Friday, December 31, 2010

It's New Year's Eve ...

... and time to reflect on the past year....

H/T to Kat

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
January 2009
Shenandoah National Park

Looking ahead to the 112th Congress

By Congressman Bob Goodlatte
Republican - VA-6

This week marks the official start to the 112th Congress. Members of this new Congress, including myself, will be officially sworn into office by the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner. We face many challenges as we enter into this historic session, including out of control government spending, record unemployment numbers, and many others. These issues touch the lives of every American.

As economic uncertainty continues, many across our nation are looking to the government for leadership during this difficult time. The Democratic controlled Congress responded by raising taxes, increasing federal spending at an unsustainable pace, allowing our national debt to spiral out of control, and passing legislation that gives the federal government more control of our daily lives. They have spent trillions on bailouts and stimulus packages to help grow our economy, but all it has done is increase our debt and the size of the federal bureaucracy while leaving our nation’s unemployment rate hovering around ten percent.

We simply cannot continue down this fiscally irresponsible path. It is time Congress takes control of spending instead of letting it control the Congress. In these challenging economic times it is even more important for government to control spending. The federal government must work to both eliminate every cent of waste and squeeze every cent of value out of each dollar our citizens entrust to it. With families and small businesses all across our nation making tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford Congress should not be allowed to ignore these tough decisions when creating spending policies for the federal government.

For this reason, in the opening days of this new Congress, I will be introducing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. My legislation, which has had bipartisan support in the past, ensures that the federal government is held accountable and that the money our citizens work so hard to earn is not squandered on wasteful spending and programs. Specifically, the legislation forces Congress to enact fiscally responsible spending measures and reduce the deficit by requiring that total spending for any fiscal year not exceed total receipts. Reigning in out of control government spending is the first step in growing our national economy.

I am proud to represent one of the most beautiful and diverse districts in the country and I am honored to continue to carry the voice of the 6th Congressional District to Washington, D.C. Be assured, as your Congressman I will not shy away from the challenges at hand. I look forward to working in the 112th Congress on real solutions that will reduce government spending, grow our economy, and create American jobs. We in Congress must all work together to create effective public policy that benefits the American people.

To contact me about this or any other matter, please visit my website at

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Staunton ... what to do New Year's Eve

There's lots to do for New Year's in Staunton....

Live Glassblowing until 4:00 pm
10:00 am Sunspots Studios

10:30 am Pufferbellies

Staunton Guided Tours
11:00 am Staunton Visitor Center

New Year’s Eve Four Course Menu
12:00 pm Staunton Grocery

Blow Your Own Ornament
1:00 pm Sunspots Studios

Beer and Wine Tasting
5:00 pm George Bowers Grocery

New Year’s Eve Dinner and Live Music
Peyton Tochterman, Gary Green, Darrell Muller, Andy Thacker
7:30 pm Mockingbird (music at 10:00 pm)

Ultra Local Tasting Menu
7:30 pm Zynodoa

Santaland Diaries
7:30 pm Blackfriars Playhouse

New Year's Eve Bash "Masquerade" w/ Bryan Elijah Smith & The Wild Hearts
8:00 pm Pompeii Lounge

New Year’s Eve w/ Maybe Tomorrow
8:00 pm Downtown 27

New Year’s Eve Gala - SOLD OUT
8:30 pm Stonewall Jackson Hotel

New Year’s Rocking Eve w/ Findells
9:00 pm Baja Bean

New Year’s Bash w/ Brian Patrick
9:00 pm Byers Street Bistro

New Year’s Eve Concert
10:00 pm Blackfriars Playhouse

Virginia traffic fatalities down in 2010

RICHMOND - Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that traffic fatalities will reach a record low in 2010, the second consecutive year in which traffic fatalities have reached a record low in Virginia. As of today, there were 715 road deaths reported statewide compared to 750 on this same date last year; a 5% decrease from 2009 and a 40% decrease from a record high of 1,026 traffic fatalities in 2007.

"Every traffic death has a tragic impact on family members, friends and co-workers," said Governor McDonnell. “It is encouraging to continue to see a decline in traffic deaths in the Commonwealth which indicates that Virginians are making a conscious effort to make safe driving a priority. It is my hope that Virginia's safety partners and drivers will continue to work together to further this positive trend throughout 2011.”

Many factors may have contributed to the reduction in traffic crashes, injuries and deaths. Some of the lives saved can be attributed to the coordinated efforts by many state government agencies to reduce the Commonwealth's traffic fatalities. This year, DMV’s Virginia Highway Safety Office, Virginia State Police and local law enforcement joined together for “Checkpoint Strikeforce,” an annual media and enforcement campaign aimed at preventing drunk driving; as well as with VDOT for “Operation Air, Land and Speed,” an enforcement effort conducted periodically on Virginia's interstates. DMV and State Police also partnered with local law enforcement for the periodic “Click It or Ticket” safety belt enforcement mobilization.

While the downward trend in traffic deaths is positive, safety experts warn motorists not to become complacent. “We must remain vigilant on our roadways since there's no such thing as an 'acceptable' number of traffic deaths, except zero,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor's Highway Safety Representative. “We must remember that according to the latest data, a crash occurs on our roadways every 4.5 minutes resulting in more than two lives being lost and 173 people being injured every day in Virginia.”

The 714 traffic fatalities so far in Virginia this year is the lowest number in one year since traffic deaths began being recorded in 1966. However, Virginia State Police Superintendent, Col. W. Steven Flaherty, advises motorists to buckle up, avoid distractions, obey the speed limit and not to drive impaired. “Virginians must make smart decisions and take responsible actions while driving on our roads," he said. "The loss of life on our highways is unfortunate and needless. The goal for all of us should be to prevent crashes and change our driving behaviors for the better.”

Staunton council votes to extend ag forestal districts

Staunton City Council voted 6-0 Wednesday night to renew the three agricultural forestal districts....

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Yankee Phil has the story about another zero tolerance episode on school grounds. Hot Air has more....

"Fox utterly destroys cable news ratings competition in 2010"

So reports The Wrap as they pass along rankings for cable new network ratings:
The Nielsen numbers are in for 2010, and in the battle for cable news ratings supremacy, Fox News took the title for the ninth year in a row -- bludgeoning the competition for another year.

The blowout comes on the heels on Fox News’ surging 2009, when the News Corp.-owned channel posted its highest-rated year in the network’s 13-year history. (Overall, cable news audiences were down across the board -- though FNC's decline was from a high-water mark.)
Fair and balanced ... they must be doing something right!

Gov. McDonnell's transportation funding plan supported by VA Transportation & Business Associations

RICHMOND-The leading organizations representing Virginia’s transportation construction industry as well as business associations and six chambers of commerce across the state have announced their support today of Governor Bob McDonnell’s transportation funding plan. The endorsement was issued as a joint release from 26 business and transportation associations.

The joint release, available below, notes, “Fully implemented and prudently invested, the Governor's proposals can add much needed capacity to Virginia’s transportation network, put more people to work and improve our economy. We believe that creative use of existing revenues to capitalize the proposed Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank and the prudent use of bonds will help address the Commonwealth's chronic transportation infrastructure needs.”

Joint Endorsement by 26 Business Associations Including:

Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance; Virginia Transit Association; Old Dominion Highway Contractors Association; Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance;

Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce; Home Builders Association of Virginia; Virginia Railroad Association; Heavy Construction Contractors Association; Prince William Chamber of Commerce; American Council of Engineering Companies of Virginia; Hampton Roads Transit; Virginia Association for Commercial Real Estate;

Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce; Associated Builders and Contractors-Virginia Chapter; Hampton Roads Association for Commercial Real Estate; Roanoke Regional Chamber; Richmond Area Municipal Contractors Association; NAIOP Northern Virginia, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association; Arlington Chamber of Commerce; Virginia Asphalt Association; Associated General Contractors of Virginia;

Springfield Chamber of Commerce; Washington Airports Task Force; Virginia Ready Mix Concrete Association; American Concrete Pavement Association-Mid Atlantic Chapter; Northern Virginia Building Industry Association

Official Release:
Governor’s Transportation Funding Plan a Positive Next Step in Building Comprehensive Plan for Transportation Improvements According to Virginia Business Associations

The infusion of dependable, dedicated transportation funds is critical to putting Virginia’s transportation program on a sound financial footing and ensuring sustained economic growth.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has proposed investing $4 billion to accelerate road, transit and rail projects in the Commonwealth over the next three years.

Fully implemented and prudently invested, the Governor's proposals can add much needed capacity to Virginia’s transportation network, put more people to work and improve our economy.

We believe that creative use of existing revenues to capitalize the proposed Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank and the prudent use of bonds will help address the Commonwealth's chronic transportation infrastructure needs.

Using bonds, in this limited manner, will allow the Commonwealth to leverage and make some of its scarce transportation resources go further. All bonds proposed will use debt allocations already authorized under current Virginia law. The bond packages will be serviced by current existing revenue streams. The use of toll credits will leverage these dollars and will free-up state revenues that will fund new projects. This is smart management and the prudent use of existing revenues.

Still, Virginia's aging infrastructure requires at least $1 billion a year in new, recurring revenues. Governor McDonnell has stated he understands that his initiative is a short-term infusion of funds into a system that over the long-term requires new dedicated and sustainable revenues. On December 17, 2010 the Governor told the General Assembly money committees that “I've talked a little about bipartisan successes in economic development and budgeting; well transportation funding is a bipartisan failure.” We agree.

The Commonwealth must invest additional funds into its transportation system. We appreciate Governor McDonnell's proposals to jump-start a number of critical transportation projects that will put many Virginians back to work as well as his ongoing commitment to secure a long-term funding solution for the Commonwealth. We look forward to continuing to work with and help him fulfill that commitment to the citizens of the Commonwealth.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cold and windy in the Valley....

Hang on to your hats ... from WHSV TV-3 (Harrisonburg):
High temperatures will struggle to reach 30 degrees on Monday with gradually clearing and very windy conditions. Overnight lows will fall into the mid to upper teens under clear skies. High winds continue into Tuesday making temperatures feel like they are in the teens. We stay cold to start the work week with cloud cover. By the middle of the week we're warming up with temperatures above average into the mid and upper 40s!
Looks as if warmer termperatures may be on tap for the weekend just in time to celebrate New Year's....

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Reading, reading, reading ... curled up with GWB's book, "Decision Points." Good stuff....

George W. Bush 'Decision Points' a runaway best seller with 2 million copies sold

Cross-posted at the Washington Examiner....

It's a Merry Christmas for former President George W. Bush who is a bestselling author with "Decision Points," a hit that has sold two million copies in just over a month. That's as many as former President Bill Clinton sold in six years.

Ho, ho, ho!

The irony of it all wasn't lost on the UK Daily Mail with the bold headline, We misunderestimated him: Bush's memoir sells 2m copies in a month - nearly as many as Bill Clinton's sold in six years and wrote:
For someone who mangled words on a regular basis, it's an impressive feat.

Former U.S. President George W Bush's memoir has sold an astonishing two million copies since it was released in early November - and it's not even in paperback yet.

'Decision Points', published both in hardcover and e-book form, is flying off the shelves, the Crown Publishing Group says.
A spokesman for Crown called the performance remarkable.

He claimed he could not think of any other hardcover nonfiction books in 2010 that had sold even one million copies, much less two.
That's a lot of GWB books under Christmas trees including, I hope, mine since it was on my Christmas wish list.

Still #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers hardcover nonfiction list, "Decision Points" has sat at the top for the past five weeks. President Bush has been on the book trail since publication in early November, granting interviews to numerous talk show hosts and doing book signings across the country where hundreds have lined up to greet the former president and buy his book.

This week George and Laura Bush appeared in Charlotte, NC, to sign books and were joined by the very popular 92-year-old evangelist Billy Graham and his son, Franklin, as throngs of supporters greeted them at the Billy Graham Library:
Graham and his son, Franklin, had lunch with the Bushes before the book signing.

The evangelist, who was in a wheelchair, hugged the former president before leaving them in the library book store for the signings. The former president has been on tour signing copies of his book "Decision Points." Laura Bush was signing copies of her book, "Spoken From the Heart."
Bush credits Billy Graham with helping him follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Franklin Graham said his father played a role in helping turn around Bush's life -- a decision recounted in the president's new book.
With so many naysayers throughout the years and a negative press corps that would not build up his accomplishments at a time when the country was dealing with terrorism, the success of "Decision Points" has to put a smile on GWB's face though he would never mention it.

Case in point is the fact I read this news in the overseas UK Daily Mail newspaper with not a peep from the American mainstream media. It was CBS, after all, that showed a mocking, fake cover of "Decision Points" on its evening news, claiming it was a mistake. No wonder network news is sinking and losing credibility. Who could possibly think a book cover with the misspelled title, "Desision Points," followed by the comment, "How I managed to go eight years without one good decision," was legitimate? George W. Bush still has class. Someone at CBS does not and, to my knowledge, no apology has been offered to the former president.

The proof that Americans respect and appreciate W's leadership, especially during a time of war, is in the book sales and the long lines of supporters at book stores cross the country.

What a great Christmas present. Merry Christmas, Mr. President!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas night winter storm ... Gov. McDonnell declares state of emergency

From Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's office....

Governor Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency today, authorizing state agencies to assist local governments responding to the winter storm that is expected to affect the Commonwealth tonight and tomorrow.

There is still uncertainty with the storm’s track, but the current outlook calls for the possibility of up to 12 inches of snow and high winds for eastern Virginia, including the Eastern Shore. Snow totals of 2 – 7 inches are predicted for the I-95 corridor and 2 - 5 inches for the I-81 corridor, with higher elevations predicted to receive up to 12 inches. There is still low confidence in this forecast so Virginians should pay close attention to their latest local forecast.

Governor McDonnell declared a state of emergency out of an abundance of caution to ensure the necessary resources are available to handle potential problems, especially with tomorrow’s expected holiday traffic.

Governor McDonnell noted, “This storm could potentially bring severe weather to parts of Virginia. Please stay alert to the forecast for your area and make sure your family and neighbors are ready for hazardous weather conditions. If the storm affects your area, please stay off the roads and contact local authorities if help is needed.”

Virginia law requires the Governor to declare a state of emergency so the Virginia National Guard can identify and position resources for quick response anywhere they are needed in Virginia. State agencies are getting ready for the storm by taking several actions, including:

· The Virginia Department of Emergency Management has held weather conference calls with the National Weather Service, state agencies and local governments.

· The Virginia Department of State Police and the Department of Transportation are preparing to keep roadways clear and assist motorists.

· The Virginia National Guard has been authorized to bring personnel on state active duty. The Virginia Guard Joint Operations Center has started the notification process instructing personnel to report for duty.

Virginians can prepare for the storm by having an emergency kit in their home and vehicle that includes water, food, a battery-powered radio, blankets, flashlight and extra batteries. Also, citizens should monitor news outlets for updates on this developing storm, and check road conditions before they leave home by calling 511 or visiting

More information about winter weather preparedness is available at

Christmas greetings from Bagram AFB, Afghanistan

A message showed up Christmas Eve on Facebook ... "Merry Christmas from Bagram AFB, Afghanistan."

It was Chris Smith aka Smitty over at The Other McCain who is currently deployed with the U.S. Navy to Operation Enduring Freedom halfway around the world. Today he has a post up at The Other McCain, and we're glad to hear from him.

Merry Christmas to Smitty and our other service people around the world. You are appreciated by the American people ... thank you for all you do.

Fishersville Mike remembered Smitty, too.

It's a white Christmas in the Shenandoah Valley

Snow was gently falling before sunrise in the Shenandoah Valley this morning as I turned on outside Christmas lights, and plugged in the Christmas tree lights and indoor holiday lights before the rest of the household woke. After a brief break, the snow has picked up again against a backdrop of gray skies and the white snow cover already on the ground. Somehow, it seems just right as we gather in the warmth of the woodstove and family.

The scene a bit ago was flying wrapping paper and squeals of delight as gifts were opened and examined ... games pulled out of boxes ... Legos put together ... clothing tried on.

SWAC Daughter gave SWAC Son a snowball gun so that had to be tried outside in the wintry weather. Fuzzy socks, wooly jammies, car care products, cookware ... even a Mr. Potato Head sits on the floor. I love my copy of President Bush's Decision Points from SWAC Daughter ... my Christmas reading has been provided.

My brother-in-law Jon's favorite Christmas movie, "The Christmas Story," is on TBS all day. SWAC Niece has sledding in mind. We've all been watching the weather forecast ... it's a family Christmas and nothing could be better.

Merry Christmas from the Shenandoah Valley!

Holiday greetings from George and Laura Bush

[Thank you, SWAC Daughter, for my copy of "Decision Points." I've got my Christmas reading....]

When Laura and I left the White House in January 2009, we decided to stay out of the spotlight.  We’d enjoyed many years in public office, and we looked forward to starting a new chapter of our lives at home in Texas.  Plus, we both had books to write.

Laura’s memoir came out this spring, and mine – Decision Points – hit the shelves this fall.  I’ve enjoyed traveling around the country for book signings and interviews.  I’ve had a great time meeting book buyers, and I’ve been honored by the reception the book has received.

As I explain in the opening pages, my goal in writing Decision Points was to give people a sense of what it was like to serve as president for eight years.  I write about the challenges we faced, some of them expected and many not.  I describe the information I received, the options I considered, and the decisions I made.  My hope is that readers will gain a better understanding of why I made the choices I did – and decide for themselves what they would have done in my position.

I also wrote because I wanted to give future readers a perspective on this remarkable era in American history.  As president, I had good days and tough days.  But every day, it was an honor to represent the nation I love.  I will always be inspired by the courage, resilience, and compassion of the American people.

I’ve seen all those traits as I’ve traveled the country on my book tour.  I’ve met people who serve their fellow citizens in countless ways, from volunteering in their communities, to teaching our children, to defending our nation by serving in the military.  I am grateful to all those make sacrifices to keep our nation great, and I am touched by those were interested enough to read my story.

Thank you for the support, and Laura and I wish all readers a joyful holiday season, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

George W. Bush

Good tidings of great joy

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men."

— Luke 2:8-14

Christmas Day 2010

Have a Blessed and Merry Christmas!

"Hallelujah Chorus" flash mob ... Alaska-style

Cross-posted at the Washington Examiner....

The flash mob phenomenon sweeping the country and going around the world has not been lost on those who live in the outer reaches of Alaska who now have their own social media sensation.

Not that they have malls or thousands showing up to perform choreographed dance steps or to sing the "Hallelujah Chorus." They do, however, have a small school with an imaginative teacher and a group of determined fifth graders who decided to put their own unique take on Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," and that's what made this video so impressive.

I was alerted to the extremely entertaining four-minute video by my sister who once lived in Alaska and received it from a former colleague. Picking it up from her Facebook page, I posted "Hallelujah Chorus," Alaska-style on my Facebook page and it has now been shared by a number of others.

Turns out the fifth graders at Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat School in Quinhagak, a Yupik village of 550 people located on the Bering Sea coast in Southwest Alaska, decided to take on a class project a couple of weeks ago to present at a Christmas program for the entire village. Now that the fifth graders' video is going viral or global or international ... whatever you want to call it ... this video is popping up all over Facebook and beyond.

Alaska Public Radio picked up the story and the way it all came together:
“By Wednesday, we knew we did not have enough time to prepare [a program to perform for the Christmas program],” James Barthelman, a fifth grade teacher at the school, said. “So Thursday, I was kind of pacing around the room and thought, let’s just video tape it.”

“So we just sat down as a class and brainstormed a bunch of ideas.”

After the brainstorming session, where the class determined how they wanted the video to look and some of the places where they should record, they settled on a creatively edited, card flipping version of the chorus.

Though organizing that many cards and people, the group, Barthelman included, proved it was up to the challenge of creating and organizing the cards that are used throughout the video.

“I had to stand there and sing the songs, I don’t know how many times,” Mr. Barthelman said, describing how the class was able to time the flipping of the cards to the song.
The class filmed video for three days, involving many in the community, and ended up with 100 clips that were edited by Mr. Barthelman into a final video.

The video was shown at the Christmas program where it was a huge success, and then it was posted to YouTube on Monday, December 20th. By Tuesday it had picked up 400 hits, and on Wednesday afternoon, after only three days on the internet, it had picked up over 18,000 hits. By the time I finished writing this story two hours later, those hits had jumped to almost 24,000. When I checked this morning, that number had grown to more than 74,000 ... and it all began only four days ago.

Christmas flash mob Alaska-style? The fifth graders and Mr. Barthelman in Quinhagak have given a gift to the world and, by making this video the latest internet sensation, the world has given a gift to Mr. Barthelman and his fifth graders.

Thank you Quinhagak, Alaska ... and Merry Christmas!

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" ... Merry Christmas to U.S. Armed Forces

My dad, who passed away in 1975, was a Navy veteran from World War II. He was 19 years old when he joined the Navy and went to war. When I was growing up, he was a Sunday School teacher for 12-year-olds in our church.

Dad's favorite Christmas hymn was "I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day" ... the words had touched him because of his service during war. I think of him every year when I hear this song.

Our military men and women are working this Christmas, many far from home and away from their families. Let us remember those currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and other places around the world and on the homeland who protect our freedoms, keeping us safe.

This is in memory of my Dad ... and for all our military members, past and present.

I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christmas Eve across the land....

The peacefulness of Christmas Eve is settling across the land as dark moves in ... tiny twinkly lights illuminate the night and our Christmas tree is lighted and glowing. Christmas carols are playing ... Christmas sheet music is at the piano ... presents are wrapped and waiting ... food and goodies are ready for family and guests.

It's a cold winter night ... snow is on the ground and the waning moon is rising over the Blue Ridge Mountains. There is a quiet as the world pauses on the eve of Christ's birth.

It's Christmas Eve in the Shenandoah Valley....

Merry Christmas from Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and family

Dear Friends:

It's hard to believe that another year has come and gone, but so it is. As we look back on this year we have much to be thankful for.

You have given us the high honor of leading Virginia at a very challenging time in our state's history. We are working hard to be good stewards of the trust you have placed in us, and we have accomplished a great deal during our first year in office.

We all know that there is a lot of work to be done to get our state and nation back on the right track, but that work will wait for the next few days as we gather together with family and friends to celebrate the Christmas season.

Jean Ann and I hope that you will each remember the true meaning of this special time of year, the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. As His birth changed the direction of the world, we hope that His presence will influence the direction of your life every day. Our faith has always been a very important part of our life, and we celebrate the origins of that faith on Christmas day.

So enjoy this special time together with those you love, and when you have a chance, say a prayer for our country and our people.

Merry Christmas!

The Bolling Family
Bill, Jean Ann, Matt and Kevin

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! . . . You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world, which not the strongest man, or even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real?

Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else so real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives, and he lives forever — a thousand times ten thousand, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

— Francis P. Church

Merry Christmas to W!

Two million books sold in a little more than a month makes a pretty good Christmas present for former President George W. Bush. My Christmas Eve posting at the Washington Examiner ... "George W. Bush 'Decision Points' a runaway best seller with 2 million copies sold." Merry Christmas, Mr. President!

"White Christmas" ... the movie

One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies would have to be "White Christmas," the 1954 musical featuring four of the biggest talents in Hollywood. The movie opens with a scene in December 1944 during World War II, and continues the story line with two of two Army buddies after the war, now in the entertainment business, who meet sisters and become romantically involved with them.

I love this movie ... and Christmas is not complete until I have seen it each year, usually while wrapping gifts in front of the TV. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye absolutely made this movie work along with Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. It is a light-hearted romance comedy that weaves a Christmas/winter theme into it and is set mostly at the fictional Columbia Inn Ski Lodge in Pine Tree, Vermont, during the holidays.

For this snow/Christmas/winter lover, it does not get much better!

Many songs are unforgettable ... "White Christmas," of course ... but also the "Sisters" tune sung by Clooney and Ellen is something my sisters and I have jokingly done for years ... not to mention the spoof of that number by Crosby and Kaye.

"Snow" is the tune sung in four-part harmony on the train as the four travel from Florida to Vermont.

And there is "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep," a simple little Irving Berlin song that hits reality right between the eyes...
When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds

If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings
The basis of the whole story is the two Army buddies (Crosby and Kaye), successful in the music industry, who take their stage show to their WW II General's failing Vermont inn as gratitude to the "old" man.

Crosby's character, looking at the General across the room, observed, "We ate ... and then he ate. We slept ... and then he slept."

To which Kaye's character quipped, "And then he woke up and no one slept for 48 hours!"

The movie is about friendship, gratitude, and love ... it is one of my "must sees" every year, and SWAC Daughter and I are watching it today. It's a classic to be seen over and over.

Night Before Christmas (The Night the Electricity Went Out)

'Twas the night before Christmas and out on the ranch
The pond was froze over and so was the branch.
The snow was piled up belly-deep to a mule.
The kids were all home on vacation from school.

And happier young folks you never did see --
Just all sprawled around a-watchin' TV.
Then suddenly, some time around 8 o'clock,
There came a surprise that gave them a shock!

The power went off, the TV went dead!
When Grandpa came in from out in the shed
With an armload of wood, the house was all dark.
"Just what I expected," they heard him remark.

"Them power line wires must be down from the snow.
Seems sorter like times on the ranch long ago."
"I'll hunt up some candles," said Mom. "With their light,
And the fireplace, I reckon we'll make out all right."

The teenagers all seemed enveloped in gloom.
Then Grandpa came back from a trip to his room,
Uncased his old fiddle & started to play
That old Christmas song about bells on a sleigh.

Mom started to sing, and first thing they knew
Both Pop and the kids were all singing it, too.
They sang Christmas carols, they sang "Holy Night,"
Their eyes all a-shine in the ruddy firelight.

They played some charades Mom recalled from her youth,
And Pop read a passage from God's Book of Truth.
They stayed up till midnight and, would you believe,
The youngsters agreed 'twas a fine Christmas Eve.

Grandpa rose early, some time before dawn;
And when the kids wakened, the power was on.
"The power company sure got the line repaired quick,"
Said Grandpa -- and no one suspected his trick.
Last night, for the sake of some old-fashioned fun,
He had pulled the main switch - the old Son-of-a-Gun!


Politifact? More like PolitiFICTION

Cross-posted at the Washington Examiner....

Thank you, Timothy Carney, senior political columnist at the Washington Examiner, for writing "Politifact fritters away its credibility":
Politifact, a project of the St. Petersburg Times, has declared as the Lie of the Year, "A government takeover of healthcare." This is a deeply silly choice, dubbing an imprecise overstatement "a lie." The Wall Street Journal has a good response, which points out that the White House has hopped onto Politifact's horse.
After busting the Politifact "Lie of the Year," Mr. Carney goes on to bust Politifact:
...I have my own [nominee for lie of the year]:

"We have excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs." Barack Obama, 2010 State of the Union.

Guess what? Obama by that point had already hired nearly 50 former lobbyists for policymaking jobs, including four in his Cabinet. I asked the White House to square the facts with Obama's claim. They gave me this Clintonian response: "we have turned away lobbyists for many, many positions."

The emperor has no clothes, and our "watchdogs" are focusing their fire on Wisconsin congressional candidate Rebecca Kleefisch. It's embarrassing.
In the Virginia conservative blogosphere, there have been increasing questions about Politifact's bias. Many raised eyebrows when George Allen's comment, "The new Congress must repeal and cutoff any additional money borrowed and set aside for Obama, Reid and Pelosi’s $1.2 trillion stimulus spending bill," was rated as "Pants on Fire."

When Politifact responded, "The $1.2 trillion price tag was a new to us (sic), so we checked it out," Right-Wing Conservative blogger DJ McGuire looked into the real facts and deemed it "Politifail", writing:
Really, fellas? It’s not news to me or anyone else who closely followed the Obamnibus debate. In fact, it came right from the Congressional Budget Office (CNN Money):

The long-term cost of the $825 billion economic recovery package before Congress could rise to $1.2 trillion over 10 years, a top budget official said Tuesday.

That’s because the government will borrow to fund the plan and pay an estimated $347 billion in interest, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee on Tuesday.
Way to “check it out,” guys.

Now, to be fair, the PF guys were led astray by an Allen staffer, who sent them somewhere else and didn’t emphasize the interest-on-debt issue. Still, it’s not as if the $1.2T figure had vanished into the ether. The House Republicans used it just last month.

Politifact? More like Politifail.
Writers from Red State, Newsbusters, American Spectator, and others have also questioned the findings of this journalistic watch dog. Politifact appears to be proving that it is no more than another of the Democrats' allies in the mainstream media.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from Alaska ... "Hallelujah Chorus"

This four-minute video is adorable and is the latest social media sensation after it smashed onto the internet earlier this week. I received it from my Texas sister who once lived in Alaska and worked as a journalist at the Anchorage Daily News. A former colleague of hers passed it along.

Word is spreading through Facebook and emails about a class of imaginative fifth graders and a determined teacher who put together this flash mob video ... Alaska-style. My latest at the Washington Examiner....

Is Politifact losing all credibility?

Many in the Virginia conservative blogosphere have questioned the apparent bias with Politifact, that fact "watch dog" that is used by a number of newspapers including the Richmond Times-Dispatch to fact-check statements by politicians.

I couldn't help but comment on it today at the Washington Examiner in my latest post, "Politifact? More like Politifiction."

Christmas Greetings from Gov. Bob McDonnell and family

From Lynn R. Mitchell and family ... Merry Christmas to Gov. and Mrs. McDonnell and their family with thanks for common sense conservative leadership.

Jim Moran separated from wife

Interesting news especially right here at the holidays. It's sad when anyone's marriage fails but ... well, I should stop there. From Politico ... "Morans separate."

2010: A Wish for Peace and Goodwill

By Congressman Bob Goodlatte
Republican - VA-6th District

The holiday season is well underway: the streets are snow-covered, there are lights on our neighbors’ window sills, wreaths hanging from city street lights, children are lining up in local shopping centers for a picture with Santa, there are parades down our Main Streets, and folks are out looking for those perfect gifts for family and friends. This time of year can seem so hectic, as we rush from task to task attempting to pack in all that must get done into a short amount of time. It is often during this hustle and bustle that the true meaning of Christmas is sometimes forgotten or overlooked.

This time of year is not about what you can buy in the store or what gifts you receive, but about the love that you share with your family and friends. We should remember that this special season represents a time of peace and goodwill to all mankind. Our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge, said it well “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

No matter where we go this time of year, we see this spirit in action - at the mall we see volunteers ringing bells, at our places of worship we see angel trees, and all of our interactions end with the well-wishing of “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” As we spend the next week sharing the Holiday Season with our families and friends, we should reflect on the great blessings that God has bestowed upon our nation and our Commonwealth, and give thanks to our Creator for the blessings of our loved ones. We embrace goodwill and, with all that we can give, we pass on that spirit to others.

Now more than ever, we need to share this spirit of Christmas with our fellow citizens, our neighbors who are struggling during these tough economic times. And we must also try to find a way to capture this state of mind all year, long after the Christmas tree has come down, and continue to cherish peace and goodwill and be plenteous in our mercy toward others. At Christmas we are emboldened by this spirit but we should all seek to carry it on throughout the year.

I hope this season fills you with joy, and I hope you will stay in touch with me as we celebrate the holidays and head in to the New Year and the start of a new Congress. You can always be in contact with me by visiting my website at

From my family to yours, I wish all of you a joyous Holiday season, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Christmas 2010 greetings from George & Susan Allen and family

George W. Bush's Facebook fans more engaged than Obama's?

So says a writer at the Huffington Post, of all places, citing that even though President Barack Obama boasts more Facebook fans:
... a large audience is not necessarily an active audience.

Though fewer than 640,000 Facebook users have "Liked" former President George W. Bush's Facebook page, these users tend to interact more with posts than fans of Obama's page do, according to a new report.
Engage, a political analysis and strategy agency focusing on new media, reports the following statistics from a study of popular Facebook posts:
On average, President Obama's last 10 posts have been liked an average of 11,579 times, to Bush's 6,655 times. That works out to more than 1% of Bush's fan base interacting with his page on any given post. For President Obama, it works out to a pretty weak 0.07% fan interaction rate -- and a 13-fold advantage for Bush on that score.
That along with tremendous book sales for "Decision Points" makes a nice Christmas present for GWB! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Linus explains the true meaning of Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas
first aired on December 9, 1965, and became a classic that still rings true more than forty-five years later. One reason it remains one of the most popular Christmas shows of the season may be because Charlie Brown's friend Linus reminds Charlie Brown of the true meaning of Christmas by reciting the King James Bible New Testament verses from Luke 2:8-14 describing the birth of Christ.

Interestingly, the story goes that network executives did not want the scripture quoted in an animated show, assuming viewers would become bored. Charlie Brown creator Charles Schulz, however, was adamant that it remain. "If we don't tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?" he asked.

Today, even more than in 1965, we need to hear the true meaning of Christmas as told by a little animated boy in a scene that is beloved by millions.
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
How much richer we are for Charles Schulz standing by his principles! Merry Christmas to Charlie Brown, Linus, and the rest of the Peanuts gang.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Staunton ... Holiday Lantern Tour, Bethlehem, New Year's Gala

It's been busy leading to this week of Christmas and there is much going on in the final days before December 25th. Cookie baking, last-minute gift purchases, delivering goodies to neighbors and friends, family visits ... it's part of what makes the season special.

Bethlehem Village's last night for 2010 is tonight. With a full moon and snow on the ground, it should be the perfect evening to take a walk back in time to the first Christmas and experience the quiet of the cold winter night at the foot of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Holiday Lantern Tours at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton continue today and tomorrow, December 21 and 22, and have been very popular this year. Snow on the ground adds to the unique experience of Christmases past in the Olde Country and frontier America.

Speaking of the Frontier Culture Museum, the Stonewall Jackson Hotel New Year's Gala to benefit the Museum is almost sold out. Deadline to RSVP is December 22 so hurry if you want to be in on this popular event to greet the new year.

Don't forget to shop historic downtown Staunton and, while you're there, stop in one of the many fine restaurants for lunch or dinner ... maybe Byers Street Bistro or the Depot Grille. Or drop by Coffee on the Corner to warm up with a cup of java and a treat.

Olde Richmond at Christmas: Mom's memories of Miller & Rhoads windows & the 'real' Santa

These are my mother's memories of the Miller & Rhoads Christmas windows and the "real" Santa. My previous post was a remembrance as a child of the Christmas windows of downtown Richmond in years past and visits to Miller & Rhoads to see Santa. Last Christmas I asked Mom to flesh out the memories for me and this is what she wrote. Originally posted in December 2009....
The "real Santa" was at Miller & Rhoads and their 7th floor was Santa Land. Do you remember that the line of children moved up and waited for Santa by the Snow Queen who sat to Santa's right? She greeted every boy and girl and chatted with them - and always asked each one his or her name. Santa had an earpiece on and as a child was leaving him, the Snow Queen would say the next child's name and tell each one to go over and talk with Santa ... so the name of each child was passed on to Santa by her.

He would hold his arms out and say something like, "Ho, ho, ho, if it isn't Lynn and Gail!" The children could not believe Santa remembered all of their names! Even the parents were enamored with how well it all was done. That was one of the things that made Miller & Rhoads' Santa so special and no other store could ever compete with it. The expressions on the faces of the children when Santa called out their names was priceless and even we parents were thrilled.

After we visited with Santa, we went to the Tea Room on the 5th floor and stood in another long line to be able to eat lunch with Santa and the Snow Queen (and elves). They had a special table up on the runway that the models used for their fashion shows -- so all of the children could see them while they were eating.

The children could hardly eat for waiting on Santa. Then, everyone had a piece of Rudolph's cake for dessert. All the while, Eddie Weaver was playing Christmas songs on the organ. It was a very festive time and they always had crowds of people. Ruth* and I looked forward to going to see Santa every year, just as much as any child. We went before you all were born and watched the children talking with Santa.

[*Editor's Note: Ruth was my mother's sister who passed away in 1997. She never had children of her own.]

Ruth loved Christmas as much as I did and and she never missed a single time going with us. It really was a special occasion for all of us. Ruth always bought the pictures of you all with Santa because they were so expensive we could never have bought them. Besides, you had to pay for them at the time, without seeing them, and they mailed them to you so you never knew what they would look like.

Ruth also paid for us all to have lunch in the Tea Room. If she was talking with someone in the lines near us and they asked the ages of her children, she would tell them - without batting an eye - so they thought you all belonged to her. She used to say she appreciated it when I let her claim you all because it made her feel like a mother, too.

The "Legendary Santa" from 1957 to 1966 was Hansford Rowe II, who graduated from John Marshall High School with Cal. He later married Ales Rowe, who graduated from Thomas Dale High School a year later with me. They had two sons, Hansford III, called "Hanny" and Blake. I just talked with Ales to be sure I have my facts right before I answered your email.

She said Blake was 6 or 7 when he figured out that his dad was Santa. They were standing in the line and could hear Hansford talking to the children when Blake told Ales, "I believe Santa is Daddy because it sounds like his voice." Ales told him all children thought Santa sounded like their fathers. Later, when they were closer, Blake had her lean down and told her he was sure it was Daddy. She admitted it was but told him not to say a word. When he got up to Hansford and was sitting on his lap, Hansford (who, of course, did not know that Blake had figured it all out) asked him what kind of boy he had been that year and Blake said, "PERFECT!"

Hansford Rowe II became an actor and played at Barksdale Theatre, Virginia Museum Theatre, Swift Creek Mill, etc., before going to New York where he had some off-Broadway parts. He later went to California, and Cal and I have seen him in several movies. He is bald headed, not terribly tall, and usually played the part of the butler. Son, Hanny, also was in New York with his father because he wanted to be an actor, too. When Hansford stopped playing the Santa part at Miller & Rhoads, his older brother Dan took over as the Legendary Santa and he STILL does it - at the Children's Museum in Richmond.

Miller & Rhoads had the most beautiful windows at Christmas, and Thalhimers was next. Other shops along the streets decorated their windows but they never came close to the two big stores. On the Grace Street side of the stores, people would spend hours on a nice day standing at the windows and walking up and down the streets.

Christmas music was piped out onto the streets around M&R and Thalhimers. Some of the windows were full of animated people and things, especially M&R's windows. Their big window at the corner of 6th and Grace, which faced both streets, always had Santa's workshop and it was beautiful. It truly looked like the North Pole and was a beehive of activity. There was so much to see and so such continuous activity one could stand there for an hour. Elves were making things, painting, carrying, etc. ... all kinds of things going on and continuous movement.

It was absolutely fascinating because at that time, not many people had seen that sort of thing. M&R's window facing 5th Street and Grace Street was full of trains and that, too, was wonderful! We loved watching all of those trains going in every direction - and I still love trains.

Downtown Richmond was beautiful in those days and was absolutely fantastic at Christimas time! Before you all came along, Ruth and I would dress up, with our hats and gloves, and go downtown on Saturdays. We would spend the whole day shopping and lunch, then would head home about 4 o'clock. Those were fun times and I have such wonderful memories of them and of times after you three came along when we would all go with Ruth to do things and see the sights. We are all so fortunate to have had her in our lives. We did not have much money but those were the best years of my life!

The importance of family comes out in our remembrances. Thanks, Mom, for the memories.

Book available: One of Santa's Snow Queens for 20 years has written a book about her experience in Santaland ... Christmas at Miller & Rhoads: Memoirs of a Snow Queen.

See also my memories: "Olde Richmond's Christmas of yesteryear ... holiday windows and the 'real' Santa."

Olde Richmond's Christmas of yesteryear ... holiday windows and the 'real' Santa

How I do miss the department stores of downtown Richmond from years past. The Nordstrom's of the day were two downtown department stores, Miller & Rhoads and Thalhimers, multi-story buildings that faced Broad and Grace Streets, and sold clothing, toys, household items, and more.

At Christmas, those stores seemed magical as they transformed into winter wonderlands with holiday decorations. Destinations for thousands of Virginia residents to visit, children stood outside on the sidewalk peering wide-eyed through the plate glass windows watching as animated displays moved and twirled and awed, and then visited inside for shopping, dining, and a stop to see Santa.

During my childhood, visiting downtown Richmond was an annual event for us as my mother dressed my sister and me in our Christmas outfits that she had sewn and that were matching miniature versions of hers, and usually velvet. She would bundle us in our coats, muffs, and hats, and off we would go with our Aunt Ruth, for a special day in downtown Richmond.

We stood on the crowded sidewalk with dozens of people and marveled at the moving soldiers, busy bears, circling trains, fancy dolls, forest creatures, and colorful elves moved and twirled in workshops or snowy winter white landscapes. Each window had a different theme. Miller & Rhoads and Thalheimers would compete with one another for the most entertaining and elegant windows, and the public was the richer for it.

Entering the department stores during the holidays was a wonder to my young eyes because everything was so big ... the ceilings, the bright lights, the Christmas decorations, the escalators that took us up, up, up to the floors above. My sister and I had two stops on our agenda: the toy department and Santa Land.

Miller & Rhoads had the "real" Santa, a gentleman so realistic-looking that many of us grew up thinking he was the real deal. His whiskers were natural, his Santa Land was perfect, his Snow Queen was one of the most beautiful ladies I had ever seen and, best of all, Santa remembered our names every year!

We would try to get there in time to see him come down the chimney and enter from the large fireplace behind his chair. The noisy crowd would shush when the snow queen or an elf alerted everyone that it was almost time for Santa and suggested we should listen for sleigh bells. We would all strain our ears ... lean in ... and ever so faintly, then growing louder, sleigh bells could be heard and we would all be wide-eyed as Santa would drop down the chimney and emerge with a huge, "Ho, ho, ho! Hello, boys and girls!"

Santa would wave to us all, take off his hat and hang it on the corner of his chair, then sit down in his red velvet throne of a chair. Sometimes the elf would hand him a mirror and comb, and he would groom his beard and hair, much to the delight of the packed room of children.

When he handed the mirror and comb back to the elf, it was time to see Santa. My sister and I waited, and when it was almost our turn and as Santa talked with the child just before us, the Snow Queen would chat with us and ask our names. Unbeknownst to the kids, she had a microphone and Santa had an earpiece -- we're talking a long time ago! -- and she would tell him the names of the children as they approached his chair.

"Well, hello, Gail and Lynn!" he would boom out as we walked toward him after waiting in the long line. We were always absolutely in awe. "He remembered our names," I would say afterward to my mother. He would listen to our requests and would always say, "I will do my very best." We would pose for a photo, and the elf would hand us each a candy cane as we skipped down the ramp to our waiting mother and Aunt Ruth.

It was always a wonderful experience and we have photos from those years, reminders of a time now turned into nostalgic memories.

A visit with Santa was followed by lunch with Santa in the Miller & Rhoads Tea Room on the fifth floor where his table was set up on the stage. Long-time Richmond entertainer Eddie Weaver would play Christmas carols on the piano ... or was it an organ? The Snow Queen and elves would sit at Santa's table and, as they ate their lunch, Santa would carry on a conversation with the children in the room eating lunch with their parents. Afterward, everyone got a piece of Rudolph's cake. Santa would always explain that Rudolph made it himself, mixing it with his paws (he demonstrated with his hands as he talked). It was a once-a-year treat to eat in the grown-up tea room.

I took my own children to visit the "real" Santa before Miller & Rhoads ceased to exist. The photos are priceless, showing my kids sitting on the knee of the same Santa I visited as a child.

I have a child's limited memory of it all and so during Christmas of 2008 I asked my mother to flesh out the memories. She wrote them for me and they are in the next post.

Christmas in Olde Richmond with Miller & Rhoads, Thalheimers, the holiday store windows, the "real" Santa ... it provided wonderful childhood memories that have lasted a life time.

Next: Mom shares her memories of taking my sisters and me to visit the "real" Santa throughout the years in downtown Richmond....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eric Cantor's Holiday Party

Mom and Kristi Way at
Congressman Eric Cantor's Holiday Party on December 19, 2010.

Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA 7), the Majority Leader-elect, held his annual Holiday Party Sunday in Richmond for his Advisory Council and my parents, who have been a part of that group since the beginning, were there as well as the other Henrico, Chesterfield, and Richmond folks including 7th District Chairman Linwood Cobb.

Mom said that there was a big crowd, as usual (last year they had 900 guests). Congressman Cantor spent two hours shaking hands with people and posing for photos with them, and he and Mrs. Cantor talked and visited during the event.

Mom met Marissa Pugmire from Bill Bolling's office and said she enjoyed talking with her, calling her a ball of fire! I can second that! It sounded like everyone had a wonderful time and it was great to get updates about so many of the volunteers -- Marie, Ellen, Bretiss, and Fay -- and staff -- Kristi, Michael, Matt, Sara Rose, Matt and Melissa.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Congressman Cantor and all the 7th District Republicans with many thanks for all they do for the GOP!

Photo by Michael Lowery
19 December 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

One year ago today ... the Blizzard of 2009

Flashback ... December 19-20, 2009:
The picket fence and gate in the back yard were almost covered with more than 2 feet of snow.

One year ago today we had over two feet of snow that fell December 19-20 with three- to four-foot snowdrifts making a winter wonderland less than a week before Christmas. It was beautiful and the second snowfall of the winter. Little did we know there would be much more to come making it one of the snowiest winters on record in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
December 2009

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sledding, Green Valley, Bethlehem, and SWAC Niece

The Christmas tree is lighted ... the outside white twinkly lights are on ... wreaths are hanging on the gates ... Christmas music is at the piano. SWAC Niece is visiting! She and her mom -- my sister -- have joined us as we've traveled the Valley, stopping for pretzels at the Dayton Farmer's Market and browsing stacks of books at Green Valley. With lots to do ... Afton's Bethlehem, Gypsy Hill lights, the Staunton trolley, cookie baking, watching Christmas movies, sledding in the back yard, checking out the downtown shops ... we're staying busy in the week leading up to Christmas.

It's so nice to have SWAC Niece in the house....

Harrisonburg Heritage Farmers Market

The pond outside the Heritage Farmers Market was frozen over this week when we stopped by with friends Barb and Larry. Home to a number of gold fish, they could be seen slowly swimming beneath the icy surface.

Christmas trees were waiting for buyers at the farmers market. It was also the stop for bulk baking goods, kitchen items, local art, and more.
The new Rockingham Memorial Hospital located east of Harrisonburg with Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
December 2010

Congressman Bob Goodlatte at Harrisonburg lunch

 Congressman Bob Goodlatte interviewed with WHSV TV-3 after Monday's lunch in Harrisonburg where he addressed a full room of constituents about the current issues in Congress as well as what can be expected in January when the new Congress convenes.
 Shenandoah County's Suzanne Curran.
 Luis Padilla (left) listens as Suzanne Curran talks with Rep. Goodlatte.

 Barb Tillett makes a point.
Barb and Congressman Goodlatte.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
13 December 2010

Cardinal at the snowy bird bath

 The heated birth bath on the deck hosts dozens of wild birds including this female cardinal who stopped by on Thursday's snowy day.
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
16-17 December 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Capitol Christmas tree ... Washington, DC

Capitol Christmas Tree - Washington, DC
Photo by Juliana Heerschap
December 16, 2010

Juliana is a PEACH (Parent Educators of Augusta County Homes) home school graduate who works in Washington, DC. She posted this photo on her Facebook page, taken during Thursday's snowstorm, and it struck me as a beautiful photo with the Capitol lit up in the background. I asked if she would mind if I posted it here and she graciously gave permission to share this wonderful photo of our nation's Capitol and its Christmas tree. Thanks, Juliana! Merry Christmas!

Snow Day ... December 16, 2010

Out the back gate into the yard and woods beyond....

The bird feeder is a busy place in winter while the swing near the woods is idle.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
13 December 2010

MAF's "12 Days of Christmas" for our troops

"On the fourth day of Christmas our soldiers gave to us ... commitment to America!"

From Move America Forward....

We are now 4 days into Move America Forward’s 12 Days of Christmas where we honor our heroes who have committed themselves to America all the way up to Christmas day. Our troops have given America so many gifts and MAF is highlighting some in our 12 Days of Christmas. Each day we will tell the story of that gift.

During this Holiday season, our troops are still thousands of miles from home, some fighting for us in the freezing mountains of Afghanistan or the unforgiving Iraqi desert. While we are at the mall buying last minute gifts, our troops are fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and Americans all over are joining MAF in thanking our troops for defending our freedoms. We have created special care packages for the holidays to show our thanks and give Americans the chance to sponsor the care packages with a personal message to our troops.

Today, on MAF’s Fourth Day of Christmas, we are thanking our troops for, and recognizing their Commitment to America.

World War I began before our wounds from the Civil War had healed. Once again, our troops stood up for America. They fought in trenches, on land and by sea. More than 4.6 million Americans served in the war that was to end all wars.

World War I is also recognized as the first “modern war”. With the first appearance of nerve gas, machine guns and tanks on the battlefields, our troops suffered terrible losses the likes of which had never seen before.

Despite this, they fought on to victory. They never quit or gave up on their duty to their country, they fought even in the worst conditions, despite any odds, and in the end they came out victorious. Today, we thank them for their dedication, their fearlessness, their Commitment to America.

As we know, WWI was not the last war for America. Our troops have remained committed to America since the birth of this great country.

Today, American troops serve around the world to keep peace and protect the United States from enemies. Our troops in Afghanistan are now fighting the longest war America has ever fought, and they're making progress, but it's a tough road to travel and they need our support!

Please sponsor a care package with a personal note. Our troops can get lonely during the holidays. They are thousands of miles away from their families and their homes in America. Our troops volunteer to protect everything that is good about America. Let’s put a smile on their faces for Christmas.

We have set a goal to raise $60,000 to put a smile on our troops faces for the holidays. We must reach our goal by Christmas!

VA health care lawsuit ... who is Judge Henry Hudson?

Cross-posted at the Washington Examiner....

Virginia has been leading the nation since the first settlers landed in Jamestown, and it continues by leading the challenge to ObamaCare. Along the way, a Virginia judge made a landmark decision that has been felt all the way to the U.S. Congress and the White House.

In March the Commonwealth of Virginia filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate requirement in the newly-passed health care bill that required Americans to purchase insurance or pay a fine for failure to do so.

On Monday U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond ruled in Commonwealth of Virginia vs. Sebelius that the requirement to purchase mandatory health insurance was unconstitutional because the Commerce Clause of the Congress does not have that authority. He therefore became the first judge to rule against President Barack Obama's health care bill.

There was immediate reaction from Virginia's leadership including Governor Bob McDonnell (R), Lt. Governor Bill Bolling (R), and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) who carried the lawsuit as well as Congressional Majority Leader-Elect Eric Cantor (R-VA 7), and former Governor and U.S. Senator George Allen. All supported the decision and all, with the exception of businessman Bill Bolling, are lawyers.

The Washington Examiner Opinion Zone bloggers followed up with opinions about the decision including Ben Domenech's cleverly-titled "Yes Virginia, there is a Constitution." E.D. Kain also weighed in with

Meanwhile, just exactly who is Judge Henry Hudson, the man who dared to take on ObamaCare and the President of the United States?

Some have called him staunchly conservative but others say he has mellowed with age. Perhaps he sees something of himself in Ken Cuccinelli who has been described by some as zealous and unyielding in his march for what he believes is right. Hudson's critics are unyielding in their assessment of someone who does not line up with their ideological beliefs, a hypocrisy not lost on conservatives.

This 63-year-old federal judge for the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in Arlington, Va, becoming a volunteer firefighter and paramedic at the age of 18 and later serving as a courtroom deputy before earning his law degree from American University to become the "people lawyer," as he described in his 2008 book, Quest for Justice.

Hudson was recommended for his current federal position by Virginia U.S. Senators John Warner and George Allen in 2002 to President George W. Bush who nominated Hudson and saw his nominee confirmed by Congress in August 2002.

With a reputation as a no-nonsense judge, his career has had some high-profile highlights along the way. His legal career began when he worked as Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney and then Commonwealth's Attorney in Arlington County, Va, from 1974-86 and then as circuit court judge where he was known to be tough. Former U.S. Congressman Tom Davis described Hudson as a "by-the-book guy," adding that "[h]e is not one who coddles criminals." He went on to say, "He is a bulldog. He is not a warm puppy. Whatever Henry does, he will be criticized. But I know that what he does will be the right result. He will have the right answer."

In 1986 under President Ronald Reagan, Hudson was a member of U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese's Commission on Pornography. Later he headed up the U.S. Marshal Service in 1992-93 during the President George H.W. Bush administration, and in 1998 became a circuit court judge in Fairfax County, Virginia, where he served until his current appointment in 2002.

Before the current health care decision, there was another notable case that brought Henry Hudson into the national spotlight. In 2007, the Michael Vick dogfighting case hit the headlines when the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback was accused of illegal activity with a dogfighting ring in Virginia.

Giving an insider's look at his career through his book, Greta Van Susteren of Fox News and herself a lawyer noted that "crime news junkies will love Quest for Justice, ... a thrilling tale of crime fighting adventure."

Perhaps no one says it better than Virginia resident Ollie North who commented, "Henry Hudson weaves a suspenseful tale that reads like a novel, but it's all true."

Stay tuned. Henry Hudson's book may have been premature ... his story isn't over ... because the health care issue just added another chapter for this man who may have proven with Monday's ruling that he is still "the people's lawyer."

Holiday Lantern Tours at Frontier Culture Museum

With snow on the ground reminiscent of Christmases past, enhance the season by joining one of the Holiday Lantern Tours going on right now at the Frontier Culture Museum in the central Shenandoah Valley.

Running December 17th through 22nd, tours will take place from 6:00-8:00 nightly leaving the Visitor Center every 30 minutes. Guests experience holidays in history on this lantern-lit tour through the Olde World farmsteads decorated in a traditional manner. Each will present a vignette/play about Christmas past in England, Ireland, Germany, and the American farm in the New World.

Tours will end with hot cider and cookies along with entertainment as a local band plays Christmas music throughout the evening.

Call for reservations as tours fill quickly. The Frontier Culture Museum: (540) 332-7850 /