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Waltzing Through TIME

Me, Mom & Dad in front of our new home at 6414 Three Chopt Road. We called it The Little House. It was the transformed double car garage of 6416 or as we called it The Big House. Photo credit Donald Loving.

I got an out of the blue email recently from the son of a college friend of Dad & Mom’s. All my life I have randomly but consistently heard of Donald Loving. More from Mom than Dad. It usually was a comment in passing. Donald was my grandmother’s pick for Mom. But not one to listen to her mother, Mom chose otherwise. Still Donald remained in her life. They even renewed their friendship after Mom moved to Reedville and Donald was living in Newport News.

Apparently Dad and Mom never left Donald’s thoughts either. This is note from Lee Loving (we have yet to meet).

Hello Sandra:

 I have struggled with sending this email for months, but being the “family historian” and happening upon your blog; I convinced myself to send it.
Up until my father’s death in 2011; I had heard the name Starke Jett my entire life. My father would talk about those days  on the North Neck of Virginia; growing up with Starke and maintaining a strong friendship through his college years at Randolph Macon.
It all came to head one fall day in the mid 1960’s when Dad came home and said this Starke Jett was coming for a visit. My Mother, Brother, Sister, and I were put to the task of “getting the place ready” for Dad’s best friend. My Dad was an Aeronautical Engineer for NASA, so we were used to keeping things in order. But this was a different mission. He pushed us like no other. We double cleaned, racked, cut, vacuumed, and dusted. I mean the placed look like an Embassy Suites by the time we were done.
Then, there he was. The man my Dad talked about more than anyone else was before my eyes. He came with his wife and son. He was charming, fun to talk to. His wife was a bit quiet but sweet. We went trick or treating with his son. I’ll never forget the amount of compassion my Dad had for Starke.
Now some 50 years later,  I have discovered that Dad kept every letter he received since 1932. What an adventure it has been. Among the many letters were letters from a Margaret Ann. I didn’t think much about it until I saw a letter from Starke Jett saying how much he had enjoyed meeting Margaret. Then they were more letters from both Margaret and Starke to my Dad. Around 1940 Starke was writing from Ohio, having enlisted in the Air Force.
I still hadn’t put two and two together until I decided to research Starke. And that’s when I ran across your Blog, your Mom’s and Father’s Obituary.  What a wonderful pair they made.
I hope this hasn’t brought up any ill feelings. You seem to appreciate your family’s history and memories. Thus, I thought I would share my experience with your Dad and how my Dad admired him.
A few weeks later a package arrives (Lee has advised me to look out for it). Inside are thirteen moments in time. All are treasures beyond measure. I’ve selected a few to scan. I posted them here  in time order. The first is from my grandmother. The second a fun art letter of Dad’s. The third has Dad already gushing over Mom (they married two years later). The fourth a letter from my aunt Keese (Clarice) to Donald. And the last married lady Margaret Ann corresponding with Donald. She did all of the letter writing after she and Dad married. Before that the bulk of the thirteen were letters from Dad to Donald, mostly of the moment typical guy chatter. On the second page of the shipyard letter below Dad tells about going to Cuba and how desolate it was, although the women were quite something else.
I received the lead photo a few weeks after the letters arrived. Guess Donald did finally get to see me! And Lee promises if any of us are in the Atlanta area and have time to stop in, he and his wife will have the house spotless.

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Packing a LOT into & on our last DAY

Ireland 2005 Day 10

cat youghalyoughal turret overlooking youghalOur last day in Ireland. We have so many things to do. Becki and I start with an early walk. I show her the beautiful garden I discovered. Then we explore the church yard. We are just a step behind the man with the keys opening up the locked gates for the day.

The church yard has graves everywhere. Front, sides and back. Behind the church and up the hill to the city wall the graveyard continues. There are new and old graves. We climb a turret in the city wall. We can see everywhere from here.

We are due back at nine to help pack the costumes for shipping home. We meet the guys and drive to the Mall Arts Center as B,B & D’s costumes are in the car.

Everyone has assembled to move the process along. I make lists of what goes into each box. It doesn’t take too long to finish up. We load the boxes into our car and Carl’s car until a decision can be made about which courier to use.

Becki and I head for the Tourist Office to meet Pascal and see the jewelry she has. Her office is on the second floor. It’s a cute cluster of filing cabinets and desks etc. The girls who work with her were at the Rendezvous.

She clears off her desk and gets a black cloth to display the pieces. Becki and I have a hard time picking but we finally make our choices. I leave to go to the ATM machine to get the funds I need. Becki is still finalizing her decisions. Back, I pay Pascal and go downstairs to shop in the gift shop. Becki joins me, we tell Marsha, who is shopping, about the jewels. She wants to see what Pascal has. I take her up to the office. She is as delighted as we are with the selection.

Downstairs I run into members of our group shopping. Becki is doing some last minute shopping too. lebame tells me that we are to meet the mayor for lunch. She wants me to take pictures as discussion about twinning with Manteo is to be discussed and preliminary papers signed. We are to meet at Harvey’s dock at one. I am in my jogging clothes. I need to go change.

Donny has gone on ahead of us after the packing was finished. No one else in my group knows about the lunch. They are all too busy anyway. I shower and change and head out to meet whoever. No one is anywhere around. I circle the parking lot and decide I must have gotten my information wrong (not unlike me).

I go back upstairs. Donny and Becki suggest I ring lebame’s doorbell and see if anyone is there. I go back downstairs and around the corner to her building. I ring the bell, lebame answers. She says Carl was looking for me and then went on. She is not sure where the luncheon is to be, but she thinks the Quality Inn outside of town. She tries to get into the office to call The Nook which is where she sent Carl to look for me. The office is closed for lunch. Just then Chris comes around the corner. lebame borrows his cell phone to call the Nook. I go upstairs to ask Bill to drive me or I can drive myself but Bill can go faster.

contractor and undertaker

Typical Irish sensibility, put together what works together best for you. We found it very amusing.

lebame has not been able to reach anyone. She suggests stopping at the tourist bureau to check. Bill is in the shower. I know driving myself will go a lot slower. Bill runs downstairs barefooted. We are off. I reason all of the offices are closed for lunch. We decide to check the Quality Inn. We head out of town past the lighthouse toward The Strand with only a vague notion of where we are going. We pass where I think lebame is talking about. We are ready to turn around as we are in the country when we see a sign for the Quality Inn. It is several kilometers more down a couple of country roads which puts it on the ocean. It is a beautiful setting. But there is no luncheon going on. The staff suggests I try the Raleigh Hotel. We drive back to town. As we are passing a restaurant called The Tides I tell Bill I think that is where they are, but I have no basis for this (trust the dousing Sandra trust the dousing). Bill almost runs into a parked car looking for Carl. He thinks he sees him in the window, but we do not go back.

We try the Raleigh. They know even less than the Quality Inn folks. Bill is sure the luncheon is over anyway. I want to try the tourist bureau, but they are closed for lunch still. We check the Mall Arts. They are open. The girls tell me that the group is at The Tides! Back we go. I hop out and check. Yes, they are and have only just finished their appetizers. They say Bill can join in. He is in the car waiting for me to report. He declines, no shoes you see. During this entire escapade I was not panicked just determined to go the extra mile, or kilometer. I figured John was there with his camera which turned out to be true. But lebame had asked me to do this and I did not want to let her down.

The lunch is excellent. John and I take some great pictures of the document signing.

Actually what Bill saw in the upstairs bay window of The Tides was the mayor. Her short hair makes her sorta look like Carl.

bill distillery bill tasting midleton distillery midletonWhile we were shopping earlier we learn that Joe, our bus driver, has been hired to take us to Midleton to the Jameson Distillery this afternoon. Becki feels pressure to stay in town and tidy up her shopping. Marian tells her she can shop there. At last minute Becki caves in and joins us.

The old distillery is amazing. To check a batch of whiskey to see if it was ready the workers struck a match to a sample. If nothing happened, the batch was not ready. If it burned it was perfect. If it exploded it was overdone. No wonder they had their own fire department.

Bill gets selected to take the whiskey taste test. Three kinds of Irish, all of which is distilled three times, Scotch only twice, and lowly bourbon just once. The three tasters pick their favorite Irish and then compare that to a fine scotch and aged American bourbon. They pick their favorite. Of course it must be an Irish or they fail the test.

Midleton is a special blend of Jameson that is bottled in limited quantities each year. You can only buy it at the distillery. Donny buys us a bottle and also a bottle of 12 year old Powers packed in a nice tin. Our Midleton is packed in a wooden hinged box. It is numbered and the label is signed by the master distiller. Ours is number 027822 bottled in the year 2004.

Now Joe takes us to Ferry Point so that we can see Youghal from across the cove. Becki has been itching to get to this point since we first got to Youghal. It is directly across from our rooms. Donny and Bill have divided up the few houses on the spit and figure running a pub and B&B from there would work. On the way from Midleton to Ferry Point, Marian falls asleep on my shoulder. This is the way the week has turned out. We are all now family.

another across the way across the inletIt takes us a while to get across the river as someone has crashed the rail the night before in a drunken drive. It is a small bridge anyway and now it is down to take turns traffic.

Carl is having fits. He has things to do before the party he and John are giving for our hosts and hostesses tonight. We tell him we will help. Breeda says they will not know the difference. We tell her in this case she would (the gifts are baskets of goodies not yet completely put together).

Ferry Point is lovely and Carl is glad we did not skip it. Marian’s in laws live just up the road. They have castle remains on their land. Joe’s sister rents the house on the spit that is Donny’s B&B. We see her in the yard and wave. We are going to be late for the party. But this is Ireland, everyone is late. And Joe, Marian and Breeda are with us so they will be as late as we are.

Back at the Harvey Becki and I grab Gloria and we sprint up to Carl & John’s apartment to wrap the baskets. Carl has cellophane paper but no ribbon. It’s me to the rescue with my ribbons I got from the little boys.

Becki and I go home to freshen up. We will wear our new jewels from Pascal, even though Carl said casual dress.

Off to the Nook we go. A few of our guests are there but the evening is early and even though we are late the party is only just beginning to get going. Tommy Bulman, my Irish sword friend, sees me come in. He pulls me aside and hands me two packs of pictures he has had printed of our day at the craft fair. He says that the one package has pictures for me. The other is for sharing. How sweet. Like I said we are all family now. I’ll be sending him a group of pictures from my lot including his sword photo. Tommy has also made me a list of Irish phrases for me but it is in his car and we do not connect again. No worries I have his address. He is proud of the list as he quit school quite young, but he knows how to speak and write Gaelic.

It is a wonderful night. Iona has walked over from Myrtle Grove. Carl has a gift basket for her. When he hands out all of the gift baskets later everyone is delighted. Mid-evening Marsha assembles us to give lebame a gift from the group, she is the glue that holds us together. Bill has brought his guitar. There is much music, singing and merriment.

Then Bill’s G-string breaks.

john and sibs

Breeda’s brood. Shiv, Claran & John.

A new friend Michael has a replacement and he and Bill strum together. Everyone sings and dances, jigs and solos. Breeda’s rugby player son sings a haunting Irish ballad.

The mayor has a gift for Carl. It is a piece of Waterford crystal. And also a piece of Waterford for John Wilson, the mayor of Manteo. During the gift exchange Carl begins a story about arriving in Youghal and trying to park the car he has rented. The mayor steps in and fills in a few amusing details. It seems that upon arriving in Youghal from Shannon airport, Carl pulls the car into a street space. Being from a small town himself he understands small towns and limited street parking issues so he calls out to a lady close by to ask if it is okay to park where he has. She goes over to him. She is dressed in pajamas and floppy slippers. Her hair is rumpled. She begins telling him the parking rules.

Carl is looking at her wondering whether to believe her or not since she very much looks like a bag lady. Just then the town constable comes along unlocking the various gates and so on. Meanwhile the floppy slipper gal, who has slipped into town to quickly sign some papers figuring that no one of importance would see her, has figured out that Carl is one of the expected guests from North Carolina. She welcomes him and tells him that she is the mayor. The constable laughs and tells Carl that she actually lives in the home for the mentally unstable up the way, to pay her no mind. The mayor explains to Mike that these are the guests from North Carolina and to please acknowledge who she is. Mike repeats his story adding that she has probably forgotten to take her medication. Carl begins to believe Mike since he is so convincing and the mayor doesn’t look very mayoral. And since it is okay to park while he gets the room keys etc from the tourist bureau he moves on.

Later that week at the opening reception, the mayor addresses the audience. Carl sees that he has been a victim of Irish humor.

me and marsha irish toast irish friends breeda flowersFor once we have started earlier than usual at the pub and so end up leaving not that late, even so it is after midnight. We are still the pub closers, for our group anyway. Goodbyes are sad. Everyone is in tears. We would stay longer but we must pack and drive to Shannon in the morning.

We are walking home with Greg. Suddenly I remember that we have not made our Abbey Road picture that Becki wanted to do. The perfect crosswalk is back a few blocks. Everyone is hesitant. I declare that if I can walk back in my party shoes surely they can make it. And Greg can take the picture. But Bill points out that Becki is still walking home. Greg tells Becki to turn around. She does. Bill is amazed, saying we should have had Greg to herd us along all week.

Even though it is after midnight, there is occasion traffic fortunately only one way but still it is usually someone hurrying home so we time our moment in the crosswalk. Becki has on a light jacket so she is the barefoot Beatle.

We take a picture of Greg climbing a street light.

Back home we get to packing. We must leave by seven in the morning to make our noon flight.

abby road ireland

Recreating Abbey Road cover Youghal style. Heading home to the Harvey one more time.


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hilarey get diplomaShe’s a graduate. With highest honors, summa cum laude with honors in English. That means she maintained a 3.9 grade average or better and wrote and defended a thesis. Her topic is Gender Parity in the Film Industry. She tells me when we chat about the process, that her paper is accepted on the first presentation (one student in the department needs four attempts). The committee is very impressed with Hilarey’s writing, her supporting visuals and the work she put into all of it.

Donny & I want to go to graduation. Hilarey and Lewis want us there but they know all too well that it is a five hour drive. They keep saying not to feel obligated. And we don’t. But we really want to be there. It’s the getting up at 3:30AM that stalls us. We vacillate back and forth for days. Finally Donny decides. We’re going. There are the ceremonies plus the moving. One more car will be a help. We end up with all four vehicles packed full.

As I am taking a picture of Hilarey’s surprise departmental award, she tells me that when her parents drop her off four years ago she decides that if she has to be there for four long years she will make her mark. She will do her best and make it count. And she does.

IMG_3869  graduatedadjusting the mortar board hilarey & lewis

Not only does she graduate summa cum laude with English honors she receives the departmental Outstanding Graduating English Major award. This award is voted on by the entire department faculty. After nominations from faculty members and much discussion, votes are taken and the student with the most wins. It’s not an award sought after because few, if any, even know about it. Hilarey has no clue. She is there to simply make her mark.

Hilarey’s mentor, Hannah Abrams, is determined that Hilarey will receive this prestigious award. She speaks on Hilarey’s behalf. Eloquently, she reports when she meets us as we finish our lunch at Blue Surf. In telling the story, through occasional tears as she is still so passionate about it all, Hannah explains that while set on Hilarey winning , she didn’t want to over sell her nominee so keeps things brief. The professor that follows reads a poem and more for that nominee. “Do over,” she cries. “I need to tell you more.” She is granted more time. She explains how Hilarey is the exemplary student for the award. This bubbly professor has a winning personality and I can just picture her sincere enthusiasm. “We get it,” her colleagues finally say. Hannah wants to be absolutely sure.

She continues her praise. Not only is Hilarey a scholar, she competes (and wins) in SUP races. She has a long time supportive boyfriend (now fiancé). She has a life. Yes, Hannah’s fellow professors really get it. She thanks them and leaves. The committee is seriously considering another candidate but because of Hannah’s empassioned delivery, both students receive the award. That’s our Hilarey. Anyone will go to bat for her because she is just that good. And she deserves every single accolade that comes her way.

And soon she will be our daughter-in-law joining our three other amazing daughters-in-law (and one not to be left our awesome son-in-law) that complete our family. Welcome to the family Hilarey! And congratulations!!

honor graduate

Summa Cum Laude with English Honors May 9, 2015



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If the Load Gets Too Heavy Sit and Rest a Spell

heavy loadRecently we spy an osprey sitting at the top of our swing up ladder. He has a huge fish in his talon. It’s not moving. The hunting has gone well. But the trip home is arduous. This is a big fish, about a good half the size of the bird. I’m sure the catch is easy because those talons are not to be trifled with. But the trip home carrying that heavy load is another matter.

He’s not nibbling or even pecking at it. Occasionally these magnificent birds do sit on our ladder and have a treat. One does that as I write this post. An appetizer size fish. But this big catch. This catch is dinner for the family. After his rest. And rest he does. He just sits there and sits there and sits there. He looks back our way a lot. Probably checking on our cats.

After a long, many minutes long, restorative break this hawk of the sea spreads his wings and he and his mighty load are airborne. Home is just around the corner and I am pretty sure that is enough of a trip with the mother lode he is bearing. If it were a longer trip he would find another quiet haven and rest another spell. He would get it and himself home without undue risk. That is a given. He knows how to handle a load.

Your load might not be as apparently visible as this sea hawk’s. In fact no one may even know that you are carrying a heavy load. It doesn’t matter. It really is fine to sit and rest a spell when your load is too heavy. True friends will not question or judge you. They will discern that you know what you need and deem your plan a wise one.

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My Little Sunshine OBX = Success


Val beaming as she heads off to the store.

May 1, 2015 marks the grand opening of good friend and soon to be family, Valerie Netsch’s, awesome store, My Little Sunshine OBX. It’s a blend of new and may as well be new off beat items for that youngster everyone has at least one of or knows someone that does.

When she tells me of her plans I am in awe of all the work ahead. I cannot get beyond the thought of hangers and tags by the hundreds. Plus everything else that goes into opening a new store. But she’s done this before so she knows the drill. Val and Robert knock it out in their impressive to witness work ethic mode. All the while smiling. And being cleverly creative as well as economical.

My job is encouragement plus a plethora of little people SLAPBoards I create just for her shop. And some SandyBands for the younger set of course. And lastly, I need to be sure that she is launched properly. I dream that I am her first official paying customer (she is so successful at marketing she has people begging to buy before opening day). And so I set out to make it so.


My Little Sunshine OBX

I arrive a bit before 10AM. I sit a few minutes in the car and then go up to the door. Val and helper Gail are doing last minute things. Like try to figure out just where the key to unlock the iPad is so music can be played. Tiny panic when Val thinks that she has thrown it away. It’s found. Music floats through the air. I select my items and hand Val paper money. Who keeps their first dollar bill anymore but I think it’s a fun tradition and want her to have all the right karma. She takes a picture of it.

Customers are filling the store. A lady checks out. I’m not sure if she uses cash or credit, but I am next with my real purchase using my credit card. Surprise for goddaughter Haley Rea when she graduates. Donny later tells me that he thought of Haley when he saw the item too.

So I may have been first cash and credit customer on opening day. At any rate my job is done. I have brought my dream to fruition. And brought in customers for Val. Not that she needed me for that. But Donny & I are awesome customer magnets. Everywhere we go a shop can be completely empty and sheer moments after we step inside it fills up. We have considered hiring ourselves out. Customer magnet anyone? We are willing to travel.

Congratulations Valerie! You are a ray of sunshine in everyone’s life and your store beams.




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A Flower by Any Other Name

“Pick it like so. Run your hand down the stem. Then snap. That gives you a long flower for your vase.” My grandmother, Mother Leigh’s, sage advise. And we all paid attention. Her love for jonquils, and us, was strong. She wanted every aspect to be as right as possible.

oakland road daffodils

Our Oakland Road jonquil field.

Recently Emily and Donald chatted via FB about having daffodils in their own yards finally. And how it reminded them of home. Our Richmond home. We lived on an old daffodil farm. Blooms by the hundreds were ours for the picking every spring. Except that one spring when I thought I would be resourceful, and so when pickers came by asking if they could pick for cash I quickly said yes. The house was always overflowing with the bunches and bunches of blooms that we picked. And the fields were still full. But I should have known that they would pick the fields clean. And you only get one bloom per bulb each year. “Mom, where are the flowers?” Emily demanded when they got home from school. No undoing that mistake.

three chopt driveway

Three Chopt driveway

I too grew up surrounded by hundreds of jonquils every spring. At Mother Leigh’s Three Chopt antebellum home in Richmond, Virginia. Her semi-circular drive was lined on both sides by the blooms. She had a big aged formal garden in the side yard that in its neglected state grew nothing but daffodils. It was awesome. There was a birdbath in the middle surrounded by four patterned simple mazes defined by raised ground flower beds. The gardener always cut the grass so it looked tended. It just had no flowers except in the spring when it was a blaze of yellow.

Where we live now I’ve tried to get a few bulbs to grow. The moles always thwart my attempts. And I am no gardener. I am an admirer and acquirer. I gladly take garden bounty bestowed on me by others. And I richly admire all gardens with great admiration. It’s the growing that teases me. And so I paint my gardens.

Need A Little Art?



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