343 x 12

12 years ago today, 343 firefighters died in the line of duty, and rougly ten times as many people total lost their lives in New York, Pennsylvannia and Virgina.  (Yes folks, the Pentagon is in Virginia.) 

I’m all for a stiff upper lip and keeping on with life, but so many lives were changed that day, because of those terrorist attacks, and I think it is a disservice not to pause and reflect. 


This flag hangs behind my father inlaw’s desk in his office.  We owe it to them and to those who loved them, to keep remembering.

Women’s Equality Day 2013

Happy Women’s Equality Day!   As the old cigarette commercial used to say, “We’ve come a long way baby.”  There’s still plenty of room for improvement, starting with the very Congress that created this day in 1971, but it is nice to know that there is a day to honor the accomplishments and remind us to keep working for TRUE equality.

streetViewIt’s also fun that it falls on one of my favorite events in the League calendar.  The Champagne Toast is only about four years old in our League, but it’s the evening when we toast our newest members and formally welcome them into our organization.   This year, I’m even more excited because the event is being held in our glorious, historic Paramount Theater.   It happened to open about a decade after women were given the right to vote, which also happened on this day in 1920.

I cannot imagine my life without some semblance of equality.   For those who aren’t long-time, regular readers, I was active in politics in college, was a professional firefighter for 12 years, and have spent the past 12 years in the male-dominated water-well industry.   I confess that until I became familiar with Occoquan (the town… its prison and history), I took my right to vote and the equality that comes with it for granted. 

I’m of two minds on that taking for granted.  As a lover of history, I am ashamed that I went to college just a few miles from said prison and yet it was never mentioned in history or political science that little Occoquan housed some of the suffragettes.  However, albeit unknowingly at the time, I was a trail blazer for women in the fire service, and I’m actually delighted that we came so far so fast that few people think anything of seeing women firefighters, police officers, etc. these days.  

Any thoughts on the state of women’s equality?

The rest of the story

Photo courtesy of Kathyb

Photo courtesy of Kathyb

Last Tuesday, I had the distinct pleasure of hanging out with Kathyb and family, right here in podunk!  Nothing like playing tour guide to make you appreciate your hometown.

Kathy gives me far more credit than I deserve, but I’ll try to fill in the gaps. 

We dined at Hamiltons’ which never disappoints, but you have to know Hamiltons’ wasn’t my original choice.  First, I’d thought we’d do a brewery, but they’re all roughly half an hour out of town, and we were wandering around the shops on the downtown mall while Al – Kathy’s daughter – made her way to us from another part of the state.   There is a brewery downtown, but it’s closed on Tuesdays (of course!) so I suggested South Street, because it after all, South Street Brewery.  (Their website isn’t working, so no link today.)  However, they’re not open for lunch either!  We also tried to stop in another eatery downtown and they weren’t open either, and I confess at this point, I don’t even remember its name.  But there’s always Hamiltons’, and while it isn’t known for its beer selection, we did have a great meal.

Courtesy of the Monticello Store

Courtesy of the Monticello Store

Kathy wants to know more about Sally Hemings.  Don’t we all?!   I confess, she fascinates me too.  Who was the woman Thomas Jefferson seemed to love?  Well… she was his wife’s half-sister, for starters, and there is DNA evidence – although not a consensus among historians – that Mr. Jefferson sired at least one child with Hemings.  Kathy wants a reading recommendation, and I suggest The Hemingses of Monticello.  Yes, its subject is broader than the span of Sally’s life, but as a native of the area, I can assure you, the Hemingses are as much a part of local history as is Mr. Jefferson himself. 

Side note here…  yes, you can find the book on Amazon too, but if you buy from Monticello, a portion of the sale supports said national treasure.   I can assure you, it’s fiscally secure, but I hope that 200 years from now, it still will be and people from all over the world will continue to visit and be inspired to learn more about Mr. Jefferson.   As his relationship with Ms. Hemings illustrates, the great patriot, farmer and philanthropist (to name just a few of his claims to fame) was flawed, but that just makes him more interesting and sparks more discussions, right?

Next time Kathyb, we’ll tour the Grounds of Mr. Jefferson’s college.  I love his original “campus” best, and you can also see Edgar Allen Poe’s room on the same short walk.

What’s the infamous scandal in your town’s history?  (As if the Jefferson affair was the only one here…)




Keeping On

In the shadow looming over Boston… the nation… the world, here in Virginia, we are remembering what happened at Virginia Tech six years ago today. 

Now that I know many of you like quotes too, I’ll share some that seem appropriate today. 

     If you’re going through hell, keep going.  – Winston Churchill


I’m very proud of the emergency service providers who worked – and are still working – both at Virginia Tech six years ago and in Boston and everywhere there’s heightened security measures today.  Whether you are the praying sort or send out good vibes, please lift them and their families up today.   They don’t have the luxury to grieve or “go into shock” over what they see; they just keep working, as do the medical professionals caring for the injured.

And knowing a few marathoners, my heart goes out to the runners who didn’t get to finish the race.  I consider 5-7 miles my “long days”  as I learned in my teens that I’m just not wired for long distance runs or hikes, so the marathoners and even 13.1 crowd have my utmost respect.

Boston has been through hard times before.  Ironically, that’s what they were celebrating yesterday.  They – and we as a nation – will keep on going, and I hope those runners will too.

S-Heroes Departed

Since my grandmother’s terrier mix flipped out over my Shaun Cassidy posters longer ago than I care to admit, I’ve kinda’ been over being star-struck.  It also helps that growing up, Christopher Reeves was Nana’s neighbor, Jackie O and Elizabeth Taylor frequented horse shows and the like in our area, and now, our client list includes a best-selling author, a few movie stars and countless professional athletes…

05635d63e63b55a0f8bb48812874597aAll of this to say, I don’t have a famous person crush, but it did give me pause when I learned that Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau died yesterday and Margaret Thatcher, Baroness, died today.   I admire both women greatly, and couldn’t let their passings happen without sharing a bit about them with you.

I’d say the world is a little darker today, but Mrs. Rousseau made sure that’ll never be the case.  My stepmother’s mother specifically requested that we wear bright colors at her funeral, and I’m guessing Lilly P frocks from all eras will be the choice of the day for her mourners as well.   You see, little Lilly P may have been to the manor born, but she left college to volunteer in West Virginia and the Bronx before she married and rather accidentally launched the brand I love so well.  I think I would have enjoyed having a mimosa with Mrs. Rousseau and listening to her share whatever of her vast experiences she chose.

Likewise, Ms. Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was no wallflower.  She was NOT landed gentry, and very literally worked her way to the top after an education that was built on scholarships to some of the finest halls of higher learning.  I can’t even guess how many women count Ms. Thatcher as an inspiration, and I am sure we could have had great conversations over tea and/or while walking our favorite paths.

Please keep in mind both of these grand ladies achieved incredible success during a time many of their peers were still fighting for women’s rights.  While I certainly admire the people in the trenches who made it possible for me to attend an all-women’s college and then become a female firefighter, I also admire the women like young Lilly and Margaret who just did what seemed right for them and along the way, made history and broke barriers so other women could follow.

My favorite Margaret Thatcher quote is:

Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/margaretth109592.html#wUxUTE1ZOU6bxHuC.99

Who are your s-heroes?

Lives and Honor

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. 

— The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

236 years ago, 56 very brave men put their lives and fortunes on the line and made a nation.   In the years since, more men and women have done the same so that we and others around the world can live as free citizens with a voice in our governments.  While we here in the US enjoy a day off, fireworks, parades, cook-outs, picnics and the like, remember that freedom isn’t free, and the men and women who fight for it never do so alone.  Each of them has had family and friends at home worrying and praying for their safe return… and sadly, some gave – and continue to give – the ultimate sacrifice.

Please ponder for a moment…

Each signer understood that he was forfeiting his own life and property, and likely that of his family as well, because they were committing treason against the King.  These men believed so deeply in the principles expressed in this document that they were willing to die for them.

We are blessed that there are still men and women willing to die to preserve the way of life we all hold dear.

These are the things we should be celebrating today.  Our military heroes of today and yesterday deserve our respect, gratitude and admiration each and every day of the year.  Thank you seems a little hollow, but I assure you, that and a smile, maybe a handshake, is indeed appreciated heartily.

Happy Independence Day, America!


On a Mission

This post was inspired in part by Sue’s post on a similar topic.  I’m going to follow her lead and note that I too shy away from the controversial topics of politics and religion, but some topics are too important to ignore.


My kind of girl - friends' daughter dreaming of driving a fire truck in a PANK skirt!

Firstly, I have to say that Sue and all the feminists who came before us are my heroes.   That word feminist is slightly uncomfortable on my tongue, but sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.  You see, I was raised by a Marine who both pampered me and empowered me to take on the establishment.  I was surrounded by strong, opinionated women who spoke up, stood out, and made a difference in their communities.  I’ve never found it odd that as a petite, young female firefighter, I fought for a skirt and heels with my dress uniform.  As a child of Baby Boomers, I was taught I could – and should – have it all.

I am feminine and a feminist, and I thank Sue and my other heroes for making that possible.  There are two organizations very dear to my heart that share my values:

Girl Scouts and the Junior League

If you’ve been here more than once, you probably already know that I live and breathe Junior League.  But I fail to speak of my early leadership (and girl power!) training through the Girl Scouts, and that’s a shame.  As I’ve pleaded with you to get to know MY Junior League (we’re not white gloves and pearls), I’m going to ask you to click over and get to know the “new” Girl Scouts.  They took the long, hard road a few years ago and realized they were no longer relevant and they recalibrated.

I had the distinct privilege of hearing the CEO-emeritus Kathy Cloninger speak last Saturday.  I also had my eyes opened as she began her address; nearly every single Junior League president-elect and other rising leaders in the room was a Girl Scout, Blue Bird, Campfire Girl, etc.  So… if you haven’t ordered some diet-busting cookies, when you see your local troop outside a grocery store, stop and buy a box or give them a donation.  It’s an investment in our collective futures.

Kathy has written a book advocating women in leadership.  I’m not saying – nor is she! – that we need to boot the men out of the board rooms, but she has hard facts about how much more effective co-ed, balanced boards are… or could be.   Check out Tough Cookies for yourself.   I have a feeling I’m going to use it as a required reading assignment before our (League) board retreat this summer.  (Disclaimer:  I have a free copy of the book on its way to me…  we missed the distribution of said book at the conference because of our flight schedule.)

As I told Sue, while the complacency about women’s rights sometimes upsets me too, I also feel it’s a sign of the progress we have made.  It’s not yet time to rest on our laurels though.  As women, we need to vote, write our politicians when they aren’t representing us to our satisfaction, and to my way of thinking, most of all we need to mentor the girls growing up around us.

My grandmother (far right), one of her sisters (far left) and one of their nieces (center).

This isn’t a call to arms, but it is a cry for open eyes and hearts.  I don’t believe one has to choose between a career and family, but I’m glad that there are options, and some of the smartest, most successful women I know are devoted full-time to raising well-adjusted children.  Likewise, I know a few men I’ve heard joke about being “Mr. Mom”, and I think that’s beyond awesome and can’t wait for it to no longer be a novelty.

This is my passion.  When I chose to leave the fire service to support my inlaws’ family business, I hadn’t really recognized that I was leaving one male-dominated career for another.  And honestly, it’s not the same…  I am “staff” here, which isn’t as revolutionary as a petite little gal driving a big ol’ fire truck.  And I refuse to apologize for being a lifetime Leaguer.  Any preconceived notions you have about me based on that statement…

Well, I’d be happy to talk with you about them.  I’m proud to claim a League legacy via women in my own family, but who wouldn’t be proud to stand with women like Mary Harriman, Sandra Day O’Connor, Eleanor Roosevelt and other inspiring women?   I am “committed to developing the potential of women and improving our community through effective action and leadership…” and the Junior League gives me a very effective vehicle to affect such change.

Do you have a passion or two?  Are you mission-driven?

Longest Night

The winter solstice actually happens at 0530 tomorrow.   That’s good news, because dusk has been dictating when we end our doggy walkies of late.   Louise does the best posts, blending history and tradition and lore… 

October 2010 003

Still waiting to be plied...

Frau Holle would be angry at my home then.   The fiber on my wheel is almost two years old and has been spun on two different wheels.  Hem.   (Actually, I can’t even find a photo of the fiber I’m STILL spinning… oh well.)

While my heritage is exclusively English, Irish and Scottish, I enjoy learning about other traditions.  I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of Frau Holle before and find it amusing that I found her, not through spinning or knitting, but through a friend’s food blog.  Of course, Louise’s regular readers know it’s MUCH more than a food blog, and I happen to know that her housemate is an avid crocheter…

Several of my friends celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.  What do you celebrate this time of year?

aka: Decoration Day

Memorial Day started out as Decoration Day, and while I’m blessed to say none of the military folks I hold dear have died while in service, it’s still a great time to give pause and thank those who do serve and have served. 

Arlington National Cemetery, courtesy of Wikipedia

Oh – and a little bit of a history lesson here…  Y’all do know that Arlington was the family homeplace of Mary Anna Randolph Custis and SHE inherited it from her father just a few years before the Civil War began?  It was seized during the war, and the General and his wife never challenged for the return of their home, as the General believed it would be too devisive.  However, upon RE Lee’s death, their eldest son did, and the short version is he won, and then sold it to the US Government, and… that’s the rest of the story.

Easter at the Beach


Monster tulips at cousin's house

Sigh.  No, we didn’t head to the Outer Banks for the weekend, but we still got to see water and something that passes for a beach.  See, my cousin has a new home in Colonial Beach, and that’s where we did Easter dinner. 

Now, Colonial Beach isn’t new to me, but I confess that I’ve never had time to be a tourist there before yesterday.  Yesterday’s little drive made me very curious!  Alexander Graham Bell maintained a vacation home there and the Bell House is now a bed & breakfast.   The house has quite a history, having been built by the son of the Civil War General Ambrose. 


The town of Colonial Beach even has a little fire boat after the big marina fire.   It is the first fire boat I’ve seen in person.  Yeah, that is the wee police boat to its left, and there was a State Police boat elsewhere in the marina too.  I suspect before long, those boats will be in the water!

Did you do anything special for Easter? 

Oh – and be sure to visit the girls’ blog for a fun Easter photo.