Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

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.

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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!!!)

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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!

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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!

Sunday Songs – Bluebird of Happiness

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

My birthday was Friday, and I received an amazing gift from my friend Lauri Ann.

I woke up with a vestibular migraine, which I’d had more than a week. I was feeling rather down. Lauri Ann’s gift was the only thing I had to open. (No offense to my family — I am always late with their presents, too. And this time, I didn’t get my new address out to people.)

It is an antique locket, owned by singer Jo Stafford. It was given to her by Gordon MacRae when they recorded the song “Bluebird of Happiness.”

Lauri Ann included the words. What a nice reminder that I have so many things in my life to be happy about now!
“Remember this: Life is no abyss. Somewhere there’s a bluebird of happiness.”

In fact, I remembered that I’ve been enjoying seeing lots of birds from my balcony. I thought it would be nice if soon I’d see a bluebird.

But I didn’t end up reading on my balcony Friday, like I’d planned. People (not me! Yay!) were doing noisy yard work. So — I went to Great Falls National Park. And had a wonderful hike along the River Trail. And my migraine left before I got there.

And you know what? I saw many, many great blue herons. Now that I know what they look like, because of the one that lives on my lake, they were easy to spot. One was right below me when I looked down from the overlook.

So you know what I decided? I’ve got not just a bluebird of happiness, but a Great Blue Heron of happiness! Whenever I see him — and I spot him almost every day now when I walk by my lake — I get a reminder of how much I have to be thankful for. And the locket is a lovely reminder as well.

“Hold your head up high,
Till you find the bluebird of happiness.
You will find greater peace of mind
Knowing there’s a bluebird of happiness.
And when he sings to you,
Though you’re deep in blue,
You will see a ray of light creep through,
And so remember this, life is no abyss,
Somewhere there’s a bluebird of happiness.”

Correction

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Turns out … the Egret is not an egret. He (or she) is a Great Blue Heron. And the story about them mating for life is not true. This is what happens when you tell a story like that to a Librarian. My coworker, James, made me look it up. (I’m ashamed I didn’t think of it myself. He gets the Librarian points there!) We used books first — field guides, and once the basic identification was made, websites helped.

But the important thing about the story is absolutely true: A big awesome water bird lives on the lake outside my window!

In fact, this morning I went walking by the lake, thinking I had gotten out of my system any need to bring my good camera along.

Today the Great Blue Heron was very near the path, wading in the rocky part by the sidewalk. While I watched, he caught a fish! He then walked onto shore to eat it, to the part of the shore I’d recently left.

I took pictures with my phone, but he’s merely a speck. But I thoroughly enjoyed watching him.

Another fun thing that happened at the library:

I was sitting at the reference desk next to James, this young co-worker who had me look up the Great Blue Heron. (Clearly a very intelligent guy is what I’m saying here.) A patron walked up to him and said, “I’m looking for The Beautiful and the Damned.

I couldn’t help myself. I said, “You’ve found us!”

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!

NaNoWriMo & Newberys, Headaches & Hassles

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

I’m thinking about life.

November isn’t turning out like I expected when I decided to try NaNoWriMo after all.  It’s Day 10, and so far, I’ve written 4,214 words on my novel.  I had hoped for 2,000 words a day.  I thought that adding to my personal goal with anything I write on my blogs would make up the difference, but so far I have only written 1,114 words on my blogs, for a grand total of 5,328 words.

But you never know.  Today my headache is finally gone.  Calloo!  Callay!  And all the odd days off in November are starting up.  I have Veteran’s Day off, then Friday, then Sunday and Monday (for working the previous Sunday).  On Thanksgiving weekend, I’m working Saturday, but I get Wednesday off to make up for it, and I’m taking the last day of November off to attempt a last blitz on NaNoWriMo.  My son will be with his Dad for Thanksgiving, so I will have no excuses not to do some writing.

My headaches have been something of a puzzle.  After being completely under control for years now, why are they suddenly acting up?  They haven’t been very severe, but so persistent.  I have an appointment  with a neurologist in a couple of weeks to begin finding some answers.  It will be interesting to see if they stay away until then.  I’m not sure if “headaches” are really the problem, or if it’s a symptom of another problem.

Then there are the hassles from my husband over visitation logistics.  We were best friends for at least 15 years.  We both love our son.  Why can’t we just talk with each other about what times are good for each of us?  I don’t know, and it can absorb far more of my attention than I want it to.  I wish I had my husband and family and best friend back — yet I am surely enjoying this life of doing what I am interested in without worrying about whether it’s taking too much time from anyone else.

Today I learned that I was not accepted for ALSC’s Bill Morris Seminar in January.  But the nice part is that I have no more assignments of books to read.  I’ve finished the reading for the online Newbery class I was taking (It was wonderful!), and now I’m very curious if I could read lots of books that were published this year, if I might be able to guess next year’s winner.

What am I trying to say with all this rambling?  Well, that life is full and interesting.  Two of my best days this past month were when I had headaches — but I went hiking anyway, and walked in the glorious, gorgeous, incredibly beautiful Autumn woods and took some wonderful pictures.  Somehow surrounded by majestic beauty, everything falls into perspective.

One of the cool things about NaNoWriMo is that it looks like a whole lot of people who do it don’t meet the goal of 50,000 words.  So that is NOT failure, by any means!  But the fact is, 4,214 words toward my novel is 4,214 words that weren’t written before, and that is a wonderful thing.

I learned so much in the Newbery class, and read so many incredibly good books.  I’m excited about posting reviews of them and getting my website caught up — and then beginning to put in place some of the suggestions from the Kidlitosphere conference (which I attended the day before the latest headache started) and building community and making a better blog, and making connections.

I was excited when Nina Lindsay of School Library Journal’s Heavy Medal blog visited our Newbery class and recognized me as a frequent commenter on her blog.  Community and connections!  That’s the sort of thing they encouraged at the Kidlitosphere conference — and I want to get around to following more of my fellow conference attenders’ blogs.

When I did look at some of them, I found that some are doing NaNoWriMo!  So I added them as Buddies on that site.  (And I am down as SondySue on that site, so feel free to add me, if you’re reading my blog!)  It’s all about Connection…

So, this is my plan for my big day off tomorrow:  Post several reviews of Newbery winners, spend at least an hour on my novel, rake some leaves if it’s not raining, and put up some pictures. 

Can I do all that in one day?  Well, if not, that’s okay, too.  Life is full and interesting, and headaches & hassles really can’t stop that.

I’m excited that I’ve found something I’m passionate about:  Books and what makes them great.  And writing books.  And sharing great books with children.  And talking about great books.

 And even more exciting is that I’m making more and more connections with other people who share my passions and find what I have to say interesting.  (And lucky me, it’s even related to my job!)

And meanwhile, I’ve joined a new small group at church and am making good friends, and I live in a place where fabulous hiking is close at hand, and I have a homey “new” place and I’m getting settled in.

Life is good!

Vacation

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

My intention, when I began this blog, was to post pictures of my travels.  Funny thing, though, I’m not traveling like I did when I lived in Europe.  I’ve been using Facebook to post pictures.

Right now, my earlier posts have pictures that I didn’t cut down in size — so the blog takes too long to load.  I think I’m going to try to post several picture-less posts to get it past that.  Mind you, the best way would probably be to change the earlier posts to smaller file sizes, but I am too lazy for that!

This week, I’m on vacation.  My main goal has been to finish unpacking boxes from our move in April and May.  It is not easy to get that done when working full-time.  My week is half over, and I think the task is still doable.  I have most of the boxes unpacked, especially in the living room, which is most important.  A big job will be putting up pictures and deciding what goes where.

It’s funny how I feel guilty taking time off but not going anywhere.  After all, I used up Spring Break with the actual move.  But I don’t have any disposable income, anyway, so it does seem prudent to get this big task DONE.

Still, on Monday, we did go for a hike.  I drove my son to Manassas National Battlefield Park, and it turned out to be only 5 minutes away from my house!  I took lots and lots of pictures.  It was a beautiful day, and just a lovely walk along Bull Run.

I got a thrill out of being there — because when I was in 6th grade and my brother was in 8th grade, he did a diorama of the 2nd Battle of Bull Run for his semester project in US History.  It had the bridge and the river, but now I don’t think he put in enough trees!  He bought toy soldiers and painted them in Union and Confederate colors.  Anyway, it was strange to be at a place I’d heard about in childhood — almost like being at a place in a book!

Yesterday, I took the opportunity to sleep late and stay in bed and read a novel until Noon!  If you can’t do that on vacation, when can you?  It was lovely and luxurious. 

Today I decided to practice getting up early and focus on the unpacking.  And I did get lots done.  Go me!

Tomorrow I will again get up early (well, before noon!), and hope to go hiking again with Tim — this time a bit further away.  A book of hikes in the area lists a hike past a few waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park.  That should make for a special trip.  I hope it works out!