Autumn Colors Western Virginia’s Highland County


With my trusty travel companion driving so I could ride with camera in hand and shout out, “Stop!” when something photogenic caught my eye, Mr. Mitchell and I set out on our back road journey Thursday, October 17, 2019, through western Augusta County, Highland County, and eastern Pocahontas County, West Virginia, to check out the autumn leaf progress. We live in a beautiful part of the world. Enjoy the sights….

 

 

Autumn in Western Virginia
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
October 17, 2019

Back in the Homeschool Classroom … Rainy Days

6d7a7-schoolbooksWith rain pouring down outside my window in the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains hidden behind fog and low clouds … dark and dreary but cozy and bright inside … my mind wandered back to rainy days when my kids were little. A drippy day was the perfect time to build a blanket house. Some people call it a fort. Either way, it made hours of fun for little ones who couldn’t go outside and play.

It wasn’t a new idea to me. When my sister and I were young, our mom would take the ladder-back dining room chairs and spread blankets over them to make us a blanket house. We spent hours playing inside, arranging the interior, napping, tending our baby dolls, and whatever else little girls do to entertain themselves by setting up housekeeping under a sagging blanket ceiling.

So when I had children of my own, the memory of those rainy days gave me the idea that my kids would probably like doing the same. And they did.

I would set up a card table and some dining room chairs in the middle of the living room floor. Then with the help of blankets gathered from the bedrooms, the kids and I would drape them over the chairs and table to make a roof and walls, and leave an opening for a door.

The kids would help, so excited they couldn’t stand still. Once the “house” was ready, off they would fly to their bedrooms to gather favorite stuffed animals and books. Katy would usually also be toting a favorite doll baby; Matt would have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

While they were gone, I covered the “floor” of the house with a blanket or quilt, then added a couple of extra blankets or sheets inside along with pillows snatched from the beds. By that time the kids were back with their treasures. Giggling and wiggling, in the door they crawled as they each made a nest from pillows and blankets, and after a fair amount of time arranging to get the house all set up, they settled in.

And that was where they would spend most of the rest of the day. It was something that was done only on some rainy days so the always-new experience kept them interested and satisfied. Sometimes a request was called out through the door for a board game which I delivered, and they would play Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, or Trouble, and as I headed into another area of the house, I could hear their muffled voices and giggles as they rearranged or made plans, or the pop of the Trouble popper and dice.

Afternoon naps took place in the house as each child curled up with a book and then drifted off as rain beat against the nearby windows. Lunch was served in the blanket house which was much like a picnic. Sometimes I would plop down on the floor and join them for lunch; other times I would enjoy some much-needed mom time for cleaning or cooking or even lesson plans once they were in school.

It’s so dreary today that I would love to have little squirmy ones around to make a blanket house, snuggle in together with a book, and then nap. The fun of littles … it’s too bad we’re so busy at the time it happens to truly enjoy it as much as we should.

Memories….

—–
Lynn Mitchell educated her children at home for 16 years and was part of leadership in North Carolina’s Iredell County Home Educators (ICHE) and Virginia’s Parent Educators of Augusta County Homes (PEACH). Her son graduated from Harrisonburg’s James Madison University (JMU) in 2007 with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Creative Writing. Her daughter graduated from Staunton’s Mary Baldwin College in 2012 with a BS in Sustainable Business and Marketing. Lynn and her husband live in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Other titles in the “Back in the homeschool classroom” series by Lynn R. Mitchell:

– Reading out loud to our children (July 2015)
– Did Terry McAuliffe understand the ‘Tebow Bill’ he vetoed? (April 2015)
– The Virginian-Pilot is wrong about homeschool sports ‘entitlement’ (February 2015)
– ’50 reasons homeschooled kids love being homeschooled’ (November 2014)
– Grown son’s first home (April 2014)
– Support group vs Co-op (February 2014)
– Where it all began … blazing new trails (January 2013)
– Grown son’s first home (July 2013)
– Staying in touch with homeschool friends (July 2013)
– New Year’s Eve (December 2012)
– More sleep = homeschoolers happier, healthier than public school students? (April 2013)
– Using Shenandoah National Park as your classroom (March 2013)
– Rainy days (May 2013)
– A chance encounter (June 2013)
– Autumn (October 2012)
– The rain rain rain came down down down (April 2012)
– Why we teach our own (April 2012)
– Casey (April 2012)
– The wedding … letting go (September 2012)
– The pain of grief (August 2012)
– When faced with a challenge … no whining (April 2012)
– The simple wisdom of Winnie the Pooh (August 2012)
– First day of school (September 2012)
– The rise of homeschooling (February 2012)
– Hot summer days (July 2011)
– Constitutional lessons and the Judicial branch of government (March 2012)
– Mary Baldwin commencement 2012 … SWAC Daughter graduates with honors (May 2012)

Back in the Homeschool Classroom: Reading Out Loud to Our Children

Reading

My kids and I spent much more than 15 minutes a day reading out loud over the 16 years that I had the wonderful opportunity to educate them at home.

Today’ it’s cool and rainy, a perfect autumn day for reading to little ones, and I found myself savoring the sweet memories of those days when my now-grown children would snuggle close to enjoy the many adventures found on the pages of a book.

During those days, we read countless books out loud at home by the wood stove in winter and outdoors in the yard during the summer, while picnicking and camping along the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, at the Outer Banks, traveling across the country to Colorado and Wyoming — anywhere and everywhere. The memories are priceless.

While in kindergarten and elementary school, our trips to the local public library — I considered it another room of our house — resulted in an armload of books for each child. They were curious about a variety of subjects so it was interesting to see what was chosen.

When planning road trips, the kids would find books about the places where we would visit, about nearby historic sites, trees, fun areas, animals — whatever they considered interesting.

Sitting at a picnic table along Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway, we would read of Virginia and American history, or perhaps about historical figures specific to the area. During our North Carolina years, Daniel Boone was a favorite as we sat in the shadow of where he had explored and blazed through the thick laurel thickets in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Poetry was another favorite to read aloud. Biographies. Science. History. Those years were priceless.

Read. Learn. Bond.

—–
Lynn Mitchell educated her children at home for 16 years and was part of leadership in North Carolina’s Iredell County Home Educators (ICHE) and Virginia’s Parent Educators of Augusta County Homes (PEACH). Her son graduated from Harrisonburg’s James Madison University (JMU) in 2007 with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Creative Writing. Her daughter graduated from Staunton’s Mary Baldwin College in 2012 with a BS in Sustainable Business and a minor in Marketing. Lynn and her husband live in Augusta County located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The story of how she began her homeschool journey can be found here (see Back in the homeschool classroom: Blazing new trails).

Other titles in the “Back in the homeschool classroom” series by Lynn R. Mitchell:

Continue reading

A Little Girl Named Katy

1 Wearing Pappaw’s hat – age 3.

Happy Birthday to my sweet girl!

In 1987, October 3rd was a Saturday, and just as it does every year, today has opened a flood gate of memories that take me back to that time in our lives.

It had been warm that fall in Iredell County, NC — typical for our western Carolina location — but a cold front was expected to pass through on Friday night, October 2, that would significantly cool down our area located at the base of the Brushy Mountains, the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Even though I was nine months pregnant, we were preparing to attend the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival on Saturday just as we did every year, located thirty minutes away in North Wilkesboro.

The expected cold front came through that Friday night, and Saturday was overcast and cool, but instead of attending the festival, we began the day with the newest member of our little family — Katy. Three-year-old Matt was at the hospital with us, napping in my room and watching Saturday morning cartoons as he waited to find out if he had a baby brother or sister.

We had two names picked out: Katelyn for a girl, and Andrew for a boy. We got our Katelyn and her dad promptly wrote “Katy” on the name card located in her nursery bassinet.

Katy & Colin at Millie's wedding 2011Katy and Colin

Katy & Matt Braves 9-10Katy and older brother Matt at Atlanta Braves game in D.C.

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Katy and Colin on their wedding day at House Mountain Inn, Lexington, Va.

Katy & sheepBonding with a Highland County sheep.

Katy and Colin 1 year anniversaryAt the beach house in Florida

Katy and Colin at VaTechVirginia Tech game

Katy at Nags HeadOBX

Katy and Emily

Toes in the James River, RVA.

Katy MBC photo 2011My sweet Mary Baldwin College (now University) girl.

Beach 2 Katy, Emily 063Cousins Emily and Katy at the beach house on the Gulf.

2

From that day on, our family was complete. Katy and Matt formed a sibling friendship that continues to this day. Ever the big brother, he was helpful with her from the beginning, and she gravitated to him before she could walk.

Homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade, she graduated from Mary Baldwin with honors, and then married in a beautiful ceremony overlooking the mountains of western Virginia, bringing a young man into our family who was loved not just by her but by us.

Today my fun-loving child is a bubbly, organized, and adventuresome young woman who loves the beach and hiking and baking and flowers and autumn, and sheep and cats … and so much more.

She is definitely my traveling child, perhaps best captured by one of her favorite quotes from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Today we celebrate the day a little bundle of love entered our lives and we were blessed with a little girl named Katy.  Love you, Katy Bee!

~~~

If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart. I’ll stay there forever.” -Winnie the Pooh

Katy Lord 22Sharing a book with Palmer Kitty

Palmer 3Palmer

Katy 2Gatlinburg

Katy 3The cousins … Shenandoah Valley

Katy Lord 4

Humpback Rock

Katy Lord 5

Katy Lord 6

Katy Lord 7

Katy Lord 8

Katy Lord 9

Katy Lord 10Studying

Katy Lord 11

Katy Lord 12

Katy Lord 13

Katy Lord 14

Katy Lord 15

Katy Lord 16

Katy Lord 17

Katy Lord 18Scott Stadium 2009 for U2

Katy Lord 19

Katy Lord 20

Katy Lord 23The Homestead, Republican Advance, 2009.

Katy Lord 24Katy with cousin Emily, and homeschool childhood friends Amanda, Vicki, Debbie, and Amanda.

Katy, Colin magazine cover

At Duffs’ maple barn during Highland County Maple Festival. The tourism magazine asked to use my pic of Katy and Colin listening to the sugaring process.

IMG_8295 (2)At Mammaw and Pappaw’s house, 2018.

IMG_8320 (2)

With Mammaw and Pappaw, September 2018.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Happy Fall! First Day of Autumn 2019

Pumpkins 1

Here’s a load of pumpkins to celebrate the first day of autumn 2019.

Happy Fall!

 

9/11 Remembered at Bearing Drift

9-11-11-flight-93Please join me at BearingDrift.com today as we remember 9/11 with memories of that day from colleagues and friends, and with live-time timeline of the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001.

I will never forget that day. I don’t want to forget that day. #NeverForget

Back in the Homeschool Classroom: Where It All Began … Blazing New Trails

school books“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote this morning, my mind drifted back to the sixteen years we educated our children at home. Talk about going where there is no path and leaving a trail!

A tip of my hat to those homeschool pioneers who were there years before I joined up in 1990. I read books about their battles with school and state officials in various locations across the country, and was grateful for the tenaciousness and willingness of those faithful parents to basically lay it all on the line, plowing that path for those of us who followed. In Virginia, Delegate Rob Bell’s parents were pioneers in that movement, and local homeschool friends whose kids are now grown had been involved in the South Carolina movement.

By 1990, when we took the plunge, laws had been written and there were enough families involved that they had begun forming local groups and state organizations. We were fortunate to find a homeschool support group when we decided to jump from public school into homeschooling.

Before making a decision, I researched. There was a homeschool section of our local library with a number of books that had been donated by the local homeschool group which was how we found them. I wrote to publishers for information — that was before the internet opened the world on a desk top — and read books about other families and their struggles, and called the president of the local group. I researched curricula and laws and everything I could think of that would help if we were to make this life-altering decision.

In the end, we pulled our son out two months into second grade. The Calvert curriculum I had chosen used the same reading and math books that he had in class.

First of all, thank you to all the hard-working teachers out there who pour their souls into education. They have a love of children and teaching that makes them special and loved in the eyes of not only their students but the parents. The energy, hours, and financial sacrifices they expend often go unnoticed.

Let me back up a bit before going on. When our son entered kindergarten, I became a room mother who helped with field trips, holiday parties, and reading. A small table and two chairs were set up in the hallway outside the classroom, and I would listen and help students who were having difficulty with their reading. We’re talking books with one word on a page and, though the kids had been instructed to take their books home and read them ten times to their parents, it was easy to tell who had not done so.

For my son, kindergarten was a great experience and so we moved on.

In first grade, I was again the room mom who traveled with the kids on field trips (by this time they were fondly calling me “mom”) and sitting in the hall listening as students read. I found scrap wallpaper materials and cut out six-inch round circles of various textures and colors, and the teacher and I began a caterpillar that crawled around the wall of the classroom with all the children’s names as they completed a story or book.

One of the main issues I observed in public school was discipline, and that was especially true in first grade. One or two kids can disrupt an entire class of 25 or 30, and it can be very time-consuming for teachers. Sadly, recess was sometimes taken away from the entire class because of the actions of one or two or three … recess, where little wiggly legs could run off energy after sitting at desks for long periods of time.

Another issue in first grade was busy work. Bundles of work pages, or “staple sheets” as they were called, were given to each child who was expected to work the exercises but also outline each illustration (apple for “a” or whatever) and color it in. To quick learners, it proved frustrating and tedious.

By second grade, a very discipline-minded teacher set forth a rule of no talking in the lunch room until kids were finished with their meals. Since I was again spending time with the students as room mom, part of the fun was joining them for lunch. They were delighted to sit with me, and I loved to interact with them in a way that was not necessarily in a structured manner.

What I observed during that time was lots of wasted food. Lots. Kids were not allowed to talk during their free lunch time until all their food was gone, or they would have their names written on the board and be punished. So what else were they to do? They threw away most of their food. Problem solved! Now they could talk. It was wasteful. Elementary kids who sat in a classroom for hours during the day needed some time to release all that pent-up energy, and social time with their friends.

I went to the principal, a fair-minded man I knew well, to discuss my concerns. He was hesitant to interfere with a teacher, something I totally understood, but that didn’t help the situation. It was disheartening to see kids basically punished for being kids at what should have been a less-structured portion of their school day.

That was when light bulb #1 went on.

In second grade, more homework began being assigned. Since I was a stay-at-home mom, we were fortunate to have afternoons to complete homework and not lose our family time in the evenings except for those days when we had sports and other after-school activities. On those nights, we often had homework-dominated evenings.

It seemed to me that second grade children who spent all day in a classroom doing school work should not then have to spend more additional hours at home doing school work. When were they supposed to play? When were they supposed to read? When could they explore the subjects they were interested in pursuing? When were they allowed to just be kids?

That was light bulb #2.

The county we lived in took up a new reading program that year. In the past, students were placed in traditional reading groups according to ability and those who were faster learners moved into new books while the slower learners persevered until they could move forward. Makes sense, right? Apparently not to some pencil-pushing desk jockey who came up with the new program. And this is how it worked.

On Monday, all students were given a story to read. The teacher read it in class, and students were then to read it themselves, and carry it home at night to read aloud to their parents as they learned new words.

On Tuesday, the same story was read in class. The typically fast-learning students had picked up on it quickly while some of the slower learners struggled with unfamiliar words. Tuesday night, the story was to again be read aloud to parents to continue re-enforcing reading skills and word familiarity.

On Wednesday, the same story was again read in class. By this time, the fast readers were becoming bored while the slow readers continued to struggle. Wednesday night was a repeat of Monday and Tuesday nights.

The same for Thursday and, according to the thinking of before-mentioned pencil pushers, by Friday all the students would fly through the story with the greatest of ease and that would be that. Monday they would start a new story and the cycle would begin all over.

The problems were immediately evident. Fast readers quickly became bored with no challenge to keep them interested, and slow readers panicked when they realized they were holding up the entire class. No more intimate reading groups so by Friday everyone’s eyes and ears were glued to the poor child who was still struggling with words.

It was disappointing. I talked with the teacher who said it was the new program and she had no control over it. I talked with the principal who said it was the new program and he had no control over it.

And then other parents began calling.

That was light bulb #3.

Because I had been a room mom and involved with the students, they thought perhaps I could do something or head up something or form a protest. At about that time, a study came out grading school systems nationwide and, in that study, North Carolina was just about at the bottom of the list.

That was the catalyst that caused me to seriously consider educating my son at home, maybe for just a couple of years, I thought. He was bright, he was a fast reader, he loved learning … but I saw him wilting from the tedious busy work, and from being slowed in one of his favorite subjects, reading.

My research convinced me that we should take the plunge although I was scared. I had no college degree much less training as a teacher. I did have, however, a love of learning that I had shared with my kids from the time they were born, and a willingness to do whatever it took to make sure we were successful. And I definitely wanted to raise my own children, not leave them in the care of others, so had no immediate plans to go back to work.

What would my parents think? What would my friends think? Would I mess up my kids’ education? Would something important and necessary fall through the cracks? I would become one of those parents that others whispered about at school events. I would lose the backing of all that knowledge and all those resources of the public school system. I had received an excellent education in Chesterfield County, Virginia, schools. How could I deny that same foundation to my children?

As I dug more into the subject, our son was brought into the conversation to see what he thought about it. He was fine with staying home to learn; in fact, he seemed downright excited. I assured him he would not lose touch with his public school friends, a promise I kept even after we moved back home to Virginia when he was 12. I looked forward to “homework” being “work done at home,” something that could be completed during the day while Dad was at work so our evenings would once again become family time.

I had decided to try the Calvert curriculum and so ordered it, and applied to the state of North Carolina for permission to educate my children at home. We had to give our school a name so we combined our love of the nearby mountains with the meadows on our farm and became Mountain Meadow School. When the curricula arrived and armed with my state-permission postcard, I made an appointment with the school principal to share my decision to withdraw my child from public school.

I carried the curricula with me so the principal could see that I was serious about my son’s education and that it was not a flighty decision. He smiled as I pulled out book after book, explaining that reading and math would seamlessly continue from the point where they were in his class, and shared with him the work books and manipulatives to help in the hands-on part of education that I felt was extremely important to young learners. And then he said something that meant a great deal to me.

“I am not surprised that you researched it so well,” he said. “From my time working with you, I would expect nothing less. But I’m sad that your son will be leaving us because we seem to be losing our brightest students.”

We chatted a bit more, and then I stood up and extended my hand across his desk as we shook hands and said goodbye. Picking up my L.L. Bean bag full of school books and hoisting my purse on my shoulder, we said goodbye to office staff whom I had worked with for the two-and-a-half years while my son had been a student and I had been a volunteer and room mom. Then we walked out the front door into that October morning and climbed into our minivan never to return to public lower education again. Of course, I didn’t realize that at the time … I was still thinking we were on the two-year plan.

Along with my seven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter, we drove to a nearby restaurant and celebrated our cutting the umbilical cord to public education with breakfast and a discussion of the adventures we would have. Then we drove home to begin this new journey that would end up lasting sixteen years as we traveled where there were few paths, and blazed new trails. Though there would be bumps along the way, it turned out to be a journey I never regretted.

—–
Lynn Mitchell educated her children at home for 16 years and was part of leadership in North Carolina’s Iredell County Home Educators (ICHE) and Virginia’s Parent Educators of Augusta County Homes (PEACH). Her son graduated from Harrisonburg’s James Madison University (JMU) in 2007 with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Creative Writing. Her daughter graduated from Staunton’s Mary Baldwin College in 2012 with a BS in Sustainable Business and Marketing. Lynn and her husband live in Augusta County located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Originally posted in 2013

Cross-posted from Bearing Drift

Other titles in the “Back in the homeschool classroom” series by Lynn R. Mitchell:

Reading out loud to our children (July 2015)
Did Terry McAuliffe understand the ‘Tebow Bill’ he vetoed? (April 2015)
The Virginian-Pilot is wrong about homeschool sports ‘entitlement’ (February 2015)
’50 reasons homeschooled kids love being homeschooled’ (November 2014)
Grown son’s first home (April 2014)
Support group vs Co-op (February 2014)
Where it all began … blazing new trails (January 2013)
Grown son’s first home (July 2013)
Staying in touch with homeschool friends (July 2013)
New Year’s Eve (December 2012)
More sleep = homeschoolers happier, healthier than public school students? (April 2013)
Using Shenandoah National Park as your classroom (March 2013)
Rainy days (May 2013)
A chance encounter (June 2013)
Autumn (October 2012)
The rain rain rain came down down down (April 2012)
Why we teach our own (April 2012)
Casey (April 2012)
The wedding … letting go (September 2012)
The pain of grief (August 2012)
When faced with a challenge … no whining (April 2012)
The simple wisdom of Winnie the Pooh (August 2012)
First day of school (September 2012)
The rise of homeschooling (February 2012)
Hot summer days (July 2011)
Constitutional lessons and the Judicial branch of government (March 2012)
Mary Baldwin commencement 2012 … SWAC Daughter graduates with honors (May 2012)

Very Little Labor on This Labor Day

September 1

My to-do list was fairly long and I had good intentions of making excellent use of today with errands, continued cleaning, and washing down the porch.  We are, after all, preparing for fall, my favorite season of the year.

But here I am at mid-day, still at home with not much to show for my morning. Sure, I picked up a bit, wrote four thank you notes, and am making chicken salad (the chicken is cooling before mixing it with the other ingredients).

But there was a cool breeze blowing this morning so I stopped working and went outside to rock on the porch for a while, enjoying the fresh air and quiet. Finally feeling guilty for wasting time, I came inside and got ready to go into Staunton. Then I wandered into the living room and sat down at the piano to play for a while.

That’s when I decided a caffeine kick was needed to get me motivated so found a long-lost tiny bottle of Diet Coke in the fridge, filled a glass with crushed ice, poured in the beverage that I hardly drink anymore, and now I’m sitting here enjoying that while mindlessly “watching” the Hallmark channel in the background and writing this post.

So there’s not much labor coming out of me on this Labor Day 2019 … but the day has been perfect. Isn’t that what a holiday is all about?

And for those who wonder what I’m doing home on the kick-off day for the fall campaign season, I decided long ago that this holiday was for family, not politics. When still educating my kids at home, this last day of summer was for us because the next day was the first day of our school year.

There’s still plenty of time, right? I can meander into Staunton later this afternoon and do my odds-and-ends errands. Meanwhile, I believe the caffeine is doing its job and I’m getting a second wind. There may be some labor in me yet….

Meanwhile, welcome September! Enjoy your day.

A Cool Late Summer Evening

Deer 2

Two does graze as dusk settles over my corner of the world west of Staunton.

I’m sitting outside on the deck with my laptop watching deer where the yard goes into the woods. Our teeny tiny fawns have grown the past two months so it’s enjoyable watching them especially on a cool evening like tonight.

We had rain last night and, in the overcast and cool, breezy day there was a mist in the air as we worked in the yard on chores that were past due. It’s been so busy the past months that trimming, weeding, and raking were needed in a bad way. That task is well underway.

I hear a cicada in a nearby tree and crickets all around chirping their late-summer song. Interestingly, as I pause to listen, no birds can be heard. They are usually the loudest of all but tonight they must be entertaining someone else.

It’s cool out here just as it’s been the past four days — this evening it’s in the upper 60s with a hint of moisture in the air. I almost need a sweater over my long-sleeve shirt. One of the automatic outdoor dusk-to-dawn lights just popped on … overcast skies are pushing darkness in earlier than the 7:52 sunset time just half an hour from now.

Ahh … a bird just showed up in the mock orange bush just off the deck. His calling let me know he was there. And the deer came out from behind the trees … I snapped a photo through the deck railing of two of them as they grazed. I only see two at the moment but suspect the others are hidden in the dark shadows of the trees and the edge of the woods.

So I’ll sit here and enjoy the quiet and wait for darkness. I do love where I live … the mountains, the climate, the quiet. Fall in the mountains is usually a spectacular sight. Winter is peaceful when the fire is roaring and snow is falling outside the windows. Spring is a riot of colorful flowers blooming in the yard, and summer is hot and humid … but not as hot and humid, or as extended, as in my hometown, Richmond.

The mountains are minutes away for day trips or last-minute picnics, or to drive up at this time of the day and watch as the forest animals venture out for the evening. Every day I can see the gorgeous vistas from my house that tourists come to visit. We are fortunate.

It’s late summer in the Shenandoah Valley….

A Preview of Fall Weather

Yard 5

Oh, wow … we’ve had fantastic weather in the Shenandoah Valley the past four days after a cold front sent the hot, humid temperatures packing and ushered in cooler days and lower humidity.

Yard 3

Today’s mostly cloudy skies and high temps around 70 were perfect for trimming the wisteria vine that frames the front porch. It was a joy to be outdoors, and that vine needed to be reined in. Mission accomplished.

Yard 6

Warmer temps are moving back in mid-week but overnight lows are expected to be in the 50s, and the weekend temps will again be in the 70s. Fall is tapping at summer’s door, and I’m ready for it. Colorful autumn leaves, pumpkins, hay fields, apples, cider, cheerful chrysanthemums, fall festivals … bring it.

Yard 4

Taking Time to Reflect

Bearing Drift 2Two years ago I took over at the helm of BearingDrift.com as editor-in-chief when Brian Schoeneman stepped aside to pursue other goals. At the same time Shaun Kenney decided to change paths and also left.

Both had been pillars of the site for years, working with others on the board of directors, such as Norm Leahy, who now writes for the Washington Post and Real Clear Investigations, and Scott Lee who was our radio guy. Heading up all those was Bearing Drift founder Jim Hoeft who had retired from his career in the Navy.

When Brian and Shaun decided to leave, it started a bit of an avalanche. Norm relinquished his board position and also left, and that was followed four months later by Jim, who at that time was serving as Bearing Drift’s publisher, and a few months later Scott left “The Score.”

That’s a lot of changes in a short amount of time.

Meanwhile, I had been a writer with Bearing Drift (while also keeping my personal blog) for a number of years, and also photo editor. When asked to step to the top spot, I was hesitant.

At the very time Brian wanted to turn over the reins, my son was getting married and my parents were moving from their home of 40-plus years to an assisted living community because of my mom’s deteriorating health.

In other words, my plate was already full. Taking over Bearing Drift — an operation with 20 writers, a podcast, “The Score,” and other moving parts under the Virginia Line Media (VLM) umbrella — was going to be a chunk of responsibility.

Respected throughout the Commonwealth and beyond, Bearing Drift had been a leader in online writing for over a decade. During the rise of social media, the best and most talented of Virginia’s political writers became part of the Bearing Drift family to express their thoughts candidly and without censorship. And, I will add, without pay.

Shaun noted two years ago, “As print media continues to evolve in an era of digital media, the line between blogger and reporter has blurred to the point where only the medium distinguishes the two.  As other columnists and writers follow in Bearing Drift’s wake, one cannot help but be proud of what Brian and the rest of the VLM board has accomplished on behalf of Virginia’s public square.” I wholeheartedly concur.

Since stepping to the plate in 2017, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster — both personally and professionally. Losing so much of the original talent was a big hit. The board reconfigured with new members … a new editorial board was pulled together … a managing editor was tapped … Bearing Drift’s IT guru remained, thank goodness. New writers were needed to fill the chasm left with the departures of Brian, Shaun, Jim, Norm, and Scott.

I just caught my breath while rereading those five names. What a loss within months of each other. I suppose I’ve never really stopped long enough to think about it … until now.

At about the time all those changes were taking place, Donald Trump came onto the national scene and our writers were not necessarily on board with someone who did not exemplify what our site, defined as Virginia’s conservative voice, had fought and believed in for its entire existence. We watched as he became the Republican nominee and then president.

For many, our voices were silenced. We lost one of our long-time contributors who left the Republican Party. Thankfully, he returned to BD a year later when I asked if he would bring his voice and opinions back to the table so we could listen to other sides of the issues.

At first, we lost our punch. How do you write when you do not agree with the Republican administration and the 88 percent of the GOP who fell in line behind him?

I have written some criticisms of Trump but to continue on that path was like beating a dead horse. How could I be critical of Democrats when Trump was doing the same or worse? The hypocrisy of trying to carry the conservative banner in the age of Trump was not lost on Bearing Drift’s writers.

So the past two years have been a challenge on a number of levels.

For all the ups and downs with my mom, who passed away last month, Bearing Drift has been my safe haven in the storm. Working with and recruiting writers, editing, and keeping the site updated has become a mark of normalcy.

Although writing has always been cathartic for me, I’ve not had time to do much personal writing since taking over at Bearing Drift. My writing these days is mostly political and technical and, even at that, much of my time is spent on the managing side of the desk.

VLM has been a leader in bringing activist-driven conservative news and commentary to Virginia. That tradition continues. I’m proud to be part of our group of volunteers who continue to hold an honest discussion in today’s political arena.

I need to write. That’s why I keep LynnRMitchell.com for the thoughts that are more personal and less political. I need to visit here more often….

A Cool, Rainy Shenandoah Valley Late Summer Day

Can you believe it? I just checked the temperature at 1:30 in the afternoon and it’s 64 degrees in the central Shenandoah Valley.  I’m out on the deck with a sweater on listening to the sound of raindrops on the awning … wind rustling … a little rain spray blowing under the tarp. It feels like camping.

Rain moved in a couple of hours ago and is in the forecast for the rest of the afternoon. It’s one of those comfortable, snuggly days when it’s great to curl up with a book or sit bundled up on the deck, under the awning, listening to the rain falling, whiffing the earth smells, with only the sound of rain and rustling leaves.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved rainy days. I used to bundle up and take my umbrella and sit outdoors back in those days. Camping in the rain is an adventure — a challenge to stay dry while listening to the rain and entertaining myself by either playing games with someone, or writing, or reading.

Fall is right around the corner and days like this are a reminder of that. This rain is part of a cold front coming through that will drop temps over the next few days into daytime highs of 70s and overnight lows in 50s along with lower humidity.

So today I’m home, couched in with the rainy weather, and basically taking the day off.

Meanwhile, the rain picked up, thunder rolled in, and I scooted back into the house before my laptop and I got soaked.

It’s late summer in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia….

Mom … August 5, 1927-July 18, 2019

Eula Lucy 1

It’s taken a while to get around to posting this on my blog although I shared it with my Facebook friends the night of my mother’s passing on July 18….

In memory of my mom, Eula Osborne Randall Lucy — August 5, 1927-July 18, 2019. ❤️

Mom passed away early Thursday morning from the effects of congestive heart failure, an illness that had slowly taken its toll the past 18 months. She would have been 92 on August 5.

If you ever met her, you know she was one of a kind.

She was a career woman as my two sisters and I were growing up, smashing through the glass ceiling for women in Richmond’s moving and storage business during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. She was their first successful sales woman in RVA, the first woman in Virginia to become a “Certified Moving Consultant,” and the first female in the history of Allied Van Lines to be elected as a Nationwide Roundtable Chairman.

During those years she was a member of several business clubs, and served on the boards of the Sales & Marketing Club and the Export-Import Club. Her successes demonstrated to we girls that glass ceilings for women could be smashed and we could do whatever we chose as long as we worked hard.

Mom was very involved for years as a volunteer with the Chesterfield County Republican Committee until her health prevented her from bushwhacking around Midlothian, with Cal at the wheel driving her from home to home, pushing yard signs into the ground and advocating for her chosen candidate.

She loved Congressman Eric Cantor, attended his events around the 7th District, and served as his representative on the Silver Haired Congress to advocate senior rights and benefits.

Lt. Governor Bill Bolling was another favorite, and my parents appeared in one of his campaign ads. She is pictured with Governor Bob McDonnell whom she supported and solicited yard sign locations from friends, acquaintances, and strangers in her Salisbury neighborhood. Governor/Senator George Allen and Susan Allen, Governor Jim Gilmore, as well as Del. Manoli Loupassi, were others that she respected and worked to elect.

She was active in the days when Senator John Warner was chosen to run after GOP nominee Dick Obenshain was killed in a 1978 airplane crash. She met Warner’s wife Liz Taylor; she worked meet-and-greets and GOP women’s teas. My parents hosted events at their home.

Her great love, however, was President George W. Bush. Through my sister Gail who worked for him, she met Governor Bush in Austin and then again in the Oval Office. Pictures of President Bush with members of our family hang on the walls of my parents’ home.

So many memories, not enough space to share … perhaps when my thoughts settle I will write a piece about having a woman business pioneer as a mother. It was quite the ride!

I still find it difficult to believe she’s gone. We were expecting it and, yet, we weren’t. Not at that time. Not that soon. The hospice nurse had mentioned Labor Day so in my mind I had already decided she would be around until then.

Her memorial service was last week, a remembrance of a strong and independent woman who worked in a man’s world. All four grandchildren had readings, and my sister Gail gave the eulogy which caused laughter in the church. We were grateful to the many who came out, something I shared on Facebook:

THANK YOU. Words cannot express our family’s gratitude to those who supported us with their presence Friday at Mom’s memorial service. It was truly a celebration of a long life filled with family, a fair share of trials and tribulations, triumphs, adventures, and laughter.

Joining us in the sanctuary were family members along with our parents’ friends, church family, neighbors … and then there were childhood friends of my sisters and me (some had been part of the Bon Air Baptist youth group back in the day), neighbors, and political friends.

Friday night we three sisters sat together on the couch, reminiscing as we flipped through old photo albums and laughing over memories. Meanwhile, in the dining room, our kids were perched around the table animatedly playing board games. Peals of laughter regularly rang out during the evening until well past midnight. It was a time for family, some who are scattered good distances beyond Richmond, to enjoy that brief moment in time before returning to our busy lives.

Thank you to those who reached out in other ways with flowers, food, personal notes and cards, helping wherever needed, and checking to be sure our step-father, Cal, was okay. Pastor Bob Lee and Pastor Rod Hale anchored the service while sister Gail added laughter with her eulogy. Readings from the four grandchildren as well as a duet of “In the Garden” from our cousin Sharon and her husband Don rounded it out.

Years ago when our dad died, we girls were 22, 20, and 13. Now Mom has passed and we are … well, let’s just say we’re considerably older. The World War II parents are quickly leaving and the mantle for preserving family memories is passed on to the next generation. Life goes on….

American author Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty, well-preserved body; but rather a journey into God’s arms, skidding in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘WOW! What a ride!’ ”

That, in a nutshell, was Eula. 

Mom was the youngest and last survivor of 10 children who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and saw women step from the shadows into the spotlight of leadership – a life worth celebrating.

I’m Back

I’m back.

If you didn’t notice, I slipped out the back door of Bearing Drift about seven weeks ago to work with my state senator, Emmett Hanger, on his victorious June 11 primary campaign.

During my absence Melissa Kenney, who is Bearing Drift’s managing editor, took over the day-to-day operations, and I cannot thank her enough for the time and dedication she put into making sure the trains were on time. Thank you, Missy.

After winning the primary 57-43 percent, Senator Emmett Hanger is the Republican nominee for the 24th Senate District going into November’s general election.

It wasn’t my first rodeo with him but, like last time when we worked together, it was an honor to once again be part of the team. Congratulations to our Virginia gentleman for running an above-board campaign and working circles around the rest of us.

As to Bearing Drift … it’s good to be back.

See also Emmett Hanger Had the Third Larger Turnout in Primary 2019.

Originally published June 17, 2019, at BearingDrift.com.

Emmett Hanger Had Third Largest Voter Turnout for Primary 2019

Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-24th District) campaigns at polls during the June 11 primary.

On Monday’s radio show, as he analyzed the previous week’s primary races, host and former House of Delegates member Chris Saxman gave his hot take on the 24th Senate District race between incumbent Republican Senator Emmett Hanger and his challenger, Libertarian Tina Freitas.

Here’s the transcript (listen to the podcast here) of that section of the show (starting around 43:00).

Chris Saxman: “We had Senator Emmett Hanger on a couple of times as well as his opponent Tina Freitas, and down the stretch, Sen. Hanger definitely won … won by 15 points. Most people thought it was a toss-up, inside two points, potential upset by Freitas. And Hanger puts it away by 15 points.”

Al the Engineer: “What happened there?”

Chris Saxman: “I’m glad you asked.

“This is why polling and analytics matter. Six weeks out, Hanger’s pollster says, ‘Look, you’re doing pretty well, but here’s some weaknesses and if she gets funded, these weaknesses could catch up with you.’

“They came back three weeks later, did another poll before Memorial Day, and went to him and said, ‘If you don’t change the direction of your campaign, you will lose. Here are the numbers.’

“And he didn’t want to go on a full attack — this is not his personality; he’s not a negative campaign guy — but they said, ‘You have to do some sharp contrasts, and here are the messages you want to do that with. If you don’t do this, you’ll lose.’

“He obviously did it. He ran up the numbers back in Augusta County, Staunton, Waynesboro, and Rockingham. She won on the eastern side of the district, over to Culpeper. On the western side, which is where Emmett Hanger’s from, he ran up huge margins and was able to put that one away. So that was a big win for Sen. Emmett Hanger.

“He also starts, in my estimation, too late running for reelection and his organization. He said, ‘Look, I campaign by working just as hard for my constituents.’ That’s great if this is the 1980s or 1990s and they want to see you. But with the digital aspect of a campaign and people grinding it out unseen, they don’t have to put out these massive campaigns to take you out.

“The Hanger campaign said, in … 2015, 12,000 voters voted in that primary in a three-way. On the day of the election [this year], the campaign manager or consultant or operative said they were thinking it would be about 16,000 votes. That was their estimate. Tina Freitas got 8,200. Now with 16,000, and she gets 8,200, who wins? She does.

“Well, guess what happened? 19,000 showed up! Three-thousand-plus more showed up than they were expecting. That’s a lot. That’s a substantial number turnout.

“So whatever Emmett Hanger’s team did, organizationally and in the campaign, whatever they were doing — digital, messaging, bulk mail, whatever — it worked. They turned out more people than anyone was expecting.”

It all came down to voter turnout in a June primary where voter apathy is a very real thing. #TeamHanger never let up. Sen. Hanger pulled in the third most votes in the Commonwealth.

Congratulations once again to Senator Hanger for his convincing win.

You may also be interested in If It’s Monday, Chris Saxman Is On the Radio.

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