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.