FML (the “The Sky Is Falling” edition)

See this?

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Know what that is? Let me back it up for you:

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If you guessed "dead, hollowed-out tree trunk", congratulate yourself on being correct!

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On Easter Sunday, shortly after this –

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–a wicked thunderstorm ripped through and did this:

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Yes, Mother Nature, that capricious bitch, must have thought we were becoming a little to optimistic, six weeks after the fire. We've been closely watching the trees in our back yard – where the fire spent most of its time – with interest, wondering whether their leaves would emerge or not. Things don't look promising. Many of the trees where leaves were beginning to come out looked a little, well, droopy. Wilted. Tired. (Just like me.) We suspected that the fire damaged the trees to the point where they might not all survive. We'll know more after a "tree guy" comes to check them out later this week. But if that's what's going on inside the trees we thought were going to survive?


Mama N and her straight-line wind couldn't just drop that weakened tree any old place; no, she she sent it crashing into our dear neighbor's Brand New Fence. The one he just put up because the other one had BURNED DOWN.


And that's not to mention the other huge branch that plummeted to the ground during the same storm. Oh sure, it only took out three of our fence rails in the front of the house, but STILL. Are we done yet? Our house still isn't finished, and now the sky is falling.

If you need me, I'll be over here in the corner, hiding.

It's been three days since that happened, and while we haven't yet begun clean-up, we had pretty much resolved ourselves to the task ahead. We had A Plan. And then guess what happened? Tonight, more rain, a little more wind, and BAM –

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A branch fell and knocked our mailbox all cockeyed!

More clean-up, more work to do, more money to spend.


But you know what, it will all be fine. Our house is almost done inside – we have new French doors and carpeting. The floors in the family room and kitchen will be done this weekend, the windows will go in next week, the new shed should be up soon. The siding is on out back and just needs to be painted. The dumpster is gone! The new sofa is ready and we're getting a new TV, too – both of which should be delivered within the next couple of weeks. The fence (our fence) is up and looks really good, and I have big plans for planting a bunch of things to make it look pretty outside…

…Right after we fire up the chainsaws and clean up that big-ass tree.

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 Firewood, anyone?



THINGS ARE PROGRESSING with the repairs to our home and property. Finally. We'd signed a work agreement that said the general contractor would begin work "within two weeks" – it was two weeks till they even assigned a job supervisor, five days after that till he visited the site, and four weeks later, work still hadn't begun. I told him I understand our job isn't an emergency, as we're living in the house, but could you just please give us an idea of when you might be starting, given that we've been told nothing?

Early on, we had asked if we could add recessed lighting to the family room, for which we would pay using some of the money for a section of fence we weren't replacing, and the rest of which we'd pay out of pocket. Well, the job supervisor offered, by way of apology, to do the lights without us having to pay for it. Apology accepted! And now, I have something I've been wanting to add to the room for years:

(Apologies for the photo quality. I snapped these with my iTouch, which has one of the crappiest cameras ever. My three-year-old cell phone takes better pictures.)

Also, see that? That's paint on our walls. Our entire house has been this numbingly boring color for the past five years, when we had it painted thinking we were going to sell it. So, we're taking advantage of this work to have some color added.  We love our fireplace, but the bricks are the strangest color – hues of pink and blue. They scream Hello! We were born in the '60s! (Of course, so do I, I guess.) We're thinking of painting them, too.

The hole in the wall is gone too, finally – at least inside. I'm told that next week, they'll replace the French doors, at which point they can begin repairing the hardwood floors, as well as the outside / back of the house. I'm not sure why we haven't seen a carpet guy in here yet, and we haven't decided on flooring for the kitchen either. Trying to swing a deal on that, too – we'd like to replace it with something other than hideous sheet vinyl, but that's what we have now, and that's what our allowance is based upon.

Meanwhile, outside, they've finally begun replacing the charred remains of our fence:


It's funny, there's one side of the house we just kind of ignore, outside, because there's no reason to go over there… the fence on that side had been on our list to replace but we'd just kept postponing it. Out of sight, out of mind. Thanks to Mother Nature, our neglect is being rewarded with brand new fencing! (You see? Two wrongs do, sometimes, make a right.)

Speaking of Mother Nature, I've been kind of angry with her, what with our craptastic winter weather and this little blaze that took out my family room and scorched my trees, but you know what? She's sending out little peace offerings. Sure, the shrubbery out back of the house succumbed to the heat and needs to be replaced, but we have a nice patch of ferns growing in front of where we buried the cat, and we can see they're poking their curly little green shoots out of the ground. We have moss instead of grass out back (it's a shady lot), and it's greeing right up, too. And out front, amid the blackened bases of our stately oak trees, we have these:

It looks like we'll need to replace the adjacent patch of pachysandra, but the daffodils are there, as dependable as the arrival of Spring.  (And more dependable than the arrival of the contractors.)

Now, we're just waiting for the leaves to emerge so we can tell which trees are beyond saving. There are a few out back that seem to have suffered significant damage. Which is kind of a bummer, when you live in a neighborhood called "Ancient Oak." Those trees are kind of our thing, y'know?

So, we're getting there. Slowly but surely.


My Washington

THE WHOLE COUNTRY IS ABUZZ with talk of the congressional budget impasse and the likelihood that the federal government might “shut down” until our elected representatives can agree on exactly how to spend our tax dollars and then some. The Washington region in particular is fixated on every tidbit of news, seeing as how we're kind of a Company Town.

Picture comes from here

I myself find the whole exercise rather ridiculous. It’s like a game of chicken, so much posturing and rhetoric and what about the poor high school band from Dubuque who’s supposed to march in the now-tentative Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on Saturday? GAH.

The reality is, most federal workers, if forced to surrender their Blackberries and forbidden to email anyone for a few days, will probably ultimately end up with a few paid days off (after congress tussles over but finally agrees to reinstate their lost wages). I’d take that deal without thinking twice.

This absurd standoff may exemplify what’s wrong about Washington. But that’s the federal Washington. While our lawmakers are trying to make each other look bad, thankfully, that madness is confined to a few acres of real estate downtown. When I think of Washington, I mostly think of something else entirely.

We’ve got a whole other city here that surrounds the Capitol Hill craziness, and that’s the Washington I call home. It’s the Washington I came to rather randomly 21 years ago and liked it so much, I decided to stay. It’s the Washington that, all these years later, still makes me feel lucky to live within a short drive of the capitol of the most powerful nation in the world.

Earlier this week, I paid a mid-day visit to a client in Alexandria, Virginia. While my commute is normally mostly underground, because of the timing I drove there from my home northwest of the District. And while I naturally grit my teeth while driving on our infamous Beltway, I immediately unclench my jaw when I cross the Potomac and take the George Washington Parkway exit. To me, this is the most beautiful drive in the whole region.

At its origin, the "GW" is a winding, four-lane road through lush woodlands. Then it aligns high above the Potomac River, providing gorgeous views of Northwest DC. There’s no better view of Georgetown (the neighborhood or the University) than from across the river in Virginia.

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Picture comes from here

Gradually, the road loses elevation, threads itself beneath several arching bridges, showcasing views of the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials.

After it sneaks under I-395, it’s level with the river, providing direct access to National Airport. If you’ve ever been driving there while a plane approaches landing, lining up low above the River, you’ve been treated to some of the most spectacular views in aviation. (It also helps to explain why that plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge all those years ago. But I choose not to think about that.)

Once south of the Airport, it’s on to Alexandria. I have a soft spot in my heart for Old Town. It’s where I lived, with my cousins, when I first moved to DC. The architecture is historic, the shops and restaurants enticing, the brick sidewalks charming.

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Picture comes from here

The return trip is just as much fun. Leaving Old Town, heading north on N. Washington Street, there’s a stunning direct view of the Washington Monument as the street transforms into the GW Parkway. Passing the Airport this time, I beeped my horn to wake up the air traffic controllers saw the planes banking as they approached the runway. Gravelly Point was packed with people hoping to get an awesome view of the takeoffs and landings.

It was late afternoon, which meant it was time for crew. The river in front of Georgetown was filled with young rowers in colorful racing shells, out practicing their rhythmic sport.

Picture comes from here

As the Parkway regained altitude, I noticed that the Judas Trees are just starting to pop; by next week, they’ll punctuate the Parkway’s greenness with vibrant purple bursts.

Picture comes from here

This drive is one of the things I really love about living here. It could be any old highway, an alternative to circumnavigating the city via the Beltway, but its designers took care to make it scenic. Even if I drove it every day, I don’t see how I could take it for granted. So, even as the political grandstanding continues today, I won’t be disheartened. I know there are things that make my Washington special that lawmakers can’t legislate against. 

PS, thanks and a big shout-out to DC Blogs for featuring me on Blogs Noted earlier this week!