Sunday, December 17, 2017

Laying of the Wreaths 2017

Driving the George Washington Parkway from Virginia into Washington, DC, you cannot miss the drama of Arlington National Cemetery on your right. You look out onto row after row of white crosses as they march in silent columns over the rolling hills of Virginia. Watered by tears, drenched in blood, the graves of 400,000 veterans and their families are silent reminders of the high cost of freedom. For the past ten years, thousands of people have come to Arlington in December to participate in a ceremony known as the Laying of the Wreaths.
Looking at the Washington Monument from a hill at Arlington National Cemetery.

It all began in 1992 when Merrill Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath Company in Maine, found himself with 5,000 pieces of excess stock. As a child, he’d been struck by the sad beauty of Arlington National Cemetery. This 1,100-acre plot of land has been a sacred spot since the 1850s when George Washington Parke Custis dedicated it to the memory of his step-grandfather, George Washington. During the Civil War, federal troops used the grounds as headquarters and burial grounds. By the third year of the war, D.C. graveyards had run out of space, and so two hundred more acres at Arlington were set aside for the dead. Shortly thereafter, the site was turned into a national cemetery.

Worcester decided to donate his wreaths, asking that they be placed on graves in one of the older (and less visited) sections of the graveyard. Since then, this simple act has become an annual tradition that occurs on the third Saturday each December at Arlington and 1,200 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea, and abroad. The mission of National Wreaths Across America Day is to Remember, Honor and Teach.

Yesterday, my husband and I joined a group of friends to participate. The ground was freezing; the surface was slick with ice and traces of snow. Traffic backed up for miles over the bridge, so we opted to say goodbye to our Uber driver and walk the final mile or so.  Fortunately, we were all appropriately bundled up. Once we passed under the Arlington’s gateway, we made our way to sections of the graveyard where trucks were parked, and volunteers unloaded unassuming brown cardboard boxes. We took our places in line, using the time to gaze around at the variety of monuments. One was copyrighted by Tiffany. Another was a single, huge granite ball. A cannon stands sentinel amidst a group of headstones. An angel blows a horn from one carved headstone.

Eventually we were each given one wreath. Tradition demands that you say the name of the fallen as you set down your wreath. Thus, we remembered the fallen by bringing them back to living memory once more.

Do you have a family member interred at Arlington? Have you been to Arlington?

Friday, December 15, 2017

My Week

I really didn’t know what I was going to write about this week. The exciting thing that happened with the manuscript I’m working on is that I discovered a much more interesting way of killing the victim. Only it meant making a whole lot of changes in what I’d already written but I think it will be worth it in the long run.

It definitely got my families attention when during a car ride to one of our offices I mentioned my new method of murder. And then they went back to whatever they were talking about.

I had a flash of inspiration while walking on the treadmill and suddenly knew what was going to happen at the very end of the book even though I’m still dealing with the middle.

And then I got an email from my editor that she realized they didn’t have a picture of me and needed like right away. I’d been using one that was getting to be a little old and besides it wasn’t the 300 dpi image they needed. Luckily, one of my son’s friends is an excellent photographer and knew how to get a photo with the right resolution I needed. And was nice enough to do it right away. I already sent it off to my editor.

It is just sinking in that Christmas is almost here. It is so different now. Nothing seems to slow down for me around the holidays. It always seems I have a book due and this year I’m trying to learn an accounting program. I have spent hours on the phone dealing with banks and credit card companies about setting up online accounts. Instead of sugar plums dancing in my head, there are six zillion passwords.

And there’s a new addition to the holidays this year. Jake’s first birthday is December 23.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Holiday Baking Dilemma

Cookies from a swap I went to a few years ago.
The tea cookies were my favorites and I'd love
to try making some.
It's almost time for our ornament exchange party and there are a few items left on my list before I'm ready for Saturday. The two main things deciding on the cookies to make and finding the ornaments that I bought a month ago and put in a "safe place". Fortunately, I have back up ornaments (those are ornaments I bought at the end of last holiday season and forgot I bought until we started decorating for this year) and will use those if I can't locate the ones that are safely tucked away.

The menu for the party stays the same pretty much year after year: chili, Pizza Rolls, chicken nuggets, Buffalo chicken dip, and deli tray with meat and cheeses, and rolls. The only part of the menu that changes are the cookies that I make. I enjoy holiday baking and always want to try one new cookie. This year so far the list has chocolate chip (I like one easy recipe), either peanut butter and jelly cookies or thumbprint cookie with jelly, the recipes I'm debating between are a Russian tea cookie, cheesecake stuffed red velvet cookies, and super chocolatey buttons. . I like to only have one jelly cookie but my family is split evenly between the peanut butter and thumbprint. I have to hurry up and make a decision as I need to buy the supplies and then start baking if I want to stick with the tradition of having four different cookies. Classic Spritz cookies were on the list but my cookie press and I don't always get along. I'll save those when I'm not crunched for time and have time to sweet talk it into working properly.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Uncrowded Places

This past week I went to a couple of places I anticipated would be crowded because of the holiday season, but they weren't.  Other people there suggested, in both cases, that it was because people were staying home--if they could--thanks to the fires that aren't far away.

One was a popular local restaurant we went to with some friends, including a couple from out of town.  It's a restaurant where there's a pianist, and the wait staff bursts into song now and then, accompanied by the piano.  Fortunately, despite fewer patrons like us, the entertainment remained as wonderful as always.

And then there was the Glendale Reads Author Festival at the Glendale Library last Saturday that I've mentioned here.  There were quite a few authors, including some who were interviewed on a stage near the signing area.  But not a lot of library patrons or others showed up to hear the speakers or meet the rest of us.  Fun, yes, but mostly because of the other authors I talked with.     

More things are going on that should keep me busy--including my writing--but the end of some is in sight.

Meanwhile, I'll keep on going!