Arlington National Cemetery with Christmas wreaths.

I have been officially furloughed for the last three weeks, and even though it is not an ideal situation…and a very difficult one for many…I’ve actually been enjoying it. Alone time is the one thing I have not had since my husband and I separated last January…so the last three weeks have actually been fantastic.

My son and I had a lovely quiet Christmas and New Year together, even though we didn’t get a white Christmas, we got to visit with friends that made it extra special. Then my son was in winter break day camp and started back to school on Jan 2, so I have been taking long naps, having lunches with girlfriends, had a nice spa visit and massage for my birthday last week, and binge watched entire seasons of Mercy Street and Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. And I’ve even gotten out and about to see a few DC sites…like the Christmas wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery (Department of Defense is still open) and the Fabergé exhibit at Hillwood House.

Hillwood House was amazing. It’s a two-story mansion and garden estate that was last owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post who left it to the city as a museum. Marjorie was one of the wealthiest women in America at the time (with a net worth of $5.7 billion in today’s money). She inherited the Post Cereal Company at the age of 27 when her father passed away. She was married four times, and her third husband was the US Ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1937. They happened to be in Russia when the Soviets were dumping all of the imperial and religious art onto the market and selling it cheap. So Hillwood House has the largest collection of Russian decorative art outside of Russia…including two Fabergé Easter eggs and the original 1883 A Boyar Wedding Feast by Konstantin Makovsky. SO GORGEOUS.

Imperial Faberge Easter eggs at Hillwood House.

I also enjoyed visiting Arlington Cemetery. Even though this is my fifth time staying in DC, I had never made it there. It was an appropriately cold and misty day, and the wreaths, all 350,000 of them, were a touching reminder that every single stone has a story and a family. My mission while I was there was to find the grave of Antarctic explorer Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr. I spent about 45 minutes looking for his stone then finally gave up…the place is so huge. But then I was thrilled to find his section on my way out.

I was looking for him because Admiral Byrd led five expeditions to Antarctica, was the first person to reach the South Pole by air, and “was the commander of the first U.S. Navy Operation Deep Freeze in 1955–56, which established permanent Antarctic bases at McMurdo Sound, the Bay of Whales, and the South Pole.”

According to Wikipedia, he “was one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the United States Navy. He is, probably, the only individual to receive the Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross and the Silver Life Saving Medal. He also was one of a very few individuals to receive all three Antarctic expedition medals issued for expeditions prior to the Second World War.” Apparently I completely missed the massive statue they have for him somewhere in there. So I guess I will have to go back. But in the meantime, here is a picture of me next to his bust at McMurdo in 2007 and an internet pic (because the camera on my current phone is crap) of his tombstone in Arlington (minus the wreath).

Admiral Byrd’s bust at McMurdo Station and his gravestone in Arlington.

We’ll see what next week brings…

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