language, misunderstandings, Virginia

What it means to be a native…

Good morning, blog fans. It’s a cool, rainy Thursday here in Germany, and I’ve been up for two hours already. Bill woke me up when he came back into the bedroom after his shower. I had to get up a few times last night and needed cough syrup to fall asleep in the first place. I’m mostly over my cold from last week, but still have an annoying cough. It takes me forever to get over coughs, thanks to asthma and acid reflux. So, even though I’m now feeling mostly normal, when I lie down to go to sleep, I still cough a lot. Thank God for NyQuil.

While I was eating breakfast with Bill, I looked at the weekly newspaper put out by my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia. I like to look at the obituaries to see if anyone I know has passed and read about things going on in the community where I came of age. Sometimes, I also read the opinion pieces and letters to the editor, but those often end up disturbing me.

Gloucester is a VERY red county, even though it was somewhat recently in the news due to a transgender student at the high school wanting the right to change bathroom preferences. That case went to the Supreme Court, which was quite a shock to me… not so much because of the case itself, but because it involved my high school.

I remember reading some of the letters to the editor when that was going on, and I was pretty horrified by what I read. Many people were full of hatred for Gavin Grimm, the transgender student who eventually won his fight after graduation. In August 2021, the school board was ordered to pay $1.3 million to resolve Grimm’s case. This sounds like a lot of money, but it was used for five years worth of attorney’s fees and court costs. It seems like it would have been smarter and much less expensive to just let Gavin use the boys room. But hey, that’s Gloucester, and people there are pretty set in their ways. A lot of people who live there are the type of people to put the below sticker on their cars…

This was actually suggested to me on Facebook. I reported it as promoting violence. Facebook said it was okay. And yet, I got a red badge of shame for calling Americans “dumb”.
Some of them might even put this on their cars… although I would hope they wouldn’t.

The point is, I don’t have the highest of expectations for people in the county where I spent most of my youth. Most of them are “salt of the earth” type people who call a spade a spade, and are slow to change their views on things. Don’t get me wrong. There are some genuinely fabulous people living in Gloucester, and I still have many friends there. But there are also some ignorant folks living there, as I guess there would be anywhere. And some are happy to stay ignorant as they stubbornly cling to their small world views.

So this morning, I was reading the obituaries and I noticed a photo of a woman in a wedding dress listed as among the dead. I didn’t recognize her name, but she looked young enough that I might have known her at some time. I took a look at her obituary to see if she might be someone from my past. It turned out she wasn’t, but her obituary was memorable anyway, because of this…

She was born in Rhode Island and was a native of Virginia Beach.


Uh, if she was born in Rhode Island, she can’t be a “native” of anywhere but Rhode Island. It doesn’t matter how long a person lives somewhere. If they weren’t born there, they aren’t a “native”. There are several definitions of the word “native”, but they all basically refer to someone or something being born in a specific place.

From Merriam-Webster: Middle English natif, from Middle French, from Latin nativus, from natus, past participle of nasci to be born.

In Merriam-Webster, there is a lesser known meaning that “native” can possibly be used to denote that a person has always lived in a certain place, which would distinguish them from being a visitor. But it seems to me that in the above case, the word wouldn’t be correct, as the person in the obituary did eventually leave Virginia Beach for the “quieter” living available in Gloucester County. This was actually written in the obituary– that they preferred the simpler lifestyle in Gloucester.

It was an obituary, so that means that it was probably written by one of the deceased’s loved ones, rather than a journalist. And I think, just as people misuse the word “prone” when they actually mean “supine”, this was just someone who thought they knew the definition of “native” and didn’t bother to look it up as they wrote the obituary. I also know this issue is not a big deal to most people. Most of us understand what the writer meant, which means they accomplished what they set out to do when they wrote the sentence. However, technically, what they wrote is incorrect, and as someone who finds words and language interesting, I decided the mistake would make for a good and potentially educational blog topic today.

I like to study different mechanics of the English language to see how it all fits together. If you know what prefixes, suffixes, and roots mean, you can often figure out what a word means– or doesn’t mean– without having to consult a dictionary. And it can also be very helpful in other languages, as you try to understand what the announcer on a Google Ad is saying while you wait for your YouTube video to begin. If you know the word “nate” or “natal” denotes birth, you know that a person who grew up in Virginia Beach, but was born in Rhode Island, can’t actually be a native of Virginia Beach.

I was born in Hampton, Virginia. That’s where my mom now lives, and where my father died in 2014. I am a NATIVE of Hampton, because I was born there. But, to date, I have spent only about six months of my life living in Hampton, and that was just after my birth in 1972. I have no memories whatsoever of living in the place where I was born, although I’ve visited there MANY times.

In 1973, we moved to Dayton, Ohio, which I also don’t remember, because I was a baby at the time. My earliest memories are of England, from where many of my ancestors hailed. I have a whole lot of Scottish and English DNA– like over 97 percent, according to two of the best known DNA sites– but I am certainly not a “native” of the United Kingdom. I am a native of Virginia, and to date, I’ve lived the most years of my life in Gloucester, where I’m also not a native. Germany is starting to catch up with Gloucester, but I’ll never be a German native, even if I live here until I’ve reached a ripe old age.

I don’t think there are as many true natives of Gloucester as compared to nearby larger cities like Williamsburg, Richmond, Hampton, and Newport News. Gloucester’s hospital doesn’t offer maternity services, and hasn’t for as long as I can remember. Because a lot of Americans would rather give birth in a medical setting, a lot of pregnant people in Gloucester give birth somewhere else. However, at least two famous people in history were Gloucester natives– Pocahontas was one, and Dr. Walter Reed was another.

Anyway, I thought I’d get that off my chest. My condolences to the family and friends of the deceased woman who prompted today’s rantings. It sounds like she was a very lovely woman who will be missed by many people. It also sounds like they are a good fit for living in Gloucester County, which does have its positives, in spite of some people wanting to keep living in the past.

memories, nostalgia

Repost: My brush with the rich and famous in rural Gloucester, Virginia…

I’ve been a little bit homesick, lately. It’s been years since I was last “home”. So, as I think about what fresh content I want to write today, here’s a repost from 2018. The featured photo is of me, running in my first race in April 1982. I won first place for my age and sex– which, at that time, was nine. It was a four mile race. My, how times have changed. Now, I feel great when I manage to walk a mile.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I grew up in Gloucester, Virginia in the 1980s.  We moved there in June 1980, the day after I turned eight.  I remember very clearly that in those days, Gloucester was very rural.  I seem to remember just a few stoplights in the entire county and maybe a McDonald’s and a Pizza Hut. 

Decades later, I see that it’s a lot more cosmopolitan than it was in my day.  Areas that used to be nothing but trees are now home to big box stores and chain restaurants.  Both the Pizza Hut and the McDonald’s that were there in 1980 have been torn down and moved.  And there are now many stoplights in Gloucester and there have been for probably thirty years or more.

I didn’t appreciate Gloucester when I was young.  In fact, I hated living there for most of my youth.  When we first moved there, I was mercilessly bullied by a group of my classmates– the smart, “preppie” kids whose families had lived in Gloucester forever.  Many of those kids rode the same bus I did and made my life a living hell.  I didn’t get along with most of the kids who lived on my dirt road, either.  They were a different group of kids.  They weren’t necessarily smart.  What most of them were was very “redneck”.  We didn’t mesh.  They probably thought I was too highfalutin’ and snobby.  There’s no telling.   

The one thing that saved me from succumbing to despair was my love for horses.  I wasn’t especially horsey when we lived in Fairfax, Virginia, which was where we spent the first two years after my dad retired from the Air Force our of Mildenhall Air Force Base in England.  My sister had taken riding lessons in England, but I wasn’t necessarily into horses myself…  but then we moved to rural, country Gloucester, where many people owned horses.  My neighbor, mother to one of the hoodlums who used to harass me, used to let me ride her horse every once in awhile.  I will never forget the intoxicating aroma of the horses and the thrill of sitting on one for the first time.  I fell deeply in love.

Within a couple of years after we moved to Gloucester, I started taking formal riding lessons.  I continued riding throughout high school, finally giving it up in 1990, the year I graduated.  Although Gloucester was, and probably still is, a rather provincial place, there were actually some interesting people living there.  In fact, there’s a lot of old money in Gloucester and many historic plantations are located there.  You could spend all day driving around the county looking at them if you wanted to.

Little me on Rusty, the pony who got me through high school still innocent.  I think I was about twelve in this photo.  The year was 1984.

In the 80s, the Sadovic family from France owned a big fancy plantation called Eagle Point.  I don’t know what their business was, but they were very French and apparently very wealthy.  Their son, Greg, was about my age.  He showed horses.  I believe he and the rest of his family now live in Palm Beach, Florida and he now shows horses professionally.  In the 80s, he was involved in 4H, like I was, and he sometimes rode in the small shows, like I did.  But his family owned beautiful horses and were very serious about the sport. 

For several years in the 1980s, the Sadovics employed an expert French horseman named Francois Lemaire de Ruffieu.  Francois was a bit of a “rock star” in the horse world.  He first trained and graduated from the Cadre Noir, one of the oldest and most prestigious riding academies in Europe.  During his six years in the cavalry at Saumur and Fontainebleau, he studied and showed extensively in dressage, stadium jumping, three-day eventing and steeplechase.  He was awarded the title of Master Instructor of the American Riding Instructor Certification program in 1996.  Given that he was born in 1944, Francois has been in the horse business for many years.  But I knew him during his prime.  In fact, I distinctly remember falling off my horse, Rusty, right in front of him back in the 80s.

In those days, Francois was in his 40s and he lived in Gloucester.  He’d give riding clinics at Eagle Point.  I know I attended at least one or two of them.  In those days, Eagle Point had a number of events that we’d attend– horse shows, competitive trail rides, and fox hunts.  It wasn’t located far from where I took lessons.  My riding coach took lessons from Francois and passed on some of his techniques to us when she taught us.  I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but it was actually really cool that she was able to do that, especially in a place like Gloucester.

In 1988, right after Rusty and I won first place in a huge Hunter Pleasure Pony class in Richmond, Virginia.

In 1984, Francois published his first book, Handbook of Riding Essentials.  It made quite a splash locally, but I believe it also sold well internationally.  I see that Francois is still in business, too, giving riding clinics in places like Vermont.  I see on an old Facebook page that someone who worked with Francois in the 80s mentions having known him in Virginia.  He evidently also worked at Beau Shane (which I think is now defunct), which was an amazing farm in next door Mathews County.  I knew it because the woman who used to run our 4H horse judging group was a horse trainer there, and we used to visit Beau Shane to study conformation.  They had gorgeous Swedish Warmbloods.  Mathews County was even more rural than Gloucester, but there were some really high caliber horses at Beau Shane.

This topic comes up because last night, I was noticing all the boat pictures and videos posted by some of my Gloucester friends and I felt a little bit homesick.  Gloucester is also home to several rivers and many people who live there own boats.  I joked that maybe it was time to move back to Gloucester.  My old riding coach mentioned that mosquitos are a thing there and maybe I’d forgotten that.  I was being a bit facetious.  I can’t see myself moving to Gloucester again.  It wouldn’t be the same as it was when I was growing up.  But another friend, a guy who lived there in the 70s, started talking about the plantations and mentioned Warner Hall…  He said it’s for sale.

Warner Hall is located right next to Eagle Point and, in the 80s, one could board their horses there.  It is now a five star B&B, but in the 80s, we rode our horses through the property while participating in events put on by Eagle Point.  I didn’t know it back in the 80s, but George Washington’s grandparents lived in Gloucester.  Actually, Gloucester is a very historic place.  It’s also where Pocahontas was born.  And Dr. Walter Reed, a U.S. Army physician who led the team that postulated and confirmed the theory that yellow fever is transmitted by a particular mosquito species, rather than by direct contact, was also born in Gloucester, Virginia.  Gloucester was also used in a couple of films, notably Zelly & Me starring Isabella Rosselini, and Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise.  And John Lennon once owned a plantation in neighboring Mathews County called Poplar Grove.

When I was about eleven, I also used to occasionally visit Lisburne, another plantation that was restored by the Peebles family.  Their daughter, Laurie, showed horses on the A rated circuit and a church friend, also wealthy, hooked me up with her.  I remember I used to visit this marvelous home in Ordinary and play with Laurie’s horses.  This was before my mom got me into lessons with the woman who taught me all through high school. 

I think about all the places I could have grown up… places not as interesting or historic as Gloucester County is.  When I was a child, I thought it was a boring place.  Now I realize that Gloucester is pretty fascinating.  I still don’t know that I want to move back there, but it was a cool place to grow up.  There’s an interesting mix of old money, old redneck, and military transients in that county.  I still have a lot of friends there, although my family has moved on.  If it weren’t for horses, I don’t know that I would have had so many opportunities to see some of these wonderful old homes. 

Of course, I also got to see a few of them thanks to being a Presbyterian.  I think in Gloucester, a lot of Presbyterians were somewhat well-heeled and connected to old money.  But I see now, even the church I grew up in has changed.  I remember when that sanctuary was built, back in 1980, 100 years after the church was founded.  And now, it’s no longer First Presbyterian Church.  Now it’s Grace Covenant Church, affiliated with the new ECO branch of Presbyterianism because apparently, the minister didn’t want to have to marry gay couples, and disagreed with some of the other changing views of the PCUSA branch.

Anyway… I just heard the chimes go off, signifying that it’s time to move the laundry to the dryer.  I guess I’ve rambled on long enough this morning.

Here’s a link to Francois’ book…  I see it’s significantly more expensive these days!  But it is very well-regarded… Maybe I should buy a copy for old time’s sake.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.


Trump is a total madman…

Alright… just finished writing my latest travel blog series. New dog, still named Noizy for now, is doing fine. He’s as sweet as he can be. Someday, he might even leave the living room so we can give him a bath.

Now, back to my usual complaints and rantings. A few days ago, I wrote about the news that our dear “leader”, Donald Trump, was diagnosed with COVID-19. The initial news that he’d “tested positive” was soon followed up with news that he actually has the virus. Many people, including yours truly, wondered if this was yet another line of bullshit designed to distract everyone from Trump’s shortcomings before the election next month.

Then he ended up at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for the weekend. Interesting side note– Walter Reed, who discovered that yellow fever is spread by mosquitos– was born in Belroi, Virginia. Belroi is part of Gloucester County, which is where I grew up. I have passed his birthplace many times, and in fact, our hospital in Gloucester was also named after him.

Anyway… Trump was airlifted to WRAMC in Washington, DC, even though the White House itself is pretty well equipped for medical emergencies. He spent the weekend in the “presidential suite”, and doctors said that his respiration rate had dropped dangerously a couple of times. But now, he’s been released and is supposedly “feelin’ great”. He went for a joyride in a hermetically sealed vehicle, masked, but locked up with people transporting and protecting him. He waved at the people, then got released.

Trump tweeted triumphantly (as I knew he would)… from the New York Times:

“Don’t be afraid of Covid,” he wrote. “Don’t let it dominate your life.” When he arrived at the White House a few hours later, Mr. Trump removed his mask before joining several masked people inside. The president was probably still contagious, as many patients can pass on the virus for up to 10 days after symptoms begin.

So… either Trump lied about having COVID-19, or he’s now willingly putting himself and many others at risk by mingling among the masses without any sort of face mask or other personal protection equipment. Doctors have said that days 7 through 10 tend to be the worst/most risky in a COVIF-19 infection. I have a nurse friend who works with COVID patients and confirms that he’s not yet out of the woods… if he was ever sick in the first place. For the record, I believe he was sick, and I believe that COVID-19 may still be his undoing. I don’t particularly relish the idea, nor does it depress me. As Trump says, “It is what it is.” Lots of people are lecturing others about what they should be saying and doing, though. I even got blocked by someone who was upset that I said Trump reminds me of Hitler. He does. Sorry… no, we’re not in a Holocaust, but he acts a lot like Hitler. The truth hurts.

This last month before the election promises to be totally crazy. Trump’s base is ever more riled up by the idea of Trump’s re-election, while those who are “ridin’ with Biden” are also campaigning hard. I just voted a week ago via absentee ballot. I voted Democrat across the board, something I have never done before. I have a feeling I am not the only one. Hopefully, it will make a difference. Like a lot of Americans, I’m pretty fed up with Trump’s circus and his complete disregard for everyone but himself. I am also tired of seeing and hearing gloating from Trump’s base.

Seriously… there are some true jackasses out there. Here are just a couple of links to the winners of the dipshit parade:

Trump Supporter Eyed by Law Enforcement After Viral Video Threatens ‘War’ if Biden Wins Election: ‘Us Rednecks … We Comin’ and Comin’ Strong’

Shocking video shows MAGA supporter punching man who refused to stop playing anti-Trump rap song in Texas parking lot

Not to be outdone, here’s a hilarious and curse heavy video from someone who thinks Trumpers are not the brightest:

My ears are burning!

Anyway… I am really glad to be here instead of there. I think the next month is going to be a total clusterfuck. Either way, I’m sure on the first Wednesday of November, I’ll feel like drinking.