Where Did February Go?

It’s of course a shorter month than January, but I’m truly concerned with the speed at which February passed by. It didn’t help that I spent the better part of last week sick as a dog and unable to do much of anything, hardly in a position to do fabulous things and take pictures. Whatever I had — a bird or swine flu, a stomach bug, food poisoning, typhoid fever – I don’t know, but don’t get it. It’s going around and it was awful.

In any case, February started out as most months do, with an animal popping his head above ground and dictating the meteorological future of Earth. Or at least the length of winter and the arrival of spring. I can’t remember whether he saw his shadow or what it means if he did, but we’ve had some wonderfully spring days since then. Today might be verging on summer as the day started out in the mid-50s, sunny and pleasant, and has already turned dark and rainy with the threat of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes imminent. So I’m thinking this groundhog business got February off to a confusing start.

Soon after, we gals went out shopping for Rebecca’s wedding dress in the middle-of-nowhere Maryland. She spent hours playing dress-up in satin and lace, long and short, beaded and plain, dresses of all kinds. And much to my surprise (and delight) she found her wedding dress. This is not it:

We celebrated Dad’s birthday at Okra’s in Manassas that night, where I got to rehash the whole adventure to the parents while feasting on oysters and Abita. On Superbowl Sunday a bunch of kids gathered to eat barbecue, BonChon and Mexican layer dip galore and try to care about Green Bay or Pittsburgh or the Black Eyed Peas.

The next weekend my crockpot and I made barbecue for the first time. Two giant pork shoulders, five cans of beer, and two crockpots yielded about 10 pounds of some of the best pulled pork I’ve ever had. If I do say so myself…

And it was all for a superhero-style celebration of Hugh’s 25th birthday.

After spending the morning touring the Capitol with Rebecca, the parents and the VT Alumni Association.

And I spent the next day baking chocolate-covered strawberry cake balls and cheesecake balls for Valentine’s Day office treats.

The following weekend we celebrated Miriam’s birthday by mini-golfing. Indoors. In a bar!

It’s a tad gimmicky, but H St. Country Club was definitely a good Saturday-night choice for something a little different to do.

Despite Tim’s disgruntled-old-man face, and Babs’ slight concern with the situation, a good time was had by all.

And because Mom complains that I take too many pictures and don’t show up in enough, I asked someone to take a picture of Hugh and me to prove that I, too, was at H St. Country Club.

Oh well. Maybe we look better blurry anyway? And since when has Hugh been so much larger than me? I didn’t think I was that stumpy…

Moving on.

I trekked to the parents’ house the next morning and then on to the grandparents‘ for Sunday lunch, good company, and story-telling. And I got to spend time with this little squirt who will be one in a few weeks:

Her great-grandma let her play on the stairs during lunch. Lucky girl.

And then I got more sick than I’ve been in recent memory, called my mom to ask her why I ever moved out when situations like this would be much better with a mom around, spent several days horizontal, went back to work, barely survived commuting home Friday night, then had a lovely, relaxing weekend with friends.

Oh yeah, and the Hokies beat #1 Duke on Saturday night!!


So I guess February was productive, after all.

Go Hokies!

Back Where I Come From

Having grown up in a pretty close-knit family, with both sets of grandparents nearby and a historically significant lineage to be proud of, you might think it’s easy to figure out where I come from.  But where you come from is more than a place, a neighborhood, or a county that’s been home to your ancestors for hundreds of years. It’s more than a rugged portrait of a man from centuries past on the wall, or tracing an intricate family tree back to Richard Lee, the very first Lee who immigrated from England to Virginia’s shore in 1640.

In the interest of technicalities, that is where I come from — Shropshire (though this is slightly debated) England and the Lee family of Coton Hall. Within the scope of just me — I come from Manassas, Virginia, where I was born in the county hospital and grew up in the same home since I was two. In a broader scope, I come from a long line of Lees descended from the same people as two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Francis Lightfoot Lee and Richard Henry Lee, and the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee.

Perhaps most importantly, the family I know starts with my grandparents, Clinton Lee and Jean Embrey, and I’m learning more and more what life has been like for them, and what it was like for their parents, and their parents’ parents.

I spent all day yesterday at my grandparents’ house, having lunch (Grandma fixed banana pudding just for me!), asking questions and listening to stories about the Lee patriarchs of the past. I’ve always heard bits and pieces of stories and lore here and there, from this person and that. But hearing my grandparents shed light on the lives and families of my great-grandparents and the stories they grew up hearing was truly remarkable.

Grandpa told me about using cannonballs from Civil War battles that occurred on hisgrandfather’s land as door stops in his childhood home. Grandma remembered stories of her great-grandparents having to dig up their valuables that they’d hidden in the yard from loot-hungry Union soldiers passing through. I looked at a census record from 1910 with Grandma which listed her mother as young child, and Grandma noticed that two families down in the list was her father’s family. This could have meant that even as young children, her parents may have lived closer to each other than we thought, since the census was recorded door-to-door at that time.

With Grandpa staring intently at the computer screen, I showed him his father’s draft registration cards for both World Wars. We both found this intriguing since Great Granddaddy Lee never served. He had claimed exemption from the draft, for WWI at age 25 and WWII at 50, because of his dependents (a wife and one child, then a wife and ten children) and his self-employment on the farm. Meanwhile, five of his seven sons served in WWII, three overseas in the heat of battle and two stateside toward the end of the war. Interestingly, on his WWI draft card, he notes that he had three years of prior military service as a Corporal in the Infantry in Virginia. We guessed that this was his time spent as a cadet and an agriculture student at Virginia Tech. Yes, our dedication to the school runs generations deep.

The stories we dug up yesterday only nicked the surface of the more recent history of this Lee family, and I want to know much, much more — and not just about them. It’s interesting piecing together missing tidbits of stories about the Lee family, but I want to know about my grandma’s family too. It can’t be fair that only the Lees are so well documented. On the other side, my mom’s dad was adopted and we know nothing about his birth family besides his mother’s name.

As a lover of history, a Virginia enthusiast and a family-oriented person, it would seem to me a disservice to each family line I come from to not learn and record everything we can possibly know about them. With springtime quickly approaching, the parents and I are hoping to take Grandma and Grandpa on a drive through the places they came from, the land their fathers used to work, the churches that saw them every Sunday morning. The record-digging and question-asking goes on, and this story is to be continued…

A Toast

to nearest

to dearest

to the crew

to cahoots

to the ones who’ve been there

to the ones who’ll be there

to dropping everything

to saying anything

to no judgements

to no doubts

to loyalty

to trust

to favors

to lifelongs

to been too long

to nothing’s changed

to having history

to having your back

to moving away

to never too far

to growing up

to settling down

to your second family

to friends.

No, friends. This did not come from my heart, nor my brain for that matter. But it is a pretty good toast — I think I got goosebumps the first time I read it.

Don’t judge.

It is actually part of a Grey Goose ad campaign I’ve come across a few times; I just wish I could be as eloquent as whatever copy writer came up with it.

I may just call it my own and use it as my Maid of Honor speech at Rebecca’s wedding.

And any other wedding where I happen to speak.

And any time I make a toast to a friend’s birthday in a bar.

Or on a random Saturday night in my living room.

Cheers.

Lunchtime Celebration of Sunshine, Warmth and ISO

ISO: 200  Exposure: 1/4000 sec  Aperture: 1.4  Focal Length:50mm

Today the sun and warmth and general happiness that springtime weather brings pushed us outside for lunch. My ISO was still set for indoor pictures (200), so Devon and Elizabeth looked like super blondes.

Bumped it down to 100 and voila!

ISO: 100  Exposure: 1/3200 sec  Aperture: 2.8 Focal Length: 50mm

If only I’d remembered that setting my aperture to f/22 might get them all in focus. One success at a time I suppose. (These are all straight-out-of-camera images, no editing to hide my failures!)

ISO: 100  Exposure: 1/3200 sec  Aperture: 2.8 Focal Length:50mm

Two favorite things about this group of girls eating around Dupont Circle:

1. Rochelle is bundled.

2. Whitley is off on her own. (To her credit, I had been sitting next to her.)

Oh, spring. I wish you were here to stay.