Author Archives: Lynn R. Mitchell

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)

Too Many Goodbyes

My Texas sister flew out on Sunday heading back to Houston and her life that had been on hold for the 10 days she visited in Richmond. My RVA sister and I drove her to the airport and waved goodbye as she disappeared into the corridors leading to check-in gates and TSA stations before boarding her plane.

It feels I’ve been saying goodbye to her most of my adult life. She left RVA after college and has lived away ever since.

Her purpose for visiting was the memorial service of our youth minister of music from our high school days. Gail was asked to give remarks representing the youth group, and she did a dang good job. We had brainstormed with memories from those days, scraps of remembrances that she captured on paper where she worked to make sure it was exactly what needed to be said.

Then, after the words had been written, she read it out loud to us and reworked the wording, going over and over and over, then printed it out and rewrote it all over again. We timed her to keep within the five minutes that had been allotted. Then one last print-out, one last read-through, and it was ready to go. Her delivery was crisp and perfect, with touches of humor and poignance and love. It was an excellent reminder of a man who had meant a great deal to many of us with the examples he set in his own life.

We three sisters spent the following week after the memorial service visiting the sights and friends in RVA and enjoying time together. All too soon it was over and time for last hugs to say goodbye.

As I drove home that afternoon, the Blue Ridge Mountains growing larger out my windshield and feeling a little melancholy, I thought about the past year and all the goodbyes that had taken place, most notably my mom who died in July from congestive heart failure. It’s still hard to believe she’s gone.

My cousin Jim who died in May from cancer … far too young to be gone.

Bearing Drift senior correspondent and radio personality Rick Sincere who died in November, passing away in his sleep.

A childhood friend’s wife.

Parents of friends.

Mr. Harman. Man of God. Hero. We learned life lessons from the foundation he laid. He was someone who opened his heart to all and lived the Christian purpose of helping those who needed help. “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

And those who are dealing with life-threatening illness like my cousin who was recently diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

A high school classmate whose birthday is the same day as mine who is dying from cancer. Our birthdays are February 9; she hopes to make it that long.

And so many more.

Far too many goodbyes.

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ “

‘You Have Been My Friend’

In the middle of a boisterous lunch with sisters and cousins today, I found myself at one point staring out the window and deep in thought as the laughter continued around me.

My two sisters and our two older cousins who are sisters … we’ve known each other our entire lives. With my Texas sister in town this week, it was a rare opportunity for us all five to be together.

Our mother and their mother were sisters. They’re gone. Our fathers are gone. With my mother’s death last summer, all the aunts and uncles are gone since she was the last of the 10 Osborne siblings.

So that leaves the cousins. We get together fairly often, but my Texas sister isn’t here for those fun times. That made today special.

I don’t know why today I had that moment of pensive remembrance … and then it was back into the conversation for the three hours we were at the restaurant. All too soon, we parted ways and, all too soon, the Texas sister will be winging her way back to Houston.

But for that brief time I enjoyed being in the presence of those who have known me the longest, know me the best, are the closest to me, and will, hopefully, always be there because I think we’ve made a silent pact that we will be there for each other.

Sisters … cousins … lifelong friends. Family. They will always be there.

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.” –Charlotte from “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White

 

When Yesterday Was Young: Remembering Mr. Harman

His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” –Matthew 25:23 KJV

When yesterday was young — when I was young — there were friends and church and youth group outings, and all the memories from those to last a lifetime. From middle school through high school we were in our church youth group — and it was a big youth group! There were over 100 of us. My dad was a deacon and a Sunday school teacher. We lived one block from church so much of those years was spent at church activities.

We enjoyed youth retreats at Massanetta Springs near Massanutten Resort and presented Christian folk musicals in Nags Head. James River buses would line up in the parking lot to take us Christmas caroling to church members who were ill or elderly. We had Bible studies and community projects and socials at parents’ houses and much more.

They were my friends and my social community. They helped keep me on the right path through my teen years which built a solid foundation for my adult life.

One of the most beloved church leaders from those days was H.D. Harman — Mr. Harman to the youth, Reverend Harman to the world. He was married with five daughters, and two of them were around the ages of my sister Gail and me. When he was called to come to our church, they became involved in all the activities including those for the youth.

Mr. Harman was a big burly man — think Hoss Cartwright on “Bonanza” — who could have been intimidating except we all knew he was a big loveable marshmallow inside. He was our youth minister of music … and so much more. When we were performing the Christian folk musicals “Good News” and “Tell It Like It Is,” not only did our choir consist of over 100 teens but we also had guitars, bass, banjo, piano, and other musical instruments played by the youth who were part of the group.

On weekend youth retreats when we teens tended to be our most rowdiest and pushed the evening curfew, Mr. Harman played the bouncer, so to speak. As the clock neared midnight and his patience waned, he would bounce us right back to our rooms with a firm admonition to go in your rooms and go to bed and don’t come back out!

God bless him for his patient heart. We loved him for it. His big baritone voice would boom out as we all sang — we sang all the time because that’s what we did — and he played along with our talent shows that showcased talent and silliness and fun. As we shared the highs and lows in our lives, he shared from his youth.

We learned the lessons of life from Mr. Harman in the character he exhibited in his own life: kindness, generosity, integrity, fairness, patience, sincerity, devotion, loyalty, determination, persistence, tolerance, optimism, and most importantly, spirituality.

4 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

Mr. Harman passed away in June 2019. His memorial service will be held this week in Richmond and many of the 1970s youth group will be attending to honor this man of God who touched the lives of so many. I’ve kept up with some church pals over the years but some I haven’t seen in decades so it will be wonderful to once again gather and catch up. Maybe an impromptu chorus of “Good News” or “Pass It On” will break out.

Leave it to Mr. Harman to bring us all together, something we talked about doing for years but it never got off the ground.

Thank you, Mr. Harman, for coming into our lives. Thank you for the sacrifices and dedication. And thank you for sharing your life, your testimony, and your character with us.

I imagine that right now in heaven there is a big bass voice singing amongst the angels … one day we will all join him in that choir.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” –Philippians 1:3 KJV

Related:
-Bon Air Baptist: Rev. Cochran Has Passed Away (https://lynnrmitchell.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/bon-air-baptist-church-rev-cochran-passed-away/)

Meghan and Harry

January, 2020

“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family, and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge, and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”

Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Just a quick note while Meghan and Prince Harry are in the news….

I’m not a Royal watcher but, as I noted when Meghan and Harry found out they were pregnant, I have a soft spot in my heart for Harry. Only 13 when his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in an automobile accident caused by paparazzi chasing them through the streets in 1997, I’ve watched from afar.

Don’t get me wrong. I joined millions in following Diana’s romance with Prince Charles and, like so many other Americans, watched their wedding as it unfolded on TV. When she died, I watched the funeral and as Harry walked with his brother, father, and grandfather behind his mother’s casket. Perched on top was the bouquet of flowers with the envelope addressed to “Mummy,” from Harry.

I was a mother whose own son was the same age as Harry and 10-year-old daughter so my heart hurt for the young prince and his brother who had just lost their mother. Ever since that time I’ve followed the news as they’ve grown up, married, and begun families of their own.

This week when Meghan and Harry announced they were stepping back from the limelight and announced a new website, people went berserk — speaking out on Facebook and elsewhere with derogatory comments about the decision.

And, just as they did when Diana was alive, British tabloids are having a hay-day speculating about and bashing the young Royals. What is it with them? Why do their wield so much power in England? They are the same as reality “Honey Boo-Boo” shows in the U.S. — mindless gossip rags.

It sounds as if Meghan and Harry may be on their way to settling for at least part of the year in Canada. Here’s wishing them the best with whatever they want to do with their lives.

 

Making Time to Write

Winter 1

Swoope, Virginia | Augusta County | Shenandoah Valley | Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

I met a friend today at Panera’s for lunch. As we got caught up on the latest things we had done (I had last seen her a month earlier at the Homestead in Hot Springs), she made a comment that kind of caught me off guard.

“You don’t write [on your website] anymore.”

I told her about being busy with Bearing Drift now that I edit for 20 authors and a number of other responsibilities that take up the time I used to have for writing my own posts. I still write, but it’s for Bearing Drift and not LynnRMitchell, and it usually falls into the political template of the site.

As I explained all that to her I lamented that I miss the “fluff,” as I called it — the light-hearted things and subjects I used to write about at my own site. She said she had expected to see photos from Tuesday’s snow. True enough … in the past I would have written about our first snow of winter.

I would have written about watching the snow come with eyes glued to the window and enjoying the ever-growing winter wonderland. I would have written about trekking to the mailbox, and then going for a walk around the yard as the flakes came down.

I would have shared those photos that were shared on Facebook. I would have shown the pics of the young twin deer who were feeding beside the driveway … ever present in the yard.

I would have shown tracks in the snow, and snow-covered nandina berries. The woodpile covered in snow. The deserted firepit. The picnic table with several inches of snow piling up on it. The tiny white twinkly outdoor lights … the wreath on the deck gate.

I miss doing that. But there will be a day again when I’m not heading up Bearing Drift.

For now I love what I do at Bearing Drift and the interaction with our writers and guest posters and political candidates and elected officials, all cultivated from 20 years of involvement and developing grassroots in this community that I moved to almost 24 years ago.

But I may be able to make a little more time to post some “fluff” here at LynnRMitchell. I just need to give myself permission to do so.

“All work and no play,” you know. Enjoy your weekend….

 

Remembering Singer John Denver on his New Year’s Eve Birthday

John Denver

Two months before his death, singer/songwriter John Denver wrote a letter to his mother on her birthday and told her, “I would not be the man I am, nor would I sing the way I do, nor would I have written the songs I have written without the influence and inspiration you have been to me. I want you to know that today there are hundreds, if not thousands, who join me in saying, ‘God bless the day that you were born.’ ”

Today is John Denver’s birthday, born on New Year’s Eve in 1943. John Denver — forever in our minds as the youthful, blonde-headed, wire-rimmed granny glasses-wearing troubadour — would now be a 76-year-old grandpa if he had lived. His daughter Anna Kate, 43, who lives in New Zealand with her husband Jaime Hutter, gave birth to a daughter, Daisy Eloise, on December 21, 2011.

Anna Kate’s brother and Denver’s son Zachary, 45, lives with his wife Jennifer in Basalt, Colorado. Anna Kate and Zach’s mother is Annie of the hauntingly innocent Annie’s Song fame who was married to Denver from 1967-1982, and still lives in Colorado. The birth of baby Daisy Eloise made her a grandmother.

Denver was tragically killed in October of 1997 at the age of 53 when the plane he was flying crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. In a sense, for me, the music died that day … but it lives on because his songs are still with us.

From his earliest music like the quietly simple Poems, Prayers & Promises to the fun and rowdy Thank God I’m a Country Boy and Grandma’s Feather Bed to the little known but one of my favorites to play on the guitar, Shipmates and Cheyenne the vintage-John Denver I’m Sorry, and later in his career the extremely personal plea, Don’t Close Your Eyes Tonight, John Denver has been my favorite singer-songwriter since 1969.

Perhaps it was his love of the Rocky Mountains that reflected my own love of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, or maybe it was his appreciation of the simple things like the outdoors, good friends around a campfire, and the power of music to heal a hurting soul, that drew me to him. Whatever it was, I rejoiced in his lyrics and guitar chords, and mourned when he died far too young.

Even today, I still hang onto every word as he sings the words to This Old Guitar, the love song he wrote about the 1910 Gibson guitar his grandmother gave him at the age of 12, and how it so very affected the path his life took. He closed his concerts with that song … an ode to his grandmother and his life … and anyone who has ever played a musical instrument understands the attachment between artist and instrument.

His story-telling wasn’t limited to the music. He had a charming way of presenting intros to songs by sharing personal experiences. Who can forget his Dancing With the Mountains video skiing Aspen Mountain? Watching it reminds me of skiing the Aspen mountains with my sister in that part of Colorado years ago. Denver was an excellent skier, and he knew the trails on Aspen Mountain like the back of his hand, something that is readily evident on the video as he actually “dances” down the slopes.

When my husband, sister (who lived in Denver at the time), and I attended his Red Rocks concert outside Denver on July 5, 1982, Denver shared his experience of traveling to China and looking out at the night sky half a world away. Annie, he realized, was back home in Colorado seeing the same moon and stars, and so he wrote the song Shanghai Breezes“The moon and the stars are the same ones you see/ It’s the same old sun up in the sky/ And your love in my life is like heaven to me/ Like the breezes here in old Shanghai.”

But it was too late for John and Annie … their divorce was underway even as he sang that summer night in the shadow of the magnificent Rocky Mountains.

The magic of his concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater was captured for a television special. We were sitting on the third row right in front of the stage in seats we had staked out at noon for the night concert after standing in line for the first-come, first-serve outdoor seats.

We watched as Denver and the band ran through the sound check at mid-day, and we partied the afternoon away in the Colorado sunshine with fans seated around us. It was a sold-out event, and we twenty-somethings were excited because it was far out! (For those too young to remember John Denver, far out was his signature saying.)

Amazingly, on a whim, I found the Red Rocks concert on YouTube. Ah, the beauty of the internet … all these years later, and there it was for me to listen and drift back in time and remember a wonderful concert that started before sunset and lasted long into the night under the stars in that magnificent Colorado sky. It was magical … a moment in time, a memory that lasts to this day. The entire audience was mesmerized by John’s singing, and hung onto every word, singing along with this Pied Piper of folk music.

The songs and interviews with Denver from the Red Rocks concert are divided into five videos: Part 1 (Take Me Home, Country Roads), Part 2 (Seasons of the Heart), Part 3 (Thank God I’m a Country Boy and Annie’s Song), Part 4 (Calypso), and Part 5 (Perhaps Love, written as a love song to his fans).

I heard him sing in the Coliseum in Richmond, at Carowinds in North Carolina, twice at Wolf Trap Theater in Vienna, and at Red Rocks. How sad we can never again sit and listen as his personality and talent take us away for that brief moment in time while he shared his life — his highs and lows, heartache and joys — through the lyrics of his songs.

On this day that would have been his 76th birthday, it is amazing how much we all still miss John Denver….

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from LynnRMitchell.com

The reason for the season….

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.” Luke 2:8-20

The true meaning of Christmas … a time for the Christian world to pause and celebrate the birth of the son of God.

As 2019 comes to a close, it is a time to remember family and friends and those who have special meaning in our lives. While I’m still writing and posting photos at LynnRMitchell.com, my new responsibilities as editor-in-chief at Bearing Drift have kept me very busy. The entire past year was busy.

Here’s to a great 2020 and many more years observing, writing, and taking pictures of politics and more. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

To Every Thing There is a Season

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Everyone has gone to bed and, as I sit in the darkness with my laptop while listening to the wind outside my window, thoughts swirl in my head.

There are many who are sad this Thanksgiving.

At Bearing Drift we lost Rick Sincere last week, one of our writers and our on-air radio personality. We are all still in shock over that unexpected and sudden loss. In Utah, a childhood friend lost his wife last week, a youthful mother, friend, sibling, daughter.

What sadness in those two families as we plunge into the holidays.

Yesterday more bad news hit when word spread that the body of Dr. Mark Robbins, an avid cyclist, hiker, marathoner, and all around outdoorsman who had been a pulmonologist at UVa Hospital, Augusta Health, and Rockingham Memorial, had been found in the Rivana Reservoir in Charlottesville. That stunning news of a beloved physician’s death has rocked everyone back on their heels. Mark’s wife and three sons now face the chasm caused by his passing.

Then last night came word that the 23-year-old son of a local family had taken his life leaving yet another family shattered right here at the holidays.

Each of these deaths has left a hole in the lives of those left behind — a hole filled with emptiness, sadness, loneliness….

Pastor John Pavlovitz reminds us, “Everyone around you is grieving. Go easy.”

This week we know of four families whose lives have been devastated. It’s going to be a long, sad holiday season for them. My heart hurts for them all….

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (KJV)

Mr. Rogers Visits a Cinema Near You

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” –Fred Rogers

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the movie about the children’s television host Fred Rogers starring Tom Hanks, was released yesterday. It is at the top of my must-see list and I’m hoping to get to the theater over Thanksgiving weekend to catch Mr. Hanks’ performance.

A description of the movie in a nutshell notes, “A journalist’s life is enriched by friendship when he takes on an assignment profiling Fred Rogers. Based on the real-life friendship between journalist Tom Junod and television star Fred Rogers.”

Wikipedia adds, “Notable cameos in the film include Rogers’ wife Joanne, Mr. McFeely actor David Newell, Family Communications head Bill Isler, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood producer Margy Whitmer, who appear as customers in a restaurant that Rogers and Lloyd meet in; Fred Rogers makes an uncredited appearance in archive footage of his show during the ending credits, singing the song “You’ve Got To Do It.”

It appeals to me that they took up the telling of the story through the cynical eyes of the Esquire journalist who would become Fred Rogers’ friend.

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” —Fred Rogers

My children watched Mr. Rogers when they were young. It was his gentle nature that was particularly intriguing to very little ones who had not entered the world of video games and were drawn to the simplicity of the show with the hand puppets, choo-choo train, and the gentle nature of the man in the sweater. Some might say it was milquetoast. Not to our little toddlers.

And not to this mom.

I truly believe I have come to appreciate Mr. Rogers more the older I become. In an ever increasing political world, I need his kindness, his humble nature, and his quiet ways of teaching goodness.

“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” —Fred Rogers

If you’re worried that a movie about Mr. Rogers could be boring, the reviews have been good, and the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 96 percent rating. Not bad for a pastor who hosted a children’s television show.

Here are a handful of reviews….

“The movie bets on goodness, and wins.” Full review. Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

“Many a movie will make you laugh or cry or think. But very few make you want to be a better person.” Full review. Paul Asay, Plugged In

“This drama is a poignant, powerful tribute to the man who’s embodied kindness and love to children and adults for four decades, thanks to Hanks’ fabulous performance.” Full review. Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media

“If most viewers consider it a no-brainer that Hollywood’s nicest actor, for whom wholesomeness is a brand, would play Mr. Rogers, they’d be mistaken to think his performance is technically easy.” Full review. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

Loss, Friends, and Life

dscn6522-2A childhood RVA friend — church, school — lost his wife last night. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain he and his family are going through today. A wife, mom, daughter, sibling … still young and vibrant … gone, and a family brokenhearted.

It’s interesting how Facebook brings people’s lives across our computer screens. It has helped me reconnect with many classmates and childhood friends. Every day I see people celebrating or grieving, or building new houses or welcoming new grandchildren.

But today struck me a bit differently. Another high school classmate who has never married has found love after reconnecting with a longtime friend. He is happy and seeing life through new lenses.

Today I saw his joy and my other friend’s heartache. It’s ironic how Facebook’s window into everyone’s lives brought together the good and the bad on the same day. I passed along my condolences to one and am so very happy for the other.

Earlier this week a colleague at Bearing Drift died in his sleep. I learned of his passing on Facebook through his sister who posted the sad news. It was totally unexpected and left everyone in shock; at Bearing Drift we have a hole in our little online family.

Never miss a chance for those you care about to know it. We may not have a second chance….

Holiday Prep

Autumn 13

The porch still looks like autumn while inside we are working on Christmas.

The holidays are temporarily colliding at our house.

“A little to the right,” I said as Mr. Mitchell held the Christmas tree in place. He adjusted, I cocked my head to eyeball it again, and gave the thumbs up. Perfect! Its spot in the living room had been secured.

Does it seem early to be decorating for the holiday season? Not at my house. We have so much going on that it’s imperative we be finished by Thanksgiving. After that, between entertaining at home and taking part in area activities, we don’t want our time spent decorating the house. I plan to play!

Autumn 9

An autumn field in the beautiful mountains of Pocahontas County, West Virginia.

This year is the shortest amount of time between Turkey Day and Christmas — four fleeting weeks — so they will be jammed even more than usual. I intend to enjoy them. This is, after all, my favorite time of year.

So the weekend has been busy with spring-cleaning-for-winter, washing curtains and bedding, finishing up yard maintenance, and storing away outdoor furniture. This week we will hang white twinkly lights on the porches and trees, taking advantage of our fingers actually being flexible enough in the warmer temps. Trust me, I’ve had those years stringing lights in frigid temps with frozen fingers and it certainly drains the fun out of it! Brrr!

This fall we had new counter tops installed in the kitchen and additional cabinets added to a bare wall so I’m still working on organizing and moving pans, dishes, and everything else in the kitchen to new storage spots. That’s been a chore but I’m certainly looking forward to the extra counter space during baking season. Bring on the gingerbread men, fudge, and toffee!

Autumn 10 Bill, Matt 2019

Mr. Mitchell had a helping hand from our son when he cut down a worrisome tree in the yard.

Oh, and Mr. Mitchell revved up his chainsaw and downed a bothersome tree this past week that will provide much firewood but also has more limbs than Jack’s bean stalk so clean-up has been ongoing.

Did I mention it’s been a busy week? And that Christmas tree we straightened up so carefully? It’s still waiting for yours truly to string the lights before we can dive into the ornament box. ‘Tis the season … ho ho ho!

The holidays are on their way to the Shenandoah Valley….

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