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The Wonderful World of Rudolpha: The nutcracker class



We’ve created 22 original Christmas stories just for you!

The Wonderful World of Rudolpha is a collection of tales that captures the spirit of the season and are sure to entertain kids of all ages. Hope you enjoy them over the next 22 days.

The students at the North Pole Animal Day Care are bouncing off the walls this morning. Bianca the rabbit jumps on Snowflake the polar bear. Frost the snowy owl draws on the wall. And Mistral the penguin and Storm the fox are fighting over a new elf doll, each one holding an arm and pulling it until it looks like it’s going to rip in half.

Their teacher, Rudolpha the reindeer, sees the kids fighting and frowns. She tries to think of a way to calm everyone down and restore peace to the day care. She has an idea.

“When I was a calf,” she says, raising her voice so it can be heard above the din, “I got into a fight with my brother Rudolph over a toy. Do you want to hear the story?”

Like magic, the room becomes quiet, and the teacher starts her story.

“One day when Rudolph and I were young and hadn’t yet grown our antlers, Mrs. Claus came over to our house carrying a big bag of hazelnuts.

“‘I’m making hazelnut-chocolate spread for the elves,’ she told us, ‘and I’m looking for volunteers to crack these nuts. Would you two like to help?’

“‘Yes! You can count on us, Mrs. Claus.’ We were thrilled that Mrs. Claus had asked us instead of the other calves. She thanked us and went outside, leaving behind the hazelnuts and something else. Something special.

“You see, we reindeer traditionally open nuts with our hooves, but that day, Mrs. Claus had brought us a surprise. It was a nutcracker shaped like a soldier. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

“‘Rudolph, you can use your hooves. I’ll use the nutcracker to make Mrs. Claus happy,’ I said, trying to look innocent.

“‘No way!’ he replied. ‘I’m going to use the nutcracker. It’s a tool, and tools are for boys.’

“‘That’s not true! Besides, I should get to use it because I’m the oldest.’

“‘No you’re not! Besides, I’m bigger than you.’

“Just as things were about to come to blows, there was a knock on our door. It was Mrs. Claus. She’d heard us arguing through the window. Smiling, she pulled a coin and an hourglass from her apron pocket.

“‘I have an idea, children. You can take turns using the nutcracker. This hourglass will keep track of who should use it and for how long. We can toss this coin to decide who goes first. Does that sound fair?’

“‘Yes, Mrs. Claus!’

“Mrs. Claus’ idea worked, and we cracked all the hazelnuts without fighting. And to reward us for our hard work, we got our own jar of hazelnut-chocolate spread.”

As her story concludes, Rudolpha gathers a coin, an hourglass and the elf doll Storm and Mistral had been fighting over. Thanks to her childhood memory, the children stopped fighting and both get a turn with the toy.

Written by Johannie Dufour and Sarah Beauregard
Translated by Cyan Caruso-Comas

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – Memorial Day



Honoring Those Who Perished in Service to Our Country
Among our national treasures in Washington, DC stands the WWII Memorial – honoring those who fought and perished 75 years ago to liberate the world from tyranny and oppression. At the center of this hallowed site lies a wall bearing 4,000 stars symbolizing the 400,000 brave Americans who passed away in the United States’ fight for justice and freedom. However, these stars represent only a fraction of the nearly 3.7 million veterans interred in one of more than 140 national cemeteries.

Originally called Decoration Day, this day was set aside to commemorate those who died during the Civil War. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day, and in 1971, the day became a Federal Holiday.

Virginia and the Sixth Congressional District have a long history of heroism and the giving of blood and treasure of its sons and daughters. There are few places as steeped in the sacrifices of those who fought our Nation’s battles.

From Arlington to Norfolk, from Winchester to Lynchburg, and from Manassas to the Shenandoah Valley, the Commonwealth can claim the mantle of not only being the cradle of democracy but also the arsenal of freedom.

Memorial Day provides us a chance to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It reminds me of what President Reagan once said:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

On my way into Washington, I regularly pass Arlington, the Vietnam Wall, the Korean and the World War II Memorials, and it serves as a sobering reminder of the debt we owe to those who came before us in our Nation’s struggles and who sacrificed so that we may enjoy all our Republic offers.

Today my thoughts are also of that Gold Star wife, husband, son or daughter who said goodbye to their loved ones and watched as they boarded a ship or plane to deploy to hostile areas never knowing if that was the last hug, the last wave, the last kiss, or the last goodbye. And that same family getting a knock at their door or seeing the bike messenger deliver the Western Union telegraph afraid to open the door knowing what that visit brought.

The year 2020 marks the 19th year that the United States has been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan with more than 7,000 casualties suffered. Also, in places like Africa and Syria, our troops are engaged in fighting and dying in the name of freedom. Unfortunately, the news of these sacrifices has moved from the front to the back pages of our Nation’s papers.

Today, let us resolve that any casualty wearing our Nation’s uniform be remembered for their sacrifice and bravery and not relegated to a brief mention or passing comment. The word hero often gets misused, but when it comes to those we honor today, we should never forget the words of Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address. While given at the dedication ceremony of the battlefield, Lincoln encapsulated the meaning of today.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

May God continue to bless our Nation and produce those willing to stand in the gap and sacrifice for those they never met but are bound to through a shared American heritage all in the name of freedom.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.

For the latest updates from Washington, please follow my social media accounts: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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Local News

Memorial Day: Time to remember those of valor



The tradition of honoring our country’s fallen defenders began as a springtime custom following the Civil War. Originally, called Decoration Day, it was a time to remember those whose valor knew no bounds.

To the list of those who died at Gettysburg and Bull Run, we have added names from San Juan Hill, Verdun, Corregidor, Inchon, Khe Sanh, Vietnam, the deserts of the Middle East, and a thousand other places touched by war.

For most of the year, these brave souls lie in anonymity, but on Memorial Day we bring them back to life with our thanks for their great sacrifice.

It is not really a time of sadness. Rather it should be an affirmation that these men and women did not lose their lives in vain.

This special day is a time of tribute to those who fell and to a country that plunged onward in pursuit of justice and democracy. We mourn our dead, but we rejoice in their memory and in the democracy they defended.

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Interesting Things to Know

Can’t get out for Memorial Day? Try this



A treasured tradition for many is to decorate graves on Memorial Day.

How pleasant it is on a sunny day to finally find the right stone, pull a couple of weeds around it, then arrange the flowers.

But, inevitably, some things get in the way of that trip: Bad weather, no ride, or quarantine for some virus.

No matter!

You can still visit the grave at the website Find A Grave — and you can leave digital flowers too.

Find A Grave has an amazing database of gravesites around the country. Even small historical cemeteries are listed.

Thanks to the work of volunteers around the country, Find A Grave has grown to be a huge index of cemeteries.

You can search by name or cemetery to find your loved one. You can leave digital flowers and even a note. You’ll also be able to see notes others have left.

So if you can’t get to the cemetery on Memorial Day, you’ll discover Find A Grave a very satisfying option.

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Local News

Virginians reminded to be safer-at-home and safer-on-the-road this Memorial Day weekend



Traditionally the Memorial Day weekend signals the start of the summer travel season and significant increases in traffic on most interstate corridors across Virginia. Although highway traffic volumes are not expected to be as considerable this holiday weekend as in past years, traffic has still been steadily increasing in recent weeks as portions of the Commonwealth have transitioned to Phase I of the Governor’s “Forward Virginia” plan. With more taking advantage of loosened restrictions, Virginia State Police is reminding all drivers of the importance and necessity of exercising safe and legal driving practices.

“Even though these are unusual times for everyone, nothing has changed in relation to the laws or messaging related to being safe on the road,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Because of the lighter traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, state police troopers have witnessed an alarming uptick in the number of excessive speed violations. As a result, troopers will be stepping up their presence and enforcement during the holiday weekend in an effort to increase motorists’ compliance of traffic laws and decrease the reckless speeds and aggressive driving.”

“Triple-digit speeds put everyone on the road at risk,” said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “We are constantly reminded in these times to make safety a priority. Complying with speed limits, buckling up, and not driving distracted or impaired are just as important to one’s health as wearing a mask and social distancing.”

To help safeguard Virginia’s highways, the Virginia State Police will be increasing patrols during the long holiday weekend as part of the Operation Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). Beginning Friday, May 22, 2020, state police will join law enforcement around the country for Operation C.A.R.E., a state-sponsored, national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving, speed and failing to wear a seat belt. The 2020 Memorial Day statistical counting period begins at 12:01 a.m. on May 22 and continues through midnight Monday, May 25, 2020.

During the four-day statistical counting periods for both the 2019 and 2018 Memorial Day weekends, 11 individuals lost their lives and 708 others were injured due to traffic crashes on Virginia’s highways.*

With the increased patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching a vehicle stopped alongside the road that is equipped with flashing red, blue and amber lights. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle.

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Don’t Fry Day (Friday before Memorial Day): May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month



Rates for melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, are rapidly rising. Melanoma can be cured if caught early but very difficult to treat at later stages when it has spread. In 2020:

  • About 100,350 new melanomas will be diagnosed (60,190 in men and 40,160 in women).
  • About 6,850 people are expected to die of melanoma (4,610 men and 2,240 women).

In general, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and is caused by excess exposure to UV rays from the sun or other sources, such as indoor tanning devices.

Melanoma incidence rates are higher in women than in men before age 50, but by age 65, rates for men double those for women, and by age 80, they triple. This may reflect differences in men’s and women’s occupational and recreational exposure to UV radiation (golf, tennis, swimming, outdoor jobs, indoor tanning, etc.) and early detection practices and health care use that differs between men and women, according to the American Cancer Society.

Don’t Fry Day is the Friday before Memorial Day – May 22, 2020. Ways to protect your skin from harmful UV radiation, including seeking shade when possible, wearing protective clothing, generously applying sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher with broad spectrum protection), and not letting your skin tan or burn. Avoid the sun when UV rays are strongest, from 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. And practice:

SLIP! SLOP! SLAP!® & WRAP! the American Cancer Society’s Prevention Campaign:

* Slip on a shirt: wear clothing to protect as much skin as possible. Ideal fabrics are lightweight and protect against exposure even when wet.

* Slop on sunscreen with an SPF of 30+: look for sunscreen with broad spectrum protection to guard against UVA and UVB rays.

* Slap on a hat: wide-brimmed to protect neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp.

* Wrap on sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection to block UVA and UVB rays.

Risk factors for skin cancer include:

  • Excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation (from sunlight or indoor tanning devices)
  • Pale skin (easily sunburned, doesn’t tan much or at all, natural red or blond hair)
  • Exposure to large amounts of coal tar, paraffin, arsenic compounds, or certain types of oil
  • You or members of your family have had skin cancers
  • Multiple or unusual moles
  • Severe sunburns in the past
  • Weakened immune system
  • Older age (although melanomas can also occur in younger people)

Signs and symptoms of skin cancer:

  • Any change on your skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, growth, or spot, or a new growth (even if it has no color)
  • Scaliness, roughness, oozing, bleeding, or a change in the way an area of skin looks
  • A sore that doesn’t heal
  • Spread of pigmentation (color) beyond its border, such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark
  • Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain

What are basal and squamous cell skin cancers?

They start in the outer layer of the skin in the basal cells or squamous cells, developing on sun-exposed areas of the skin, like the face, ears, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands. Basal cell cancers tend to grow slowly and rarely spread to other parts of the body. Squamous cell cancers are more likely to grow into deeper layers of skin and spread, although this is still not common.

Both basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers can be cured if found and treated early – when they are small and have not spread.

What is melanoma skin cancer?

Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the melanocytes – the cells that make the brown skin pigment known as melanin, which gives the skin its color and helps protect the skin from sun. Melanoma can start on nearly any part of the skin, even in places not normally exposed to the sun, such as the genital or anal areas. It can also start under the nails or in the eyes or mouth.

Although it is almost always curable when it’s found in its very early stages, melanoma is much more likely to grow and spread to other parts of the body, where it can be hard to treat.

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Mother’s Day, May 10: Honoring mothers



The world has turned many times since 1907. That was the year Anna Jarvis asked her Philadelphia church to hold services in memory of all mothers on the anniversary of her mother’s death.

It was a time before the marvels of electricity and indoor plumbing. Mothers had a life of hard physical work.

Today, more than 113 years later, the role of mothers is somewhat different. Although we may not think so on laundry day, much of the drudgery of housekeeping is gone. Today moms have homes, kids, and careers.

To our own mothers, we say “Thank you!” and truly mean it. Without them, our lives would be difficult indeed. Their skills and dedication are appreciated.

On Mother’s Day, let us hope all mothers may rear their children in peaceful times. We remember mothers who lost loved ones on the battlefield.

We hope for strength for single mothers.

We honor mothers who are no longer with us and ask God’s blessing for mothers who are terminally ill.

We pray for future mothers that they may have high character and fortitude in this changing world.

And finally, we remember those moms who were the victims of the coronavirus that so damaged our people and country in 2020.

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