Saturday, December 31, 2011

11 rules your kids need to know for life

As we prepare to enter a new year, it's a good time to review the eleven rules your kids need to know for life by educator Charles Sykes from his book, "Dumbing Down Our Kids." They apply to adults, too....

Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!

Rule 2: The world doesn’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Goodlatte: 'Fulfilling our Pledge to America'

By Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA 6th District)

Last fall House Republicans released “A Pledge to America” which was the result of our conversations with everyday Americans, including many of my constituents in the Sixth District of Virginia. It was based on the principles of smaller and more accountable government, economic freedom, lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, protecting life, American values and the Constitution.

When the 112th Congress was sworn into office earlier this year, House Republicans were committed to pursuing legislation focused on the principles contained in the “Pledge to America” and I am happy to report that the House has done just that.

First and foremost, House Republicans have focused on advancing policies that will put an end to the economic uncertainty we face and create jobs. Just a few months ago House Republicans released our “Plan for America’s Job Creators”. This comprehensive agenda includes over 30 bipartisan bills that have passed the House with the goal of protecting job creators from tax increases, reining in the regulatory red tape and burdensome mandates that hinder job creation and promoting American energy independence.

Second, House Republicans have made it a top priority to stop the out-of-control spending that has plagued Washington for years and worked to reduce the overall size of government. The House passed a budget that cut $6.2 trillion in government spending over the next ten years.

The House-passed budget eliminates hundreds of duplicative programs, contains no earmarks, curbs corporate welfare, and reforms entitlement programs, bringing non-security discretionary spending to below 2008 levels. While the House-passed budget is a significant step in the right direction, I believe we need to be even more ambitious in controlling spending which is why I supported a budget which would have made additional spending cuts to put the government on track to turn trillion-dollar deficits into a budget surplus within ten years. Unfortunately the Senate did not adopt either budget nor have they passed any budget in the last three years. This is a big problem.

Third we pledged to work to repeal the new health care law that kills jobs, raises taxes, threatens seniors’ access to care, will cause millions of people to lose the coverage they have and like, and increases the cost of health care coverage and replace it with commonsense reforms that lower health care costs and empower patients.

With that in mind, one of the first major acts of the 112th Congress was to pass a bipartisan repeal of the President’s sweeping health care reform law. Unfortunately a narrow majority of the Senate voted against the repeal.

I am proud to represent one of the most beautiful and diverse districts in the country and I am honored 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 that remain. I look forward to working in the second session of the 112th Congress on real solutions that will further reduce government spending, continue to grow our economy, and create more American jobs. House Republicans remain committed to creating effective public policy that benefits the American people.

Del. Landes to hold townhall meetings

~To be joined by Delegates Ben Cline and Tony Wilt~

Delegate Steve Landes (R-25th House District) will hold three townhall meetings before beginning the 2012 General Assembly session.

The first town meeting will be held jointly with Delegate Ben Cline on Tuesday, January 3, 2011, from 7:00 –9:00 p.m. at Wilson Middle School, 232 Hornet Road, Fishersville.

The second town meeting will be on Saturday, January 7, 2012, from 9:30 -11:00 a.m. at the Carriage House at King Family Vineyard, 6550 Roseland Farm, Crozet.

The third and last town meeting will be with Delegate Tony Wilt on January 7, 2012, from 1-2:30 p.m. in Conference Room A at the Rockingham County Administration Building, 20 East Gay Street, in Harrisonburg.

“Once again, I look forward to hearing from constituents at these three town meetings as we prepare for the 2012 General Assembly Session,” Landes said. “It is important for elected officials to listen and learn of citizens’ concerns prior to session, and town meetings provide an excellent opportunity to do so.”

Landes has also mailed out and posted his annual legislative survey on his website at You may either complete the survey online or return the one you receive in the mail by January 16, 2012.

Landes represents the 25th House District, which includes parts of Albemarle, Augusta, and Rockingham Counties. Landes was first elected in 1995 and recently has been elected to serve his ninth term in the House.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

VA Primary ... and then there were two lawsuits

It looks as if the name of the game in Republican presidential candidate campaigns these days is "lawsuit." What a shame. I thought our party was more than that but what we've seen lately is if you can't win by the rules, change the rules.

The latest lawsuit, however, has been filed by a Tea Party person instead of a Republican. He wants to get Newt Gingrich on the ballot after Newt failed to turn in the proper amount of legitimate signatures on December 22 and was disqualified by the Republican Party of Virginia.

According to WTVR CBS-6 out of Richmond:
Attorney Jonathon Moseley of Reston, Va., says he filed the suit Thursday in the Circuit Court of Richmond County. It contends that Gingrich met the requirement of filing 10,000 signatures and that many of those were improperly excluded. The suit also takes issue with how the Republican Party of Virginia determined that not enough signatures were valid.
Is this the new normal? Good-bye personal responsibility and states rights ... hello, lawsuits?

What a crying shame.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rick Perry sues after failing to qualify for Va. primary ballot - UPDATED

I have been surprised at the number of complaints that have come from conservatives after Texas Governor Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich failed to qualify for the Virginia March 2012 primary ballot. From a group who usually pride themselves on taking personal responsibility, the -- dare I call it whining? -- from the candidates' campaigns (well, Newt's; Perry has handled it much better until now) and their supporters has been non-stop since the news broke on Christmas Eve.

Now comes word from the Rick Perry camp that they filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Commonwealth of Virginia claiming the statute is unconstitutional.

Nothing has changed in the past decade. The same rules were in place for the George W. Bush for President campaign in 2000. The same rules were in place for the John McCain for President campaign in 2008.

I really am surprised at this move and question if this is the best use of campaign funds in the waning days leading to the upcoming round of primaries. My Bearing Drift colleague Shaun Kenney has more and noted:
Of course, Virginia’s rules have been in place for over 50 years… so Perry will be hard pressed to demonstrate that his disqualification was on form rather than on substance.  Still, this does make things rather interesting heading down the road (not to mention Perry’s response was a much more disciplined response than Gingrich’s three-day temper tantrum).
Ironically, Rick Perry headlined a well-attended fundraiser for the Republican Party of Virginia in mid-September when more than 1,100 attended a luncheon to hear from the at-that-time rising star in the field of GOP presidential contenders.

Here is the official press release from the Perry campaign:
Perry Files Federal Court Challenge to Virginia Ballot Access Rules
Virginia voters deserve greater access to the candidate of their choosing

Texas Gov. Rick Perry today filed suit in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia challenging the constitutional validity of the Virginia statute which regulates access to the ballot by presidential candidates and limits the rights of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice. To review the filing, please visit

Virginia's ballot access requirements are among the most onerous in the nation and severely restrict who may obtain petition signatures. 

"Gov. Perry greatly respects the citizens and history of the Commonwealth of Virginia and believes Virginia Republicans should have greater access to vote for one of the several candidates for President of the United States," said Perry campaign communications director Ray Sullivan.

"Virginia ballot access rules are among the most onerous and are particularly problematic in a multi-candidate election. We believe that the Virginia provisions unconstitutionally restrict the rights of candidates and voters by severely restricting access to the ballot, and we hope to have those provisions overturned or modified to provide greater ballot access to Virginia voters and the candidates seeking to earn their support."      
In 2008, 119,034 Virginians voted in the 2008 Republican Presidential Primary election. The requirement that several national candidates each obtain 10,000 individual qualified voter's signatures is unrealistic and onerous. Both voters and candidates have 1st and 14th Amendment rights to meaningfully participate in the political process. 

Provisions very similar to Virginia's prohibition on out-of-state petition circulators have been struck down in the 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th United States Circuits, relying on Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation, 525 US 182 (1999). Also, ballot access requirements for unrealistic numbers of signatures was held unconstitutional in Rockefeller v. Powers, 78 F.3d 44 (2nd Cir. 1999).

The Virginia Republican Party may inform the Virginia Board of Election which candidates it seeks to have on the ballot despite the statutory ballot access requirements. Gov. Perry's suit seeks to have the Virginia statue held unconstitutional and requests the Party to have him listed on the Republican primary ballot.
Not having a grassroots game in place to be able to turn in the required 10,000 signatures is no one's fault except the campaign itself. Two candidates had no problem getting on the ballot: Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Filing a lawsuit is disappointing news from Perry whose predecessor, George W. Bush, campaigned in 2000 on personal responsibility and walked the walk while in the White House. No matter how much criticism was heaped on him, he did not whine or complain or blame others.

Sorry, Governor Perry. I cannot agree with this move.

Update: The Staunton News Leader's Wednesday editorial  opined: "Cuccinelli, Gingrich must stop whining."

Update: Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a post about RPV’s notification to the candidates, noting that “… the idea that the Republican Party in Virginia has a stake in narrowing the field is, frankly, strange.”

Update: Rick Perry, opposer of ‘frivolous lawsuits,’ sues Virginia

Update: Perry’s bid to stop printing of Virginia ballots rejected by federal judge.

Update: Judge questions Perry primary motion, set January 13 hearing

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

Monday, December 26, 2011

A "Salt Lick" Christmas in Virginia

A little bit of Texas was part of our Christmas dinner table this year as we had a "Salt Lick" smorgasboard of cowboy goodies like those served at the very popular Texas restaurant.

Drive southwest from Austin into the rural hill country and there, between Dripping Springs and Driftwood, you will find the nationally-known family-owned Salt Lick where their own seasonings are applied to all kinds of beef, sausage, and pork ribs, served in heaping piles on plank tables in rustic western style ... very Texas-like.

In a more formal setting here in the Commonwealth, Salt Lick seasonings were used on Christmas day for flavoring as chicken and sausages were grilled by the chef brother-in-law, and a spiral ham was roasted indoors. Add the sides -- roasted red, white, yellow, and sweet potatoes -- as well as garden salad, broccoli casserole, and more -- and it was a hardy cowboy meal shared with the entire family including the Texas sister who was home for the holidays.

A little bit of Texas in Virginia ... it was delicious!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The trouble with tribbles

One of my favorite Star Trek episodes was the one titled "The Trouble With Tribbles" which first aired on December 29, 1967. Little balls of fur, they were adopted by members of the Enterprise crew who enjoyed the cuddly, purring little creatures. Unknown to them, however, was the fact that tribbles breed faster than rabbits and soon every nook and cranny of the starship was filled with them.

I unwrapped a Christmas gift from my daughter this morning and out came a ball of fur that purred a trilling sound whenever hugged or tossed in the air. We all laughed at the newest edition to our family ... my own personal tribble.

Hopefully, there will be no trouble with this tribble and it will simply be a fun conversation piece for all to enjoy when visiting. Meanwhile, I need to dig out my episode of "The Trouble With Tribbles" and watch with my new friend.

Hope you have a day full of surprises!

"For unto you is born this day ..."

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 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 Saviour, 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, good will toward men."

Luke 2:8-14 (King James Version)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Silent Night" ... the story behind the song

The late singer John Denver had several versions of the beloved Christmas hymn, "Silent Night." My favorite, however, was his performance with the Muppets when he told the story behind the song.

Now almost 200 years old, this song was written for guitar because the church organ was broken. Even now, the song provides a calmness that is reminiscent of its original performance in 1818.

Here is the story of "Silent Night":
In 1818, a roving band of actors was performing in towns throughout the Austrian Alps. On December 23 they arrived at Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg where they were to re-enact the story of Christ's birth in the small Church of St. Nicholas.

Unfortunately, the St. Nicholas' church organ wasn't working and would not be repaired before Christmas. Because the church organ was out of commission, the actors presented their Christmas drama in a private home. That Christmas presentation of the events in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke put assistant pastor Josef Mohr in a meditative mood. Instead of walking straight to his house that night, Mohr took a longer way home. The longer path took him up over a hill overlooking the village.

From that hilltop, Mohr looked down on the peaceful snow-covered village. Reveling in majestic silence of the wintry night, Mohr gazed down at the glowing Christmas-card like scene. His thoughts about the Christmas play he had just seen made him remember a poem he had written a couple of years before. That poem was about the night when angels announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to shepherds on a hillside.

Mohr decided those words might make a good carol for his congregation the following evening at their Christmas eve service. The one problem was that he didn't have any music to which that poem could be sung. So, the next day Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Gruber only had a few hours to come up with a melody which could be sung with a guitar. However, by that evening, Gruber had managed to compose a musical setting for the poem. It no longer mattered to Mohr and Gruber that their church organ was inoperable. They now had a Christmas carol that could be sung without that organ.

On Christmas Eve, the little Oberndorf congregation heard Gruber and Mohr sing their new composition to the accompaniment of Gruber's guitar.

Weeks later, well-known organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived in Oberndorf to fix the organ in St. Nicholas church. When Mauracher finished, he stepped back to let Gruber test the instrument. When Gruber sat down, his fingers began playing the simple melody he had written for Mohr's Christmas poem.

Deeply impressed, Mauracher took copies of the music and words of "Silent Night" back to his own Alpine village, Kapfing. There, two well-known families of singers — the Rainers and the Strassers — heard it. Captivated by "Silent Night," both groups put the new song into their Christmas season repertoire.

Silent night! holy night!
All is calm, all is bright,
'Round yon virgin mother and Child!
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

The Strasser sisters spread the carol across northern Europe. In 1834, they performed "Silent Night" for King Frederick William IV of Prussia, and he then ordered his cathedral choir to sing it every Christmas eve.

Twenty years after "Silent Night" was written, the Rainers brought the song to the United States, singing it (in German) at the Alexander Hamilton Monument located outside New York City's Trinity Church.

In 1863, nearly fifty years after being first sung in German, "Silent Night" was translated into English (by either Jane Campbell or John Young). Eight years later, that English version made its way into print in Charles Hutchins' Sunday School Hymnal. Today the words of "Silent Night" are sung in more than 300 different languages around the world.
John Denver passed along the story behind "Silent Night" to a whole new generation of children. "Silent Night" remains one of the most beloved Christmas carols.

GOP volunteer killed in car crash ... had been certifying primary petitions

A 71-year-old Republican volunteer was killed Friday after leaving Republican Party of Virginia headquarters in Richmond. She and her husband had been part of the certification process to qualify presidential candidates for the March 2012 primary.

Gail Martin and her husband, Bill, of Louisa, were involved in a single-vehicle accident. He has been hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.

Many volunteers were on tap Friday to help certify petitions at RPV's headquarters, and this news was a shock after a long day and night. Our prayers go to the family at this sad time.

VA Primary: Gingrich campaign responds

Newt Gingrich’s campaign has responded to his failure to qualify for the Virginia March 2012 primary ballot.
Richmond, VA – Newt 2012 released the following statement from Campaign Director Michael Krull regarding ballot qualification in Virginia.
“Only a failed system excludes four out of the six major candidates seeking access to the ballot. Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates. We will work with the Republican Party of Virginia to pursue an aggressive write-in campaign to make sure that all the voters of Virginia are able to vote for the candidate of their choice.”
Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

Game changer for Newt? Name will not appear on Virginia ballot

After a grueling process that lasted all Friday and into the wee hours of Saturday morning, it's official: Virginia's Republican presidential ballot on March 6, 2012, will have the names of Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

Four candidates submitted signatures by the 5:00 pm deadline on Thursday, December 22. Virginia requires a minimum of 10,000 signatures.

Mitt Romney's petitions were submitted first, delivered on Tuesday by his Virginia campaign chairman Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, and thus assuring that his name will be listed first on the ballot.

In addition to Romney and Paul, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich submitted petitions but after examination by staff and volunteers at the Republican Party of Virginia, it was determined they turned in too few signatures to qualify.

Newt Gingrich, who in a recent poll was running neck-in-neck with Mitt Romney among Virginia voters, had addressed a Thursday morning GOP fundraiser in Richmond. After surging in the national polls, his numbers have recently fallen off putting him neck-in-neck with Romney.

Rick Perry appeared at an RPV fundraiser earlier in the year when he was leading the pack of candidates but his numbers began to fall shortly after that appearance after poor debate performances.

The question is how much of an impact this will be on the rest of the nation as the four front-runners continue to jockey for voter attention. Others who did not turn in petitions in Virginia but who are still in the race include Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum.

Will this be a game changer for Newt's campaign? The process of requiring national campaigns to collect 10,000 signatures to appear on Virginia's primary ballot is two-fold: it shows the seriousness of a candidate, and it shows which candidates actually have a grassroots organization that is capable of mounting a nationwide campaign. The lack of names shows a lack of organization for Newt.

Colleague Norm Leahy at Bearing Drift noted that the importance of this process on the nation:
Virginia ... has done the nation a service. It has winnowed the Republican field in advance of, and with greater precision than, the place-proud voters of Iowa and New Hampshire. The press may not be aware of this yet, and certainly the partisans of each campaign will be loathe to admit it, but tickets to the Republican presidential nomination were issued at RPV headquarters in Richmond, Virginia last night.
I'm already hearing from people who are upset that Newt didn't make the ballot. We as Republicans believe in personal responsibility. Part of that responsibility is to know the rules and follow them.

Game changer for Newt? Quite possibly. The days ahead will tell.

For RPV, the day ended tragically with the news that one of their volunteers who had worked to certify names was killed on her way home. An early-morning tweet from RPV Executive Director Dave Rexrode:
While today's process is newsworth, the saddest news of today is that we just learned that one of our hard working volunteers was killed in a car accident this afternoon on her way home from checking petitions. Please keep her family in your prayers, especially here on Christmas Eve. #VA_GOP
What a sad ending to the day.

UPDATE: The crash victim has been identified as  Gail Martin, 71, of Louisa. Her husband, Bill, has been hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Certifying GOP presidential candidates in Virginia - UPDATED

Volunteers at the Republican Party of Virginia's Richmond headquarters have been working all day to certify Republican presidential candidates for the March 6, 2012 primary.

Four candidates met the December 22 filing deadline by turning in signatures. Virginia rules say a minimum of 10,000 signatures must be submitted: Mitt Romney had 16,026; Ron Paul with 14,361; Rick Perry with 11,911; and Newt Gingrich with 11,050.

Romney was quickly certified followed by Paul. Perry did not meet the minimum number of signatures and was disqualified.

That leaves Newt Gingrich who participated in a fundraising campaign appearance in Richmond the morning of the filing deadline. As darkness fell on RPV headquarters, signatures were still being sorted and verified for Gingrich and, as of 8:00, nothing had been heard as to whether he met the minimum.

If Gingrich qualifies, there will be three candidates on the ballot: Romney, Paul, and Gingrich.

Check out Bearing Drift for the latest updates.

UPDATED 12/24/11 at 3:00 am: Newt Gingrich failed to make the Virginia ballot. RPV sent out this press release to make the announcement:

The Republican Party of Virginia has completed its examination of the nominating petitions filed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

After verifying the signatures submitted by the campaign, RPV has determined that Speaker Gingrich submitted fewer than the 10,000 signatures required by the Code of Virginia.

As such, he has failed to qualify for the ballot and will not be included in the March 6 primary.
This means the Virgina ballot will have only two names: Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

Holiday greetings to & from our friends at the Waynesboro News Virginian

As 2011 comes to a close, we want to take a moment to thank you for your loyalty.
From our family to yours, we wish you a very joyful holiday season!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year
to the hard-working staff at
the News Virginian

with gratitude for all they do
to keep the Central Shenandoah Valley
informed on news and opinion.

From the SWAC Bloggers
The Journey
Fishersville Mike
Yankee Phil
Augusta Water Cooler
Augusta Conservative

Busy Christmas Eve Eve at Westchester Commons

Rasmussen says 38% of shoppers haven't finished their Christmas shopping and 18% haven't yet begun. Ho-ho-ho and fa-la-la-la-la!

Photos by Lynn R. Mithcell
23 December 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

First day of winter 2011

It is the shortest day of the year ... the first day of winter. Bring on the snow!

No ... snow is not in the forecast for this week ... but we are waiting. My snowboarding daughter has her gear ready to go ... my snowboarding son is ready to hit the slopes ... I'm anxious to invite friends over to sled in the back yard. But, first, we need snow.

It's winter in the Shenandoah Valley....

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Hanukkah 2011

"It's not the size of our Army ... it's the strength of our faith."
--Judah Maccabee
Today is the beginning of Hanukkah ... a time of miracles, courage, and faith. Love and joy to all my Jewish friends on this holiday of lights with a thank you for your friendship and a wish for a wonderful New Year.
Two thousand years ago, one family led by one man stood between the mighty Greek army and the conquest of the Jewish people. The family was the Hasmoneans, and the man was Judah Maccabee.

The Greeks were different from other empires. They didn't just want your land, your resources and your riches -- they wanted your national essence, your culture. They wanted you to think like them, live like them and even be entertained like them. The problem was most Jews weren't buying, and the Greeks didn't appreciate that. So the Greeks brought pressure to bear on the Jews.

Women who insisted that their sons be circumcised were killed along with their babies. Brides were forced to sleep with Greek officers before they could be with their husbands. Jews were required to eat pork and sacrifice pigs to the Greek gods. The teaching of Torah became a capital crime.

The sages and their students went into hiding in order to study and preserve the Torah. Secret weddings were held. Most Jews did anything and everything to remain Jewish. Many were tortured and murdered for their defiance. A period of darkness and suffering descended upon the Jews of Israel.

And then came the Hasmoneans.

The Hasmonean family was led by Mattisyahu and his five sons: Shimon, Yochanan, Yehudah (Judah), Elazar and Yonasan. Mattisyahu was a devout man who could not bear to see Judaism and the Jewish spirit crushed. It was his family that led the revolt against the vastly superior Greek forces. Mattisyahu understood that the battle was far less for national liberation than it was for spiritual and religious liberation. ...

Judah Maccabee was a fearless leader, a brilliant battlefield tactician and a man capable of inspiring thousands to take up arms in the battle for the preservation of Judaism. It was Judah Maccabee who conceived of ways for the Jewish forces to out-maneuver the larger, better equipped and seasoned Greek army.

When at last the Jews captured Jerusalem, rededicated the Temple and witnessed the miracle of the oil, it was with Judah Maccabee as the leader of the Hasmonean family and at the head of the Jewish army of liberation.

In many ways the story of Chanukah is the story of how one man and one family can make all the difference in the world for an entire people. It was the inspiration of Mattisyahu, the leadership of Judah Maccabee and the stubborn tenacity of the dedicated Jews that literally saved the Jewish people and the Jewish way of life.
--From "Who Was Judah Maccabee" by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf

U.S. House schedule for Tuesday, December 20, 2011

From Majority Leader Eric Cantor....

On Tuesday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business.
First votes expected: 10:30 - 11:30 a.m. Last votes expected: 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.

One Minute Speeches (5 per side)

H.Res. 502 - Providing for consideration of the Senate amendments to the bill (H.R. 3630) to provide incentives for the creation of jobs, and for other purposes; providing for consideration of the resolution (H. Res. 501) expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding any final measure to extend the payroll tax holiday, extend Federally funded unemployment insurance benefits, or prevent decreases in reimbursement for physicians who provide care to Medicare beneficiaries; and for other purpose (Special Rule, One Hour of Debate) (Sponsored by Rep. Tim Scott / Rules Committee)

Motion that the House Disagree to the Senate Amendments to H.R. 3630 - Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011 and Request a Conference with the Senate (One Hour of Debate)

Democratic Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 3630 - Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011 (One Hour of Debate)

H.Res. 501 - Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding any final measure to extend the payroll tax holiday, extend Federally funded unemployment insurance benefits, or prevent decreases in reimbursement for physicians who provide care to Medicare beneficiaries (Closed Rule, One Hour of Debate) (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Price / Ways and Means Committee)
Postponed Votes on Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) Senate Amendment to H.R. 2056 - To instruct the Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to study the impact of insured depository institution failures, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland / Financial Services Committee)

2) Senate Amendment to H.R. 1801
- Risk-Based Security Screening for Members of the Armed Forces Act (Sponsored by Rep. Chip Cravaack / Homeland Security Committee)

3) Senate Amendment to H.R. 1059
- To protect the safety of judges by extending the authority of the Judicial Conference to redact sensitive information contained in their financial disclosure reports, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. John Conyers / Judiciary Committee)

4) Senate Amendment to H.R. 515
- Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2011 (Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith / Foreign Affairs Committee)
Special Order Speeches 

Printable PDF

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rasmussen: 26% haven't started Christmas shopping

Yikes! According to Rasmussen polling, a quarter of Americans have waited until the week of Christmas to begin their gift shopping. The National Retail Federation reported that many people are later doing their shopping this year than usual.

With six shopping days left until Christmas, those looking for a particulars something may find the pickings slim or non-existent at this late date. However, if all you need is a generic gift, there's sure to be something out there for everyone.

Since Christmas falls on Sunday this year, the crunch will hit on December 23 and 24 -- Friday and Saturday. Last-minute elves will be rushing to and fro looking for something -- anything! -- to fill the stockings and check off the list, and they may be in luck if they wait until the absolute last-last minute.

USA Today reported that a spokesman at the Mall of America said stores are often not as busy on Christmas Eve because shoppers are visiting with family. They added that " 'retailers usually do their markdowns the evening before a sale,' which in this case would be for the after-Christmas sale. Besides, with Dec. 24 falling on a Saturday, there's an extra non-workday to shop."

Christmas Eve hours for many store are listed here. Target is open until 9:00 pm.  Wal-Mart closes at 8:00 pm, Toys 'R Us closes at 10:00, and some Walgreens are open 24 hours.

If you've still got shopping to do, better hop to! Merry Christmas and ho-ho-ho!

U.S. House schedule for Monday, December 19, 2011

From Majority Leader Eric Cantor....


On Monday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for legislative business.
First votes expected: 6:30 p.m. Last votes expected: ???

One Minute Speeches
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) H.Res. 497 - To provide for the placement of a statue or bust of Sir Winston Churchill in the United States Capitol (Sponsored by Rep. John Boehner / House Administration Committee)

2) Senate Amendment to H.R. 2056
- To instruct the Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to study the impact of insured depository institution failures, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland / Financial Services Committee)

3) Senate Amendment to H.R. 1801
- Risk-Based Security Screening for Members of the Armed Forces Act (Sponsored by Rep. Chip Cravaack / Homeland Security Committee)

4) Senate Amendment to H.R. 1059
- To protect the safety of judges by extending the authority of the Judicial Conference to redact sensitive information contained in their financial disclosure reports, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. John Conyers / Judiciary Committee)

5) Senate Amendment to H.R. 515
- Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2011 (Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith / Foreign Affairs Committee)
Motion to Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3630 - Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011 (Sponsored by Rep. Dave Camp / Ways and Means Committee / Energy and Commerce Committee / Financial Services Committee / Foreign Affairs Committee / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee / Agriculture Committee / Oversight and Government Reform Committee / House Administration Committee / Budget Committee / Natural Resources Committee / Rules Committee / Permanent Select Intelligence Committee)

**Members are advised that additional votes related to H.R. 3630 are possible.**
Special Order Speeches

Printable PDF

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A family tradition: Christmas cookies and candy

It's amazing what kind of creativity comes out with a dozen colors of icing and shaped cookies.

Make toffee, then sprinkle with Hershey's dark chocolate chips ...

... check the cookies in the oven ...

... let chips sit two minutes to melt and then spread.

Dark chocolate-covered toffee like the kind sold at Dayton Farmers Market.

A break from baking to play a little lacrosse ...

The family tradition continues ... Christmas cookie baking and candy making involving multiple generations. With a variety of cookie flavors including gingerbread and sugar, and the annual batches of toffee and fudge, it's a time to laugh, be creative, pull out old recipes while incorporating new ones, and enjoy being together. Fa-la-la-la-la!

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
18 December 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday Lantern Tours at Frontier Culture Museum

With the cold Shenandoah Valley night air 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 through December 23, 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 /

The story behind 'Where's the Line To See Jesus?'

The poignant story of the little boy who saw the children lined up at the mall to see Santa and asked, "Where's the line to see Jesus?" was first sent to me by a friend. Soon after I received more emails with the story and link to the song.

At a time when the war on Christmas continues, a small child's innocent question makes us slow down in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the holidays and think about the true meaning of the season.

Here is the true inspiring story behind the music "Where's the line to see Jesus?"
While at the mall a few years ago, Becky Kelly's then four-year-old nephew, Spencer, saw kids lined up to see Santa Claus.

Having been taught as a toddler that Christmas is the holiday that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, he asked his mom, "Where's the line to see Jesus?"

Becky's sister mentioned this to her father, Steve Haupt, who immediately became inspired and jotted some words down to the song in just a few minutes. After putting music to the words, and doing a quick home recording, he received a great response from friends. Her father asked if Becky wanted to record the song to see what could happen with it. Becky listened to the song, made a few changes, and headed to Shock City Studios.

It was at the studio where Chris Loesch, owner and producer, rewrote the second verse and part of the chorus. With goosebumps and emotions high, they all felt like they had something special and recorded the demo in just under two hours.

Two weeks before Christmas last year, her cousins decided to do a quick video to see what we could accomplish on YouTube. The first day it had 3,000 hits and it soared to a million from there! Becky received e-mails, phone calls, Facebook messages from people all over over the world asking for the music, CDs, iTunes, a full version, anything ... they had nothing.

After a couple of meetings with Chris following the amazing response, the team got serious. They headed back into the studio this past spring, this time with guitars, drums, bass, pianos, choirs ... the real deal ... and here it is today.

Getting everything set up, a website put together, and loving that thousands upon thousands of Christians have come together to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Out of the mouths of babes come profound truths that many adults can not understand. Hopefully, Spencer's observation will cause people all over to reflect on the love of Jesus, and that one day we will all stand in line to see Him. Becky is most thankful to our Heavenly Father to have this chance to share her music with you. Merry Christmas, everyone.
Performed by: Becky Kelley
Now Available on iTunes!:

About Becky:
Becky Kelley was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. She first sang on stage at the ripe age of two and never looked back. Singing and dancing her way through high school, she ended up going to college in Nashville, TN, at David Lipscomb University. It was there when she started to get a taste of the Nashville music scene, singing and performing with some of Nashville's best.

After college, Becky decided to go back home, get married, and settle into a family life. Apparently life had other things in store, as she eventually found herself being pulled back into music, recording in the studio and welcoming an exciting new chapter into her life all while embracing her current life at home. While life has gotten busier, it has also become richer. Becky loves using her gifts both in the professional world and also singing her baby girl to sleep at night, praying God is leading her every step of the way.

Interesting facts:
* A portion of the procedes of CD sales will go to Christian Family Services in St. Louis and the good work they do finding homes for children in need.
* The man playing piano in the video is Becky's father Steve who is also the main writer of the song and is the pianist on both recordings.
* Gloria Estefan's bassist, Jorge Casas, is the basist on this recording.

Recording credits:
Performed by: Becky Kelley
Written by: Steve Haupt & Chris Loesch
Produced by: Chris Loesch
Recorded at: Shock City Studios, St. Louis, MO

Video credits:
Directed by: Chris Benson
Cinematography: Chris Benson
Edited by: Gabriel Reed and Chris Benson
Produced by: Carlyn Graumenz, Chris Benson (Lamplight Films) and Chris Loesch for Shock City Producitons
Cameras and Lights: Heroic Age

Important links:
iTunes purchasing:
Band Camp purchasing:
Christian Family Services, Inc.:
Shock City Studios:
Original (Demo Version) Video:

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Wish for Peace and Goodwill Throughout the Year

By Congressman Bob Goodlatte
Despite the unusually mild weather outside, the holiday season is well underway: there are icicle lights lining the neighbors’ roofs, 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.

This time of year is not about what you can buy in the store or what gifts you receive.  It is about the celebration of the birth of Jesus and our religious heritage and freedom.  It is about the love that you share with your family and friends and we should remember that this special season represents a time of peace and goodwill to all mankind.  But we should also try to find a way to capture this state of mind all year.  Long after the Christmas tree has come down we must continue to cherish peace and goodwill.  At Christmas we are emboldened by this spirit but we should all seek to carry it on throughout the year.

In President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Christmas message to the American people he reminded us that “Christmas is a state of mind. It is found throughout the year whenever faith overcomes doubt, hope conquers despair, and love triumphs over hate.  It is present when men of any creed bring love and understanding to the hearts of their fellow man. The feeling is seen in the wondrous faces of children and in the hopeful eyes of the aged. It overflows the hearts of cheerful givers and the souls.”

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 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 who are struggling during these tough economic times.

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 second session of the 112th Congress.  You can always be in contact with me by visiting one of my offices which are located throughout the 6th Congressional district or through my website at

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

Christmas ... Snoopy versus the Red Baron

Thanks to fellow bloggers Fishersville Mike and Yankee Phil for this always-good look at our hero Snoopy's Christmas day encounter with his nemesis, the Red Baron.

Merry Christmas, Stacy ... wherever you are

Christmas ornament hand-painted by 10-year-old Stacy in 1975.

As I was growing up, a tradition in our family was for my parents to give us ornaments from places they had traveled each year. My husband and I continued the tradition with our children ... so we have a number of "special" ornaments that are placed on the tree year after year.

This year was no different. As I carefully unwrapped the tissue paper from around one particular ornament, memories flooded back as I saw the hand-painted ceramic decoration for the tree.

It was a jack-in-the-box painted in 1975 by a 10-year-old boy named Stacy. I held the ornament in my hand and remembered back to the days when, as a young 20-year-old, I worked at Children's Hospital in Richmond (called Crippled Children's Hospital in those days).

Stacy touched my heart more than any other child I came in contact with because of his devilish sincerity. I loved that child. He was from southwest Virginia, one of many children from a large, poor Appalachian family. As best I can remember, the accident that changed his life occurred when he was playing with his siblings and they tied him to a tree, piled leaves at the base of the tree, and set the leaves on fire.

Stacy was horribly burned, so much so that much of both legs and part of one arm had to be amputated. He came to Children's Hospital for rehabilitation.

The patients at the hospital lived in dorms and received daily treatment as well as schooling. Far away from home, Stacy was with us for a long time as therapists, doctors, and nurses worked with him to heal his stumps so he could receive prosthetic devices to help him lead a normal life.

For someone who had been through such a horrible experience, he had a devilish sense of humor. He was funny, playful, and almost always in a good mood. Perhaps it was the love he received from all of us as he went through physical therapy, recreational therapy (which was where he painted the Christmas ornament), and the one-on-one education he received from the in-house teachers.

I still remember the day he presented the painted ceramic decoration to me. I kneeled beside his wheelchair so to be at eye level with him as he flamboyantly presented it to me ... then I took it home to my Christmas tree and, after the holidays, packed it away. Every year since that time it has been placed on my tree.

Stacy would now be a young man in his 40s. I don't know what happened to him ... I lost track after leaving Children's Hospital. I have often wondered where he was, how his life turned out, and if he was able to handle the emotional scar of such a life-changing incident so young in his life.

I once again placed his ornament on the tree and again wished Stacy a Merry Christmas, wherever he is....

I run this column annually, originally published in 2006, as a tribute to a special little boy and our friendship from many years ago....

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

'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 it 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 ... a classic to be seen over and over.

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

Originally posted December 2009....

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 standing outside on the sidewalk peering through the plate glass windows watching wide-eyed as animated displays moved and twirled, and visiting inside for shopping, dining, and a stop to see Santa.

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, and then 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.

With crowds of other people, we stood on the sidewalk and watched awe-struck as the moving soldiers, busy bears, trains, dolls, forest creatures, and elves moved and twirled in workshops or snowy winter white landscapes ... each window with 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 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 large chimney 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 then 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. As my sister and I waited, 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 memories.

A visit with Santa was followed by lunch with Santa in the Miller & Rhoads Tea Room on the fifth floor. 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 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 last Christmas 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.

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