Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bob McDonnell orders flags flown at half-staff in memory of Harry F. Byrd, Jr.

Governor Orders State Flags to Fly at Half-Staff Friday and Saturday

On Wednesday, Virginia's Governor Bob McDonnell ordered all state flags to fly at half-staff on Friday and Saturday in memory of U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr., 98, who passed away Wednesday morning. Governor McDonnell noted the order and commented on the Senator's passing:
“This morning, Harry F. Byrd, Jr., America’s oldest living former senator, passed away at his home in Winchester. This is a sad day in the Commonwealth. A chapter of our history has concluded; we’ve lost a good and decent person and a dedicated public servant.

"Senator Byrd was a son of the Valley. He was born in Winchester. While he would go on to attend school at VMI and UVa, serve our nation in World War II, represent the area in the State Senate, and then serve three terms in Washington as a United States Senator, it was always true that in spirit and in soul, Harry F. Byrd, Jr. never left the Valley that he loved.

"Senator Byrd was an iconic figure in Virginia history. He lived through a century of immense change, both here at home and abroad, and he never sat on the sidelines. From his time in public office to his long career in journalism, Harry F. Byrd, Jr. was at the center of the great debates and policy discussions that marked our nation’s path forward. He made his mark as a strong fiscal conservative, always committed to ensuring that taxpayer dollars be wisely and conservatively utilized.

"I had the great opportunity to visit with the senator several times over the past few years at his home. His mind was sharp, and he was quick with stories from growing up in Virginia’s Executive Mansion in the 1920’s to his experiences as the first person ever elected and re-elected to the United States Senate as an independent. The senator was rightly known for his civility, candor and wit, and those attributes remained with him until the very end. As governor, there were a number of times I would receive a carefully handwritten letter from the senator, well into his 90’s, letting me know how he felt about legislation and policy discussions in Richmond. He lived to participate in the public discourse and he cherished democracy and civic engagement. That was the common thread that ran from his time in public office to his editorials and columns in The Winchester Star and The Harrisonburg Daily News-Record.

"Virginia will mourn the passing of Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr.”

Ted Cruz is a 'train wreck'

“Have you seen what Ted Cruz is doing? He’s going crazy on Republicans … Ted Cruz is attacking anybody that is not willing to shut down the government over Obamacare … I have to be very careful about what I say, but Ted Cruz comes in, obviously so completely ignorant about the war that Tom Coburn has been fighting for 20 years. And to say something like this about Tom Coburn. Ted Cruz is a total train wreck. He is comparing Mitch McConnell to Barack Obama. He is attacking Tom Coburn as being a member of the ‘surrender caucus’ when Tom Coburn, and yes Ted Cruz…I…put our political lives on the line more times in six months than Ted Cruz will put on the line his entire lifetime.”
- former GOP Congressman Joe Scarborough ("Morning Joe," July 31, 2013)

Back in the homeschool classroom: Staying in touch with homeschool friends

I got a phone call this morning, out of the blue, from a homeschool friend here in Augusta County, the first homeschool friend I made when moving back home to Virginia seventeen years ago. Back in those day, I had left my name and phone number at the Staunton Library at the children's desk -- homeschoolers spend hours at the public library and I knew that was where I could find local moms -- and Christine was the one who called.

She was in leadership with the local homeschool group, Parent Educators of Augusta County Homes, and it wasn't too long before she pulled me into leadership, too, once they found out I had been the newsletter editor with our homeschool group in North Carolina. We spent many happy years raising our children and teaching and working in leadership with others who were doing the same. She was the one who introduced me to Milmont Greenhouse and Nursery in Stuarts Draft ... her husband was part of one of the local Mennonite families with ties to that area of the county.

Our children graduated from homeschool and then from college, and we drifted apart a bit but still catch up occasionally. After her phone call this morning, today is one of those catch-up days. So I'm heading to her house on the Middle River for a lunch of quiche, salad, and iced tea along with conversation and, always, laughter. Because when the two of us get together, we laugh the silly, carefree laughter of longtime friends.

It reminds me of the saying, "Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver, the other gold."

How very true.

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

Alligator spotted in Lake Norman outside Charlotte - UPDATE: It was a turtle

Alligators in Lake Norman? Gulp.

It's not really surprising. Lake Norman is a huge lake and the alligator population seems to be moving into new territories. The cove where this gater was seen at 8:00 this morning was in Cornelius which is located north of Charlotte and south of Statesville.

According to the Charlotte Observer:
The alligator was observed by residents shortly before 8 a.m. near the Peninsula Yacht Club, off Jetton Road. Police arrived a short time later and confirmed that a gator, about 2 to 3 feet long, was swimming in the surf.

One officers said the gator was about 30 yards offshore.

Cornelius police called for help from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, and a police dispatcher said lake patrol units also were responding.
Wild Kingdom in North Carolina....

UPDATED: It wasn't an alligator ... it was a TURTLE. LOL.

Richmond is #7: 'Hot U.S. cities that offer both jobs and culture are mostly Southern and modest sized'

Looking from Rocketts Landing along the James River to the skyline of Richmond.

Another day, another poll ... but Richmond has really turned itself around since its decline in the 1970s and '80s as it continues to attract young people with its James River urban recreational sites as well as housing, business, restaurants, and entertainment. It deserves to be a top city pick.

 The Boathouse Restaurant at Rockett's Landing has indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the James River.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

The race for Governor: The silly snark over Rt. 58

"Instead of wasting time with snarky videos and scripted statements of indignation from surrogates, maybe both candidates should spend a week traveling U.S. 58 to see it for themselves. ... It’s about time for them to run campaigns worthy of the title [of Governor]." -- Roanoke Times editorial (Stuck on the side of the road)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Harry F. Byrd, Jr. passes away at 98 ... George Allen remembers a Virginia gentleman

His name is synonymous with history and long-time Democratic politics in Virginia. On Tuesday the Winchester Star reported the passing of Winchester resident and former U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr. The Star included an abundance of historical background about this man who, at the age of 98, is unknown to many Virginians but is firmly planted in the Commonwealth's history.

Another former U.S. Senator and Governor George Allen remembered this Southern gentleman in a press release on Tuesday:
“Virginia and America mourn the passing of one of the most influential, respected and principled leaders of the 20th Century, Harry F. Byrd, Jr.

“I will always remember his distinctive laugh and remarkably sharp perspectives throughout his long, meaningful life. The lasting legacy of Senator Byrd is his consistent, sound and unflinching leadership in working to achieve the ideal of a wise and frugal government. Senator Byrd was an independent, cheerful and amazingly insightful friend. I shall treasure his encouragement and counsel through the ups and downs of public service. Indeed, we emulated Senator Byrd’s example by returning unused Senate office funds every year.

“Above all, Harry Byrd, Jr. was a gentleman of impeccable integrity in all aspects of his life.

“Susan’s and my thoughts and prayers are with his children Harry III, Tom and Beverly, and the whole Byrd family, including grandson John who worked with me in the U.S. Senate. They are a wonderful, honorable family.”
It is, indeed, the passing of an era in the Old Dominion.

U.S. House schedule for Tuesday, July 30, 2013

From Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office....


On Tuesday, the House will meet at 12:00 p.m. for morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m. **Members are advised that the 6:30 p.m. vote series is expected to last longer than usual.**

One Minute Speeches

Begin Consideration of H.R. 2610 - Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014 (Open Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Latham / Appropriations Committee)
The rule provides for one hour of general debate and makes in order any amendment offered that complies with House rules.
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) H.R. 2094 - School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act (Sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe / Energy and Commerce Committee)

2) H.R. 2754 - Collectible Coin Protection Act (Sponsored by Rep. G.K. Butterfield / Energy and Commerce Committee)

3) H.R. 1300 - To amend the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 to reauthorize the volunteer programs and community partnerships for the benefit of national wildlife refuges, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Jon Runyan / Natural Resources Committee)
Special Order Speeches

Energy and Commerce Committee markup of “H.R. 2810, the Medicare Patient Access & Quality Improvement Act of 2013, and H.R. 2844, the FCC Consolidated Reporting Act of 2013
(Tuesday, July 30th, at 4:00 p.m.)

Printable PDF

Monday, July 29, 2013

New neighbor

While trimming the wisteria vine on the porch, I heard a clop-clop, clop-clop, and looked up to see a horse and rider. SWAC Husband was trimming a cedar tree near the road so the rider stopped to introduce himself as a new neighbor, a 26-year retired Air Force veteran, which opened a new conversation when SWAC Huband told him he was also an Air Force vet.

We are an equestrian neighborhood so occasionally neighbors go horseback riding on the properties but it's always fun to see and it was good to meet someone new to the area, especially a veteran.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
July 29, 2013

Giant sunflowers welcome summer to the garden

SWAC Husband is not quite 6' tall and standing amongst the tomato plants.

The moon was high overhead when the photo was taken at 9:00 this morning.

The deep blue Shenandoah Valley sky made a perfect backdrop.

Sunflowers just seem to shout "summer"!

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
July 29, 2013

Early summer morning in the garden

The cool 52-degree air wafted in the open windows this morning as I reached for a sweater to go over my tee shirt. The late July coolness is truly appreciated so after breakfast I loaded the washing machine with towels and sheets to hang out to dry, and then, donning SWAC Husband's wide-brimmed hat, headed to the garden before the summer sun became too uncomfortable. 

My tennis shoes quickly became wet from the dewy grass as I made my way across the yard to the garden gate. The sun was peeking over the ridge so half the garden was in shade while the other half was already in full sun.

We have what I would call a salad garden this year. Yukon Gold potatoes were the exception but they are always so good -- and this year they have grown so big -- that they are always a first choice for planting. Otherwise, it's several varieties of tomatoes, several varieties of peppers, cucumbers, and herbs. Colorful flowers add bright splashes of yellow, orange, red, blue, and purple while attracting pollen-collecting bees.
The necessary June bug aka Japanese beetle trap hangs in the corner of the garden although they have not been much of a problem this year. We didn't get the 17-year cicadas either ... only the usual summer variety.

 It's nice to have a shady spot to relax after getting sweaty in the garden. This is my own oasis of quiet under the shade trees.

By the time I finished in the garden and had hung the clothes out, the temperature had risen 20 degrees to a still-comfortable 72.

I've got to say there's something satisfying about growing your own food, and there's something comforting about consuming it and knowing where it came from. We know there are no pesticides on it and how it's been handled and exactly how fresh it is ... from garden to dinner table. Yum.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
July 29, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

9/11, GWB, and the bullhorn speech ... may we never forget

It can never be said enough ... we cannot forget the terrorism attacks of 9/11 and the 3,000 innocent souls who perished that day. I hope those who were too young to be impacted by the events of that day will listen to those who were there.

"USA! USA! USA!" Spontaneous chants roared from the crowd of rescue workers on September 14, 2001, three days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, as President George W. Bush stood at Ground Zero and, with bullhorn in hand, said the words that were heard around the world:

President Bush: Thank you all. I want you all to know -- it can't go any louder (referring to the bullhorn) -- I want you all to know that America today is on bended knee, in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn. The nation stands with the good people of New York City and New Jersey and Connecticut as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens

Rescue Worker: I can't hear you!

President Bush: I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people -- and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!

Rescue Workers: (Roar from the crowd) USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

President Bush: The nation sends its love and compassion ...

Rescue Worker: God bless America!

President Bush: ... to everybody who is here. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for making the nation proud, and may God bless America.

Rescue Workers: (Chanting) USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!
May we never forget.

9-year-old U.S. chess master

I belonged to the Chess Club in high school but never played like this young lady. Congrats on her accomplishment....

Lightning kills couple at Arizona national forest overlook

Yet another reminder that lightning kills.

Eric Cantor's 2013 Republican Roundup is October 5th

October decor for 2012 Republican Roundup.

Save the date! Congressman Eric Cantor, majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, will host 2013 Republican Roundup on Saturday, October 5 at the same location as in the past -- Snagajob Pavilion at Innsbrook in Glen Allen west of Richmond. Held from 3-6 pm, rain or shine, it's a free family event with BBQ, popcorn, cotton candy, live music, beer & wine, and children's activities.

Be sure to RSVP to attend this annual fun get-together put together by the 7th Congressional District, chairman Linwood Cobb, and Congressman Cantor.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

Back in the homeschool classroom: Grown son's first house

Unpacking and organizing in the new kitchen.

We're proud of our son. At the age of 29, he has become a home owner, purchasing (on his own with no help from us) his first house -- a three bedroom, two bath with one car garage and pool with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.

It's a path he has been on since graduating from homeschool high school. Educated at home in grades 2-12, he attended nearby Blue Ridge Community College and then transferred to James Madison University's computer school to complete his degree. He secured a job in Harrisonburg and moved into an apartment with friends, paid off his student loan within a year, then saved and finally bought a new car after driving an old one since the age of 16. With the car paid off, he turned his attention to home ownership.

This year, that became a reality. His friends, sister, brother-in-law, aunt, uncle, cousin, and grandparents have visited. We gathered as a family at his house and celebrated.

The foundation laid during his youth has paid off with his fiscal responsibility and determined path in life. His dad and I are proud. He now has a nest of his own.

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

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
June 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer escape to Big Meadows

Shenandoah National Park ... this black bear crossed the Skyline Drive in front of us on Friday, stopped to look, and then disappeared into the underbrush. I only had time to snap one quick blurry photo through the windshield. The speed limit is 35 ... the Park requests that drivers observe it because a record number of bear cubs, deer, and other wildlife have been killed by vehicles.

We had decided to take advantage of the cooler temps and low humidity from a cold front that passed through western Virginia. Our destination was Big Meadows picnic ground and the surrounding area. The "big meadow" is behind the sign. When I was a kid, temporary overflow parking was in the field for those who arrived late after the campground was full. Today it is burned periodically to keep it open as it has been for centuries.

The Blue Ridge Mountains ... layers of historic scenery.

Wildflowers were in abundance as were butterflies.

The trail invites to explore the big meadow. On a July day with temps in the 60s and low humidity, it was perfect.

Dark Hollow Falls was a favorite trail with my family while growing up when our destination was the falls and coolness deep in the forest on warm summer days.

From the Byrd Visitor Center, there's a great view of the big meadow. Follow the seasons from the webcam at this location.

Busy butterflies.

Water in a rock ... this intrigued me as a kid.

Alone on a trail in the quiet woods.

Big Meadows Lodge where my parents honeymooned as young twenty-somethings. I never tire of its rustic wood-and-stone architecture, views from the terrace, walking its hallways, and thinking of my parents when they were just kids. My dad absolutely loved these mountains and passed along that love to me. They began taking me camping at Big Meadows when I was one, making many, many happy memories of spending time in Shenandoah National Park.

The sign says it all. The running joke was always that, as campers headed to the evening amphitheater program, the resident bears headed to the campground. How do you scare away a bear from the camp site? Bang on a pot with a big spoon. We never had any problems but definitely didn't take chances ... no food in tents, and coolers were kept safely in vehicles. Fun times!

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park
July 26, 2013

Virginia's mountains in July

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home...." --John Muir

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
Shenandoah National Park
July 26, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Last week Jim Ukrop, formerly of Ukrop's Supermarkets and now with New Richmond Ventures, announced his support of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe through Virginians for Terry McAuliffe.

The group is described as a "nonpartisan group of Republicans, independents, Democrats and business leaders working to elect a pragmatic businessman as Virginia’s next governor.”

On Thursday more business leaders -- John Shinholser, Bob Blue, Chris Clemente, and John Richardson -- announced their support for McAuliffe, perhaps drawn to him because he is a businessman.

The McAuliffe campaign announced the additions:
Statement by John M. Shinholser:
“I am supporting Terry McAuliffe for governor because he will support mainstream policies that will attract new, innovative companies to Virginia to grow our economy and create jobs here in the Commonwealth. He knows the challenges entrepreneurs face in starting and growing their companies, and will work with both sides of the aisle to make it easier for businesses to start and grow here, and again make Virginia the best state for business.”

Biography of John M. Shinholser:
John Shinholser is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. He owned and managed a successful contracting business for over 30 years, during which time he served as President of the Richmond Chapter of the Painting and Decorating Contractors Association. In 1982, John co-founded a non-profit recovery community resource foundation, at which he currently serves as president.

Statement by Christopher Clemente:
“I am supporting Terry McAuliffe for governor because he will work with both Republicans and Democrats to keep Virginia's economy growing. Terry will implement policies to encourage entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses here. He understands that workforce education and training, as well as robust infrastructure are the keys to attracting and retaining strong companies to our Commonwealth.”

Biography of Christopher Clemente:
Chris Clemente has over 25 years of experience in all aspects of real estate development and finance, and more than 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur. Clemente founded the Comstock organization as a residential developer and homebuilder in 1985. Over the years, Comstock has expanded operations to include all aspects of residential, commercial and mixed-use development, construction management, asset and portfolio management, and real estate related services. Clemente serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Comstock Holding Companies, Inc. and as Managing Director of Comstock Partners, LC. In these roles, Mr. Clemente has direct responsibility for the corporate vision and strategic direction of the Comstock organization, as well as operational responsibilities.

Statement by John W. Richardson:
“Terry McAuliffe is the right choice to be Virginia’s next Governor. Terry will focus on bipartisan ways to strengthen our communities, invest in vital transportation improvements, and support our public safety systems. As Chairman of the Virginia Beach Development Authority, I know that Terry will focus on these and other issues that the citizens of Virginia Beach and communities across the Commonwealth care about.”

Biography of John W. Richardson:
John W. Richardson is the managing partner of the Virginia Beach office of Kaufman & Canoles, practicing in the areas of banking and lender representation, commercial/business, real estate, and title insurance law. Richardson is also the Chairman of the Virginia Beach Development Authority. He earned his law degree from The College of William & Mary and received a bachelor’s degree from The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Biography of Robert M. Blue:
Robert M. “Bob” Blue is Senior Vice President of Law, Public Policy, and Environment of Dominion Resources. He serves as chief legal advisor and directs the legal affairs of the Company. Blue is also responsible for Dominion’s federal, state and local public policy; environmental programs; economic development; philanthropy and community affairs; and corporate communications. From 2002 to 2005, Blue served as counselor and director of policy for former Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner and was a partner with the law firm of Hogan & Hartson prior to that. He is a member of the boards of directors of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Virginia Healthcare Foundation, the American Civil War Center, the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System Authority, Virginia forever, and Virginia21. Blue is a graduate of the University of Virginia and Yale Law School. He also earned his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

A bowl full of imagination

A bowl of colorful wooden beads along with a group of five-, six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds is the beginning of unleashing imaginations at the Frontier Culture Museum's summer camp.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
July 25, 2013

The German farm

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
July 25, 2013

The Peach Stand ... Fort Mill, SC

The Peach Stand ... Fort Mill, SC.

The truck pulled in with more peaches fresh off the trees.

This place has a little bit of everything ... fresh produce, locally-produced packaged and canned goods, food gifts, a butcher shop, and restaurant. At lunch time, the line is out the door as people pile in to eat on site or pick up deli food to go.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
The Peach Stand, Fort Mill, SC
July 21, 2013