|Long live the cherry blossoms. <3|
So a few weeks ago, the in-laws made plans to come visit us when the online D.C. cherry blossom trackers were saying the blooms this year were going to be epic. The in-laws had never seen the flowers and we always sent them pictures when we go because there is nothing quite like this sight...
|The first time we saw the cherry blossoms, during our first spring in the region in 2013.|
|2013. I took this photo with a cell phone. Incredible, no?|
2014. Also taken with a cell phone.
|Also 2014. It gives you an idea of the crowds. This is the third of a grand total of 6 photos we took the entire trip. The crowds were too heavy to be able to get any good pictures.|
|2016. We went on a weekday, driving into D.C., and were even able to park within walking distance of the Tidal Basin.|
|2016. Sooooo windy! And we got to enjoy the blooms without the massive weekend crowds. It was awesome.|
"The chances of that are about shit to none," Carlos said. "It's been over 70 degrees this week."
Famous last words.
Two days before the in-laws were scheduled to arrive, we had the one snowstorm of the entire winter and Frederick, MD got a full 12" of the white stuff.
Okay. So I love snow. I do. I just don't love it the week after it's been a consistent 75 degrees in mid-March and it falls on a workday when I have to drive in rush hour traffic in it (among Marylanders and Virginians that believe snow is fire. This is a FANTASTIC article on how our region's people drive in snow...it's also pretty damn funny) and I can't ride in it, and it's going to melt away before I can return to the barn. Snow is useless to me if I can't ride my horses in it. Phooey. Also, this bipolar winter we've had had really been getting to me this year and I had been really happy about all the early green and warmth. I've had really, really bad S.A.D. this year, which has not been helped by work circumstances, not being able to ride due to said work circumstances, Carlos's work situation, financial stresses, politics, a trip we've been wanting to do with the horses that got cancelled twice due to stupid cold fronts (it still hasn't happened), some possibly major health concerns for both of us humans in our small family of mostly 4-legged beings, in addition to a combination of other Life and First World type of problems. There isn't enough vitamin D in the world to battle the combination of factors leading to me feeling down in the dumps.
|Even Aengus was like, "It's cold. WTF."|
|Taken on the way to work. Go away Winter.|
#typeAproblems #overachieverissues #empathproblems #empathysucksmostofthetime
Welcome to my brain for the last 4 months.
Anywho. Friday night finally came around and I ran out of work two hours after my shift was supposed to be over so I could meet up with Carlos and the rest of the family.
They had spent the entire day up at Roundtop Mountain in PA playing in the snow. The girls, ages 6 and 5, had had an absolute blast in the white stuff.
|Carlos's brother Xavier and the eldest niece. He sent me this one while I was in the OR. I might have been a little bit jealous. Just a little bit.|
|I love Carlos's dad like he's my own father (in front of me at the table.) He has a knack for looking like he is part of the Cuban mafia in photos. Believe me, he isn't. Carlos gets his sarcasm and messed-up sense of humor straight from his dad!|
We went our separate ways after dinner: we live in a tiny one-bedroom and Carlos's dad is deathly allergic to cats, so they were staying at a nearby hotel in town. We agreed to meet up the next morning for...
The eldest niece, Kaylin, apparently wants to be just like me when she grows up. :) Like, she is seriously my #1 groupie. Her plans for this trip were to see snow and ride my horses. I said she could ride Gracie. Lily is the sweetest, but she is also so sensitive that I wasn't sure how she would feel about a small child on her back. Kaylin was fine with this plan.
Gracie might have rolled her eyes at me when she realized what was up, "Seriously? Is there anyone you won't put on my back? Next thing you're going to want me to give the barn cat a ride."
"It's because I trust you, Gracie," I said to her.
"Hmf. As you wish," she said.
And so she tolerated Kaylin just like I knew she would, obediently following me around the arena as we gave the little one a pony ride.
In fact, Gracie was handling all of these shenanigans so well that I decided to literally let Kaylin take the reins.
Gracie still followed me, but Kaylin was able to turn the mare on her own. She is a natural and after a few times around the arena, I really wanted her to get a taste for G-Mare's gait. Kaylin was born in Florida but her blood is Puerto Rican and Cuban: Paso Finos are an intrinsic part of that heritage. Gracie is not a Paso Fino, but her gait is close enough.
So I decided to do something I have never attempted before, neither on Gracie nor on any other horse: to give Kaylin a ride on Gracie at her faster gaits.
Carlos and Xavier helped Kaylin dismount, I got on, and they helped slide her on in front of me, where I could ensure she would stay in place in the saddle. Grace gave me an initial, "Well, this feels unusual..."
And then, "Okay, let's do this." As she always does.
She has a heart of gold, I tell you.
We started out walking and once she seemed comfortable about the weirdly balanced additional weight on her back, I asked G-Mare to pick up her singlefoot gait, which she obliged me with. Kaylin was laughing the entire time.
|The photo where I'm laughing is the one where Kaylin said she didn't want to stop just yet. :D|
After that, Gracie was untacked and released in her field and on a whim, we decided to head down to the National Zoo so the girls could see the pandas, with a stop in Rockville MD at Coastal Flats for lunch. (I failed at food pictures this time.)
We arrived about an hour before the zoo closed and got to see both the pandas and the elephants.
Then Carlos's face sort of exploded, which warranted a rushed visit to Urgent Care where he was diagnosed with a tooth abscess so bad, the next morning he had red streaks running down his neck. Looking at his face alone on Monday, you would have thought he had suddenly gained 50 lbs: that's how bad the swelling was. I was worried he might end up with a major blood infection (sepsis) or endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the heart): both of these things are a very real possibility with tooth infections as serious as this one was. And if you think I'm overreacting: I have 3 close family members that are dentists/oral surgeons who randomly like to send me articles like this one (because apparently I need more things to worry about...) and I received dental training for animals in veterinary technology school. The #1 reason why dentals in animals are recommended is because tooth infections can and do increase the likelihood of an animal developing heart disease at an earlier age. It does apply to people too: I have to take a course of antibiotics prior to any dental work because of a congenital heart defect I have that increases the likelihood of me developing heart disease from dental work that might push bacteria into my heart.
So I was stressing about Carlos's tooth infection for the next three days...that's how long it took for the oral antibiotics to start to make a difference. I thought he was going to need to be hospitalized on IV antibiotics. He finally saw an endodontist (that involved a lot of shouting on my part because he didn't want to go because it required missing work hours but in my book, being alive is more important than any job) and the abscess got lanced and he had his long overdue root canal. Thank you Not-so-New Job's amazing dental insurance. Also: welcome to just a sliver of what my life has been like the last four months.
The next morning, Sunday, we got up relatively early and headed for D.C.: Carlos's brother's family had never seen the White House. The cherry blossoms were a fail: the sudden cold snap and snow had stopped the early blooming in its tracks and killed a lot of the flowers that were already opening, so we didn't really even bother swinging by the Tidal Basin. We just took a walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and around the White House.
|There is a reason why Carlos is considered the Crazy Uncle. ;)|
|Walking back towards the area where we had parked.|
|I always love this view.|
|The swelling on the left side of Carlos's face was just starting when these photos were taken. I'm grinning but I was worried sick about him.|
|Carlos's brother and family finally woke up and joined us, and we took them to a small children's park by the bay. Us adults froze while the girls played.|
|Carlos's dad mastering the art of the selfie. Lol!|
Towards the end of the following week, we got wind that the cherry blossoms might have decent blooms after all, and were scheduled to peak the following weekend. On Friday night Carlos and I decided spur-of-the-moment to drive back down to D.C. to see them the next morning since Carlos was working my one other day off (Tuesday) and the flowers only bloom for 5-7 days! (Dom, I want to plan this with you for next year when the weather is less schizo and it can be truly worth braving the crowds for!)
Shanna was flying back into Maryland on Saturday morning from a business trip out of state and wanted to hang out, and Meggan and Jess were also looking to do something since we hadn't all been able to get together for a while. So I invited all of them.
And that is how we found ourselves back in D.C. in separate vehicles (Jess and Meggan drove down in Jess's car because Jess was on call. Shanna rode with Carlos and me because we live so close to one another it was not a problem to just pick her up en route.)
D.C. traffic was more than a little bit crazy: not only was this the official weekend of the Cherry Blossom Festival (they have live music, food stands, etc for the occasion) but it was also the first warm day in over two weeks so the city was PACKED with being just wanting to be outside for the day. Neither Waze nor Google Maps wanted to cooperate with directions. We got re-routed twice and couldn't find a public parking lot in the near vicinity of the Tidal Basin and didn't want to do street parking (if we had been able to find it...) because who wants to hike 3 miles back to feed the meter? (We later learned there is an app for D.C. parking meters that allows you to pay for parking online without having to physically go back to insert coins in it. How cool is that???!)
It took us 45 minutes to park. Thank God we had been in the city the weekend prior and paid attention: there was a public parking garage right on Pennsylvania Ave, about 3 blocks from the Tidal Basin. It only took us two more attempts to get there. :) I texted Jess and Meggan the address and we stopped at the Starbucks next door to grab coffee, use the restroom, and wait for them to arrive. But 40 minutes later, they were still stuck in traffic, so Shanna, Carlos and I headed down to the Tidal Basin on our own. Jess and Meggan would let us know when they parked and we would play it by ear from there.
Shanna was alternately in a zombie-like vs slap-happy state because she had only slept three hours the night before; her flight left so early. It became a theme for the day, "Shanna don't care" as we posed in front of places that most non-D.C. locals would have been excited about.
|At the National Monument.|
(Also #biceps. There is a post on that coming up. You have an idea if you're following me on IG.)
|The full "Shanna Don't Care" series. *insert laughing emoji here*|
|"We will meet you here! Right here."|
Jess responded, "But what if my GPS is 2 cm to the right of that spot?!"
Me: "I think you might be able to see us. Maybe. Possibly."
We wandered off in the general direction of the Jefferson Memorial.
|It was a gorgeous day to be outside.|
|Shanna giggling in the sunlight. I love this girl.|
There were several artists doing their thing. I don't remember seeing this many of them in the past. But then again, this is the first year where we were also paying attention to the people.
|People and flowers and art and water, all wrapped up into one.|
|I later told Carlos, "Tomorrow they would have been at peak." There were a lot of buds that hadn't opened yet. |
But that's okay.
I finally got simultaneous texts and Snaps from both Meggan and Jess: they were at the WWII Memorial. We decided we would meet them there and walk back to the Tidal Basin together. I wish I had saved their Snaps...my favorite was the one Meggan sent me of a mounted police officer with the caption, "Tu estas aqui" ("You are here") in Spanish! I laughed and laughed.
I Snapped them pictures of us as we were getting closer.
|Carlos and Shanna totally worked it for the Snaps...|
Jess called me, "Let's meet in Puerto Rico!"
So that's what we did.
We eventually left Puerto Rico to return to the Tidal Basin. We went the long way around, avoiding the Cherry Blossom Festival itself so we could go around the prettier, quieter sections of the trees.
|There is something truly magical about the capacity these tiny pink flowers have for bringing together people from all over the world.|
And then there are the people: it is such an amazing, fascinating international community here. As we walked through the cherry blossoms, we were surrounded by accents and languages and every skin color humanity comes in. These trees were a gift symbolizing friendship from Japan, and so many decades later they continue to bring peace to those that visit them.
It was beautiful.
And we all revelled in it.
|Meggan and Jess|
|It's hard not to laugh when the person taking your photos is doing this. <3|
|It's also hard to keep a straight face around this guy...|
|Some very mature people pictured here... ;)|
|This. Just this.|
It was a beautiful day. We ended it with dinner at Paladar, a Latin fusion restaurant in Rockville that we all love, over Brazilian cheese bread, wine, and an assortment of gorgeous and delicious Latin American food. There are no photos because we were too busy living in the moment.
Life is messy and unpredictable and you can plan every single moment or not plan anything at all, and it makes no difference whatsoever: sometimes it does what you want and sometimes it does what it wants, like the tides in the ocean. You can ride the wave or you can let it drown you, and sometimes you catch that wave the best you can and you still get somersaulted head over heels no matter how good your surfing skills are. And so sometimes life is beautiful and smooth and sometimes it is ugly and rough; sometimes it is glorious and sometimes it is absolutely awful and you just want it to end because you are tired of slogging through the Swamps of Sadness. That is Reality. That is part of being human. You can't just pick and choose the pretty parts and ignore the ugly parts. If you're living a perfect picture now, enjoy it while you can. Sometimes things go splat, and sometimes when things to splat, it seems like it will never get better.
How you choose to pick yourself up from that is what will make or break you. Life is not about how well you are able to pretend that everything is perfect; we don't get an award for that at the end. Life isn't an art competition. You have to embrace the ugly too because without it, you would never be able to appreciate the beautiful. Without the rough and the ugly, life would actually be pretty boring.
But while you're at it, don't turn your back on people that might need you. The worst thing you can do to someone is ignore them, push them away, when they need you the most. The wheel turns and one day it will be you needing that shoulder to cry on.
You too can be the girl in the T-Rex suit that made everyone happy for a day. You too can be the tiny pink flowers that bring everyone together in peace and happiness. That is how you leave your mark in this life.
|Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial|