Love the one you’re with

To be honest, I never liked that song. If you can’t have the one that you want, love the one you’re with? Really? No, get over yourself and go for the one you want and let the one you’re with go find someone who appreciates how amazing they are.

…Anyway…

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This past weekend, my man took me to NYC. You may remember, this blog started during my training for the 2011 NYC marathon. The first Sunday of November each year in NYC finds thousands of runners of various abilities pounding the pavement through the five boroughs of NYC, aiming to win, hit a personal best, or to simply finish. I was one of those brave souls then, and I’m proud of my less than illustrious finish, even if it wasn’t the time goal that I had originally sought. For me, it was about setting a goal and finding the mental strength and the determination to see it through to the end.  I did that.

This year, when I learned that Meb would be running NYC after his historic Boston finish, I knew I wanted to go watch him run. So, my man and I booked our trip, and last Friday , we headed to one of my favorite places to watch one of my favorite races and try to chase Meb through the boroughs. We had a blast running around Brooklyn, trying to find the best spot to see the elite men and women, then hopping back on the R train and heading back uptown to try to catch them again.

What on earth does that have to do with loving the one you’re with? Let me explain.

I love NYC. Since my very first trip there in 2006, it’s been my favorite city to visit and explore, and I’ve made trips there at least once a year since then. Each trip has various goals, but some goals are the same every time. I always want to: see at least one Broadway/off Broadway show; run a new route; visit at least one new historical icon; run in Central Park; eat lobster ravioli in Little Italy, a hot pretzel, and a Nathan’s hotdog at least once each; go to a new museum; and simply walk the city as much as possible. We achieved each of these goals (some more than once), except the Nathan’s hotdog. That’s ok. I’ll eat two on my next trip. 🙂 And, I’ll spare you a pic of the half dollar size blister on my heel from walking around the city.  You’re welcome.

New York City was one of the first trips I made when I began running again. I visited with my sister and got up early (while she talked business on the phone and blew cigarette smoke out the window of our No Smoking room) to run in Central Park, by myself, with no fear and tons of amazement. I ran a bit, took a few pictures, and dreamed. I dreamed of being a faster runner, of running new paths, of exploring the world through running, and of becoming the woman that I envisioned – one who pursued her dreams while raising her family and being the woman that God wanted her to be. Big city, big goals. I’m still working on those goals, all these years later, but one of those goals I met in 2011 – to run the NYC marathon. It wasn’t pretty, but it was fun, and I finished with a smile on my face.

This year, as I watched the amazing athletes (elite and real people) run the boroughs and reach for the stars, I was awed and humbled. We made the journey to see Meb run (hey, you have your celebrity crushes, I have mine), and were able to catch him at the beginning of the race (around mile 2 in Brooklyn), and close to the finish (around mile 24 in Central Park – geez, those dudes are fast). We were able to see some of my other celebrity crushes, Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher among them, as we waited for the elite men to zoom through.

Elite women in Brooklyn (around mile 2)

Elite women in Brooklyn (around mile 2)

Elite men in Brooklyn (pic by my man since my phone was dead; and yes, that is my Medusa hair as I shot with my GoPro)

Elite men in Brooklyn (pic by my man since my phone was dead; and yes, that is my Medusa hair on the bottom left – the wind was brutal!)

Deena Kastor, mile 24.  God bless the Old Broads.  Although, at 41, she barely qualifies.

Deena Kastor, mile 24. God bless the Old Broads. Although, at 41, she barely qualifies.

Kara Goucher

Kara Goucher

Then, came my favorites, the real people. The ones like you and me, the ones whose eyes aren’t set on winning, but on a dream, a goal. One that’s personal and private. One that makes them feel like they’ve accomplished something, one that makes them believe in themselves. One that reminds them that, as bad as life can sometimes be, there’s always hope. These are the people I love. The ones who know that life really only has the limits that you allow it to have. The ones who understand that nothing is a given; life isn’t always easy; that a life worth living is filled with dreams and hopes, even when it’s hard; and the only person who can fix it/achieve it/fulfill it is themselves. I love these people. Watching them race on Sunday; some with grins, some with grimaces; all different body types – some looking like runners, others looking like me; some in obvious pain, others with a smile of wonder on their faces; some fast, some slow; some walking, some running;, some crying, some laughing; some singing, some barely hobbling along: these people are my people. The ones who know that dreams are achievable, borne to us on the wings of hope, faith, and pain. The real people. The ones who make marathons sing with joy and hope, overcoming pain and sorrow, disease and trouble. My inspiration.

Real people, the ones who really deserve our applause

Real people, the ones who really deserve our applause

And, that brings me back to loving the one you’re with. One day, several years ago, this old broad decided it was time. Time to reclaim my life, my health, my sanity. Time to reach for the stars. In a life only marked by mediocrity, it was time to reach for my own personal definition of success. To embrace the body I was in and begin to seek good health, sanity, a life lived well. If I had waited to start running when I was thin enough, or fit enough; if I had waited for that perfect moment in time when it all came together, I would never have started.

It’s still a struggle. I have good days, weeks, months when running seems effortless; then a long, long string of bad ones. I struggle with injury, with losing weight, with finding time. I struggle with speed, with endurance, with motivation. I just struggle.

Still, I run. I’m taking the body I have and I’m moving it forward in pursuit of the body I want. It’s an ongoing pursuit, a never ending battle. But, I love the one I’m with. I’m content in my pursuit.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0501.

 

 

A few images of our fun weekend in NYC:

I love Brooklyn

I love Brooklyn

Finally walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.  My man has NEVER been able to walk the line.

Finally walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. My man has NEVER been able to walk the line.

Central Park run -  the Reservoir

Central Park run – the Reservoir

The skyline as I left the MOMA

The skyline as I left the MOMA

Central Park in the fall

Central Park in the fall

9/11 memorial

9/11 memorial

And me, keeping the faith and learning to love the one I’m with.

Central Park, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir; Fall, 2014

Central Park, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir; Fall, 2014

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A Little Bit Stronger Now

Last time you heard from me, I was in the process of getting my groove back. I’m happy to report that my groove has arrived, and is polishing itself to become at least a reflection of better days.

I spent many, many days walking; slowly, slowly, slowly rebuilding my strength in order to fight (or race) another day. I’m not there yet. I’m still building. I’m sure I always will be. But, now, finally, running feels good again. I’m actually running (and I’m using the term loosely here), and it feels spectacular. The weather is good, all the trails are calling me; the flora and fauna are changing and morphing into their autumn selves. The colors are amazing, the fall critters are moving, and God is really showing out. Fall is one of my favorite times to run.

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Starting over is a thing I guess I’m getting used to. I know that in running, as in life, new beginnings are part of the process, and I’m learning to embrace that. While it is frustrating and annoying, I am filled with joy and thankfulness that new starts are still available to me.

As the fall racing season builds to full pitch, I’m excited about racing again. I’ve taken a year off from racing and I find myself pawing at the starting line, anxious to be at it again. Next weekend will find me in New York City; not running the marathon, but watching some of my heroes run (Go, Meb!!). That is inspiration at its finest. I absolutely cannot wait.

Renewal has come to me in a combination of spiritual revival, physical exertion, and mental discipline. Mind, body, and spirit must unite to push me forward, strengthen my resolve, and get my rear in gear. It’s fine to determine to pursue a goal, but until my body responds, it’s just a mental exercise. It’s fine to push myself physically, but until my mind kicks into gear and cooperates, it’s just empty movement. The unifying force is my spirit, which communes with my maker and reminds me that prayer and contemplation are wonderful, but unless they are combined with a body that provides “boots on the ground” for Jesus, they are useless. I want that body to be the best that it can be, whatever stage of life I’m in. So, I run. That’s the bottom line of motivation for me. Not to look a certain way, but to feel a certain way. To have the ability to use my body to glorify the kingdom, whatever that means, physically or spiritually.

So, I find myself a little bit stronger now. A weekend at the beach spent with a dear friend (who, at 54, had never been to the beach before, so I got to see it anew through her eyes!), an eight mile long run with an additional mile for warm up/cool down, last weekend spent underwater (renewal at its best), the prospect of a trip with my man for next weekend, and the spectacular weather and color that fall brings have all contributed to the renewed strength I feel.

I’m looking forward to what the upcoming, busy months have to offer. I’m learning to be fearless, embrace the slow road back to strength, and take each day as it comes. Thank you, sweet Jesus.

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Kona

The view from the plane the day we arrived.

The view from the plane the day we arrived.

We’re at the end of a magical two weeks in Hawaii, and I’m trying to think of ways we can move here. We came to Kona the first time in 2010, to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, and we fell in love with this place. So, when my man asked me a few weeks ago if I would like to come back, I started packing immediately. We booked a last minute trip, and, I’ll be honest, I don’t want to go home. We’ve traveled a lot over the years, and been to some magical places, but this is the one I would call home if I could. I truly love it here.

Of course, at this point in my life, that’s not possible, so I’ll use this post as a tribute to the island, and just try not to think of how much I want to stay.

First off, to Kerry and staff at Kona Dive Co, job well done. Love you guys! We dove with you back in 2010, and Gary and I both marveled at how every dive still feels fresh and new under your guidance. I know you dive the same spots week after week, but you seem to absolutely love what you do, and that makes every dive guest feel like you designed that particular dive for them individually. Thanks so much for our time on the water! My underwater camera decided to sit this trip out, but I think that made my dives even better. It allowed me the opportunity to savor each one, and drink in the entire experience. While we didn’t see the things we saw last trip (at a different time of year), we had amazing dives filled with beauty and peace. Eagle rays, turtles, eels (including the beautiful dragon eel – thanks, David!), pompom crabs, and too many other things to enumerate here. Thanks, guys, hope to see you all again soon.

What makes Kona special to us is the topside experience we have in addition to the diving. As much as we love to dive, we love hiking and seeing all the area has to offer. That’s one of the reasons we love Kona so much. The diving is spectacular, and the island itself is like a beautiful puzzle we unlock one step at a time. This trip we enjoyed the Kohala coast, the southern district of Ku’a, the Honaunau Coast, the exquisite Mauna Kea sunrise, and, of course, the beautiful volcano, Kilauea. We used the website bigislandhikes.com almost exclusively for our hiking guide. We also asked the locals (Kona Dive) for their recommendations.

Enough words. Here are some of my favorite iPhone pics from our trip. We don’t fly out until tomorrow night, so I reserve the right to add another post later if we see something amazing tomorrow.

Mauna Loa from the dive boat

Mauna Loa from the dive boat

Honokohau Harbor hike

Honokohau Harbor hike

Akaka Falls. Hint: don't go on Wednesday, cruise ship day in Hilo

Akaka Falls. Hint: don’t go on Wednesday, cruise ship day in Hilo

Sunset from our condo

Sunset from our condo

Trying to stay warm on Mauna Kea

Trying to stay warm on Mauna Kea

Above the clouds, Mauna Kea at Sunrise

Above the clouds, Mauna Kea at Sunrise

Petroglyphs at Kilauea

Petroglyphs at Kilauea

The arches at Kilauea

The arches at Kilauea

The steep climp to Pololu Valley

The steep climp to Pololu Valley

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley

Honaunau coast

Honaunau coast

 

So much left unseen. Until next time, beautiful Big Island…

The power of a man and a mantra

There’s a lot to be said for having a running partner.  Especially when said partner is your partner in life, as well.  Now, I DO NOT recommend this for new runners, or for the newly married. But, if you don’t get your feelings hurt easily, latching on to the competitive spirit of a man might be just the ticket.  At least, it worked for me this time.

If you follow my blog, you know I’ve had a miserable training year.  The weeks leading up to this race would likely have been lost to me had my man not developed a training plan for us to follow that would get me across the finish line.  He committed to train with me, and his (mostly) gentle encouragement got me through.  We had an awful long run on Monday, and I’ll admit I had my doubts.  We felt pretty good this morning, though, so we decided we would try to run the pace that would get the PR I want, and see how we did.  Unfortunately, he hurt his leg yesterday playing with his girls on a zip line – you know the leg, the one with the expensive hardware in it that he broke a little over a year ago.  Not much stops that man on a mission, though, so we lined up in the cold this morning with the rest of the nuts and headed out.

I have an awful habit of starting too fast.  You know, fresh legs, cold start, fast runners, race nerves.  Then, I crash and burn too soon into the race.  Gary kept reeling me in, reminding me to slow down, and kept us right on pace.  We were running behind a couple of women who had on really cute skirts that I was admiring (come on, you know you check out what everyone else has on, too) when I noticed the back of their shirts.  I typically devise some type of running mantra for long races to help me through the tough spots, but  I really hadn’t thought much about it this time.  Then, I read these shirts.

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And, I had my mantra. In case you can’t read it, it is Isaiah 40:31.
“…they will run and not grow weary.”      

(And, aren’t their skirts cute?)

Every time my mind started trying to tell my legs they hurt, I repeated the mantra, substituting “I” for “they”.  I felt really strong through mile 10, then I got some Gatorade, forgetting that it’s kind of a no-no for me.  Don’t know what it is about it, but it nauseates me a little when I drink it at races.  Grabbed some water at mile 11 to try to cleanse my palate, but the damage was done.  The wheels fell off at mile 11, and the power of my man and the mantra faded a little.  We slowed the pace, walking a little.  Gary even grabbed my hand at one point, trying to transfer his power and energy (and maybe dragging me a little), but it was a tough, ugly mile.  I dug really, really deep, reminded myself that I would run and not grow weary, and gave it all I had for the last mile.  Our girls met us at mile 13 and breathed new life into my legs and tummy.  We finished strong, actually with a slight PR for me, not the one I was after, but one I can live with after this crazy year.

Not too shabby for an old broad and an old guy with a limp.

Misty encouraging us at the finish while Kaitlyn takes pics

Misty encouraging us at the finish while Kaitlyn takes pics

Mile 13 - almost done!

Mile 13 – almost done!

The racing Richards family.  Did I mention that both my girls won their age groups in the 5k?  They take after their Dad.

The racing Richards family. Did I mention that both my girls won their age groups in the 5k? They take after their Dad.

Of course, I had to meet and thank my mantra girls.  Love those skirts!  (And, yes, Auburn fans, you were well represented, too)

Of course, I had to meet and thank my mantra girls. Love those skirts! (And, yes, Auburn fans, you were well represented, too)

Chicago

It’s been a fun, busy week, just now posting Chicago pics.  Didn’t really get a chance to take a lot, Delta & bad weather took a whole day out of our trip.  Of course, that just means we will have to go back, and with our metro cards still having $ on them, I think that’s a done deal.

As with most trips this year, Chicago was about following the Braves around.  When I heard that a remodel was in the works for Wrigley Field, I knew that we needed to make this trip happen, so we did.  We had several things planned this trip that we didn’t get to do, tickets to The Book of Mormon remained unused – still working on filing that insurance claim.  We also didn’t get to go to the Willis Tower or one of the museums I wanted to see, but we’ll do those things next time.   We loved Chicago.  The weather was fine, the walking/exploring was excellent, and Wrigley Field was all I hoped it would be.  Loved the Cubs fans.  They were gracious losers and awesome winners (the Braves took one & lost one of the two games we attended).  Couldn’t help getting caught up in the excitement as the Cubs won a hard fought game.  Really enjoyed my time at the ball park.  And, the deep dish pizza we ate ranks second only to the lobster roll from Fenway Park when it comes to ball park food.

I didn’t take as many photos as usual.   I left Big Bertha (my professional camera) at home, and relied on my iPhone to document those things I found noteworthy.  Here are my favorites from the trip.

Another selfie at "The Bean"

Another selfie at “The Bean”

Lakeshore

Lakeshore

Chicago River

Chicago River

Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

My last trip to Chicago was made when I was 8. I only have vague memories of that trip. We rode the Amtrak there and back & I remember moments on the train. We visited relatives there and I remember my Uncle Jim walking with us through Chinatown, offering some very colorful language as we made our way through traffic. I remember a museum with a dollhouse, and I remember Buckingham Fountain.

I can be nostalgic at times, and I’ll admit to having a moment when we stood at Buckingham Fountain on this trip. I felt such a strong presence of my dad, and I stood and let the memory wash over me. I remember being cold, and my dad putting his coat around me. I don’t remember what the coat looked like, but knowing my dad it was a suit jacket. I do remember the tobacco and peppermint smell of it, and as I stood at the fountain the other day, I remember that little girl whose Daddy could do no wrong. Sweet memories. So thankful for my parents. We were beyond poor, but they still managed to give us an appreciation for travel and culture.

Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

Stupid Braves fan not removing hat & talking on cell during National Anthem.

Stupid Braves fan not removing hat & talking on cell during National Anthem.

If Gary had not been with me, I would have had a “teachable moment” with this idiotic Braves fan who made us all look bad. As it was, I gave him the stink eye, but I left him alone. Didn’t want to start a fight that Gary would have to finish, but the old broad in me sure had to bite her tongue.

Scoreboard at Wrigley Field - notice top right flag - Braves lead their Division!

Scoreboard at Wrigley Field – notice top right flag – Braves lead their Division!

Downtown from Art Institute bridge

Downtown from Art Institute bridge

Downtown from Art Institute bridge

Downtown from Art Institute bridge

Sculpture on rooftop of Art Institute Museum

Sculpture on rooftop of Art Institute Museum

Navy Pier - flags still at half mast after the shootings in DC

Navy Pier – flags still at half mast after the shootings in DC

Lakeshore at dawn

Lakeshore at dawn

Gary and I walked around Chicago on Friday and made a loose plan for my long run on Saturday, but we ended up just following our feet on that run. There’s really no better way to explore a new place that by running it. We started along the lake, ran up to Navy Pier, then headed north along the shore with about a million other walkers/runners/cyclists. I finished my run while Gary waited for me along the shore line, then we left the insane crowd of runners and went to Michigan Ave to walk the Magnificent Mile. Of course, there was a Starbucks along the route, and we rubbernecked like the tourists that we are.

Wrigley Field - checked off my Bucket List

Wrigley Field – checked off my Bucket List

Close enough to kiss Brian McCann.  I didn't though.  That would have involved an arrest & bail money & other unpleasant things.

Close enough to kiss Brian McCann. I didn’t though. That would have involved an arrest & bail money & other unpleasant things.

We stayed at the Jay Gatsby worthy “Palmer House”, but, for some strange reason, I took no photos of it. I really dropped the ball there, the hotel is truly a work of art.

Excellent trip, cut short by flight delays. I hope we’re able to return there soon. There’s a lot left to explore!

DC quick pics

Holy moly, air travel ain’t what it needs to be! Wednesday was a loooooooooong day, filled with aggravation, frustration, and exhaustion. We missed our ATL connection, were on standby for a 5:55 flight that left at 6:30ish, didn’t get on that one;  then, were confirmed for an 8:30 flight that actually left about 10:30 pm and changed gates at least twice with no announcement from Delta. Long day, but I did finally get to sleep in my bed the following morning about 1:30.

Up early on Thursday to go to the cell phone store (my man lost his in DC), then realized he also lost his debit card. Yes, I’m thinking of getting super glue for all the things he has to keep up with, but that’s a tale for another day. Finally got a nap Thursday afternoon and began to feel human again. Slept like a dead person last night, and got up feeling great today.

So, here are the pictures I mentioned in the last post, followed by the things I loved about DC, and the things I wasn’t so crazy about.

White House north lawn, night view

White House north lawn, night view

White House north lawn

White House north lawn

Capitol building

Capitol building

Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima and Washington monument

Iwo Jima and Washington monument

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon, from the river

Mount Vernon, from the river

Lincoln memorial

Lincoln memorial

Lincoln memorial

Lincoln memorial

Korean War Memorial, my favorite.  I went back multiple times, absolutely loved this.

Korean War Memorial, my favorite. I went back multiple times, absolutely loved this.

Korean Memorial, with reflections on wall

Korean Memorial, with reflections on wall

Thomas Jefferson quote

Thomas Jefferson quote

More from Korea

More from Korea

Iwo Jima, Marine memorialIwo Jima, Marine memorial

Medical Corpsman carving, Navy Memorial

Medical Corpsman carving, Navy Memorial

Navy memorial, for my dad

Navy memorial, for my dad

Navy Memorial

Navy Memorial

North lawn of White House, early morning

North lawn of White House, early morning

Smithsonian Castle

Smithsonian Castle

South lawn of White House

South lawn of White House

Washington monument, covered in scaffolding due to repairs from earthquake damage

Washington monument, covered in scaffolding due to repairs from earthquake damage

The Potomac river from Arlington bridge, taken on our night bike ride to Arlington cemetery
The Potomac river from Arlington bridge, taken on our night bike ride to Arlington cemetery

There may or may not have been some serious deviation from my diet here.

There may or may not have been some serious deviation from my diet here.

Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin

Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin

A little Mississippi at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

A little Mississippi at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Braves/Nats game

Braves/Nats game

Things I loved:
1) DC is very walker friendly. We saw most of the sights by walking to them. Renting bikes was fun, too, if a little nerve wracking.

2) It was easy to plan our trip online before we got there, purchasing metro passes, tickets to Mount Vernon and other attractions (we did). It’s a tech friendly city, you’re even able to order food from your seat at the Nationals ball park using your cell phone (we didn’t).

3) The Smithsonians are all free admission!  Loved that!

4) The metro/rail system was pretty easy to figure out and was cleaner than others I’ve used.

5) The Braves swept the series.  🙂

Didn’t love:

1) Wi-fi was a little wonky everywhere.  Almost enough to make me a black helicopter girl.  Well, even more than I already am.

2) Nats fans.  (See #5 above)

3) Crowding on subway leaving the ballgame.  Of course, my man has a “show no fear, take no prisoners” way about him, so I tucked in behind him and moved forward on his slipstream.

4) Scaffolding, scaffolding, scaffolding.  Great images were hard to come by with so much repair work going on.  Of course, I realize this is necessary & that summer is probably the best working time, but it sure put a crimp in my style.
5) Crowds on the National Mall were epic, but I think that’s to be expected. It wasn’t too bad early in the day.

A very nice trip overall, but I’m not sure I’ll go back anytime soon.  Would love to have had a few more days in the National Portrait Gallery & other Smithsonian art museums, but maybe not enough to plan another trip around them.  Bottom line, I think everyone should visit our nation’s capitol at least once.  It’s a beautiful city with a lot to offer.

Exhausted in DC

So, I’m sitting in Reagan National, feet propped up on my carry on, sipping hot tea and looking forward to sleeping in my bed tonight. Nice trip, but I’m beat.

We arrived in DC on Saturday, and set out immediately to see the sights. The White House, National Mall, and dinner at Old Ebbit Grill. It rained on us, but it was a warm, easy rain, so we just enjoyed it. I brought my pro camera (Big Bertha), who weighs about 6-8 lbs all decked out. That may not sound like much, but she gets heavy after a couple of miles. I was game, though, and got some nice shots. Over the last 3 1/2 days, we put roughly 30 miles on our feet, and cycled another 11 or so.

The weather was spectacular, and we rented bikes on Sunday to spare my back a little effort. The bikes were tanks, nothing like my sweet little road bike, but I got used to it fairly quickly & we set off. Traffic was tough, pedestrian tourists were worse, but it sure eased the strain on my back. Walked most of the day, though. Trying to avoid pedestrians became tough as the crowds got more congested.

After dinner Sunday night, we got back on the bikes and headed up to Arlington Cemetery to see the Marine memorial. Excellent. I was hesitant about the night ride after the traffic issues from earlier, but I’m so glad we did it. Perfect weather, perfect ride.

Mt. Vernon on Monday, Braves/Nats game Monday night, Smithsonians on Tuesday, Braves/Nats game Tuesday night, and this girl is wiped out. Tired, but happy.

I was going to upload some of my favorite iPhone pics, but a spotty wi-fi connection has worn my patience thin. I’ll upload a picture post, along with my favorite and not so favorite things in DC when I get home, hopefully later this evening. Our flight to Atlanta has been delayed an hour, so I’m hoping we make our connection to Jackson. Oh, the joys of airline travel.