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Book Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother 40 whacks
And when she saw what she had done
She gave her father 41

Everyone knows this rhyme, and everyone knows this crime.

See What I Have Done is Sarah Schmidt’s debut novel, and a gripping triumph. It’s a thought-provoking fictional retelling of the infamous unsolved double murder, and is a testament to the limitations of criminal investigations of the 1890s.

I remain convinced Lizzie Borden killed her father and step-mother for their fortune, and am even further convinced that the all-male jury severely underestimated her.

Is a woman truly incapable of such brutality? 

What this story does, is paint a picture of motive. Lizzie and her sister, Emma, grew up in one fucked up household filled with abuse of all kinds. The double murder of Andrew and Abby Borden was not the first in the family – another relative drowned her two young daughters before slitting her own throat. 

To help Lizzie and Emma, their uncle (their deceased mother’s brother) hired a “fixer” to set Andrew straight. Someone beat him to it though – as in, he was hacked to death.

This novel doesn’t close the case, but it does provide insight into how an environment can influence one’s actions. It recalls a crime that lives in infamy while wondering if there is more to the story than what lies in plain sight.

The U.S. Naval Academy - Annapolis, MD

Dear Diary,
We toured the Naval Academy, as it was near the lacrosse tournament fields.

We've previously toured the Chapel at the Air Force Academy (the only building the public can access on campus) so we were curious. Our tour did not disappoint.

Established at this site in 1845, it was then called the Naval School. It was later renamed the United States Naval Academy in 1850.

We entered the oldest building on campus, formerly storage for munitions. At the time of construction, the sea waters lapped right up to the entrance. On one side of the building is a replica of a Wright Bros. B-1, and the other is a model ship from the period.

Today the building houses receptions.

Next was Bancroft Hall, the largest dormitory in the country.

A superstition held by midshipmen is if you toss a coin and it lands inside the quiver of Tecumseh, you'll do well on your exams.

Our tour guide pitted the kids' against each other to see who could succeed.

Midshipman stand in formation in this court. Campus was mostly void of appointees as they were deployed for their summer field training with either the Navy or Marine Corps.

We ventured inside to check out a mock-up of a typical dormitory, the rotunda and to see Memorial Hall.

Though the door into Memorial Hall, you can see a replica of the iconic, historic flag, Don't Give Up The Ship.

But first, take in the breathtaking architecture and craftsmanship.

The U.S. Naval Academy is free, with a highly disciplined regiment that is seeped in tradition. My son couldn't fathom the 6-week Plebe Summer without the use of Internet or his cell phone.

I didn't take pictures of Memorial Hall, as it honors Academy graduates who lost their lives in war.

We then ventured forth to the Chapel, which was very busy with wedding rehearsals. We were fortunate to catch it at an ideal time in between.

The Chapel at the Naval Academy had a much more traditional feel than its contemporary counterpart at the Air Force Academy.

Then, we were granted access to the crypt of Revolutionary War Naval hero John Paul Jones, who lies underneath the Chapel. His remains were brought here in 1905 after buried for 113 years in obscurity at a Parisian cemetery in France.

It was there our tour concluded.

Downtown Annapolis is a charming, seaside retreat.

Favorite house 

The sea is central to the way of life 

Concluding our experience, we ate a delicious seafood dinner along the shoreline at a restaurant only the locals know about (and were kind enough to share!) - The Point Crab House. I tried crab cakes for the first time!

The National Mall - Washington, D.C.

Dear Diary,
After our tour of the U.S. Capital, we explored more of the city and the National Mall. We didn't have time to venture into any of the Smithsonian institutions, which presents a good reason to return.

Just across from the Capital building stood the Supreme Court. We were not allowed inside.

So we headed towards the Mall, stopping first to eat at a delicious Mexican restaurant located near the White House, MXDC Cocina Mexicana. The margaritas hit the spot and our lunch was divine!

The Washington Monument 

The World War II Memorial with the reflection pond and Lincoln Memorial in the background 

In addition to the WWII Memorial, we also took in the Vietnam Memorial. And while the WWII Memorial seemed to pay tribute to the world at war and the states' contributions, the Vietnam Memorial was much more personal.

The kids and I walked the expanse of the wall, observing the vast number of names etched into the slabs. At our feet were small tributes left by families, some of which included the names, ages, causes of death and locations served. To read that, and then locate the name and rub our fingers across the etching, made the experience so haunting that I will never forget it.

 MLK, Jr. Memorial

The kids' learned about the significance of those immortalized by these monuments in school. To have had the opportunity to bring them to these places, and watch them connect their lessons to a physical, personal experience was impactful. Their eyes lit up, and it made it that much more real.

The Jefferson Memorial was closed for restoration 

A cool tree we passed while exploring 

View of the Capital building from our hotel rooftop

Another site I'd like to tour when we return, because I have a morbid fascination, is Ford's Theater. We also ran out of time to pay our respects at Arlington. Though I'm grateful to have had these experiences in D.C., I know I've just barely scratched the surface.