Category Archives: Family and friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never forget.

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

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

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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/)

Making Time to Write

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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….

 

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….

Seasons

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Mom and her girls — my two sisters and me — in 2015 taking niece Em back to the University of Virginia after winter break.

Virginia’s November elections are over and we are hurtling into the holiday season. This morning there’s much to do but I’m also reflecting on the past year and all there is ahead.

I lost my mother this year. While I haven’t talked or written much about it, going into the holidays will be the continuation of all those “firsts” that everyone experiences after someone dies. Since Mom’s passing in July, we have experienced the first Labor Day (we used to go to my Aunt Ruth’s Northern Neck house on the river when she was alive) … first autumn (my mom and dad married on October 23 in 1948 so the season reminds me of the two of them in their youth) … first Halloween (Mom and my step-dad dressed up one year and showed up at a party Mr. Mitchell and I were having at our house in Midlothian) … and even Election Day (Mom used to put out yard signs all over Midlothian and Salisbury, stumping for her chosen candidates).

Now we’re coming up on the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s without her.

On this chilly and overcast Saturday morning, it’s somewhat dreary outside the window, and inside my head. It’s still hard to believe she’s gone. I’ll put on some music — music always soothes me — and go about my day.

As the seasons pass, we check off one more “first” of not having Mom here….

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….

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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)

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.

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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

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Katy Lord 18Scott Stadium 2009 for U2

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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.

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With Mammaw and Pappaw, September 2018.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

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