“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” –Billy Graham
(Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Matt! I have to indulge a bit today since it’s my son’s birthday.
In this picture he was four years old as he held his six-month-old sister. He was my little buddy who arrived three weeks early on a February day … a cheerful first born of a first born of a first born who was the first grandchild and only grandson.
Thoughtful and introspective, and a source of joy since the day he arrived, this tiny six-pound baby became a little blond curly-headed boy who loved baseball and soccer, and grew into a kind, loving, industrious young man who is now almost six feet tall.
It’s Valentine’s Day. As I moved about the kitchen this morning doing food prep for later today, I smiled thinking about the difference in married love, and how it is almost impossible for all those young lovers out there to meet the high expectations of what we see in the movies and on TV.
This has been a very busy week after a very busy weekend, and I neglected to plan ahead for our Valentine’s Day menu. Our plans don’t include going out for a romantic dinner prepared by some chef in a restaurant in a crowded restaurant. With flu season in full swing, a nice evening at home sounds perfect. But, again, I didn’t plan ahead.
So today I’m winging it. I have all the ingredients on hand to make steak fajitas for dinner, full of sautéed red and yellow peppers and onions, with a side of garden salad. Good, the main course was decided.
Next was dessert. Hmm. Sugar cookies … I could make iced heart-shaped sugar cookies with red sanded sugar sprinkled on top. Been there, done that, but there was no sugar cookie mix in the baking cabinet. I could make them from scratch but then thought about what was available that would be faster.
Chocolate is the language of love, right? A quick check of the fridge showed we had plenty of low-fat milk so I could make the from-scratch chocolate pudding that Mr. Mitchell loves so much. So it was decided. Chocolate pudding, it would be.
What made me smile, though, was a little later when I spied the four bananas on the counter that were almost too ripe. One more day and they were going to be ready for the trash. A quick re-think and the chocolate pudding, food of love, got ditched for banana bread.
If Mr. Mitchell and I were young and dating, if we were newly in love, I would have felt that only the chocolate pudding would have made perfection. No, forget that — we would feel the pressure to go out for dinner, and we did plenty of those when we were young and before kids. But because we are the comfortable old married couple, I knew he would be perfectly okay with banana bread especially since he’s lived with me long enough to know my frugality. Why waste four perfectly-good-for-banana-bread bananas?
Ah, married life. It’s romantic in a different way. In a comfortable way. And I like it that way.
As I type, the smell of banana bread wafts through the air and down the hallway. Later the house will fill with the smell of sautéed onions, then peppers.
I have the table set with the red tablecloth covered with a lacy white tablecloth. That counts for romance, right? Oh, and the beautiful bouquet of flowers Bill sent for my birthday five days ago for a centerpiece.
Truth of the matter is we will probably eat in the living room on the coffee table in front of the TV watching the Olympics. In both of our books, that’s a romantic evening.
I hope your Valentine’s Day is as romantic, and comfortable, as ours.
A Valentine for my children…
“If ever there is 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)
In what can definitely be called a low-key announcement rolled out for family and friends, Staunton School Board member Amy Darby announced on Facebook Sunday evening that she would be a candidate for Staunton City Council.
Just before the Super Bowl began, she wrote:
So before the game starts, I want to share some news with all of you!
After much thought and prayerful consideration, I am excited to announce I am running for Staunton City Council in the upcoming general election on May 1, 2018!
Serving on the Staunton City School Board for the past eight years, has prepared me to move forward in the governance of our great city! I believe my experience has prepared me for the challenges we face as a City, and I accept that challenge. Staunton is a great place to live, work and raise a family. I know because I was born and raised here. Staunton is, and has always been, my home.
I look forward to your support and for the opportunity to represent all the wonderful citizens of our community.
Darby is a hometown girl, graduating from Robert E. Lee High School in 1988 and then from Mary Baldwin College in 1992. She has lived in Staunton her entire life.
Politics isn’t foreign to her. Besides serving on the school board, her uncle is Dickie Bell who serves as the state Delegate for Staunton.
Watch for more on this race as the News Leader presumably will receive a press release from Darby and her campaign.
The City Council election will be held May 1.
Has it really been 32 years since the Challenger shuttle exploded in mid-air? Seven lives were lost, the tragedy was caught live on TV, and Americans were shocked at the disaster that had taken place in front of their eyes.
Space launches had become so routine to most people by the time Challenger came around that it rarely caused much excitement. Indeed, on that fateful day of January 28, 1986, it was cold and wintry in rural North Carolina, just as it was cold at the site of the launch in Florida. At home with my one-year-old son, I remembered the NASA launch was taking place that morning so turned on the television to see how it was going.
TV cameras scanned the spectator stands at Cape Kennedy where family and friends of the astronauts watched, full of excitement in anticipation of the launch that included Christa McAuliffe who was there as part of the Teacher in Space project. Millions of children across the nation sat in classrooms watching and waiting for the launch with expectations of experiments and lessons during the journey from the teacher in space. One of those students was Brian Schoeneman, Bearing Drift Editor-in-Chief Emeritus (see Remembering the Challenger).
[Originally published in 2014. Facebook reminded that this happened four years ago this weekend.]
Sunday. Mid-day. SWAC Husband headed into the basement to retrieve something he needed and found himself walking in water. Half the floor was flooded.
A frantic search began for the leak, first checking the usual suspect — the washing machine. Nope. That wasn’t it.
Next suspect would be the hot water heater. Nope. It was dry.
The next check was the area where the outside water pipe entered the house. Bingo. Water was trickling down the inside of the exterior wall, filling an ever-expanding pool in the part of the house where we store stuff. SWAC Husband turned off the water to the house but the trickle continued so then he turned off the pump to the well.
It slowed … and slowed … and eventually it stopped.
With that taken care of, attention was turned to the boxes of toys, books, memorabilia, Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, old stuff, and who-knows-what-else that sat on the floor. Our slow transition to all plastic not yet complete, the remaining cardboard boxes were soaking up water like a straw. Not good.
Too long for a Facebook status, kind of short for a blog post, my opinion of the unbelievable events currently going on in Washington, D.C….
In my opinion, it is highly unprofessional and unbecoming for our elected officials in Congress to push unsubstantiated conspiracy theories in front of TV cameras while undermining our law enforcement / intelligence communities.
It is the reason I stopped listening to conservative talk radio eight years ago when “the sky is falling” mentality had everyone in an uproar day after day. All negative, all anger — people cannot live without hope.
Sadly, the lights are in danger of going dark in the shining city on the hill.
Recently my daughter-in-law said something to me that made my heart smile.
“Thank you,” she said, “for raising a gentleman.”
In these days of sexual allegations and MeToo revelations, it was a confirmation that my husband and I had done something right. The hours that were spent teaching, guiding, and reinforcing character and common decency with our children had paid off. It was also confirmation that those lessons were recognized.
My memory wandered back over the years to a time when our little three-year-old curly-haired blond-headed son held the door open for a couple entering a restaurant. The lady walked over to tell us what a little gentleman we had.
It happened on more than one occasion and the fact that our little boy did it on his own showed that the lessons of gentility and the Golden Rule had been absorbed by him and, later, his younger sister.
Kindness, understanding, listening, respect, humility, a good work ethic, honor … a way to live life. Those and more were instilled in our now-grown children who are married and have homes of their own.
The words of our son’s wife were a reminder of the foundation we had worked hard to build with our children, and that the hours spent with a child are not wasted.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)
From Delegate Rob Bell…..
Dear Homeschool friend,
I received word that one of my homeschooling bills, House Bill 497, will be coming before the House Committee on Education Subcommittee #3 early Monday morning (January 22nd). House Bill 497 would require school districts that offer “dual enrollment” to public school students to also offer these classes to local homeschoolers without having to pay tuition or fees.
I invite you and your family to come testify if you are able. The committee begins at 7:15am and will be meeting in the House Committee Room in the Pocahontas Building. You can find information about directions and parking here.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Delegate, 58th District
Anyone who knows me knows I homeschooled my children for 16 years and, during that time, served as newsletter editor with our homeschool group in North Carolina. Later, after moving back home to Virginia, I served in leadership for eleven years with PEACH — Parent Educators of Augusta County Homes — as president, newsletter editor, teen coordinator, field trip coordinator, secretary, and anything else that was needed, working together with a group of dedicated moms.
Even though my days of teaching at home are over — my oldest graduated from James Madison University in 2007 and my youngest graduated from Mary Baldwin College as part of the Class of 2012 — I never lost contact with the homeschool community. I keep up with issues that concern them, government regulations that may affect them, and read articles from moms who are just beginning or in the middle of their homeschool journeys.
Today I read an article that oh-so-hit-the-nail-on-the-head. It was passed along by a homeschool mom friend who used to be in PEACH but moved a few years ago to Georgia and is still teaching at home. The article had been written by a Texas homeschool mom who had just begun the homeschool journey with her four children.
Out of all the questions of why and how that came from people throughout the years — why do you homeschool? how can you stand to spend all that time with your children? how can you afford it? where do you find the patience? — this mom answered in one of the best ways I’ve heard.
After writing of the days when it’s difficult that made her ready to throw in the towel and call it quits, she explained why she doesn’t quit:
Homeschooling “works” for our family because we make it work. It is a priority. A calling. Even a conviction. Because of our commitment to homeschool, there are many other things we aren’t involved in, don’t spend our money on, don’t invest our time into. Not because some of these “other things” are bad, but because they would rob us of these precious years to nurture and train our children.
Then this wonderfully honest, young, homeschool mom summed it up in one of the best ways I’ve ever seen homeschooling explained. In one short paragraph, she gave the reason we do it:
I can only homeschool my children once in my lifetime and theirs. Now is that time. It is up to me, and to my husband, to make these days count. For eternity. This is why I choose to get up every morning, sit down at our dining room table, and teach my children in the best way I know how.
I grew up on Beatrix Potter tales and especially loved Peter Rabbit. As a small child, I sat wide-eyed listening to my mother read about all the characters that Miss Potter brought to life in the miniature children’s books full of colorful illustrations. My imagination worked overtime as I heard the opening lines of the Peter Rabbit story:
ONCE upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.
I would get lost in all things Beatrix Potter. While Peter’s sisters were good and went hunting blackberries, Peter went straight to Mr. McGregor’s garden where he had been warned to stay away from, and got into all kinds of mischief. The illustration that stands out to me the most of Miss Potter’s drawings is the one of Peter slipping under the fence.
Yesterday, the story of Peter Rabbit’s trials and tribulations in Mr. McGregor’s garden came back to me.
Mr. Mitchell had put up a wire fence around the garden, as he does each year, to prevent as many critters as possible from partaking of the goodies growing there. It is impossible to keep everything out but it helps to limit some of the wildlife we have here in western Augusta County.
When he went out to look over the garden yesterday, a baby rabbit was sitting squarely in the middle of the squash plants. Well … he used to be a baby and had been able to easily slip in and out of the wire fence … but he is now about half grown. When Mr. Mitchell gave chase, the bunny took off for the fence and got stuck, squirming to make his hindquarters squeeze through before making his escape.
And that was where the tale of Peter Rabbit popped into my brain. I laughed and called my husband “Mr. McGregor” all afternoon because he had chased Peter out of the garden and, if that bunny had been wearing a blue jacket, as Peter did in the fairy tale, its buttons would have been caught on the wire fence and the jacket surely would have been left behind.
Perhaps that is why I so enjoyed the charming movie, “Miss Potter,” the story of Beatrix Potter’s life that intertwined the creatures around her as animated figments of her imagination. Miss Potter’s world was brought to life in the biographical film.
Peter, that naughty rabbit, in my garden helping himself to the squash … I smile even as I think of it….
It is January 21 and we haven’t had very much snow in western Augusta County, Virginia — just a few inches in two storms this season. The weather this week is mild for this time of year — the forecast calls for low 60s, the infamous “January thaw.”
Meanwhile, I’m longing for a really good snow, and that made me think of a children’s book that was a Christmas gift to nine-year-old daughter Katy for our first Christmas in the Shenandoah Valley in 1996.
“When Will it Snow?” is beautifully written and illustrated by Bruce Hiscock, circa 1995, who wrote in his dedication in the book, “To my good friends, and to everyone whose spirits soar when the first snowflakes fall. Special thanks go my nephew Will as Robin.”
The words fell happily on my ears: “… everyone whose spirits soar when the first snowflakes fall.”
I somewhat longingly leafed through the pages today remembering the years reading that book to my children as we waited for the first snow. Some years it came in October … other years it was more elusive. We knew what Robin felt like as he wondered when white flakes would finally fall from the sky:
Originally posted Winter 2015….
Snow! Like a kid, I watched all day as rain turned to sleet and then to snow that was so heavy at times it was almost white-out conditions. When it let up this afternoon, the snowy woods called and I answered with camera in hand and plans to wander through 8-10 inches of fluffy snow in 23-degree temps.
Layered and pulling on boots, I grabbed some knit gloves because I cannot work the camera in heavy ski gloves. It proved to be a mistake because my fingers almost froze before I returned. With a plastic bag to protect my camera from the snow that was still lightly falling, I headed into the wintry landscape.
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