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.

I’m ready

The beach turned into a different place over the weekend. The blue haired, black sock and tennis shoe wearing snow birds have melted into bleach blonds with teeny weeny bikinis and flip flops. To be fair, some of bikini wearers also have blue hair, just a slightly different hue.

The peaceful quiet of the beach has erupted with college kids on spring break littering the sand with beer cans and kids digging holes to Middle Earth that present ankle hazards on my late evening beach walk. No more solitary walks at sunset, or peaceful days spent working quietly with the windows and doors open wide to enjoy the sound of the surf. As Gary and I are closer to the black socks with tennis shoes generation than the teeny weeny bikini one, we are ready to go home. I don’t begrudge them their beach time, I just don’t want to be a part of it. Sheesh, I’m turning into a real old fogey.

It’s been a productive stay. I got some work accomplished, not as much as I wanted to, but more than I thought I would. Race weekend was fun, and since that weekend, Gary and I have tried almost every restaurant along 30A. I can tell you who serves the best key lime pie south of Highway 98, which restaurants to put on your to do list, and the ones to avoid. I’ve had a small vineyard of wine, haven’t run like I should, and eaten more bread and dairy in the last two weeks than I’ve eaten in the last six months. But, almost every day brought a bike ride and a beach walk, so I’m not beating myself up too much. Of course, now I feel overfed and sluggish, but getting home and back to our routines will help with that. And, all that biking and beach walking was very therapeutic for Gary’s leg.

I finished up one last work project this evening, then we went for our last sunset beach walk for a while. We didn’t know when we planned this trip so many months ago how well timed it would turn out to be. The perfect way to lick my wounds, and let the waves wash over me with their healing powers. We didn’t know this would be a trip used to grieve my dad, work out some kinks in our minds and bodies, as well as spend some quality time together away from our regular routines. It’s been a quiet, magical time; filled with joy and sadness. It’s been a time I am most humbly thankful for. I wish that all huge life events came with a month long grace period at the beach right after.

I am ready for home, for spring, and all that it brings. I’m ready for the dogwoods to bloom and the world to be green again. I’m ready for warmer temps when I run. I’m ready to sweat and not be cold. I’m ready to rejoin the world, with a heart full and at peace.

I’m ready to return here soon.

Blue Mountain Beach, Florida

Blue Mountain Beach, Florida

Running in Paradise

The view from our bed Saturday morning

The view from our bed Saturday morning

I’ve come to paradise to stay a few weeks, and it is beauty beyond measure. But, it’s cold. Now, I don’t want to hear it from you guys shoveling snow just to be able to take your dog for a walk (like my DM friend Douglas who lives in Ossining, NY); when you’re at the beach, it’s not supposed to be this cold.

This morning brought my last long run before the Seaside Half Marathon, a 14 miler. I wasn’t dreading it, but I wasn’t really looking as forward to it as I usually am, either. Like I said, it’s cold. My eyes opened as God painted the sky at sunrise, then closed again as I snuggled down into my nice, warm bed beside my nice, warm man. My eyes opened again at about 6:30 and I didn’t see the beautiful scene from yesterday that I’ve pictured above outside my window, I saw scores of runners heading east along the beach. We groggily wandered into the living room and while Gary tried to figure out what was going on outside, I made coffee. We finally determined that it was the Destin 50 Beach Ultra. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with this type race, an ultra marathon is any distance over 26.2 miles, this one was 50. On the beach. In the cold. Really put my pitiful 14 miler on the bicycle path later that day (when it had warmed up) into perspective.

So, I got myself in gear, made breakfast, and began making preparations to start my run. I fooled around with gear and clothes, and whined about the cold until Gary finally said Just. Go. Run. So, I did. Other than some issues with my blue tooth headphones which would make you realize just how dumb I can be sometimes, it was an awesome run. I warmed up after the first few miles (although my nose ran faster than I did), and found my rhythm fairly quickly. I ran east along the bike path, following part of the half marathon course. I ran through the picturesque towns of Watercolor and Seaside, around the little “square” at Seaside, then continued east out of town. I ran past million dollar homes and homes that needed a million dollars spent on them to make them habitable. Mile 7 arrived before I knew it, and I turned around to head west, back toward our home away from home. Traffic picked up on the return; foot, cycle, and auto, so it was much more crowded as I made my way back through town. The diner/cafes that line the highway in Seaside had opened and were putting off mouth watering aromas that made my tummy growl.

When I reached the outskirts of town, I got to the part of the course I like best – the woodsy, beachy paths that line the highway and are part of Grayton Beach State Park, an area I can’t wait to explore in the upcoming weeks. Traffic died down, and only the occasional cyclist whizzed past me, usually announcing with a tinkly, little bell, rather than the usual “on your left”. Got to love that. My legs got achy and crampy at mile 10, and I’ll admit that the last 4 miles were tough. For runs longer than six miles, I do a run/walk interval of 6:00/1:00 (this changes when I have a different pace goal). I have a timer that I wear, and the chime it sounds creates a Pavlovian response in me for which I’m grateful  when I come to the end of a run. Ding – I run for 6 minutes, ding – I walk for a minute. I don’t have to think about it, my body just knows. When the walk chimer dinged about 2 1/2 miles from the finish, I looked to the left, and there was Starbucks. It took all the discipline I could call up not to end my run there. I ran on, finished 13.1 at a pretty decent pace, then finished the last mile much more slowly, cooling my body down and stretching my hamstrings.

I’m as ready as I’m going to be for the race in 2 weeks. I’ve already started obsessively checking the weather reports multiple times daily. Last year, it rained really hard on Saturday as we came in for packet pick-up, then the sun came out and it was beautiful for race day. I’m hoping for sunny and warmer this year.

As I watched those ultra runners this morning, I was reminded of one of my favorite verses.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

I couldn’t put that better myself. Happy running, my friends.

The magic and the familiar

Running is a whimsical companion. Sometimes she is kind and loving, others she is absolutely without mercy. On a couple of recent runs, though, she’s reminded me that she’s someone I can always count on.

The weekend’s long run was a 12 miler. Having increased by a mile each weekend, my legs were not really looking forward to the haul. Late in the week, however, I found that I would have company on my run, and immediately, the prospect brightened. The doctor released Gary to ride his bike, and I think I was more excited about it than Gary was. I admit that I’ve enjoyed this very small window of time in which I’m faster than Gary, but I’m ready to run with my favorite pacing partner again.

The morning dawned warm and overcast, with a fine mist falling as we loaded up. We wanted to go to a trail, but as it’s still hunting season here in South Mississippi, we decided against the woods and headed for Longleaf Trace. The pace was slow and easy, the company was steady and familiar, and it was one of those magical runs where 12 miles whiz by in no time at all. That doesn’t happen often, so I’m particularly thankful when it does.

Stumpy goes for a bike ride!  My pacer for Saturday's long run!

Stumpy goes for a bike ride! My pacer for Saturday’s long run!

Getting back to our “normal” routine found us on the road this week, meandering through back roads on our way to Natchez. We haven’t made this monthly work trip since August of last year, so we were both looking forward to it. I, especially, was eager, as Natchez has one of my favorite runs. Gary hasn’t been released to run yet, so I tried to curtail my anticipation of the morning. Gary’s a great sport, though, and mostly just wishes me well, although I know he’s ready to hit the pavement soon.

I awoke to a view of the mighty Mississippi at sunrise, gulped my coffee, slapped on my clothes and headed out the door. The warm, wet breeze embraced me like an old friend, making me long for spring and the smell of honeysuckle. I ran alongside the riverbank along the familiar route that Gary and I have run together so many times. Past the magnificent, crumbling old mansions that line the river, through the seedy row houses, then up Cemetery Road to one of my favorite spots in the world, the Natchez City Cemetery. That may seem weird, but there’s something spiritual about that place. The majestic old oaks dripping Spanish moss that line the Avenue of the Generals, Bishop Hill memorializing the remains of many of the state’s Catholic bishops and nuns, Jewish Hill with its amazing view of the river and bridge combine to make the hush of the place seem surreal. Only the sound of my footsteps pounding up those relentlessly wicked hills kept me company. This run soothes my soul. It’s quiet enough that I can hear God whispering in the leaves. No dogs and few cars mean I can zone out and just run.

Bishop memorial at Natchez City Cemetery

Bishop memorial at Natchez City Cemetery


The view from Jewish Hill.  Don't know who thought the power lines were a good idea.

The view from Jewish Hill. Don’t know who thought the power lines were a good idea.


Oaks lining the Avenue of the Generals

Oaks lining the Avenue of the Generals

I stopped on Jewish hill to get a picture of that spectacular view and when I turned around there was a creepy white van stalking me. Sure enough, it was my man. I’ll enjoy this run even more when he can make it with me. I headed back to the river and finished up through the downtown streets at St. Mary’s Basilica, the perfect place to end. Then, back to the room to shower and change, and a delicious Southern breakfast of grits and eggs from the incomparable Natchez Coffee company.

St. Mary's Basilica

St. Mary’s Basilica


St. Mary's Basilica - as breathtaking from the back as the front

St. Mary’s Basilica – as breathtaking from the back as the front

Sometimes, when the stars align, runs are magical. Sometimes they’re familiar, like having coffee with an seldom seen friend. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted a run, but I always regret it if I miss one. As one who loves to travel, there is nothing better than exploring new places on foot. Each new running route invariably becomes an old friend that beckons me back again and again.

The Lesson of the Leg

Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who had been married a really long time.  One day, they realized they were in the most magical time of their lives so far.  Some people called it “middle age”, but they just called it fun.  They worked hard, played hard, and enjoyed life to the fullest.  They loved to travel, and one day they went on a trip to a galaxy far, far away.  They had lots of things planned on this trip, including travels to many places they had never seen before.  To start the trip, the man was participating in a dirt bike race, which was his passion.  Unfortunately, his race was cut short by an evil tree that jumped in front of his bike and broke his leg.  After everyone in the kingdom had a look at it, it was decided he needed to be sent to another galaxy in order to get the best treatment possible.

The man and woman spent a week dazed and confused in a hospital far from home, but after two surgeries by talented magicians and many more people in the kingdom oohing and ahhing over the unusual injury, they boarded a plane meant just for them and flew back to their little nest on the hill.  One more surgery awaited the man, then the healing began.

Being true believers, the man and the woman knew that there were lessons to be learned though any unfortunate experience, so in the stillness that followed, they sought the light.  True to His word, He offered answers, and the first one was immediately apparent.

*Be still.  The man and the woman had worked and played hard for many years, and had often filled their lives with “busyness” instead of business.  The woman struggled with this more than the man, but they both shared the trait.  A broken leg makes you be still in a way you never understood before.  Caring for one who is temporarily disabled makes you prioritize the work in your life.  Being still makes you much more able to hear God speak.

*Bad things happen to good people.  Even when they’re doing everything “right”.  Don’t be surprised or spend your time in anger when they happen to you.  Look for the lesson, it’s somewhere close by.

*Life isn’t perfect.  For every hill, there’s a valley.

*Just because you’re down, it doesn’t mean you’re out.  This was a lesson for the woman.  After the first few pain filled weeks, the man began to work out again, figuring out what he was able to do and setting about doing it.  He went to physical therapy, did all the exercises they prescribed when he wasn’t there,  even resumed his strength training to the best of his ability.  The woman was awed and humbled and resolved not to whine so much about her workouts.  That’s a work in in progress.

*Take time to heal.  We all have events (physical, spiritual, and emotional) that are traumatic and life changing.  Give yourself time to heal before you try to resume your “normal”.  And, realize that sometimes, life gives us new normals.

*Take care of yourself.  The man’s healing and recovery were greatly enhanced because he had spent the last years taking care of himself.  Keeping his weight at a reasonable level, working out, and playing hard.

*Pursue your passion.  Many people would be deterred from pursuing their passions when faced with a setback like a broken leg .  But, one thing the man taught the woman through all their years together was that life is about chasing dreams.  Setting the bar so high that you almost have to reinvent yourself to grab it.  Going for the gold requires endurance, stamina, desire, and a little luck, but it also requires a passion.  Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back.  Dream big, and work hard.

*Choose joy.  Life is full of hard things.  Illness, injury, brokenness, even death.  Those things are part of our walk, and if we allow them to, they’ll suck us under.  Joy is a life decision that has to be made every day, sometimes every moment of every day.  That doesn’t mean walking around grinning like an idiot, it just means that you choose to persevere through the trials and emerge victorious on the other side.

The end of the story is still being written.  With God’s blessing, there should be many more years of magic.  As the new year dawns, the man and the woman are still learning the lessons of the leg and are limping into the future hand in hand.