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.

The Good, the Bad and the ‘Lectrifyin’

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Lake Sherando, Augusta County,VA

So, this past month or so The Redhead and I have been going full steam ahead with scouting the area for where we’ll call our new home. How did it happen that we’re doing this on our own? Well, you asked…

First, we’ve been jilted. Yep, jilted by our realtor.

Having met her in July and been treated wonderfully- three days of area tours, explanations of where to shop, dine, etc. we were in love. With Staunton and her. Our return trip in September reinforced that we had made the right decision – to move here and to work with her. But, our radar should have gone up when it took a full month of living here to see her again. Lots of apologies: I’ve been really busy, my dog’s been sick, etc.( I kid you not). Oh, well. But, we didn’t exactly pine away waiting for her to show up, either. Nope, we drove around these mountains and the surrounding towns discovering more and more natural beauty and many very nice people. Actually, everyone we’ve met has been very nice, helpful and kind.  Except LBF.  And, more of that in a bit.

To make a long, well four-month long, story, shorter let’s just say in four months we’ve seen “our realtor” twice. And one of those times was to have her here for lunch. Still, we like her. Really. We just wish we knew what caused her to drop out of sight. Personal issues? Maybe, and if that is the case we hope she is o.k. But, we can’t and won’t chase someone that doesn’t seem to have the time we need to find our new home. Besides, LBF is pushing us hard.

Yes, LBF- Little Big Foot lives above us. He romps and stomps and jumps and bangs 10 to 13 hours a day, every day. He’s a forty pound four year old that might be described as, “an active child”. When our walls start shaking at 7:00 a.m. he earns other names, but, LBF will do for now.  Live below him and you’re ready to buy ANYTHING!! Maybe he’s a realtor’s secret weapon.  Every realtor except ours, it appears.

Recently, we tried the help of another agent. It seemed everything we were shown was in the area we specifically said we were not interested in. Our second and last day together was a real doozy. Among the highlights: New construction community nestled right up to the regional insane asylum (hmmm).  Another newly built home with lovely views of a pasture. The problem was that in order to keep meandering cattle out of the homes’ yard an electric fence surrounded the property. Grandbaby would love playing there!! Talk about a shocking development! Lastly, the Piece de resistance, so to speak, was a building lot not near but IN a cemetery!! When I blurted out, “What the hell, you’re bringing me to a boneyard?”, my helpful home advisor realized the tour was over. Ya’ think!

So, while not exactly as we had planned, our home search continues but on our own for now.  The search has taken us into the town of Staunton and out into the county where we’d probably have more scenic views. We’re still considering building, but finding an existing home that is just right is becoming more likely. We just don’t know.  Both scenarios have their pluses. In-town means very easy access to shopping, dining and some new friends and our church. Out in the county, we have limited our search radius to no more than 11 miles, about 17-20 minutes, from our church in Staunton, St. Francis of Assisi. Back in November that trip might have taken us 2 hours or more. Think Columbus searching for a route to India: Don’t turn right when a left turn is needed. Knowing our way around a “bit more” opens up several options for finding a home. Hint: don’t rely on only your GPS to explore a new area. Use a good fold-out map and then use the GPS to get where you want. The Redhead is getting quite a kick out hearing me exclaim, Well, I’ll be a Monkey’s Uncle, when I discover a way to go somewhere that actually makes sense.

In addition to driving and exploring we’ve written up a short letter to leave with folks we meet while in neighborhoods we are especially drawn to. It explains that we are looking to buy a house and are drawn to their home and/or neighborhood. So far, we’ve gotten several responses but the houses turned out not to be “just right”.  One, in particular, had extraordinary views of the mountains and came with 13 acres of land. But, with 5 bedrooms and 4 baths it was “just a tad” more than required – unless we open up “Boys Town East”! Keeping our trust in God and our noses to the grindstone, the right home will be made known to us.

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“Main street” Spring Hill, VA The surrounding area is idyllic farm land!

In the meantime, especially with The Redhead off “gallivantin’”this past week, our meandering has turned up some beautiful and interesting sights.  The hamlet of Spring Hill and the towns of Bridgewater and Dayton were explored this past weekend by yours truly. Organic farms, building lots nestled up close to grazing cattle, abandoned, yet starkly beautiful old buildings, country churches, 19th century architecture and a country deli turned an ordinary day into a real adventure. Hope you enjoy these photos of our little slice of heaven; you were already along for the trip.

As always, comments or questions welcome.

Bill

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Green metal roof, Spring Hill, VA

 

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Detail of church stained glass windows, Spring Hill, VA

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Spring Hill, VA church detail

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Organic Farm, Spring Hill,VA

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Bridgewater, VA Beauty

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Bridgewater,VA roof with ice stops.

Note surrounding pasture and grazing lands!
Sunrise Deli, Dayton, VA Surrounded by farms and pastures .

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Heading for home after shopping at Sunrise Deli Dayton,VA

Plain Living

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Old Order Mennonite buggy, Dayton VA

So, here we are at home on a really lazy Sunday, partly because the weather forecasts warned of an impending ice storm. So far, nothing but sunshine and a moderate breeze, albeit a bit nippy!

Last night, expecting this morning to be like an ice age, we drove into Staunton to attend Mass at our high-on-a-hill church, St. Francis of Assisi.  Despite the rain and fog, the church was more than usually filled. It happened that three busloads of young adults and their chaperones, enroute back home to Alabama after attending the March for Life in DC, stopped at St. Francis to attend the evening vigil Mass. No banners, No shouted slogans. Just a quiet reverence and knowledge that what they were doing was…right.  Every generation, it seems, has a contingent, sometimes small, of those that stir our conscience.

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Route 42 looking north toward Harrisonburg

Since moving to the Shenandoah Valley, we are often struck by the peacefulness and beauty of the land and people. Here, it is different. Perhaps, it is because so many of the people are, in some way, tied to the land. Perhaps, it is because Staunton and many of its neighboring towns are small towns. The Mennonites, of which there are many here in the Valley, refer to themselves as, Plain People. ( for an excellent article on the Shenandoah Mennonite communities read this article by Guy Schum click here . And that may be it in a nutshell: it is, in the very best sense, plain here. If you are sick of the antics in D.C. or NYC or any other cosmopolitan, trend-setting megalopolis, come here for a spell.  It may be just what the doctor ordered.

This past week we rode out, once again, to Dayton. It is a lovely ride. Along the way I tried using my new camera, a Christmas gift from The Redhead.  I’ve included a few more photos below, as well as a “quick pic” of the former Western State Lunatic Asylum, now partly a hotel / apartment complex. Much of the former hospital had been designed by Thomas Jefferson’s apprentice, Thomas Blackburn, who was among those early pioneers of compassionate care for the mentally ill. Locals claim that the buildings are haunted, mostly as a result of the “care” that was provided starting in the early 1900’s. Nonetheless, the architecture is beautiful.

As always, comments, Likes and questions are most welcome.

Bill

Churchville VA farm Alleghany Mountains in rear

Dayton VA Farm looking East
Route 42 looking east from Dayton

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Former Western State Lunatic Asylum, Staunton

Taking Inventory

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The tree has been taken down, the decorations put away and another Christmas has come – but is not quite gone.

This year was different for many reasons. We are living in a new state, literally and figuratively. Virginia has been good to and for us. People just met are becoming acquaintances and acquaintances are now becoming friends. Our church has been especially welcoming; its members seem to embrace the command to “love one another”. Even folks we just meet are gracious and helpful in ways we don’t expect.

This past week The Redhead and I were driving throughout the north-west section of Staunton, exploring, once again, the very attractive neighborhoods of Baldwin Acres and Blue Ridge.  This time, we carried with us letters we had printed and planned to leave at especially appealing homes, asking if the owners might be considering selling their homes within the next six months or so.  Well, as luck or Providence would have it, as we drove past a particular house, a woman was spotted standing in her front garden. We stopped and Red approached her and told her what we were doing. After a few minutes of conversation the woman invited both of us to sit with her in the garden. Two hours later, we left knowing we would hear from her again. That evening, she called and said she actually had a few leads for us and would fill us in when we would meet for lunch later in the week (tomorrow).

And, so, this is pretty much how it has been for us since arriving in Staunton. Things are happening easily, naturally. There is a general peacefulness that reinforces our sense that coming here was the right decision.

Over the past two months we have thought and re-thought what type of house and neighborhood we wanted and would best suit us. We love the country with the rolling hills and nearby mountains. Red wants to pet every cow she sees – and there is no shortage of them here in the valley.  But, the charm and convenience of in-town living has its draw, too, and may be more practical.

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Gypsy Hill Park, Staunton, VA

After much thought, prayer and late night conversations we realize that the best location for us is just outside of town center, the neighborhoods mentioned earlier, Baldwin Acres and Blue Ridge. Both offer views (some better than others), are within a few minutes of shopping and amenities, our friends at Paradise Donuts (to paraphrase Robert Duval, “I love the smell of donuts in the morning”) and our church. Also, living in an established neighborhood offers us the best chance to make friends and become part of the community.

It is this taking inventory of what your real priorities are that I think is very important for people moving and choosing to settle into a new area, especially when there is no built-in safety net of family or work.

Below are some photos of our adventures. Some were taken during our recent afternoon in Gypsy Hill Park that is close to both town center and the neighborhoods we’re exploring and some were taken in the town of Dayton which is about a leisurely 30 minute drive from downtown Staunton. Dayton is a largely agricultural community and has many Mennonite farms and shops. It will be one of our must-see areas for our friends.

Thanks for reading! As always, I’d love to get your Comments, Likes or questions.

Bill

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Co-op Bakery Dayton, VA

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Quilts, Dayton, VA co-op shops

Pax Vobiscum

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Schola of St. Francis of Assisi, Staunton,VA

Christmas. It is both the beginning and the end. The Alpha and Omega. The fulfillment and the promise.  It is what we let it be.

We are blessed, The Redhead and I. We have our health, our family of heart and blood, a new beginning and hopeful expectation. We have one another. And we have our Faith. None of it has come easily and for that we are all the more grateful for having what we do.

For us, this Christmas is a new beginning in many ways. Our move from Florida to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia has opened up possibilities and opportunities. We have no idea of where we will call home or what we will be doing in the future but we are filled with a sense of peace. We are, we are sure, where we are supposed to be at this time. There is an expression that I have used over the past number of years, “Before you can know what you have, you first have to lose everything”. We know what we now have.

Our parish church here in Staunton, St. Francis of Assisi, has been a source of comfort, strength and inspiration to us. We decided to attend Mass at the Christmas vigil this year. Before Mass there was a “concert” presented by the Schola of classical musicians and singers. It was a mix of both traditional and religious songs and hymns. No, “Santa Baby”, was not one of them! One of the traditional songs was a Charles Floyd/Yo-Y o Ma arrangement of “The Wexford Carol”. Here it is performed together by Alison Krause and Yo-Yo Ma (click here.)  The rendition sung in church was very close to what was sung by Krause, thanks to soprano, Nancy Hanna. The video’s bagpipe drone section of the music was substituted by the church organ. It was very stirring and served as an excellent example of how contemporary music can be sacred. This Vigil Mass was one of the most reverent we have attended in many years and Father Wamala’s Christmas message was simple: Love God, love one another and find your way to serve.

 

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Christmas Vigil altar St. Francis of Assisi, Staunton

Christmas Day was something different for us: a little baby will do that! Baby Jonah kept his parents hopping, yet Grammy (The Redhead) found a way to lull him to peaceful sleep.

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Sleepy Baby

Some Christmas music was played during the morning.  The organic farm just up the road provided us with a fresh turkey for a special Christmas dinner (I’ll write more about that farm at some later point).  It was truly a peace-filled day.

And now, New Year is upon us. No silly resolutions…at least for me. Yes, I’d like to take advantage of the more temperate (for me) weather and get outdoors more. But, dreams of six-pack abs have been diminished by the reality of a half-keg belly! Our goals are more straightforward: 1) Find a new home (are ya’ listenin’, Becky!), 2) Find a place to resume my furniture restoration interests, 3) Learn how to use my new Nikon 5300 camera that was a gift from the Redhead and 4) Develop a social circle of friends in our new hometown while keeping our family of the heart ever close to us. Doable? Yes, I believe it is.

In closing, here are some more pics from our continuing explorations of the Shenandoah Valley.

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old hamlet of Brownsburg, north of Lexington,VA

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Valley farm, near Lexington,VA

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Blue Ridge Mountain farm, Edinburg, VA

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Edinburg Mill. Detail showing charred timbers resulting from Union General Sheridan’s raid and burning of the mill and town, 1864

 Peace be with you. Thank you for reading. Happy New Year to all! 

Bill

Da’ Fade

Sometimes, it’s the little, everyday things that just make you shake your head and say, “what the heck”!

This morning started out with promise. Early rising, good cup of coffee and plans to zip on over to downtown Staunton to enjoy a second cup and one of the special donuts at Paradise Donuts before exploring the outlying neighborhoods.

Before long the Redhead says that she’d really like me to order a new camera for Christmas using my long accumulated credit card points. Hmmm. That might be nice, especially since it won’t “cost” me anything and I’ve actually had my eye on a particular model. But, true to form, I feel the need to do more research on the camera I’ve read reviews about many times.

So, off I go into “Billy Land”, as the Redhead calls my moments of pondering, and I’m caught up in on-line comparison shopping for an hour. And, it wasn’t a waste of time either. It turns out a somewhat better camera went on sale. Nice! So, into the cart it went. Whoa! Wait a minute. No points available??? An hour later everything is back on track, the camera is ordered and I’m chomping on the bit to chomp on a donut!

But, noooo. The Redhead comes over with a letter from our former DMV stating that my license and registration will be cancelled… forthwith! What happened to the 30 day rule? Bye, bye, donuts, I’m figuring. Into the car we go, stuffed with all our documents (we thought) and over to the Virginia DMV to take care of business. An hour later I have a paper copy of a new Virginia drivers license. It will take a second trip to register the car, but, progress is made. So, what next?

A haircut! Gabby Hayes has nothing on me lately. The lovely Miss Nancy of Vintage Barber Shop in Jacksonville would faint if she saw my noggin’ now. As we drive around Staunton looking for a barber shop, a plain barber shop, it dawns on me. We’ve moved. The Redhead yanks out her smartphone. “Oh, here’s one…’The Man Cave'”. No, I don’t think so. “Oh, oh, how about, “The Golden Comb”. She is now howling laughing. No. And ditto to , Family Salon, Nuthin’ Fancy and Uni-sex Cut an’ Curl. I just want a plain barber. “How about, ‘Bob the Barber”? “O.k. sounds good”, I say. Several blocks later we discover Bob has sold out to a Vape shop. “The girls at the beauty school would welcome the chance to work on your hair”, Red suggests. Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m an open minded kind of guy. But, sitting in the store front window of the Staunton School of Beauty is , well, not my thing. Sorry girls, no purple hair streaks for Gibby!

Let’s go home, I wimper. No, donuts, no haircut. As we drive along Route 250 Red spots, “Who’s Next Barbershop.” Hmmm. Let’s give it a try. We pull into the parking lot facing a non-descript shop with a few cars parked outside. Red heads toward a vintage resale shop and I open the door to the shop. It’s crowded. But, one of the two barbers says, “Don’t worry, there’s only one person ahead of you”. Okey, dokey, I think. A young mother is waiting for her son to be finished and then one more kid is ahead of me. How long can this take? At least something is going right today. Mom’s kid is finally finished 30 minutes later. The next kid hops into the chair while barber # 2 is still working on another youngster. Hmmm. Barber # 1 looks my way and says, “I have to leave by 5, so Uncle Billy will have to do you, if you don’t mind waiting”. It’s 4:10. I’m thinking, How long do haircuts take here? Hmm. I reply, “Where’s Uncle Billy”? “Right there”, he says, pointing to barber #2.  “We specialize in High and Tights, Fades and Etching”. Before I can mutter, Whaa? barber # 2 says, “That’s right, we’re real artists”! What the heck! I’m thinking. Well, I wait another 20 minutes or so. Both #1 and #2 are seemingly working on the same section of each customers head for over 25 minutes now. I guess real artists they are.

I gracefully glance at my watch and say, “Hey, I have to go, catch you in the morning”.  “No problem, sir. Come back, we’ll make you look real good”, says #1. “You bet”, I respond.

So, what do you think would look good on this noggin’? High and Tight? Maybe some fancy Etching?

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Well, probably just a hat. Better luck tomorrow!

The Beauty of Now

Like snow falling on a quiet Sunday afternoon, our life here in the Shenandoah Valley is building slowly, softly and surely.

Deserted Farmhouse – Verona, VA

Areas are being explored and re-explored. Acquaintances are being made. We recognize and are recognized by some folks at the grocery stores and the owners of at least two downtown Staunton shops.

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Kathy, of Kathy’s Restaurant, is also getting used to seeing us. Travis and Shauna, husband and wife owners of Paradise Donuts (https://www.facebook.com/StauntonParadiseDonuts/) welcomed us as we tried them for the first time this past week. As somewhat of a donut aficionado, I can attest that the shop is aptly named: Paradise! As newcomers to the area, we were treated to a sampling of their cinnamon twists.The Redhead kept saying, “I can’t believe I ate two donuts in one sitting”. I was thinking, “I can’t believe I stopped at two”! It turns out that Shauna and Travis are fellow parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi Church –just across the street. How convenient!

As this is being written, snow continues to steadily fall outside our windows and today’s sermon at church keeps coming to mind: See God in everything before us. In the gifts, the challenges, the beauty and opportunities that are presented to us every day. Live in the Now, it will never come again.

Farmers, Armstrong’s , Verona,VA (Note: no one watches the tv!)

Turn off the noise and seeing beauty and goodness is much easier. We haven’t had tv since arriving here. We do have internet and can play movies, but the lack of broadcast noise and news – fake or otherwise – has allowed more information to come to us. Conversations with neighbors and people met on the street or in going about everyday routines are so much easier without labels. Red, Blue, Con, Lib, Anti, Pro…I don’t know what the labels mean anymore, nor does it matter. All of us are struggling with something. To quote George Elliot, “What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other”? To paraphrase Msgr. Cassin, “See God and Love in the Now”.

Snow continues to fall and with it comes the silence.

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words…I hope

So, this Sunday night finds me wordless, or at least nearly so.  This afternoon after church we took a ride through Staunton along route 250 up into the Allegheny mountains just a few miles outside of town. 

It’s truly hard to imagine the awe-inspiring beauty – it must be seen first hand. For someone that has lived his entire life at sea level, near the ocean, the sight from nearly 3,000 feet up is…something else.

We stopped our journey at the site of the remnants of the civil war Fort Johnson. It was really a “breast-work” line of defense rather than an actual fort. Reading a few of the informational plaques at the site, two stood out. One had a photo copy of a letter from a Confederate soldier to his wife, along with a photo portrait of the two taken just before the war. How young they were. The husband was wounded and subsequently died of disease, leaving his young, beautiful bride. The second plaque contained a brief excerpt of a letter from a Confederate Lieutenant to his wife back in Georgia. He, too, was awe-struck by the majesty of the mountain view we were seeing this very day 156 years later. More about this later. But, for now, here is a meager attempt to share our experience this afternoon.

Route 250 Augusta County,VA Confederate Breastworks Fort Johnson
View of mountain pass where Union Army approached en route to Staunton
Lt. Pryor

Hold Your Fire!

We’re three days in our new home here in the Shenandoah Valley Virginia town of Waynesboro. Moving cartons are everywhere – open, full and some empty. Our third bedroom has been turned into a storeroom with furniture piled on top of each other and boxes not yet to be opened crammed into whatever available space there is. But, as I write this, our bedroom, the guest bedroom, living room and kitchen have finally been put into order.

It has been an exhausting few months. The idea of selling our home, marketing it and having a wonderful buyer come forth immediately was emotional but not too stressful. It was the packing and tag sales that started to ebb our energy. As I’ve written before, no one wants to help you pack and fewer than none want to help unpack. You’re on your own, baby!

So, imagine if you can sleeping soundly in your bed after two days of heavy lifting and sorting. The cool mountain air, drifting in through the slightly open window, has given you some of the most restful sleep you’ve had in several years. And then it happens.

A female voice, young sounding, comes from just outside your window. At first it seems like only a jumble of words, loud words, but not quite making sense. It’s still dark. What the heck!

The word jumble takes form and the young woman seems to be speaking  shouting to someone on her cell phone. This can’t be happening. But it is!

The conversation gets louder. This gal must live upstairs and is having a conversation while walking outside, I’m thinking. Now her words are coming together.

“You know”, she says, “I’ve always been a sort of worrier; maybe even depressed. No, not depressed, just kinda’ into my feelings, you know”.

Lady, I’m thinking, if you knew what I’m feeling you’d tone it down a notch. And further away, too!

But, she continues. “So, like, my parents knew I couldn’t open up to many people so they bought me Snowball. And, I’d like talk to Snowball all the time, ya’ know. I’d tell him everything. And, I mean EVERYTHING!

Oh, please have mercy, I’m thinking. Please, please be quiet!

Now, The Redhead is awake. Her eyes are closed, but I know she’s awake.

“So, like sometimes I didn’t even have to talk to Snowball. He just knew what I was thinking. My parents sensed how much I loved him and could talk to him so they bought me Snowflake. She was a girl, ya’ know. So, I’d talk to them and then one day my aunt and uncle bought me a baby seal and I named her Snow Crystal. Yep, another girl. So, I had one boy and two girls that I could talk to about EVERYTHING!

This can not happening.  But, now I hear laughing. This woman is outside my window on speaker phone! In the dark!

So, one year my parents took me on winter break vacation to the Bahamas, she continues. It was fab, ya’ know. But, I wouldn’t go unless Snowball, Snowflake and Snow Crystal could go ,too. My parents thought it was cute so they bought an oversize suitcase to put them into.

Wait a minute! These snow things are dolls, stuffed animals!!?? Oh, Lady, you’ve got to be kidding me!

“And, so”, she continues, “as I got older I still talked to Snowball and Snowflake and Snow Crystal all the time. About EVERYTHING! About how I felt when the other girls started to develop and I didn’t, ya’ know.

More laughter from the other end of the phone.

And then, louder if possible, “So, my mom knew I was feeling bad and how I could talk to Snowball and Snowflake and Snow Crystal about EVERYTHING (more speaker phone laughter) so she said I should talk to them about wearing a training…

Wait a minute! This is altogether too much! I’m putting an end to this conversation right now. So, I throw off the covers and realize that since our bed is now on a padded carpet it’s a bit higher. My feet can’t reach the floor! So, I hop off, slightly twisting an ankle already sore from all the bending and lifting of the past few days. Dang it!

I hobble over to the window to tell The Conversationalist that her conversation is over and to pipe down and move on!

And then…wait a minute! She’s inside our room! What??

I turn to her voice. What the heck is happening? Son of a … It’s the clock radio tuned into a public radio station and broadcasting a “repeat performance” of Storyteller something or other. No one’s outside my window. Hold your fire, Gibby!

The still closed eye Redhead says, “What’s wrong with you”?

“Nothing, My Sweet”. I hop back up in bed and laugh The Redhead fully awake and  myself back into deep slumber.

Good Night!

P.S. Note the change of photo at the top of the blog. It was taken back in September not far from where we now are.