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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

A Season of Giving, Healing, and Leaning In

Matt: This is a sobering column so let’s put an uplifting image(s) with it. By Lori Welch Brown I’m feeling a bit conflicted as we approach the holiday season.  Part of me is poised to go dashing through the snow, caroling and merrymaking, holding hands and spreading the Christmas spirit while the other part of me wants to lock my doors, bolt my windows and hunker down for eternity or at least until I run out of champagne and chocolate. I’ve just read about the shooting at the University of Virginia where three young athletes—Devin Chandler, D’Sean Perry, and Lavel Davis, Jr.—were shot down in the prime of their lives.  I am heart broken.  How can this be?  How is it that someone would want to destroy the lives of these young men—not to mention their families and friends—and also traumatize everyone who has a child in college or pretty much all of us with access to a news outlet? Is it drugs? Mental illness? Childhood trauma? Bullying? Access to firearms?  D) All of the above? At this point, does it matter?  What matters is that Devin, D’Sean, and Lavel are gone from this earth, and those poor families will never be the same. I didn’t know any of these young men, and I do not have a child in college, and yet I feel immobilized.  What is there to celebrate? What about my friend who has a son at nearby JMU?  Is he safe?  Are any of us? How are we supposed to hang our mistletoe and stockings, hover over fragrance counters trying to select the perfect gift, and drag out our ugly sweaters in the midst of grief, turmoil, and utter chaos? Of course like most, I’m sending prayers and healing thoughts which in this moment, seems about…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

An Act of (Self) Gratitude

By Lori Welch Brown I cannot believe I’m sitting down to write a Thanksgiving column or that I was greeted by an aisle of Santas and reindeer when I walked through Hobby Lobby earlier today. Seems the season ’tis upon us, and shell-shocked though I may be, I don’t mind a single bit. I love this time of year—pumpkin spice, colorful leaves, leather boots, and comfy sweaters. Sigh. Fall in Virginia is perfect, even if we do get a few random heat waves. Or, maybe that’s just my personal heat wave kicking in. I’ve done a wee bit of holiday shopping, and have started to think about travel plans, guest lists, etc. And, my illustrious publisher, the ever-amazing Ms. Lani asked me to include some things I’m grateful for at the bottom of this column (see below).  My mind is stuffed like the proverbial turkey full of people and things I’m grateful for, but I’m also thinking about gratitude that doesn’t always come to mind, self-gratitude. Correct me if I’m wrong, but while we are quick to thank others and pay homage to co-workers, friends, family members, bartenders, baristas, librarians, teachers, and that guy Doug who works at the car wash, we are slow to give ourselves a much needed and well-deserved pat on the back. On the contrary, we are quick to judge ourselves harshly, criticize needlessly, and generally put ourselves down at every opportunity. We don’t give ourselves enough credit and/or ‘thank’ ourselves for all that we manage to accomplish, small daily wins, and maybe even major accomplishments. Not only do we not give ourselves credit, but when someone else recognizes our efforts or pays us a compliment, we immediately downplay it. “Awww—it was nothing really,” or “Ha—I probably screwed it up—no biggie.” Not only do we not…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

Almost Heaven—Hume, Virginia

By Lori Welch Brown Sometimes a piece of dirt is just dirt, and sometimes it’s your whole life. Sometimes it’s your slice of heaven on Earth. That’s how 2.24 acres on the corner of Leeds Manor and Hume Roads in beautiful Fauquier County is for me, and I’m about to hand it off to a total stranger. I’m sure said stranger is perfectly nice, a fine man, but one never really knows these days do they? Regardless, his funds will transfer to the proper account, and I’ll hand over the keys and do what my realtor and the closing attorney tell me to do and that will be that. Nowadays, you don’t even meet. You docusign or doculoop your entire life away without even ever looking each other in the eye. I won’t have a chance to tell Mr. Newhomeowner that my grandmother never had plumbing, let alone a hot shower and that a chestnut collie named Silver used to chase after me when I was learning to ride my motorcycle in the field until she got hit by a car and that I cried when I heard the news even though she wasn’t my dog or my grandmother’s for that matter.  Mr. Newhomeowner will never know that my mom and I were once trapped in the outhouse, surrounded by a bunch of horses angrily circling us (aka grazing happily) because my mom was afraid of horses. I don’t recall a time that Mom was ever so grateful at seeing Dad coming down that hill as when he rescued us.  BTW—the horses weren’t hers either, but rather the neighbors. Grandma had a deal with the neighbors for the horses to graze in her field in exchange for water from their well that she carried in buckets across the street every…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

Dancin’ in September

By Lori Welch Brown Do you remember the “21st night of September”?  Love was changing the minds of pretenders while chasin’ the clouds away… Lucky for you, you don’t have to remember the 21st night of September, only the 20th…my birthday!  And, you’re welcome for that ear bug brought to you by Earth, Wind & Fire.  It’s one of my faves. Speaking of faves, I do love September.  Not just because it’s my birthday month, but also mine and XXL’s wedding anniversary. We are celebrating lucky number eight this year. Our hearts were ringin’ In the key that our souls were singin’ As we danced in the night, remember How the stars stole the night away I’m always grateful for things to celebrate, and try never to miss an opportunity to commemorate a milestone no matter how big or small. Celebrations equal memories, and memories with our loved ones are life’s currency. I am, however, amazed by how quickly time seems to be passing. Feels like just yesterday we were planning our wedding. Actually, it seems like just yesterday I was donning a cap and gown while walking across a stage to accept my diploma. Traditional gifts for year eight are bronze and pottery. Bronze is formed by combing two metals—copper and tin—which is thought to be symbolic of the union of marriage. Will see what XXL comes up with.  I’m good as long as it’s not a copper plumbing pipe. My love language is gifts, but XXL shows his love with acts of service. Cleaning my car or doing the dishes are his way of saying, “I love you.” All good stuff, and I remind him that nothing says love like diamonds. He also loves words of affirmation so I thought I’d take this opportunity to reinforce some things…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

Summer Plans Laid to Waste

By Lori Welch Brown Seems like just yesterday I was convincing myself that this was going to be THE ‘summer.’ The summer I dropped my extra COVID 19 pounds of flesh and rocked my bikini aka my mommified high-waisted two piece with maximum-hold spandex. The summer that I felt like a million bucks in my sundresses (as in my arms didn’t look like bat wings).  The summer I’d start running again—maybe even sign up for a half marathon.  Heck—maybe a whole.  The summer I started eating healthy, maybe even committing to a plant-based diet.  The summer I actually relaxed. I had a vision, but no plan other than a nightly regimen of chowing down on carbs with an ice cream chaser.  Oh well.  There’s always next summer… It’s hard to focus on these (shallow?) desires when there is so much heaviness in the world.  It is challenging to get out, move, and have fun when you feel as if the universe has gone utterly bonkers.  But, finding joy is important—especially during the summer months.  It’s almost our duty to enjoy some down time, indulge in some ice cream, and dip our toes in the sand.  Joy and happiness—and FUN—are important to our mental health.  Unrealistic goals and beating ourselves up when we fail, however, is detrimental to our well-being. During the dog days of summer when August presents itself as a horse hair blanket coated in hot embers, it is especially important to practice self-care whether it is a midday nap in the air-conditioning, thirty minutes in the hammock with a summer read, or an early morning bike ride. Sure—push yourself a little to pedal an extra ten minutes or log another mile on the treadmill, but do so with caution and an awareness of the big picture.  It’s hot…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

Freedom Found and Squandered (or Streamed)

By Lori Welch Brown It’s July, and what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  Freedom.  Which, to be honest, I often take for granted because I’m an entitled American, and thanks to a lot of brave people whom I tip my hat to a couple of times a year, I get to say and do what I want. I’m joking, but also not.  I do take my freedom for granted.  I’m guessing that many of us do.  When I think about it, I enjoy a treasure trove of freedoms every single day.  I am free to get up when I choose, free to eat and drink what I choose.  Free to purchase what I choose from whomever I choose.  Free to read and/or write whatever suits me.  Free to leave my house when I want and make decisions of my own will. Many human beings do not share these same luxuries I afford every day.  There are many sick people who are not free to leave their bed, many forced to work two jobs to keep themselves afloat, and many who are trapped under a cycle of domestic abuse—which is my segue-way to talk about what we all really want to talk about:  The Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial. For the record, *domestic abuse is no joking matter, and in no way do I want to make light of it.  Although I agree with the jury’s findings, whether you agree with me or not, I’m sure we can all agree that domestic violence is never okay—towards men or women.  Whatever my thoughts are about the trial, I do think that shedding light on the fact that men can be abused and not just abusers was a good thing. In case you have been living in a cave, the…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

For the Love of Dads

By Lori Welch Brown Bacon, pancakes, the smell of freshly-mowed grass, Old Spice cologne.  Just a few of the things that remind me of Dad.  He’s been gone a year and a half now.  Some days it feels like forever since I’ve talked to him, and other days it feels like just yesterday when I was writing his obituary. Mom died in 2006, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her.  With Dad, it’s somehow different.  I feel like when he died, he took a part of me with him.  Maybe it’s because I’m his daughter.  Maybe it’s because he was in my life for 14 years longer.  Maybe I’ve had longer to process Mom’s grief while Dad’s is still raw. Whatever the case, dads are different and special.  I know mine sure was.  From the moment I opened my eyes, he’s been there for me.  In the early years, he provided a roof over my head, put food on the table, and made sure I was safe and secure. As I began to grow, he became a coach and teacher watching anxiously as my little legs pedaled away from him or dived into the ocean.  He was always there with good advice, “Slow down for the turns” or to swoop me up after the wave dragged me under. He and Mom set the rules, but he was the enforcer.  Boy, was he strict.  My husband jokes that I’m very black and white in how I think sometimes, and I credit Dad for that.  There wasn’t any gray area when it came to dealing with Dad’s laws.  Curfew was specific and understood.  “Ten o’clock is ten o’clock.  If I wanted you home by 10:07, that’s what I would have said.” There were no veiled threats except…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

May Days

By Lori Welch Brown May is for moms, and I sure am missing mine.  My inbox is being bombarded with Mother’s Day gift ideas, and my heart feels heavy wishing Mom was here so I could buy her a bouquet of brightly colored peonies, gerbera daisies, and sunflowers. Moms aside, for me, May needs to be about movement which I sorely need.  Someone else already writes the fitness column so don’t worry, I won’t be doling out exercise advice.  But, I will tell you that since COVID arrived back in 2020, my food sensibilities departed along with my gym card. It’s also going to be about making memories as we are headed out for a long overdue trip with friends.  I can’t wait to get on a plane and embark on a new adventure.  Keeping my fingers crossed that circumstances don’t change in a way that prevents us from traveling.  I’m fine with wearing a mask and/or taking a COVID test as long as I can land in a foreign land and immerse myself in a different culture.  Buon giorno.  Come sta? Molto bene! But enough about me. What about you?  How will you be kicking off your summer?  Road trips are always great, and if you’re an ardent reader of the Old Town Crier, you probably have taken this mag along as your guide to some awesome Delmarva destinations.  Day tripping is one of my fave things to do, riding along with the windows rolled down, and the radio cranked up.  Wine country, anyone? Perhaps for some of you, marriage is in the plans this month.  COVID put a halt to many a bride’s plans so now hopefully they are back on the books.  I know I’ve seen a lot of bachelor/bachelorette events over on social media.  So fun…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

What Goes with Grief?  Hope and a Cold Miller Lite

By Lori Welch Brown I’m writing this column on the tenth anniversary of her death which seems appropriate as April showers bring May flowers.  That’s a bit what grief feels like, right?  Things feels gloomy and dark for a time, and then a bit of sunlight peaks through just enough to allow something beautiful to break through the soil, a sprout of hope. She died in March, on the 16th to be exact, just one day after her youngest daughter’s tenth birthday.  Since 2012, the term March Madness has taken on a whole different meaning for those of us who knew Holly. Holly loved March.  She was actually born in January, but somehow March feels like her month.  She was a St. Patty’s day girl with her fiery red hair and vibrant personality.  She never met a stranger, and she had more ideas than there are four-leaf clovers. This year’s anniversary of her passing felt like a kick in the gut.  She should be here.  Her youngest just got accepted to VCU.  Her oldest—who is the spitting image of her—is set to graduate in May. I could go on and on about what a life force she was—one of my best friends since I was 15—but you didn’t know her.  I could ramble on for hours about what you missed out on, and it would all be true.  Her laugh and penchant for Miller Lites.  Her zany ideas and master plans that she sucked us all into because we couldn’t stand to be left out of anything she was involved in. One such idea had me standing in the freezing rain at a St. Patrick’s Day parade in D.C. trying to sell green glitter shamrock head bopper thingys.  “C’mon, Lor—it’ll be fun,” she said.  She had purchased 5,000 of them…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

An Anniversary I’d Rather Forget

By Lori Welch Brown Can you believe we have been dealing with COVID-19 for two years?  I’m recalling those first scary months.  The not knowing was paralyzing.  Wear gloves.  Don’t wear gloves.  Wash your hands.  Wash your hands longer.  Wipe down your trash can.  Leave your Amazon boxes outside for 48 hours.  Drink bleach.  Wash down with wine. I remember walking down the hall to my Dad’s room in his assisted living facility and passing a nurse who said in hushed tones, “You really shouldn’t be here.  Lock down started this evening.”  That was March 15, 2020. I didn’t understand what that meant, but the thought of not seeing Dad for a couple of weeks terrified me.  Turns out I didn’t see him again until he went into the ICU in June.  Who’d have thought a trip to the ICU would be a blessing? As it turns out, Dad made two more trips to the ICU that year (non-COVID related) before he contracted COVID in December and passed away. When I hear people question the severity of COVID or try to pass it off as a political scare tactic, my blood boils.  Yes, Dad was 90.  His days were numbered.  I get it.  But, did he deserve to die alone in a room after being sequestered for the better part of nine months?  And, we’re the lucky ones.  Another friend said goodbye to her mom over FaceTime while watching her slowly drown in the fluid built up in her lungs. Pardon me for not marking this anniversary on the calendar and celebrating with confetti and balloons. While I may not be shooting off fireworks to commemorate the occasion, I am grateful. All of the nurses and doctors who risked their lives to care for the sick are true heroes. The…

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