While I have been blogging for almost 5 years, Loralee’s Looney Tunes is 4-years-old today.
I love that the coolest thing that will probably ever happen due to this place is being written about on its birthday-
My visit to The White House.
This trip has been amazing, people.
I have always wanted to show Jonathan Washington DC and I am thrilled that we got the chance to be here together. We could not have done it without my sister, Melanie and my brother-in-law, Brian generously giving us air miles and hotel points. I also have to give a big, huge shout out of thanks to David, a life-long Dem from Massachusetts who asked if he could donate miles so that Jonathan could come with me. And of course, BlogHer. They made the entire meeting between Valerie and I possible in the first place. My blog and my life would be a lesser place without BlogHer in it.
After a few days of playing around in Washington, Friday finally arrived.
I put on my red Payless shoes, and we made our way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for a 2 o’clock appointment with Valerie Jarrett.
Have you ever been to The White House?
It is stunning, but also sobering. Especially since the flag was flying half-mast because of the shooting at Ft. Hood.
When Jonathan and I made our way up the drive to the West Wing, I about swallowed my tongue with a mixture of hyperventilation and the sheer awe of “OMG, I AM ABOUT TO WALK INTO THE WEST WING!”
(Be honest. Does The White House make my butt look big?)
We were greeted at the door by a very tall man in a trench coat and he graciously held the door open for us.
“The guys that are usually here opening the doors are much more impressively dressed.”
We all laughed and I chuckled that he did a GREAT job. He was so charming and well-humored that he instantly put me completely at ease. I watched him walk through a different doorway and wished I could have given him a big hug for that.
We checked in with the receptionist (who was simply beautiful and kind), hung up our coats and the men sat down while my sister and I went to use the ladies room. It was beautiful. EVERYTHING in that building is beautiful. Remember that post where I kidded that I would totally pinch some hand lotion from Obama’s bathroom?
Don’t worry, people, I didn’t thieve from The White House bathroom, but I DID end up replacing the toilet paper.
My sister used the last of it but we found some in the adorable vanity that was in there. I hope they approve of it hanging over the top. It’s the only way to go, in my opinion.
We sat down by our husbands in the lobby and waited to be shown to Valerie’s office.
Imagine my great surprise and delight when the congenial man who opened the door for us came down. His name is Michael Strautmanis, and he is Valerie Jarrett’s Chief of Staff.
This man is the bee’s knees, people. He is the one who showed us around after our meeting with Valerie and at one point in the tour he said that he was so glad that he now officially had a friend from Utah.
Poor guy. I am not sure he realizes what he’s in for. :)
It’s ok. I think he can take it. He has a great sense of humor, thank goodness.
I was completely awed but so much more at ease then I ever thought I would be and I think most of that was due to the tremendous people that I came in contact with. Like Valerie’s assistant, Katherine. We have been emailing for months coordinating my visit and she has been a delight to work with. She is kind, lovely and one of the most competent and helpful people out there. I joked with her once that I was making a vow to stop emailing everyone in the wee hours of the nights and on weekends because my emails are ALWAYS answered amazingly fast. I don’t think anybody in that building ever sleeps!
She showed us into Valerie’s office and there was much grinning and hugging.
Valerie was just like I remembered her only much better.
I have been so excited for Jonathan and my sister and brother-in-law to meet Valerie. There are few people who have made such a positive impact on me. There are few people that I have been so impressed with. I wish I had met her earlier in my life. She is everything I wish I could be: strong, intelligent, gracious, kind, passionate, dedicated and approachable.
We all sat around the table in her office and talked about so many things, political and personal.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting time.
The woman takes a lot of heat and criticism.When I brought up some of the difficulty I’ve had on a much (as in MUCH) smaller scale with hurtful internet comments and that I didn’t know how she did it on such a huge scale, she replied, “Because it is SO important, Loralee.”
I was extremely pleased to tell her I was on day four of being a registered Democrat. Her reaction was to turn and ask Jonathan, “How are you coping?” Hee. I love that lady.
I was just THRILLED to be in a room where the majority of thought on many topics aligned with my own for once.
We discussed senior health care and my parents since my father is pretty sure Obama is planning his death and wants to take away his Social Security. I was happy to hear that the AARP came on board with the health care reform bill the day before. Valerie came THIS CLOSE to calling my father on the phone but my brother-in-law and husband talked her out of it, though I personally would have been HIGHLY intrigued about how THAT conversation would have turned out.
I could have sat at that table and listened and talked forever but was thrilled with the time I did have. My one regret is not speaking more with White House blogger, Jesse Lee. I think it’s safe to say that he has one of the coolest blogging jobs in the world.
After photo taking, Michael graciously agreed to give us a tour around The West Wing.
It was AMAZING.
The only surprise I felt is how small everything is and how close together it is all situated. There are photos of the President and his daily activities from mundane to spectacular on almost every inch of the walls and they rotate them regularly.
I saw things that I never, ever dreamed I would and would love to squee about them online but honestly, this post is long enough and also…I don’t know what I should and shouldn’t say. So, I am playing it safe.
I CAN tell you that we saw so many people things and places I never expected to.
The list is long but I will say that some highlights were seeing Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel and so many others. It was like the uber tour of uber tours.
Some of them made me heart stop.
The people sitting in the press room were simply great. THEY were the ones that insisted I stand up there, that they turn the lights on and let our photos be taken. There was also humorous banter about how the glass window in line of site with the podium is bullet proof but the glass where they sit isn’t.
You gotta love a reporter’s sense of humor.
At this point, I seriously did NOT think that the day could get any cooler.
THEN we went into the palm room.
What was so cool about The Palm room is that it is where I GOT TO DO THIS:
I GOT TO PLAY WITH THE PUPPY DOG THAT BELONGS TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Bo was ADORABLE.
I fell in love with the First Dog. I would like to think that he fell in love with me, but I suspect most of that was due to the fact that I had a rogue blueberry pie in my purse. (What? I’m an emotional eater, ok? I felt it would be best to be prepared.)
We saw the famous Rose Garden where Tricia Nixon got married and the First Daughters have their play set.
I dropped my camera on the long walkway made famous by a photograph of JFK. It still shot photos but it is on its last legs for sure.
The rest of the tour I’ll keep to myself because some things are beyond my ability to express with my limited vocabulary and I know that most people have a much lower tolerance for the term “Rad” then I do.
Valerie met all of us back in the lobby to give us a warm goodbye and a standing invitation for me to visit any time. She also sent me THE loveliest email wishing me a happy birthday and asking me to stay in touch.
Which I am going to.
(No, I don’t plan on being a stalker but I seriously adore this woman. I envy everyone who gets to work there for the quality of people alone. They are first rate, first class, genuine GOOD PEOPLE.)
I loved every bit of my time there. I saw amazing things, talked with and met amazing people and yet somehow managed to do the quirky things I’m know for like changing toilet paper rolls and finding a cute little furry fuzzball to play with. (To clarify, I am speaking about Bo, here, NOT Jonathan.)
I know I am a “fluffy” blogger.
I am not an overly serious person. To counter some of the very horrible things that have happened in my life, my personality is laid back, humorous, and often silly.
I am not, nor do I plan to be, a political blogger.
That doesn’t mean I do not have extremely serious opinions nor does it preclude me from voicing them. You don’t have to take me more seriously then anyone but you shouldn’t toss aside my opinion simply because I embrace the lighter side of things. I love politics. I love the mechanics of it, I love debating it, and I love that I have the right to speak my mind and vote as I wish. Just like every other American citizen.
It’s what makes this country of ours grand.
I’d also like to take a moment to speak to those struggling with their personal opinion of this administration. I realize this ranges from mild dislike and disagreement to those who are simply hateful, but bear with me.
I doubt many of you will ever embrace their politics or the way they see things.
That is fine.
Truly, I mean that.
There are a lot of things we are not on the same page on, even though I’m a Democrat now and generally supportive.
But I hope if you think ill of them personally, you’ll pause and rethink things. These are outstanding people and loyal, dedicated Americans. They want what is best for our country just as much as you do.
You just would go about it differently.
I have heard plenty of criticism that this administration doesn’t care about what the American public thinks. That they simply don’t care about anything but their own agenda. I’ve heard plenty of grumblings that they think negatively about bloggers as well.
Others may have different encounters, but for me and my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. Does this mean that they will change their core beliefs or you will change yours? NO. But they want to know what your solutions to things are and what you think. Everyone in politics struggles to get their beliefs implemented while working with others of radically different thought. That doesn’t mean there can’t be some give and take and working together to make things happen.
Wanting change that is different then how you would do it doesn’t mean they don’t care.
Valerie didn’t have to listen to me. I know I wanted health care reform but at the time I was a registered and moderate Republican. I was the one that told her I decided to register as a Democrat (which I did, the Monday before I left). Valerie didn’t have to have a telephone conversation with my very conservative husband to hear his ideas, but she did. And they both had a lovely time together. And as far as my brother-in-law is concerned he feels MUCH better about the kind of people that are running our country, even if their political beliefs do not mesh with his.
Probably one of my very favorite things about this entire experience is that everyone liked me JUST AS I AM.
And that is precious to me.
I know that not every blogger or American can have my experience but OH, HOW I WISH YOU ALL COULD.
I got on the train back to my hotel a very, VERY happy woman.
And as if the day could not be cool enough, we walked out of the Metro station to see this:
THIN MINT GIRL SCOUT COOKIES IN NOVEMBER, PEOPLE! (And you KNOW how I loves me some Thing Mint Girl Scout Cookiage! Seriously, this day could not have more perfect. I don’t know when God and The Universe decided to give me a break but they did in a huge, huge way today.)
Do I think that I changed the world here or had a real impact on policy?
But I DO think my visit had impact.
Any time anyone running our country can put a face on a problem they are working on it is helpful, in my opinion. Any time they are exposed to differing points of view and can talk and listen with those people, it is helpful.
I know my life has been hugely impacted.
In the end, it was just an hour or so out of many amazing days for Valerie and Michael. I know it was not a huge deal for them but it was simply one of the most amazing days of my entire life and I know it will be one of the memories I treasure the very most.
This has been the BEST birthday and experience I have ever had.
“I’m so glad you feel comfortable here because it is a house that belongs to us all.” – Valerie Jarrett