Every year my husband’s family gathers in Chincoteague, Virginia on Veterans’ Day Weekend. For many years we have been blessed with gorgeous weather, lots of wildlife, lots of good seafood, and abundant fuzzy pony sightings on neighboring Assateague Island. We are now on the third generation of youngins’ who have participated in this annual pilgrimage. But this year there was a first.
This year there was a rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility scheduled for Saturday, November 11.
At about 7:00 AM lots of hardy folks in numerous layers of warm outer wear started gathering on the causeway between Chincoteague and Assateague. There is an unobstructed view of the launch site, which I think is about 3 miles as the crow flies. Although I wouldn’t advise a crow or anyone else flying near a launch. However, that’s exactly what happened.
We were all gathered on the causeway at 7:37 AM, freezing our butts off, waiting for the big event when some idiot pilot decides to ignore the restricted airspace and take a joy ride! A launch window is only open so long so they had to scrub. The launch was rescheduled for the next morning at the same time.
The next morning, we all gathered on the causeway at the same time. I think there might have been even more people on Sunday. It was a little warmer and the mood was upbeat.
They “lit the candle” (that’s what the cool people say) right on time and up it went! I was underwhelmed by the actual rocket, which was smaller than I expected but had an impressive flash. What was cool was the after boom (I don’t know what the cool people or anyone else calls that officially). About ten seconds after liftoff there is this incredible, deep, rumble, like nothing you’ve ever heard before. Walls shake and folks reflexively Ooh and Aaah. There is also an impressive amount of smoke left behind on the launch pad.
It was incongruous to see a rocket being launched so near a natural wildlife refuge. However, the fuzzy ponies weren’t phased in the least. I guess they’re so used to seeing tourists exhibit goofy behavior that nothing phases them. They just kept munchin’ on that salty marsh grass and bloating.
Afterward the launch everyone walked away looking satisfied and for hot coffee.
I must say Chincoteague did a great job of hosting the event on both days. Traffic control, signage, and even first aid were provided by local law enforcement. But it was all low key in keeping with the Chincoteague vibe.
Thank you for visiting.
My husband and I enthusiastically offered to keep my sister-in- law’s dog at our house while she and her
husband attended a wedding further North.
Mollie is a Shetland Sheepdog. I think technically she’s considered a Blue Merle, but she’s white with
markings on her head and cute as hell. She looks like a cotton ball on very tiny legs. She’s also very
ladylike which is a sharp contrast to our 18-month- old Boston Terrier, Beans. They’re the Beauty and the
Beast of the K9 world with a large dose of hyperactivity thrown in. We found ourselves yelling at Beans
more than usual simply because of the contrast in styles.
This translated into pretty much every doglike behavior. When Mollie drinks, her little pink tongue juts
out quickly and quietly with not a drop left on the floor to show her efforts. Beans sticks his whole face
into the bowl, slurps loudly, and trails water all over the house. Sometimes he wipes his face on the cat’s
head, which is hilarious! Oddly enough the “Cat From Hell” doesn’t seem to care.
When we let the dogs outside to do their business, Beans took off like a bat outta hell and popped a
squat almost immediately. Mollie delicately worked her way down the stairs and was immediately
assaulted by Beans who apparently wanted to help. We started taking them out separately in deference
to Mollie’s feminine sensibilities. We also fed them separately. This was not because the dogs have poor
mat manners but because the CFH always horns in.
Beans wanted to play non-stop. He loves to share a tug toy with anything that moves and was constantly
offering Molly the other end of a rubber ring, which she declined. Beans has amazingly strong jaws and
can tug with a great deal of force, in fact I don’t even play tug with him. Mollie preferred sitting on our
laps and looking pretty, understandably so. But there was an incredibly sweet moment near the end of
the visit when Mollie went into her crate, came out with a fuzzy toy, and offered one end to Beans.
Beans gently took the other end and played “tug” on Mollie’s terms. Beans may be obnoxious but
apparently, he’s not stupid. Maybe that’s why my husband and I are so goofy in love with this dog.
With guest pets, much like children, there is always the issue of different homes, different rules. Mollie
is fed treats; which Beans is not. Mollie barks a lot more than Beans. During Mollie’s visit, Beans’ default
was, “when in doubt bark with the other dog because there must be something going on that I don’t
know about.” This created the effect of Beans hoping around, barking his fool head off, with a confused
look on his face.
Mollie’s people came back for her on Sunday night and I’m sure she was glad to see them. She’ll be back
for Thanksgiving and I’d like to think Beans and the CFH will be glad to see her. I’m not so sure about
Mollie, but I hope she enjoys the change of pace if nothing else.
Thank you for visiting.
The reunion of my best girlfriends from high school can now be called an “annual event.” That’s because
technically you can’t call something an annual event until it’s happened twice. Last year I hosted the
inaugural, and while I enjoyed the company, it’s more fun to be a guest.
This year’s hostess invited us to her vacation home in Bethany Beach, Delaware and specified we were
welcome any time after 4:00 PM. Apparently, we were all raised right because no one was early. I left
after work and was the last to arrive at about 10:00 PM.
Every hellish minute in I-95 traffic was worth it when I was greeted by six screaming ladies on the front
porch, brandishing wine glasses. Each of them embraced me in turn and continued to scream their
greetings in my ear. If you’re ever feeling low, be the last one to arrive at a reunion of half-tanked high
school friends. It’s an amazing ego boost. At that point in the festivities the air conditioner repairman
might have gotten the same reaction, but I’ll take the love just the same.
I was offered food and beverages immediately by my amazing hostess. This was the girl in high school
who most guys wanted to date but got too tongue tied in her presence to form the words. Strangely enough, all that adoration never went to her head. To this day that amazes me. After all the screaming had stopped she took me by the hand, looked very seriously into my eyes and said, “Would you like some chocolate lava cake?”
I turned down the chocolate lava cake but managed to drink waaaay too much Prosecco. So much so
that I fell out of my bunk and had to be tended to by the group’s remaining cogent person. Thank you
Dr. P. I owe you one. She informed me the next morning that I speak fluent Wookie. Who knew?
The rest of the weekend was wonderful. Time on the beach, good food, nonstop talking. I’m still
touched by the memories we all own of each other. It’s like the various puzzle pieces form a complete
We talked a lot about parenting; the way we were parented, the way we parent our kids, and the way
our kids are raising their own kids. I’m more convinced than ever that having a safe and stable home life
is the most important gift you can give a child. It doesn’t have to fit traditional models, but simple
stability is crucial. I’m in awe of the women who could create stable and loving homes when that was
not their experience growing up.
I’m hoping to raise a glass of Presecco among these precious friends for many years to come. We should
probably take turns being the last one to arrive.
Thank you for visiting,
Every week I write a blog about hosting and being hosted.
There is nothing I can say this week that comes close to expressing my awe about the citizens of Las Vegas.
According to reports on CNN, Las Vegas residents began lining up to donate blood just hours after the attack that killed 59 and injured 500.
The response was so immense Las Vegas Assistant Sheriff Todd Fasulo said blood donation centers in the area have been “overwhelmed” by the turnout.
When you are willing to give anything to help a guest in need, including your own blood, it humbles the rest of us and provides a beautiful example of humanity at its best.
Thank you Las Vegas.
Many years ago during a television interview with the actress Bonnie Hunt, she said her family used the “Door Bell” method of housekeeping. You don’t bother to clean until the doorbell rings. While I don’t personally subscribe to this method, I do appreciate it.
I feel strongly about guests showing up early. I am strongly against it. Unless you’re having a medical emergency—in which case you should probably go to the hospital first—please don’t come to my house or event one second ahead of the stated time.
I was reminded of this concept several times in the last couple of weeks. I went to a baby shower in Jersey where half the guests showed up early. What is that all about? Is it a Jersey thing? The baby Grandma was rushing around trying to put the finishing touches on a lovely venue and was forced to entertain at least two dozen people ahead of schedule. Another friend of mine was hosting house guests who gleefully texted they’d hit the road sooner than expected and would be hours early. What! For God sakes, take the scenic route! Yet another acquaintance works weddings. She told me about an event just last weekend when many of the guests arrived at the reception venue half an hour early and actually banged on the doors. When she did let them in several people demanded mixed drinks even before the bar was set up.
For those of you who don’t get it, here’s the deal. Most of us mortals don’t keep a spotless house and must prepare for visitors. I take pride in presenting a clean home or well prepared venue. My mother used to say it should look like a stage set when folks walk in and then everything can go to hell. This prep takes a certain amount of time and scheduling because I have other stuff going on. Some of us also have pets so it doesn’t make sense to start cleaning a moment too soon because all will be re-fuzzed within minutes. When I’m done cleaning and prepping food, I like to enjoy a glass of wine while I prep myself. If you show up early, I miss the one part of party prep I enjoy.
Many people will say, “I thought you might need help so I came early”. If I need help, believe me I’ll ask for it in advance. I’ve never been accused of martyrdom. If you volunteer and I politely decline, I’m not being polite, I really don’t want you early. No one is that helpful. Some people will assume their bond with the hosts is strong enough that it doesn’t matter if they show up early and just hang out. Unless you’re still in the womb, there is no bond strong enough for an early arrival.
I realize I’m a little crazy about time. I worked in the television news business for many years where every second was accounted for. Time really WAS money! The only exception was 16 years ago when the clock stopped and we threw revenue to the wind in order to supply a platform for our community to grieve.
My family tells me this television-time perspective has left me with an unhealthy attitude toward punctuality on both ends of the punctal spectrum. OK, I can live with that.
Do you mind people showing up early? Don’t you cherish those last few moments when you can look around your house and admire your work while sipping Prosecco and applying mascara? In my husband’s case, it’s drinking beer and watching whatever sport is on TV (sorry son, I know you hate stereotypes but it’s true.)
Thank you for visiting, and not a moment too soon.
Several times a year my family and I drive past an historical marker on Route 301 in Maryland indicating the turnoff to “The Dr. Samuel Mudd House.” Each time I suggest we stop and each time I am met with a tortured chorus of “NOOOOO!” Last Saturday I was driving the route by myself with no spouse, child, dog, or cat and decided this was my chance.
For those of you asking “Dr. Who?” I begin with a short history lesson. Samuel Mudd was a country doctor in Maryland in April of 1865 when two men stopped at his house in the middle of the night asking treatment for one of the men who had broken his leg. No one disputes the story this far.
The house is five miles off of Route 301 and sits by itself on pristine farm land. A pretty young woman in period dress greeted me. This woman was not just dressed in the fashion of 1865; she looked like she belonged to 1865. At any moment I expected to see her face in one of the sepia-tinted Civil War era portraits hanging on the walls….cue the spooky music.
The house is very much the same as it was on that fateful morning when John Wilkes Booth arrived seeking medical attention. That’s because the house, and its substantial acreage, remained in the Mudd family until a nonprofit organization was formed to take control of it in 1980. While there have been some updates—such as indoor plumbing, central air, and heat—much is original to the house as it was built in 1857.
The tour started with a recounting of how Dr. Samuel Mudd, who lived with his wife and four small children, was awakened before dawn by someone pounding on the front door. On his front porch was a man asking help for his traveling companion who had broken his leg. Dr. Mudd allowed them in and did a cursory physical exam on the living room sofa. That sofa is still there in the same spot.
The two men carried Booth upstairs to a room and laid him on a bed. Dr. Mudd cut the boot off the swollen leg and proceeded to set the bone. Once that was done Dr. Mudd left the patient to rest and heal. When daylight came, Dr. Mudd and Booth’s companion headed into town. Not sure why. When Booth’s companion saw union troops nosing around town, he turned around and went BACK to the farmhouse. Dr. Mudd proceeded into town and discovered that Abraham Lincoln had been shot and John Wilkes Booth was almost definitely the culprit. Here’s the weird part. Instead of alerting the solders to the killer in his guest room, or hot footing it back to his house and family, Dr. Mudd hung out in town for almost 12 hours!
Eventually the dragnet for Booth spread to the Mudd House. Booth was long gone, but his discarded boot was found. They knew it was his boot because his name was written inside it. Despite his protestations of innocence and claiming he was merely helping an unknown traveler, Dr. Mudd was arrested and his wife and children put under house arrest. Dr. Mudd was tried with the rest of the conspirators and sentenced to life in prison on a penal island off Florida.
For more than a hundred years the Mudd family tried to clear his name. But guess what? While Dr. Mudd was not in on the assassination attempt, he did know Booth and was privy to an earlier Lincoln kidnapping plot. That’s the reason he let those guys into his house in the middle of the night. As the docent put it, “John Wilkes Booth was the matinee idol of his time. It would be like George Clooney stopping at your house. You’d probably recognize him.” My apologies to George Clooney. Dr. Mudd spent the next few years in prison making beautiful handicrafts (many of which are in the house) until he volunteered to help with a Yellow Fever epidemic and was pardoned for his efforts.
In the meantime, Mrs. Mudd ran the farm and apparently did a damn fine job of it. When Dr. Mudd was pardoned he came back to the house, fathered five more children, and spent the remainder of his life the way he started his career in the first place, as a country doctor.
There were a lot of fascinating details about domestic life during the Civil War. I learned the origins of sayings like: “Sleep tight,” “Don’t let the bed bugs bite,” and “Hitting the hay.” I also learned the finer points about the use of chamber pots. It’s a little different than you might think.
But in the midst of all the recent confederate statue debate, here’s what I really appreciated about this experience. It was based on the facts, there was no sugar-coating what happened, and it was interesting as hell! The docents didn’t defend Mudd or try to explain his thought process. They simply told a compelling and true story based on solid research that has an important place in our Nation’s history. I asked if they’d gotten any negative feedback since the Charlottesville Riot. The Made-for-a-Stephen-King-Novel-tour-guide said there had been none. She suspects they are under the radar. That may be part of it….how many of you asked, “Who is Dr. Mudd?” I would like to think they’re not getting any negative feedback because they respect history and the telling of it as honestly as possible.
On my way home Monday, I passed another sign that read, “The End of the Road for an Assassin.” This of course is where John Wilkes Booth was finally trapped and died. I didn’t stop here because, like most historical figures, I think Booth’s journey was much more interesting than his end.
Thank you for visiting.