Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Staunton Forum at Blackfriars: 'To be, or not to be ... on city council'

Staunton's Blackfriars Playhouse was the backdrop for Tuesday night's city council candidates forum on the arts and tourism. A crowd of almost 150 turned out to get to know the eight candidates as moderator Chris Graham facilitated the event.

Pre-forum ... preparing as the public arrives.

"To be, or not to be ... on City Council. That is the question." Staunton city council candidate Shelley Bryant set the tone with her paraphrasing of that famous line at the opening of last night's candidates forum at downtown Staunton's Blackfriars Theater, bringing laughter and applause from the audience. On the eve of what most celebrate as Shakespeare's birthday, one almost expected to see the Bard himself sitting in the seats nodding his head in agreement.

The arts, an important element woven into this central Shenandoah Valley city, were front and center for the third and final forum Tuesday night between the eight candidates vying for three seats. With only two weeks left before election day, the crowd of 150 included many involved in the various playhouses, museums, and entertainment venues of the area.

Chris Graham, owner of the Augusta Free Press, moderated in his usual relaxed manner, putting the audience at ease as well as the candidates. His wife Crystal acted as timekeeper although sometimes it seemed as if she needed more than a sign to stop an ongoing response.

Incumbent Carolyn Dull is the only one running for reelection while Mayor Lacey King and councilman Bruce Elder are stepping down. With the large number of candidates in the running, yard signs are sprouting up as fast as spring flowers along city streets in the quest for name recognition leading up to the election. The addition of at least two new faces is of interest to many including current city council members Andrea Oakes and Ophie Kier who were in the audience as well as former Augusta County supervisor Nancy Sorrells.

The forum gave candidates an opportunity to show a different, sometimes more playful side of themselves as they shared their love of music and playing in bands and orchestras, their remembrances of being read Charles Dickens as a child, and most who admitted holding season tickets to local arts outlets. While the event was not too full of substance, obvious by the many quick "yes" answers given to a question about funding without the obvious background financial information necessary for such a response, it provided a peek into the varied personalities of those who wish to service the citizens of Staunton.

Political reporter Calvin Trice with the Staunton News Leader was there jotting notes and taking photos for his article. You may also want to check out the News Leader's Voter Guide.

Staunton council elections are Tuesday, May 6.  

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
April 22, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

SWAC Niece chooses University of Virginia, joins Class of 2018

"This institution of my native state, the hobby of my old age, will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind, to explore and to expose every subject susceptible of it's contemplation." --Thomas Jefferson, December 26, 1820 (speaking about the University of Virginia)

It's official! Mr. Jefferson's Class of 2018 will include SWAC Niece who has decided to attend the University of Virginia to pursue her higher learning interests.

Her decision was made after mulling two choices because she had also been accepted at Virginia Tech. The difficulty was deciding between those two fine Virginia schools while weighing her decision on solid educational choices which included curriculum offered, the best courses for her chosen areas of interest, and other criteria that were important to her.

She had visited both schools in the fall so after acceptance letters were received, she revisited them in April while working her way to the final decision. There was much to love about both universities, and she noted that she could picture herself at either one.

In the end, Thomas Jefferson's UVa -- steeped in Virginia history and architectural diversity -- offered more of what she was looking for over the next four years. Her announcement on Facebook ended with, "UVa felt like home and I'm really excited to announce that next year I will be a Hoo!"

Her parents raised a conscientious and thoughtful young lady, instilling the tools she will find helpful as she leaves the nest. We're all excited and happy for this youngest of the cousins as she heads out on her own, and we look forward to what the next chapter in her life's journey will offer as she heads to Charlottesville in the fall. Oh, the places she will go!

A brief history of the founding of the University of Virginia (from the UVa website):
Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819. He wished the publicly-supported school to have a national character and stature. Jefferson envisioned a new kind of university, one dedicated to educating leaders in practical affairs and public service rather than for professions in the classroom and pulpit exclusively. It was the first nonsectarian university in the United States and the first to use the elective course system.

Jefferson considered the founding of the University to be one of his greatest achievements. Undertaking the project toward the end of his life—after a long, illustrious career that included serving as a colonial revolutionary, political leader, writer, architect, inventor, and horticulturalist—he was closely involved in the University's design. He planned the curriculum, recruited the first faculty, and designed the Academical Village, a terraced green space surrounded by residential and academic buildings, gardens, and the majestic center-point—the Rotunda. The most recognizable symbol of the University, the Rotunda stands at the north end of the Lawn and is half the height and width of the Pantheon in Rome, which was the primary inspiration for the building. The Lawn and the Rotunda have served as models for similar designs of "centralized green areas" at universities across the United States.

The University opened for classes in 1825 with a faculty of eight and a student body numbering sixty-eight. Jefferson took great pains to recruit the most highly qualified faculty, five of whom were found in England and three in the United States. Instruction was offered in ancient languages, modern languages, mathematics, moral philosophy, natural philosophy, chemistry, law, and medicine. The students came from the American South and West; interestingly, though, most were not Virginians.

Jefferson opposed the granting of degrees on the grounds that they were "artificial embellishments." In 1824, however, the Board of Visitors authorized granting the master of arts degree. The doctor of medicine, or M.D., was awarded to the first graduates of the School of Medicine in 1828, and the bachelor of laws degree, or LL.B., was first awarded for law school graduates in 1842. The bachelor's degree was awarded beginning in 1849, but became the standard undergraduate degree and a prerequisite for the master's degree in 1899, bringing the University into conformity with other institutions of higher learning. The Ph.D. has been awarded since 1883.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Shenandoah Valley spring ... red tulips against the Blue Ridge Mountains

I love the red tulips found on a farm in Lyndhurst against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's the colors of spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Photo by Dr. Mark Robbins, with thanks for sharing.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

We are a board game family and today was no exception

Whenever we get together, board games are a part of our entertainment. Quirkle was on deck when I took this photo. SWAC Son has a stock of games that could entertain for weeks and always comes up with some new and interesting varieties for our gaming pleasure. And the tradition continues....

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Easter 2014
April 20, 2014

Bird houses, wisteria, and spring in Virginia

 In my parents' yard are many bird houses tenderly and carefully cared for by my step-dad. These are just a few, with wisteria in the background, of the many that provide hours of enjoyment watching the wide variety of Virginia birds.

It's spring in Virginia....

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Easter 2014
April 20, 2014

Bluebird 1, car 0

 On this Easter Sunday, we obviously parked in the wrong place as far as this bluebird was concerned. The reflective glass and shiny chrome made it appear there was another bluebird encroaching on his territory and he obviously was having none of it. As we watched from the window inside the house, he repeatedly flew to the nest, then back to our car to peck at his reflection in the chrome, then back to the nest, then back to the car ... on and on and on.

 Peck, peck, peck.

It was obvious he wasn't going to give up. Could a little bluebird damage our car? We gave up and moved it. Bluebird 1, car 0.

Update: H/t Susan and Jeff Sili for informing this was the daddy bird (instead of my earlier reference to a female), something I have corrected in the text. Thanks also to Donald Williams for adding more detail about the male bluebirds.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Easter 2014
April 20, 2014

Another window on the world ... spring flowers, trees, quiet corners

 A stroll around my parents' corner of the world was a walk into spring with green grass, flowering trees, and blooming flowers. The palate of blues, purples, pinks, reds, and yellows were typical of this time of year in Virginia.

 Their wisteria has been blooming through the cold temperatures of last week and is still a vivid show of color.

 I don't know what these are but they certainly were pretty.

 A quiet corner amongst the flowers and trees.

 The kids got together one Christmas and gave the flag and pole to our World War II Navy veteran step-dad, and he added a light for night viewing.

Their own Narnia lamp post.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Easter 2014
April 20, 2014

Easter 2014 ... family, food, fellowship

 We didn't have our entire crew this year so it was a small gathering for dinner.

What's Easter without jelly beans?

This bright scarlet cardinal was in my sister's back yard.

The red buds blooming in Mom's back yard.

Mom's garden gate.

The very unusual trunk of this flowering plum that has finished blooming.

The Easter Eve sunset from Mom's back yard.

It's a riot of spring color as seen from this view out Mom's door at the flowering dogwood and red bud trees.

A package arrived at my Richmond sister's house from SWAC Daughter and Son-in-Law in Nashville that was to be shared over dinner. Since they couldn't be with us this year, they sent goodies for the crew. The box was addressed to "The Easter Peeps." LOL.

Lots of varieties of chocolates from Nashville chocolate companies including these Mexican Style Chocolate and Buttermilk White Chocolate bars from Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Company ...

... GooGoo Clusters (peanut and pecan) from Standard Candy Company ...

... and toffee from Nashville Toffee Company.

Card and candy bars from SWAC Daughter ... flowers from Texas sister.

Beautiful Easter flowers from Texas sister Gail and husband Bill.

On the sideboard ... spiral ham, roasted turkey, deviled eggs, yeast rolls, macaroni and cheese, very veggie garden salad, steamed broccoli, and roasted carrots. Chocolate pies. Assorted Easter candies.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Easter 2014
April 20, 2014