Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for May, 2013

JOY

Saturday, I heard the unexpected news that my friend’s mom, Pat, was undergoing a pretty serious surgery. I didn’t realize that she had fallen ill recently; I had seen her online and even interacted with her the week before on Facebook, so that revelation came out of left field for me.

I talked to my friend, Kenda, for a while that evening to encourage her. Pat came out of surgery alright but still in fragile condition. Kenda flew home to be with the family over Memorial Day and kept me updated a bit on her condition.

Yesterday I came home after work and began fixing dinner with Bart. While waiting for our meal to cook, I quickly scanned Facebook and suddenly got the news from multiple friends and relatives that Pat had passed away that afternoon.

This news also stunned me a bit. I knew that even as she came out of surgery, she was still battling other health issues that had an unsure prognosis, but there was still some hope things could turn around. However, it appeared that through Monday night her condition hadn’t improved.

I tried processing the news. I had a few tears; Bart gently consoled me, and we prayed for the family. The thought of Kenda, who was so very, very close to her mom, saying goodbye for the last time ripped my heart inside. Then, I quietly fell into an odd listlessness. I was thinking about Pat and her family, and I was clearly sad, but I was overcome more with disbelief than sorrow. Some people get old and ill and you aren’t surprised at their passing; some still seem young and vibrant, and to have them taken by illness is a bit surreal. I feel a bit of guilt at my stunned silence, which honestly continues at this moment, but I’m sure the reality will soon sink in and I will be able to grieve properly.

I’ve been friends with Kenda a long time. We grew up in the same hometown, and though she’s a couple of years younger than me, we’ve known each other through school, through church, through summer jobs. In college, I even introduced her to my other long-time friend Nathan…and they just celebrated their ten-year wedding anniversary! You may recall that they were our very first house guests after we moved to DC.

Along with our friendship, I got to know her mother Pat as well. Indeed, it seems everyone knew Pat. The outpouring on Facebook during her surgery and now her passing has been tremendous. She touched so many lives through her family, her friends, the community, and her ministries. What a godly woman who embodied every verse of Psalm 31. Having a testimony like hers is all I could ever aspire to in my life.

She was an avid writer and cook. She even merged the two into a blog and even her a cookbook. She absolutely loved her family and took such joy in her husband and children and grandchildren. Joy…..this one simple word was, in fact, her entire life’s motto. Everything she did, she did with JOY.

I have many fond memories of her, especially as I became an adult and became her friend instead of just a friend of her daughter. She read this blog regularly and always had an encouraging comment. Just last week, she told me my museum crawl made her wish she could visit Washington, D.C., and I told her we would love to see her in this neck of the woods. I recall meeting her for breakfast when I was in town visiting a couple of years ago. She gave me a sweet gift of some home-made crocheted kitchen towels and her very own cookbook which she had just published. And Bart and I will never forget visiting her house with Kenda and Nathan and eating rum cake absolutely saturated in rum! (She later gave me a recipe that was toned down a little, haha ;))

Maybe one of the reasons I am slow to process her passing is because I know it’s only temporary. For her, she is now perfectly restored in mind and body and spirit. She gets to wait with Christ for the rest of her family to get there eventually. It feels so trite to say that a loved one “is in a better place.” For one, that doesn’t erase our pain of being without them here and now. Secondly, even though I have salvation through Christ, I’m still stuck in this world, and my simple human mind just isn’t capable of understanding how vastly superior eternal fellowship with God is compared to the temporary things of this world. It’s all I’m familiar with, so death is a big unknown, and even if the unknown is a better option, it’s still scary to think about.

However, despite my feelings, I know for sure and have faith that this is the reward of all who accept Christ’s gift of eternal life. Pat’s life on earth absolutely demonstrated without doubt where her heart and hope lay. So, while we on earth still grapple with this news, I am thankful for what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13).” Without Christ, there is no hope in death, only despair. But because of Christ’s reconciliatory work of the cross, all who believe have the hope of eternal life. And Paul doesn’t say we don’t grieve at all in sorrow and death; we will still mourn, but we will be comforted in knowing we’ll see Pat again. I know she will be overJOYed to see us there.

Read Full Post »

This spring, the Taylors have had multiple encounters of the critter kind. We’re not the only ones who are venturing outside more with the warmer weather. We’ve seen lots of animals around as we’ve moved into spring.

First, my parents bought us a bird feeder when they were visiting a few weeks ago. We have lots of birds in our yard, and the feeder has attracted a few of them, particularly some cardinals. I love watching the male and female come eat; the way they munch on the sunflower seeds is quite funny, and I’m surprised they haven’t exploded yet as much as they’ve gobbled down.

IMG_5410

The bird feeder has garnered other attention, unfortunately.

20130526-210650.jpg

I’m more surprised the squirrels haven’t exploded yet. Murphy has thoroughly enjoyed chasing the squirrels away from the bird feeder; however, they only pretend to be scared when he’s outside, then immediately return once he goes back inside. They’ve had to be creative to reach the feeder, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Bart even saw one slide down the pole fireman style. I wish I had a video of that!

We’ve also discovered that bunnies frequent our yard, just like in Colorado. Chasing bunnies was Murphy’s favorite pastime there, but I am not sure if he’s noticed them here yet (he’s not the most observant hound dog). We accidentally discovered a little baby bunny nest in our yard a few weeks ago. I just happened to be in the yard while Bart was mowing and looked down to find a very small and rodent-like creature scurrying through the yard. It was a tiny little bunny making a run for it; I guess he was scared of the lawn mower (I don’t blame him). I ran inside to grab a paper towel, then grabbed the wiggly, scared little guy to usher him back to his safe hole with his siblings. We covered them all back up with some grass clippings and left them alone to settle back down. I checked on them a couple more times to make sure they were okay without disrupting them too much. Finally, I went back to find their hole empty. I was relieved that they’d gotten big enough to go out and fend for themselves.

Another critter lurking about our neighborhood appears to be a very angry raccoon. One day, Bart was out mowing the yard and stopped to greet a neighbor who lives behind us and happened to be walking by. The neighbor began to describe how this raccoon had taken up residence in his attic and somehow managed to rip a hole straight through the roof of his house. The damage was bad enough that he just decided to have his entire house re-roofed (he said it was due, anyway). Even though we don’t own our house, I’m glad he chose another house besides ours to go nuts!

One critter encounter I’m not so excited about unfolded for a few weeks during April and May. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve since realized that their appearance was not so much an indictment of my domestic prowess but an unfortunate symptom of our somewhat bedraggled rental. These uninvited kitchen guests are roaches…eww. Fortunately the outbreak was minimal and not a total infestation. We scoured the entire kitchen, hoping to eliminate any food sources for them. Upon their continued appearance, we did some more research and discovered that, while they do enjoy food, they find water even more essential to survival. Therefore, we eventually tracked the mother lode to around the dishwasher. It took a couple of iterations of pulling the dishwasher out and decimating their population, but it’s been over a week since our last treatment, and I haven’t seen any live ones since then. I don’t want to jinx us, but I am cautiously optimistic that we have finally eliminated them once and for all.

I’ve also seen critters away from home. On Monday, I went for a run during work, taking a street less traveled just east of Mass. Ave. that resembles a park more than downtown DC. It was a nice place to run, for sure, and I can’t say I was shocked to see a fox run across the road in front of me. Then a second later I saw another fox about to do the same; I paused for a few moments to let him pass, but an oncoming vehicle scared him back into the brush. Back on base at the observatory I’ve observed multiple groups of deer milling around during the day. All this wildlife comes up from the massive Rock Creek Park, and the verdant observatory is an appealing place for them to settle down for a while. I consider the local fauna a nice perk of working there.

Finally, beyond his regular squirrel hunting, Murphy has been the center of some of the more exciting critter encounters around our house. The crowning moment of our recent critter encounters unfolded Thursday morning at the unassuming hour of 6:30 a.m. Like every other morning, Murphy greeted me with full wag as I came down the stairs. I let him out in the backyard to sniff around and chase squirrels or whatnot. Usually he’s ready to come in and eat breakfast pretty soon, but that day he was very interested in the yard. I can’t see the entire expanse of yard from our kitchen, but I caught a glimpse of him once or twice, just sniffing around. Finally, when I was finished making my breakfast and was just about ready to head out for the morning, I heard this blood-curdling yelping and screeching coming from the yard. I flew out the door to see Murphy running back toward the door from the yard, still emitting the loudest and most soul-rending cries I’ve ever heard from him (comparable only to when he got his nose bitten by a neighborhood dog). By this time, Bart (and the entire neighborhood) was awake, and he ran downstairs to see what was going on. We sat in the floor together, Murphy between us, scanning him from nose to tail to find what I assumed would be an injury. Shockingly we found nothing, and he was mostly moving around just fine, indicating nothing physically wrong. I had to leave for work, but Bart watched him all day. Normally, Murphy doesn’t venture downstairs to hang out with Bart while he works during the day, but that day he didn’t move from under Bart’s desk until the afternoon. At that point, Bart thought he went back upstairs, but it turns out he found a hidey-hole between some shelves of boxes we have stacked up in the corner of the basement. Evidently he saw something that scared the living daylights out of him, but we have absolutely no idea what. Another mystery critter? A fed-up squirrel? Maybe the angry neighborhood raccoon? Whatever it was, hopefully it doesn’t come back to terrorize our dog; I don’t think his nerves can take it. 😉

Read Full Post »

A DC Museum Crawl

For Bart’s birthday last month, I surprised him with enrollment in a photography class. We got a fancy camera last Christmas, and though he’s taught himself the basics of how to use it, he’s always been interested in getting more technical and stylistic instruction to enhance his skill. I found a place in town that did introductory classes each month, and he signed up for one in May.

The class normally meets during the week, but one session was a “field trip” to downtown DC for some in situ photography on a Saturday. Since he was going to be down there with his class, I decided I would tag along and poke around the national mall on my own.

We started off at the Botanical Gardens, where he was to meet up with his class. Since he was a bit early, we did a leisurely walk in front of the Capitol and spent a few minutes relaxing on a park bench.

20130520-094440.jpg
When it was time for Bart to head back, I wandered over to the National Gallery of Art a block away. Bart likes museums just fine, but he wore out on endless walls of paintings during our two weeks in Europe. I decided I could check out some of the permanent collection that he wouldn’t miss seeing.

The main building is a giant marble structure in the neoclassical style. Like any good neoclassical building, it couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay homage to the Pantheon. Ever since visiting the Pantheon in Rome last year, I’ve become aware of seeing its influence all over the place, particularly in DC.

20130520-094753.jpg

I spent an hour or so wandering through Italian, French, and Spanish art of the Renaissance. I’m no art aficionado, but I enjoy casually strolling around and appreciating different aspects of paintings and sculpture. It’s always awe-inspiring to me to see an object that is multiple hundreds of years old still here today. It’s also interesting to see what the artists felt was worthy subject matter and to compare the varying style of artists even from the same period and location.

I intended to wander there for most of the duration of Bart’s class; however, I quickly became hungry and decided I needed food before I ran out of steam. So I found a sandwich shop off the Mall and ate a bite before venturing back. However, my focused study unexpectedly turned into a DC museum crawl.

Typically, a museum crawl is not something that can practically be done everywhere. Most cities do not have the large number of clustered museums that Washington, D.C. does. Furthermore, most museums charge fees for admission, which makes hopping from one to another a prohibitively expensive activity. However, national museums in our nation’s capital are free to the public and also largely in close proximity. Therefore, I felt totally free to pop in and out of as many as I wanted on this Saturday morning.

It had started raining after lunch, so instead of heading all the way back to the art museum, I ducked into the American Indian museum. This was near the botanical gardens and also on Bart’s itinerary for the photo shoot, so I thought I might see him. I wandered through a few exhibits and paused to sit in the main area for a little while. There was no sign of Bart, so I decided to head next door to the air and space museum to check out the new time and navigation exhibit.

This exhibit, which just opened last month, is very relevant to the work I do. In fact, many clocks and devices from USNO and NIST are featured there. I’ve been wanting to check it out, and this was my first opportunity to do so. It was crowded and well-attended, and I thought it was thoughtfully put together and well done.

20130520-100102.jpg
Once I’d walked through that exhibit, it was getting near the time Bart would be finished, so I decided to end my museum crawl back at the gardens where he would be finishing up. Sure enough, I saw him talking with his teacher and fellow classmates, so I ducked into the garden for a peek at the orchid room before we left.

The abundance of things to do and see is one of the best things about living here. Even I, as a new inhabitant with the goal to see more of the city, can quickly neglect the ease of popping in and out of many museums and monuments at my leisure. Hopefully this experience will serve as a reminder that there is a lot to see and encourage me to make it a priority to enjoy more of it.

Read Full Post »

Last Friday, the USNO opened for a family and friends evening. Technically being a military base as well as the residence of the VP, not just anybody can waltz onto the grounds at any time. With the right effort, you can get in, but a few times a year they host events for people we know to come visit. This is fantastic, as the observatory is a unique, historic, and fascinating place.

Bart took advantage of the opportunity and drove down after work to meet me here. I showed him my digs and lab space in my building, then we went around to tours of other buildings on the campus.

If you look at a map of DC, just north of Georgetown you will see a perfect circle right in the middle of town. This is the Naval Observatory, which moved to its current location from Foggy Bottom in the 1890s. At the time, it was situated on a hill far outside of town, never to be plagued by poor astronomical observing conditions such as excess light (ha ha). Over 100 years later, we consider it practically downtown, though some observation is still routinely done here.

It is still a beautiful, park-like oasis in the city; it’s so park-like that you even routinely see herds of deer milling about. You now get great views of the city from the top of the original telescope dome.

20130514-115717.jpg

You can see the Capitol and Washington Monument to the left and right of the flag.

20130514-115913.jpg

National Cathedral, just a couple of blocks north

The original building is famed for its historic and picturesque library featuring a startling collection of rare astronomical books (Galileo, Brahe, Newton, Boyle, and many more) and time and navigation paraphernalia. Bart took this wonderful panoramic shot of the room.

20130514-121232.jpg

Panoramic of the Library

We also toured more areas of the campus, including clocks contributing to official USNO time and the original 12-inch refractor telescope.

After showing Bart around, we met up with my friend whose office is next to mine and her friends and walked over to Georgetown for dinner together. An evening in the hip part of town with actual human beings? I just almost sound like a cool kid. Almost.

Read Full Post »

It has been six months…one half of a year…since we began our journey from Colorado to Washington, DC. I am incredulous.

It is now undeniably spring, though it hasn’t been super warm except for a couple of days. We have rain, flowers, bunnies, pollen, humidity, frizziness, and sinus congestion. I am generally in a pleasant temper these days, which has certainly been helped by the nicer weather replacing the doldrums of winter.

20130512-223305.jpg

This weekend has also featured another notable event. Our pup, Murphy, turned six. In traditional dog years, that makes him 42 years old. However, my friend posted a very timely article on Facebook this week about calculating a dog’s true age. I’ve always noted that small dogs typically live longer than larger breeds, and this article corroborated that fact. They listed some more appropriate scaling factors by breed; according to them, dachshunds age about 4.32 dog years per human year, making them one of the longest-living breeds. That puts Murphy right at 26 years old on this Murphday. He’s still pretty spry yet, but I’ve noticed him slowing down in the last year. Since doxies are prone to back issues, I keep a constant watch on his mobility and health. But other than a little hesitation with stairs every so often (he is short, and they can be steep 😉 ), he’s doing pretty well, and he’ll probably keep wagging and prancing around for many years to come.

20130512-223214.jpg

In half a year, we have, among other things:

  • Had visitors from both sides of the family
  • Made a trip back to Arkansas
  • Mowed the yard
  • Dropped in on multiple open houses
  • Scheduled two specific home tours
  • Hung out at a friend’s house
  • Gone shopping with a friend
  • Sneezed
  • Been to a National’s baseball game.

We have yet to

  • Join a church
  • Visit the zoo
  • Take a trip to NYC
  • Hike or camp
  • Visit a Civil War battlefield
  • Visit Arlington National Cemetery
  • Take a tour of the Capitol building
  • Been to the beach when it was warm
  • Invited local friends or acquaintances to our house
  • Cut my hair in frizzy desperation
  • Purchase a new grill.

Read Full Post »

We just got back from Arkansas, but last weekend we already had a new set of family visitors. My parents finally made it out to see us, and while I did just see them a few days before, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with them on the quick trip. My parents are retired and like to travel, and they were already hoping to take a spring trip in the beginning of May, so they decided to head East and come by way of Washington.

We didn’t have any big plans for the weekend; mom and dad have already been out this way before and were more interested in visiting with us than seeing monuments and museums. Primarily, we ended up driving around northern Virginia, looking at neighborhoods and driving past houses for sale. We even hit a few open houses on Sunday.

My parents built houses as an “extra curricular activity” when I was growing up. Every house I ever lived in until college was one that they had built themselves. Therefore, I’ve always had an interest in real estate and homes, which makes house hunting just a bit more interesting. It also makes house hunting with my parents more interesting as well. It’s nice to have some trained eyes looking at older homes, such as the ones around here are. But house hunting is also really personal, so sharing your initial experience about a place you might call home can be a little awkward, too. But we had a fun time together. They headed out Monday morning, and it’s back to the grind this week.

I think we’ve had more guests since we moved than we had in the whole time we lived in Colorado!

Read Full Post »

For my sister-in-law’s baby shower last weekend, I finally finished a baby blanket I had been working on for a few weeks. This was actually my first real crochet project ever, and despite a few boo-boos it doesn’t look too bad. While it was only one solid sheet of single crochet, I consider my long-standing goal of “learning to crochet” finally completed.

20130502-085751.jpg
I’m primarily a knitter and am fairly advanced in what I can do, and so far I still feel like I prefer it to crochet, but I would like to say one day that I am proficient in both. I do plan on expanding my skills to advanced topics such as double crochet, increasing and decreasing, and working in the round in the future. However, for the immediate future regarding my crafting, I have other plans.

There’s this blanket I’ve been working on for quite a while (but I am no longer admitting to exactly how long; it’s embarrassing). I made a blanket just like it a few years ago; if you have come to stay with me before, you will recognize it as the bedspread in our spare room. I am somewhat infatuated with it, but for some reason I decided I needed to make another one.

This is no piddly little baby blanket, though; it’s a full-sized, intricate object with a complex color scheme that requires meticulous planning to make sure that no pattern is repeated and that I don’t run out of yarn, the amount of which I carefully calculated with a small amount of wiggle room. It also requires careful arrangement of squares so that no larger unit repeated the same color and no color was touching anywhere, except maybe at a corner. For those interested knitters, this is the classic “mitered square blanket” from the book Mason-Dixon Knitting (pattern here on Ravelry ).

It has languished for many moons as I have gradually knitted the 36 separate small mitered squares required for it. Last year before we moved, I finally completed all the individual pieces and laid out the placement of the squares, but the move interrupted the final seaming of it all together. Actually, moving was just an excuse to avoid it; seaming and weaving in all those loose ends is practically the worst thing ever. Here is the layout:

20130502-091143.jpg
Daunting, no? There are 36 individual squares requiring 36 separate, small seams to generate nine larger squares, which in turn must be seamed together as well. Not to mention that when it’s all done, I intend to make a black border around the entire thing, which is something like four feet on each side. So now you know why it’s taken so long.

No more excuses, however. I’ve decided to create a monthly challenge for May to completely finish this blanket, seams and border and all. It’s time to get it done, and making a conscious and public goal will keep me on task for completion. I’ve found monthly challenges to be an excellent way to tackle projects that need some focus and a little time. Paired with a goal of the week, it helps me be so much more productive at home, and even at work. So hopefully I will be able to share the finished product with you in a few weeks…wish me luck!

Read Full Post »