I don’t even want to talk about the crazy shit that’s been going down in Virginia this past week, so let’s focus on the good stuff, deal?
FRENCH PRESS COFFEE.
I’m not always a coffee drinker. I go through phases every few years, picking up a daily coffee habit, weaving it into my daily routine and then, just because, I’ll quit the shit and live a life mostly caffeine-free, minus an occasional cup of tea.
The last trail I hiked in 2018 was also the first trail I hiked in 2019, the South River Falls Trail at Shenandoah National Park.
I went the first time with this bitch a day before the government shutdown. It was her very first visit to the park, despite being born and raised in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It wasn’t the trail I planned to take her on, but a winter storm closed the southern part of the park and I couldn’t get her out to this waterfall-filled trail, so I improvised, opting for the southern-most trail with a waterfall that I could still get us to.
I’d taken one look at the thick, winding line for tickets to tour Independence Hall, cackled, cursed and said no, thank you, to the whole busy mess.
“I’m too mean to wait in a line that long,” is probably what I told my friend Tara, herself a resident of Philadelphia, as I scowled at the line and once again rattled off all the other options for National Park scampers, as if I hadn’t been prattling on and on about them since my arrival the day before.
Fast forward to later that morning and there we were, standing outside Independence Hall. There’s a handful of historic buildings there and we asked a passing park ranger if there were any we could enter without a ticket or a lengthy line-wait.
“How many are in your party?” he asked.
“Just two,” I said.
“I might have room for you on the next tour,” he said. “No promises, but wait by the bench over there and I’ll let you know in a few minutes.”
We thanked him six or seven times before heading straight to the indicated bench, exchanging giddy, sideways glances as we went.
“Park rangers are the best,” I said, smiling, trying not to let my hopes of getting into Independence Hall get the better of me.
A few minutes later the ranger was back, motioning us from our bench. He led us into the East Wing and told us to take a seat, that the tour would begin soon. As soon as he left the room, we squealed quietly at each other, trying not to drawn any attention to ourselves while marveling over our luck and the absolute delight of getting a spot on the tour without having to wait in the terrible, no-good, very bad line.
Once the rest of the tour group arrived, a ranger gave us an overview of Philadelphia’s historic importance in American history and told us the story of Independence Hall. Construction started in 1732 on what was then the Pennsylvania State House, built to hold all three branches of Pennsylvania’s government. It was completed in 1753 and then it became the “birthplace of America,” according to the National Park Service.
In 1775, George Washington was appointed as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army inside the Assembly Room. Later that year, Benjamin Franklin was appointed as the first Postmaster General and from 1775 to 1783 it was the primary meeting house for the Continental Congress. The Articles of Confederation were adopted there in 1781.
Oh, and the Declaration of Independence was approved there too, inside the Assembly Room, on July 4, 1776. It was then read outside in what is now Independence Square. More than a decade later, in the summer of 1787, America’s founding fathers debated and completed the United States Constitution there, windows shut tight to keep their deliberations a secret.
After learning the history of the building, the tour headed for the Supreme Court Room and then on to the Assembly Room.
As an American history lover, I’ve spent a good chunk of time standing in fields where American history was made. I’ve often stood in reconstructions of what was or even what might have been. And that’s fine. We’re young. We don’t have thousand-year-old castles, but we do have this, Independence Hall and the Assembly Room where our Declaration of Independence and Constitution were deliberated and decided. It’s different, yes, but standing there in that room, looking at the chair where George Washington sat as our nation was founded was incredible.
On the way out of Independence Hall we again thanked the ranger who got us a spot on the tour and quietly made our way outside.
“Wow,” I said, because I didn’t have any other words that could explain what being there was like.
I’ve had an assortment of finance-related conversations with my lady friends in the last few months. We’ve talked about how much money we’re making, how much debt we’re carrying, how much we’re spending on life essentials, like rent, food and random Sephora purchases. We’ve talked about how we do and don’t budget, if and how we’re saving for retirement and I’ve found it refreshing, this open conversation on money.
As I looked around at my life’s recent additions this week I realized most of them are things I’ve resisted, things I’ve even sassed and snarked about.
“I don’t need that,” I’d say, scowling like almost always. Or I’d declare I just simply can’t, can’t wake up early enough to go to the gym before work, can’t keep additional things alive in my house. Can’t, with a side of don’t fucking wanna.
I didn’t originally plan to exclusively read books written by women in 2018, at least not in the beginning. In the beginning, I just started reading. Then it was February, I was dutifully logging my latest reads on Goodreads, as I’ve done for past decade or so, and I realized all seven of the books I’d read in 2018 were written by women.
At the beginning of 2018, my number one goal for the year was to visit at least 25 U.S. National Park units. That seemed like a lot, especially since I didn’t have a single trip booked, just a few vague ideas about maybe taking myself to the Grand Canyon for my birthday or finally getting to see Crater Lake on my annual trip to Oregon.
It’s not a new year unless I use my blog to shame myself into accomplishing things this year, right?
GET MORE FIT.
Last year I said I wanted to run 1,000 miles and then, less than three weeks after setting that goal, I hurt myself. And that was it. I knew almost immediately there was no way I’d be able to hit 1,000 miles and I was right. Last year was a real shitty year for running and while I don’t even know how many miles I ran last year, I do know it’s much less than 1,000.
Last week was the week I almost cried at work, you guys. It was not great, not even a little bit, plus it’s the holiday season and you know how I feel about that. This week was better, a little less chaotic, a little less daunting, but damn if I’m not really looking forward to a little escape into the woods next week.
I’m the person who says, ok, I have friends coming to visit in two months, lets undertake a room renovation in the midst of a super stressful job situation while taking a demanding online class, raising three pets, training for a winter race, getting really into trivia at my favorite brewery on Thursday nights while also trying to feed myself real dinners, brush my teeth and wash my face before bed and keep my house from descending into absolute chaos.