Independence Day at Mount Vernon - Red, White and Blue Celebration!

posted on: Thursday, July 21, 2011


Celebrating Independence Day in Washington, DC is a truly unique experience. Aaron and I were blessed to be here last year, to celebrate with thousands of people, sitting on the Capitol steps, in the scorching sun, listening to the tunes of Gladys Knight and Reba McIntyre, and watching the fireworks with the Washington Monument as a backdrop. This year, we decided to go in the other direction, visit Mt. Vernon and celebrate George Washington's birthday on his spacious estate. 

We got there at noon, and as we parked and walked to the entrance, we counted the license plates of 24 different states of the United States, all there to celebrate the 4th of July. The picture above depicts how we were greeted as we were walking up to the mansion.

This man was operating a camera of the era of Washington, and you could get your picture taken for a nominal fee. As I walked past him, I heard him instruct the couple in front of him to not smile, as they did not smile in pictures during Washington's time.  It made me think of India, and how the older generation still does not smile or have any physical contact while having their pictures taken. It makes for a very morose photograph.

This lively band, braved the heat, and played some wonderful music.

The mansion of George Washington. I don't think I will ever tire of this estate, which is why we got ourselves an annual pass to Mt. Vernon!

The militia lined up on the back lawn looking out on the Potomac.  How they managed to smile and not faint, is beyond me. The heat, combined with the humidity, hung in the air like a heavy, wet blanket. Nonetheless, it was exciting to see them there and imagine a time when this was a way of life, and this very lawn had seen the hustle and bustle of the real militia, conferring with General Washington.

This cannon was a sight to behold, and the sound waves it produced was quite tremendous in effect. The militia warned the people to cover their ears and to back up a few more feet while they loaded and fired this bad boy.

I loved their uniforms, and their devotion to volunteer, in order that their fellowmen would have the opportunity to participate in such an important day for their country. 

Daytime fireworks. I could not see a thing in the sky when I took this picture. I am glad my camera's eye caught much more than my own.

Aaron interrogating one of the youngest members of the militia.

George Washington's Birthday Cake!

Time for a break!

Guess who I ran into while walking around the estate??? Yes, George himself! George stayed in character the entire time, and was actually in conversation with a French nobleman, who was visiting his estate. Washington, being the gracious host that he was, stopped to chat with us, as we followed him around.  He was incredibly tall!

Needless to say, Aaron interviewed him about the affairs of the country and his interests, as we strolled over to this tree for some much needed shade!

Classic! Need I say more?

Enjoying some birthday cake, dressed in red, white and blue.

The military drummers are actual paid soldiers, and some of them were as young as sixteen years of age. These kids portraying those drummers were very good and skilled at entertaining large crowds of people.

Are we done yet?????

Talented musicians!

Patriotism to the max!

This was a very special moment for me. As we walked up to the tomb, it happened to be the hour that the wreath-laying ceremony takes place.  They open the gates of the tomb and invite ex-military and veterans to participate in laying the wreath inside the tomb.

Here lies the remains of George Washington, interred in his favorite place - his estate. And beside him, in the other sarcophagus, lies his beloved wife. The small black gate inside the tomb leads to another room, where 25 relatives and family members of Washington are buried.

The Wharf - Boat rides on the Potomac.

Slave Monument on the estate at Mt. Vernon.

Faces of the Fourth!!!

I hope you all enjoyed strolling with us through Mt. Vernon's 4th of July celebration.  And here's one more Face of the Fourth for you :D

Are you living Your Best Life?

posted on: Monday, July 18, 2011

While flipping through an Oprah Magazine, I came across this question, and it has stuck with me ever since. Periodically, I ask myself this, and periodically, I realize that I always fall short of living my Best Life. Why is that?

So I thought to myself: First of all, what is my BEST LIFE? This is a crucial question to ask of oneself, as it differs for each individual, but I am summing it up for me as - a life filled with balance, health, happiness, dreams, spirituality, great relationships, giving back to the world and making a connection with my soul. It could be completely different for you. All this is lovely, but it still seems so vague, doesn't it? I am the type of person who needs to know that the things I am striving for are actually ATTAINABLE, that I can take those things and break them down into SMALLER PARTS, and accomplish those tasks to lead me to the ULTIMATE GOAL.

So, being the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People addict that I am, I start with Putting First Things First. This is Habit #3 of the 7 Habits, and one that I use the most, besides Seeking First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Putting first things first for me combines a couple of the other Habits that Stephen Covey talks about, namely, Be Proactive & Begin with the End in Mind. These two habits combined with Habit #3, is what he calls, the Private Victory - the essence of character growth and self-mastery. The reason I go back to this often is obvious - it is hard work to master one's self, and requires a strong commitment to personal growth, which I don't always have.

But that's okay, because most of us are the same way, having to return over and over again, and to start anew. The great thing is that we CAN START AGAIN!!  Don't worry about what others think of you (easy to say, hard to do), but seriously, you will notice that once you start to care less about what other people think of you, a whole new world is open to you - to explore, to try new things, new looks, new surroundings. You also realize that, in all honesty, people don't really think of you that often! I don't mean that you are insignificant, I just mean, that they are busy with their own lives and their own shortcomings that they are hoping no one will notice, so they really don't have time to think of you.

Both Oprah and Stephen Covey arrive at the same conclusion: Living your BEST LIFE starts with being your best self - feeling good, looking good, finding a sense of balance and purpose. You cannot be successful with other people if you are not successful with yourself.

Here are some examples of people who consistently win their private victories:

Proactive people take responsibility for their own lives. They determine their own agendas and how they will follow them. They choose how to respond to what happens to them. Basically, not being reactive to any given situation.

People who consistently practice beginning with the end in mind, use a clear, personal vision, correct principles, and a deep sense of personal meaning to achieve their goals and accomplish their tasks effectively.

Those who put first things first exercise discipline, and plan and then execute by using their priorities to guide them along. They focus on being balanced and being productive, and develop a method that works for them, in order to reach their goals. Because they spend a significant amount of time, planning and preparing, they find that they are not always in the putting out the fire mode, which can be very draining!

If you need some help getting started, or just need some inspiration, here is a link to building your personal mission statement:

Build Your Personal Misson Statement

I have always loved Benjamin Franklin's list of values and have used it often to create and re-create my mission statements, at different stages of my life. If you would like to read them, you may also find them very helpful:

Benjamin Franklin's List of Values

There is no reason on earth why you cannot live your BEST LIFE!! Start TODAY. Start NOW.  If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and greet the next chance with a smile. You can do it!
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