Category Archives: Virginia

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….

 

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)

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

Mom, girls 1

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….

Autumn Colors Western Virginia’s Highland County


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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was when light bulb #1 went on.

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

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

That was light bulb #2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then other parents began calling.

That was light bulb #3.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally posted in 2013

Cross-posted from Bearing Drift

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

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

Very Little Labor on This Labor Day

September 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, welcome September! Enjoy your day.

A Cool Late Summer Evening

Deer 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s late summer in the Shenandoah Valley….

A Preview of Fall Weather

Yard 5

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

Yard 3

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

Yard 6

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

Yard 4

A Cool, Rainy Shenandoah Valley Late Summer Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mom … August 5, 1927-July 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That, in a nutshell, was Eula. 

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

Forgotten Cookies … a Christmas Favorite

A new batch of Forgotten Cookies is in the oven for their overnight sleep which reminded me of this post originally published in December 2008. In the morning we will open the oven and find another Christmas favorite. Shhh … cookies sleeping.

Special memories of the children I worked with at Richmond Children’s Hospital come to mind when baking Forgotten Cookies, a recipe that was passed along by a nurse who worked with me at that hospital years ago.

At Christmas, all the staff members brought goodies to share as we went about our work, and one year she brought these yummy meringue cookies that had an almond flavor with pecans and chocolate chips inside. They melted in your mouth.

When I asked what they were, she said they were called Forgotten Cookies because you put them in the oven at night, turn off the oven … and forget them until the next morning. They are favorites of family and friends, and are gluten free for those on special diets. Enjoy!

Forgotten Cookies

2 egg whites (room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Beat egg whites (at room temperature) until foamy. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Add flavorings; mix well. Fold in pecans and chocolate chips.

Drop by teaspoonsful onto aluminum foil-lined cookie sheets coated with non-stick spray. Place in a 350-degree oven; immediately turn off oven. Let stand 8-10 hours or overnight. (Do not open oven.) Store in airtight container.

Yield: 5 dozen

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Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

Christmas Fudge


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It’s that time of year to enjoy the season with family and decorations and cookie baking and candy making and everything else that goes with the holidays. Last week I made the first batch of fudge for a gathering of colleagues and thought I’d share it for anyone who wants to make their own. It’s one of the easiest of the candies I make.

The recipe was passed along by a dear, dear friend many years ago and, though she is no longer with us, I think of her every time I make up a batch of this Christmas fudge that leaves the house smelling like a chocolate factory. Enjoy!

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Here’s what you’ll need: 3 12-ounce packages chocolate chips; 1/2 pound butter, softened (2 sticks); 3 Tablespoons vanilla; 4 1/2 cups sugar; 1 13-oz can evaporated milk. The complete recipe is at the end of this post. Here are step-by-step photos from today.

fudge-2Put chocolate chips, butter, and vanilla in large bowl. Set aside. (Optional: This is the point where two cups of chopped pecans are added, if wanted.)

fudge-3In at large saucepan, combine sugar and evaporated milk. Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and continue cooking for 10 minutes, adjusting heat to keep it at a rolling boil.

fudge-4

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Remove from stove and pour over chocolate chips, stirring until chips and butter are melted and well mixed.

fudge-8Pour into lightly greased pan and quickly spread it evenly.

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fudge-11Let it set five or six hours, then cut into squares and store in air-tight container. Yield: 5 pounds.

Fudge

3 12-ounce packages chocolate chips
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks)
3 Tablespoons vanilla
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 13-ounce can evaporated milk

In a large bowl, put chocolate chips, butter, and vanilla, and set aside. In large saucepan, combine sugar and evaporated milk. Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove from stove and pour over chocolate chips. Stir until chips and butter are melted and well mixed. Pour into lightly greased pan and let it set 5-6 hours. Cut into squares.

Yield: 5 pounds

Options: Add 2 cups chopped pecans, maraschino cherries, or both, or be creative with other add-ins.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

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