Spring time on Fisher Branch

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Actually, the title is a misnomer as spring was pretty much MIA on our trip to visit Grandpa Gene and Grandma Linda this past weekend. We drove down on Thursday in hopes that a 580 mile drive in a southerly direction would hold some warmer weather than we have been having here in West Chester. However, the day before we left the mountains got 5 or 6 inches of fresh snow! Fortunately, a quick look at the weather forecast showed that things should turn around fairly quick, and it did. A little. By Friday most of the snow was melted, and we had a mix of cool rainy and luke warm sunshine through Monday.  

The tardy nature of Spring 2013 is not just a figment of my imagination. Last year we came down for a visit at the same time last year. Spring seemed a good two weeks ahead of this year. Check out the photos from last year here.

Whatever the weather, or whether spring is early or late, it is always good to get together with your family. We even got to see Aunt Teri for a day. Grandma and Grandpa are doing good and Lilly and Max still bark at everything. One thing that is a little different on the ole farm is that Circe and Aster have become escape artist and seem to find their way to the blueberry patch every morning.

Check out photos from our trip here

Russell, Mary, Emily, William, and Paddy. 

Forensics Club, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Fancy Plants

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[From Mary]

Good day all. Thought it might be time I shared in some blogging duties. 

Funny thing is once I sit behind the keyboard I got nothing to say...

Nothing...

Nada...

Didley squat...

Zip.

Well, actually, I do have a few events that may be worthy of your time. Last year, when my place of employment merged, I "inherited" the position of Forensics coach. That is really interesting mostly because I didn't have the slightest idea what it entailed, other than it actually means 'speech club, and not 'CSI Mother Teresa Regional Catholic'. I must admit I was a little less than enthusiastic. After all, this is my second year teaching all new subjects. Kids, I'm tired. 

UNTIL NOW!!!!! DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!!! The first competition for the Forensics Club was held at St. Joseph Preparatory School in West Philly (hold the terror-filled screams ya'll. The parking lot had a security gate and guard). With students and parents in tow, we made it safely to what some call "Little Lebanon" (Not because it houses lots of Lebanese but because it resembles a war zone!). And there, after months of work, two of my students made it to semi-finals in our very first competition! These beautiful and brilliant girls made it there through sheer exuberance, and I was just in awe of their energy and focus. See photos from our visit here

I wanted to share something else. I love this city. Here I stood in a Jesuit prep school where affluent, hard working young men are pushed to make a difference in this world. If the young men who ran the program are any indication, the prep is doing an excellent job. They were impressive, to say the least. Established in what once was a thriving bustling area in 1866, this Catholic church and school was one of many going up left and right despite the attacks from the Know-Nothing party throughout the 1850's. With Irish pouring into the city, St. John Neumann oversaw the explosion of Catholicism as well as safely steering it through violence and destruction aimed at the Catholics and Irish. 

Just next to the prep is Girard College. The history of Girard College and its founder, Stephen Girard, just simply makes me weepy. This industrious French immigrant came to our city in 1776 (oh yeah, the big year) and amassed a huge fortune. In fact, he became the wealthiest American of his time! He had his hands in everything, from organizing the infamous Bush Hill Hospital during the yellow-fever epidemic of 1793 to becoming the first private banker in the U.S. He even helped to fund the War of 1812. As he had no heirs, he invested his fortune in the future, starting the school for orphans who would have little opportunity without help. It is still running today from the foundation he laid. He chose that location as it was near the then innovative Eastern State Penitentiary (focusing on humane incarceration) and a hospital devoted to the mentally ill. Phillie was the "it" place back in the day!

Man, that's just why I love this city. I just feel its story. I can see those immigrants, the free blacks, Ben and Johnny Neumann and Mr. Girard. I can see them all making their way down Broad and Girard and Market. I can see Frank Rizzo and Nicki Scarfo and our countless "notorious" standing around and making trouble. The art and artists. The museums. The food. I just can't help myself..... I just love this town.

Before I sign off, I hope you enjoy these photos and little clip of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. My dear Emily and I joined our lovely friends, Miranda, Lucy, and Isaac, on Saturday evening for a wonderful concert at Longwood Gardens. You may remember them from Paul Simon's terrific album "Graceland". Just a note, the gorgeous, tall young man on the far left is the front man's youngest son. 

I hope we chat soon,

Mary

A Common Criminal

The primary reason that we have been telling everyone that we moved across the country is to be closer to our families. This is a lie. The real reason that we moved, nay, had to move, from Washington State is that Mary is a common criminal.

In 2010 when Mary was back in Philly with the kids and I was in Sequim, a couple of older women wearing drab calve-length skirts, white blouses buttoned to the top, black orthopedic shoes, and thick horn rimmed glasses, came knocking at the door. I opened the door. In low monotone voices they held up a photo and asked, "Excuse me sir, do you know this person?"

I looked down a saw a photo of Mary crouched down behind a bookshelf. I hesitated, then asked, "Well, maybe, it's hard to make out a face behind the big stack of fiction. Why do you want to know?"

"We have our reasons and we'll ask the questions." said the tall one. The short one smirked. The tall one said "Does this person that you may or may not know live here?"

"My wife lives here, as do our three kids, but they are not here now"

"That's convenient. Do you know when they will be back?

"Ummm...they are on an open ended visit to the east coast. They'll be back later this summer, I don't know exactly when."

"Fine. We'll come back later." they said. They turned, walked through our front gate, and rode off on their vintage 1965 Schwinn Breeze 3-Speed Women's bikes with big baskets on the front.

I went inside and called Mary right away. I got her on the phone and told her about the strange interlude that I just had with a couple of very strange women.

"Damn. They found me."

"Who found you?"

"The library."

"The library?"

"Yeah, I owe them some money."

"Well that's no big deal, I'll walk down to the library and write them a check."

"That won't help. You didn't get to close to them did you? You could probably take out Margret, but Stumpy bites."

"What, you know these people? Stumpy?"

"Yeah, Margret and Stumpy are library detectives. They've been after me for a while."

"What?"

"We need to talk."

So over the next 4 hours and forty-seven minutes, Mary laid out all of her altercations with the library enforcement officers. It turns out the scene from the Woody Allen movie where the police tell Wood Allen "to come out with your hands up and kick the book in front of you" was based on a real life event that Mary had with Margret and Stumpy back in Philly. Apparently, that is where Mary learned that Stumpy bites.

After learning about all of Mary's library problems, we decided that it would be easier to pick up and move, than to try to come clean back in Washington. So, when Mary and the kids returned from vacation in the summer of 2010, we quickly loaded up a trailer and moved Mary and the kids into hiding in West Chester. We put Mary into a treatment program and put an ankle bracelet on that would shock her if she got within 200' of a public library.

All is well, or so we thought. Last week, William and I went down to the West Chester public library to checkout a few books. It seems that Mary has gotten a new account using the names of the children. When William and I walked in and handed the librarian our card, red lights started flashing and the doors to the building automatically locked. Margret and Stumpy dropped down from the ceiling repelling on long ropes with night vision goggles and red-laser beam bar code readers attached to the belts of their drab tweed skits.

"Well, Mr. Rogers, we meet again" Margret said.

"This must be William. Come with me." She pointed to me and said, "You stay here with Beatrice." This time Stumpy smiled, revealing a grill with little golden books inlaid in the front teeth. Then she grabbed my arm with a grip that would impress Pop-eye. I looked down at her wrist and saw a tattoo that said "It's a book bust - Bitches!"

"Beatrice?" I snickered. The smile went away then she leaned over and bit my elbow.

In the back room they told William that if he didn't rat out his mom he wouldn't be able to check out any more Animorphs or dinosaur books. He screamed as if he were having bamboo spikes driven under his fingernails. "I'll tell you anything, just let me have my card back!" William cried. 

A half hour later, they are hauling Mary out of the house, bite marks on her elbows. The total from her West Chester rap sheet is $55.10. They haven't calculated what she owes in Washington State, but it is sure to balance out the state budget. If you see Mary out and about, and it looks like she is heading to a public library, please help her out by taking her to Starbucks or something. Do anything you can to keep her away from the library, as it never works out well when she goes there.

See her mug shots here

Russell