Category Archives: Family and friends

First Day of Summer and Shrimping in South Carolina

Today is the first day of summer. As I enjoyed the morning breeze in the Shenandoah Valley, my mind drifted back to another first day of summer when my husband and I took our 16-month-old son and visited with friends who were living at the time in Charleston, S.C.

On June 21 during our stay, our friends took us out in their boat to explore Charleston Harbor and visit historical Fort Sumter on a small piece of land in the Atlantic Ocean. We spent the morning walking its pathways, exploring fortified areas, and absorbing the history of it all.

After leaving Fort Sumter, we pointed the boat toward the South Carolina coastline and made our way into one of the delta inlets for some shrimping, a great pastime for our friends, and something that was about to become a new experience for us.

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‘One More Day’ … with Dad

It’s another Father’s Day without Dad. We lost him to cancer when he was 51, and so every time I hear Diamond Rio’s “One More Day,” it makes me ache for that kind, easy-going, quiet, simple man who taught Sunday School, was a deacon in our church, and chased us kids around the yard as pretended to be the big, bad wolf from the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale.

His was not the life of a high-powered CEO or politician or world traveler but he was the world to us. The oldest of five children growing up in Amelia County, he was a child of the Depression who quit school after eighth grade to help support his financially-strapped family before enlisting in the Navy as a teenager to serve during World War II. Trained as a gunner on the USS Wisconsin, he traveled to exotic places around the South Pacific while the world was at war and, when it ended, he came home to Virginia, settled in Richmond, married, and raised three daughters.

One of his joys throughout the years was traveling to southwest Virginia to attend the Galax Fiddler’s Convention to listen to hours of bluegrass music, a genre I didn’t fully appreciate until long after he was gone.

His other joy was camping in Shenandoah National Park. We could not afford pricey vacations so our parents took us to the mountains from the time we were very young where Dad was a naturalist before it became fashionable. He was mindful of those protected surroundings, teaching his girls to leave the flowers for others to enjoy, pack out our trash, be respectful of the animals who lived there, and most of all to enjoy the beauty that is Virginia.

Diamond Rio’s song sharpens the realization that if I could have just one more day with him, it would be sitting around a campfire in Shenandoah National Park as the sun lowered behind the Appalachians … one more time.

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Virginia Soldier Died in Battle at Germany’s Siegfried Line

??????????[Editor’s Note: On March 21, 1945, the uncle I never knew was killed just six weeks before the end of World War II in Europe. He was 27 years old, my mother’s oldest brother. She was a student at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, Virginia, when her brother Clarence, the oldest of nine siblings, paid the ultimate sacrifice. She still remembers her mother’s reaction that fateful day when the official government car drove up the driveway of her parents’ Chesterfield County farm many decades ago, and how her mother’s knees buckled as she realized the presence of that car meant her son was not coming home. Mom says her mother, who lived into her 80s, never got over the loss.

After retiring from her job, Mom spent hours researching to fill the void of not knowing exactly what happened to her brother and, through her research, eventually found Clarence’s sergeant, Dock Roberts, living in Texas. Another soldier buddy, Emelio Albert, lived in California. She traveled to both places to talk with them to learn about her brother’s journey as a U.S. Army soldier through war-torn Europe, and his final hours, and she documented the treasured research for our family history. This is her story. I have edited and included links to more detailed historical accounts.]

Italian Campaign
The Italian Campaign was one of the most difficult of World War II. Some of the most exhausting battles for foot soldiers took place in Italy with its rugged mountains, and heavy snows in the winter of 1943 were followed by extensive cold rains in the late winter and spring of 1944. The ground turned into a quagmire and foxholes were filled with water. Mud was so deep it was nearly impassable for vehicles as well as men on foot. By the summer of 1944, the dry weather turned the earth to dust which swirled at the least disturbance. The Division veterans’ most vivid memories of the Italian fighting were the weather and terrain.

Clarence was sent from Virginia to the Texas National Guard as they replenished their ranks, and spent 15 months as a First Gunner in the Mortar Squad. Their Division played a big role in the war, joining other American forces in the liberation of the little town of San Pietro, located in southern Italy, from the Germans.

From there they battled their way to the Riviera in southern France, and onward to the northern border of France plus one day in Germany. Clarence was killed in the last great battle of the 36th Division of the 1st Battalion, Company D, 143rd Infantry Regiment of the Texas National Guard.
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Bear Under the Deck

A bumping outside the window woke me this morning around 4:00. Edging over to the open window, I listened to the bump and then heard the snort.

Bear.

Our garbage cans are kept under the deck. Only one had trash — one bag — but the full-grown black bear was in the process of knocking them all over to be sure there wasn’t anything more than what he was able to drag out and spread all over the ground.

I shined my small flashlight out the window and caught the shadowy outline of our woodland visitor. Padding across the carpeted floor, I gently shook a sleeping Mr. Mitchell.

“Hmm?” he responded, groggily. Guys sleep through anything.

“There’s a bear in the trash,” I whispered. I wasn’t sure what he could do about it but it seemed only reasonable that I should share this pre-dawn moment by disrupting his sleep.

He stumbled out of bed and disappeared into his man cave, coming back with a handheld spotlight. Did I hear him say it was a million watts? Whatever it was, it was bright.

Positioning himself at the widow, he pointed the spotlight in the direction of the bumping and snorting. There it was … a full-grown black bear pawing through our discarded water bottles, empty cans, used paper towels, and all the other assorted odds and ends found in the family trash.

With iPhone in hand, I snapped some photos but the combination of darkness, the screen on the window, and distance made it difficult to get a clear picture. The bear ate. I took pics. The bear pawed through the pile. More pics. More pawing and eating.

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The mountain was calling: when the first child makes you a mother

Mount Mitchell, North Carolina. Highest peak east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 feet elevation. Record snowfall during winter with some form of snow observed every month of the year. One snowstorm in January 2016 dumped 66 inches of the white stuff. Extremely high winds have been clocked … wicked lightning storms. Extraordinary views. Named after Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a professor at the University of North Carolina, who determined Mount Mitchell was the highest mountain in the eastern U.S. … Dr. Mitchell, who tragically fell to his death in 1857 when he slipped at the top of Mitchell Falls located on the slopes of the mountain …  and is buried on the peak of Mount Mitchell.

That was the place I chose to spend my first Mother’s Day in 1984. Our son was three months old. Near the summit was a picnic shelter where we spread out our lunch. Nearby a visitor center, a restaurant, and a trail to the top. It was our first visit to Mount Mitchell, but it was by no means our last. Throughout the twelve years we lived in NC, we often visited.

Today I thought of that day and our time on the mountain where we explored, dined on picnic food, and enjoyed the serenity of the highest peak in the east surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest. Because we chose to spend our day in the clouds, it made for a memorable first Mother’s Day.

Visits in later years provided more adventures as we picnicked in June in snow flurries, watched lightning dance and streak along the mountain top, wore coats to ward off the chill on rainy summer days, hiked, soaked in the sun, saw the mountain socked in by fog, and enjoyed the sound of the wind blowing up through the stunted spruce and pine forest.

The last time we were on the mountain was three years ago. It is time to return.

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Mother’s Day 2017

Remembers all the moms out there including my mom and sisters.

Blacksburg Millennials Share Tech-Savvy Talents With Non-Profit Community

Colin Lord

Saturday was a mild, early spring day in Blacksburg but inside, hunched over computer screens, a 12-hour giving-back-to-the-community design and development marathon was unfolding as more than 50 tech-savvy millennials donated their day to team up and pool their creative abilities.

The result when it ended was newly designed and updated public relations resources for 18 non-profit organizations, tools to utilize and help them promote their groups.

Welcome to the third annual “Make a Mark,” an event that brings together a wide-ranging pool of talented professionals from within the local technology community in the shadow of Virginia Tech University, known for turning out countless computer gurus. Reporter Paris Holmes at VirginiaFirst.com wrote:

54 different local web developers, illustrators, videographers, and other creatives  divided up into teams to make new websites, mobile applications, logos and other marketing materials for 18 different local non-profits.

This group of millennials, all too willing to help the world around them by sharing their biggest assets of time and talent, shows the generous side of an often-maligned generation.

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Grandma’s Wedding Band

My wedding ring along with my grandmother’s thin gold band.

A friend recently lost his grandmother which made my mind drift back to memories of my own grandma who passed away when I was 14 years old. In her 80s, she was the first person to die who was close to me.

Her name was Mollie, and when she was in her late 60s she lost her wedding ring. My mom, who was in her 20s at the time, bought a replacement ring, a thin gold band that was larger than usual to fit over my grandmother’s gnarled fingers and knuckles. They were hard-working hands, hands that had raised 10 children, worked in the farm fields and canned the rewards from those fields; washed, ironed, and cleaned; snapped beans and made dumplings. I was an infant at the time but Grandma said that when she passed on she wanted me, my mom’s oldest child, to have that wedding band.

Engraved inside the thin sliver of gold were their initials, “JFO” for John Francis Osborne, and “MKO” for Mollie Kennedy Osborne, along with the date they were married: August 21, 1904, which was a Sunday.

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My Great-Grandfather’s Kennedy Country Store … Alleghany County, NC

My mother’s family has deep roots in Alleghany County, North Carolina, where they settled in the mountains just over the state line from Virginia and outside of Sparta, NC. Drive the back roads and you’ll see lots of Kennedys.

Cross the New River from Grayson County, Virginia, into North Carolina and follow the winding country roads to an area called Turkey Knob that has been inhabited for generations by my relatives. This is the location of the Kennedy Country Store, started in the 1880s by my great-grandfather, James L. Kennedy.

James L. Kennedy was my grandmother’s father, and he established the store in the Potato Creek Community in the late 1800s selling peanuts and coffee. He and his son, Carl M. Kennedy, took weekly turns working the store and going home to Turkey Knob Community to farm. This great-grandfather had 24 children … but that’s another family story for another day.

Around 1907, Kennedy Store was moved to a wooden building in Turkey Knob Community across the road from its present location at the intersection of Mount Carmel Road and Turkey Knob Road. Part of the old store stood in its original place until 2008 when it became necessary to tear it down from years of wear. The existing store was build in 1937.

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‘Beauty and the Beast’ … Hypocrisy Personified

Disney’s latest much-anticipated movie, “Beauty and the Beast,” is set to open March 17, 2017, and already there is controversy. As news makes the rounds that there is a fleeting gay related moment at one point, the church community is freaking out.

Really?

Now Franklin Graham weighs in, again, with his opposition to the film. I’m seeing people on Facebook changing their plans to see the movie because of this news. Wonder if they have seen the dozens of other children’s movies throughout the years that have had adult references.

But more than that, 81 percent of the evangelical community voted for Donald Trump who famously noted that he could grab women by the p***y and get away with it because he was famous. And they were okay with that, okay enough to not only not boycott that but also tolerate other crude behavior and language from a presidential candidate, now president, who stood in front of a rally and used the *f* word.  Who bashed a Vietnam POW. Who is no shining example to hold up to our children.

But these easily-offended Christians cannot see “Beauty and the Beast.”

Spare me the hypocrisy.

Update: An article in USA Today saw the same hypocrisy with boycotting “Beauty and the Beast.”

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‘Aspinwall & Friends’ … Houston folk music at its best

Bill Aspinwall 2

Bill Aspinwall

[Today is my Texas brother-in-law’s birthday so I am republishing a tribute I wrote about his music in 2009. Singer, songwriter, and able to play just about anything with strings, this award-winning Houston folk singer is talented beyond belief … our own musical troubadour who is married to my sister. Happy birthday with love from Virginia, A!]

If you like the laid-back easy feel of acoustic folk-style music, then pour a glass of wine, kick back, and mellow out to entertainer Bill Aspinwall, an all-around great musician and singer who represents some of the best that Austin and Houston have to offer in the folk music genre.

bill-aspinwall-2Named 2005 Songwriter of the Year by the Houston Association of Acoustic Musicians (HAAM) and the Houston Songwriters Association (HSA), Bill also was co-creator of the 2005 Song of the Year, “Fractured Lives,” included on his new solo CD, Free Range Trout: Aspinwall & Friends, featuring some of Houston’s finest musicians.

With calming tunes reminiscent of James Taylor but skillfully interwoven with the story-telling style of Jimmy Buffet, Bill Aspinwall’s music, much of it self-written, makes for relaxed listening or singing along.

As one of the Big Lizard Boys, Bill has been performing for years with his merry band of musicians that includes fellow Lizard Boys Mike Crippen and Mike Darnell. Their CD, Pick Yourself Up, has my all-time favorite Aspinwall tune, “Arapahoe Rodeo,” a song the Boulder native penned about his home state of Colorado with wistful memories of growing up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains along with fun, whimsical lyrics such as, “… I often wondered how snakes wave goodbye” …

Arapahoe Rodeo
Lyrics and Music by Bill Aspinwall
© W. F. Aspinwall, 2005

Blue jeans and brook trout, five friends that checked out,
Born in a small town, wife says that I frown
Fish with my grandad, memories I had
Like Christmas eve snow
Dozens of cousins, my uncles and aunts …
Arapahoe Rodeo.

Wheat fields and foothills, parents on white pills
Farmers and miners, small change in the diners
Summers in bare feet, parades came down Pearl Street
On the 4th of July
And up at the treeline, a buck and a doe …
Arapahoe Rodeo

Up Coal Creek Canyon, we had a small cabin
No electric, no water, no phone
After all of these changes in my life
I still wish it was home.

Fording the stream beds with cowboys and pot heads
A pinto with white sox, Hendrix at Red Rocks
Hardly said one word, but I often wondered
How snakes wave goodbye
A snowman is melting, the creek starts to flow …
Arapahoe Rodeo.

Love that song … to hear it played under the summer Colorado night sky is almost magical.

Bill AspinwallBill Aspinwall, affectionately known as “A,” is my brother-in-law, married to my Texas sister. When we get together, we kick back and are taken away by his talented musical skills as he plays acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, jaw harp, and anything else he can put his hands on … truly a talented gentleman. When they come to Virginia to visit, we can always spy them as they emerge from the plane because of Bill’s faithful and trusty guitar always in hand.

In the mail last week, my sister sent the latest CD … Free Range Trout: Aspinwall & Friends … a collection of songs we have heard Bill sing in the past, and some new ones including one my sister co-wrote with him. Keeping it all in the family, niece Molly helped with backup harmony with cameos on one cut by the resident dog and cat.

The CD includes a dedication to my dad who passed away in 1975, and to Bill’s dad who passed away about five years ago: “This project is dedicated to all the family and to parents everywhere, especially ‘Bebe’ Aspinwall, Raymond Randall, and Cowboy Nate, to remind us that dreams have a life of their own.”

Free Range Trout: Aspinwall & Friends is Bill’s first solo effort. With the help of family, friends, the “Guitar Circle friends,” and fellow Lizard Boys, it includes the haunting Spanish lyrics of “El azur del invierno,” the beautiful “If Winter Knows,” the award-winning “Fractured Lives,” and my favorite, “Open Arms”:

Open Arms
Lyrics and Music by Bill Aspinwall
© W. F. Aspinwall

(First Verse)
Taking the coffee cup down from the shelf
Making breakfast all by myself
There’s too much space … a half-empty bed
I’m holding onto dreams instead
Holding out for love with open arms.

Congratulations to “A” and Randall for a job well done!

Music is available from MyTexasMusic.com.

bill-aspinwall-1-2

 

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Tim Tebow Lives Out His Christian Belief With ‘Night to Shine,’ Everyday Deeds

“Night to Shine” now has its own music video with highlights of the proms held worldwide, and lyrics sung by Gary LeVox from Rascal Flats in a celebration of this special night that honors those with special needs. They each become king or queen for the night — they are the stars.

Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, “Night to Shine” 2017 was held in more than 375 host churches in all 50 states, and in 22 countries, and by 22 religious denominations, an event that continues to grow.

Each guest is given a crown for their prom, entering on a red carpeted as they are cheered by friends and family for their night to shine. They are presented with corsages and boutonnieres and, once inside, each is helped with hair and makeup, with shoe shining stations and karaoke and the dance.

Tim Tebow began “Night to Shine” because he wanted to be sure those with special needs felt important and loved, and to let them know there is a God who loves them. That’s what “Night to Shine” is all about –to share God’s love around the world. This year’s February 10th night has passed but all those volunteers will be preparing for next year’s event.

Keep in mind that Tim Tebow is 29 years old. The son of missionaries who served in the Philippines, he won the Heisman Trophy while at the University of Florida, was an NFL quarterback with the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, and New England Patriots, and plays professional baseball with the New York Mets. He is an on-air TV sports commentator, author, and sports radio commentator.

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A son … ‘daring and loving and strong and kind’

??????????“I have a son, who is my heart. A wonderful young man, daring and loving and strong and kind.” — Maya Angelou

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I have to indulge a bit today since it’s my son’s birthday. In this picture he was four yeas old holding his six-month-old sister … my little buddy who arrived three weeks early on that February day, a cheerful first born of a first born of a first born who was the first grandchild and only grandson. Thoughtful and introspective, and a source of joy since the day he arrived, this tiny six-pound baby became a little blond curly-headed boy who loved baseball and grew into a kind, industrious, hard-working young man who is now six feet tall.

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A Valentine’s Day message to my children

Valentine 2By Lynn R. Mitchell

A Valentine for my children…

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

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

“But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart … I’ll always be with you.”

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

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Remembering a Cat Named Palmer

Palmer 1991-2011

[It’s  difficult to believe it was six years in January since we lost our long-time pet, a Maine Coon cat named Palmer. He was part of the family for 20 years and we still catch ourselves sometimes looking for him around the house. This is my post written in memory of him just after his death in January 2011.]

His spirit still lingers in the house.

He came into our lives in 1991, a tiny ball of fluff with attitude, and my three-year-old daughter immediately bonded with him. Even though the kitten hissed whenever anyone went near him, he was hungry, and so she fed him cat food at the end of a stick to avoid his needle-sharp teeth and claws. He was a long-haired Maine Coon with gray and white markings, and he looked to be around six or seven weeks old. He was cute although we were not looking for a pet. But what do you do when your loving and adorable three-year-old latches onto an animal? And so he stayed.

We named him Palmer after the town in Alaska where my sister lived. He was a barn kitty that was born to the old barn cat on the farm where we lived. We began to feed him and he kind of let us adopt him. He was, however, wild at heart and wild in spirit and so he lived outside on the 100 acres in North Carolina, roaming the fields and barn, and showing up to visit us at the house when he felt like it.

The glare on Palmer’s face looking in the window said, “Let me in.”

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