Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Constitution: -5

Well, here we are again. Just four weeks after getting over a hellacious cold, I'm feeling sickly. It's not quite a cold, not quite the flu, but this weird sore throat, achy, fatigue, headachy hybrid. As soon as I woke up with a sore throat on Monday I knew the bell had tolled. That's always how it starts for me: a sore throat. It usually then progresses to the stuffy nose and fever stage, but thankfully I seem to have dodged the bullet. But that still leaves me with the aches and exhaustion.

The sad thing is, I've always prided myself on my constitution. I only get sick about once a year, usually the above mentioned cold, but this is my second time being sick in less than two months. Boo. I'm going to chalk it up to several things: the sudden and WTF change of temperature the past few days, the stress of the past couple weeks with all my family issues, and my tendency to work a lot. I know, I know, everyone thinks I work too much (although I don't really agree), but I can't argue that I've been pushing myself hard lately. And this is the result.

I want ice cream.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Things to do in DC: National Aboretum

Confession time: I had never been to the National Arboretum. I've lived in the DC area basically my entire life, but had never been And what's even worse? My MOM had never been to the National Arboretum. She's lived in the area her entire life (which is about 25 years longer than me) and had also never been. So I was looking for something that we could do on her birthday, which was two weeks ago on Monday, April 19th, and someone happened to mention the National Arboretum it seemed like the perfect solution. And then we learned the azaleas were in full bloom and it was a no brainer.

Yeah, we're kind of dorks that way.

First things first: the organizers of the National Arboretum are very smart. They know that people are going to want to walk around, but since we are Americans and lazy and fat we aren't going to want around too much. So everything in the Arboretum is driveable and walkable. Mom and I opted for the combo pack: we drove to the beginnings of where we wanted to go and then wandered/hiked through the area, but could then head back to the car and drive to the next display. Which could be almost a mile away, so I prefer to think of it as being efficient rather than lazy.

We weren't there too long, it was a weekday after all and there was traffic to consider, but we managed to hit the azaleas, boxwoods, Capitol columns (moved to the Arboretum after the renovating of the Capitol building), and drove through most of the other areas. We didn't get a chance to see the bonsais, because by then Mom was getting antsy and wanted to head home, but you always gotta leave something for next time, right?

But if you're looking for a really lovely place to take a walk with plenty of parking (and dog-friendly) this is the place for you. And did I mention it's free? Awesome.

Pink azalea

Mom communing with nature. The funny part is, about two seconds after I took this picture she tripped and fell on a tree root and went flat on her face. Now you all know where I got my natural grace.

Me standing by the Capitol columns (look close).

I love this picture. Doesn't it look like some fairytale path leading to a magic kingdom? Although it could also lead to a witch's cottage who will then try to kill you in some overly complicated way so she can munch on your bones. Let's just say it's a nice azalea-lined trail, eh?

Monday, May 03, 2010

There's a lot I want to tell you about my Grandmother. First, that she lived to be 89 years old, which is a pretty big accomplishment all by itself. She lived from 1920 to 2010; think about all the things she saw and all the history she lived. Some good, some bad, but still--almost an entire century of history.

The next thing I want to tell you about my Grandmother is that I am named after her. But not really. She was born Margaret Virginia Riley, while I am Margaret Ann Riley. My Grandmother hated the middle name Virginia; apparently she really disliked the Virginia she was named after. Remember, she was born before Social Security, so when the time came to sign up for her card, she told them her name was Margaret Ann Riley. From then on, she was known as Margaret Ann Riley on all official documents. And so am I. Although I have to admit, I've always been partial to the name Virginia and would have must preferred it to Ann. But I didn't get a vote owing to the fact that I was still a good 40 years or so down the road.

Names were always important to my Grandmother. When she was in fifth grade she was expelled from school. The reason? Some kid on the playground called her Maggie. She responded by beating his head repeatedly into the asphalt until the nuns pulled her off him. But nobody ever called her Maggie again after that.

My grandmother married my grandfather in 1945, right before he left to fight with the Navy in World War II. When they met, they hit it off right away, and he introduced himself as Earl. He asked if he could call her sometime, and she replied, "Sure. As long as you have a name other than Earl." Good thing his name was actually William Earl, or I might never have been born to write this blog post.

People throw around words like "feisty," "spitfire," but Grandma really was. She was also tenacious, stubborn, and very set in her ways. There was a right way and a wrong way, and hers was the right way. And usually it was best just to get out of the way and let her take care of whatever needed doing. It was easier on everyone.

At her memorial service on April 27th, Father Chuck noted most of what I said above, but he added that Grandma was always classy, always a lady, and always elegant. Not only were the things that she did done well, they were done right. Grandma took pride in presenting herself, her home, and her family in a proper way with all the care that many years experience can bring. She was the type of woman who would not venture out of the house without properly combed hair, and perfectly applied lipstick. Example: at around the age of 80 she was helping my Dad dig the holes for the foundation of her deck (in the summer heat having given blood earlier in the day no less) and passed out. When the paramedics arrived, she refused to go to the hospital, as her hair was still in curlers. They made her sign the release form and everything, but damned if she was going to the hospital with curlers in her hair.

But she would go anywhere, no matter how far the distance, if someone in her family was in need. She was always the first one to offer help, whether it was a hug, a hand, a casserole, or a word of encouragement. She was the head of our family, our matriarch, and our center. There's a hole now, no doubt, and it's up to us all to try to live up to her example. After all, you could do much worse than be feisty, tenacious, and classy.

Oh, but you can call me Maggie. Or Margaret if you like. Either way, I think of her when you say it.