Hidden Gems of Washington, D.C. and Surroundings - Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Garden
Second entry in a series about interesting places around the greater D.C. metropolitan area
Even though I had visited Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Garden sometime around 2010 or 2011, using a Groupon that David and I had randomly gotten online, it was last year's visit with my Mom (featured in the picture above) that brought back the memory of this hidden gem right on our backyard.
Hillwood is a house museum on the Northwest area in Washington, D.C., right above Rock Creek Park, nestled in between the daily hustle and bustle of Connecticut Avenue, one of D.C. major thoroughfares, and the quiet beauty of Rock Creek Parkway, the two-lane road that traverses D.C.'s own national park.
First in a series about interesting places around the greater D.C. metropolitan area
Right where the beltway gently bends to the right, after the Mormon Temple on the left, when travelling on the inner loop, lies one of the many hidden gems in our larger DC metropolitan area: The National Park Seminary.
This place has fascinated me ever since I drove by it, years ago, during my morning commute to Rockville, avoiding the traffic build-up on Jones Bridge Road.
The National Park Seminary Historic District is located in the Forest Glen neighborhood of Silver Spring, walking distance to the Forest Glenn Metro station (around 25 minutes), stretching to both sides of Linden Lane, between Sacks Street and Smith Drive, in close proximity to the Forest Glen Annex of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
The area is a conglomeration of condominium units, single-family homes, town houses, and apartments. Most of the condo units and the single-family homes are historically restored buildings, courtesy of a partnership between The Alexander Company and EYA. The Alexander Company specializes in "historic preservation, urban revitalization, adaptive reuse, and urban infill development", according to its website, and EYA is a local housing developer. Building townhouses around this historical site created a financial foundation to restore the structures of the Seminary complex, which were slowly but surely decaying.
No, this is not another recipe post - rest assured! I have not suddenly turned into the German baking version of Julia Childs.
Baking for me isn't so much about the final product, but about the emotional need that the act of baking fills for me. As a matter of fact, I don't even eat cakes or cookies.
I know, this is usually when I get some level of incredulous reaction (e.g. blank stares, bewildered frowning of facial structures). Who doesn't eat cakes? Well, I don't, but I love making them.
The plethora of baking shows and, yes, you've guessed it, baking blogs, is astounding. Actually, there are blogs about baking blogs, "11 Baking Bloggers Who Will Help You Improve Your Pastry Game" or "The 12 Best Baking Blogs You Should Be Reading," to just name a few.
Putting My Head Under Water
I will no longer keep my head above water.
"What is going on here," you might wonder, "does this mean Isabell is loosing it - she can't keep up with her life anymore?"
Not at all....
I have decided to wo-man up and put my head under water: finally learning how to master the freestyle/front crawl stroke. It turns out that swimming freestyle is really hard to do while keeping your head above water. If you swim, try it - it's miserable.
"Wait a minute," you might wonder. "Are you telling me you can't swim?"
Actually, I can swim, but only in the past four or so years have I been able to muster up the courage to experiment with letting water rise above my chin line while in the pool, and it wasn't easy.
You see, when others dreamed of snorkeling and the peaceful environs of the underwater world, imagining myself under water would make my heart rate go up.
Know the feeling of dread deep in your stomach weeks before an event? That feeling that you just can’t shake and that seems to get stronger the closer you get to the event?
Well, that’s exactly how I have felt these past weeks, in anticipation of a date that everybody around me seems to be super excited about: Mother’s Day.
Who doesn't like Mother’s day?
Moms are awesome – and I personally think that my mom is just beyond fabulous. I also love to honor my mother-in-law who has given me the gift of my absolutely amazing husband David. Plus, I know so many women whom I dearly love and admire who are mothers – and this is a day to celebrate them.
So what makes me dread this day?
It’s simple, and I am sure millions of women who experienced what I did can relate.
You see, when you're in your 40s and trying to be a mom, things don't always go so smoothly.
I actually have fond memories of mother’s day growing up in Germany. One year, when I was a little kid of maybe seven or eight years, I remember making breakfast for my mom, with my dad’s help, arranging the table and putting some fresh cut flowers in a vase on the kitchen table. I sneaked into my parent’s bedroom to wake my mom up with a kiss and a self-made card, and I remember her beaming smile as she embraced me in the special hug that we can only get from our parents.
Writing this, I can feel the tears well up.
In December 2014, David and I started consulting with a fertility clinic about growing our family. We had been married for three years, two of them separated while I was living in Germany, and getting pregnant just wasn’t happening for us. I was 39 at the time and full of hope that this process will work for us.
Two and a half years later, here I am, mother's day looming upon me - and no child in my arms.
Mother’s Day 2015, the first after our initial consult in December 2014, was filled with yearning for a child, but also with hope. I needed surgery in March of 2015 before we could even start the process of fertility treatments. Everything went well, thanks to a great surgeon, and we were getting ready to start our first IUI (intrauterine insemination – think sophisticated turkey baster and loads of crazy-making hormones).
Three IUIs later, I finally got pregnant in December of 2015.
We were elated – alas, at our 10-week check-up, our baby’s heartbeat was gone. Two weeks later, I was in the hospital for a scheduled D&C. The miscarriage was caused by chromosomal abnormalities.
Mother’s Day 2016 was hard. We went to a baseball game that day, and seeing all these families with little babies was painful – and then there was the hope that this might soon be me.
Fast forward: two unsuccessful IVF egg retrievals – both times, the one embryo tested positive for chromosomal abnormalities.
Finally, in March 2017, the good news: our two embryos of the third IVF egg retrieval tested negative for any abnormalities.
Transfer was scheduled for mid-April.
I started hoping for a mother’s day filled with the promise of a new life growing inside of me.
Two weeks after transfer, when the phone call came in the afternoon of my early-morning pregnancy test, my hopes shattered again. HCG values were lower than expected. Four days later, they were even lower.
Another miscarriage - and more broken dreams.
So what will I do this mother's day?
Honestly, I don’t know. I remain amazed how much my heart can stretch to accommodate the hopes and dreams as well as the disappointments, sadness, and anger.
So if you are a mom, go ahead – revel in the attention that you so very well deserve. Mother’s Day is a special day that should be cherished and celebrated by those who can.
As for me, I will need that day to feel my grief for the children I lost, who will never come up to my bedside and wake me up with flowers or a self-made card. And I need to face the possibility that I might not be privileged to experience that in my lifetime.
So for me, Mother’s Day offers a sobering opportunity to practice gratitude in the face of deep sorrow and unimaginable loss – and brunch, lunch, or dinner with flowers and beautiful greeting cards and toasts to the amazing jobs that moms do every single day doesn’t really fit into that.
However, when I will be calling my mom this Sunday, who lives an ocean away, I will celebrate her, as I still, 42 years later, need her to be a pillar of strength and comfort for me. And that is what being a mom is about - and I can toast to that.
Re-Launch - Ready, Set, Go
So what happened to my great plan to write on a daily basis, regularly updating my blog?
You guessed it - not much.
In order to not feel like a complete failure, I am at least posting an entry today, to make sure that there is an entry for each month in my archives.
Yes, I know, none of that happened in January - well, we just let that one be.
So what is keeping me from regular writing?
Sure, all these things are valid and true, but I know that I can fit in the time to write - I just have to commit to it and make it a priority.
And frankly, I have not done that.
Here is to a better start into a new season, full of promising opportunities and ideas.
Stay tuned for more on
The events of the past week have left me exhausted, worried, and at times pissed off. It has gotten to the point where I need at least one media-free day a week, where I don't check my news feed or my Facebook/Twitter feed. As a matter of fact, I deleted my Facebook app from my phone, at least for the next two weeks. I am undergoing some medical treatments for which I want (and need) to be as relaxed and serene as possible.
I am grappling with the guilt I feel about that - isn't that something!
Needless to say, as an immigrant to this country who had numerous student and other visa prior to becoming a permanent resident, I have been deeply affected by the most recent executive order on pausing entry for immigrants and refugees from certain countries.
Wherever you fall in terms of the political spectrum, this particular order was poorly executed. I wish that somebody in the administration would man up (pardon my gendered expression here!) and admit that this was extremely bad form.
It just confirms my ideas for my podcast, interviewing people from all over the world who are living in the United States as participants in the Fulbright exchange program.
Well, two weeks of R&R will also help me solidify some more concrete ideas on this, so that hopefully I will be able to launch that podcast soon.
I'm dreaming of a White House Christmas
For more White House Christmas pictures, check out HGTV's image gallery here.
Is it Christmas Yet?
The holiday season - mixed emotions running galore. Just like when I was a little kid. Or maybe I wasn't aware of mixed emotions; I might not have had any, blissfully unaware of the complexities of adult life. Today, in my 40s, the holiday season, with all its mirth, also comes with the stress of getting to all the holiday gatherings, organizing your own holiday gathering, getting the right presents, remembering who doesn’t want presents, updating my annual gift-giving to charities, finishing up the tasks at my job to wrap up the fall semester... the list could go on - scary, but true!
And in the midst of all that, I am trying to be present, to let go, to just be. I feel like a race horse chomping at its bit, waiting every second for the gun to mark the start of the race, but somehow, the shot never fires. So I find myself in this perpetual moment of anticipation, never arriving, always expecting, fearing, worrying - that can't be healthy now, can it?
The solution? Other than Christmas just being over? Once I finish my cider-run for our office party, select the best possible wrapping paper, check on the gifting list four our church's charity, I will let you know!
In the true fashion of a renaissance woman (or frau), lots of things interest me, and I am writing about them here.