Saturday, January 11, 2014

Moving On Up

I just bought my own domain name, got a web host (Bluehost), and downloaded Wordpress.  Nothing is live yet, but stand by!  Exciting things to come!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mad Cold

 Here in the Hollow this morning we saw temps at a miserable 1 degree with wind chills far lower.  The school system closed schools today, so Little Bird got a day off on her 8th birthday!  She got ice cream for breakfast, we baked a cake, and now she and her sister are in the shower getting ready for their spa day mani/pedi session.
Meanwhile, Harpers Ferry National Park is reporting that it's "cold enough to freeze a mouse" at -2 degrees!  Here's their status from earlier:
"Historic reports of bad winters are common in this area. In February 1914, local Harpers Ferry papers reported a rooster was found frozen. In 1926, the Shenandoah River was reported to be black. The 1926 reporter was told by residents that the river turns black before a freeze. (Sources: Farmers Advocate & Virginia Free Press)"

According to the news, this paralyzing chill is due to the Polar Vortex's taking a dip to the South.  Well, go back, Vortex - go back!  (Rumor has it that she is; Saturday will be a balmy 61!)  

As I write this, I've just found out that the Mad Dog (click for former blog post) is on fire.  More later.    

Edited to add these pictures that were posted at Washington Co.Md Fire Calls (Facebook page) 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Winter Trees

Winter Trees
by William Carlos Williams
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold. 

 It is just too cold, too wet, and too icy in the Hollow today.  G is smoking us out of the house, though, by lighting the wood stove for the first time this season.  I'd like to say that the girls and I sitting back, eating chili, and reading poetry, but that would be a flat out lie.  They are playing Roblox, turning their noses up at my chili, and asking for ice cream instead.  And so it goes.   

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Visiting "Our" Tree

Between Christmas and New Years, we decided to celebrate Little Bird's 8th birthday a little early by heading down to Tyson's Corner for a quick stay in a hotel with a pool.  We got a great price ($89) for a room with the fun of witnessing hundreds of teenage girls swarm at their first meet-and-greet with Youtube icons.  Joy.  (Actually, it was hilarious to see them scream and run at any supposed sighting.)  Before we checked into our room, we spent some time over at the mall at the American Girl store so that their dolls could get their hair done and ears pierced ($60 for the whole deal - not terrible, but G couldn't believe it).  Then, we headed down to the quintessential tweener heaven so that both girls could get their own ears pierced!  The youngest went first and didn't flinch; then big sis went and didn't do too badly either.

Since Tyson's Corner is only about 22 minutes from DC and the weather was a lovely 50 degrees (for December), we decided to head downtown to get some grub and see the National Christmas Tree.

Although we likely could have found street parking had we looked longer, we decided to park under the famous Willard -- $17 for the first two hours; $21 after that.  This may seem exorbitant, but one should expect at least that much in DC - and this was valet!  We made our way upstairs to the Willard lobby - wow.  They really know how to celebrate the holiday!  There was a beautiful Christmas tree in the lobby and decorations galore.  G asked why we didn't stay there . . . I asked if he had an additional four hunny for the night . . . He was satisfied with my choice.

We walked north to see if we could get a table at the Old Ebbitt Grill, but even at 3:30 on a Saturday, there was an hour wait.  Another time.  The place was packed and the Nutcrackers outside were getting their fair share of photo ops.  The girls were too grumpy to stand still long enough for me to get their pic, so we headed even farther north and found Woodward Table on the corner of H and 15th.  Since we were there between lunch and dinner, we had to settle for the bar menu, but they had a great kids' menu, nonetheless, and G and I really enjoyed our meals of a huge burger and crab/artichoke pizza.  (SG had a huge kid's steak/fries and Sylv had yummy cheese pizza.)  The price was a bit on the high side - again, expected, but we really enjoyed our streetside seats and the beautiful decor. 
After linner, we headed southeast to the White House.  The crowds on the street were incredible!  So many out to enjoy the weather, I suppose.  We walked up to find our "first" protest - Iraqi-Americans protesting Maliki for a recent bombing/civilian slaughter.  

The girls were captivated with the chanting, signs, and flags.  It was very moving.  We got some pix right in front of the place (G commented on how he couldn't believe how close we were allowed to be), then we headed west and south again to make our way to the tree.  The crowds increased as we made our way down to a surprisingly small evergreen surrounded by gates and train sets.
 We walked up to the innermost gate at about 4:50 p.m. and the lights came on just a few minutes later.  It was kind of magical to be right there at that moment, and the crowd ooh'ed and ah'ed right on cue. 
The girls tried to throw pennies into the circling trains, and we found our Maryland tree on the outskirts.  The quarter-scaffolded Washington Monument stood stoically to the south against the mellow sunset sky.  We headed back to our parking garage before it got too dark.  We awed at how the Willard's outside decorations were almost as beautiful as inside. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Five Generations

     While home on Winter Break, I had the chance to scan a few of Grandma's pictures.  These two were especially fun to view.  This first one is of me at about seven months (guessing) and my great-great grandmother - Pearl Selena Astlin Beall (around age 86 - died the following year).  
     This is what was written about her in Grandma's binder: "She was a good person, easy-going, a hard worker, very compassionate, and she treated everyone well. She was tall and thin, with black hair and blue eyes. She raised her family in the lock house at Lock 25, where there was no electric or running water. The house consisted of a kitchen and living room on the first floor and two bedrooms on the second. There was a cookstove in the kitchen and a woodstove in the living room. She washed the family's clothes in a big tub with scrub board and ironed them with a flat iron, which was warmed on the wood stove, that she used to cook the meals. There was no refrigerator but there was an ice box. The water was fetched in a bucket from the well across the road. Meals that could be stretched to feed nine people were served -- fish, potatoes, beans, biscuits, and cornbread. In the winter, there was always a pot of soup on the cookstove. Life was not easy for the ladies of her time. None of the children were born in a hospital -- they were delivered at home by Aunt Polly (the black mid-wife that lived up the road) and the local doctor."

     This next picture is of five generations of Beall-Poole-Null women.  That's me around 9 months old on Pearl's lap again -- Her daughter, my great-grandmother Edna Mildred Beall (she's around age 67 here) - Her daughter, my grandmother Helen Elizabeth Poole (around age 45 here), and my mother Judy Louise (around age 19 here).

Saturday, September 7, 2013

New Year

My Jewish ancestors had it right; this is the newest time of year -- "Shanah Tovah":

The New Year

  by Emma Lazarus
Rosh-Hashanah, 5643

Not while the snow-shroud round dead earth is rolled,
      And naked branches point to frozen skies.—
When orchards burn their lamps of fiery gold,
      The grape glows like a jewel, and the corn
A sea of beauty and abundance lies,
                      Then the new year is born.

Look where the mother of the months uplifts
      In the green clearness of the unsunned West,
Her ivory horn of plenty, dropping gifts,
      Cool, harvest-feeding dews, fine-winnowed light;
Tired labor with fruition, joy and rest
                      Profusely to requite.
- See more at: New Year
The New Year
       by Emma Lazarus
Rosh-Hashanah, 5643

Not while the snow-shroud round dead earth is rolled, 
And naked branches point to frozen skies.— 
When orchards burn their lamps of fiery gold, 
The grape glows like a jewel, and the corn 
A sea of beauty and abundance lies, 
Then the new year is born. 

Look where the mother of the months uplifts 
In the green clearness of the unsunned West, 
Her ivory horn of plenty, dropping gifts, 
Cool, harvest-feeding dews, fine-winnowed light; 
Tired labor with fruition, joy and rest 
Profusely to requite. 

Not while the snow-shroud round dead earth is rolled, And naked branches point to frozen skies.— When orchards burn their lamps of fiery gold, The grape glows like a jewel, and the corn A sea of beauty and abundance lies, Then the new year is born. Look where the mother of the months uplifts In the green clearness of the unsunned West, Her ivory horn of plenty, dropping gifts, Cool, harvest-feeding dews, fine-winnowed light; Tired labor with fruition, joy and rest Profusely to requite. - See more at:

Rosh-Hashanah, 5643
Rosh-Hashanah, 5643

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February Sky

taken February 1, 2013, along Harpers Ferry Road near Woodlawn Farm shortly after sunrise

Sunday, January 20, 2013

To Begin Again

I know that one might call this blog 'personal' - it's about my life, my family, my interests, my ideas - but I typically do not write about deeply personal subjects here.  I have tried to keep it light and even fun.  But today I feel the need to go public with something that I have kept close to my heart - I guess it is the writer, the artist in me.  I have this need to express in a way that might form a connection with others.  Somehow that might make it settle down a bit and have purpose.  I haven't written here in nine months; I'm not sure why, but I think it's because I wasn't ready yet.
Now, I'm ready to move on from where I've been for over a year.  They say you shouldn't take your work home with you, but I'm in a profession that is completely and fully people-oriented; everything I do is for the service of other human beings.  As a result, there are very few moments when I'm not dealing with the stickiness of human emotion.  This has been one of those years where I've really questioned my choice to work in education over a hands-on, product-oriented trade (the visual arts).  I don't need to list the details here, but suffice it to say that I've taken on an immensely different job from what I've done before.  And then, in mid-June, my direct supervisor (and, more importantly, my friend) took his life.
What I need to express and accept is that I've been grieving.  I've been confused and angry.  And I've often been terribly sad.  I've wanted answers that apparently don't exist.  I've wanted closure, and all I've heard is silence.  I've thought it all shouldn't affect me too deeply, and yet I knew all along that I had been cut.
I want to write and create again.  I want to search again for answers that I might find.  I want to love what I'm doing, and, most importantly, I want to show my daughters how to find strength in adversity.  I know I can do all these things - that's the point, for me, in writing them down here.  I don't have any eloquent epiphanies to offer about death or grief.  I'm committing to move on and make purpose.

"This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.

It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand."
               from You Begin by Margaret Atwood


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Idiotic April

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
We are way past the spikes of crocus season, Ms. St. Vincent Millay, and deep into the pinks and yellows.  I didn't remember this poem being such a downer, but it surely is fitting for this opening day of April, of Poetry Month, of yet another day of burning sinuses . . .  
our friends the Marlins' farm at Antietam from Canal Road

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Who Defended the Bridge?

The other evening our neighborhood friend who owns the Antietam Ironworks Inn asked me to use my fine Googling skills to find out which general defended the Antietam Ironworks bridge during the battle.  (He wasn't sure that in fact someone did, but he was under the impression that someone had.)
Unfortunately, I did not come up with a name or even that the bridge played any role in the battle except that Rebel troops crossed it in their journey to support Lee at Sharpsburg.  However, my short search did find that companies from the 13th Massachusetts camped here for a bit in 1861 (a year before the battle).  The letters at this site are very interesting glimpses into the soldiers' lives. I especially enjoyed a letter from James B. Noyes; apparently, the most memorable part of being in Antietam Village was the vicious attack of fleas!
Modern day defenders watching over the bridge

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Early Morels

It's an extra early season for mountain morel mushrooms, but they are, in fact, here and as delicious as usual!  Due to the extraordinarily warm end of winter and early spring, the daffodils, forsythia, redbud, dogwood, and morel are all popping, and we aren't complaining one bit!  Usually these guys don't make their appearance until around the second week in April; be sure to check out these two other posts for proof.

Spring in the Hollow

This was taken last week; the daffodils are quickly wilting away now. 
"For oft, when on my couch I lie
   In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
   Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."
The forsythia are quickly turning from brilliant yellow to lime green.
"The forsythia sings against a chorus
of green, yet the hue of winter looms."
~ Rosemary Royston
This is Bradford Pear, right?  This tree is along our northside fence row.
"no flower ever opened   
so staunch a white leaf,   
no flower ever parted silver
from such rare silver"
~ Hilda Doolittle
The redbud are beautiful right now.
"I will go, I said, to the country
When the red-bud blooms in the spring
And then, as of old, for sheer rapture
My heart will sing."
~ May Frink Converse
The dogwood are my favorite.
"But high o'er all the early floral train,
Where softness all the arching sky resumes,
The dogwood dancing to the winds' refrain,
In stainless glory spreads its snowy blooms."
~ George Marion McClellan

Antietam Sunrise

Life has proven extraordinarily busy lately, but when a sunrise like this presents itself, I'd be a fool not to slow down for a moment to take a shot.  I took this on our way to Hagerstown one morning last week during our usual hectic routine.  This is looking east (obviously) off Rt. 65 just north of the Battleview Market.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Sometimes I hear something, see something, feel something,
and wonder why I'm not part of that - 
not doing that - 
not that

Saturday, February 4, 2012

It's a Girl Scout Thing

We have recently learned more about a Girl Scout tradition called SWAPS (Special Whatchamacallit Affectionately Pinned Somewhere).  They are simply little somethings, often symbolic of an event, with a small identifying tag that Girl Scouts swap with each other and pin on a hat, t-shirt, rope, etc. 

Coming up in February is a special Girl Scout holiday called World Thinking Day.  It's a day when scouts and guides around the world get together to learn and think more about their sister scouts in different countries.  Our county's service unit is having a special day where each troop picks a country to represent.  Our troop chose China/Hong Kong!  We are responsible for making a display, 150 SWAPS, and a snack.  Our SWAPS are a combination of little pictures (dragons, Wall of China, etc.) and fortune cookies that we've made.  Here are some pictures of how to make the fortune cookie SWAPS (I think they're adorable!).
Cut out a circle of paper (I used a scrapbooking circle punch tool).  Pinch it in half (colored side out) - do not crease the fold.  I had to use my other hand to take the photo, but usually my other hand is holding that left side closed while my right hand is pushing in middle and pulling the ends down and together.  I used little glue dots (Zots) to put in the crease to keep the fold together permanently.  You could use regular glue, but you have to hold it closed for a bit. 

We printed out tags for the "fortune," which we glued into the cookie.

After adding the ubiquitous safety pin, we'll display our SWAPS in Chinese take-out containers (bought at Walmart in the party supplies section) on our table for the other Girl Scout troops to visit and swap. 

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