Friday, September 22: Cheers! It’s time for our early September mini-cocktail hour, but I’m afraid you’ll have to enjoy it without me. You can lift your glass of sparkling champagne as we fly off into the skies for our holiday in Eastern Europe: Budapest, Sopron, Vienna, Český Krumlov, and finally, Prague. 🙂
I hope September has been good to you so far. Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, watched any hilarious comedy shows? Have you wandered or journeyed; have you dreamed any dreams? Have you had any massages? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes? Have you embarked on any new endeavors?
I’ve been spending most of my time editing pictures and writing my Japan posts (catbird in japan), and I’m still nowhere close to being done. I also recently started following a woman named Jill at Jill’s Scene who is doing the Camino de Santiago. She and her husband started the 800km walk in early September; I have dreams of doing it myself in September of 2018. I’ve created a spreadsheet and am taking notes about her journey, the weather and challenges she encounters, anything notable about her experience. I want to be purposeful about it, as I’ve dreamed of doing it for a long time and I need to make that dream a reality.
I’ve been bingeing on spreadsheets. I used to keep my travel wish list in a yellow spiral notebook which I’ve somehow misplaced. I always wrote it in pencil and had to keep erasing things and changing them. It was a mess. In September, I finally created a big spreadsheet called My Travel Wish List. The column headers are: Time of Year (the four seasons), Months, Year, My age, Mike’s age, Region, Countries, Places, What to do there, Who with, Estimated Cost. The spreadsheet covers the places I’ve already been and the places I want to go each season until I’m 90 years old! The places I’ve already been are highlighted in blue, while the spreadsheet from age 80-90 is highlighted in purple. Frankly, I’d like to believe I’ll still be traveling from age 80-90, but realistically, I know anything can happen. Besides, two gurus in India once told me I’d only live to 88, so if they’re right, I won’t even be on this earth then!
At the same time, I’ve been reading guidebooks on Hungary, Austria (Vienna), and Czech Republic. At first I was just reading the guidebooks and highlighting what I’d like to see. All the places were becoming a jumbled mess in my mind, so I decided to organize my thoughts. Voila! I created another spreadsheet with our itinerary. How I love spreadsheets! 🙂
Besides my obsession with spreadsheets, I’ve been reading a most uninspiring book, How to be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway. It’s not very compelling, so I only read a few pages each night; however, it’s not so boring that I’d give up on it altogether. I went to see the cute movie, Home Again, starring Reese Witherspoon, but I haven’t had time for many other movies this month. Mike and I did watch The Third Man on Netflix. It’s a 1949 film noir in which pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime. Though it’s all in English, we had to put the subtitles on to understand it! I admit I fell asleep 3/4 of the way through, but we did continue it the next evening. It’s supposedly quite the rage in Vienna, where there is even a Third Man Museum.
We tried out an Ethiopian restaurant not far from us in Herndon, Enatye Ethiopian Restaurant, which doesn’t have much in the way of atmosphere, but it has excellent food. 🙂
On Labor Day, Mike and I took a long walk through a neighborhood called Cleveland Park in Washington. It was a beautiful day, and we ended up having lunch outside at Cafe Deluxe. I haven’t yet written about it, but I intend to soon after we return home.
And, as you can see from the pictures in this post, we also visited the Air Force Memorial on September 10, the same day we visited the Pentagon Memorial. I figure the soaring wing-like shape of this memorial is a perfect symbolic send off for our trip to Europe.
The United States Air Force Memorial honors the service of the men and women of the United States Air Force and its heritage organizations. Three stainless steel spires soar into the sky from the promontory overlooking the Pentagon, reaching heights of 402 feet above sea-level. Granite walls contain inscriptions describing valor and values of aviation pioneers supporting the Air Force and its predecessor military organizations.
The inscriptions for Sacrifice remind us of what brave men sacrificed during World War II to fight the same white supremacist ideas that have reared their ugly heads in today’s world.
One inscription here reads: “We better be prepared to dominate the skies above the surface of the earth or be prepared to be buried beneath it.” ~ General Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz.
From the hill, we can see the Washington Monument and the Pentagon.
As for our struggles during August, we’ve all recovered. Adam got over his flu and has flown off to Melbourne, Australia to visit his girlfriend for a month. Alex has started classes in a new major, Business Administration, in the hopes of learning how to start his own business one day. He’s also moved into a new apartment.
Sarah’s knee is slowly healing and she’s back at work, after being incapacitated for nearly a month. She’s waiting to hear about a job she applied for with a Richmond magazine. I’m hoping and praying she gets that job. The redness and pain from my spider bite first spread all around my wrist and up through my hand before I started taking an antibiotic. My joints and neck were aching, but a couple of massages helped that. Mike has been healthy throughout the month.
I also went to Richmond to see Alex and Sarah and did what many moms would do: treated Sarah to dinner, took both of them to lunch, and took them both shopping for necessities at Target and Trader Joe’s. 🙂
As you read this, I’ll be in flight over who knows where, in route to Frankfurt. We’ll arrive in Budapest at 9:50 a.m. on Saturday, ready to hit the ground running. If I do manage to post anything about our trip, you’ll find it here: in search of a thousand cafés.
I hope you all enjoy the rest of your September, and I’ll see you back here in early October. 🙂
Monday, September 11: Today, we remember the terrorist acts committed on U.S. soil. The events of September 11, 2001 are ones that we as a nation can never, and should never, forget. The United States experienced the worst terrorist attack in its history — “the coordinated hijacking of four commercial planes, the planned attack on symbolic targets, and the murder of innocent people” (The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial: 9/11 at the Pentagon).
Numerous memorial services are being held today. As we visited the Pentagon Memorial not far from our home in northern Virginia on Sunday, we saw officials setting up for a Monday ceremony. This is the first time we’ve visited this memorial, and we found it very moving.
According to the Pentagon Memorial‘s website, “one-hundred-and-eighty-four lives were lost at the Pentagon that day. They were men, women, and children. They were mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons. They came from all walks of life: administrative assistants, doctors, educators, flight crew members, military leaders, scientists, and students. They came from towns and cities, large and small, across the United States and around the world. The youngest was only three years old; the oldest, 71.”
Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.
The day, I remember clearly, was much like today, sunny, cool, and crisp. Fall was in the air. I remember wishing every day was as beautiful as that day.
I had put my children on the bus for school early. My two sons were 8 and 10, and my daughter, who lived in Virginia Beach with her father, was 17. I was 45 years old. I was driving my car down Reston Parkway on my way to a book group at my church, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, when I heard the news about the first plane hitting the tower. Newscasters were debating about the size of the plane; they seemed to think it was a small plane gone astray. Then I heard the news about the second plane crashing. I stopped at Barnes and Noble in Reston to get a coffee, and felt palpable tension and anxiety in the air; fear was etched on people’s faces. I called my brother in New York to make sure he was okay. Then I heard the news of a plane hitting the Pentagon.
When I arrived at church, everyone was in a panic over the news. Our pastor, who was to lead the book group, was frantic because her husband was in the Pentagon and she wasn’t able to reach him. Thankfully, it turned out he was fine, though we’d find out later that many were not. We watched the TV in horror as the twin towers fells, and as the Pentagon went up in flames.
The book group was not to be; we all dispersed to our homes in shock. I sat spellbound in front of the TV the rest of the day, and when my children came home from school, I told them what we knew so far of the horrifying story. We watched TV together as news channels replayed the planes hitting, buildings collapsing, people jumping off buildings, dust-covered people walking like ghosts through the streets of New York. It was surreal and terrifying.
According to the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial: Design Elements: the Pentagon Memorial serves as a timeline of the victims’ ages, spanning from the youngest victim, three-year-old Dana Falkenberg, who was on board American Airlines Flight 77, to the oldest, John D. Yamnicky, 71, a Navy veteran, also aboard Flight 77 that morning.
Each Memorial Unit is a cantilevered bench, a lighted pool of flowing water, and a permanent tribute, by name, to each victim, in one single element. Each memorial bench is made of stainless steel and inlaid with smooth granite. Each Memorial Unit contains a pool of water, reflecting light in the evenings onto the bench and surrounding gravel field.
Within the Pentagon Memorial, 85 Crape Myrtles are clustered around the Memorial Units, but are not dedicated to any one victim.
The Memorial’s stabilized gravel surface is bordered on the western edge by an Age Wall. The Age Wall grows one inch per year in height above the perimeter bench relative to the age lines. As visitors move through the Memorial, the wall gets higher, growing from three inches (the age of Dana Falkenberg) to 71 inches (the age of John D. Yamnicky).
Each Memorial Unit is also specifically positioned in the Memorial to distinguish victims who were in the Pentagon from those who were on board American Airlines Flight 77. At the 125 Memorial Units honoring the victims of the Pentagon, visitors see the victim’s name and the Pentagon in the same view. At the Memorial Units honoring the 59 lives lost on Flight 77, the visitor sees the victim’s name and the direction of the plane’s approach in the same view.
The benches facing this direction are the victims of the Pentagon.
Sunday, May 15: Welcome to my disheveled home for my monthly cocktail hour. I know, I can hear your protests already: But, Cathy, you haven’t been having your cocktail hour on a monthly basis! Your last one was in December! Admittedly you’re right. You all have probably figured out by now that my consistency is questionable. I originally intended to do them weekly, then it dropped to bi-weekly, and now I’m lucky to have one on an every 5-month basis! So, I’m going to stick my neck out and say it’s my intention to have one every month, around the middle of each month. I’ll even write it on my calendar to be sure it will be a priority. I really do miss hearing from all of you in a deeper, more open way; of course a sip or two of alcohol helps us to put down our walls and loosen our tongues!
Please, come in and have a drink. I’m afraid things are a bit of mess here in my house as our renovation is in full swing and we have no access to the kitchen or the screened-in porch or deck. I hope you don’t mind doing a lot of mingling as there aren’t many places to sit. We have lots of wine of both colors, Bud Light Lime (what Mike calls my fake beer), and some New Belgian Fat Tire. I’ve also got the makings for a dirty martini, which some people have told me I should try: Vodka, olives and some olive juice. For the people who like to socialize on the straight, I have Coke and Diet Coke Vanilla, and some peach-pear flavored La Croix sparkling water.
Have you been enjoying the spring? Have you gone on any fun excursions? Have you started planning your summer travels to exotic lands or will you be having a staycation? Have you gone to any outdoor concerts, plays, or book signings? Have you seen your children off to conquer new challenges? Have you reconnected with old friends? Have you accomplished any goals? Have you been on any retreats? Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners? Have you eaten at any good restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home? Have you planted flowers and vegetables? Have you been exercising and eating healthy? Have you been on any shopping sprees?
The weather here has been mostly miserable all spring, with rain and clouds nearly every day; when it’s not raining, like today, it’s cold and windy. I can’t believe the swimming pools will be opening in less than two weeks. It doesn’t seem at all like summer is right around the corner. I know the rain is good for us, but I find it quite depressing when it never lets up.
You all know about my fun excursion to Philadelphia and then my later trip to Dallas and Oklahoma City for my friend Rosie’s wedding. Though I haven’t finished blogging about them yet, I will soon.
We were originally planning to go to Prague and Budapest in late May for our holiday, but since we’re in the midst of our renovation and it won’t be done until mid- to late-June, we had to forego our May plans. Instead, Mike chose to take our holiday in late August because of his work schedule. We decided against joining the hordes of tourists on mainland Europe in August and opted to go to Iceland from August 13-25.
Mike and I ventured to into D.C. on the evening of April 20 to attend Bill Geroux’s book talk and signing at Politics and Prose Bookstore, one of the District’s longstanding independently owned bookstores. He wrote Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler’s U-boats, just released on April 19. I was married to Bill from 1979-1986, and Sarah is our daughter. We actually lived in Mathews County, Virginia, where his book is set, for a year soon after we returned from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in 1984. Sarah was a tiny baby at that time. Bill has been a journalist for much of his career, working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and later for Maersk, the largest container-shipping company in the world. Ever since we met, he’s longed to write a book, and now he’s done it, to great acclaim. I’m very excited for him.
Before going to see Bill, Mike and I enjoyed drinks and pizza at Comet Ping Pong. Though we asked Bill to join us, he was tied up with his publicist. I enjoyed my wine with a pizza called The Smoky: Smoky Mushrooms, Smoky Mozzarella,
Smoky Bacon, melted onions, garlic.
The Mathews Men
Me at Comet Ping Pong
Mike at Comet Ping Pong
Bill at Politics & Prose for his book talk
I’ve still been trying to walk 3 miles every day; sometimes I also go to the gym to lift weights. Oh, how I hate the gym! With all the rain, I’ve been to the gym more than I care to. My eating habits have been atrocious, so of course I’m not losing any weight and my belly seems to be getting bigger by the day. I sure hate some aspects of aging.
As for goals, I have too many of them, and most of them never get accomplished. I’ve been considering starting a travel retreat business for fit solo travelers between the ages of 55-75. I started reading Start Your Own Business: The Only Startup Book You’ll Ever Need by Entrepreneur and I’ve been slowly but surely working through the worksheets. Last week I wrote a mission statement! That was fun. I’m still a long way from solidifying my ideas. Right now I’m just trying things on for size.
I’ve also been continuing to send out my novel, but I rarely get any response from the agents I’m contacting. I’m not giving up yet. I finally wrote a synopsis, still probably too long, but that was a great accomplishment as I’ve been putting it off for about 3 years!
As for books, I finished reading The Blue Between Sky and Water, the first novel I’ve read that tells the devastating consequences of the formation of the State of Israel on the Palestinians. I also finished the Pulitzer-prize winning novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr that takes place during WWII France and Germany. I enjoyed both books immensely; I also learned a lot from reading them. I’m now reading Bill’s book, Mathews Men, as well as the novel, The Heart of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillipp Sendker. It takes place in Burma, and since I traveled there in 2015, I find it engrossing.
I’m a real movie buff and I often find myself sitting in Cinema Arts Theatre for Senior Wednesdays ($5 admission for seniors!). I’ve recently seen A Hologram for the King, set in Saudi Arabia (but of course filmed elsewhere), The Meddler, Mother’s Day, Eye in the Sky, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, My Golden Days, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Mustang and Hello, My Name is Doris. Lately, I seem to find most movies just mildly entertaining, nothing to get excited about. I enjoyed Mustang and Eye in the Sky, but also Hologram for the King because, having lived in Oman for two years, it brought back some interesting memories.
Because of our renovation, we’ve found ourselves sampling more restaurants than normal, probably accounting for my inability to lose weight. Of course during my travels to Philadelphia, Dallas, Oklahoma City and several trips to Richmond, I’ve eaten at a lot of great restaurants.
I’ve been attending the “Commitment” Seminar Series of the Landmark Forum and am exploring what I say I’m committed to and, by looking at my actions, what I’m really committed to. I’m also learning a lot about the character I play in life. It’s an interesting journey, that’s for sure. 🙂
One nice thing for me is that I’ve reconnected with an old friend in our neighborhood, Beatrice. I’ve seen her a number of times for lunch and walks; she and her husband had us over for dinner last week. She always makes me laugh, so I’m thankful to have her in my life again. 🙂
Spring is here, even if briefly
It’s really disorienting but also interesting living through a renovation. I have contractors in the house sometimes before I’m even out of bed; they arrive at 7 a.m. and sometimes before. They leave promptly by 3:30. There’s never been a day when no one has shown up. Sometimes it’s just the foreman Morgan and his carpenter, Ron. Other times the trade guys are here, Al the electrician and his son, the plumbing guy (name unknown). This week it’s the drywall guys and on Sunday, the roofing guys came, much to our neighbors’ dismay. Next week, I think it will be the flooring guys, and then cabinet installation should begin. Keeping fingers crossed on that. 🙂
The regulars, especially Morgan, Ron and the electricians, are the nicest guys imaginable; I’ve never seen workers having so much fun at their jobs. There’s a lot of pounding going on constantly, as well as a boom box blaring, most regularly Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and most recently “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel, apropos considering there is a lot of sledgehammering going on. 🙂 Last week, I heard Depeche Mode singing “Enjoy the Silence:”
Words like violence
Break the silence
Come crashing in
Into my little world
That pretty much describes my life right now. I can tell you there’s not much silence around my house lately. Though I love these guys, I’m so happy each day at 3:30 when they leave and silence settles over the house.
So far, they’ve demolished the kitchen & deck, cut out the wall between the kitchen and family room and built a knee wall, framed the pantry and the laundry room, wired the whole area, installed the plumbing, replaced the water-damaged roof, built the sub-floor in the laundry room, insulated all the walls, and now are doing the drywall. They have almost finished the screened porch but haven’t started the deck. What a long and involved process!
Click on any picture to see a full-sized slide show.
looking from kitchen to laundry room
from kitchen over knee wall to family room
beginning of screen porch
from garage into laundry room
garage looking to laundry room
from kitchen to garage
screened porch with roof
screened porch and tools
the roof is off!
seeing the sky
part of the roof is in
railing on porch
the porch with rough roof
family room to knee wall to kitchen and laundry room
drywall goes in
drywall into parts of kitchen
the screened-in porch coming along
screened in porch
On Mother’s Day, none of my children were here, but Mike took me out for a special treat at Green Pig Bistro in Arlington. We figured we’d see them on May 14 for Sarah’s graduation, so there was no need for them to drive to northern Virginia.
We enjoyed mimosas with the most delicious meals: for me, shrimp, andouille grits and poached egg; for Mike, scallops on cauliflower puree with brussels sprouts.
shrimp, andouille grits and poached egg
scallops on cauliflower puree with brussels sprouts
After our brunch, Mike wanted to go by Arlington National Cemetery to see his mom’s headstone. Shirley’s headstone is shared with Mike’s dad’s, but Mike hadn’t seen the engraving. Arlington National Cemetery honors those who have served our nation, usually in the military, by providing a place of serenity for survivors. The 624 acres of rolling green hills are dotted with trees that are hundreds of years old. Mike’s parents are buried here because Mike’s dad was a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army and served in WWII.
While at the cemetery, we thought we’d drop by to visit John Ryan Dennison’s grave. Ryan was my friend Rosie’s son-in-law who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006 at the age of 24. We sadly didn’t come prepared with flowers. A father and mother were sitting on a blanket at a nearby grave celebrating their son’s May 8 birthday; he died also in 2006. She told us proudly that her son, unlike many young men who join the military these days for the college benefits, chose to join the military to fight after 9/11. He wanted to be in the thick of the action and so the mother is proud of him for his service. She has a bunch of flowers with her, and she gives us one to put on Ryan’s grave and another for Shirley’s. What a special encounter.
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
John Ryan Dennison
Ryan’s grave with a flower
Gene and Shirley’s grave
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
For those of you who might have missed it, my daughter Sarah graduated from VCU this past Saturday. I wrote a post about it here.
Thanks so much for joining for my cocktail hour. I hope you’ll fill me in on what’s going on with you in the comments below. If you prefer to write your own post with accompanying pictures for the cocktail hour, please feel free to do so and put a link here so we can read your post. I look forward to hearing more about what’s going on in your lives.
Thanks for coming! Drive safely and have a great week! 🙂
Tuesday, December 24: Our Christmas Eve morning tradition culminates at the Lebanese Taverna Market in Arlington, where we stop after visiting the Cathedral, to have a casual lunch of fried cauliflower (arnabeet), sambousik, fatayer b’sbanigh, fatayer b’jibne, stuffed zucchini, avocado salad, loubieh (green beans, tomato and whole garlic) and roasted potatoes with zaatar. We top these off with pomegranate ginger ales.
It’s always bustling in this market because the food is fabulous!!
It looks like a miniature supermarket, but there is a small deli counter and a cafe where we can sit and enjoy people-watching.
After we eat as much as we can eat, we head home to relax a bit, wrap the remaining gifts, clean up our wrapping mess, and prepare Children’s Delight cookies and chicken & apple sausage patties for tomorrow morning. Finally, we enjoy a glass of red wine before heading to my mother-in-law’s house for our traditional Christmas Eve gathering.