#ThankfulThursday: Reflections Upon My First and Second “Tours” of Walter Reed

If you remember, I had written for our Memorial Day article mentioning about a family member receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Now that my family member made it “official” on social media that they are being treated for cancer, I think it is safe to say (at least), that the family member I was referring to all this time is my brother. I just returned from a “second tour” of two weeks (last time I stayed a little over three weeks in May), and I am still amazed and inspired. I wanted to take a moment to share a slice of what I had learned during my most recent trip there.

As always, the medical and support staff at Walter Reed are phenomenal. I feel that my words do not reflect how much I admire and respect all that they do at the hospital for active military and veterans. The medical team working with my brother has been diligent (sometimes over-diligent, but that’s okay). He is still not affected by nausea from the chemo (thank goodness for those newer anti-emetics!) However, he was more fatigued this time around (and lost more hair). Seeing him this way was kind of hard for me. What had kept me up was his attitude through it all. He has kept a positive attitude and, whenever he would go in for an appointment (for the infusion, labs or follow-up with the doctor) he would be like, “Let’s do this!” I am very happy and grateful for the way he has been handling this.

Like last time, we were staying at the Fisher House. This time, however, were a different mix of patients from my last visit. I spoke to a few of them and listened to some of their stories. Between their stories and the stories of my brother, I got a glimpse of active military life. There was one man who was there with his mother – I am going to call him “Joe.” When we – my brother and I – first saw him, he looked like anyone else, except that he was visibly missing the right half of his head. I was amazed that he was able to stand, walk and speak pretty well. Later, when I struck up a conversation over breakfast with him and his mother, and I learned a lot more about him.

About 13 years ago, his convoy was hit by an IED (that’s Improvised Explosive Device). The shock and shrapnel hit him in his head. One of the people in his unit refused to leave without him, despite others telling them to “just go.” He wasn’t expected to survive the night. He was flown to a hospital in Germany, where his mother met up with him. He was alive, but still wasn’t expected to survive very long. He was stabilized and brought to Walter Reed. I am not sure what happened next (they skipped that part of the story), but eventually, he did awaken and was in a wheelchair at first. His medical team remade part of his skull with a plastic-like polymer, so his brain could still be protected (of course). They are here now because that polymer “shield” had gotten infected and they had to remove it. Now, they are preparing to put a titanium one in its place.

Joe can still understand what you are saying and he can keep up in a conversation. Sometimes, if you mention something that strikes a memory in him, he will tell you. He said that his neurologist uses him as an example for his lectures at the teaching hospital. They think that his brain made new connections to compensate for what is lost. He learned to walk on a therapy horse, because their hips move similar to ours when they walk. I then learned that he is blind in his left eye and doesn’t see very well in his right. Sometimes, he has to walk with one arm on his Mother for guidance. He still remembers music/songs that he likes and is re-learning to play the bass guitar (again, I was amazed because the right-side of the brain supposedly controls creativity and music appreciation). The one blessing in all of this, is that he has kept a positive attitude, despite all that had happened. Yes, he had been frustrated at times when he couldn’t do or remember something. No signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) either. Otherwise, he has been pretty happy, he said that he would still enlist, even after knowing that this would happen.

Hearing from their experiences has given me more perspective on things. There were times I would feel down and hopeless. Yet, my brother and Joe still maintained a positive attitude, despite what they are going through. I am definitely inspired and I am humbled by their experiences.

So, my dear reader, I hope that my short story gave you some inspiration and perspective. Again, I realize there are times where we feel overwhelmed and stressed with the tasks of daily living. It may help to try and take a deep breath, then think to ourselves, “This is only temporary; this will come to pass.” Also, it would help to remember that keeping a positive attitude while weathering the current storm can help us emotionally and physically in the end (ex: less stress, less strain on the heart, less emotional toll). I am also a big fan of “talking it out,” because sometimes, by saying it out loud, it helps with the problem’s “release.” Plus, you may get some needed advice and guidance from the person you are discussing this with. There are also crisis hotlines available that one can call or even text – some depending on your area, but most are nationwide. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a list of crisis lines available (in Chicago, they are listed here: http://namichicago.org/en/crisis-lines/), which includes the Suicide Prevention Hotline as well (1-800-273-TALK).

Is there someone that you know or met in your life that gave you as much inspiration as Joe and my Brother had given me? Feel free to share in the comment box below!

–Maeven

Wanderlust Wednesday: Washington, D.C. (Part 3)

We started off at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  I felt that it is one of the many places to visit while in D.C.  The Holocaust was just an unspeakable and horrible period in the World’s history, yet it is also something that should be reflected and learned about so it is not repeated.

You may think that you know all there is about the Holocaust, but I learned some new things while at the museum – either that or I learned about it, forgot about it then re-learned it again.   For example, other than incarcerating Jews, the Germans also sent Jehovah’s Witnesses, political prisoners (aka anyone who spoke up against Hitler and the Nazis), scientists and homosexuals.  At one point, the amount of countries that were controlled by the Nazis were so far and vast, those trying to escape them, really had no where to go.  Then, once the war was over, because there was so much destruction, especially in the Allied countries, those that were able to return, couldn’t.

They did have stories that I did remember and/or read about.  They had a section on Anne Frank, about her life, when she was captured and when she died.  They also had a section on Auschwitz, how the prisoners were transported by freight cars in extreme conditions.  Then how they were divided up, first by gender, then whether they will continue at the camp undergoing hard labor, or if they will go to the gas chamber.

They also had a room that had written excerpts as well as recordings of those who had survived the Holocaust.  They described how they were brought to the camps, how their life was while living in the barracks, or how it was when they were rescued at the end of the war.  After seeing how everyone was taken, imprisoned and/or put to death, you can’t help but to feel awe for those who had lived through such horror, anger for those who had imprisoned them, and sadness for those who did not survive.

Now, I wish I could have taken more photos around the museum.  However, I also felt that this was such a somber and heavy topic, that I did not want to be snapping photos at every turn.   You can’t help but to feel affected in some way after that.

Next was the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.   Just like the name suggests, this museum chronicles how man got into the air and space by craft.

We saw the plane flown by the Wright Brothers!

The museum gave a nod to women pilots in America, too!

Some military planes and drones…

As well as space craft and satellites…

We even got on one of the simulator rides!

From there we headed towards the White House.  We were only able to take a picture from outside the gates.

Shortly after we returned home, they announced that they were no longer allowing people in that area anymore (good thing we went, then!)

Finally, our last stop was at the State Capitol.  We were able to get a tour after contacting our state representative, Tammy Duckworth.

For a big building, we weren’t allowed into a lot of it.  Even though there were some rooms there for the representatives, they really spend most of their time across the street in either the Rayburn House Office Building or in the Hart Senate Office Building.

By the time we were done with our tour, we were plenty tired!  We would be leaving early the next morning.   I did feel like we covered a lot of ground and we would love to come back!

How about you?  Have you been here as well?  What did you think?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

Until next time,

–Maeven

References:

https://www.ushmm.org/

https://airandspace.si.edu/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/

https://www.visitthecapitol.gov/

Wanderlust Wednesday: Washington, D.C. (Part 2)

We tackled a lot in the few days that we were here, which is why this segment is broken down into parts.

The first monument we come across is the Washington Monument.  Usually it would be open for the public to climb up to the top, but it was closed when we had gotten there.  It was still beautiful to see.

We were hoping to see the cherry blossoms, but they had bloomed early and only a few trees still had their flowers.  We were lucky to come across one and it was beautiful!



Our first stop was the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.  Built for one of America’s Founding Fathers, who also drafted one of the most important documents in our county’s history – The Declaration of Independence.

At first, it looks clean, and simple, but when you walk inside, there is a statue of Thomas Jefferson in bronze.

Along the walls, there are excerpts from various works that he wrote.

From there, we continued our walk towards the Lincoln Memorial.  On the way, we came across the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

Freedom of Speech/ Freedom of Worship/ Freedom From Want/ Freedom From Fear

The architechs behind the memorial wanted it to be accessible to those with disabilities (FDR was in a wheelchair). This relief has braille for those who are sight-impaired.

There are four different sections, each signifying his four terms as President of the United States.  He is the only President to have four terms, when the previous Presidents followed George Washington’s precedent by only having two terms, and before the enactment of the 22nd Amendment that limited the President to two terms in office.

Since I have family members who have served in the military and in at least two wars, I had to also visit a few of the war memorials (it was only right).

The World War II Memorial

Korean War Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Three Servicemen
The Memorial Wall

We also had a chance to see the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

Proof of Life!

Last but not least (for today), the Lincoln Memorial.  Its one thing to see this on TV, but its another to be standing within it’s walls.

When looking out onto the reflection pool, I couldn’t help but to think of Jenny in that scene from Forrest Gump where she runs across the water to hug him.

Overall, this was a very long walk! We were not kidding around when I said that we were seeing alot!

Next time, we talk about some of the museums we went to, The State Capital and, of course, The White House!

 

References:

https://www.nps.gov/thje/index.htm

https://www.nps.gov/frde/index.htm

https://www.nps.gov/wamo/index.htm

https://www.wwiimemorial.com/

http://www.koreanwarvetsmemorial.org/the-memorial/

http://thewall-usa.com/information.asp

https://www.nps.gov/mlkm/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm
 

 

 

Wanderlust Wednesday: Washington D.C. (Part 1)

Though I have lived here all my life and traveled to a number of places, I still haven’t been to D.C. (what?!!)  So my family and I decided to remedy that and take a road trip to America’s Capital this past April.  It would be for an extended weekend (four to five days), and I knew that I wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface on visiting everything DC had to offer.  However, we will make an effort to make a dent!

Pro Tip:  The White House, the Capital Building, the Pentagon, and the Supreme Court offer tours by staff or volunteers.  Some of them are arranged through your local Congress Representative or through the website.  When I looked into getting tours four months before our trip, there were none available (already booked?).  We did manage to get a tour of the Capital Building weeks before our trip after placing our names on standby with Tammy Duckworth’s office.  That being said, if you know for certain that you will be wanting to tour any of these places, look into them ASAP!

The Family on Our Fantastic Journey

We decided to drive there, which is about 12 hours one way.  Our first day, we drove halfway and stopped in Toledo, OH.  BTW, I really like the rest stops on the Ohio Turnpike over Indiana and Pennsylvania (at least on the route we took).

The next day, we completed the journey.  We did this because we had an AirBnB reservation – our FIRST AirBnB reservation ever – and we had to get the key from them OR the lockbox.  I didn’t want to chance having to get the key from them at a late hour.

Usually I am able to get a decent price on hotel rooms, but in the DC area, the hotel rooms were running at least $200/night.  I decided to try AirBnB for our trip.  For five days, for a 1BR apartment with parking, with taxes and cleaning charges, it was $550.

Anyway, we arrived in the area through Virginia.  We were still early for check-in, so we decided to stop at Arlington Cemetery first.   Some of the oldest resting places there date back to before the Civil War.

 

20170408_160659
View of the Washington Memorial from Arlington
20170408_160943
United States Air Force Memorial

 

20170408_161009
The Grave of Robert Peary, who was a US Navy Officer that made several expeditions to the North Pole.

 

View of the Pentagon from Arlington Cemetary

 

McClellan Gate – for Major General George B. McClellan

We then headed to our AirBnB to rest for the night.  We were in an area called Columbia Heights.  I noticed a couple of Greek (ie Fraternity/Sorority) houses on our drive up 11th Street.  I then found out we were near Howard University.  I did a quick Wiki search on them and found out this:  Howard University originally opened shortly after the Civil War, originally to be a theological seminary for African-American Clergymen.  Now, it offers a diverse array of undergraduate programs and graduate programs (ie Business,  Education, Law, Medicine, Nursing, etc).  Also, they had produced Fulbright Scholars, Rhodes Scholars, Truman Scholars, Pickering Fellows and a Marshall Scholar.  In 2015 it ranked in the top 75 in the Bloomberg Businessweek college rankings.  It also produces the most black doctorate recipients of any university.

In other words, there are a lot of smart people at Howard University!  Kudos!

We have only been in the area for a few hours and I’m already learning a lot!

For dinner, we ate at a nearby restaurant called “The Coupe” and it was recommended to us by our AirBnB hosts.

 

Grilled Hangar Steak

 

 

Mac and Cheese
Cuban Sandwich with House Made Chips

 

Getting back to our AirBnB, our apartment was spotless (thanks to the professional cleaning service they hire) and the hosts were very thorough and accessible.  If you are ever in the D.C. area, and don’t mind a short commute, look up Host Alper under “Cozy 1BD apt steps away from metro with parking.”

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Peary

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_University

http://www.thecoupedc.com/

https://www.airbnb.com

 

 

 

 

Wanderlust Wednesday: California Missions Series: #7 Mission San Juan Capistrano

Today, we feature the 7th California Mission: Mission San Juan Capistrano

 

Hello everyone! For the second mission in this series, I’m going to share my trip to Mission San Juan Capistrano, about 60 miles south of Los Angeles. Located in 26801 Ortega Hwy., San Juan Capistrano, CA., this mission is the 7th mission built by the Spaniards, and 19th mission geographically from the north.

IMG_6167.JPG

The mission was founded in November 01, 1776. It will celebrate its 240th year in Nov 1, 2016. It was named after Italian saint, St. Giovanni da Capistrano. San Juan Capistrano is also home to the oldest building in California still being used today – Father Serra’s Church built in 1782. Serra established 9 missions and The goal of the mission was to be self-sufficient, that is why livelihood was taught. Farming was the main industry, and animals were raised as well.

Mission San Juan Capistrano is known all over the world for the legend of the return of the Cliff Swallows, told by Father O’Sullivan from the 1920s. Every year, the mission celebrates the legend on Swallows Day on March 19th.

Here is an excerpt of the story of the Cliff Swallows from Chapter 10 of Capistrano Nights: Tales of a Mission Town.

“One day several years ago,” He said (Father O’Sullvian), “I was passing the new hotel at the west side of the town plaza, and there was the proprietor out with a long pole smashing the swallows’ nest that were under the eaves. The poor birds were in a terrible panic, darting hither and thither flying and screaming about their demolished homes.

“What in the world are you doing,” I asked.

“Why,” said he, “these dirty birds are a nuisance, and I am getting rid of them.”

“But where can they go?” I continued.

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” He replied slashing away with his pole, “but they’ve no business here, destroying my property.”

“Then come on swallows,” I cried, “I’ll give you shelter. Come to the Mission, there is room enough there for all.”

“Sure enough they all took me at my word, and the very next morning they were busy building under the newly built sacristy of Father Serra’s church.

(Credit: Website)

img_6210
Entrance to the Sacred Garden
img_6211
The four Mission Bells

 

 

Bells were crucial to everyday life at the mission. They signal meal times, start of work and religious services, births, funerals, etc. Fun fact: These four bells were all named. Biggest to smallest: San Vicente, San Juan, San Antonio, San Rafael. Not everyone can ring the bells at the mission. Only a privileged and chosen few were assigned this task. On this bell wall, the two smaller ones are still the original ones used from the past. The two larger bells are replicas of the original bells. The two bells fell and cracked when it fell from the 1812 earthquake.

IMG_6227.JPG

These two large bells hanging low are the original of the large bells. Since its restoration after the earthquake damage, neither gave out clear tones. They currently sit at the footprint of the ruined bell tower.

img_6206Pictured is an area inside Serra’s Chapel, also known as Father Serra’s Church. This chapel is the only existing structure to date where it has been documented that Father Serra celebrated mass.

img_6232

The mission desperately needed a bigger church for everyone that lived at the mission. For ten years, they used the adobe chapel and it no longer served the purpose as there was not enough space. It took nine years to complete the Great Stone Church. But sadly, only six short years after its completion, the tragic earthquake on December 08, 1812 fell to shambles, killing 40 people that attended mass that tragic day. The church was never rebuilt, the priests made no attempt at rebuilding and the ruins from then on served as a symbol to remember the loss of their community.

 

Each mission has their own rich history, their own personality, and that makes me certain that as I go through visiting each one of them, I know that it will really be a learning and enjoyable experience. As much as I enjoy capturing the beautiful scenery of the missions, I also enjoy the reading and the research that I do, because I learn more about their rich history and all the fun facts in between. Go visit a California Mission today and tell us about it!

-Jaja (IG: @theforevertourist)

Resources: Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Juan Capistrano,

Wanderlust Wednesday: California Missions Series: #18 Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

Today Wanderlust Wednesday introduces the beginning of the California Mission series.

 

mission_san_luis_rey_de_francia_current
| Photo |

Usually, when we come across the word wanderlust, some of us think of these amazing, exotic, breath-taking places that are worthy to be in a bucket list. There’s France, Japan, the Bahamas, Hawaii, what have you. One (or should I say 21) of the places that I wanderlust for is the California Missions.

The California missions are 21 outposts, or settlements, that the Spaniards had built along the West Coast, mainly to spread Christianity to the indigenous people in the region. Aside from religion, they taught the locals to grow their own food, raise animals and become more civilized.

8
| My friend A |

2012 was when I first heard of the missions. It was really intrigued. Elementary students here are required to do a diorama project and a presentation on a mission of their choice. I looked up the history and the background of these missions, and from then on, I have tried to visit one whenever I can.

I know that this is not specifically Los Angeles, but I thought that I would share my touristy trips to the missions that I go to. Let’s just call this, the California Missions series of Wanderlust Wednesday. If you also happen to be a history buff, and enjoy exploring historical places like the missions, I hope that my posts encourage you into visiting the missions as well.

7
Bronze rendition of the Fourth Station of the Cross

For the first in the series, I will share with my trip to Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, located almost 90 miles south of Los Angeles. Located in 4050 Mission Ave., San Luis Rey, CA., this mission is the 18th mission built by the Spaniards, and 20th mission geographically from the north.

2
First and oldest pepper tree in California, planted in 1830.

The mission was founded in June 13, 1798 by Father Fermin de Lasuen. It was named for King Louis IX of France and was nicknamed the “King of the Missions”, being the largest mission at 35 acres. The California Pepper Tree (originally Peruvian Pepper Tree, first of its kind planted in the state) was planted in the mission, and a very iconic sight to see.4

The mission is fully functional to this day, and provides services through community programs. One of their facilities include a Retreat Center with day and overnight programs. Even the historic church is still used for early Sunday mass, weddings, and funerals.

14
Peyri Court: The court is an inner garden dedicated to Padre Antonio Peyri who guided the development of the Mission from founding through secularization.
16
Inner sacred garden, where the public is not allowed to venture into.

If you’re a history fan a road trip fan, I think that the missions will definitely pique your interest. Since I live in the West Coast, I’m taking my time visiting them. But if you’re in town for a week, or intentionally want to make a missions road trip vacation, I think that that’s a great way to see the state of California, close to the coast at least.

Thank you for reading my first mission post of the series! Let me know what you think, and go and check out the rest of the California Missions.

-Jaja

For more information about the history of the California Missions and this particular one, click the links below:
California Missions
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
Visit Oceanside
Mission Tour