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Archive for November, 2012

Nov 29 2012

Mad Crazed Night of the Dog

Posted by Mugs @ 12:55 pm in Family,Pets Print This Post Print This Post

Rachel and Barry are the kind of friends you can call and ask the following:

“The entire Manry Clan is coming down to your neck of the woods for college touring two weeks from now. Can we stay at your house even though you have company right now and you’ll have company right after we leave and you’ve only lived in your house a few months and have not really settled in? Also, can you watch two of my kids for an entire day until late in the evening while your kids are in school and it’s your daughter’s birthday? We won’t see you much and it will be a major imposition, but can we stay with you?”

Rachel and Barry are opposed to putting boundaries on the impractical requests of their friends.

Once, when Dale requested coffee (Rachel and Barry don’t drink coffee) during a time we were at their house, Barry went to Duncan Donuts and bought a giant ‘Box of Joe’ for Dale.

Saying “We don’t drink coffee, so you can’t have coffee” would never occur to them.

As expected, they said we were welcome to stay with them. We were a major inconvenience in all ways but one: Dale drove to Sheets to get his coffee.

Because we arrived late at night and twice departed early in the morning for college tours and once departed early to attend church, our time together was limited. One evening was the birthday dinner event and the other evening was the Creation light show at Natural Bridge. Our visit was go-go-go and amazingly they went along with us.

Late one night, Rachel and I decided to go for a walk around her neighborhood with her dog Quea. Because I was wearing my boots, our pace was painfully slow. It was a lovely, quiet neighborhood. With only the lights from the front porches and a tiny flashlight to guide us, we walked along at a meandering pace.

Quea was happy to lead the way into a neighbor’s yard where she did her business. Initially, Rachel was not concerned. She was prepared with lots of bags.

Unfortunately, those bags were the improper size to fit in her plastic bag carrier. Having jammed them in, she couldn’t get one to come out though she tried and tried. I held the flashlight to help her to see as she pulled and pulled on the bags. After much force was applied, the bags did come out, all at once and happily unrolled onto the neighbors lawn.

The flashlight was no longer helping much as it was shaking up and down from me laughing uncontrollably.

When the flashlight was back under control, Rachel gathered up the bags and separated one from the masses. We had now completely lost orientation on the mess that needed cleaned up.

I began to walk slowly forward with the flashlight inches from the ground. One can always find a mess this way, although it has its drawbacks.

When the mess was finally cleaned up, we continued on our way. (We should have heeded this first warning that this nighttime walk was not going to go well.)

The only other people out in the dark were two hoodlum teenagers who had escaped their homes and were running around looking for some trouble to get into. We walked by them as they schemed together in a ditch.

We were a downer on their plans as they had recently escaped their mothers and did not want other mothers keeping track of them.

They jumped up and ran off, but over the course of the walk, we would encounter them time and again.

Occasionally, we were not quite certain in which direction we were walking. Rachel was new to the neighborhood and in the pitch dark all the streets looked the same.

Finally, she saw a street sign she recognized.

“If we go down this road,” she said “We’ll eventually come to the street leading to my house.”

This is where the hoodlums decided they would have the most fun. In front of one house was a massive German Shepherd. The hoodlums sprinted past and set the dog off. The mad dog went crazy, first at them and then at us.

Initially, I couldn’t determine what was keeping the dog in the yard because it was so dark. He ran at a sprint in a perfect arch and when he reached the end, he hurled himself upward and outward only to be brought back. Back and forth he sprinted barking and snarling and growling.

Finally it dawned on me, “He’s chained,” I said, “He’s chained to the tree.”

Rachel snatched Quea into her arms and started walking quickly past the house. (Quea is a small fluffy dog who could be carried off by a large bird.) Meanwhile, I turned around and walked slowly backwards watching the mad dog race his arcs and lunge over and over and over to break the chain.

I was thinking, “Remember the dog whisperer: be calm, assertive and if he breaks the chain, you’ll have one good kick to slow him down. Maybe Rachel and Quea can get to the nearest porch before he mauls them.”

I was also praying, “Lord, please help that chain to hold.”

It was scary for what felt like a very long time.

Praise God, the chain held.

When we regrouped farther up the street. Rachel asked me what I had been planning to do.

“Kick him, so you could get to the nearest porch,” I said.

“I was going to start running home with Quia,” she replied.

“You never would have made it,” I answered somberly.

When safely back at Rachel’s house, we relayed our moment of terror to our husbands. Later, Rachel asked her middle school daughter if she had ever walked Quea down the street with the large dog chained to the tree.

“Yes,” She said, “He doesn’t pay attention to us. He’s always gnawing on something.”

Most likely the remains of some poor creature who did not escape.

Nov 26 2012

Maybe I’ll be Fancy

Posted by Mugs @ 12:45 pm in Family,Sightseeing Print This Post Print This Post

After the beach, we went to Annmarie garden, a sculpture garden and art museum. Once again, I attempted to expose the Manry Clan to some culture.  (Why I don’t give up, I don’t know.)

They were not impressed with the culturally significant large modern sculptures. Instead, they found great joy in all that was absurd. The gnome house, the big head with beard, and the deerman sign were a big hit.

After the garden, we ate dinner at a small expensive restaurant with terrific food.

Gabe had never tasted food quite so delicious.

“Is this what fancy people eat?” He asked me.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Maybe, I’ll be fancy,” He said.

Nov 24 2012

November Beach Day

Posted by Mugs @ 8:34 pm in Family,Nature,Sightseeing Print This Post Print This Post

As November slipped away, I realized that all possible dates for my December birthday outing were filled with school and church obligations. Not wanting to miss out on a day all about me, I moved the celebration up a bit.

Having no love for the activities of Black Friday (standing in long lines, pushing and shoving, the pursuit of a great deal), I decided we would spend the day at the beach.

A day at the beach always makes me happy.

We went to Flag Ponds Nature Park on the west shore of the Chesapeake Bay (1 1/2 hours away). The temperature was in the 50s and the sky was a beautiful blue.

It was lovely.

The Flag Ponds beach is a fun place for beachcombers like me. Whenever I’m on a beach, it doesn’t really matter what I find. I am happy to pick up pretty shells, smooth stones, coral, driftwood and sea glass.

Dale is much more selective. Finding large unbroken shells, sea dollars, starfish, and shark’s teeth are his priorities. If he doesn’t find any, he picks nothing up.

My search is less precise. I simply wander about picking up things that catch my eye. At the park, I got carried away picking up smooth round amber colored stones.

Dale watched for awhile and then commented, “You’re at the beach and you’re picking up rocks.”

“But they’re smooth, round, amber colored rocks,” I replied.

He doesn’t understand. He has no love for rocks.

Gabe went to the beach in shorts, t-shirt, and sandals and was indignant that he was not allowed to wear a swimsuit. He spent most of the time in the water up to his calves.

Zeke, wanting to copy Gabe in the “I don’t need a jacket and the water’s not cold” macho view of life, rolled up his pants and walked in and out of the water and down the beach. He tolerated the cold for a little while, but could not take the painful experience of stepping on the prickly seed pods scattered around the beach.

He had taken off his boots and put them in the bag Dale was carrying.

“I need my boots,” he said.

“I don’t have your boots. You gave your boots to Dad,” I replied.

“Where’s Dad?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve been looking down, not up,” I answered.

Josiah was nearby, so I told him to run and find Dale and bring Zeke back his boots.

“Where’s Dad?” He asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve been looking down, not up.” I answered.

At the moment, I was simply thinking “Josiah can run the fastest and get the task done quickly. This is my day at the beach. I should be exempt from finding lost boots for one day of the year.”

Josiah was gone a very long time and I completely lost sight of him in the dunes. Zeke would periodically come over and complain to me about how much his feet hurt. A little too late I remembered that sending Josiah to find something or someone is rarely a good idea.

I eventually spotted Dale out on the sand bar.

“There’s Dad,” I told Zeke. “Walk through the water and get your boots.”

By the time Zeke reached Dale, Josiah reemerged from the dunes with Zeke’s boots in his hands.

Now, I had to enlist Gabe’s help.

“Walk through the water and give the boots back to Dad and Zeke,” I said.

Gabe was quite happy to get more wet and although he was limping from a prickly seed pod in his foot, he refused to put his sandals on.

After awhile, Dale walked back to the car to get the lunch cooler. Zeke walked with him. It was a 1/2 mile hike up a hill. When they got back to the beach with the lunch, Zeke said, “I’m cold. I wish I had my coat.”

He had left it in the car.

After we ate our picnic lunch which had been packed by Abby, I continued in my attempt to find a sharks tooth. I had met a shark tooth finder extraordinaire on the beach and he told me to look for a thin shiny black object. He showed me the two teeth he had found that morning. Flag Ponds Nature Park is known for being a place to find sharks teeth.

Unfortunately, finding a sharks tooth proved a difficult task for me. When I’m hunting shells and rocks, I ignore black. Paying attention to black was difficult for my brain.

We all searched, and found plenty of coral, shells, rocks, and driftwood. Abby and I each found some sea glass, but sharks teeth remained elusive.

Early in the day, there was no wind and it was quite pleasant, but after lunch, the wind increased and the temperature dropped significantly.

Gabe got bored and had Zeke bury him in the sand.

After Dale made Gabe get out of the sand, Gabe wrapped himself in the picnic blanket and lay on the beach for the remainder our beach time.

Again, Dale made the 1/2 mile hike up hill back to the car to get Zeke’s jacket, his gloves, and Josiah’s book.

I kept looking for shark’s teeth, and had accrued quite a collection of rocks. Dale came out to the sandbar to join me.

Eventually, he reached down and picked up a smooth round amber colored rock and gave it to me.


“What is it?” she asks.

“It is a rock.” I say. “It is my favorite rock.”

“Thank you,” says my friend. She gives me a kiss.

My friend and I give each other many things.

But friendship is the best there is.


Nov 21 2012

Thankful for the Lot

Posted by Mugs @ 3:32 pm in Family Print This Post Print This Post

It’s time to give thanks to God for the smiles and laughs and joys of life.

Nov 16 2012

College: Think Shop Buy Local

Posted by Mugs @ 2:10 pm in Family,school,Sightseeing Print This Post Print This Post

No matter where I live, there is always a place  I drive by repeatedly but never go to see. Here in Stafford, we are an hour train ride from Washington DC. The longer I live here, the less I go into the city to see all it has to offer, the majority of which is free. However, if I am visiting another location, I am compelled to see everything so I don’t miss what might be my only opportunity.

“I know you are exhausted from visiting 3 colleges in one weekend,” I tell Dale. “But Natural Bridge is only an hour and a half away.”

I have driven past The University of Mary Washington multiple times each month for the last 5 years without nary a glance. When I first moved here, I thought it was a Catholic All Girls School. (It used to be called Mary Washington College.) I don’t know why I make assumptions that are completely inaccurate, I just do.

At church over the years, I have met many Mary Washington students, graduates, and professors who are all terrific people (male and female) and who all speak highly of the college, a Virginia Public University.

When discussing college options throughout the last year and a half, Josiah asked me, “What about Mary Wash?”

“No. You’re not going to Mary Wash. Why would you want to go to Mary Wash? It’s only 15 minutes away from home. Why would you want that? It takes longer for you to drive to your high school than it would take for you to drive to college,” I replied.

Just like when he insisted we go see Virginia Tech, he insisted we go see Mary Wash. Once again, much to my surprise, I liked the place.

It is a beautiful campus of old Virginia with its red brick archways and white columns. The campus is only a mile long and is in the midst of old downtown Fredericksburg. It is truly a pretty place.

A variety of students were sitting on the benches around campus chatting and enjoying the beautiful autumn foliage. 4,000 students attend. It is 65% female/ 35% male. There were students with pink hair and students with bow ties, students on bikes and students on skateboards. Everyone was out and about and very friendly.

In the briefings, the emphasis was very much on how the students could make a difference in the Commonwealth of Virginia. There was much more of a state focus at Mary Wash than I heard at any of the other school briefings.

The college has a great English department with an emphasis in creative writing and poetry. One of the professors has won the Pulitzer prize and was the Commonwealth of Virginia Poet Laureate. Some English professor’s offices are housed in a large home near the university which our tour guide referred to as the Creative Writing Mansion.

“It’s nice to hear a college talk about their English department for once,” Josiah remarked.

Furthermore, their music department is open for all students take part, regardless of major: a plus for Josiah. The college also has excellent education, business, and historic preservation departments. It is an academically focused school. Sports are a minor emphasis, and it has no fraternities and sororities. It is definitely not a party school.

Because we visited during an open house, there were different options for each time slot. Dale went with Abby and I went with Josiah. Dale and Abby did not have a good tour, but Josiah and I had a great tour. Our tour guide was very informative. She had changed her major nine times, so she could answer questions about nearly every department in the school.

When someone asked her about the lack of cultural food choices, she said, “Well, I’m not going to find my mama’s beef biryani here!” She was of Indian descent, but said mama like a southerner would. The melting pot of America often makes me smile.

Thankfully, I didn’t ask any questions which embarrassed my children. Unfortunately, some other parents didn’t think before they spoke.

During the question and answer period of the faculty briefing when ‘not having to declare a major right away’ was discussed, one mom started her question with a sigh and the following line, “My daughter is one of those undecided people…” (We all cringed.)

Another mom asked if the labs were hands on.

“What kind of lab would be hands off?” I thought.

Dale threatened to raise his hand and say, “My son’s a slacker and my wife yells at me (then start sobbing)…” Thankfully, his daughter kept him quiet.

The guy sitting behind us had a phone ringtone that sounded like something was about blow up, and try as he might, he could not shut it off.

The new dorms were really nice, and in the classroom there were cool chairs which rolled and pivoted in various directions. (I need to find one for Gabe.) Also, we had lunch with friends from church, current students who both really like the school.

Josiah will apply to both Mary Washington and William and Mary. The MW vs WM debate has begun. Virginia Tech and Christopher Newport are still on the list as backup plans.

This college search was supposed to be Josiah’s college search not mine. Along the way, I occasionally forgot I was looking for a place that fulfills his priorities, not my priorities. Long ago when I graduated from high school, after living twelve years in 1 place, I wanted to go to college far away from home so I could see the world.

Josiah, in his eighteen years of life, has lived in 8 different places, and he does not find far away quite as appealing.

Fifteen months ago, the college visit madness started. Josiah’s first college visit was to Houghton College – 400 miles away. His final college visit was to Mary Washington University – 14 miles away. If only I would have jumped on the ‘buy local’ bandwagon earlier, I could have saved myself a lot of money on gas.