Paint Bank

Definitely not on the menu!

There’s nothing quite like a dose of history to help keep things in perspective.

This past Sunday The Redhead and I, having hit another endurance limit of Cootie Lock-down, decided to do a bit of exploring in an area of Virginia we haven’t visited much: South West Virginia. So, with a tank-full of gas and a thermos of our Mayorga coffee, we headed out from Staunton down Route 81 to our destination: Paint Bank, VA.

Route 81, while a busy highway, offers some very beautiful scenery. But, as we approached Lexington and diverted onto Route 64 W, the scenery became even more spectacular. We crossed through the Allegheny Mountains, over the Maury River and parts of the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson forests.  I cannot imagine anyone seeing this and not feeling the Hand of God.

When we reached the tiny city of Covington we exited the highway and continued along Route 18, toward Paint Bank. Talk about twisting roads! Past farmlands and forests and rivers and creeks , the scenery just rolled by. The route was dotted with a number of abandoned houses – some modest shacks, others quite substantial, holding the secrets of families that had lived there a century or more ago.

Finally, we arrived in Paint Bank, an area or hamlet more than a town. Its “Main” street consists mostly of the Paint Bank General Store, which also houses the Swinging Bridge Restaurant. Tingler’s Mill and several other buildings, including The Lemon Hotel and Depot Lodge are close by.

Paint Bank, Virginia
The “working” side of Tingler’s Mill, Paint Bank, VA

 Across the street from The General Store is Mountain Crafters, a small yet interesting craft shop featuring the works of area crafts people and artists. The owner, Barbara Willard, was in the shop knitting when we visited. Barbara also spins wool and her loom is behind her 19th century work desk. As we browsed, Ms. Willard gave us a brief history of the area, including the origins of the town’s name. Paint Bank got its name from the ochre and red clay lining the banks of the nearby stream now known as Potts Creek. Cherokee Indians used this clay as body paint as their war parties followed the rivers along the Allegheny Mountains. They also used this clay to make and decorate their distinctive pottery. Years later, the clay was used by the settlers to produce commercial paints and also bricks for their buildings.

Mountain Crafters shop, Paint Bank, VA

By now, The Redhead was famished so, after a few purchases, we said our goodbyes to Barbara and walked across the street to the Paint Bank General Store and the Swinging Bridge Restaurant.

Paint Bank General store and the Swinging Bridge Restaurant

Just inside the store is an assortment of everything from coolers containing beverages and food items, including local bison and beef. Shelves are loaded with an array of candy, camping foods, homemade fudges, snacks and some gift items. Toward the back is The Swinging Bridge Restaurant, so named because of the swinging bridge connecting both halves of the upper floor of the building where there is a Christmas oriented gift area. But, for us the main attraction was the restaurant. If you enjoy quality, homemade country food this place is for you, especially if you like something a little different: Bison! Yep, Bison, raised locally at Hollow Hill Farm, is served a number of ways, including burgers and steaks. Never having tasted bison before, we opted for a safe bet and chose the grilled, chopped bison. It is similar to a Salisbury steak but much leaner and with a more “wild”, savory taste that reminded me a bit of grilled liver. Very delicious! Also on the menu is chicken, locally raised Angus beef and other dishes.

Upstairs gallery of Swinging Bridge Restaurant

Painted Bank General Store, Mountain Crafters and all of Paint Bank will surely be on our list of future “tours” for family and friends.

Now, I had not intended to make this blog a restaurant and shop review. Rather, it was intended as a reminder for all of us to get out of our lock-down frames of mind and discover the beauty all around us, especially in small towns. But, in reading and researching a bit more about the area we had visited, I was also struck by one thing in particular: the resiliency of people. The area we had just visited was, less than 300 years ago, The Wilderness of our yet-to-be new nation. Families looking for a new life and a chance to prosper were often attacked and killed by raiding parties of Indians of various tribes that roamed the valleys and rivers along the Allegheny Mountains. If a raid was successful, survivors would often be carried off into slavery, many never to be heard from again.

Times were very hard. Brutality was a fact of life and not one-sided by any means. But, the people survived. Two things were key factors in their survival and ability to cope with very difficult times: their willingness to support one another and their Faith. https://richpatch-humphries.com/the_humphries___persinger_connection

Can we learn from our ancestors something to help us through these hard times? I hope so.

Get out and enjoy all that we have been given. Support one another. Discover Good. Have faith.

Beauty almost everywhere you look

As part of an experiment in writing, this blog was originally posted using a different title. Except for that and one other minor change it remains the same.

Finding Baby Jesus

In 1971, the rock band, The Who, released a recording of the song, “We Won’t Get Fooled again” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODKZGBrAtxY.  Written by Pete Townsend, it was a cynical look at both power and revolution.  Many of my generation misunderstood the song’s meaning.  They thought that by adopting  catchy slogans such as, “Question Authority” or aligning with “radical” political groups, they would bring about a better, more “just” world and not get fooled again. The sad thing is that nearly all of the problems that were besetting the world back then in ‘71, still are.  And, more so.  Townsend knew, I believe, that looking toward Power and Revolution as answers to what is wrong in the world is…futile and that by doing so we would get fooled again and again. Boy, was he right.

Here we are, half a century later (I shake my head as a write this!) and we are continually disappointed.  Politicians of every stripe have shown themselves less as true leaders than opportunists. Too many to count “religious leaders” have fallen from grace, leaving many of us shaken and bewildered. Neighbors have grown fearful, suspicious and angry with one another. Why?

Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” Isaiah 35:4

2020 started out with so much promise and optimism. And then, in the blink of an eye, it started to unravel. Maybe our current unrest is all – or mostly – contrived. Maybe there are powers or forces that want to cause disruption and fear. Maybe there is a plan to have us turn against one another. Maybe.

“Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.'” Revelation 1:17

I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what can be done about what’s going on out there.  Organize a protest? I don’t think so. Join a protest? Ah, NO!  Write to some “Elected Official” and tell them just what I think?  Just the mere thought makes me laugh.  After probably burning out more than a few brain cells (and having none to spare, believe me) I figured it out: There Is Nothing I Can Do About What’s Going On Out There. But, there is something I can do about what’s going on in here – within me.

“Immediately He spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'” Mark 6:50

It is Advent. We await. We anticipate:  Not with Fear, but Hope. With Joy.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

This Christmas, the first in our new home here in Staunton, Virginia, we have set up several outside decorations. One of them is something that I have wanted for a long time, but never had the space to do it: a manger scene. One that I have admired and been touched by for its simplicity is a silhouette of The Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and The Infant Jesus lying in His crib.

Ours is set up in the front yard. It is constructed of heavy white plastic.  Although it is front and center, during the daytime, with a bright sun and a still dirt-filled front yard, it can be less noticed.

Manger

But, at night, when everything is darkest, a simple solar light shines on the crib. And there He is: The Baby Jesus. He is there during the day, of course, right in front of me. But, as I said, sometimes He’s hard to see. Do I just naturally see Baby Jesus during the darkest hours? Or, should I just look harder during the day?  Maybe.

B

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” John 14:27

How will you find the Baby Jesus this Christmas?

Holy Week

Madrid Balconies

From unspeakable sorrow can come beauty.

In April, 2006, I flew to Madrid, Spain to be with my son and daughter-in-law following the still–born death of their daughter, my first grandchild. It was Holy Week.

There are some sorrows that only can be described as profound; ones that leave you speechless and empty.  Or, sometimes, in rage. This death, this loss of a purely innocent life, was such a sorrow. In the midst of this ancient city, I asked God to be with me, to help me understand and to save me from bitterness.

As Good Friday night fell, I walked through the narrow, darkened streets from my son’s apartment back to my hotel. Through the Plaza Mejor and down the winding Calle de Atocha, I suddenly found myself within a mass of people. Everyone was emptying the narrow street and moving onto the sidewalk. I had no choice but to move with them until I was able to find a small spot just across the street from Parroquia de Santa Cruz, the Church of the Holy Cross. The street outside of the church was filled with a formation of white robed, black-hooded figures carrying lit torches. I had never seen anything like this, but being American it conjured up unsettling images; I truly did not know what to expect.

Holy Week Procession, Church of Santa Cruz, Madrid

Suddenly, the church doors opened. Another robed, hooded figure, carrying a large staff, appeared in the church doorway. He banged his staff on the steps and the robed column in the street came to attention. Another tap of his staff and he and the procession behind him started to move from the church toward the street below. This group was similarly robed and hooded and was carrying a platform supported by long poles. Atop this platform was a statue, but, because of the darkness, I could not determine of whom. The procession came to a halt in the street and the platform was lowered. After a few minutes and some prayers (spoken in Spanish, of course) the leader tapped the staff once. The figures lifted the platform to waist height. Another tap and the platform went to shoulder height. No other sound could be heard along the entire street. Two taps more and the procession started toward Plaza Mejor. Of the statue, all I could determine was that it was clad in black.

Most of the crowd waited in front of the church, Santa Cruz. With nothing waiting for me except a silent hotel room, I, too, stayed, unsure of what for. The tap of the processional leader’s staff could be heard echoing through those dark and still silent streets, first sounding more and more distant and then becoming closer. Whatever was coming, it was coming soon. Gradually, flickering torch light could be seen at the far end of Atocha, approaching our position in front of the church. I took out my camera and moved into a position to better see what was being carried by these silent, dark-robed, anonymous marchers. Perhaps it was the expectation, but through the absolute silence that filled the street I could feel something welling up inside of me. Fear, sadness, grief?  I was not sure.

And, then it, rather she, was there. Atop this heavy wooden platform was a life-sized figure of the Blessed Virgin, depicted as the Mother of Seven Sorrows, adorned in black velvet with silver threading. Into the church she was carried. I moved on, but knowing something had happened that I could not express, even within myself.

The following day, returning back to my son’s apartment, I again entered Calle Atocha knowing I would go into the church and see the statue up close. On the steps of the church, against the wooden doors, sat two beggars, gypsies, actually. I had been cautioned about gypsies, but their presence did not concern me. Inside, I found an alcove, enclosed by an iron gate, in which was the statue I saw the night before.

I have been a Catholic my entire life and have seen thousands of statues and religious icons of every sort. But this, this was no ordinary statue. Beyond the absolutely stunningly beautiful garments was the face. The face of Mary. A face of unspeakable sorrow, a face of grief so profound and complete that it could only be brought about by the death of a purely innocent child.  She took my grief onto herself. But, something else would happen that will stay with me – forever.

Call it imagination. Or transference. But, on the way out of the church I took closer notice of the two beggar/gypsy women. One was older than the other and I would later learn that they were mother and daughter. I gave each a small coin and went to my family. Later that afternoon, returning to the hotel, I again came to the church. The women were still there, sitting against the doors, bundled against the chilly spring wind. A quick visit inside and on the way out, as I passed them, I noticed their faces. The mother was perhaps 40. The daughter – I had to turn around and go back to view the Blessed Mother. Outside, again, it was true what I had thought. The faces were the same. Several days of visits further confirmed this. After about a week, my daughter-in-law asked to go for a walk. Of course, we went to the church that was only about a 10 minute stroll from her home. The women, as expected, were again on the church steps, their “spot”.  I mentioned to my daughter-in-law my observation about the younger girl.

A week or so later, before returning back home, I asked that my daughter-in-law accompany me to the church to say a prayer – for healing, both emotional and physical. After our prayers I asked that she, since she was a native Spanish speaker, interpret something for me to the women. I explained how I was struck by the similarities in the faces and how interesting it was that it was this particular church, with that particular statue, that they chose to be close to. They agreed to have their pictures taken (something that is very unusual for them). The girl was, Magdalena.

Magdalena, Church of Santa Cruz, Madrid

Two years later, when my daughter-in-law had to return to Madrid for business, she paid a visit to Santa Cruz. There was Magdalena. She asked if I was there, too. When told no, I was back in the U.S., she got up and went into the church. When she came back out she handed my daughter-in-law a picture and said, “I will never forget your father”. The picture was a photo of the statue and the faces are still identical.

That Easter of 2006 was, indeed, a Holy Week. And I will always remember to look closely at what is in front of me. It just may be a face from heaven.

For those that are suffering or grieving this Easter, please know that you are remembered and not alone.

Wake up and Smell the Coffee

At 7:00 a.m. this morning there was a worldwide sharing of prayer for the end of the Corona Virus. Rather than being a sign of panic, this uniting in prayer is one more – and probably the best – weapon in our arsenal to defeat this sickness. If you missed this event, rest assured that millions upon millions of people are praying all the time for this scourge to end and we can join them at any time.

But, in addition to prayer, we can do something else with this quiet time we have been forced into.

How are we spending this time? For me, I have, for now, just about reached my limit with both Netflix and Amazon. The other day I attempted to find movies dealing with how people endured times of war. Not much luck – at least with finding decent movies that did not require additional fees. So much for watching the classic, Mrs. Miniver. Reading has always been a passion for me, but nearly all of our books have been packed in anticipation of our move. Thanks to our friend, MaryEllen, I do have a few that are still unread and were tucked under my nightstand. Whew!

Social distancing has certainly kept our personal contacts at a minimum.

Are Ya’ Home?

But, many folks continue to check on family and neighbors however possible, even if it’s a text or phone call just to say, Hello, how are you, can I do anything for ya’? Small things go a long way.

Speaking of small things, one small but significant highlight for us is our cup of coffee. Usually, we’ll have one (maybe two) in the morning and later in the afternoon. We enjoy it and recently my doctor told me that coffee, in moderation, can be beneficial. Since Costco is off limits for us now, we no longer have access to their store brand of “100% Colombian” coffee. For what is termed, commodity coffee (basic), it’s pretty darn good and cheap. With all this new found time and the need to seek other sources, I’ve “discovered” two new favorites.

First, is a whole bean, Mocha Java coffee from Mayorga Roasters. It’s smooth and flavorful. It’s available in 2 pound bags from Amazon or directly from Mayorga. Our Second new favorite is an organic whole bean Honduran coffee available from Aldi. Pretty good and we’re glad we found it.

Two of my favorite coffees

So, what’s your favorite coffee that you make at home? Let me know!

Pray, stay healthy, keep in touch and… Wake up and Smell the Coffee!

Bill

Living with Crazy

Hemingway at work on, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Ernest Hemingway, in a 1929 interview with columnist Dorothy Parker in which they were speaking of courage, stated that “guts” was having “grace under pressure”.  Lately, I have seen more than a few examples of grace under pressure.

We hear stories of cops and firemen and medics (personally, I dislike the term, First Responders) who risk their safety to come to the aid of others. Whether by training, habit or vocation, most of them do this day in and day out throughout their careers. And much of the time without recognition or fanfare.

But, it is of the everyday acts of generosity, thoughtfulness, courtesy and, even, humor that I have recently witnessed that I am now referring to.

The all-pervasive virus news has featured stories of people loading up multiple shopping carts at the Costcos and Walmarts with toilet paper and paper towels. Maybe they have a hygiene issue or maybe they’re just plain “panic hoarders”.  But, the image that comes to mind more frequently is that of a lady at our local Food Lion walking ahead of us in the “paper goods” aisle. Only two packages were left in the entire otherwise empty aisle.  She looked at them and said, “Take one and leave one”. Thoughtful.  A similar situation at another nearby grocery store took another twist. The paper goods aisle had only a few packages left and people were looking anxious (kind of like seeing a highway sign saying, “next rest stop 25 miles”. Suddenly, you gotta’ go!). A nicely dressed woman eyed the situation and blurted out, “I don’t give a darn about the toilet paper, but they better not be out of coffee”! Grim faces suddenly turned into grins. Laughter is truly the best medicine.

Our little Shenandoah Valley town of Staunton is coming together, one neighbor to another. Small food businesses are helping area residents and one another by setting up an on-line ordering system for food staples from nearby organic farmers and food suppliers. These suppliers and farmers will bring the orders to a central location and the residents can pick them up without even getting out of their cars. Restaurants are offering curbside take-out service. It’s a win-win in difficult times.

Churches, including our beloved St. Francis of Assisi parish, are increasing their aid to the needy and to those that may be more vulnerable to catching something. Our pastor, with the aid of parish staff, managed to livestream this Sunday’s Mass. To partake spiritually in the Mass along with our fellow parishioners, even from a physical distance, was a great comfort to us .http://stfrancisparish.org/homily-lent4.html

Just the beginning of new floors

In the meantime, despite setbacks and these very trying times, the construction on our new home is continuing. The siding seems to be nearing completion. Installation of the hardwood floors started this past Saturday. Our newest target date is from the end of April to mid-May. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Chris fitting section of Hickory floor board.

So, let us all remember to be calm and kind and patient with others and ourselves.  And, to have Faith. We will be alright. God is watching over you and us, especially in these crazy times!

And, for goodness sake…Don’t Run Out Of Coffee!!

As always, Comments, Likes and Follows always welcome.

Bill

Don’t Squeeze the Charmin!

Are you crazy, yet?

If you are, you have lots of company. Not since Y2K or was it the Bird Flue epidemic or maybe it was the AIDS epidemic has there been such widespread panic and fear among us.

Today, The Redhead and I went to the grocery store to stock up a bit since we had heard there was a run on basic staples such as food, medicines and “personal items”. There were plenty of groceries and produce at our local Martin’s Grocery. Some milk items were a bit sparse as was the bread aisle. But, no, nada, zilch of “le papier toilettes”, as the French would say. It was the same story at Walgreens, Food Lion and, believe it or not, Costco. Forget about investing in gold in case of the stock market going haywire. Put your money into Charmin!

No doubt there will be lessons learned from this viral epidemic. But, until we learn the cause and the non-hyper facts, let’s try to keep a level head, protect ourselves and our families and have Faith. Everything will be alright.

In the meantime, a little dose of reality and pleasantness for you all.

Pastoral scene from our backyard. Note cow grazing, one of several of a neighbor’s small herd.
Siding and front stonework

Our house here in Staunton is coming along nicely. Since my last writing, the siding is being installed, the interior has been sheet rocked, the electricity has been turned on, the lines for the propane gas have been run and the ducts for heating and cooling have been installed. Preliminary grading of the landscaping has also begun this week.

Living room
Almeria tan for common areas
Oyster Bay for bedrooms

Interior painting will start this coming Monday. The Redhead and I had fun picking our paint colors. We’re keeping it simple – one color for the common areas of living, dining laundry and sun rooms and another color for the bedrooms and baths. The extra-tall front door will benefit from Red’s long-standing wish of having a front door painted red.

stacks of solid hickory flooring

Our flooring was delivered today and is “acclimating” in the garage. It is hickory wood of four and five inch widths and various lengths. The floor will be stained and finished “on site” by one of the last skilled craftsmen, working here in the Shenandoah Valley, who can provide a custom finish. Pre-finished flooring is now the “go to” product for most home builders.

We have also picked out our gas fireplace and logs. The logs will be a new hybrid mixture of special concrete and ceramic. The surround of the fireplace will be made by our builder, Eric Argenbright, who will also build our kitchen cabinets. The Redhead will truly be in her glory “starting” a fire with the push of a button.

All for now. As always, Comments, Likes and Follows always welcome!

Be safe, pray and don’t worry.

Bill

The wonder of it all

Blue Ridge Mountains, late afternoon

January, so far, has been one of those periods of time when it seems life runs its own course and we just have to sit back and wonder at it all.

Such was the case when, earlier this month, The Redhead’s father passed after a lengthy illness. No matter when it comes, the passing of a parent stirs emotions that cannot be expressed but is understood by everyone that has gone through it. During it all, our family and friends in Connecticut, Florida, here in Staunton and elsewhere, brought us much comfort, support and love.

Death, for those that believe in its finality, can be devastating. Yet, if death is understood more as a passing or moving from one reality to another, it can bring comfort and even joy. To experience contrition, forgiveness and love at any time is wonderful, but at the end it is beautiful. Truly, God’s Hand in all matters is a wondrous thing.

Before her dad passed, The Redhead had us facetime. We spoke about several things, one of them being the building of our house here in Staunton, VA and his happiness that his daughter would be living in such a beautiful home and area. He reminded me of our walks and talks along his beloved Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine and I told him that I would also remember his tips about planting a flower garden – “always add a pop of white, it brings out the other colors”! I’ll do my best, but Augusta County clay soil is a far cry from the soil found in coastal Maine. Thanks for the tips, Norman. And, thank you for The Redhead.

So, now things are starting to really come together at the house. The framing is nearly complete and the rooms, while still only 2×4’s, are now clearly defined. A few tweaks here and there remain: a repositioning of the vanity in the Master Bath, the addition of an entry hall closet and a little tweak in the dining room to accommodate a hutch – little things that will mean a lot to us now and later. Our Builders, Eric and Amy Argenbright, have been very understanding of what we are trying to accomplish: a beautiful home that will suit us now and for a long time to come. We appreciate their ideas and especially their attention to quality and craftsmanship.

Following are a few photos of the work that has taken place in just these past few weeks:

Building the front porch
Setting the Trusses
Eric Argenbright selecting the correct roof truss for the crane
Risky Business
Man and Machine
Getting There
Back view, it looks bigger than it is! The sun room is in center.
Our soon-to-be new home in Staunton, VA

Thanks for reading and a special thanks to our very special friends that are our family.

Everything is going to be o.k.

Every year ends the same: We are bombarded with lists of “Best Of” and “Worst Of” the previous year, reviews of what actually occurred from last year’s list of predictions and, of course, new lists of what will happen this coming year.

I’ve got this figured out now!

Sages and pundits will have a prediction for everything: what  the “hottest” colors and fashion trends will be, what will happen to the stock / housing market, what will happen with foreign friends and foes, etc., etc. I’ll bet there will even be a few soothsayers that will predict who the next president will be! Ya’ think?

Oy, Vey, what will happen??

I’m thinking, though, that like this past year, when events do unfold most of us will simply scratch our heads and think, “Well, ain’t that something”. Is this the result of apathy or disinterest? No, not at all. It’s more a belief in that everything is going to be o.k. and some of us have been “around the block” a few times. There are, believe it or not (to coin a phrase), people that actually make a living trying to scare the bejeepers out of us. Oh, yeah!

Are ya’ scared yet?

So, because everything is going to be o.k., here is what we plan to do this coming year:

Plan our “Housewarming Party” for this coming Spring.

Plan which trees and shrubs we’ll plant on our property because, despite an abundance of clay soil, it’s going to be o.k. – something will grow.

Plan on a layout for my new basement workshop because, yes, I’m getting back to work.

No more working in “The Dungeon”! No wonder I lost my hair!

Plan to find some porch rockers because, despite being new-comers here in Staunton, VA it will be o.k. Friends and new neighbors will come by and set awhile on our front porch. And, vice-versa!

Entertainin’, Gibby style!

But, mostly, I plan to be happy and thankful. Because everything is going to be o.k. Believe it!

Thanks to all of our friends, old and new, that have become or have remained such an important part of our lives. And, I am truly thankful to God, His Holy Mother and St. Joseph and St. Padre Pio for the gift of healing my beautiful Redhead this past year.

Below are some pics of an unexpected Christmas / New Year gift from our builders: our framing has started!

Front of house, library will be second window from left!
Some views!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.  Everything will be o.k.

Bill

A Topsy-Turvy Life

Sometimes, no, make it most of the time, what I thought would happen, didn’t. In matters of family, work, marriage, relocating – just about every aspect of my life has gone not how I thought it would or should. Thank God!

For those that read this blog that know me there is no sense in reciting all the instances of this pattern of being turned topsy- turvey. You know most of them. For other readers, who cares, right? So, let me just tell you about the here and now and a bit of how it all happened.

Five years ago we – my beautiful Redhead and I – moved from Connecticut to Jacksonville, Florida. We had checked it out before making the move and thought this would be the beginning of a new life. It was; but, not as we had planned.

Heat is heat but Florida must be God’s preview of Hell.  Only joking.  A bit. But, an endless summer is not what we planned for the long term. Storms are storms but Florida hurricanes are something else.  Snakes? Oh yeah! After four years (quick learners we are) we figured this might not have been our forever place.  We explored both North and South Carolina. Nope. We explored and researched Tennessee. Hmmm, but no.  And then, Virginia.

We researched and visited the Staunton, Virginia area in July of 2018 and moved here in November, 2018. We have been renting an apartment in nearby Waynesboro while we explored the areas and sought just the right place to have our home. Let’s just say it’s been an adventure.

Downtown Staunton, VA

There were some days we thought something was wrong with us. We just couldn’t decide where we wanted to live or what type of home would be right for us. And, when we did come to a decision, it just didn’t work.

So, we prayed. Really prayed. Just asking God to let us know what He wanted us to do. It’s funny how the Lord answers our prayers and puts everything into place.

The Redhead was diagnosed with a serious medical condition. It had been missed in Connecticut and in Jacksonville and initially here in Virginia. But, then it was discovered and our world changed. Nothing mattered except my Redhead. And then things began to happen. The Redhead was put under the care of some of the best surgeons and medical people in the country. It has been a rough few months, but the Redhead is going to be o.k. That was Part One of answered prayers. The Second Part of our answer as to what we were supposed to do and where we should be was through the love, concern, help and genuine friendship shown to us by our friends here. They came from nearby and from miles away to bring food, flowers and love to The Redhead. Never have we experienced anything like this. And then, Part Three.

In the early morning darkness of August 20th, I awoke, more restless than troubled, I had been dreaming of what we should do about finding a home. Continue renting? Maybe. I had no idea of what was about to happen.

I prayed. To Jesus and His Mother, Mary. To St. Joseph. And to St. Padre Pio for his continued special intercession. I felt the urge to check, once again, the real estate listings -but only for land.  Immediately, several parcels of land popped up. They had been on the market for a while but we had never seen them, nor had any of the 5 real estate agents we had been in contact with this past year plus ever mentioned them.

Later that morning, a bit past dawn, I told The Redhead that there was some land we should take a look at. It was in the County, just outside Staunton city limits, no more than 15 minutes to the steps of our church, St. Francis of Assisi. We drove past mist-shrouded views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, passing rolling farmland and up a sloping gravel drive, past several signs showing several lots for sale. And, there it was. At the corner of two, short, cul-de-sacs, nestled among trees on higher ground…home. We knew it immediately. We called the name on the sign and the following day we met the agent/builder for this small cluster of homes. She explained the details and we told her our plans.

Our little slice of Heaven

Next week space will be cleared for the foundation of our new house. We are… home. Prayers answered.

Never Again

I’ve taken part in two demonstrations in my life. One was political; the other was, more or less, a labor rights issue. Both ended – not well.

The first took place around 1970 at a university in Connecticut. While not a student there, I did know many friends that were and the issue was close to home: the Viet Nam war. The evening rally started out boisterous, but peaceful. Many in the crowd were there only because of its party-like atmosphere. Many others were there to show support for the anti-war sentiment rising throughout the country. The demonstrations were not against our troops, mind you, but against our government’s involvement in a war few understood and fewer, at least of draft age, supported. As the evening progressed, the mood of the speakers became more hostile and their speeches more filled with vitriol. Representatives of the Yippies, SDS and the Black Panthers all took their turns at the podium. Ah, the good old days! Yeah, right. The night became darker and so did the calls for something to be done to “make a point”. Several carloads of “students” were dispatched to a nearby interstate road to block all traffic and hold up their signs. What a waste of time, I thought. What’s the point? What really got my attention, however, was the announcement that the following evening a larger rally would be held and one that would garner regional, if not national, attention. Fires would be set, windows broken, buildings would be occupied. And, when the police and fire departments responded, they would be met by a barrage of rocks and paving stones that were being stockpiled on the roofs of the university buildings. It would be a set-up to facilitate a full-scale riot.

It made no sense. If someone was against a war, why would they start one in their own backyard, or mine, to be more accurate? The speakers had, however, made a tactical mistake in announcing their plans. They didn’t know their audience. While this university was made up of mostly out-of-staters, the audience contained many locals. For this “local,” their plans were not going to happen. You see, as first generation Irish, most of the boys in our family took to one of two callings: the priesthood or the cops. My older brother, my cousin and my brother- in-law, all cops, would all be sent to the university in the event of any riot. A call was made. The following night, as the crowd started to fill in the university square, the speeches became more heated. But, as a group of “demonstrators” made their way up to the roof tops they were met by a welcoming committee. No rocks were thrown and the “leaders” at the podium vanished into the night. Later that evening we learned that someone having a heart attack the night before couldn’t make it to the hospital because of the blocked roadway. They died sitting in traffic. I told myself that I would never attend another “rally” again.

That promise lasted several years. This second time I was part of a group that had followed one of the callings that seemed predestined to our extended family: I had become a policeman.  It was the late 1970’s and our city had been wracked by riots (non-political, but the tactics were similar to what I had witnessed in the 1960’s). A policeman that we all knew to be fair and compassionate had been unjustly accused of brutality (after years in various courts, numerous lawsuits and a marriage that fell victim to the strain, he was eventually cleared in Federal Court). The Chief, bowing to what could have only been political pressure, suspended the cop from duty. We organized a demonstration in front of the police department. Every uniformed officer took part – except the traffic division. To get into Traffic one had to be hand-picked by…the Chief. So, we weren’t too surprised when that group didn’t walk the picket line with the rest of us. No problem. We walked and hooted and a few carried signs.  However, we did not have the right to strike and wouldn’t have done so anyway. Our beef was with the city and department administration, not the people of the city. The Chief was backed by everyone that mattered. We made our point and then it was done. Or, so we thought. Two weeks later every uniformed officer was ordered to report to a remote location for “special training”. We were marched in groups of fifty into a Quonset hut to have “gas training”.  Yep, since we had taken part in a “demonstration” we would learn first- hand how to deal with demonstrations: Gas em’. The doors were locked and the Traffic Division pumped tear gas into the hut. 10 seconds, 30 seconds, a full minute. The gas stopped and the doors eventually swung open. We stumbled out, gasping and puking. The gas vapors rose like steam from our clothes. Everyone had “sunburn” from the chemicals. It was truly a unique experience.

Never, again, I swore, would I ever partake in any demonstration. Not even the gross unfairness of being the only one in our home to take out the garbage would tempt me to march or carry a sign of protest.  Nope, never, never.

Until tomorrow.

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Early tomorrow morning, The Redhead and I will join others from our parish, St. Francis of Assisi, Staunton, Virginia to travel to the Virginia state capitol in Richmond to not only protest the recent attempts by our state government to legalize the killing of children, but to champion and support the Right to Life of EVERY HUMAN: Not-yet-born, just born, handicapped, elderly…Everyone. We are all Children of God. No longer can we stand by to see murder committed before our eyes and do nothing. We will not stand idly by like the Europeans of the 30’s and 40’s as the trains rolled by. We cannot remain silent as the world did when China and Cambodia purged themselves of “unwanted”. We must not remain silent as did so many when the “unwanted” and “inconvenient” underwent the horrors of medical “procedures “in the 1920’s and 30’s – even here in Staunton (ah, the 30’s and 40’s here and in Europe seem to have something in common with the “enlightened” period we are in today).

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Former Western State Lunatic Asylum where “medical” experiments were performed on children in the 1920’s and 30’s

For those that may be tempted to say that a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body supersedes that of an unborn or even a just-born child, let me ask this: would you just stand by while a woman tried to commit suicide? Or argue that it was her “right” to do so? As someone who has risked life and limb several times to prevent such a decision, I could not. You wouldn’t either, I think. Life, after all, is precious.

I’ll report on tomorrow’s efforts soon.

 Pray. For the babies. For the women struggling with these agonizing decisions.  For those that stand up and March for Life.