Sunday, August 26, 2018

Late August and the Civil War Defenses of DC

It is a Sunday morning, and I have to say that it has been 11 months since we've been to church. Doug was itching to pick a church for us, but then dropped it. Everything was too conservative or way too liberal. There was nothing that spoke to us and made us feel like it was home. I miss the congregation of the church back home. Ha. Look I still call it home.

Sunday mornings we fellowship together. After all, I have said it before, if you can't find God in the sacred space of your backyard or your front porch, you sure won't find God in a building that people claim is sacred. Coffee, news reading, game playing on the phones, dog watching the other dogs going down the street, and the ever adorable watching of people running the stop sign on our corner keep us entertained.

When coffee time fellowship is over, usually right around now, we get ready to do errands and go places and look at things. About a month ago, Doug suggested that he wanted to start visiting the Civil War forts and defensives all through the DC. Sounds cool and historic. Let's go!

We started just across the border from Silver Spring in DC at Fort Stevens which was restored but sits in the middle of a neighborhood in the beating hot open sun.

Walking around the earthworks and modern materials walls of concrete imitating wood, we recounted the story told of Lincoln being there during the Battle of Fort Stevens in July 1864 when he was nearly shot in the head.

I guess if you're supposed to die by being shot in the head, eventually it gets you. Hmm.

Next, he wanted to walk to the small national cemetery  where the dead from this battle were buried. It was brutally hot, so we got halfway up there (it is probably a half mile north) and we weren't seeing any signs or sights of it so we turned around and went back to the car, and drove.

Again. I cannot stress how much I hate how hot it is here.

The cemetery was small, well documented. The visitor's center was closed, which if you ask me is a crime on a Saturday when tourists might want to visit? Not sure if that's just part and parcel of budget cuts but I'd close on Monday and be open Saturday. We weren't the only people there to see the place.

It is a very small cemetery but a very important piece of the history of the District and the Civil War.

We drove over to Fort Slocum, which is now a large open field with a small pavilion. A family was there setting up folding chairs, the grill was starting up, and music was playing. It looked to be a nice afternoon where you could get shade, and I was happy to see the spot being used for life affirming activities.

Next we tried to go to Mr. Lincoln's Cottage. After driving around and getting totally lost in the North Capitol Street area, we knew we were close but we were not sure we were in the right place. Upon reading articles like this delightful one in the Washington Post, I think we were spot on and this was just part of the deal. A guarded gate, a military feel, and the cottage was probably just beyond our reach. We bailed and drove around another section of the cemetery that was not so closely guarded, and it was a mini-Arlington National Cemetery with perfectly measured white tombstones filling every corner of the grounds.

We opted to go home at that point. It was just too bloody hot to make any more effort to try and see something else. We were close to Fort Totten but want to save that for a day when I can walk without dying. Again. So hot. So very hot.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day. Humidity was gone, it was in the mid 80s which felt like winter compared to the weeks prior. We were up for another attempt at Civil War defenses touring!

First stop was in  Rock Creek Park, which a US National Parks Service property running through the center of DC. It hosts miles of trails, an equestrian center, planetarium, public golf course. There is a lot to explore there.

We parked at the planetarium and visitors center and walked north past St. John High School to go up to Fort DeRussy, (see map) which has not been restored to its original or close to its original condition. It is overgrown and wild. It made me think of the Talking Heads' song "(Nothing but) Flowers" as trees and brush and plants all grew up over what used to be the walls and parapets and  defenses.

After DeRussy, we headed west to Fort Reno. It is the highest point in Washington DC, 409 feet above sea level, and Doug read that the views were great.

Unfortunately, it seems the property belongs to the DC water authority and there is a reservoir there, and the entire area is fenced off with chain link and barbed wire.

One cool fact is there have been many concerts in this park, and there is an information sign about Fugazi playing there in 2002. That's badass.

It struck me as the kind of park I might have picked for a Rebel Shakespeare show back in the day when I was booking tours for the teen program. There is a high school across the street, the field is wide open and beautiful, there is a stage there, and the backdrop of the tower would make an impressive sight. It made me sense possibility instead of feel like we were ripped off by not being able to get to the tower after all.

We drove home through Tenlytown, which looks like a lot of fun, and a lot more affordable for food and shopping than its neighbor to the north of Chevy Chase.

Saturday, July 21, 2018


I have a friend who set out to hike the Appalachian Trail by herself. She trained through the winter, prepared by hiking around her home in Tennessee and working with experienced veterans of the AT to get ready. I feel that's pretty badass, and a younger me once wanted to do this, when we were campers and hikers and I was in a shape other than round.

She set out in March, and has a Facebook page and Youtube page where she posts videos that she has been making as she goes.  I've been following her steps from afar.

Early in the journey, she injured her foot and has a hairline fracture which is making hiking exceptionally painful, as you may reckon. She saw a couple of specialists, had her shoes checked out for anything that could be done footwear-wise to make this less difficult. She took a couple weeks off the trail in very southern VA about 3 hours from me and rested up, doctor's orders.

Last week she got back on the trail with high hopes. Knowing she is so close, relatively, and wanting nothing more than to go hug her and buy her a great dinner, this has been exciting for me. I've been eyeballing Harper's Ferry, WV, as a destination where we can connect. I know I'll cry when I see her.

Because she lost a good chunk of time, she revised her north-south plans a little, and was hoping to get a ride up to Western Massachusetts to hike up to Maine from there, instead of trying to do it all straight up to Maine. In September and October, conditions change up through that end of the journey and it can be unpleasant and they eventually close the trail to hiking up that way.

I was encouraging her to make it to the halfway point to Carlisle PA, because there's nothing better than yelling "We're Halfway There!" when you're on a journey. My kids still do it, and funnily enough, even when we are less than halfway or more than halfway. It's a thing with us.

Hikers call this "flipping" on the trail, and there's no harm, no foul. doing things where you get a ride north to hike back south to where you left off, whether in short spurts of several states at a time, it doesn't matter. You are stepping every mile of the trail, so who cares if it is not in order. I thought it was a good plan, especially if worried about the weather. Heck, in my brain starting the trail in the North in May and hiking south all the way until you get there, you still have to struggle through the heat of July and August but at least you may not have to worry too much about snow maybe when you make it to Tennessee and North Carolina. You may get a little extra time before the Smokey Mountains are blessed with winter.

I'd been trying to figure out a way to assist her in getting to Massachusetts. I can't take her - we have no plans to head up that way now, but maybe in a couple months. I asked a few friends who live down this way who drive up that way and they were in similar positions. Not traveling until late August. Waiting until Columbus Day.

She has told me that "The Trail Provides" is a philosophy that everyone has while doing this. People are willing to drive hikers north and south, into town. Entire towns have festivals for the hikers, called Trail Days. So she is looking to connect with someone possibly who can help get her north that way.

She messaged me today saying that she may not be able to do this at all any more. She wants to stop. She is about an hour and a half from me and I think I may go rescue her. She wants to go home to Nashville, and stop.

I'm torn about what to say to her. Encourage her to continue, believe in her ability to do this. Or congratulate her on this and get her and a bottle of wine and help her figure out a way home knowing she has accomplished so very much.

It's not my journey but she is my friend. I know what she wants, and she wants to complete the journey and not fail at it, but also she wants to heal her foot and go home. How do you help someone decide what to do?

We'll see what happens, but if nothing else, if she stops here I'm more than willing next year to help her pick up and start from the very same spot and go on with a healed foot.

I've enjoyed following her steps, her tears, her laughter, and each of the white trail blazes she has shared.

If you want to follow the journey so far, visit her videos at Act Old Later on youtube. She'll take you along for a walk. Several times her little screen captions have been just perfect for me. Watching at the office with a message that says to just stop what you're doing and listen, or look at these little purple flowers, or see how the clouds walk across the mountains from here... these videos have been a kind gift from her. Whether they continue after this weekend or not, so far the journey has been interesting.

One of the things I've been pondering on this experience is how alone she is. That may be what is breaking her heart and making her want to quit more than the foot issues. Once in a while she gets to overlap with other hikers, but for those who hike as a team or as couples, they get that moral support and that encouragement that you sometimes need to push through. And here she is alone as alone can be.

I'm sure I would enjoy the solitude at first in hiking alone but after a while, no.

Send her good thoughts to make the right decision for her.

Friday, July 13, 2018

New Guy

Since our move here to DC, our department, which was already understaffed, has become even more understaffed. We lost one colleague to another department, we lost one person to unforeseen circumstances (and God, I miss her so). Another person agreed to stay on and work remotely from Boston, but she found another opportunity and a step up the ladder so she opted to take that on.

I kind of feel like it's been me, JW, and my work wife R against the world. The three of us have grown closer. We've fought some battles, won some, lost some.

We just hired a new guy. New Guy started on Monday and it's been a whirlwind of orientation meetings, trainings, and time with us learning our trade.

He asks a lot of good questions, sometimes I have to tell him to slow down, I'm getting there! He's eager. And I like that.

But I'm also exhausted. I kind of like going through my job, my cases, my everything at my pace. And finding things to show him and teach him as we go is sometimes a challenge. Luckily for me there was a tech support emergency yesterday with JW traveling to a conference and R working at home. So he got to see how we support each other and take tasks and duties.

"I'll send out the email."
"Do you want me to update Slack and Facebook?"
"I will call the station back and check in with sys/ops."

We've got it down. We've had it down, as it were, for a long time. I'm sure we will find plenty of ways to fit the New Guy in.

He told me he took a ginormous pay cut to come here. I hope it is worth it for him. I hope he stays happy and enjoys it incredibly. I'll do my best to play the part to keep it that way.

When I told him that JW and I went to R's baby's first birthday party, I said "we're kinda close like that," he said "Yeah, I picked up on that. It was a little intimidating to realize that I was walking into such a strong fellowship." He said that it initially made him nervous, but we've made him feel a part this week - and not like an invader or interloper. He was relieved.

I took him out for a beer at the end of day one because I could tell he was just over all the work stuff. We had an excellent conversation about music and dogs and the DC metal scene.

We have another position to fill, and that is taking place now. Interviews are flowing in. We'll see how that goes. But for now, I'm happy to have someone to train and am hoping he can become as adept as possible on the products that neither R nor I know much about that we've been trying desperately to learn but don't have the time.

We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

First Birthday

My "work wife" as the term goes has a little boy. He just turned 1. I'd share the pictures I took of him, but she's not wanting him to be on the internet, and I honor that.

But hell he is so stinking cute I can't even get over it. I mean ... holy cow he's a beautiful little man.

I drove up with our boss and her two boys. The younger one, Isaiah, is four going on old man. When I picked them up, he bemoaned going. Then, he bemoaned our leaving. We got in the car and he said something along the lines of "I just don't want to go home yet. I want to go somewhere else."

Where is that you want to go?

"Somewhere that has a dog."

Meaning my house. They only live about a mile and a half away, and they lovingly took old Brodie in while we had our going to Pennsylvania for Gary emergencies in February. Isaiah has a love/hate relationship with her. She is always begging for his food, and it makes him uncomfortable. So there is sometimes whining and complaining. And then she won't come to him when he wants to pat her. She will go to his big brother for pats and loves.

I told him he was very welcome to come over and see the dog. I texted Doug to give him a heads-up so he wouldn't be napping when we arrived.

There was tail wagging, and sock carrying (Brodie will find a sock and bring it to guests, or bring it to us when we come home from work). "Her tail! It's touching me when it goes back and forth!" he hollered, horrified.

Lots of petting happened. And then when it was time for them to go home he was very sad. He didn't want to leave. I guess we are so amazing.

I gave him hugs and told him I couldn't wait to see him again and we'd have more fun but he needed to go to his house. Eat dinner. Get ready for the week ahead.

He cried in the car, and when we got to their house he said "I just don't want it to end! I have had so much fun, and I don't want it to be over yet!"

I wish everyone I knew felt that way about spending time with me, that they'd cry because it was time to go home.

All told, it was a great day. And now it is Sunday, and I feel like Isaiah, and I don't want it to end either. So I'm feeling you today, little man. I may cry.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Crabs and Colleagues

I kind of let the time get away, didn't I. Lots to cover in updatesville. I did get a visit from Carrie, and we had a wonderful time of food and toenails. I miss her the most.

Most of May went very quickly, without much note. Except that Jess and her friend Molly came to visit. They drove down on a Thursday night late and got to us at about 2:30am. Friday they came to visit my office, and we had a lovely time. We took them to the zoo and it was so hot. A taste of things to come there for Early May!

Molly likes Elephants a lot.

I was sad for them to go. I miss my kid, and I miss the drop-by visits from them in their grown up lives. No more "Can Molly and I swing by?" texts in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, this makes me sad.

 My uncle Ken passed away right around Memorial Day and his funeral was the beginning of June.

Doug and I had planned a weekend trip to Atlantic City for our wedding anniversary, which then turned into a trip up to Cape Cod for the funeral.

It was lovely to see my sister and parents, and my cousins. Jess couldn't come down because it was a work day. We were so close, yet so far.

My aunt seemed very tired, the past year has been a toll on her. I feel very sad for my cousin's kids who spent a great deal of time with their grandfather. I remember talking to him once about his great grandson, and boy did that fire him up. "I live for that kid," he told me, while flipping through pictures on his phone, showing me how cute the little guy is.

I'm glad he lived for him.

Doug and I drove back from the Cape right after the funeral which is a 9 hour trip. Not something I enjoyed, all in one fell swoop like that. We used to drive 12 hour trips like it was nothing. now I feel I need to break trips back up there in half. Luckily, for a Monday, we managed to only run into bad traffic between Providence and

While we were in Atlantic City, we saw billboards for Brian Setzer's Rockabilly Riot show, and decided we'd buy tickets for it, knowing we were going to have to come back in a couple weeks. No problem! It's close!

It was a phenomenal performance. They only played 90 minutes or so, but every minute was full of awesome. We also noted that we were not the oldest people there. In fact we were almost on the younger end of the crowd. There were some folks in their 30s or 40s, but the vast majority of attendees were in their 70s!

Way to come out for the Rockabilly and represent, lady with the walker and guy with your oxygen and scooter!

Our experience at the Tropicana was kind of miserable otherwise. We won't be staying there again. It was loud and rude. Everything wants to be a dance club, and the layout of the joint was ridiculous. I think we walked 5 miles inside the building just trying to get from point A to B. I vastly prefer the layout at Caesar's or Bally's.

We had a good time walking up and down the boardwalk the next day, playing Pokémon and people watching. Atlantic City is close, and sometimes we get affordable deals. Summertime is expensive though. Doubtful we'll be back there again before the late fall.

Our lovely crab picking instructor
This weekend we were invited to one of Doug's co-worker's for a day of "Crabs and Colleagues," as he called it. 

They live down the Eastern Shore in the Easton area, so about 2 hours from our house. The place was outstanding - what a house! What a spread! Big beautiful home on a couple of acres with waterfront, dock, and a 21 foot motor boat. 

Geoff came with us, and the host has a daughter about Geoff's age, maybe a little older. Her boyfriend is a med student at Georgetown, and both of them were incredibly kind and welcoming to him. They took about 8 people out for a ride on the "creek" which looked more like a full river to me. Creeks are where you catch frogs and there is a piddly flow of water. This was beautiful. Geoff texted me from the boat to say he was having a great time and that made me very happy.

Meanwhile, Doug and I were with the "colleagues" that Matt had invited over. Matt's party was focused on colleagues from every job he'd had. So he went back 20 years to invite people over.

Doug was only 1 of 2 of his most recent colleagues. We got to spend time with neighbor friends of Matt's Del and Patty.

Patty gave us "crab picking" lessons, and told Doug he was a downright natural. They used to live in Gloucester, MA, and they were just in Newburyport for a wedding, so we had a "small world" moment and great talk about living here vs. living there. There are pros and cons.

Baby's first official Maryland crab. 
We asked Del if they had a house with waterfront, and he said no - that's about a $400,000 difference for properties. He said he's perfectly happy not having waterfront but being friends with Matt and his wife Peggy!

Peggy got home from work, at a local gallery, and she was delightful and vivacious.

Crabs and Colleagues was turning out to be a great time.

I am usually of the mindset that I should not have to work this hard for a mouthful of food. Patty said that it isn't about the amount of food you get but the fellowship, the conversation, the beer and the sunshine.

Not able to disagree with her on that, I had my second crab

Doug and Patty went to task on these crabs, which were picked up that morning by boat by Matt from a local marina and crab shop.

After Geoff got back from the boat ride, he wanted to take a kayak out. 

Matt hooked him up and he took off like lightning. A natural. And the smile on his face was amazing. Matt was amazed at how fast he jetted off, and was really impressed. Boy Scout muscle memory comes right back. The incredibly calm "creek" and miles of places to paddle... this was a perfect day and a perfect time for him. I'm so glad he came with us. I really should have taken a picture of him, but am happy to see that smile in my mind.

A small amount of the post-crab picking carnage
We stayed through the sunset, which we didn't intend. The fireflies filled up woods, blinking from ground to crown. It was virtually middle earth as we walked down the drive to the car.  On the way home Geoff expressed how much he missed being on the water. Near the water. Access to the water any time he wants it.  I completely agree. 

We have got to get him a kayak. But thankfully we have a "colleague" that maybe we can visit again.

We had fun down the Eastern Shore, including a stop in to grab some beer to bring to the party at the Eastern Shore Brewery in St. Michaels. There seem to be enough little places up and down these roads to visit in the future. Most likely not affordable this time of year, but good to note for the fall and early winter when it isn't totally freezing and horrible. 

So that's where we find ourselves so far. More to come, I'm sure.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Weekend Flowers

Doug is somewhat of a gung ho gardener. At least, he starts off each season that way.

The first spring and summer in a new house, you don't always know what is there already. Stuff is planted, and there may be perennials, and you don't just want to dig it up and ruin everything. So you sort of wait and see.

We had daffodils in the yard, but no tulips. There are hostas and some other green leafy things. We have some hedges and azaleas that are coming up and around the front and side of the house.

Doug is a firm believer in just letting the bushes grow into the shapes they want to be. He doesn't shape things into boxes or globes... he leaves them to find their own paths. He'll trim back a particularly exuberant and unruly shoot, but for the most part, grooming isn't his style. It's like the English romantic poets... let nature be nature and we shall cower in front of how it grows, its beauty and wildness. None of the Enlightenment man controls nature hoo-haa. She cannot be tamed and restrained.

But once in a while, she needs a good haircut.

We were at the national arboretum a few weeks ago, and they have a national Bonsai and Penjing museum, all very orderly and beautiful, all very well kept. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old. It's quite astounding and inspirational to the gardener who aspires to greatness. Doug brought up the romantics as we stood in front of a pine tree cut, tamed, trimmed to grow against a wall, and how the tree probably hates this. Just freaking hates it.

Doug's heart is in the right place, ever the romantic poet.

This weekend, we bought four nice hanging baskets for the front porch. There are wildflower seeds to sow, as is his style. He is monitoring the gardens for what is coming up, what we like and what we don't. The aforementioned hostas have some friends growing way in the back corner of the yard, which is disorderly and wild, so he thinks he may replant them, and move them over to a spot where they can be seen and enjoyed.

Oh, and the Ivy. We have a lot of ivy.

It's nice to see him puttering around, and I'm hoping that he is able to make it look like what he wants it to look like, and my involvement will be minimal.

I'll take some pictures of the progress I guess. Missed out on the daffodil pictures but will try and do a better job of the other things.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

I love things that happen at my job, Episode 1

My job is simple. I help radio stations. I work for a major news network, not going to say who, but my job is to help the stations out in the world with problems and issues. My company builds products and provides services to these stations to get content out into the world. Digitally and terrestrially. 

I wanted to share a funny anecdote about something that happened yesterday. I was working with a small station out west, and they have been struggling with under staffing, tech deficit issues, and general confusion about some things. One of these things is SSL certification. 

A while back, Apple decided that all streams and audio coming into their iDevices had to be in HTTPS Secure format. 

This sent people scrambling. Stations that hosted their own streams or who weren't working with our preferred provider had to do a lot of work. If you were a station working with our partner, - no problem. It was done for you, seamlessly. 

So this sweet little station out west was having a bad day. Ransomware attack over the weekend, stream invisible in smart speakers, issues and complications. 

I was working with the Program Director (PD for those in the know) John, and he was working with his streaming provider. They got the stream secured, and over to me. I tested it for him. They were playing some strange ambient music, followed by the Doobie Brothers...

I said "what's your format over there?! It sounds like crazy town!" 

John said "oh, our hosts... they're free spirits! They play what they want. I'm sorry!" I told him that I loved when stations do that - and I said "You should play Guster!" 

So he ducks into the studio and says "Hey! You got any Guster in there?" The host said they had Endlessly, Amsterdam, and Careful.

Now, Careful is one of my favorite Guster songs so I said "ooooh! Careful! Play Careful for me!" 

So he hollers in and says 'Play Guster's Careful! Dedicate it to Christine, our Station Support manager in Washington DC! She is the super most amazing dedicated helper ever! Say that on the air!" 

And they did. 

I sat here at my desk just laughing hysterically. No one else was sitting in my area - it was on the later side and most of the team had cleared out for the day. But wow. What a giggle. I've requested songs before from stations. I try to listen to a station while I'm reading a helpdesk ticket, or following up on a call. They are all varied and different, big and little; music or news or a nice mix of both... they're all unique and lovely. 

So that made my day. And reminded me why I do this job.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

This is a Great day, an Historic Day!

We had a really nice visit up to Doug's homeland.

Doug's great aunt turned 103 on Saturday, so part of the reason for our trip was to go celebrate her.

85, 103, 87.
She's a sharp cookie. Doesn't see too well, but is top of her game for the most part, and loves to have little conversations. She has a great memory.

She remembered before Geoff was born we came to visit with Jessica on our way to NY (she and her husband were living in Connecticut). And we didn't visit more than once with Geoff because he was hell on wheels when he was little.

But she remembers them, and remembers details and stories. She loves to tell them to the kids (us) and our kids.

Doug took me on a nostalgia tour on Saturday night, we drove all around back and forth across the rivers that run through the valley where he grew up. It was dark, and he couldn't make out some of the places that he wanted to point out (again... I identified one of his relative's homes on the main drag because I knew it was across from the seamstress) and he was happy I knew.  We went to the Hot Dog Shoppe, which is an amazingly delicious heart attack in a styrofoam box, and ate overlooking the river outside of the insurance company his dad owned for many years (family still owns it, and family still works there...)

On Sunday, we went to Gary's church. I call it Gary's church because for many years Bonnie didn't go there. Not exactly sure why. But she seems to have been going back more in the last year. Gary was very active in his church, and was clerk of the Session (i.e.: Secretary/Record Keeper for the Governing Body) and was chair of the search committee for a new pastor.

Gary was very involved but Bonnie didn't really go there much. I'm not sure of the back story. I think some feelings were hurt or something was said. For a long time she went to the Anglican church that my sister in law and her husband go to.

Lately she's been back at Gary's church. So I guess I can call it Bonnie's church too. They all seem to love her. And everyone has been incredibly supportive to her.

When Gary died, they didn't have a pastor picked yet. Their pastor had retired, and they were using substitute pastors, one of them very regularly. They wanted that guy to be their pastor. He wanted to be their pastor. Gary really wanted him to be the pastor.

His name is Lee. For a long time he actually was their pastor but had gone somewhere else for a while. He was retired, and the rules and bylaws of his retirement as interpreted by The Home Office (shall we say) stated that he couldn't be hired back to the church he'd retired from.

But. After a while, someone put the pieces together and realized he had not retired from their church, but from another. The paperwork was faulty. The truth won out.

He was offered the position (and accepted) and announced it while we were there on Sunday. How fortuitous for us to be there. Almost like we knew it was going to happen that this announcement was going down.

Gary got his pastor.

Lee said "Gary used to say things like "This is a GREAT day! An Historic Day!" about things when decisions were made. He was maybe partly kidding, but he was enthusiastic about getting things done. So Lee quoted him, and looked to us, and told us he was going to do his best for Gary and for us.

It was humbling.

And then he skipped a whole section of the service. Completely blew it. Because he was probably flustered after having just made such an historic and great announcement. When everyone was laughing I called out "Tell 'em it's your first day!"

It couldn't have been more perfect.

Well. Actually, it could have. Gary could have been sitting in his seat. He always sat in Row 4, Left side, 2nd seat from the window. He would call Lee's phone and leave messages saying that. "Hello, Lee, this is Gary. Fourth Row, Left Side,  2nd seat from the window..." and then leave the rest of his message.

Lee said whenever he would be in the church he'd walk by Gary's seat and touch the back. I am tempted to get a small copper plate engraved with that on it.

We had a good weekend.

Bonnie's family has a big family reunion every summer. I don't think we've been for over 15 years now that I think of it. We intended to go last year but decided not to with the move and house hunting. The year before we planned a vacation and didn't know the schedule of the event, and were in town the wrong weekend.

This year, we have no excuse. It'll be nice. It'll be a great day, an historic day!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A Visit North

My husband and I gave away the free passes that I got to go to a big beautiful Bluegrass Festival today in Baltimore, and we're going to go visit his mom.

We haven't been back "home" there since Gary's funeral, and Doug talks to her about once a week to check in. She initially indicated that she was wanting to clean, organize, purge, give away the clothes, donate the books to the library book sale (ironic since that is where most of them came from) but in the weeks that followed Gary's passing, she waved us off from coming to help.

All normal, all expected.

This weekend we have an ulterior motive in going up. Doug's great aunt is turning 103, and they're having a nice open house party for her today. I really like her. She's sharp as a tack, full of amazing stories. She's a delight to spend time with, and I'm looking forward to this.

Doug let his mom know we are coming, and she said this was great. The AC in her car doesn't seem to be working, so Doug is going to bring the refrigerant recharger and see if that helps out. Gary's car hasn't been driven since we were there and she wants to get it an oil change (I'd be happy to do that). And I'm sure we'll probably do a thing or two, and if nothing else, spend time.

And that is very nice.

Yesterday I took the day "off" but ended up working about 6 of the normal 8 hours of my vacation time. It's the way it goes sometimes. I don't have a problem with it - I think I goof off enough at work sometimes that it all balances out in the end.

After Doug was finished with work, we went up to the county park and gardens just north of us to take a walk. It is a beautiful place. He came upon it during the week before I moved down, and we've gone back five or six times. Even in the winter.

It is adjacent to a big park where there is a playground, merry-go-round, and a train that covers a couple acres.

The gardens are slowly revealing themselves. Last time we were there it was all daffodils, and now the tulips and the lilacs are out doing their shows. Slowly the wisteria will begin to drip and bloom, and all sorts of different friends will shine their faces to us as we walk past.

The cloudy, gloomy day gave way to sunshine, and there were people gathered to take prom photos. Tons of pretty girls and handsome young men, done up nice, smiling in front of the rows of tulips and the newly budding trees. Couples posed in the small pavilion opening, and I noticed the light was behind them, and all the parents' cell phone photos were going to be lame or need some sort of filter and fix in order for them to look halfway decent.

There was a group of young ladies, all together, "I don't need no man" attitudes as they marched about the grounds taking selfies, and posing so parents could take their pictures. Doug and I came upon them at this spot, and the entourage of family and friends taking pictures was delightful.

As I approached from the left side of this photo I stopped. I noticed that there was an opportunity for a really cool shot from my perspective. One (I presume) dad had a super nice camera and I called out "Can I suggest an angle for a shot? Come on over here."

I started to describe that if the girl in purple leaned backwards, the girl beside her in burgundy lean a little bit back but not as much, the two girls in the center stay where they are and the two girls on the end lean forward, it was a pretty cascade, with them looking over to their right.

"Oh, you got the vision! You got the vision yes!" he laughed back and came over. He stood up on the wall to avoid having the black fence post be in their faces, and they followed direction as I assembled them. Willing and giggling, they got into place and the moms and aunties and friends were all laughing and saying "yes! yes! perfect!"

As I walked away I grabbed this shot for me, and I heard the dad say, "Okay now everyone turn and look over your right shoulders..." as he perceived another angle and another shot. More giggling and cheering resulted from the entourage.

I was so relieved that there was someone there with their kids with an actual camera. I know a lot of cel phone pictures come out just absolutely shitty, so it is nice to know someone had an actual tool for the job. And yes, yes, I know that cell phone cameras have come a long way, but so often if the light isn't perfect, if you aren't in the right spot, the pictures just look a mess. Like the one I took here below. It's not perfect, it's kind of meh. It is blurry. It isn't something that I'd want to frame as the memory of the moment. So kudos to the dad with his DSLR and what looked like the perfect lens.

Doug was standing on the path about twenty feet ahead, laughing at me. I shrugged my shoulders and said that I couldn't resist making the suggestion in what I hope is a penultimate shot of a great memory before these girls go off to their prom together.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Flowering Trees and lots of Beers

March just kind of passed us by, didn't it? I didn't have much to update. Was kind of feeling really bummed out. Work has been very busy. And I've been missing my whole Boston team. Some things happened that I don't think I should write about or mention but suffice to say, there has been upset.

Thank God for my girls in the office that I know and love, or else I'd be feeling really alone here. Doug and Geoff are great, don't get me wrong. They're my world. But the icing on the life cake is always what makes work life balance happiness, and right now my home life is the only happiness I'm feeling.

So let's talk about home shall we?

We got a bed for our guest room, which is kind of exciting. No more camping air mattress for weary travelers, but a full blown IKEA queen. A colleague in another department was moving to Spain and he and his wife were literally liquidating everything.

The day before they moved he called me "No one wants our couch! You seemed to like the couch. Do you want it? Free! Come get it!" He gave it to me free but after we've finished our taxes, he's getting some money from me.

So we got a 7ft IKEA sofa, and rearranged the living room so we are "couch rich" now. lots of surfaces to plop buttocks down upon.

As of right now, two people can sleep in the living room, two people can sleep in the guest room. And in theory, two more people can sleep on both of the air mattresses in the basement. So we can sleep 8. If need be. Or more even. Come party down!

So far, only Jess has come to visit and stay over. I had two colleagues from the Boston office here, but they had hotels and didn't stay. And on New Years Eve I did rescue a friend from a night of either some rando hookup on Grindr, or sleeping on the floor at the Baltimore airport.

Maybe this spring and summer people will want to visit?

One of the more popular things to see in the DC area is happening right now. The Cherry Blossoms are in full peak and we tried to go see them right before they go "boom" as it were. The traffic and tourists and buses and everything were so awful that we bailed and left.

Allegedly, the blooms should still be good through this weekend. Maybe we'll try one more time?

Then, we tried to go see the Great Falls again, but the road is a two-lane, and we sat in traffic not moving for 20 minutes before Doug decided we'd give up, again. I guess you have to get up before dawn to go see the great falls.

We ended up at a semi-decent Irish pub. So not a full loss of that day.

What else did we see recently? We have been getting out and looking around quite a bit lately. We drive around a lot, playing Pokemon Go and taking walks in parks and stuff. Doug does a little research on a destination, and we go. Sometimes Geoff comes with, if he thinks beer may be involved (he's becoming a craft beer fan, don't ya know).

 Doug likes to go into DC on Sundays when the parking at the Metro is free. So we went in to the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers museum, which was really cool. They had a special photography exhibition called "War on our Doorsteps," which focused on the photography of Alexander Gardner's photographs of Antietam.

We've been kind of on a Clara Barton kick lately, the woman is a freaking national treasure. Doug has been very into the Civil War sites and museums. We live right near the Walter Reed National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM), which is primarily dedicated to the advancements in medicine introduced during the Civil War as well as special exhibits on things like robotics, modern field hospitals, technology, and head injury recovery. That was cool. They have the bullet remnants that they pulled from Abraham Lincoln's brain... (cool!)

We took a day trip to Frederick for Restaurant Week, and they have a fantastic Civil War museum that focuses on the medical aspect of things as well...

We stumbled upon Clara Barton's homestead at Glen Echo which was unfortunately closed due to renovations.

In the woods next to the house, there were signs about a place called Glen Echo. Through the trees I could see what looked like an amusement park, and I was kind of confused. Turns out, there is an amusement park, small aquarium, and summer camp... None of the rides work or do anything, but there was stuff going on, and there was a bakery, and there were these cute little huts where you could take art lessons for glass blowing and stuff.

I'm sure at a more lively time, the place is as freaking packed as everything else around here. The history is pretty cool though, if you want to read about it.

The other day, we decided to go down to Union Market near my office to grab lunch, but that place was a shit show - completely mobbed, absolutely the most crowded food market I've ever been to. So much so that I couldn't figure out what to do and had to get outside. People were just stopping in the middle of the aisles, on the phones looking for their friends (take 2 steps to the left and get out of the middle maybe?) And a yoga class was just let out - so there were all these people with bags and yoga mats, swinging around to talk to people. I think I got hit in the face three times with a mat.

Kind of ruined my overall experience, ya know?

Probably not the best place to go at 2pm any day but especially a Sunday. It was a complete waste of time, and disappointing on so many levels.

We went to the Chinese New Year parade in February, welcome to the year of the Dog. It was beautiful and fun, and there were a lot of dogs. And we were able to stand on the steps of a church in a not-crowded side street and really enjoy the festivities, and the dogs.

On the beer front, we've been frequenting some taprooms in the area to sample their offerings. We went to the Hellbender Brewing company tap room, which was alright. The room itself left a little to be desired. There was music playing but we couldn't hear what it was, so it was literally an aural torture of some sort of bass line or noise. Ceiling speakers may be a good idea, or no music at all. I think I would prefer the patio if I go in better weather. The beer was fantastic though. I'd go back and get more of that, for sure.

We went to Waredaca brewing company  up north of us in horse country. Maryland gets really rural really fast around here. The taproom there was fantastic. What a beautiful room. Like the comfiest living room, perfect wood walls and lighting. The staff was lovely. The beer delightful. We walked around the grounds and I wanted to take pictures of the horses on the property adjacent, but they seem to be kept far away on purpose. The signage was very clear that you couldn't go beyond certain points. And I didn't have the courage to ask. Because who the hell am I to even ask, right?

Over in Rockville (yes, go ahead and sing the REM song) there is a place called 7 Locks Brewing Company. Hidden in an industrial park, they have a really large room with lots of games and lots to do. They even have a lovely library with assorted history of beer and how to drink your way around the world. Great stuff. Oh, and the beer from them is fantastic. Simply perfect. So far a favorite, and very close.

Tap rooms thus far sometimes have snack, sometimes do not, but places like 7 Locks encourage you to bring your food with, or order out from a local spot. So we got some delivery pizza there and it was only half horrible.

That's one of my biggest complaints - the vast majority of pizza in these parts is just plain awful. We've found one place that has decent pizza. Two locations, the Pizzeria is in Downtown Silver Spring, and the Trattoria is closer to our house.

I feel like I need a vacation, but I also feel like there is stuff I need to do around here, and get done, and make the house more enjoyable. I am hoping Doug and I can go get some yard furniture, or at least something for inside the back patio, and kind of fuss that up nice.

Especially now that we have the guest bed.