Monday, May 30, 2011

It Was a Glorious Graduation Day!

I've now been a full week without internet.  I won't count the thrilling 10 minutes online when I "stole" internet from a fluke unlocked signal that I could only briefly capture at the rental house.

I've been itching to write about graduation and we've finally come into Lexington Coffees for caffeine and computer time!

The festivities at W&L are held out on the lawn that faces the Colonnade.... the audience faces the stage set up in front of Lee Chapel and behind us is Washington Hall and the other Colonnade buildings.

Baccalaureate on Wednesday was sunny and clear!!   For me the highlight of the ceremony was when the University Chorus sang their beautiful rendition of Shenandoah which is a tear jerker even at non-emotional times.  With the mountains around us and the fact that the students will soon be "longing to see" Shenandoah and will soon be "away, we're bound away"..... there are more than a few sniffles and moist eyes.

Students wore their caps and gowns for Baccalaureate.  Joe and I appreciated Clark voicing his gratitude to us for his four years of college.  He was excited for the future and a little wistful about what he was leaving behind.  But with big plans ahead, I know he was ready to move on.

                   One ceremony down and the big one yet to come.

Despite a small chance of rain having been forecast, Thursday dawned with another day of blue skies and not a cloud in sight.  Every W&L student harbors a fear of rain causing the ceremony to be held indoors at neighboring VMI (the only place large enough for the crowd).

The Geology Department had a breakfast shortly before graduation in the central atrium of the science building......

No he's not wielding a weapon toward one of his professors.... it's the engraved rock hammer that he received as a gift from the Department.

Still fresh and not yet sweaty!  Saying goodbye before going to claim our seats and meet up with the rest of the family.
Since I didn't keep a journal or blog at the time of the graduations of his brothers, I'll note for posterity that I was every bit as proud when Clark's three older brothers graduated.  However with this graduation, although I felt the same massive swelling of pride and excitement for his future, there was also also the subtle awareness of a closing of a chapter of MY life as well as his.... the last son to graduate from college.

I've joked for sometime now about being "outsourced" as a mother during the last four years.  Now I think that I've been officially laid-off!

By the time that the processional flags came into sight along the colonnade, there was a packed crowd with more seersucker, bowties and sundresses on display than you could "shake a stick at."

A chair waiting for him....

When the graduates were seated and President Ruscio began his welcoming address, we heard the increasing noise of jet engines, and to our amazement, a military jet (F-14 or 15?) flew RIGHT over the lawn.  Buzzed us and tipped his wings.

The crowd broke into spontaneous applause and we were all delighted with the unexpected "lagniappe." The timing was too perfect to be coincidence so I'm guessing it was a former graduate of VMI or W&L who knew about the ceremony?

After the requisite speeches, the names of all 400+ graduates were called out for their walk across the stage in front of the Chapel.

No cattle call crowding; every graduate had their own moment on stage to shake the President's hand.

The official photos aren't yet online so I can't post the exact moment when he got his sheepskin (and yes, it is a REAL sheepskin diploma in that blue tube!..... W&L is all about tradition).

A little sweaty but proud of our son/brother/brother-in-law/fiance!!    (We were missing Carter but he got to watch from afar thanks to the streaming video feed)

A check of the diploma that afternoon.
                             Yes, it's all spelled correctly!  
                                                   A wonderful two days for us .... a marvelous four years for him!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

The roofing crew did a good job of cleaning up post roofing but it still took us a full day to comb over the place for stray nails and debris and wash away all of the grit from the walks, porches, decks etc.

We were congratulating ourselves on what a good job we had done and then after one (ONE.... only one!) trip up the driveway, Bernard got a nail in a tire.

Wouldn't you know it.... THE Most expensive tires that we own!  Even more than one of the dually truck tires.  Why couldn't it have been the lawn mower?

He's back at the barn waiting for air from the compressor.

I thought he looked like the Little Engine That Could parked in front of the horse trailer.  He's even the right shade of blue!

So much to look forward to this week:  graduation, baccalaureate, seeing Asher, Owen, Kathleen (and showing them the land for the first time), seeing Raeanna (and her new ring!), and my first look at the "basement" of the house.

We'll be on the road in a few hours!!

Packing and Blogging

Packing, cleaning, washing, ironing, mowing...... LOTS to do before we leave at the crack of dawn for Virginia and graduation!!!!

Since we might have hordes of "lookers" (we can only hope) coming to see the house while we're gone, everything needs to be neat and we can't just blow out the door with clothes on the floor and dishes in the sink.
Noel, who will be staying behind with a housesitter and then Paige, is under strict orders not to hack up any hairballs  in order to impress potential buyers with her ability to decorate the carpet or kitchen floor.

Each time that I pat myself on the back that I'm getting the hang of this blogging thing, I learn something new and have to spend time "fixing" and "tweaking."  Will I ever be finished setting it up?  Probably not as I'm sure eventually I'll get tired of the existing template and rework the whole layout.

A few nights ago I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get my header photo to be small enough so that you didn't have to scroll down in order to see the title of the post.  Cropping doesn't work with the blog template; I needed to reduce the digital size and I found an awesome website called  It's a website that effortlessly lets you resize photos in a variety of ways, preset or in "advanced mode" which is what I had to resort to in the end.

A drawback to iphoto is the inability to resize without exporting and jumping through a thousand hoops. was so quick and even better FREE!

Then this morning thanks to nice commenters (I'm so excited to have comments and will respond as soon as I get packed and the floors mopped!!!!) , I learned that "following" and "subscribing" are two different things.  I had subscribe buttons, but not a follow widget.  Problem now solved, though I don't particularly like the looks of the lonely following widget with just a few little photos and wish I could hide it somehow!

Back to the drudgery!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Graduation Teaser

Some of you know that Clark is scheduled to graduate from college next week.  I say scheduled because it might not happen.

Although Rockbridge County is in a bit of a bubble, I'm not sure that even it could escape the predicted end of the world/Judgement Day which is predicted for tomorrow, May 21st.  The rapture and taking up to heaven of the true faithful will be on Saturday and I'm afraid that I may be among the poor souls left here to wait out the next 5 months of misery.

So back to graduation.....  What with the mayhem and destruction that will begin the five month wait until the actual end of days, I doubt that even W&L will manage to swing a graduation ceremony.  They have a rain plan, but apparently not a rapture, earthquake, fire, pestilence and flood plan.

He's worked hard for the chance to walk across the stage on the Colonnade lawn and so I thought that I'd do my best to give everyone a taste of what it could have been like next week.

Just because I'm his mother.

Mothers live in the past.

He's so cute that I don't know how I ever let him grow up or how I didn't defy the dire medical warnings and try and have Son #5.

I'm going to give him a hug when I see him and close my eyes and remember.....

Pre-K Graduation-- Clark-- Ms. Gina's class

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Our Real Estate Demographic

After a year of obsessing and comparing our house with others on MLS, I've determined exactly what needs to happen for our home to sell.

There are currently only five houses for sale in the Zachary area that have 5 bedrooms (or more), so there is not much of a selection for families with a large number of children.  The other 4 homes are all in traditional subdivisions with tiny yards and therefore none of them has a barn.  

We could speed the sale of our house up greatly if Georgia Pacific (the nearby paper mill) or River Bend (the nearby nuclear plant)..... and people wonder why we want to move?..... would hire someone, turn a blind eye to EEO rules and go slightly afoul of fair hiring questions.

If they could bring on board an engineer who is a "practicing" Catholic, Mormon or a fundamentalist evangelical type (i.e. LOTS of children) who also has a horse, then our house is sold!  Instantly!

We need Catholics with a pony.

Seems simple to me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Construction Continues

I don't know what's happening at the land in Virginia but here in Louisiana, we're working on the roof!

Yes, we're getting a new roof.  We had a hailstorm last month which was CRAZY!  My jaw was literally hanging slack while I stood at the french doors and looked out into the back yard watching the hail .  It went on and on and on.... by the time it finally stopped the entire deck was covered solid in hail the size of marbles and bigger.

Almost on a whim at someone's suggestion, we asked that Safe-co send out an inspector to see if we had enough damage to qualify for a replacement and much to our amazement, we did!  Our old roof was almost 12 years old so this will be great for the house sale.

The downside is that we many lose a tire and/or a foot to the zillions of nails that are laying around in the garden beds, walkways.

Shingles in the hot tub, grit everywhere and numerous mashed plants that may not survive, but as a new roof would have cost around 20K then it's worth the annoyance!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Back to the Books! My Mortal Enemy/Cather

I'm finally forcing myself to post the backlog of "Books Read" that has been steadily growing larger.  I am indeed keeping up with my New Years resolution to read more books this year, but I haven't been as diligent about writing up my plot summaries and opinions.
I've owned this hard bound 1926 edition of My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather for several years.  It's not a true first edition but a "First, second, or Third printing Before Publication".  However, it was printed in the same year as a true first and has a detailed cover, dainty headers on each page and a sunny yellow drawing to start each of the short chapters.

AND it has the first owner's nameplate on the inside cover.

Because I'm the Queen of Googling, on a total whim as I was thinking about what to write, I typed in her name and lo and behold Mrs. Calvin Fentress (aka Mary Frances Wood Fentress) was right there on my computer screen... or at least her obituary from the Chicago Tribune was there.

Mrs Fentress (can I call you Mary Frances?) was a "prominent social and civic figure in Chicago" and passed away at the age of 85 in 1996.  She was active on many boards and charitable organizations, her husband was President and chairman of the board for AllState Insurance and even her father has a Wikipedia page as he was a Brigadier General and then was the head of Sears for many years.  According to her daughter, she had a "great zest for life and was the ultimate people person....."

I can't help but think that it's a little wink and nod to me that her son is quoted in the obituary as saying,
"Like her father, she was extremely energetic and very bright," her son, Robert, said. "She devoured books--novels, biographies, plus four or five newspapers a day."

So Mary Frances while I can't remember how your copy of My Mortal Enemy came to reside on my shelves in Louisiana, I'm taking good care of your book and I wonder if you enjoyed it as much as I did?  

~~My standard book review disclaimer:  I'm not writing reviews for anybody's benefit other than my own.  I'd love it if you see a book that strikes your fancy but I've no pretense of being a literature expert....this type of post falls into the journal aspect of the blog.  Nothing house or family oriented here.... just a book report to help me remember the details of what I've read. 

Myra Henshawe is the talk of her small hometown in Illinois.  As a young person she eloped with husband Oswald fully aware that  marrying him would mean being cut out of the will of her doting guardian uncle.  She gave up millions and a life of ease for what at the time of the elopement seemed like true love.  After her marriage, she returned only once to her hometown and so that added to the mystery and legend surrounding her.  

When she is first met by Nellie (the narrator), Myra is in her 40's and only moderately happy with her life.  She is flashy and materialistic as well as a bit of a self-centered social climber, but her life in New York City is mesmerizing to adolescent Nellie.  

When Nellie, Myra and Oswald meet again years later the hints of marital discord and complacency visible years before have grown immense plus Myra and Oswald are nearly destitute.  Myra is ill with cancer and at one point before her death says, "Why must I die like this, alone with my mortal enemy?"  Has Oswald, who without complaint tends to her needs, become her "most mortal enemy"?  Or is she referring to herself?  

Another quote that highlights the bitter undertones of the book is, 
"People can be lovers and enemies at the same time..... A man and woman draw apart from that long embrace, and see what they have done to each other... In age we lose everything; even the power to love."

A brief novella, that despite the ending and the bitter, jaded view of marriage, was actually a pleasure to read although I know that sounds hard to believe!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Slumber Party is Over

Joe is on his way back to Louisiana.

This is great except that this morning I had to break it to my friends that the two week slumber party is over.

They weren't thrilled.

No more extra space to spread out on the bed and do whatever we want with the covers and ceiling fan.    

No more staying up until 2:30 a.m. reading or watching mindless television; we're experts on Real Housewives of NYC.  And you wouldn't believe the ineptitude of the wealthy women on Pregnant in Heels!  

I'm afraid that when bedtime comes tonight there may be a revolt.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Basement Photos Scale (Week 1)

The two day outage at Blogger had me silenced!  Since every other blog hosted by Blogger was also unable to communicate, I was in good company!

It was a bit like getting thirsty after you've been told that you can't have any water.  It normally doesn't bother me to go for days without posting, but since I "couldn't" post then there was nothing that I wanted to do more!

Joe kept telling me that they were almost finished with the digging and "tapping" but it didn't look very deep to me.  I know that is a truck in there, but it still looks shallow and not big enough for the whole bottom of a house!

So I told him to use the self timer and take a photo of himself "in" the basement.  Eureka!  When I opened this photo, I could literally put it all in perspective!  

Since he's 6' 7", I'd guess that it's almost 9 feet deep?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Digging almost Completed! (Week 1)

This morning I received several emails with attachments holding 11 new photos from Joe in Virginia. He was rather shamefaced that previously he had only sent ONE lonely photo to me over the last three days.  It had been a busy weekend up there though what with  mowing, sweeping and blowingcleaning house, weeding, cleaning stalls, pruningcooking, walking the dogs, and taking care of himself, the pool, cats, dogs and horses .

I can surely understand his situation!!!

I am joking though since I'm glad that he is up there to see it all and everything is going smoothly here on the old homefront.

I guilted him into finally doing some actual cooking for himself today.  Other than eggs for breakfast, a thawed chicken pot pie had been the limit of his culinary endeavors for the past 7 days!

I brought Bree to LSU for a recheck this AM and his eye is looking better.  They've given him the okay to be ridden again and a cyclosporin implant  is on order.

The paddocks at the vet school are directly across from the Mississippi River levee and there was a constant stream of gawkers walking up the paved overlook across from the parking area.  The corps has banned all foot traffic on the BR levees other than on the paved sections so this is one of the few spots where you can access the view.  The river is still 12 days away from cresting in Baton Rouge and since it was also a humid 91 degrees,  I opted to skip looking today although I'll probably go back later in the week.

Here are the latest views of the basement.  Still digging but the only patch of "bad" rock so far is the whitish rock that you can see in the center.  It's in the foyer/front door area.  Thankfully we had pulled the house back just a bit from our original layout or we'd have been paying for a lot more "tapping."

The last time I was there the grass was getting pretty tall and since Northern VA is considered endemic for Lyme disease, I was prepared to spray down on my next visit to the land.  It doesn't look like many ticks will be hanging out in the lunar landscape!

The dreaded "tapper".....  but imagine a house within the rectangle....

Monday, May 9, 2011

House Exterior Drawings

Not much to report on from Virginia.  Joe has only sent ONE more photo since Friday.   :(

Here in Louisiana, I'm hearing no complaints from the four legged crew and am busy with gardening and keeping the house in order.  I had a showing on Friday and supposedly they are coming back for a second viewing, but I haven't heard anything definite.  

VA neighbor Linda asked for some drawings on the house so I'll happily oblige! 

Here's what we're aiming for.....

Exterior looking at the front door (Upstairs we'll have the Master BR, Den, Kitchen, Dining Room, "Mud" Room/Family Entry, Foyer and Laundry Room.  Downstairs will have 2 Bedrooms, 2 Baths and a Study and Center Hall. 

Garage (will be set at a 45 degree angle to the house)

View of the rear of the house:  there's a deep porch that wraps around the back and an outdoor fireplace downstairs. I can't wait to sit on the back porch and watch a sunset!

Friday, May 6, 2011

"Destruction" Begins!!

Two days of work on the new house!!!  

We're in the "destruction" phase with "construction" to follow.  


First scoops of dirt!  The voice belongs to Tom Beebe our builder......

Accckk.... we've hit rock already and they've brought in "the tapper" ($$$)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Something Old, Something New

Stunning "news from the hill" where the bulldozer has been moving dirt this morning and so we've officially begun construction on the house!!!  Wow!

 Joe is in Virginia for almost 2 weeks and has sent a few photos from the work that was done this morning.

As exciting as that is I'm sticking with news from Louisiana today..... the photos from Virginia will have to wait!!!

It was a gorgeous cool morning and I drove up to St. Francisville this AM.   After stopping at Birdman for a latte and the Post Office to mail Clark's graduation invitations, I went down to the Mississippi River ferry landing.

Though the road to the ferry was still open, it won't be long before the businesses at the end of the road are underwater.

Governor Jindal made an announcement yesterday that the St. Francisville-New Roads Ferry would be closing.

Not closing temporarily until the waters high waters recede..... but NEVER running again!  So what else could I do, but ante up my dollar and ride the ferry one last time?

Bernard the Mini was the second car in line and I only had to wait about 10 minutes before the ferry came over from New Roads and docked.

The ferry workers were waving at everyone as we drove aboard. 

We were on the VERY LAST St. Francisville to New Roads run so after the last car was loaded, two of the workers came out and posted the closed sign.

There was a bit of a festive party atmosphere on board as most everyone got out of their cars to mingle and talk on the way across.

All sorts of people were hanging out on the rails..... wait!

Time Warp!

That's a picture from 1977!!  It seems like just the other day.  

I was driving a red Triumph convertible back then.  

Now I'm tooling around in handsome Bernard.... pretty lucky over the years don't you think?

I was touched when the ferry blew it's horn on departure and everyone on the landing gave a farewell hurrah!

I got not only nostalgic but honestly felt chills at the thought that I was doing something that I'd never be able to do again.

The smell of the river, the wind, the current and the whitecaps......  It's the closest most of us can ever get to the powerful Mississippi.

One piece of history ends and another begins.... how to get back across the river and home?  

Do I see a bridge??

I drove south a couple of miles and waited on the side of the
road for the opening of the new Mississippi River Bridge!

Last night it was not only announced that the ferry was closing permanently but that the new bridge would be opened today.... several weeks early.   Quite a surprise as both of these announcements were made with less than 24 hours notice!

There will be some lane closures, lights added etc over the next months, but since it's safe for travel and the ferry was going to be out of commission due to high water then it was opened to traffic early.   So after the "powers that be" gave their speeches and cut the ribbon, off we went!

Sunroof open and windows down, as I drove through the cheering workers, one of them yelled out that we were the first Mini to cross!!!  Bernard has made history!

 Finally after years of wanting to see the bridge, I was up close and personal with the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemishpere!

Until today, I'd only seen graphics and a few press photos.  Although our house is only about 7 miles away, the bridge is totally out of sight several miles down a side road which until now has been closed to traffic.  
 There are 136 stays each wrapped in an orange sheath and containing between 20-69 individual cables.

I won't claim to have invented the name, but it's being called by some the "Class to Trash" bridge..... 

If you know St. Francisville and New Roads, you'd understand. :)

I'm thankful that I live on the Class side.  

Maybe that could be a selling point for the house.... "Located on the Classy side of the bridge"?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Speed Walking the Appalachian Trail

I thought this was so neat that I had to share it.  (Plus Clark can't be featured in 3 posts in a row!)

Kevin Gallagher of Richmond VA put together this time lapse video of his thru hike of the AT.

Green Tunnel from Kevin Gallagher on Vimeo.

“Each day of the six month trek, Kevin took photographs of a single quintessential section of the trail. Twenty four successive steps down the trail were captured each day. At the end of the journey he had over 4,000 slides which were then strung together to offer a condensed view of what an accelerated hike along the Appalachian mountain range would look like.”

(Above quote taken from his website

Its just a touch jumpy for the first minute but then either my eyes got used to it or he perfected the art of smooth walking!

Even the music is good so turn on your sound!  Enjoy!!  I embedded the video, but if you hit the Green Tunnel link then you can see it in a bigger screen which is way more enjoyable.

Monday, May 2, 2011

BIG News from the HIll

Even though I'm in Louisiana, there's some HUGE "news from hill" to blog about.....

Raeanna went to VA for a long weekend and here they are out at the land......

So.... cute together! 

 And what's the news?  No, no, no!  Not those tiny orange flags marking the corner of the house!!  

It's the big sparkly ring on her left hand!!!!!!!!

Oh my!!  How is the best way to express how happy I am for the two of them?  I looked in the thesaurus online for help and none of the synonyms for "delighted" or "overjoyed" came close to capturing my sentiments.  

So many changes ahead ..... One is graduating and the other is ending a job; one looking for a job and/or starting graduate school and the other beginning medical school; both of them moving.... and all this happening in the next few weeks.  I've told them before that I admire the way that they support and encourage one another and so it heartens me to think that they'll be facing these situations with a commitment to each other.  

Back to the thesaurus.... it gives me a about 200 possibilities for words and phrases to use in this post.  Although they all individually fall short of the mark, I'll try and use a bunch of them.  

  I'm tickled pink that he asked; pleased as punch that she said "Yes"; elated that I'll have her for a daughter-in-law; jubilant that they felt a commitment was important; and thrilled about the relationship that they are building!!

How did I do?  Sigh.... I still want to give them a hug!  Nothing beats seeing an ear to ear smile in person!