Mr. Candy Corn Goes to Richmond

[A Halloween repeat of this whimsical 2017 post.]

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This is Mr. Candy Corn standing at my front door ready to go to Richmond. But first a little background….

In the autumn of 2016 my sister Lori came to chase autumn with me in the Shenandoah Valley. On our travels looking for pumpkins and mums, she spied this little fella at Blue Ribbon Nursery in Broadway as he stood amongst the fall and Halloween wreaths and décor. He was cute and she liked him, making over him standing on the floor, but we ended up leaving him behind.

Fast forward to autumn 2017. Lori hadn’t been able to come up to the Shenandoah Valley to chase autumn like we did last year so my friend Barb and I went traipsing through the countryside buying chrysanthemums, pumpkins, gourds, and other autumn goodies.

When we walked into Blue Ribbon, there was Mr. Candy Corn, again standing amongst the holiday decorations. I excitedly said hello to him and told Barb about Lori’s attachment last year and how close she came to buying him. As I wandered through the aisles looking at the holiday offerings, my eyes kept seeking out Mr. Candy Corn. He was standing there with that smile on his face….

And that’s how he went home with me. I just had to get him for Lori, and so he rode back to Staunton with Barb and me, sitting on the back seat like a proper Candy Corn, excitedly watching the view out the window.

In early September Lori and her family went to New York City for a week so I drove over to stay at their house and care for the kitty. I loaded Mr. Candy Corn in the car to take him to his new forever home.

Here he was at my front door ready to go!

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He paused on the steps for me to take pictures …

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… and then headed down the sidewalk to the car for his drive over the mountain to the flatlands of Richmond.

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Hopping into the back seat, he settled on my suitcase so to have a better view out the window. He was excited about where he was going.

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His journey took him on I-64 over Afton Mountain, past Charlottesville where niece Emily was fourth year at UVa, all the way to Richmond to Rt. 288.

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On 288 …

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… and over the James River, the mighty mighty James. Did you know the English settlers named it after King James I of England? Historical trivia is a part of the beauty of growing up in the Commonwealth and walking in the footsteps of history.

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… to Powhatan County and Robious Road. Almost there! The name “Huguenot Trail” on the sign comes from the French Huguenots who settled in Midlothian and Powhatan. I graduated from Huguenot High School in Chesterfield County. These are my stomping grounds.

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Finally! Midlothian and Lori’s neighborhood. He was almost to his new home. Did you know they began mining coal in Mid-Lothian 300 years ago, and that it was used by President Thomas Jefferson to heat the White House? The area is populated by abandoned mines.

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When we pulled in the driveway, Mr. Candy Corn was so excited that he hopped out and went immediately to the back door. I had to tell him to go around front …

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… to the front door. This was his new home!

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Inside his new home! He was there to bring Happy Halloween tidings to all … oh, and Mila the cat!

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He hopped on the kitchen counter to wait to surprise his new owners. We left some Augusta County-grown mini pumpkins and gourds — a taste of autumn from the mountains. Mr. Candy Corn was home at last, and he has been greeting visitors ever since.

Update: Four years later, I still remember the fun of documenting this little fella’s trip to Richmond, and making him a surprise for my sister who was delighted when she returned home from New York City and found him in her kitchen.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
October 4, 2017

Neil Cavuto Pleads, ‘Life’s Too Short To Be An Ass. Stop the Deaths.’

Take the political speaking points and toss them. I beg you, toss them.” -Neil Cavuto

Take a listen to Fox News host Neil Cavuto on the network Sunday, by video, after his positive Covid-19 diagnosis last week.

Video: <a href=”http://https://video.foxnews.com/v/embed.js?id=6278610478001&w=466&h=263<noscript>Watch the latest video at <a href=”https://www.foxnews.com”>foxnews.com</a&gt;

“… for God’s sake, think of the bigger picture here. Get outside yourself and think about those you work with. Think about those around you. Think about just keeping them safe,” he said.

Cavuto, who started with Fox at the beginning and hosts Your World With Neil Cavuto, has faced serious health issues over the years – cancer in the 1980s, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997, and heart surgery in 2016. Now he has tested positive for Covid-19 as has his wife.

Fully vaccinated, he noted that half the break-through cases are those who are immunocompromised, as he is, and urged others to get the vaccine for themselves and for those around them.

“In the end,” he noted, “if you can get vaccinated and think of someone else and think of what that could mean to them and their survivability from this, we’d all be better off.”

“Think of the bigger picture.”

Background:

-Washington Post: Fox News host Neil Cavuto pleads with viewers to get vaccinated after breakthrough case

-Fox News: Neil Cavuto talks battle with COVID, urges vaccinations: ‘Take the political speaking points and toss them’

-USA Today: Neil Cavuto COVID: Fox News host urges vaccines after testing positive

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

Happy Birthday, Trixie Averill! Celebrate by Wishing Her a Great Day!

Trixie! We worked together in Virginia politics for years so it’s a great pleasure to remember her on her special day – October 27. Please join us in sending her birthday wishes!

Here’s a sample of the hundreds of photos I took of her over the years – activist, campaign worker, 6th Congressional District Republican Committee Chairman, State Central Committee members, 6th District Committee member, longtime magisterial district chair, Director for Americans for Prosperity, candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates …

… mom to Amy and Marcus … and Olivia, Katy Rae, Colin, and Little Mac, and the new one whose French name I cannot remember … and wife of Dan who has supported her endeavors, travels, and everything else that goes with an outgoing wife!

Thanks for ALL the memories and hard work, GOP Girl. Happy birthday, Trixie!

Trixie Averill – Past Chairs Tourism Excellence Award – 2015
Republican Party of Virginia Convention – Harrisonburg, 2018.
With Lt. Gov. John Hager and RPV First Vice Chair Mike Thomas

with Donald Williams (left) and Ben Dessart, State Central meeting, Staunton
Happy birthday, Trixie! (from left) Mildred Scott, Dexter Gaines, Dolores Switzer, Trixie Averill, Lynn Mitchell
Trixie and Gov. Bob McDonnell on his last day in office, State Capitol building
I very well remember this day at The Greenbriar for the U.S. Senate debate between Sen. Mark Warner and GOP candidate Ed Gillespie.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell, 2000-2021

Homeschoolers: Introduction to American Government at George Mason University with Bill Bolling

GOVT103: Introduction to American Government

Hurry! The deadline to register is August 15.

A new homeschool dual-enrollment history course can help you get a leg up on college. Earn three hours of transferable college credits through the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University—at nearly half off the regular tuition price!

Introduction to American Government is a fascinating course, presented by Virginia’s former Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling and George Mason University visiting professor! HEAV has worked with the lieutenant governor during past legislative sessions. He has been a supporter of homeschooling families during his extensive service to the Commonwealth.

This is a unique opportunity for homeschool high school students to learn from a conservative who knows the inner workings of government by personal experience. Developed specifically for homeschoolers–and limited to homeschoolers–his online course is essential for anyone who wants to learn more about how our government operates…or sometimes doesn’t operate; how the political system operates…or sometimes doesn’t operate; and how to be a responsible citizen.

HOW TO REGISTER

Homeschool Dual Enrollment

DEADLINE IS AUGUST 15

Click here to register!

Click here for instructions for completing the online application. They are detailed, but they will tell you exactly what to do.

  • Step 2: Pay all required fees for the three-credit hour course. (See STEP 2 on attached directions)
  • Step 3: Submit your student’s official transcript to Rachel Cleaver at rcleave2@gmu.edu. (See STEP 3 on attached directions). 

If you have any questions about the applications process, please feel free to contact Rachel Cleaver at rcleave2@gmu.edu.

ABOUT THE COURSE:

The homeschool dual-enrollment course will consist of weekly video lectures, which your student will access from the secure Learning Management System (Blackboard) at George Mason University. Students will have a unique GMU email and student ID that will enable them to access the Learning Management System.

These video lectures will be supplemented by a weekly Zoom meeting to discuss course content. Zoom meetings begin on August 26 and take place on Thursday mornings from 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m

TOPICS COVERED

  • Critical Thinking and Political Culture: Becoming A Responsible Citizen
  • Constitutional Democracy:
    Promoting Liberty and Self Government
  • Federalism: Forging a Nation
  • Civil Liberties: Protecting Individual Rights
  • Equal Rights: Struggling Toward Fairness
  • Public Opinion and Political Socialization: Shaping the People’s Voice
  • Political Participation: Activating the Popular Will
  • Political Parties, Candidates and Campaigns: Defining the Voters Choice
  • Interest Groups: Organizing for Influence
  • The News Media and the Internet: Communicating Politics
  • Congress: Balancing National Goals and Local Interests
  • The Presidency: Leading the Nation
  • The Federal Bureaucracy: Administering the Government
  • The Federal Judicial System: Applying the Law

A Valentine’s Day Message For My Children

A Valentine for my children…

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together … there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart … I’ll always be with you.” – Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

‘Twas Two Weeks Before Christmas

Our tree, Mom’s chair, the bookcasethe family memories that make the holidays precious.

[About seven years ago I took a break from holiday planning, gift wrapping, and addressing Christmas cards and, as visions of my own version, er, sad attempt, of “The Night Before Christmas” danced in my head , I sat down and popped out a few verses before getting back to work. It’s Christmas in the Shenandoah Valley….]

‘Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the house
Every creature was stirring including the mouse.
With plans for family, friends, and neighbors, too,
To celebrate together … there was much left to do.

Last touches on the tree, a wreath on the door,
The presents were bought except perhaps just one more.
Gingerbread baked in the oven with care,
Looking forward to when our guests would be there.

Cleaning the house and planning the meals,
And scanning the ads for those last-minute deals.
Gift wrap was piled deep on the floor
To decorate gifts and candies bought at the store.

A Shenandoah Valley Christmas is what we’ll celebrate
With everyone here, this holiday’s sure to be great.
Two weeks left, we’re almost done
Then it will be time to enjoy all the fun.

December 2013

Christmas Offers a Time to Show Appreciation for Those in Our Lives

When I was a little kid, Christmas was a magical time to pick out a special something for my sisters and parents to show how much they meant to me. Today the same applies for family and friends who are the reason my life feels complete.

While growing up in Bon Air across the James River from Richmond, shopping opportunities were few for two young sisters with limited financial resources. There were the Buford Road Pharmacy and the Bon Air Hardware, both a short one- or two-block ride on our bicycles, so that’s where we did our shopping.

Two very patient older gentlemen worked in the Bon Air Hardware and I’m sure they probably chuckled to themselves as my sister and I walked among the rows of familiar plumbing supplies, carpenter needs, and other materials necessary for the upkeep of a house. Our young eyes wandered up and down the shelves as we searched their contents, hoping to find just the right gift for our parents, that was within our price range. The gentlemen offered kind suggestions for us neighborhood kids carrying only a couple of bucks in our pockets.

I say the gift was for our “parents” but it was usually more suited for our mother, and our good-natured Dad just got his name on the tag.

One year I decided on a paring knife for them. A paring knife. The cost was within my paltry budget so I proudly took it home to wrap but it was so small that I decided to find the biggest cardboard box I could to wrap this prized gift to make it seem more impressive.

I rolled the knife in tissue paper, placed it at the bottom, and then proceeded to stuff the box with wadded-up newspapers. It must have taken an entire roll of wrapping paper to cover the thing and, of course, it had to be topped with a bow.

If my mother was disappointed on Christmas morning, she never showed it. Looking back all these years later as a mother myself, I know the corny saying is true … it is not the gift that counts but truly the thought. I had wanted to be able to give more so the box seemed to represent my desire and the lonely little paring knife was the reality.

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Christmas cookies

There was the year one of my younger sisters wanted the Magic 8 Ball that was all the rage. I scraped together enough money to get that one special gift for her and stored it in the closet of our shared bedroom. Unable to contain my excitement, we ended up playing with it before it was wrapped and put under the tree. Ah, the impatience of youth.

My sister and I made a coupon book one year for our parents with each page representing something we would do when presented with said piece of paper, i.e., washing dishes, babysitting our younger sister, and other chores that we were actually already assigned to us. I don’t remember ever having a coupon redeemed, perhaps because we were already expected to fulfill those obligations around the house.

I find gift-giving to be easier with those we know well. A friend may have expressed a like for a particular quote so it gives pleasure to print and frame the quote and gift-wrap it as a surprise. I truly enjoy finding something that fits the person, although sometimes falling flat on my face with my selection, and sometimes over the years I’ve had to resort to the ready-made one-size-fits-all category.

When funds are short, ingenuity goes a long way. During the years when my children were growing up and we were a one-income family and very pinched financially, homemade gifts were necessary. If you don’t think you can be creative, try coming up with something made by your own hands for someone you love, respect, or appreciate. After all, it is meant to be a reflection of how you feel about the person and gratitude for their place in your life.

Homemade, or maybe handmade sounds better, for me has included everything from hand-dipped candy and festive decorated cookies to evergreen wreaths that I fashioned from greenery on our property, to hand-sewn items to arts and crafts.

One year with two young children and more time than money, I sewed two Christmas aprons for my mom — one red and one green — complete with holiday appliqués. Those aprons hung on a hook in Mom’s kitchen until the day they moved into a retirement home in 2017. Now that both parents have passed, they hang on a hook in my kitchen.

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Miniature wreath made of sweet gum balls.

On the farm where we lived in North Carolina when our kids were born, we had a huge old sweet gum tree beside the front porch that dropped hundreds of sweet gum balls in the yard every fall.

One year I eyeballed those pesky little things — they are prickly — and then smiled. That was the Christmas I collected and made dozens of miniature sweet gum wreaths complete with tiny bows and gave them to friends and family.

Another year I collected, husked and cracked open black walnuts from our trees and gave the shelled nuts as gifts.

I remember years ago when one of my sisters found herself financially strapped when Christmas rolled around. She was living in Colorado and working her way through graduate school with limited resources. Mom bought her an airplane ticket to fly home for Christmas in Richmond so we could all be together and, when she arrived, she came bearing gifts.

On Christmas morning, I opened my gift from her and it was a rattan lamp from her Denver apartment that I had admired. She didn’t have the money to buy items for us so she had shared her own possessions. That lamp still sits in my home.

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Handmade wreath

Maybe I learned over the years that to receive a gift — any gift — is a kindness of the giver who took the time, whether a few minutes to purchase something or hours to handcraft it, because they cared enough to show a gratitude for the people in their lives not only throughout the year but especially during the holiday season (see Gigi Engle’s Why the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are the best time of the year).

Now I have to get back to work because there are some gingerbread men in the kitchen waiting to be decorated as gifts for a friend who absolutely loves the holiday spirit that comes through in that personalized holiday treat.

Enjoy the days leading up to a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Originally published in 2015.

Love Thy Neighbor

I was sad today. Not for myself, but for a friend who just found out his dad has Covid-19, and he’s not doing well. In fact, this evening they had to admit him to the hospital.

He’s 88.

The anti-mask crowd will most likely say he’s old, no big deal, it’s his turn, just as they did with my family.

Here’s the deal. The grandparents have spent the past two weeks together with the friend’s family completely unaware that anyone had Covid. In retrospect, they believe the grandmother, who is 84, had it first but it was achiness that they thought had to do with working too much around the house.

You see, neither grandparent exhibited the usual Covid clues: difficulty breathing or other respiratory distresses like coughing. So the grandmother is better but the grandfather, who was thought to also just be tired from working too hard, has progressively become worse, tested positive, had oxygen levels plummet, and is now in the hospital.

And here’s another distress. My friend’s spouse has been battling cancer so now that it’s know the grandparents have Covid, that is yet another worry.

This friend and his family have been diligent about masks, hand washing, not going out, and all the other precautions because of the cancer issue. They’ve done everything right. Every.Thing.

And, yet, they have Covid in the household.

This may not be the right thing to say but I’m saying it anyway. I hope those who are more concerned about their freedoms than other people’s lives by refusing to wear masks are happy.

These anti-maskers who have been friends are not the people I thought they were all these years. Between Donald Trump and this global pandemic, friendships are splitting because of selfish people.

My heart aches for this friend and his family. I cried to learn that someone else was going through the vile virus that is Covid-19. If every family had to deal with this, I guarantee there would be far less, possibly no, anti-maskers.

Love thy neighbor? They’re too busy loving thy selves.

My Grandmother’s Apple Peeling Skill

Yesterday as I was peeling an apple, slowly working my knife around the outside, the apple peeling remained intact in one, long peel.

As my hands worked, my mind was busy going over the day’s events and news, and then it drifted back to the days when I was a little girl who watched as my grandmother peeled apples, watching wide-eyed and chatting with her as only a child can do.

Sitting on the porch, her always-present flowery apron over her dress and a small pan in her lap, she often worked on whatever fruits and vegetables were coming in from the garden. Her weathered hands shelled peas and butterbeans, snapped green beans, peeled peaches, and the fall was for apples.

What particularly mesmerized me about her working with apples was the one, long, continuous apple peel. She started at the top near the stem, and the peel never broke as she worked her way around and down, until she finished at the bottom.

“How do you do that, Grandma?” I’d ask with childlike innocence, sitting on the porch floor looking up at her. It seemed an impossible task and I thought she was amazing, a magician as far as I was concerned, to be able to do something that was so impossible.

An older me eventually mastered the one-piece apple peel that had seemed so difficult when I was young.

All that swirled through my memory as I finished peeling my own apple and, voila! The peel was in one piece … one long, unbroken length of apple peel, and I smiled.

It was a sweet memory, a visit with my grandmother who passed away when I was in 8th grade. I wear her wedding band with my own … she is never far away. And yesterday she was right here with me, probably smiling as I worked.

Memories. Family. The two are inseparable, and both are precious.

9/11: It’s Been 19 Septembers … Remembering That Tragic Day

“Today, our nation saw evil — the very worst of human nature — and we responded with the best of America, with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.” –President George W. Bush, September 11, 2001

When the White House was evacuated on that fateful day in 2001, my sister was a member of President George W. Bush’s administration. My memories of that day — and the danger she was in — are still sharp.

Instructed by Secret Service agents to evacuate and then to flee as fast as possible, women removed their high heels and ran in bare feet as staffers in the White House and Old Executive Office Building raced for their lives. They were fully aware that United Flight 93 was on a path toward the nation’s capital. My sister has barely talked about that day … the rawness is still real … and we are forever grateful to the heroes of Flight 93 who prevented a tragedy at the Capitol or White House. No one is certain which one was targeted.

I will never forget September 11, 2001 … and I don’t want to forget. Nineteen Septembers have passed, and I am still easily overcome with emotion.

That week my husband and I were vacationing in Colonial Williamsburg with our two teenage children. The morning of September 11 we had just arrived in the Colonial area with our freshly-purchased annual passes in hand, when a Colonial interpreter leaned in and quietly told us of the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. We were shocked and asked more questions, and then I quickly stepped off to the side to call my mom in Richmond to see if she had heard from my sister in D.C.

Amazingly, perhaps because her Austin cell phone was still routing through Texas, my sister had already been able to call and reassure Mom that she was okay even as tens of thousands of others in D.C. encountered jammed phone lines.

Reassured of my sister’s safety, we started walking through the recreated early American village, making our way to the Colonial Capitol to hear from costumed interpreters. Our hearts, however, were not on the Virginia history we usually loved. Visitors talked among themselves, strangers speculating about the events that were unfolding north of us, and wondering if America was under attack.

Under a tree on the capitol grounds, the historical interpreter’s animated voice talked about American history but it was difficult to concentrate on what he was saying. After an hour or so we decided to head back to our condo so we could turn on the television and follow the latest news.

In D.C., the White House and U.S. Capitol had been evacuated, and stand-still traffic made escaping the nation’s capital a nightmare. It took hours but my sister eventually made her way home to Bethesda where she then waited to hear news of her next-door neighbor who worked at the Pentagon, also a target of the terrorists. He had fled his office, leaving cell phone and keys at his desk, so with no way to contact family to assure them that he was safe, he began the long walk home from Arlington to Bethesda. He arrived hours later after making his way through the clogged streets of D.C.

Our much-anticipated Williamsburg vacation had suddenly taken a sad turn on that Tuesday in 2001, and all I could think of was going home to the Shenandoah Valley. Tears flowed easily … I was in touch with family and friends … and a patriotic, defensive streak came out in Americans. We were glued to the TV for updates and hated to get too far from the news. There was an uncertainty because no one knew what was next. Everyone was on edge.

With two children, however, who had looked forward to our planned visit to Busch Gardens amusement park on Friday of that week, we made the decision to stay the remaining four days of our trip. We tried to make it as normal as possible for them although we stayed on high alert, wondering along with the rest of the country if there were more attacks to come.

On Friday morning when we arrived at Busch Gardens, a new reality hit as, for the first time ever, our backpacks were searched when we entered the park. Little did we know it was the beginning of a new normal that was to expand and necessarily intrude in the years to come.

At noon, the park ceased operation for a time of remembrance. Patrons lined the park’s walkways and held hands as all bowed their heads in prayer, then listened to and sang along with Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” as it played over the park’s intercom system, echoing off roller coasters and drifting across the hilly terrain. Tears streamed down the faces of strangers standing shoulder-to-shoulder who came together that week not as Democrats or Republicans, not as black or white or immigrants or rich or poor, but as Americans.

After the remembrance was over, as our kids made a beeline for the roller coasters, we worried about snipers in such a high profile area. It may sound silly now but it was, after all, only four days since the terrorist plane attacks and all were aware that more terror could be planned. The day, however, was uneventful, and we, thankfully, headed home to the Valley the next morning.

One memory that sticks in my mind is the sheer number of American flags waving after 9/11 on vehicles, store fronts, houses … I had never seen so many flags flying in the USA. At home I had dozens of American flags but none with me on our trip, and when we checked at Williamsburg shops for anything red, white, and blue, everything was sold out.

I was aching for an American flag. Again, it probably sounds silly, but it taught me a lesson: never leave home again without one.

Back in the Shenandoah Valley, we were in church Sunday morning as a sanctuary packed with friends and strangers sought comforting words even as tears streamed down many faces. The most important thing of all was that we were home. Home.

In the days, months, and years after 9/11, I held my children tighter … my husband and I lingered in conversations a bit longer … family and friends were dear and we pulled them closer. The events on 9/11 reiterated the importance of those around us.

As America went to war in the wake of 3,000 innocent souls murdered and the destruction of 9/11, we held Support the Troops rallies to show our public gratitude to our men and women in uniform who were protecting not only the United States by taking the war to foreign soil, but also our freedoms. We recognized our First Responders, the front line of America’s defense.

For almost nineteen years we have said good-bye to those going to war … and embraced those who returned. We watched close family friends leave for battle and prayed for their safety. We have grieved with military families who lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and flown American flags in their honor. Yellow ribbons have adorned our yards. We’ve sent care packages to troops in harm’s way and embraced their families at home.

We volunteered long hours on campaigns of political candidates who were strong on national security. In the middle of a war on terrorism, it was comforting to have a no-nonsense leader like George W. Bush whose first priority was the safety of the American people. Under his watch, America saw no more terrorist attacks on her shores.

Watching families mourn loved ones, my appreciation and respect for United Flight 93 continues to grow. Each 9/11 brings renewed fear of terrorism attacks, and there’s a hope that we will someday return to the unity that temporarily held our nation together after that grim Tuesday in September.

Never forget.

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

Back in the homeschool classroom: Summer prep for the new school year

Teachers' Day

At the end of July my mind wanders back to the days of educating my children at home and this familiar time of year when thoughts turned to the new school year.

Thankfully, I was able to set my schedule, and I chose to start back to school after Labor Day. Unscheduled warm summer days were for enjoying the activities that there’s little time for once the school schedule kicked in with lessons, gymnastics, baseball, soccer, co-op classes, writing club, and my leadership responsibilities within the local homeschool community.

Summer was for hiking, exploring, swimming, biking, traveling, camps, visiting grandparents, sleepovers with friends, summer sports, camping and campfires, and anything else we wanted to do in the slowed pace of long days, short nights, and hot weather.

The first of August I would order our curriculum for the upcoming school year and it was usually delivered within a week. As the kids played outdoors in the pool on those hot August days, I would sit at the picnic table under the nearby shade tree, unpack the box of curricula, spread out my weekly lesson planner, and begin laying out our study schedule.

The smell of chlorine mixed with the loud sound of cicadas humming all around while the warm breeze stirred the leaves above me. In the background, the kids were splashing and laughing and doing exactly what I wanted them to do — squeeze every minute of fun out of their vacation time. It was a routine year after year after year.

Continue reading

Spring In All Its Shenandoah Glory

Oh my heavens, it’s gorgeous out today!

I’ve been busy at work all morning and ate lunch at my desk working on Bearing Drift stuff. With the window open, I could feel the warm breeze coming in so finally unplugged my laptop and walked out to the front porch.

Heavenly!

It’s a bit blustery but the breeze is warm. The sun is shining. I can hear a lawnmower in the distance. The birds … the birds are singing in all their loveliness! It sounds like camping up in Shenandoah National Park, those days when you’d sit at the picnic table playing games or find a rock outcropping and gaze at the magnificent scenery that is Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

The birds are part of what make living in this house so much fun — the variety, their songs, and watching them come and go. We’ve taken in the bird feeders for the year — bears getting into them make that a prudent move each spring — but the bird bath is still out and it’s a popular location for our feathered friends. They splash and cover the deck with water while enjoying a sip of the heated H2O. It’s about time to unplug but the nights had still been so cool that we kept it warm for their comfort.

Our safe frost date is still almost three weeks away but the long-term forecast doesn’t show any surprises, yet. One year we had frost on May 16, the day after our May 15th safe date.

Mr. M went to Milmont Nursery today to buy plants for the garden. We’re under stay-at-home orders but are allowed to pick up gardening plants. I didn’t go; no need to expose myself anymore than necessary to the wicked Covid-19 that killed Cal last week.

We will depend on the garden more than usual this year. Even though Mr. M always plants more than we need to be able to share with friends, this year he has packed in a bit more. He picked up a few marigolds to plant but I didn’t send a flower order with him. Just not in the mood yet for flowers, and it’s not May 15, but I’ll pick up some if it looks like we can do so. Cal’s death and the whole coronavirus worldwide pandemic have me feeling apprehensive.

That’s one reason I wanted to come outside. I just wanted to make it all go away. Stop thinking about what the world is facing and will face for a long time to come. Stop thinking about the loneliness of Cal’s passing. Stop thinking about both parents gone in an eight-month period. Stop thinking about everything.

As I look around the yard I see tons of work to be done. Flower beds need cleaning, shrubs need pruning back. Mr. M mowed and trimmed the front yesterday and it looks fabulous. We need to get the little white lights off the front of the house.

The deck needs cleaning and setting up for summer. I’ve got porch furniture to paint — Mr. M bought the paint and I didn’t get to it last summer — so need to get it done this year. The feeling is if no one is coming over, why bother?

I need to order a truckload of mulch to spread in flower gardens and at the end of the driveway. Mr. M wants dirt so we need to order that, too. Tree roots need to be covered as well as low spots in the yard.

The deck needs staining, and as I look around, the front porch could use some paint. Each spring I wait until the pollen has finished falling before giving the front a thorough wash — walls, door, windows, porch floor, railings, and ceiling. It always looks so much better.

The boxwoods need trimming. They have grown so much since last year.

Time to get back to work. There’s research and reading to do, and I need to get back to my book about the Spanish flu of 1918. Oh — and I have an online library board meeting that I need to lead tomorrow so need to get ready for that. And some correspondence to catch up on. Lots of things to do. Who the heck gets bored during quarantine?

But the doors and windows will remain open to enjoy this beautiful day and listen to the songs of the birds. It’s spring in the Shenandoah Valley….

 

Happy (Virtual) Easter

Easter 3 Covid-19 free pixabay 2020

Reminiscent of “The Brady Bunch,” stacked in boxes on the iPhone screen, my family’s smiling faces looked back at me on this Easter Sunday, sharing greetings and life updates and weather reports.

The weather reports were because we were, literally, stretched across the country from coast to coast: Richmond and Shenandoah Valley in Virginia … Nashville … Houston … and Los Angeles. Nashville had rain; LA and Virginia were cloudy and gray.

It’s a coronavirus Easter. With everyone sheltering in place as the worldwide pandemic continues, meeting online was a necessity at a time when our family members in RVA, Shenandoah Valley, and Nashville usually spend this time together and Skype with the others. This year we all were on the Facebook Chat session getting our family fix.

At an unusual and historic time when everyone is working from home, businesses are closed, many retail stores are closed, and we are encouraged to travel outside our homes only for groceries, pharmacies, and other essentials, many are talking of spending their days in their jammies (the running joke is, “I changed out of my daytime pajamas into my nighttime pajamas”).

If they’re like me, they’re saving a bunch on makeup. Why put on base, mascara, blush, eye shadow, and whatever else when there’s nowhere to go? Besides, my skin is breathing like it hasn’t breathed in a long time.

But today I found myself not only pulling out my makeup bag but also searching my closet for an Easter outfit to wear, and I even ran a brush through my hair. There are few occasions to get dressed up these days.

We are a cat family so the ones with cats brought them to the camera for all to see on the screen. Food, afternoon activities, and pending tornado warnings in Nashville and beyond were discussed. For me, it wasn’t even the conversation that mattered … it was laying my eyeballs on my children and their spouses, and my niece and sisters and brothers-in-law.

It’s a different Easter for everyone. In many places here in Virginia and around the country some are mourning family and friends who have died from Covid-19 … others have loved ones in ICU, or slowly recovering. On the front lines, health care workers are spending 24/7 caring for those affected by it all. Their Easters are different, too, and we cannot thank them enough for what they do.

As Americans, we will get beyond this. It will be a while … it will most likely take development of a vaccine (and that will, from what the experts say, a year or longer) before we feel safe going back out in crowds. But we will eventually get beyond it.

As for today, we are reaching out to our loved ones the best we can. And for many that will be a virtual Easter.

Don’t Forget To Remember Me

My cousin died today. I wasn’t home when she slipped away and didn’t know until this evening.

It’s been 10 months of non-stop goodbyes. Now another. In good health and always fit, she had a stroke. “A big one,” the doctors said. Big ones often don’t turn out well. This one didn’t.

She lived in the land of my grandparents and great-grandparents, the high mountains of southwestern Virginia in the shadow of Mt. Rogers. Those who went before her, including her parents and grandparents, are all buried there, and she will be, too.

The memories rush into my head … her as a teenager when I was a little kid … the cousins, my parents, and my siblings/spouses climbing the surrounding mountains …

… chasing cows in from the field for milking … wading in the creek … picking cherries from trees along the hilltop … riding the old plow horse … visiting a nearby trout farm …

… sleeping on homemade feather ticks … Aunt Okie’s homemade buttermilk biscuits baked in a woodfired cookstove … jumping out of the car to open the gate to the farm … all the things I loved when visiting those mountains.

Tonight is for remembering and savoring those sweet memories. Too many goodbyes….

 

A Valentine’s Day Message for My Children

Valentine 1

A Valentine for my children…

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together … there is something you must always remember.

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart … I’ll always be with you.”

— Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

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