Former First Lady Barbara Bush’s Health Declining

I gravitated to the bookcase this afternoon and pulled out the 1994 memoir written by former First Lady Barbara Bush, her smiling face on the cover looking back at me as I fanned through the pages of photos from Bush family highlights throughout the years.

On this spring Sunday afternoon, an official statement was issued from the office of former President George H.W. Bush about his wife:

Barbara Bush. What a lady. Ever gracious even while being a rock who anchored her family to reality amidst their wealth, she wielded a wit that endeared her to the nation.

Her book dedication gives a glimpse of this remarkable wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother: “To faith, family, and friends; and to George Bush who taught me that these are the most important things in life.”

Indeed. Their love story began when they were 16 and 17 … and it continues to this day, as noted in an April 4, 2018, story in USA Today:

It’s been decades, but Barbara Bush is still very much in love with her husband.

The former first lady wrote about former president George H. W. Bush in a note for the spring edition of Smith College’s alumnae magazine.

“I am still old and still in love with the man I married 72 years ago,” Barbara Bush wrote in the life updates section for the magazine.

In the Preface of “Barbara Bush: A Memoir,” she wrote:

“George Bush knows how I feel. He is the hero.”

And in an earlier paragraph of the Preface, Mrs. Bush noted:

“I also note that we seem to weep a lot in this book. We are an emotional group and rather like a good tear or two. Please also notice that we cry when we are glad and when we are sad. Love brings a tear. Friends bring a tear. A smile, sweetness, even a kind word brings a tear.”

There are probably some tears today with the sad news of Mrs. Bush’s failing health, even as she is wrapped in prayers and love. Thinking of the entire Bush family at this difficult time….

Easter Egg Roll at the White House 2002

Easter 2002 White House

Easter 2002 … the White House Egg Roll hosted by President George W. Bush and First lady Laura Bush.

One of my sisters worked in the President’s administration so my mother, other sister, the two six-year-old nieces, and my 14-year-old daughter were guests for an extraordinary day.

It was the first Egg Roll after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Security was tight but there was a light-hearted atmosphere as children raced around the lawn, and special attractions invited by the White House entertained including animal specialist Jack Hanna.

Easter 3 WH eggs 2002 (2)

Commemorative wooden pastel-colored Easter eggs inscribed with the event and date were given to all. Every Easter they are on display at our house. The Easter Roll has been a tradition since 1878, and every U.S. President has hosted this family-friendly tradition.

It was a special day that we have not forgotten….

Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Library

Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter Honor Zell Miller at Funeral

Zell Miller, former Marine, Democratic Georgia Governor and U.S. Senator, and the first person in American history to be the keynote speaker at both parties’ presidential conventions, was honored Tuesday when three former U.S. Presidents — one Republican and two Democrats — honored him at his funeral: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter.

Republican, Democrat, and Democrat … a bipartisan respect.

In 2004 U.S. Senator Miller endorsed Republican President George W. Bush for reelection after the devastation of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks. Miller did not endorse his party’s nominee John Kerry because, as he said, Kerry voted against bills for defense and weapon systems that Zell felt weakened our military as they battled terrorism at home and around the world.

“The Spitball Speech,” as we called it at GOP headquarters in Staunton that fall of 2004, was vintage Zell Miller who didn’t give a dang if you were Republican or Democrat when it came to the defense of America. (See transcript of his remarks here.)

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2004: Democrat Zell Miller Endorsed Republican George W. Bush at RNC Convention

“… nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators.” — Sen. Zell Miller, 1 Sept 2004, Republican National Convention, NYC

With the passing of Georgia U.S. Senator Zell Miller (see Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter Honor Zell Miller at Funeral), it’s good to remember his keynote speech at the Republican National Convention held in late Augusta-early September in 2004 when Miller endorsed President George W. Bush who was running for reelection.

America had been attacked on September 11, 2001, by terrorists who piloted hijacked airplanes into New York City’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon outside D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed into a rural field due to passengers who overtook the terrorists to prevent the plane from crashing into the White House or U.S. Capitol building.

As some Democrats turned against the war, others crossed the aisle. Both Republicans and Democrats, grateful for the wartime president’s leadership after the deaths of 3,000 people on American soil, crushed our local GOP headquarters in Staunton to support the reelection of President Bush.

We opened early that year, in August instead of mid-September, to be available for those who wanted materials, signs, voter registration, or to just vent. We had held Support the Troops rallies since early in 2002; we had sent care packages to military service members deployed in Iraq. And that fall we were the busiest we had ever been for any election in the eight years that I ran the local headquarters.

At headquarters we called it “The Spitball Speech” because of Zell Miller’s line, “This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what — spitballs?”

It was inspirational, and it energized the Republican grassroots. I wrote about the speech and am reposting it here in honor of a man who selflessly served his country. He was a Marine veteran who was furious that the Democratic Party was not supporting our troops. Emphasis added:

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14 Inches of Snow Fall on Central Shenandoah Valley

The calendar said it was the second day of spring but Old Man Winter was reluctant to let go as the fourth nor’easter in three weeks hit the East Coast. This time my corner of the central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia got hit with over a foot of snow — 14 inches, to be exact, in my back yard. My camera and I took a walkabout in the winter wonderland of the yard to get pictures of flocked trees and deep snow on the ground as the snow continued to fall.

There’s a picnic table under there, somewhere…..

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
March 21, 2018

Trump Was Told Not to Congratulate Putin. He Did It Anyway

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.” –U.S. Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee

Americans learned of a phone call Tuesday between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump who congratulated him on his “winning” campaign. However, they learned of it only after it was announced by the Russians and word made its way back to the U.S. Reporters at a White House press conference questioned the president about congratulating Putin,  and Trump confirmed that, indeed, he had called Putin.

Trump had been warned by national security advisers with an all-caps precaution about Putin: “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.”

Trump also ignored additional advice, as noted by the Washington Post:

Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow.

Trump told reporters, “We’ll probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future.”

POTUS better be careful about getting too close to Putin lest he be on the receiving end of the Russian-owned poisoning agent used on a former KGB spy and his daughter in Britain.

Fox Contributor, Ashamed, Quits the Network

On Tuesday a Fox News contributor quit the “fair and balanced” network that has become controversial in the age of Trump:

A retired United States Army lieutenant colonel and Fox News contributor quit Tuesday and denounced the network and President Donald Trump in an email to colleagues.

“Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration,” wrote Ralph Peters, a Fox News “strategic analyst.”

His words echo the thoughts of many conservatives who have turned from Fox News in the age of Trump. There was a time when many, including myself, turned to Fox for news that could not be found in other news outlets, and they were, indeed, fair and balanced by presenting supporters on both sides of an issue.

Thankfully, there are still rational voices at Fox including Shepherd Smith who have come under fire from lock-step listeners who object to hearing any version that is not the one they believe.

Peters sent an email to his Fox News colleagues to alert them to his leaving the network, and in it he wrote:

“Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed,” he wrote.

I feel compelled to explain why I have to leave. Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer. I swore to “support and defend the Constitution,” and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.

In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts–who have never served our country in any capacity–dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller–all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of “deep-state” machinations– I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.

As a Russia analyst for many years, it also has appalled me that hosts who made their reputations as super-patriots and who, justifiably, savaged President Obama for his duplicitous folly with Putin, now advance Putin’s agenda by making light of Russian penetration of our elections and the Trump campaign. Despite increasingly pathetic denials, it turns out that the “nothing-burger” has been covered with Russian dressing all along. And by the way: As an intelligence professional, I can tell you that the Steele dossier rings true–that’s how the Russians do things. The result is that we have an American president who is terrified of his counterpart in Moscow.

I do not apply the above criticisms in full to Fox Business, where numerous hosts retain a respect for facts and maintain a measure of integrity (nor is every host at Fox News a propaganda mouthpiece–some have shown courage). I have enjoyed and valued my relationship with Fox Business, and I will miss a number of hosts and staff members. You’re the grown-ups.

Also, I deeply respect the hard-news reporters at Fox, who continue to do their best as talented professionals in a poisoned environment. These are some of the best men and women in the business.

As long as Fox shrills like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and others continue to mislead watchers with conspiracy theories while making 180-degree turns from their previous stands during the administration of Barack Obama, the Republican Party will continue to drown in hypocrisy.

Shenandoah Valley March Snow

The first real winter storm of the season dropped 6.5 inches of snow in my corner of the world on Monday. Outside was a winter wonderland as I walked around the yard while the snow continued to fall, and there was lots of activity at the bird feeders. The winter of 2017-18 is drawing to a close as spring slowly pushes in….

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
March 12, 2018

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Billy Graham: 1918-2018

“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” –Billy Graham

Billy Graham 6 Lynn R. Mitchell pic (2)
(Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell)


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, Matt! I have to indulge a bit today since it’s my son’s birthday.

In this picture he was four years old as he held his six-month-old sister. He was my little buddy who arrived three weeks early on a 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 soccer, and grew into a kind, loving, industrious young man who is now almost six feet tall.

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A Comfortable Romantic Holiday

Happy Valentine's 4

It’s Valentine’s Day. As I moved about the kitchen this morning doing food prep for later today, I smiled thinking about the difference in married love, and how it is almost impossible for all those young lovers out there to meet the high expectations of what we see in the movies and on TV.

This has been a very busy week after a very busy weekend, and I neglected to plan ahead for our Valentine’s Day menu. Our plans don’t include going out for a romantic dinner prepared by some chef in a restaurant in a crowded restaurant. With flu season in full swing, a nice evening at home sounds perfect. But, again, I didn’t plan ahead.

So today I’m winging it. I have all the ingredients on hand to make steak fajitas for dinner, full of sautéed red and yellow peppers and onions, with a side of garden salad. Good, the main course was decided.

Next was dessert. Hmm. Sugar cookies … I could make iced heart-shaped sugar cookies with red sanded sugar sprinkled on top. Been there, done that, but there was no sugar cookie mix in the baking cabinet. I could make them from scratch but then thought about what was available that would be faster.

Chocolate is the language of love, right? A quick check of the fridge showed we had plenty of low-fat milk so I could make the from-scratch chocolate pudding that Mr. Mitchell loves so much. So it was decided. Chocolate pudding, it would be.

What made me smile, though, was a little later when I spied the four bananas on the counter that were almost too ripe. One more day and they were going to be ready for the trash. A quick re-think and the chocolate pudding, food of love, got ditched for banana bread.

If Mr. Mitchell and I were young and dating, if we were newly in love, I would have felt that only the chocolate pudding would have made perfection. No, forget that — we would feel the pressure to go out for dinner, and we did plenty of those when we were young and before kids. But because we are the comfortable old married couple, I knew he would be perfectly okay with banana bread especially since he’s lived with me long enough to know my frugality. Why waste four perfectly-good-for-banana-bread bananas?

Ah, married life. It’s romantic in a different way. In a comfortable way. And I like it that way.

As I type, the smell of banana bread wafts through the air and down the hallway. Later the house will fill with the smell of sautéed onions, then peppers.

I have the table set with the red tablecloth covered with a lacy white tablecloth. That counts for romance, right? Oh, and the beautiful bouquet of flowers Bill sent for my birthday five days ago for a centerpiece.

Truth of the matter is we will probably eat in the living room on the coffee table in front of the TV watching the Olympics. In both of our books, that’s a romantic evening.

I hope your Valentine’s Day is as romantic, and comfortable, as ours.

A Valentine’s Day Message to My Children

Valentine 1A 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)

Amy Darby to Run for Staunton City Council

Amy Darby 1 (2)In what can definitely be called a low-key announcement rolled out for family and friends, Staunton School Board member Amy Darby announced on Facebook Sunday evening that she would be a candidate for Staunton City Council.

Just before the Super Bowl began, she wrote:

So before the game starts, I want to share some news with all of you!

After much thought and prayerful consideration, I am excited to announce I am running for Staunton City Council in the upcoming general election on May 1, 2018!

Serving on the Staunton City School Board for the past eight years, has prepared me to move forward in the governance of our great city! I believe my experience has prepared me for the challenges we face as a City, and I accept that challenge. Staunton is a great place to live, work and raise a family. I know because I was born and raised here. Staunton is, and has always been, my home.

I look forward to your support and for the opportunity to represent all the wonderful citizens of our community.

Darby is a hometown girl, graduating from Robert E. Lee High School in 1988 and then from Mary Baldwin College in 1992. She has lived in Staunton her entire life.

Politics isn’t foreign to her. Besides serving on the school board, her uncle is Dickie Bell who serves as the state Delegate for Staunton.

Watch for more on this race as the News Leader presumably will receive a press release from Darby and her campaign.

The City Council election will be held May 1.

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Challenger 32 Years Later … the Nation Tuned In To See a Teacher In Space

The STS-51L CrewHas it really been 32 years since the Challenger shuttle exploded in mid-air? Seven lives were lost, the tragedy was caught live on TV, and Americans were shocked at the disaster that had taken place in front of their eyes.

Space launches had become so routine to most people by the time Challenger came around that it rarely caused much excitement. Indeed, on that fateful day of January 28, 1986, it was cold and wintry in rural North Carolina, just as it was cold at the site of the launch in Florida. At home with my one-year-old son, I remembered the NASA launch was taking place that morning so turned on the television to see how it was going.

TV cameras scanned the spectator stands at Cape Kennedy where family and friends of the astronauts watched, full of excitement in anticipation of the launch that included Christa McAuliffe who was there as part of the Teacher in Space project. Millions of children across the nation sat in classrooms watching and waiting for the launch with expectations of experiments and lessons during the journey from the teacher in space. One of those students was Brian Schoeneman, Bearing Drift Editor-in-Chief Emeritus (see Remembering the Challenger).

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