Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category

Project 52 – Week 38 – Friends, Family, Travels

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 38!

2002_06 20 Friends

38 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 38 — June 14, 2002, to June 14, 2003. Once again, the challenge is summarizing, not posting all the wonderful pictures, and trying to get it down to one post.

Last time, I mentioned that on my 38th birthday, we were in Chicago, where Jade (then called Josh) was competing in the National MathCounts competition.

Now, the two previous years when Josh had done very well in MathCounts but hadn’t quite made the national DoDDS team (6th when they needed to be 4th), those years the team had gone to Washington, DC, to compete. So my heart had gotten set on the year that Josh made the team we’d go to DC. And then when Josh did make the team — the competition was in Chicago!

So — we decided to make a trip to DC on the way home from Chicago. Steve had to get back to work, but Josh, Timmy, and I made a stop in Virginia to see my dear friends Kathe and Darlene.

We stayed at Kathe’s house. Kathe now had two kids, Tim and Ben. They are the same distance apart as Jade and my Tim — only my Tim is the youngest and Kathe’s Tim is the oldest. (First Timothy and Second Timothy. Back then, my Tim was Timmy and Kathe’s Tim was Tim. Who knew they’d ever live near each other?) Here are Kathe and Ben.

2002_06 1 Kathe and Ben

And we spent a day in DC.

2002_06 2 Tims Smithsonian

2002_06 3 Tims

2002_06 4 Tims

2002_06 5 DC

2002_06 6 DC

2002_06 7 DC

Oh look! Darlene’s oldest, Ryan, was born by then, and was with us in DC.

2002_06 8 Ryan

2002_06 9 DC

2002_06 10 Smithsonian

Here’s an extra cute one of Kathe and Ben.

2002_06 11 Kathe and Ben

This was another day in DC. We wanted to go to Ford’s Theater (because of Tim’s project on Lincoln), but it was closed. We did see the room where Lincoln died.

2002_06 12 DC

(Kathe was such a nice hostess, taking us all around!)

Finally a picture with Josh! Later, Kathe took us to Shenandoah Caverns. Next to the caverns, there’s a parade float museum. We explored it for awhile.

2002_06 14 Shenandoah

2002_06 15 Float

2002_06 16 Shenandoah

Back at Darlene’s house, little Ryan was at an adorable age!

2002_06 17 Ryan

2002_06 18 LeVaults

Our friends the Ciufos (from Germany and Illinois) were now stationed in DC, so they came to see us at Darlene’s house and all the kids played together.

2002_06 19 Ciufos

2002_06 20 Ciufos

It wasn’t quite the 4th of July, but we set off fireworks while we were in America.

2002_06 21 Fireworks

And that was the second time I got to visit Gateway Community Church, then meeting at Rachel Carson Middle School!

2002_06 23 Friends

2002_06 24 Barsottis

Josh enjoyed Kathe’s dogs.

2002_06 25 Dogs

A Group Picture before we went back home.

2002_06 26 Group

Back home, Germany was doing well in the World Cup! This picture was taken out our window.

2002_07 1 Deutschland

We’d spent our money on the trip to America, so we did shorter trips that summer. Here’s Schloss Dhaun.

2002_07 2 Schloss Dhaun

2002_07 3 Schloss Dhaun

2002_07 4 Dhaun

2002_07 5 Dhaun

2002_07 6 Dhaun

It’s always fun to fill a doorway! (Or window?)

2002_07 7 Timmy Window

2002_07 8 Dhaun

We did an overnight trip to go to LEGOLAND Deutschland, which was quite new.

2002_07 9 Legoland

2002_07 10 Legoland Lion

2002_07 11 Legoland

2002_07 12 Legoland

Now that I think about it: Josh is probably missing from the LEGOLAND photos because that was when they were in Ireland! Josh again went to the Ireland Centre for Talented Youth program at Dublin City University. This time we put Josh on the plane and didn’t get to take an Irish vacation ourselves. So it seemed like a good idea to do something special with Timmy. (My 2002 calendar is missing is why I had to remember that.)

Timmy turned 8 years old at the end of July.

2002_07 14 Timmy's Birthday

2002_07 15 Timmy's Birthday

Josh was back. They did not like getting their picture taken and had painted their fingernails in Ireland. (Perhaps there were some clues about their true gender? It was soon after that they grew their hair out.)

2002_07 16 Jade

We also took a trip to Detmold in northern Germany when my sister Marcy toured there with the Continental Singers.

2002_07 13 Detmold

2002_08 1 Detmold

Detmold had some amazing rock formations. And now Josh is the one letting me take their picture.

2002_08 2 Detmold

2002_08 3 Detmold

2002_08 4 Detmold

We visited Hameln on that trip.

2002_08 5 Hameln

That Fall, Timmy started 3rd grade and Josh started high school!

2002_09 2 Timmy 3rd grade

2002_09 Josh 9th grade

In October, my cousin Jani came to visit! We took her to stay with her former college roommate from Switzerland, traveling through the Black Forest.

2002_10 1 Jani

The Swiss family was charming, and fed us Raklete. We liked it so much, I bought Steve our own Raklete grill for his birthday that year.

And one of my favorite translation stories happened there. Jani’s friend was married, with an adorable two-year-old son. I mentioned how adorable the boy was. The father got out his dictionary and said, “Yes, he’s cute, but he gets this… raving madness.”

I laughed so hard, because I knew exactly what he meant! But I’d never before heard a child’s temper tantrums called raving madness. The perils of dictionary translation!

After dropping off Jani, we went back home by way of “Heidi’s Alp.” So beautiful!

2002_10 2 Switzerland

2002_10 3 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 4 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 5 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 6 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 7 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 8 Heidi's Alp

We drove through Liechtenstein on the way home, simply to say we’d been in another country.

2002_10 9 Liechtenstein

Jani came back to us before going back to America. Steve was on a trip, but I took her to Heidelberg.

2002_10 10 Heidelberg

2002_10 11 Heidelberg

2002_10 12 Heidelberg

2002_10 13 Jani

And another favorite, Burg Rheinfels:

2002_10 14 Rheinfels

2002_10 15 Rheinfels

2002_10 16 Rheinfels

Here’s the Raklete grill we got for Steve’s birthday. It’s a party and a meal both! You grill at the table. Put meats and veggies on top, and melt Raklete cheese underneath. Also boil some small potatoes to serve with it. So yummy! And it’s a lot of fun as each person cooks their own. (It’s making me hungry just thinking about it. Steve got to keep the grill when we left Germany.)

2002_11 1 Raklete

And in January 2003, we moved to Sembach Village. This was our fourth and final home during our 10 years in Germany. We’d never been crazy about the Alsenborn house. The Sembach house was no Gundersweiler and had no view, but it was very large with five bedrooms, a storage room, a living room, a huge den, and two kitchens. (For awhile, it had been rented as two apartments.) And we could still walk to great hiking.

2003_01 1 Moving

2003_01 2 Moving

2003 did not start well. I purposely planned to take two weeks to move, thinking that would take off the pressure — but it just prolonged the pressure. And on the day when we had rented a truck to move the big stuff — It snowed six inches.

We had a fiasco with trying to get our ID cards renewed — multiple trips to Ramstein. We all caught the flu that year and were each sick for at least a week. I got a sinus infection that stayed with me for weeks more. And lots and lots of headaches to go with that.

And then my Mom had a heart attack, at 61 years old. That took me by surprise. Her grandmothers were both long-lived. I hadn’t realized that one of her grandfathers died of a heart attack. Fortunately, it didn’t kill her, though she had bypass surgery, and we later came to think that surgery may have caused her Alzheimer’s to start sooner.

In 2003, though, I did sign up for a writing course with Gotham Writer’s Workshop. I ended up starting my second children’s novel, which I eventually did finish. It was nice having a course to work on — kept me doing it.

We didn’t do anything for our anniversary that year, since we were moving. But with Josh old enough to babysit, we went on dates more often. Steve started taking me to the opera in Kaiserslautern. The first one we saw was MacBeth by Verdi. It was an interesting experience to see an opera based on a play written in English, sung in Italian, with a German translation flashed on a screen above the stage. I could read German well enough to follow along what was happening.

In March, we started traveling again. We went to the Mathimatikum, “The World’s First and Only Math Museum” in Giessen.

2003_03_01 Mathematikum

2002_03_01 2 Mathematikum

2002_03_01 Mathematikum

2003_03_01 4 Mathematikum

2003_03_01 5 Mathematikum

2003_03_01 6 Mathematikum

2003_03_01 7 Mathematikum

Josh turned 15 on March 19.

2003_03_19 1 Josh's Birthday

2003_03_19 2 Josh's Birthday

But sadly, right around Josh’s birthday, the war in Iraq started. Which meant that all field trips for DoDDS schools were cancelled. Which meant that the big Brain Bowl competition, which Josh had been working toward for months — was cancelled. I did get to see Josh play against the faculty, and they were awesome. Each Brain Bowl team has to have one student from each grade (as well as I think two alternates who can be any grade). That year they had an outstanding team because the Senior who had been on the team four years was super good — and Josh, the Freshman, was super good. But alas! They didn’t get to prove their prowess that year. And the next year, they didn’t have Seniors who were quite as strong.

We were planning to send Josh to Ireland the next summer, and this time we were paying, so we didn’t do a big trip for Spring Break, either. We did some day trips.

We went back to Rheinfels — but this time Josh wrote a script and filmed a movie there — the Monster of Doctor Flugenstein. It was tremendous fun, and I enjoyed seeing the kids be once again enthusiastic about visiting a castle!

2003_04_09 1 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 2 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 3 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 4 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 5 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 6 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 7 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 8 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 9 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 10 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 11 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 12 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 13 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 14 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 15 Rheinfels

On April 13, we drove out to Verdun.

2003_04_13 1 Verdun

We touched Castle #136, the medieval Porte Chausée.

2003_04_13 2 Porte Chausee

Here’s what I wrote in my journal:

Sunday we drove two hours out to Verdun. It was another glorious day. We got a snack at the lovely Meuse waterfront and touched Castle #136 — The medieval Porte Chausée. Then we went to the Underground Citadel and did the ride that takes you through a re-creation of war time in the citadel. Finally, we drove out to the now nonexistent village of Fleury to the Battle of Verdun Memorial and Museum.

We learned about the horror of World War I. It’s no wonder the French are not in a hurry to go to war again!

Our new home had lovely Spring flowers.

2003_04 1 Tulips

2003_04 2 Crocuses

2003_04 3 Bubbles

Then when June rolled around, Steve’s parents came June 4-11. One of our trips with them was to the Rose Garden in Zweibrücken. We had a wonderful lunch featuring fresh Spargel (asparagus) there.

2003_06_07 Eklunds

2003_06_07 Gram E

2003_06_07 Roses

2003_06_07 1 Roses

2003_06_07 2 Roses

2003_06_07 3 Steve and Gram E

2003_06_07 4 Roses

2003_06_07 5 Roses

The next day we went to a Medieval Fest at Castle #139, Burg Satzvey.

2003_06_08 1 Burg Satzvey

2003_06_08 2 Burg Satzvey

2003_06_08 3 Burg Satzvey

2003_06_08 4 Burg Satzvey

2003_06_08 5 Burg Satzvey

They even had a jousting demonstration.

2003_06_08 6 Jousting

2003_06_08 7 Jousting

For my 39th Birthday, we had to go to a castle. I chose Neckarsteinach on the Neckar River, a town with four castles, the “Vier Burgen” above it. There was a hiking trail to all four castles. So we visited Castle #140, Hinterburg, Castle #141, Mittelburg, Castle #142, Vorderburg, and Castle #143, Burg Schadeck.

2003_06_14 0a Zu den Burgen

2003_06_14 1 Castle

2003_06_14 2 Castle

2003_06_14 3 Castle

2003_06_14 4 Castle

2003_06_14 5 Castle

2003_06_14 6 Castle

2003_06_14 7 Castle

2003_06_14 8 Castle

2003_06_14 9 Hiking

2003_06_14 10 Neckar

2003_06_14 11 Castle

2003_06_14 12 Castle

2003_06_14 13 Castle

Looking back on that year, I remember a lot more tension with Steve than I was willing to admit at that time. My journals still go on about how wonderful my husband is and how much I loved him. But I may have been convincing myself that everything was fine. When he does show up in photos, he’s just not as thoroughly enjoying himself. He went along, but his heart’s not in it like it used to be. Which makes me sad, looking back.

But — our kids were getting older, we were still traveling, I still loved my job, and I still loved living in Germany. We were now very close to the base, which added many levels of convenience. The bus stop situation was better, so I believe Josh was able to watch Timmy after school again. I was writing my second book, and this was the year I converted Sonderbooks, my e-mail newsletter of book reviews, into a website of book reviews.

Life was good! Next up was our vacation to Scotland the summer I was 39!

Christmas Letter 2016

Monday, December 26th, 2016

Merry Christmas, and Joy to you this holiday season!

This year was about making the Nest feel like Home, even as the last fledgling took flight.

02_03-1-tim-diploma

My daughter Jade and my son Tim are now both in the Portland area, and I have a new favorite place to visit. Tim moved in August and now has a contractor job with Intel. My four youngest siblings still live in the area there, and now so do my four youngest nieces. They are adorable!

My turning point of the year came in July when I had an opportunity to interview for a Youth Services Manager position at Eugene Public Library in Oregon. I didn’t get the job, but the experience of thinking through who I am and what I do best gave me new excitement about my life and calling here. And I had a fabulous vacation while figuring that out.

05_13-16-with-jade-at-falls

At the end of July, the Hatch family gathered in California for my niece Megan’s wedding, so I saw California family, too. My Mom, with her Alzheimer’s, is doing worse each time I see her, but she still perked up when she saw her baby granddaughter Zoe being happy and sweet. My Dad continues to model faithful, devoted love as he cares for her.

07_29-megans-wedding

I am enjoying my job as Youth Services Manager at City of Fairfax Regional Library more and more all the time. We are trying out some creative STEM programming (like a Star Wars Escape Room program last week), as well as increasing story times, and I get to talk about good books!

I’m especially excited that this year I’m on the ballot to be on the 2019 Newbery Committee and help choose the most distinguished American children’s book of the year written in 2018. Voting for committee membership is in March, and you can be sure it will be the major topic of next year’s Christmas letter if I am elected.

Meanwhile, I’m practicing by being a first-round judge for the Cybils Awards (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) in the category of Young Adult Speculative Fiction, as well as continuing to take part in Capitol Choices – a DC-area group that meets monthly to discuss new children’s books and select 100 of the best books of the year. I took a personal reading retreat in October to Chincoteague Island, which was so wonderful, I’m going to look for more reasons to do this in the future.

10_24-1-ponies

Gateway Community Church is still the core of why I love living here. We’re building our Community Resource Center, to open in August 2017. I’m still hosting a small group in my home every Sunday after church, and we’ve been talking about Joy this last quarter. I’m helping collect books for the church’s new preschool and after-Kindergarten programs, so I’m glad to serve with my particular skills.

Wishing you a blessed holiday season,

Sondy Eklund

TOP TEN JOYS OF LIVING IN VIRGINIA
10. Walking in deep snow after a BLIZZARD! (The one we had this year was awesome!)
9. Walking by my lake any time of year.
8. Taking pictures of birds and flowers and autumn leaves.
7. Reading to small children while doing my awesome job.
6. Being asked, “What should I read next?”
5. Attending Capitol Choices and discussing new children’s books with my people.
4. Showing DC to visitors (like my sister Becky!).
3. Playing Eurogames like Dominion every week with friends.
2. Hosting my church small group at my house.
1. Being surrounded and loved and encouraged by a crowd of wonderful friends.

09_25-becky-capitol

01_25-1-trees-and-snow

01_29-1-ducks

04_02-1-blossoms

04_16-6-egret-flying

04_08-3-bluebells

04_22-26-tulips

04_16-3-heron

04_22-47-white-and-red-tulips

Stones of Help, Stones of Fire

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Today is my 52nd Birthday.

Because 52 is such a cool number, and because there are 52 weeks in a year, I’m embarking on Project 52 — reflecting each week on one year of my life.

I’ve also been thinking very much about Healing today.

Ten years ago this summer was when I left Germany, utterly brokenhearted, and moved to Virginia.

Now I am settling in — and I feel Healed. And that’s a wonderful thing.

And I was thinking about I Samuel 7:12, where Samuel sets up a stone as a monument to God’s help. He names it “Ebenezer,” which means “Stone of Help,” and says, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped.”

Today I planned to go to Great Falls, which I did, and pick up a stone to remind me of God’s help. I have some other stones. This one (actually I picked up two) is going to represent Healing.

Here are the stones I chose along with some souvenir playing cards from places I loved. (I played some solitaire tonight using 52 cards at a time. It’s appropriate!)

BirthdayStones

But, rather more amazing — this morning I checked my doorstep (I’d forgotten to check last night), and there was a birthday package! It contained a gift from my generous friend Lauri Ann of beautiful opal earrings.

Opals are special to me because one of my favorite books as a kid was a book written by missionary Isobel Kuhn called Stones of Fire. In it, she compares a Lisu tribeswoman to a fire opal. She talks about how the colors of the opal come from pressure and brokenness.

I love that thought. As I’m thinking about Healing — I declare that my healed broken heart is part of what makes me beautiful.

So my Stones of Fire are also my Stones of Help. They speak to how far God has brought me — and that He has not only Healed me, He used those awful times to make me beautiful.

Three years ago when I went to Great Falls on my birthday, the many great blue herons I saw represented Great Blue Herons of Happiness.

This year, they were back!

GreatBlueFalls1

So the walk in great falls was about Healing and Happiness both.

GreatBlueFalls2

We got amazing views of many, many herons.

GreatBlueFalls3

And here I am modeling my Stones of Fire that represent Healing, with a Great Blue Heron of Happiness behind me.

Opal

Hitherto hath the Lord helped!

Blizzards and Contentment and Trust

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

BlizzardwithCardinal

We had a blizzard last week. I live in the DC area — you might have heard.

I find with a blizzard, people tend to either love it or hate it. I LOVED it!

We had plenty of warning — so my workplace at the library was closed on Friday just in time for me to get home just as the flakes were beginning to fall. Then they continued to fall — extremely thickly — for the next more than 30 hours.

The area isn’t prepared for such a rare event. With 30 hours of heavily falling snow and more than 2 feet of snow on the ground, this did break records. So besides the weekend, when I hadn’t been scheduled to work (but all activities were cancelled), I got Monday and Tuesday off work.

Snow days are gifts of time. Plans get cancelled, and you get to take time out of your routine. This time, for the first time in four years on a snow day, I had my son (newly graduated from college) home with me, so I wasn’t all alone.

After the blizzard ended, on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I went for a walk through the snow. It was incredible! I love to walk around my lake on a sunny day, but this was a whole new adventure and each day was different.

BreakingTrail3

Mind you, each excursion was so much work, I’d then wipe out my afternoon by taking a nap to recover. There was a part of me that thought I should “use” the time. But it was so worth it.

And I’ve felt good! All my life, I’ve been plagued by headaches — until recently and “the change” — and I haven’t had a headache all month! Not even going out in the cold and snow! Not even with major weather fronts coming through! This all still feels miraculous and wonderful.

And I got time to work on my website and add cool math stuff, and I have a manuscript being considered by an editor, and I’m doing things at work (when we’re open) that make me happy, and life is just very good. And did I mention I got to walk in the snow this week?!!! (And it was so cool!!!)

Blizzard6

All this boils down to — I have been Happy lately. Very Happy and Content.

So I’ve been thinking about Contentment in the context of trust. And, yes, in the context of singleness.

One of those prayer requests I mentioned in my post last month? I’d like to find a new life partner.

But this past week, I’ve been happy and content in the here and now — and I think that helps me to trust.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul tells us present our requests to God with thanksgiving — and the result will be peace.

I’ve found this week that it helps me trust that God will bring me good in the future if I focus on how much good God has given me in the present.

I do realize there’s a balance. You want to be content — but you don’t want to be complacent. You want to be thankful for the present, but you don’t want to fail to grow as a person.

For example, I had a wonderful time in the snow. I have a garage and only one car, and I live in a condo which hires a company to clear snow — so I didn’t have to do any shoveling. I was happy about that, maybe too happy — I didn’t help my neighbors much. (In my defense, I’m not really supposed to carry heavy loads since my vertebral artery dissection and stroke four years ago. But that wasn’t really my motivation.)

In the example of looking for a new life partner, it’s good to be content — but how much should I be putting myself out there, looking online or going to meetups? If I happily become a hermit, is my trust in God expecting Him to do a miracle and bring someone into my shell? I do think there’s a balance.

I’ve had a small personal breakthrough in the past few years. I feel like I’ve come a long way in forgiving my ex-husband, and I have friends again who are men — from a variety of settings. I admit, I had generalized some of my anger and was leaning toward the “Men are skunks” view. (It was interesting recently. Something came up that had me shaking my head about “men” — and I was able to trace it back to a specific incident where I was still angry with my ex-husband. Once I took that out and looked at it and did some forgiveness work — it also took out the generalized anger.) And it’s so nice to get past that, and men add something to my life. (Mind you, my girlfriends have ALWAYS been there for me and are the ones who helped me even survive my divorce. But there was a gap in my life.)

There’s a balance in that, too. All these men I’m friends with are either married or for some other reason not an appropriate life partner for me. And it’s easy, in a low moment, to get discouraged by that fact. To jump to the conclusion that it will be impossible to find a nice single Christian man appropriate for me and even God can’t pull it off and start feeling sorry for myself.

But choosing contentment — I can see how those friendships enrich my life and even add male companionship (in a friendly way), which I was missing and does me good. And instead of stressing about the fact that these men aren’t ever going to marry me, I can find a whole lot of joy in what they do bring to my life.

Just yesterday, my sister posted an amazing poem that reaffirmed this idea for me.

We may always love, but we may not always serve.

This also applies to my ex-husband. I had to come to the place where I can love him — yet release him and go on with my life, not wanting to be married to him again. To remember the good, but accept that this is past. If I’ve truly forgiven him, I can still love him and wish him well. But I have had to accept that there is no longer any way I can serve him. (In the past, when I would try to do something nice for him, he definitely didn’t take it in the spirit it was offered.)

I had to see that wanting to serve someone has a selfish side. Can I be happy that so many of my men friends have beautiful relationships with their wives — exactly the sort of relationship I’d like to have with someone?

Well, the answer is that — when I’m content, I can.

And when I’m content, it’s easier to trust that God is going to take care of the future.

And when I’m content, it’s even easier to brush up that online profile and do a little looking. But also not be too horribly disappointed when that man with the interesting profile never answers my message.

It’s all a dance.

I was talking with my son today about being a rule-follower (which I am). He says he likes it when there are clear processes. (Looking for a job after college is not a clear process!)

I think the path of trust is also like that. Not a clear process. A place that needs balance. You want to be content but not complacent.

And then, every now and then, you get a wonderful gift of a Blizzard!

Blizzard4

BreakingTrail5

Thanksgiving Letter

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

I decided to send a Thanksgiving Letter this year, rather than a Christmas letter. I have much to be thankful for!

The big thing that stands out for the year is my new home! With my Dad’s help, I purchased a condo in South Riding, less than 10 minutes from my church. After another place fell through, at just the right time for me, this home came open — with a beautiful view of a lake! I feel so blessed living here.

I’m thankful for church friends who made me feel so cared for and helped me through the moving process.

I’m thankful that my sons are doing well. Tim is a Sophomore at the College of William & Mary and enjoying it. He’s declared his major — English and Computer Science. His Dad lives near Williamsburg, so they see each other during the school year, and I get Tim for his vacations. He recently heard about some exciting Study Abroad possibilities for next year. Of course I would have to go visit!

Josh is still living in Portland, Oregon, and now has a salaried job as a computer programmer, which he’s enjoying very much. I’m so happy for him!

I’m thankful for a place to walk. With my lake to hike around, I’ve been much more regular about exercising than ever before, and I’m treated to beautiful scenery, including a great blue heron.

I’m thankful for my job. I’m still working at City of Fairfax Regional Library as Youth Services Manager and still love my job. I’m also going to be a Cybils judge (Kid Lit Blogger awards) again this year. And, yes, I’m on my 13th year of writing Sonderbooks book reviews and still love it.

What else am I doing? Plenty of mathematical knitting, like this prime factorization blanket for my niece, and regular board games with a group that meets Saturdays close to the library. Life is full, and life is good, and I’m so thankful for what this year has brought me!

May you have a blessed holiday season!

Sondy Eklund

Two Herons at the Lake

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

Thursday is my late day to work. I hadn’t been feeling good, but I wanted to go for a slow walk to try to get back into the groove. When I got to the lake, I saw not just the great blue heron, but a great white heron, both on the wall. I decided it would be a good day to substitute a photo shoot for my usual walk. I went back for my camera.

The great white heron didn’t tolerate my snapping for long:

And soon he was so good as to pose by the rainbow in the fountains on a sunny day.

I love the way the wildflowers blooming by the lake change every week. This is one of my favorites, because it reminds me of a flower we had in Gundersweiler, Germany.

I love the bunnies I see every day on my walk. It’s getting where they aren’t scared of me, which feels a little pathetic.

And more flowers and lake.

Next, it posed by the gazebo.

I love the way the great white heron and its reflection shine in the sunshine.

I should mention that the weather was also fabulous. Bright and sunny, but cool and breezy. Even though I wasn’t feeling good, that time at the lake started off a great day.

Hiking at Great Falls

Monday, June 17th, 2013

When I go on a beautiful hike and take more than a hundred photos, I like to try to challenge myself to choose the top ten. And then if I stop at 19, well, that’s okay, too.

Friday was my birthday, and the weather was wonderful, and I went for a lovely walk along the River Trail at Great Falls National Park. Here are 19 of my photos.

There were lots of great blue herons flying around and also sitting and posing. I’ve already posted about the Great Blue Heron of Happiness.

These first several are from the Overlooks at the start of the River Trail.

The parts that weren’t looking at the amazing river were wonderful for being a peaceful walk in the woods.

Though mostly, it was both: Peaceful woods overlooking a majestic river.

I could *not* resist retouching this photo a tiny bit:

And I finished up back at the Overlooks:

Simply a beautiful day!

Walking by the Egret

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

I haven’t posted on Sonderjourneys in a long time. I was too busy journeying!

In April, I purchased my first home — a two-bedroom second-floor condo with a lake view. I’m still settling in — not unpacked yet. But I have started doing a walking program. My first regular exercise program in my life! I’m using the book Walk Your Butt Off! It’s got a 12-week program in which you gradually increase your speed. I have completed the 4-week preliminary program for sedentary people, and today started the second week of the main program. It is just not a chore to walk beside my beautiful lake! Feels like a privilege to have a reason to walk there!

And today my walking got slowed down when I spotted the egret posing on the wall. I snapped some pictures with my phone, but it doesn’t zoom, so I knew the bird would be hard to make out.

Mind you, one of the selling points of the place was that my realtor told me that an egret lived on this lake. She said that egrets mate for life, and when one dies, the other will nest forever after in the place they were last together. This is a solitary egret, and he’s going to live here until he dies. (I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s sure a nice story! And I have indeed seen him several times now.)

Anyway, when I came back after walking to the other end of the lake, the egret was still there. Since he was staying so long, and since it is my day off, I decided this would be the perfect time to come back with my good camera. I did, and he was still there!

I thought it was a good time to also snap some pictures of the pretty flowers growing around the lake.

(You may not notice, but there’s also a mallard duck sitting on the wall.)

And did I mention, this is right outside my home?

After I took the first and best picture above, my batteries instantly died, and he flew away. But he obviously didn’t fly far, so I thought maybe I could find him. (While first taking more pictures of flowers.)

Sure enough! He was right by the path a little farther on.

I loved the way the fountain had a rainbow this morning.

And I kept snapping pictures of the egret until he got tired of me and flew to the other side of the lake.

Such a beautiful way to start my day!

Silver Falls with Family

Friday, November 25th, 2011

September 3, 2011 — The day before my youngest brother’s wedding, and the family was gathering in Oregon. On Saturday, several of us planned to go to Silver Falls. That was one place I’d wanted to see, because I remembered hiking there as a child. (You can go behind the waterfall!) We didn’t get going as early as planned, and then one sister and her husband needed someone to take them back early so they could get the flower girl to the rehearsal. I was the logical person to volunteer, since I wasn’t sure how much hiking I could handle, since I was still recovering from my stroke. So I didn’t go very far at all, but what I did was lovely indeed.

Here’s the group that went hiking:

My son and I are on the right. Two sisters went, with one husband. Two brothers went, with one wife. And my Aunt Donna came along, with her son (whom I’d last seen when he was about 12 years old) and his wife and son. So that’s a tiny section of my family, but it was lovely to be with them!

Now, of course, I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the Falls:


Our first view of the Falls. Of course, we had to take pictures!


Here’s my sister Marcy snapping one.


And here’s my sister Wendy.


Getting closer to the Falls…


Forgive me, but I always like taking pictures of leaves lit up by sunlight.


Here’s a view through the trees.


Closer to the Falls, you get more of a feeling of how big it is.


Here’s my brother Randy and his wife Vickey.


And I had to take one from behind the Falls, the thing that thrilled me so much as a child.


Here’s the bridge at the bottom of the Falls.


The Falls were especially pretty from the other side.


This is my sister Marcy and her husband John. We’re now on the bridge I pictured earlier.


And here I am with my son Tim.


Sisters!


A last look at Silver Falls from below, before starting the upward climb.


Tim found a side trail to explore.


Another glimpse of the top of Silver Falls.


I was fascinated by all the moss on the trees in Oregon and Washington. It was how I remembered forests — but hadn’t seen in years. And this set had leaves lit by sunlight as well.


And one final look at Silver Falls, before going back to my Aunt’s house, taking a nap, and then getting ready for the Rehearsal Dinner and even more Family.

It was a lovely day. It was probably good I took the shortest loop, since the climb back up completely wiped me out. But I was very glad to get out and about with wonderful people whom I love very much — but don’t see very often.

Washington State!

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

I was born in Washington, DC. However, my parents moved back to their roots when I was only a year old, and the first place I remember living was Kent, Washington, outside Seattle. We moved away when I wasn’t quite six years old, so I have a lot of memories that I know were when I was really young, simply because we were living in Washington.

I suspect that living in Washington is where I learned to love GREEN. And oceans and boats (or at least ferries) and rivers and trees and fall color and snow and mountains. When we lived in Washington, we often drove down to visit my grandparents in Salem, Oregon.

Now, more than forty years later, I’m staying with my Aunt Susie in that same home in Salem, Oregon, and today we drove into Washington State.

First, I should mention that yesterday, I got to visit Powell’s City of Books in Portland, and got to spend time with my older son, Josh, who recently moved to Portland. We went out to eat afterward at the wonderful Mamma Mia’s Restaurant. It was food for my soul to have time with both my boys. Here they are at the restaurant:

Now, Tim (the one on the right) is about to be a Senior in high school, so he’s looking into colleges. Once Josh moved to Portland, he thought maybe he should check schools in this area. Well, Josh found a school that sounds very distinctive — The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. They don’t give grades, but instead offer narrative reports, and they also let students design their own majors — which sounds very good for undecided students like my son.

So, we decided to spend the day today driving up to Olympia and back. The excuse was to visit the college and talk with an admissions representative. But a big part of my reason is that I love Washington State and wanted to spend part of my vacation there.

A cool thing is that there was one part of the trip — the same one my parents took many times between Salem and Seattle — that I am absolutely sure I remember from more than 40 years ago. It’s the bridges. The big green bridges. And when you’re going back to Salem, there are several small bridges, but then the great big bridge is the last one, and it means you are now in Oregon, and we’re almost there. (Or at least a lot closer.) I started singing “Over the River and Through the Woods, To Grandmother’s House We Go,” and I actually got a flashback from when I had just learned that song — in KINDERGARTEN! — and was singing it as we went to Grandma’s house in Salem. It blew me away, just the sheer amount of time that passed, and then the memory just burst to the surface. I also hadn’t thought I’d remember anything about the trip — and then I saw those bridges, and so much came back!

I enjoyed the school visit, and they were very friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, Tim lost a screw in his glasses and a lens popped out, so he was alternating between looking out of one eye or not being able to see, poor kid! (On the way back, we had my aunt’s GPS lead us to a LensCrafters right off the freeway, and they fixed it for free.) But I think he got some idea of what the place looked like!

One thing I really enjoyed was walking down a little trail right on campus and being plunged into an old forest, covered with moss. We even saw a deer on campus, behind a building!

I could not possibly walk in a forest without taking pictures, so here are several:

Of course, you have to imagine these trees completely surrounding us…

And you have to remember that the weather was absolutely perfect, sunny but slightly cool…

And the moss on all the tree branches gave it such a mystical feeling, reminding me, again, of the childhood experience of walking in a redwood forest and taking home a piece of wood with moss on it…

And being in this forest felt so RIGHT…

And I found myself thinking, “Now THIS is what a forest should be!”…

So I feel quite confident that my childhood experiences established my concept of a quintessential forest…

And it simply did my soul good to be in such a forest again!

…And would you look at the sheer size of those ferns!

I did surprisingly well at Evergreen. We didn’t do a lot of walking — just the little hike — and I never did get fuzzy-headed. I got a little bit tired driving up, but we made quite a few stops on the way back, so I didn’t have any real trouble.

Oh, and one of the best things about the day was that my son read me stories from The Chronicles of Harris Burdick! We got through seven stories, which is half the book. They are written by a wide variety of authors, and all have something strange about them (as fits the pictures), and it was a wonderful way to spend the time, as we passed through gorgeous countryside.

So, it was a simply lovely day. Absolutely perfect weather, a trip through beautiful countryside, plenty of nostalgia, time with my son, a short hike in a forest, and a good book read to me by someone I love. Wow!