Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Name Game

When we began having children, we had to tackle the question regarding how our children should address adults. Many of our adult friends wanted children to call them by their first names. (I’ve noticed that a majority of those people are also Baby Boomers.) We decided, however, that we wanted our children to use a title in addressing adults. For the most part, adults were Mr. or Mrs. Last Name. (We made exceptions for our very close friends like Hope and Theresa whom I’ve known forever. They are honorary family, so we didn’t require quite the same level of name respect.) We knew that we were considered old fashioned, but the policy seemed to work well for us.

On the flip side, we also asked to be addressed as Mr. and Mrs. Byrne by the many youth that we worked with. Consistency is important in raising kids. No sense in requiring them to say Mrs. Smith while allowing Mrs. Smith’s kids to call me Lyrel. Again, it worked for us. I don’t mind the “old fashioned” moniker for this issue.

Fast forward to present day Charlotte Hall. This is a rural village located in the outskirts of a major metropolitan area. I don’t work with youth here, but I’ve encountered quite a few adults. I’ve noticed that many of those adults insist on calling me Mrs. Byrne even after I’ve pronounced my first name for them. I’m not talking about one or two people. It’s the culture here. In fact, I’m working with a fencing contractor right now who refers to himself only as Mr. Jones. I don’t know what his first name is. He always calls and says, “This is Mr. Jones of Jones Fence.”

Suddenly, I’ve gone from being old-fashioned to progressive without even changing my views! (Sounds a little like a political race, don’t you think?) I don’t know if this approach to names is localized to my village or region or if it extends beyond and is an East Coast thing. Maybe most of the country is this way and only Seattle (or more likely, the entire West Coast) is progressive.

It’s a weird transition. Just as my adult children’s friends are starting to call me Lyrel, my new adult acquaintances are calling me Mrs. Byrne. Either way, I suppose it’s better than, “Hey, You!”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Festival Time

I worked my first wine festival this weekend at the Maryland Wine Festival in Westminster, MD. I spoke with a couple who said they last attended this festival about ten years ago when there were 18 wineries represented. There are now 60 wineries in Maryland, and I suspect most of them were at the festival. That’s a lot for a small state.

We were swamped the entire first day though the Baltimore Ravens seemed to suction off the crowds the second day. People told me that the Port of Leonardtown Winery had one of the busiest tents, which says a lot about our wines. I didn’t talk with anyone else from any other wineries. I didn’t taste a single drop of wine. I don’t even know the names of the wineries who shared our small pavilion with us. It was that crazy. Rumor has it that our sales more than doubled a busy day at the winery. One of our customers was a judge in the recent Maryland Governor’s Cup Wine Competition (where our Chambourcin won Best Red, McIntosh Run won Best Fruit, and Autumn Frost won a gold medal). He came to our booth because he said he was impressed with our wines and wanted to buy some for himself. Yes!

Law enforcement officers were plentiful both at the event and on the roads surrounding the town. They take drunk driving very seriously. That’s a good thing because next week at the same general location is the Carroll County Craft Beer Festival. (Is there not much else to do in Westminster?)

I naïvely thought I would get a chance to walk around and talk with other wineries about not only their wines, but their vineyard activities. I had no idea that festivals were manned primarily with volunteers. Volunteers promise to help out a winery for a given number of hours. In return, they get free admission to the event, a free wine glass, and a free bottle of wine. They usually aren’t grape growers, winery workers, or investors. They are wine drinkers who like working with people, love the freebies, and take the burden off of those who are already working so hard to make the wines. Now, if we could only offer them a crash course on how to pronounce rosé (roh-SAY), chamboursin: SHAM-bohr-sin, and Wicomico: Why-CAHM-i-ko.

Wineries attend festivals to promote name recognition, encourage people to become familiar with their wines, and to move product. Volunteers attend because they get to do a few hours of work and then play the rest of the time for free. The public attends because festivals make it easy to sample a large number of wines without having to purchase a large number of bottles. They can do side-by-side tastings and compare with ease. Participants also get live music, good food, wine-related vendors selling wine supplies and various arts and crafts. They seem to attend in groups of friends or families with blankets and chairs, coolers, and plans to stay the entire day. I’m sure many memories are made – and some are lost due to excessive alcohol consumption.

One common question I heard was, “Where is the port in Leonardtown?” Thanks to Connie and Wikipedia, I now know the answer. Sadly, I didn’t know over the weekend. Wikipedia states, “During the Civil War …, Leonardtown served as a busy port and steamboat landing. Until the passing of the steamboat era, steamboats carried goods and passengers all over the Chesapeake Bay area well into the 20th century, and a floating theater docked each year at the port, providing entertainment.” So now you know, too.

Honestly, this was a Maryland festival, but so many people didn’t seem to even know their own state. Here are some real conversations I had:
Him: What is near Leonardtown? I don’t know where that is.
Me: Uh, near Patuxent River NAS.
Him: Nope.
Me: Waldorf.
Him: Where?
Me: Washington, DC. [We’re an hour and a half south of there.]
Him: Okay.

Him: Where are you located?
Me: In St. Mary’s County in Southern Maryland.
Him: Where’s Southern Maryland? [no kidding] Is that the Eastern Shore?
Me: Think of us as the Western Shore. [We are the peninsula on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay.]

The skeptics were in plentiful supply, too. The following conversation happened way too many times:
Me: Hi, can I interest you in a taste of our 2010 Chambourcin? It recently won the 2012 Maryland Governor’s Cup gold award for red wine.
Him: I’ll be the judge of that. [tastes] Wow! That’s good!

Working all day at a festival beats working all day at the farm. I guess I like the hubbub and multitasking of the event over the peacefulness of a field. I prefer interacting with interesting humans over interesting wildlife. I’d rather cut some foil than prune some vines. I suspect I’ll be volunteering at more festivals and building a collection of stories to share.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tully, Come Home

My dog, Tully, walked away from home last Thursday night. Almost exactly eight years ago to the day, he walked into our lives with the same love for life that probably caused him to leave us last week. In 2004 we found him at the Bellevue Humane Society where he stole our hearts. He loved nearly everyone he met with an enthusiasm we humans could learn from. He was playful and smart and loyal and lovable. He really was nearly the perfect canine companion for our family.

Tully was cared for by my parents for the last two years to help out my family as we were in the middle of the extended move. Mom and Dad needed a dog in their lives, and Tully took his duty as lovable pet very seriously. Other family members have also taken care of him on occasion. I have heard time and again how great a pet he was for them.

Tully has been a loyal companion to me. By night, he lies next to me on my bedroom floor. By day, he is usually within inches and always within feet of me. When I move, he moves with me. One of his few faults is that he likes to roam the Charlotte Hall neighborhood in the evenings if he can sneak away. Even then, he usually returnes within a couple of hours. Sometimes he smells like skunk; always, he returns smiling and eager to tell of his adventures.

Last week, he didn’t return.

I have searched the area roads around our house, reported him missing to several local authorities, and I have longingly stared out the back porch hoping to see him romping back home. Thinking anything could have happened to him in the vast woods adjacent to our property, I searched the area with my nephew. We found no evidence of Tully. I shudder to think of the possibilities, so I try not to. Instead, I hope that either someone took him in, or he suffered a quick end.

I miss your unconditional love and your yips while you dream. I miss your smiling face and your warm greetings for everyone you ever met. I miss the only dog I’ve had in my life since I was four. Please, Tully, come home. You are loved and you are missed.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Allison's Umbrellas

When I decided to make Allison a quilt for her high school graduation, I thought about who she is and how I could best represent her in fabric. I also wanted to honor her Seattle roots. I pored through quilting books and browsed quilt shops, but nothing really grabbed me. It was evident that Allison’s quilt was going to be another Lyrel original. With the help of Pam at Quiltworks Northwest in Bellevue and Wendy at Material Girls Quilt Boutique in La Plata, I was able to pull together my various scraps of ideas into a cohesive pattern that tells the story of my girl. In the process, I also pulled together the two cities that I have been living in.

Allison’s Umbrellas is based on the theme of using eight-sectioned umbrellas as the basis of telling the story. Although Seattle natives rarely use umbrellas, the image works. The spotted blue and gray fabric (which I found in Maryland) signifies the raindrops. The gray field behind the umbrellas signifies our constant gray skies. I don’t want to sound dreary, but that’s the reality of weather in the Northwest through much of the year.

The twelve umbrellas each have a different theme: drama (with pictures describing the titles of some of the plays Allison has been in),


family (I won't divulge these, but Allison knows what represents who),


Maryland and DC (with fabrics found in Washington),

school (her high school mascot was the Totems; she was very active in Club Operation Smile),


Sammamish/Santa Clara,



Washington State,

and Coldstone (her employer).

The backing is made of solid dark blue minky fabric (found in Maryland). Allison has asked me for years to make her a minky quilt. This was a concession to her. If you’ve never felt it, suffice it to say that it’s the softest fabric ever made. Period.

The quilt had been put aside when I left Maryland in April because the sewing machine was also left there. I didn’t rush into working on it when I returned in July because of the chaos of the move and how warm the quilt would make me while I was working on it. Last weekend, Peter asked me to finish it by this weekend so Charles could take it to Allison. I finished it last night.