to be bothered by them and is resting comfortably.

It is hot here again and smoky, but hopefully the heat and smoke are going to dissipate tomorrow.

On with the weekend!

Circus Trip 2018: D.C. Monuments

Day 60, Thursday, September 13, 2018
National Mall, Washington, D.C.

One of the things I really wanted to do the second time I was in Washington, D.C. was to visit the National Mall again and see the monuments that I missed the first time.  I always say that there is never enough time to do everything, and I was excited to see more! 

The Washington Monument, of course, is iconic, and featured in so many photographs!  I was completed in 1885, and stands 555 feet tall.  It is always a favorite!  One day I want to go to the top…

This Doric temple style memorial is the District of Columbia War Memorial, that honors the residents of Washington, D.C. who died in World War I.  It was erected in 1931.  The day that I was there, a couple was getting married! 

The Korean War Memorial was placed in 1995, which several soldiers walking through junipers, meant to represent the terrain they walked through during the war. 

 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is a relatively new addition, added in 2011.  There are a number of King quotes places on the walls of the monument, and the impressive likeness of Dr. King stands in the center. 

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial honors the President who guided the country through the Great Depression and most of World War II.  A polio survivor who was often confined to a wheelchair, I was glad to see that the memorial represented him as he was in real life.  There are several statues making up this memorial, including men standing in a breadline, and a man listening to one of FDR’s fireside chats over the radio.  I was also happy to see that Eleanor Roosevelt has her own statue here, as she did much to benefit the country separate from FDR.  This memorial was placed in 1997. 

Finally, I visited the Jefferson Memorial, which was completed in 1943.  It has a huge statue of Jefferson, contained within a Neoclassical style building.  It is so beautiful and has a prominent location looking out over the tidal basin. 

I wasn’t the only one enjoying the monuments, of course.  I saw lots of birds there too!  Dozens of ducks, a couple of Great Blue Herons and a Great Egret! 

I enjoyed wandering and seeing all these tributes to strong, influential Americans!

 

 

 

Weekend Musings: August 7, 2021

I know, I know, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve been around!  But guys!  I got to go on vacation!  I got home Thursday night from a week at the Oregon Coast with my friend Jena, and it was amazing.

We did a ton of beachcombing, looking for agates, beach glass, seashells and fossils.  We visited multiple beaches, checking out what was at each one.  The weather was pretty cold and windy the whole week, so we got sandblasted each day and ended up washing sand out of our hair with every shower, but we were happy!  We dug in the gravel beds until our nails had dirt and sand embedded underneath.  We poked around in tide pools and flipped over rocks to see what was underneath.

We tried out a number of different breweries and one cidery, and sampled all the delicious food. Seafood, burgers, fish and carne asada tacos, nachos, totchos; we had so much good grub!

We watched the sea lions on the docks, saw a seal bobbing in the surf, and found pelicans on the sandbars.

We visited a couple of the historic coastal lighthouses.  The Yaquina Bay and Yaquina Head lighthouses were both built in the 1870s, and although they are in Newport, Oregon, now, back then they were very remote!

 

We shopped in the local shops and got started on our Christmas shopping…  And of course I got gifts for myself too!

I practiced my photography and played around with the photoball that my dad got me the Christmas before he died.

It was sooooo much fun!

Of course, Cora and Yellow are happy that I’m home, and enjoying lap time and pets.  And I’ve been enjoying a lazy day at home after 8 straight days of constantly being on the go.  I mean, how can you relax when there are more agates to be found?