paying my respects

Road to Glory by Mort Kunstler


I’ve wanted to visit Lexington, VA for a long time — I think I can pinpoint it to this painting by Mort Kunstler.  I love Kunstler’s Civil War paintings, and after seeing this one depicting Jackson leaving the Virginia Military Institute with his cadets to go fight in the War, I’ve wanted to see VMI.  After living in Virginia for four years, it’s hard to believe I didn’t make it down there earlier. It’s a history major’s dream — especially one who loves George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson.

I finally made the trip earlier this month, although I know I need to go back for a longer proper visit.  I didn’t even stop at VMI!

My main objective was the Lee Chapel on the grounds of Washington & Lee University.  Robert E. Lee is buried in this chapel, which was built with his encouragement while he was president.

(Pictures weren’t allowed anywhere in the Chapel or the museum, so I had to be creative and take pictures of the postcards I purchased.)  The famous statue of recumbent Lee was very impressive in real life — contrary to what one might think, the statue is not a deceased Lee, but a sleeping Lee.  The statue was created to honor the fact that during the War General Lee would often sleep on the battlefield with his men, not in an inn or home.

Below the statue, in the chapel crypt, Robert E. Lee is buried, along with his wife, their 7 children, and Lee’s parents and other family members.

The museum under the chapel was fascinating, and I walked through it wishing I had more time to spend reading everything.  It chronicled not only the history of Washington & Lee University — its early days, the fact that Washington kept it running with his benefaction, and its flourishing under Lee, who steered it towards becoming a modern university– but also the life of Robert E. Lee.

The museum really drove home for me the connection between George Washington and Robert E. Lee.  I had known that Mary Anna Randolph Custis, Lee’s wife, was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington (I learned that at the Custis-Lee mansion), but I hadn’t known that Lee’s father was one of Washington’s closest friends.  Both of these things meant that Lee had many of Washington’s things in his possession.

I think sometimes 1860 can seem so distant from 1776, it’s easy for us to forget that Robert E. Lee was still living very much in the spirit of Washington.  The museum reminded me that Lee did what he did, not because he loved slavery or because he hated Yankees, but because he was a Virginian in the mold of George Washington.

Next to the museum was Lee’s office, supposedly untouched from when he last walked out of it on September 28, 1870.  He suffered a stroke that night and died on October 12th.   You could walk a few feet into the room, where there was a short railing preventing you from going all the way inside.  On the railing there were descriptions of the various things in the office and quotes from Lee about forming gentlemen at the university.  To this day, Washington & Lee has a honor system that is based on Lee’s statement: “We have but one rule here, and it is that every student must be a gentleman.”   The students are held to a standard of integrity and respect that is upheld and enforced by the students themselves.  (You can read more here.  I was impressed.)

I was really moved in here.   I walked as far as I could into the room and was all alone.  At the risk of sounding ridiculous, all I can say is … I felt Robert E Lee’s presence.

Now I know he’s not a canonized saint or anything. But I can honestly say that I’ve only felt this way in holy places.  And I’m not even going to give examples, because it just seems so crazy.  But it’s true.  As I was standing there in the silence, I had an overwhelming feeling of Robert E. Lee’s presence.

It was very moving. That’s all I’ll say.

Just outside the door is Traveller, Lee’s beloved horse.  There are lots of stories about Traveller around the campus — he lived in the stable connected to Lee’s house in Lexington, which is now the garage– to this day, supposedly the door of the garage of the president’s house is left open, allowing Traveller’s spirit to roam. [Liza, perhaps Paul can verify that? :)]  He used to graze on campus, and Lee would take him on late afternoon rides.

In Lee’s funeral procession, Traveller followed the casket, Lee’s boots backwards in the stirrups, black crepe draped over his saddle.  Not long after Lee died, Traveller stepped on a nail, developed tetanus, and was euthanized.

After saying goodbye to Lee Chapel, I headed a few streets over to the cemetery to pay my respects to the other great Confederate general, Stonewall Jackson.  Although his arm is buried closer to where he was shot (we think- it’s sort of a mystery), Jackson is buried in Lexington near his beloved VMI and his friend Lee.  (He wasn’t even Catholic, yet his body parts are scattered about. hm!)

Next time, I definitely have to visit VMI.  I owe it to him.

I definitely recommend a trip to Lexington for anyone remotely interested in history.  Besides visiting VMI, I would have spent much more time in Lee Chapel (I missed checking out Lee’s pew — I didn’t know to look for it until I came home) and the museum, plus exploring the rest of campus (which looked beautiful).

I only realized later that the 140th anniversary of Lee’s death was two days after I stopped in Lexington to pay my respects.


Pray for Marshall!

I found out two weeks ago about a young Catholic boy, a junior in high school, who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 Ewings’ Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, which has spread to his lung.  He was active in his parish and in Catholic groups, comes from a large family, and seems to be one of those boys that everyone loves.   While local efforts have sprung up to raise money for him and his family, there is also a huge swelling of prayer support, especially asking for his cure through the intercession of Bl.PierGiorgio Frassati.

“O merciful God,
Who through the perils of the world
deigned to preserve by Your grace
Your servant Pier Giorgio Frassati
pure of heart and ardent of charity,
listen, we ask You, to our prayers and,
if it is in Your designs that he be glorified by the Church,
show us Your will,
granting us the graces we ask of You, particularily, a complete and miraculous healing for Marshall Billingsley,
through his intercession,
by the merits of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.”

This morning I was getting a bagel and coffee at Bruegger’s, and I noticed they not only had a poster up for the l’Angelus benefit concert for Marshall, but they had a huge note on their dry erase board that next Saturday they would give 15% of all profits to Marshall and his family.

And then it hit me.  I had thought Marshall looked familiar to me when I saw his picture, but figured I had seen him in the Catholic crowd at some point or another.

But this morning, I realized why I recognized me.  Marshall was the boy who worked at Bruegger’s this summer. The boy I shared playful banter with and posted about in the 4th entry of this blog.

And while I still can’t say I “know” Marshall, somehow the whole situation has become much more real to me.  I can see his smiling face, his cheerful personality (despite the early hour of the morning).  I should have known he was a Catholic young man, just judging from the way he brightened everyone’s day!  That doesn’t seem like that long ago — my life is pretty much the same, as evidenced from the fact that I went to Bruegger’s this morning and got a trail mix bagel and a cup of hazelnut coffee, just as I did when Marshall was working.  But his life has changed so drastically.

Please pray for Marshall and his family, as they fight this unexpected battle.  Please pray through the intercession of Bl.PierGiorgio, himself a cheerful young man who brightened the day of those he met, who suffered at such a young age.

technology made my day

I may have the reputation for shunning the benefits of technology, given my opinion of Facebook (which may seem hilarious since I’m sitting here blogging), but I had a moment last night when technology made possible a real gift.

I decided to go to bed early and was falling asleep when my phone made a curious little sound.  When I looked at the screen, there was a little icon that was unfamiliar, and a message that said “hi Joannie!”

It turned out to be a Google chat message from my friend Sr.Katy, who joined a convent in Austria a year ago!  While it looked like she was offline, I responded and it turned out she was there– and we had a nice little “talk” for a few minutes before it was time for her to go to bed.  Somehow, all the pieces had fallen into place — she was in the States for the time being (and thus in our time zone), she had permission to get online to delete the mail cluttering her old Gmail account, and my phone somehow not only knew my Gmail account, but was connected and therefore showed me as “online.”  (I’m still not sure about that!)

I marveled afterwards at the gift — I haven’t seen her in over a year, and there are days when I can’t stop thinking about her and wondering how God is working in her life.  Her convent life is taking her all across the globe and letting her experience amazing things (like the beatification of Bl. John Henry Newman)– and thanks to Google Chat, which somehow showed up on my phone like a text message (again, I’m confused — but thankful!), I got a little bit of Sr. Katy in my life after a long day.

I went to sleep happy with technology, and grateful to God that He gave me that little gift.

by popular demand…

More puzzles.

88 = PK

4 = Q in a G (this is the first one I got)

24 = H in a D

1 = W on a U

5 = D in a Z C (I think this is the one that Lauri googled!)

57 = H V

11 = P on a F T

29 = D in F in a L Y

40 = D and N of the G F

and… drum roll… the ones I can’t solve… (although maybe I shouldn’t admit that, in case they’re really easy for you)

1,001 = A N

200 = D for P G in M

1,000 = W that a P is W

64 = S on a C

Have fun!

And feel free to comment if you get some of them.

full disclosure

My name is Joannie.  And I have a cardigan addiction.

Is that kind of sick?

And there are two more that aren’t there.

But they all have their purpose.  Some are long-sleeved, others are 3/4 sleeved.  One has big buttons, one has no buttons at all.  One is argyle, one is from my old place of employment.  One is dressy (that’s the cashmere one not pictured; it needs to go to the dry cleaner), one has cute flowers on the collar, one has ruffles.

They all have their time, their season, their level of dressiness.

Have I convinced you?

or do I need help?

puzzles that will drive you mad

Some time last spring, a coworker walking out of a meeting passed me and handed me a page of puzzles copied from a mind-bender book.  I didn’t have time to look it over, so I set it on my desk, and it immediately got buried under a stack of papers.  Several months later, I found it and began looking them over.

Another coworker and good friend was working down the hall from me at the time — there were six offices down a little dead-end hallway, and during most of the past summer the other offices were empty.  So it wasn’t odd, nor too disrupting (we think), for us to simply speak loudly from our desks to communicate with each other.  (Now we work in different buildings, around other people who work more quietly than we do, so it’s been a bit of an adjustment.)

Anyway, I showed some of the mind-benders to my friend, and they immediately drove us crazy.  They’re the type of puzzles that itch like a scratch you can’t reach, and while you try not to think about them, you know you won’t get any peace until you come to the answer.  At the same time, they were the type of puzzles that would just come to you when you least expected it.  So you tried not to think about them, in the hopes that the answers would just leap into your head while you were in the middle of something else.

They occupied us for a good couple of days.  Lauri googled one once, which was entirely dissatisfying and I told her she never could do it ever again.  Some of them came easily to us, others still are left unanswered.  But they definitely gave me a fond memory.  I would tease her with them — throwing out one when she least expected it and knowing it would be gnawing at her brain for the next few hours.  Or we’d each be hard at work in our offices, when suddenly one of us would have a “eureka” moment and we’d shout out the answer, or she’d call me up excitedly, or I’d run down the hall to her doorway.  If someone else was present, they would look at us bewilderedly, wondering what the combination of words coming out of our mouths meant.

But Lauri and I knew.

So that brings me to the challenge.  Of the 23 puzzles, we’ve solved all but five.  Luckily, we forgot about the whole thing, or else we probably would be insane by now.  But I just found them and wanted to let you all in on the fun.

I’m going to start by giving you ones we’ve solved — because deep-down, I still want to solve the five on my own.

The puzzles are classic amounts or numbers of something, which are abbreviated by just initials.  The equations are completed by finding the missing words.  It’s hard to explain, so let me give you the example they give at the beginning:

26 = L of the A

…. 26 Letters of the Alphabet

Seems easy, right?

try these:

7 = W of the A W

12 = S of the Z

54 = C in a D (with the J)

9 = P in the S S

13 = S on the A F

32 = D F at which W F

18 = H on a G C

90 = D in a R A

8 = S on a S S

3 = B M (S H T R!)

Have fun going crazy! : )  NO CHEATING!

P.S. What makes this whole thing crazier is that the coworker who originally gave me the page doesn’t remember giving it to me and has no idea where she got it!  So much for “Answers on page 118.”  !!!

P.P.S. I originally made copies to give my family when they came to visit, but I forgot to pass them out — if I had, my Dad would have completed them all in one sitting, I imagine!