Christmas Letter 2017

December 23rd, 2017

Merry Christmas, Friends!

Here’s wishing you joyful holidays in every way!

“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…” (Psalm 107:2)

A big part of 2017 was telling my story.  As the year began, I was in the middle of Project 52 – during each week of the year I was 52, I wrote about one year of my life on my Sonderjourneys blog. Just before I got to the divorce years, I gave my testimony in church – and then writing about those years helped me clearly see how much good God had brought me despite and through the pain. In many ways, I felt like Project 52 put a capstone on my healing journey.

And now a new journey is beginning! On April 12, I learned that I was elected to the 2019 Newbery Medal Selection Committee! What this means is that I will be reading as many American children’s books published in 2018 as I possibly can. My 14 other committee members and I will be meeting in Seattle in January 2019 to make our decision. I am thrilled about this, and it’s going to keep me busy all next year.

I again took some memorable trips this year. In August, I visited my friend Marilynn, who had just moved to South Carolina, and saw the total solar eclipse.

In October, I went to Portland, Oregon, and visited my kids, Jade (who is now going by Amber) and Tim, saw siblings Melanie, Marcy, Robert, Peter, and Becky (who was also visiting) – and saw my FIVE little nieces! Marcy & John had their third little girl, Kara, joining Alyssa and Zoe, and Robert & Laura have Arianna and Meredith. It did my heart so much good to see all of them!

For my second year in a row, this Fall I did a reading retreat in Chincoteague, Virginia, and saw some ponies. Since I’ll need to do so much reading next year, this may keep happening.

My church, Gateway Community Church, completed our beautiful new building. It’s lovely to no longer meet in a middle school. The church is growing rapidly in the new space. I’ve gone back to working in the nursery and still meet with a small group and post on the church blog. We’re trying to use our space during the week, and I started a weekly group – a Silent Book Club, for reading, of course!

I’m still Youth Services Manager at City of Fairfax Regional Library, and keep loving my job more all the time. I still spend lots of time writing and posting Sonderbooks.com. And most weeks I get together with a great bunch of friends and play Eurogames.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas,
Sondy Eklund

TOP TEN REASONS I’M THRILLED TO BE ON THE NEWBERY COMMITTEE:
10. My employers are even bragging that they’ve got a librarian on the Newbery. Wow!
9. I get to be in the Room Where It Happens.
8. Reinforces that I made a good decision becoming a children’s librarian.
7. My library system is going to fund my four trips to ALA conferences during my committee service.
6. I get to discuss children’s books with people who love them as much as I do.
5. Publishers are going to mail me piles of new children’s books.
4. This turned my Empty Nest into an asset instead of something to mope about.
3. Forever after, the shiny sticker on the book we choose will remind me of this wonderful experience.
2. This gives me a new platform for talking with kids about children’s books and the Newbery Medal.
1. Books, books, books!
I get to spend all my spare time for the next year reading – without guilt!

Love and Connection

October 20th, 2017

I’ve been thinking about love lately.

Our pastor preached on “Right Connection” last Sunday. Although I agreed with his points – We are made for connection; right connection with God helps us have right connection with people and vice versa; right connection is incredibly important – a couple of implications from how it came out bothered me a little bit and got me thinking.

In talking about how much right connection with God helps us to connect with people, he mentioned how much a tough marriage affects your whole life and hurts your happiness.

But – I have experience with a tough marriage and heartbreak in marriage, and I have friends in similar situations. Being in a tough marriage does not mean something’s wrong with your connection with God. And I especially disagree with any implication that heartbreak has to destroy your happiness. I mean, by definition heartbreak makes you sad. But – finding joy in other things was a crucial part of healing for me. And being surrounded by the love of friends was also crucial.

So – all that got me thinking about love. I’d also just finished reading Lorna Byrne’s book Love from Heaven. Lorna Byrne says that from birth, she has been able to see and talk with angels. She also says that the angels taught her what the force of love looks like coming out from people. Angels showed her that people are born with a soul of pure love – but with one thing and another, we learn to wrap a band around our hearts and lock up our love.

(You can feel love and peace coming from a newborn – at least one who’s sleeping!)

Now, I believe that loving others is all wrapped up in following Christ. My pastor also preached on Sunday about two passages that affirm this. Jesus said that people will know his disciples by their love for one another. Jesus also said that the two commands that sum up the Law and the Prophets are Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

So why do I know so many Christians who are in marriages that are breaking their hearts? If our faith helps us to love, why does that happen?

Well, to me, the thing about humans loving others is that we get hurt. We fail to be as loving as we should, and in return we are not loved as we should be. Or it may even be no fault of our own – even babies are not always welcomed into a loving home.

What made me want to write about this was a memory that came to me this morning. It was not long after my husband had told me he wanted a divorce. Now I could tell people that I was having marriage difficulties. I told my family, and I told my Sunday school class. And I remember there was a Sunday when three different people told me, “You need to let Steve go.” The first two, I thought were just saying that because they were divorced themselves. But when my wise mentor who’d had marriage difficulties but was still married said so – well, I finally figured out God was trying to tell me something. (I managed to loosen my grip a tiny bit. Actually letting go took years. But the process was beginning.)

Anyway, what I remember about that day was that a woman in my Sunday school class who had been divorced and was standing there with her new husband was one of the people who told me I needed to let Steve go. But she also told me, “You will become hard.” She said that she had become a much harder person during her divorce, and I could in fact see it in her eyes.

I decided in my heart right then that I didn’t want that to happen to me.

And I’m not talking about dating or getting married again. I’m talking about opening my heart to love.

Lorna Byrne says that it’s all the same thing. Locking up your love affects your ability to love anyone. If you let out love in one way, it’s going to help you release love in other ways.

And that rings true.

It’s not even only love of other people, but also love of yourself and love of life.

And that ties in with what Steven Stosny talks about in his books. Among other things, he says that when you value other things or people – even something like beauty in nature – you will feel more lovable. You’ll “access” your core value.

When I was struggling through my marriage falling apart, it helped so much to find other things that brought me Joy. They helped me remember who I really was, what I was about. Sure enough, it helped me feel more lovable and valuable. (That takes a big hit when someone who’s promised to love you until death parts you decides you don’t deserve his love.)

I’m also reminded of the book Deeper Dating. That author, Ken Page, talks about finding your Core Gifts. He talks about expressing your Core Gifts and finding people who are attracted to them, attracted to you.

In a roundabout way, he’s saying the same thing as Lorna Byrne: Loving yourself makes you more lovable and more able to love. Release that love! Don’t wrap a protective band around your heart.

When I think of these in light of what Lorna Byrne is saying, it all fits. They’re talking about loving yourself – and like Lorna Byrne says, that gets you releasing love and more able to love others.

I think following Christ can also help you release love. Connecting with a community of Christ followers can also help you release love. That’s how faith can help in this.

Releasing love is dangerous though. There’s a really good chance you’ll get hurt. Being a Christ follower definitely won’t keep that from happening. You’ll be tempted to become a harder person.

But I do think that faith and loving people can help you open your heart again and love. Believing you have God’s tremendous love for you goes a long way. And actually seeing that love expressed through people – That is gold.

So – that’s what I’ve been thinking about. It’s come out a bit incoherent. But I’m trying to say that Joy in life and Love and Forgiveness are all wrapped up together. Let’s try to loosen that band around our hearts – whatever it is that’s happened to us. And let’s release that love and compassion. Let’s connect with others and refuse to become hard, even though it feels like it’s a lot safer.

And if you harden your heart in one area, I really do believe it’s going to affect your ability to love in every area.

Praise God! He loves us unconditionally, and we can go to Him when loving brings wounds. And try to learn to open up and let out that love again.

Recently, my cousin, who’s divorced, asked if someone who has once given her heart, given her all, can ever get that again.

Now, my cousin clearly loves life. I don’t think she’s wrapping a tight band around her heart. I think she’ll find that love.

And, no, romance again isn’t guaranteed. But I want to learn to radiate Love. I do believe it goes hand-in-hand with Joy and adds so much richness to life. And the thing about following Jesus is that he showers that love on us. He will help us spread that love to others.

Waiting With Grace

September 1st, 2017

I’m thinking about Waiting this week, and about God’s Timing.

God’s Timing is beautiful! I know it well, and I’ve seen evidence of that lately, in a very simple but big way.

In April, I was elected to the 2019 John Newbery Award Committee. A dream come true.

The thing is, four years ago, I was on the ballot for the 2015 Newbery Committee – and I missed being elected by 15 votes! Out of about 800 voters. My disappointment was enormous and huge.

But here’s where God’s timing comes in: This is a much better time in my life. Being on the Newbery committee makes my Empty Nest and Single State an asset, rather than something to be sad about. I’m going to need to spend a whole lot of time reading – and no one will mind.

And I have another reason to be thankful for the timing – my library system is going to pay for my trips to ALA Conferences to serve on the committee. I can safely say that this would not have happened four years ago, for various reasons.

But that doesn’t change how disappointed I was when it didn’t happen when I wanted it to.

And that reminds me of something else I want in my life. Or perhaps I should say someone else I want in my life.

Yes, being single is an asset for serving on the Newbery committee. But yes, I still want to find a new partner to share my life with.

It’s been awhile now since I shut off my online profile. I felt that God was telling me to “Wait on the Lord.”

But this past week, I got into a little bit of a funk about that. There were several reasons. A big one was that a very good friend who is not a Christian said something about not liking to watch me letting life pass me by.

Oh my goodness, that got me defensive! Because I’m HAPPY, doggone it!

Trouble is, he knows me well enough to know that I really do want to have a man in my life again.

And then I argued with him, and he said some things that made it worse. Though eventually, he apologized and we’re good – talking about other things.

But I’m thinking about Waiting.

I know in my heart that I can trust God with my future. And I also am super happy in the present.

It’s interesting to me that it didn’t necessarily help to tell my friend the human and perfectly natural reasons why I don’t want to go back online right now. I’m on the Newbery committee – I honestly don’t want to give it a lot of energy. I’m focusing on reading for the next year and a half. If I try to find someone online, I will have to change my strategy, anyway (I was not having much success with that method) – and that would take a whole lot of energy.

But the truth is, I do feel like God told me that He’s got this – that I don’t have to take charge of this! That this is something He’d like me to put in His hands.

And that’s hard for me to do. When there are things I can do to help find someone – post an online profile, go to meet-ups – am I “letting life pass me by” if I don’t do them?

Well, I don’t believe so.

But there are danger points. I think this particular time is a danger point because I’m so eager to start reading for the Newbery! I got one Advance Reader Copy of a 2018 book passed on to me a few weeks ago, and I was so excited to get started! But now I have nothing. And work suddenly got much less frantic, when the kids went back to school.

I thought I’d ask God for more confirmation that I should still be waiting. And you know what verse I got this time? John 4:50 – “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.”

What I feel like that’s saying? You KNOW I’ve got this, Sondy! Trust me, and go about your business.

So – I’m trying. In fact, the day I read that verse, I thought I should look back at what I thought Jesus’ words to me were about this – and it turned out that exactly one year before was one of the times I felt God was telling me to “Wait on the Lord” – and did give me a little sign.

And I believe it. I believe this will work out. And even if I’m totally wrong and I never get married – my life is good, and rich and full. I am absolutely sure that I don’t want to marry anyone who will not enhance my life and build me up in my faith. I’d rather be single – because my life as a single person is very sweet.

I just need to remind myself of that now and then!

And then I go back to strategies – The thing about waiting is that being impatient doesn’t speed things up one little bit. In fact, being impatient makes it seem a lot longer.

And my impatient times sneak up on me.

But there are strategies to happily waiting. Being thankful is a big one of those.

And you know what? I bet part of the problem was that since April, I’ve been SO excited and happy about the Newbery, I haven’t even needed to employ strategies to be happy!

So, yes, some of this is probably that I got impatient about getting started on my reading for the Newbery. Getting to read just one eligible book tantalized me. It won’t be long now, Sondy! (And I hope on this weekend to read some last books for grown-ups before my Newbery reading starts.)

This post didn’t turn out to be nearly as profound as I’d hoped. But here’s what I’m trying to say:

I’ve seen clearly that God’s timing is beautiful – in the Newbery committee, as well as other disappointments I’ve suffered.

I believe that God’s timing will be beautiful about finding a life partner, too.

And I do believe God has told me that I can put that one into His hands.

And if I’m wrong about that? Well, my life is very, very good. It’s definitely a win-win situation.

Okay, I’m going to re-evaluate after the Newbery. And ask God. But for now? I don’t have time to pour my energy into finding someone, anyway.

And God’s not mad at me for getting into a little funk. I’m trying not to be mad at myself. I’m also trying to shift gears and notice again just how very beautiful life is right now.

I’ll close with some verses from Psalm 86 —

Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you.
You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me.

Project 52 – Reflections

June 26th, 2017

Last night I finished writing Project 52!

On my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I took one year of my life and blogged about it. Yes, at the end I got behind and took a little more than a year to finish, but right up until the end, each week I focused on the corresponding year of my life.

This year, I plan to read what I wrote the year before. That’s going to be a whole lot easier!

Coming to the end of this project, I’m full of thankfulness. And I want to reflect on some things that struck me while writing it.

The Big Lesson:

God has worked so many things out for good in my life.

It’s been lovely that I’m writing this from such a good place. I love my job. I love my home. I love my church. I’m surrounded by friends. And I am on the Newbery committee!!!!

In fact, a fun thing about the Newbery committee: It emphasizes that yes, I’m in a wonderful time in my life – but it’s not like that means I can sit back and relax and be smug about my great life. The Newbery committee is going to be an enormous amount of work! But the wonderful part is that it’s work I love to do and I’m so excited about.

But it makes it harder to get resentful about the hard turns my life took – when all those things brought me to this spacious place.

A smaller lesson:

This project was hugely therapeutic for thinking about my marriage, both good parts and bad parts, and letting it rest.

I had thought that when I told my story in church that it was the essential summary of my life.

But that summary was mostly about my divorce and how God spoke to me through that time.

And yes, Yes, YES, my divorce was a big deal in my life. It showed me, and made me feel on a heart level, that God would walk through life with me and guide me.

It showed me that if I asked God for guidance, He would answer.

Looking at those years helped me stop feeling guilty for all the times in my bewilderment when I didn’t respond well.

Looking at those years – and new ways God spoke to me while I was looking at them – helped me put to rest my doubts that I was inventing God’s guidance all along. Okay, I was wrong at points about what I thought God was going to do (bring my husband back to me), but the essential guidance (what I should do), telling me to wait – that was a good thing. Waiting to file for divorce was what it took for me to finally understand that my beloved husband had truly changed.

But my divorce wasn’t the only thing God worked out for good!

It was rather lovely to look back at the hard year when I got cut from the Herndon Fortnightly Library and how hard that was – knowing that it was what brought me to the City of Fairfax Regional Library and a higher-ranking position, reaching more kids.

The Selector job that I didn’t get, which I’d been hoping for years I would? Well, looking at it now, again, I’m reaching a lot more kids in my current position. I’m getting to keep up with the brand new books, and share them with kids. And I’m on the Newbery committee!!!!

Even not getting on the Newbery committee the first time I tried – This is a much better time to spend every spare minute reading. Being on the Newbery committee makes my Empty Nest an asset!

So it was nice to look back and remember some hard things – but get to see the big picture and that it did, in fact, work out for good.

After a year looking back over my life in great detail, how would I summarize who I am?

This won’t be the final word on it, but here are some random thoughts as they come to me:

I’m someone who loves the Lord. I believe He loves me and will actively give me guidance.

He’s my lifeline when things get hard. I believe in spending time in God’s Word daily. Memorizing Scripture gives me joy. As does listening to Christian music. Did I even mention in Project 52 how much I love to sing? (Living alone is perfect for singing loudly without bothering anyone!)

I’ve got an Empty Nest, but I’m crazy about my kids and super proud of them – my transgender daughter Jade and my adult son Tim.

I believe rather fiercely that being who God made you to be is a good thing and that human rights should include every human.

And talking with my kids brings a smile to my face and a light in my eyes.

My church friends are my local family. They are here for me when I need them, and they keep me smiling in between.

It’s great to have people in your life who you get to check in with every week. My small group does that and meets in my home.

And our church’s new Community Resource Center is almost completed! It’s going to be so exciting to watch our church grow!

I love being a librarian!

There are so many things I love about it! Getting to help people! Getting to help parents help their children learn and grow! Oh, and as a big sister (third of thirteen), I still love babies and young children – and get to enjoy them in my job without having to be responsible for them! (Perfect!) And:

I love spreading the word about good books!

Not only by being a librarian, but also my Sonderbooks website.

I love playing games!

Having a regular gaming group is a good thing for me. These folks keep my mind sharp and also keep me smiling.

I love creating mathematical knitting!

Check out my mathematical knitting gallery at Sonderknitting.

I love taking pictures of beautiful things!

Like flowers and lakes and birds and leaves and castles! There’s something about it that just brings me joy.

I’m a Writer.

Some day, I hope I’ll get published. But in the meantime, I’ll keep writing my website, with book reviews, with reflections on life in Sonderjourneys, quotes I love in Sonderquotes, and things I’m thankful for in Sonderblessings. I plan to be more active in all of those now that Project 52 is done!

I also have some regular and semi-regular email correspondents who I feel extra close to – because I’m a writer, and that’s how I like to talk and to think things through.

Ah! I already made a summary! It’s in this visual mission statement:

Yes, that’s what I’m about, what gives me joy, what makes me excited about what the rest of my life will hold.

My plan is to do a Project 65 and cover one year every four weeks for the years I’m 53 to 65. I’m hoping that one will be a love story! But I’m already excited about how it’s going to start out – with being on the Newbery committee!

And whatever happens, I’m excited to be alive and ever so thankful for the life I’ve been given.

Thank you for sharing in it, my friends!

Project 52, Week 52, Part Six – NEWBERY COMMITTEE!!!

June 25th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 52!

53 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I took one year of my life and blogged about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 52 — June 14, 2016, to June 14, 2017.

Yes, I said 53 weeks ago. Yes, I’m 53 now – and I’m behind on Project 52. But it dawned on me: I’m finishing later than I meant to – and that’s not actually a problem. So, it’s not exactly “Week” 52, but I’m still telling about the year I was 52.

So far I’ve covered my trip to California in July for my niece Megan’s wedding, my sister Becky’s visit in September, my reading retreat in Chincoteague, my walks around my lake with lovely leaves, and my holiday celebrations.

Now I’ve gotten to the start of 2017. As often happens after a year with a really good blizzard, it was not a snowy winter at all. Though we got some cold. In fact it seemed like last winter was a cycle of my lake freezing and thawing over and over again.

Anyway, on January 7, we got a little bit of snow. And birds were still visiting my under-neighbor’s bird feeder and hanging out in the treetops outside my window.

A little snow, anyway!

There wasn’t a lot of snow, but it did get super cold, so it stuck around. The next morning, there was a flock of geese sleeping on top of the ice.

Not so much snow, but still pretty in the morning light.

Three days later, the lake was still frozen. Something about geese walking on the frozen lake always captivates me (and cracks me up).

On January 11, my Sondy for Newbery! cards arrived! These are little business card-sized cards I ordered to pass out at ALA Midwinter Meeting. They give the link to Sonderbooks.com/Newbery, where I explain my qualifications. Only ALSC members – the Association for Library Services to Children – are the ones who vote on the members of the Newbery committee. Since they are scattered all over the country, the best way to get the word out is when they come together at ALA Midwinter Meeting. And this year, the day before the conference was going to be an ALSC Mini-institute, so an even better place to campaign.

Based on a discussion I’d had with a friend, I started a tiny habit of peeking through my shades at the sunrise in the morning and using it as a reminder of God’s love for me. (Now that it’s not winter, I peek at the morning sun, rather than the sunrise!) This one on January 15th was especially beautiful – and so was its reflection in the lake!

On January 19, I flew to ALA Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta! Kathe drove me to the airport, and I took the MARTA to my hotel. That first evening, I had dinner with my friend Susan Kusel and we had a good talk – mostly about the year she was on the Caldecott committee, which was the same year I’d been on the ballot for the Newbery committee the first time – but hadn’t gotten elected.

In the morning was the ALSC Mini-Institute, which turned out to be a fabulous day of meetings. (And a great networking/campaigning opportunity!) It started out with a breakfast featuring two husband-wife picture book collaborating teams: Kevin Henkes & Laura Dronzek, and Erin & Philip Stead.

I got a picture with Kevin Henkes while I was wearing a Kevin Henkes t-shirt!

The other institute sessions included talks on Early Literacy programs, a wonderfully entertaining lunch with Carmen Agra Deedy, and a closing session with Jacqueline Woodson. (It was Inauguration Day, so there was much talk about standing for what you believe.) That night, I made it to the opening of the Exhibits and the mad dash for Advance Reader Copies. I scored a copy of Thick as Thieves, by Megan Whalen Turner, the book that would have made the whole conference worth it even if nothing else had gone well.

The next morning, I went to an Author Panel and signing. I got another Advance Reader Copy I was super excited about – Real Friends, by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. And when LeUyen Pham signed it – she also drew a picture of the signee! So I have a picture of myself drawn by LeUyen Pham! That’s one ARC I will never get rid of!

That afternoon I did some thinking about doing art versus doing crafts. Here I am with a craft I made – not actually something I will treasure, though it was rather fun to make it.

On Saturday, I went to some Publisher Previews in the morning (more free books!), shipped some books, and went to a talk by Kwame Alexander in the afternoon.

I got a book signed by Kwame!

And Monday morning was, as always the highlight of ALA Midwinter Meeting, with the announcement of the Youth Media Award winners! There’s always the fun of trying to get up early and get in the line and talk with others about Newbery hopes, then getting into the auditorium and trying to find a good seat! This year the Newbery Medal was won by The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill (a fantasy novel! Yay!), and the Caldecott Medal winner was Radiant Child, by Javaka Steptoe. And John Lewis – in his hometown of Atlanta – set a new record by winning four Youth Media Awards with March, Book Three!

Of course, in the line and while waiting for the awards to begin was a wonderful time to let people know I was standing for the 2019 Newbery committee! I met some nice people and had some great conversations.

After the awards, I shipped some books and came back in time for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction and Morris Awards ceremony – where you always come away with some award-winning, signed books. This year, the awards were a John Lewis lovefest!

And after that, I made it to the closing session with Neil Patrick Harris, who is definitely entertaining.

When I got home and my shipped books got home, I’d only gotten 73 books at the conference – so I’d shown a whole lot of restraint!

Back home, the heron was again often eating breakfast the same time as me. I loved the way the rising sun lit him up.

On February 8, I saw a red-tailed hawk in a tree near my building.

Just for fun, after my walk I looked up the spirit animal “meaning” and got this nice passage:

“An overabundance of red-tailed hawk spirit animals in our lives can mean that our prayers are being answered… the answers are being brought to us on hawk’s wings. What are you wishing for right now? What are your dreams? Are you able to recognize the gifts being brought to you and the doors open before you?”

Hey, if it works!

Some pretty skies also fit with a verse I was reading in my quiet time from Psalm 103: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.”

One morning, when I peeked out at the sunrise, I saw the heron right outside my window!

And the heron still often showed up at breakfast.

On February 15, I picked my Dad up from Dulles airport for a NASA workshop in DC the next day. I took him to the metro and picked him up, and we had dinner. It was great to see him! And how much fun to see him excited about how the things he heard fit with his theory – and who at NASA he could give corrections to. He made some good contacts. He’s already highly respected in his field of GPS navigation. In fact, he told me early the next morning that he’d woken up in the night thinking about a calculation. That’s my Dad!

On President’s Day, I took my usual walk around my lake, and saw two herons at the same time! This is unusual.

First, some geese.

This one let me get pretty close.

I loved the way the light shone on him.

There was another heron on the other end of the lake.

This one didn’t tolerate me snapping pictures for long!

Here’s another beautiful sunrise. By this time, I was spending more and more time writing Project 52. I’d gotten into the years we were in Europe and started having lots of pictures to post.

Another day off, another heron at the lake.

And on February 26, I told my story in church. It was framed as how God had used His Word in my life. I mostly talked about my divorce and how God spoke to me through those hard times.

What blew me away was the number of people who said my story made them cry! Even Pastor Ed had a tear in his eye! This really surprised me! I managed to keep it together myself. I lined up my friend Marilynn and John and Lisa Maulella (from my small group a few years ago) to smile at me while I was speaking! People were really supportive afterward.

It was nice to write up a summary of my story before I got to the hard years in Project 52. That way, I was able to keep a focus of looking at what God was doing during those hard years. But I did start talking about the divorce years in March – and was a lot more weepy during church for awhile!

Here’s the heron again, this time from my balcony.

And for variety, on February 28, I saw a deer on my walk!

On March 3rd, I went to a movie by myself for the first time in my life! I went to see Hidden Figures about African-American female mathematicians who were instrumental in getting men to the moon. I loved it and ordered the book when I got home.

The heron continued to eat breakfast the same time as me!

And on March 6, there was a heron out my window when I got up and peeked out at the sunrise.

There’s a fun note that day about Crazy 8s math club. It’s for Kindergarten to 2nd grade, but I’d been letting a couple moms bring younger sisters with their older siblings. On that day, Mickey’s Mom told me that 4-year-old Bailey thinks of herself as “a math girl” and that I changed her life! Wow! That warmed my heart!

And on March 11, I finished Tim’s Coded Blessing Blanket! When he moved to Portland, I’d asked him if I could knit him anything, and he suggested a “stunt double” for Blue Blankie, the blanket I’d knitted him when I was pregnant with him, but in purple. I made one using the same pattern – but this time I coded in some blessings, using a base 5 code. (Explained in the link.) It was soft, and it was a whole lot of fun to knit a blankie for my little boy who’d gone and grown up and moved away! Lots of love in that blanket!

Then, on March 14, we finally got some snow! Okay, they didn’t close the library, but there was so much ice out there, I took unscheduled leave and got myself a snow day.

You can see it was a good bit of snow!

The flakes were big enough, you can see them in this picture.

And I took this one to show how much ice was on the road.

Spring had already started before this cold snap. I liked the juxtaposition of blossoms with snow behind them.

The sun came out in the late afternoon!

It made for a lovely sunset.

And on that snow day, I also voted for myself for the 2019 Newbery Committee!!! Yes, ALA online voting had opened up – continuing until April 5th. I’d find out the results on April 12. I was on edge that month!

The next morning, the sun rising on the snow was beautiful.

On March 17, I had another day off. The snow was melting by then, but still made some pretty patterns.

I was happy I’d gotten one snow day, but it was really time for Spring, so I welcomed these robins.

There was still enough snow in spots for some snow shadows.

And cardinals still hung out awhile longer.

But Springtime did come early this year. On March 29, I had a late day, but got in a walk and pictures of blossoms before work.

And I’d started in on writing about the hard years for Project 52. I talked with a lot of friends while I was in the middle of those weeks. It ended up being hugely helpful to have a fresh perspective. I was able to see God’s hand in my life all the more clearly. And I was able to have compassion on my younger self. She was so bewildered, but trying so very hard! In fact, I wrote a letter to Younger Sondy that expressed some of that.

In fact, on April 1st, our church showed the movie “War Room” to a group of church women. It’s a movie about prayer – but in the context of a failing marriage. Yes, it was hard to watch – because things worked out for the woman in the movie, and how I wished it had happened that way for me.

Here’s what I prayed the next day:

Father,
I saw War Room last night.
And I’m sad You didn’t answer my prayers like hers in the movie.
But You did answer my prayers.
And You did walk with me.
And You were faithful.
And You are good.
And I want to proclaim that.
And I do want to mentor other women going through it.

One of the nice parts about writing Project 52 this year – I can see that God has brought me to a spacious place! Literally! On April 5th, I was thinking about Psalm 118:5 – “When I was in distress, I sought the Lord, and he brought me to a spacious place.” Then I got some extra close-up shots of the heron that day.

And the blossoms were still out!

On April 9th, after church I did my annual Bluebell Walk at Bull Run Regional Park.

And a full moon out my window that evening:

And April 12 was the day I would find out the results of the ALA election! They were going to count in Chicago, then notify me by email. So once it got decently late in Chicago, I started checking my email a lot! But I did have another Breakout EDU program that afternoon, which was nicely distracting – and away from my computer!

They broke out!

After the program, I went straight to my computer. My hands were shaking so much, I almost couldn’t log on. I managed to check my email. There was something from ALSC.

I AM ON THE 2019 NEWBERY COMMITTEE!!!!!!!

Yes, I did some screaming and jumping up and down.

What does this mean? Well, I will be reading every American children’s book published in 2018 that I possibly can. Then I’ll be joining 14 other committee members to choose the most distinguished of these books to award the Newbery Medal.

I am super excited about this! Could you tell?

There was still a bit of Spring left.

Another morning view of the heron.

And another wonderful sunrise, reminding me of God’s love.

On April 21, after Capitol Choices, I went to Meadowlark Gardens with Kathe.

At the start of May, I took a week off work for a “personal spiritual retreat.” I want to make it an annual thing. Some year, I’d like to go somewhere to do it – this year, I admit I included a lot of errands that going away would have prevented. But I did have a nice time.

And this silly goose on the housetop across from me entertained me one morning!

I visited my friend Nancy from my small group on her property out in the country. She gave me a ride on her ATV around her property!

And we put out some corn for deer!

On my retreat, I’d just finished writing about the worst of the years of my marriage falling apart. I felt like God gave me the verses Song of Songs 2:10-12 —

My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on earth;
the season of singing has come.”

So be it, Lord!

Also that day, I finished knitting myself a second normal distribution scarf. This one was the complement of the one I’d posted about.

I take numbers from a bell-shaped curve. More common numbers in the middle of the curve get dark colors of yarn, gradually getting lighter. Numbers that are outliers get white yarn. Here’s how it turned out:

And here it is with the earlier scarf I’d knitted using the same yarns and the same method – only with the first scarf, I used light colors for the middle of the curve and dark yarn for the outliers. I accidentally knitted the second one way too long, but it will be warm and cozy when winter comes around.

And I got another Stitch Fix outfit. I wasn’t sure I didn’t look like a clown in pink pants and polka dots, but people told me it looks good! If a stylist picked it out, it must be stylish, right?

In May, I got to attend my friend Paul’s wedding celebration with Sharyn! It was a very small service, so it was a treat to be included. This was the first time I’ve ever played games at a wedding reception. It was completely appropriate at Paul’s!

We had some families of goslings this Spring. First, I saw them on a walk.

Then at the start of June, I saw the little family of three goslings settling down for the night right outside my window.

But when they seemed settled, another family of goslings came by – this one with a full dozen babies!

This family wasn’t settling down, in fact, I think those goslings were partying!

Funny thing, but the first little family of goslings didn’t seem nearly so sleepy after these ones showed up!

On June 9, a mysterious package showed up on my doorstep, covered with FRAGILE stickers. It was super heavy! What could it be?

The return address was Amazon. I knew it must be a birthday gift, so maybe if I opened it, there’d be a notification of who it was from.

When I opened the outside box, there was another box inside, encased in bubble wrap.

When I opened the second box, I laughed out loud because I knew exactly who it was from! It was a 12-pack of Blenheim super-spicy ginger ale!

How did I know who it was from? Well, my son Tim is the only person on earth who knew that I love Blenheim super-hot ginger ale! I used to get it every single time we had lunch or dinner at the Cheese Shop in Williamsburg when I took him to William & Mary or picked him up.

I called Tim to thank him, and we had a lovely talk. It was such a delightful gift! I love the way he was the only one who could have given it to me.

(The only sad thing is that now as I’m writing about it – there is no more ginger ale left! Alas! Writing about it makes me thirsty.)

And on Sunday, June 11, after we met my small group sang Happy Birthday and had cards for me. Debbie Schmidt got me personalized bookmarks – the perfect gift for the year I’ll be doing Newbery reading!

And then my gaming group surprised me with cake and gifts! This meant a lot. I feel like I got away with something becoming friends with them. I joined them when I was dating John, and they took me in and became my good friends even though I stopped dating John after only two months. Now it’s been three years, and they are among my best friends – just from meeting together and playing games almost every week. (I also love it that I’m still friends with John. I still say that was a big win for OKCupid, even though we’re not destined to be a couple.)

On my birthday, I took the day off. The day before and the day after, I was booktalking in local schools, talking about the summer reading program and good books – so I needed the break.

I spent a lot of the day working on Project 52. I’d hoped to finish on my birthday, but instead finished Week 51. Oh well! At least I’d gotten through the whole year before I got behind!

But I also went with Kathe and Darlene to see the movie Wonder Woman! It seemed like the perfect birthday activity!

We had a whole lot of fun and went out to eat afterward. For anyone who’s read Project 52, you know that Kathe and Darlene have sure been a consistent presence in my life!

And my sister Wendy sent flowers from Maui, where she lives!

So – that pretty much covers my first 52 years of life!

And some of you know – this is actually the second time I wrote this last post. The first time, 90% of the post disappeared after I’d published it, but was trying to make a tiny change in one of the last lines. When I hit Update – it was swallowed into the void. So this time, I have backup!

The first time, I wrote a reflection at the end, but I think this time around, I’ll save that for its own post.

Good night! Thank you for being interested in my life!

Project 52, Week 52, Part Five – A Joyful Life

June 22nd, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 52!

53 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I took one year of my life and blogged about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 52 — June 14, 2016, to June 14, 2017.

Yes, I said 53 weeks ago. Yes, I’m 53 now – and on the next-to-last week of Project 52, I got behind. But it dawned on me: I’m finishing later than I meant to – and that’s not actually a problem. So, it’s not exactly “Week” 52, but I’m still telling about the year I was 52.

So far I’ve covered my trip to California in July for my niece Megan’s wedding, my sister Becky’s visit in September, my reading retreat in Chincoteague, and my walks around my lake with lovely leaves.

I didn’t mention last time that the day after the presidential election was when ALSC (The Association for Library Service to Children) announced the slate of candidates for the election in March – and I was officially on the ballot for the Newbery committee! So now I could mention it online! I made a page on my website to make my case that people should vote for me.

I did mention that my small group was going through a book about Joy, Champagne for the Soul, by Mike Mason. Going through that book really did help make that a joyful season of my life. In fact, I wrote a Sonderblessings post about a quotation from the book I especially liked: “Waiting, it turns out, is a joyful activity in itself.” Yes!

And I was still especially enjoying my job. In Crazy 8s Math Club, for example, we did some flinging marshmallows and measuring how far they went.

And the year I was 52 – was the year I was writing Project 52! By November, I’d gotten to writing about the time when I was happily married, which had its own hard things. Let’s just say it was good that I was going through a study about Joy. Though I started making a habit of crying in church again! That hadn’t happened in awhile.

About that time, I got a hard note from my transgender daughter Jade. A transgender friend of some of her friends committed suicide – and Trump supporters were rejoicing on Facebook about it. (And declaring themselves as Trump supporters.) Not to make it all about me (except that Project 52 is about me), Jade concluded her email with “There are a lot of things that I wish were different, but I am thankful that you see me, and know me, and believe me. A lot of us don’t have that. It is precious, and vital.” Wow, did that ever comfort me.

Jade did not turn out anything like I expected, but I couldn’t be prouder of her. She is that same amazing, brilliant, beautiful child I’ve known all my life – I always, always knew she wasn’t ordinary, at any rate. She’s bigger than any box I could ever try to put her in. She was a radiant child, and now she shines as an adult.

But I do hope that our culture and our country will learn to accept people like Jade. I’ve had some family and friends say things I won’t even repeat here, who think they know better than Jade does who she is. Anyway, with both my kids now in Portland, Oregon, I’m learning to let them live their lives without me interfering – but every good thing I hear about them gives me great Joy.

For Thanksgiving, I had several people check to make sure I wasn’t spending it alone – and the first one who asked was Kathe, and I spent the day with her family at her Mom’s house. It was truly lovely. I’ve known Kathe’s Mom as long as I’ve known Kathe, and have had some good talks with her over the years. Kathe’s sister Carole and her family were there, too. We went for a walk and played games, and it definitely felt like being with family.

Kathe and I took a Selfie:

The rest of the holiday weekend, I was alone. Unfortunately, I had a headache, but since most of what I planned to do was read, I was still able to do that.

And on Sunday, my gaming group decided to do an Escape Room instead! It was a whole lot of fun, and good preparation for the Breakout EDU programs I was planning to do at the library.

Here’s our motley crew before and after successfully escaping:

Here’s a beautiful sunrise that happened on December 7th. (Pictures taken out my window.) I still love my beautiful home! That’s getting to be a theme.

Oh, I love this quotation from Champagne for the Soul: “Joy, overlooking all the good reasons for pessimism, throws a big party over one lonely flower, one bird call, one child’s smile, one earth-shattering change in a human heart.” I think my neighbor underneath me put up a bird feeder about this time, and I started seeing lots and lots of cardinals and blue jays. This one came right onto my balcony!

On December 17th, I went to the wedding of a friend’s daughter. It was lovely! And I got another selfie with Kathe!

I had a good time with Kathe and Darlene at the wedding, but I did go home and have a good cry – because I remembered saying those vows and meaning them.

But more cardinals came by!

We had some great programs planned for kids during their Christmas break! First was Computer Deconstruction – taking apart computers and other electronics. It’s always fun to see the kids gaining confidence as they go.

The next day, we did our first Breakout EDU program – like an Escape Room, but with a locked box instead of a locked room. The kids try to solve the clues to unlock the box, working as a group.

They did it! They broke out!

And after that program on the 22nd, I had a long weekend off for Christmas.

The 23rd began with a beautiful sunrise:

And a walk by my lake with lots of geese to watch:

That evening, I went to see Star Wars: Rogue One with my friend John. I enjoyed it a lot.

Christmas Eve also had a nice walk and cardinals out my window:

That evening was the Christmas Eve service at church, then out to dinner with the Showers family (my small group leaders) and Amber, another friend from our small group. I’d decided that it would be nice to socialize on Christmas Eve, but I’d like a cozy Christmas at home.

So on Christmas I had a lovely quiet day at home. I walked by my lake, and the great blue heron showed up.

Here’s a t-shirt that my sister Melanie sent me!

And after Christmas, we finished choosing our Finalists for the 2016 Cybils in Young Adult Speculative Fiction. I’d tremendously enjoyed the reading I’d done for it – warm-up for Newbery reading!

I ended up the year with a cold, so I skipped the New Year’s Eve party I planned to go to. But I had more time to read and think and write Project 52 and enjoy my beautiful home.

And once again, it’s getting late, so I’m going to stop there for now.

Project 52, Week 52, Part Four – Lots of Lovely Leaves

June 20th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 52!

52 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I took one year of my life and blogged about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 52 — June 14, 2016, to June 14, 2017.

So, yes, I am now 53 years old – time to tell about that last year!

So far I’ve covered my trip to California in July for my niece Megan’s wedding, my sister Becky’s visit in September, and my reading retreat in Chincoteague.

That Fall, I was a panelist for the Cybil Awards, in the category of Young Adult Speculative Fiction, so I had lots of reading to do – reading that I was thoroughly enjoying! But I still took time to take pictures of the beautiful leaves by my lake.

I’d bought souvenir t-shirts on Assateague and Chincoteague, so I took selfies the first time I got a chance to wear them.

I had a Truly Empty Nest at that time, with both my daughter Jade and my son Tim now living in Portland, Oregon. But that Fall, my small group was going through the book Champagne for the Soul, by Mike Mason. It’s a book about Joy and looking for Joy. Looking through my quiet time journal, I found this quote from it: “Joy, like love, banishes loneliness.” Yes! I was finding a lot of Joy from the reading I was doing, from getting to take beautiful pictures, and from reliving some joyful years of my life while writing Project 52.

Here’s a Sonderblessings post I wrote at that time about Leaves as Lucky Pennies and finding Joy.

And so, I’m afraid, I have more Leaf Pictures to show. But remember, they brought me Joy!

I was walking among the leaves every day for awhile. Those were from November 2nd. (I took sick leave because of a neurology appointment. My vertebral artery was doing fine.) November 3rd was a late work day, so I went for a walk in the morning.

November 4th was my day off. I took a nice long photo walk. The leaves were starting to come down, but they were still so pretty!

That afternoon, I read on my balcony – and kept pausing to gasp at how beautiful the yellow tree was! I’d stop to take pictures, too. (Surprise! Surprise!) They don’t capture how brightly it was glowing.

Such luxury to lounge on my balcony for my reading!

And one of the most wonderful things about reading on my balcony is listening to the bird song and being among the treetops with the birds.

On November 6th, Daylight Savings Time ended, so I woke up early enough to take a walk before church.

The heron showed up.

On November 7th, the great blue heron decided to eat breakfast the same time as me. When I opened my shades in the morning, there he was!

The leaves were glowing gorgeously in the rising sun, too.

And November 7 was the day that our branch did a kick-off of the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program – and our local county channel interviewed me! I was happy with the way they edited the segment – taking out all my stumbling. You can view my interview on my Sonderblessings blog.

There were more glowing leaves and a beautiful fog on the lake on the morning of November 8. I got up early to vote before work. Alas! My hopes were high, but got dashed.

And we made a voting booth for kids at the library! (I should say, other staff did.)

On November 10th, the heron again had breakfast the same time as I did.

And I got another morning walk in before working late. Despite the disappointment with the election, it was still fairly easy to find joyful moments now that I was looking.

On Veteran’s Day, the great blue heron showed up out my window at breakfast for the 5th consecutive day.

I was catching a cold, so I spent most of that long weekend indoors reading, but on Veteran’s Day, I went for my last walk with Autumn leaves for 2016.

The end of Autumn seems like a good place to stop for the night. I know I went overboard on pictures, but hey, those Autumn leaves brought me a lot of joy.

Project 52, Week 52, Part Three – Reading, Reading – and Lots of Ponies!

June 18th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 52!

52 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I took one year of my life and blogged about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 52 — June 14, 2016, to June 14, 2017.

So, yes, I am now 53 years old – and it’s time to finish up Project 52!

So far I’ve covered my trip to California in July for my niece Megan’s wedding, my son Tim moving to Portland, Oregon, in August, and my sister Becky’s visit in September.

That Fall I was a Cybils panelist in the category of Young Adult Speculative Fiction – so I needed to spend LOTS of time reading.

And on October 1st, we learned that Gary Goodson would be our new Assistant Branch Manager – my new supervisor. Gary, like Laura, our branch manager, had worked at our branch before, at a lower level. So it was nice again having someone come in we knew and liked. Something about having worked with them before – both Laura and Gary ask my opinion often, and really want to hear my ideas – and that makes for a great work atmosphere. I’m super happy with my job these days.

And October brought leaves changing color, which this southern California girl always sees as a dazzling miracle.

As usual, on Columbus Day I especially enjoyed the leaves:

And later in October:

These are the trees outside my window.

The heron was a lot more striking when he decided to perch on the top of buildings.

Because I needed to get so much reading done, I decided to take a Reading Retreat. I got a Groupon deal and booked two nights at Waterside Inn on Chincoteague. I took a Monday off, for at least one solid day’s reading. My plan was to read out on the balcony!

I drove to Chincoteague on Saturday, October 22. But I still took my walk by my lake in the morning before I left. It was still beautiful.

It was a glorious day for a drive! I snapped this while waiting at a light in Centreville. (I must have stopped at the post office to send Tim some of his stuff.)

The drive was wonderful. Lots of Fall Color. I sang most of the way there. I arrived at Waterside Inn just in time to go out on my balcony and catch the gorgeous sunset over the water.

The balcony was cozy and perfect for reading. In fact, I was reading in between taking those sunset shots.

But eventually, I had to come in. I was dressed for some cozy reading! You can see some of the nice room behind me.

So I read until bedtime, then in the morning had breakfast and then went out on the balcony and read all morning. It was cold – but I was able to bundle up and still turn pages with gloves on. It was so beautiful, with the wind blowing off the water – it was totally worth it!

I read all morning until I finished the book I had started. It was a good one! (Learning to Swear in America) I needed to have lunch, so I found a place that looked promising in town on Chincoteague and had some crabcakes. And yes, I read while eating!

I wanted to go to Assateague Island, though, so that’s where I went after lunch, and I spent the afternoon.

Driving onto the island, I saw several cars stopped by the side of the road, and when I saw all these egrets, I joined them.

I made it out to the beach on the other side of Assateague Island.

There were even more egrets flocked by the roadside as I left the beach.

So many egrets! It blew my little mind.

This next picture always makes me think of the caption, “Can I play?”

Then I drove on a loop trail around a marsh in the middle of the island.

That’s a heron or egret flying:

I wrapped up my time on Assateague that day with a short hike to the lighthouse.

And I got back to Waterside Inn in time for sunset, which wasn’t as spectacular that night, but was still beautiful.

And I was reading in between taking pictures!

Lots and lots of birds flying around, too.

I began another book that night. In the morning, I read on the balcony until check-out time at 11:00.

It was so lovely to look up and see birds soaring on the wind over the water.

After I checked out, I decided to go spend a few hours on Assateague Island before I headed home.

I saw people stopped by the road and saw these egrets.

And then I saw my first wild ponies!

I caught a heron fishing!

And I love the way this egret glows!

I got back in the car, and went to the Woodland Trail, where I hiked to a place with a “Pony Overlook” where ponies sometimes come. As I was walking this boardwalk to the Pony Overlook, an older couple passed me, going back, and told me there were some ponies in the pasture.

Yes! There were some ponies!

Here’s the Pony Overlook:

I stayed there for more than an hour (my phone wasn’t charged, so I don’t know how long) – just me and the ponies. No human joined me. The ponies slowly made their way closer to me. And I took a million pictures. Here are a small fraction.

You have to imagine a cool, breezy, sunny day – I’m out watching a dozen wild ponies. It was amazing.

And then a foal came out and ran after its mother!

The baby hid behind its mother.

They started slowly moving away on the other side of the field.

I tore myself away and continued my hike, taking a trail that split off the main loop and went to the coast of the island.

When I got back to my car, there were egrets perched in the field in front of my car.

How many egrets can you spot?

I took a look at the beach again before I left.

On the way off Assateague, I saw cars stopped the same place I’d stopped in the morning. Again, I could see ponies and egrets from that spot, but this time the ponies were a little closer to the road.

By this time it was Monday afternoon, so I did hit rush hour traffic coming home.

So, that was my Reading Retreat. As reading time went? Well, I would have gotten more done if I had stayed home, but I did finish three books and read 2000 pages. It might have been smart to stay at least one more night so that driving wouldn’t have been a large proportion of my time.

If I want to do a Reading Retreat, it might be a good idea to go to a less interesting place.

But reading out on that balcony with the breezes blowing and waves lapping was incredibly wonderful.

And as a Retreat? It was one of the most soul-feeding vacations I’ve ever experienced. That hour (or more) out in the field, just me and a dozen wild ponies, was amazing and awe-inspiring.

And now I’ve been to Chincoteague Island and Assateague Island and I’ve seen the Chincoteague ponies!

I’m going to have to think of some variation of this retreat when I’m reading for the Newbery Medal.

And, once again, it’s so late, I need to stop there. I’m almost to the end of Project 52… but not yet.

Project 52, Week 52, Part Two – Truly Empty Nest

June 17th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 52!

52 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I took one year of my life and blogged about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 52 — June 14, 2016, to June 14, 2017.

So, yes, I am now 53 years old – and it’s time to finish up Project 52!

Last time, I got through the one big trip of the year I was 52 – a trip to California in July for my niece Megan’s wedding.

I got back to Virginia on August 2nd, and was back to work (at least working the late shift) on August 3rd.

Working the late shift, I always tried to get in a morning walk around my lake.

Friday August 5th was 10 years from the day we moved to Virginia. Tim and I played a game of Dominion after work, and he went to see a movie with a friend. On Saturday, I made vegetarian lasagna for my last meal with Tim, and butterscotch brownies for him to take on the plane. We played a last game of Dominion. I didn’t even write down who won! (So it was probably Tim!) I did write down, “My heart is very full.”

I took Tim to the airport to fly to Portland early on August 7, 2016. I went to church later and asked for a hug from everyone I saw. I did have the Dominion gaming group later that day, which was nicely distracting.

I finished knitting my own Normal Distribution Scarf on August 12.

Now, before Tim left, I told him that I didn’t have any more new nieces to knit for – could he think of something I could knit for him?

He answered that Blue Blankie could use a stunt double.

This warmed my heart completely – Blue Blankie is the blanket I knitted for him when I was pregnant with him and gave to him every time I fed him so that he’d love it! It worked! He brought Blue Blankie to the dorm – but Blue Blankie was falling apart, and was faded and worn and scruffy.

So – I made a plan to knit a Blessing Blanket as I had done for my niece Alyssa. The pattern I’d used for Alyssa’s blanket was the exact same one I’d used to knit Blue Blankie. But there are some small panels throughout the blanket – and that was where I placed the coded message, using a base 5 code and 5 different stitches.

Tim said that this time, he’d like a blanket in shades of purple. I also knew he liked fuzzy yarn. Well, I found the perfect yarn – fuzzy, soft cotton in shades of purple. I made a swatch right away!

And that August, based on a book I was reading, Champagne for the Soul, recommended by my sister Becky, I decided to try a 90-day experiment in Joy – looking for things to be joyful about for 90 days. However, my experiment ended up lasting longer than 90 days, because I recommended the book to my small group, and we all ended up going through the book together – ending at the end of the year.

The result is that thinking about the last part of 2016 feels extra joyful to me – even though I was feeling a lot of sadness because of Tim moving to Portland.

Remember, though, that it was only a few months earlier that I’d applied for a job in Eugene, Oregon – and I really felt that not getting the job was a sign from God that this is where he has me for awhile. That August, I decided I had a theme going of Quiet Beautiful Things – a whole lot of small things in my life to be joyful about.

In fact, I made a list in an email to a friend when I was talking myself out of the Empty Nest Blues:

Anyway, I’m excited about a bunch of Quiet, Beautiful Things.

I’m excited about teaching kids Scratch programming at Maker Camp tomorrow — by helping them mess around and *play* with it.

I’m excited about the Deconstruction program TechShop is doing on Wednesday — more learning through *play* and curiosity.  (It was from going to previous TechShop Deconstruction programs that I became brave enough to take apart my film scanner — and fix it!  And I *love* seeing the kids gain confidence and curiosity as they take things apart at this program.)

I’m excited about finishing my Normal Distribution Scarf and eventually making another opposite one.  🙂

I’m excited about knitting a Coded Blessing Blankie for Tim.  🙂

I’m excited about having more time to post reviews and catch up my site, sharing great books with people.

I’m excited about starting up Storytimes in the park in September.

I’m excited about working with my new hire and encouraging her to grow in her work and promote.

I’m excited about the possibility of getting on the Newbery ballot again.  Or maybe being a Cybils judge again.  Or at the very least participating in Capitol Choices.

I’m excited that my sister’s coming to visit next month.

I’m excited that I get to play games with friends today.

I’m excited that I get to play games this week with my friend Paul who doesn’t work with me any more and our other former coworker James.

And there’s lots more.  And they’re little, quiet things.  Quiet Beautiful Things that make me happy.

And here are a couple more pictures from lake walks in August.

Here’s an osprey that perched on the building across from mine:

But that TechShop Computer Deconstruction program I was excited about? TechShop didn’t show! So – Amanda and I ran it ourselves. I’d seen them do it twice before, and we’d gathered the materials – so we did it anyway, and it was awesome! I was very proud of us for rolling with it with fifteen minutes’ notice!

Toward the end of August, I was again thinking about online dating. This time, I was thinking about paying to go on eHarmony for six months. But it was expensive. Should I do it? Well, I decided not yet, anyway.

On August 31st, my staff and I did a Back to School Fair at Lanier Middle School. What was funny about it was that in Project 52, I had just written about being in 7th grade. Watching the kids, I realized that ALL middle school kids are awkward in some way or other – but from this side of 50, it’s really sweet!

Here’s Amanda at our table. We gave out duckies, which they weren’t too cool to enjoy.

And on September 1st, I got my first Stitch Fix! It’s a clothes-shopping service. I thought that I’m kind of in a rut, and I don’t have a clue what’s fashionable – so I thought I’d see what they’d send. The first “Fix” worked out pretty nice!

(The scarf was already mine – I wore it because the top was too low-cut for stooping at work. Later I got a camisole that did the trick.)

While I was taking selfies, I also took one in my Driven to Read pigeon shirt!

And modeling my Pascal’s Triangle Shawl:

Now it was getting into September. Some other nice pictures from walks by my lake:

Then on September 4th, something significant happened when one of our lay preachers was preaching a sermon on David and Saul (part of a summer series on David that was finishing up). I’ll attempt to explain it using an email I sent to Bill, the man who preached the sermon (slightly edited):

I thought it would be cool for you to hear how God used your words. 

The long part of the story is all the background.  I don’t know how much you know, Bill, but when I came to Gateway 10 years ago, I was still “standing for my marriage” and trying to pray my husband back.

I was convinced that God was telling me my husband Steve would have a change of heart and come back.  (He totally turned away from God and the church the same time he left me and had an affair.)

The main verse I thought God gave me for Steve was, yes, one you used in the sermon yesterday.

Isaiah 55:4 —
“See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of the peoples.”

(Yes, early on, I sank so low I asked God for a verse for Steve – and then opened my Bible and pointed.  But God confirmed it. That verse – and other verses on that same page – kept popping up again and again.)

Well, the divorce process was AWFUL.  And, long story short, I finally realized that it was more an act of trust to file for divorce than to keep praying and insist that God make things turn out the way I wanted them to.  So we finally got divorced in 2010.

And a couple years ago, I decided I was finally ready to try dating.  I tried online dating and found one guy I really liked.  We dated for two months, but then I broke up with him.  We are still good friends.  But I have had NO other responses to my online profile, using a free site.

Okay, now in the present, my nest is now empty and I am lonely!  I decided I should get more serious about looking for someone, so I was thinking about signing up for eHarmony or another paid site.  (I did pay for eHarmony a couple years ago and got no responses, but hope springs eternal.)

When I saw how much it costs — I did a lot of praying!  Should I “do my part” and sign up for eHarmony?

And the answer I got was No — God has this.  I can give it a rest.  (Ahh!)  A big part of the answer that I *don’t* like as well was also “Wait on the Lord.”

I also think God is saying that I will get married again… some day.  That makes it a lot easier to wait.  Because singleness is rather lovely — if it’s not going to be forever!

BUT — then I started thinking about how convinced I had been that Steve was going to have a change of heart and come back.

What if I’m making all of this up?

Well, I do and did comfort myself all along that I may be wrong about the big picture and what God is doing, but what He wants me to do right *now* is good.  Waiting, and using this time to focus on my relationship with God is a great thing.

Then I thought, even if it didn’t turn out that Steve came back, waiting for him was good, wasn’t it? 

And then I started having doubts about that.

***
Okay, so that’s the context.

Then in your sermon, you had Isaiah 55:4 on the screen!  That is the first time I have heard that verse used in a sermon!

And it was part of the section, “God’s Apparent Delay.”

That verse instantly caught my attention. On the screen? There had to be a message there for me. My first thought was, Wait, should I still be waiting for Steve?  But no, that can’t be right….

And then you said, “God’s delay revealed the character of both Saul and David.”  !!!  And it all snapped into place.

Yes, the delay, like nothing else — gave Steve chances to turn back and showed me what choices he would make.

I’d already noticed during this series that Steve had a lot of similarities to Saul — including that he started out right with the Lord, but made some bad choices.  And ended up very troubled.

Yes, the delay showed Steve’s character.

And his character changed. I didn’t believe that Steve would really turn against me, that it wasn’t all some big huge mistake – until I saw for myself that it was happening again and again. He had truly changed. But it took me lots of time to see that.

But the verse *also* reminded me of what I want now.  I want someone who’s a Leader and a Witness — and it might take time to find that out.  And that’s worth waiting for. 

So that verse — and your use of it (“God’s delay revealed the character of both Saul and David.”)

— Gave me an interpretation regarding Steve that I hadn’t thought of before.  (Showing the character of Saul)
— Gave me an interpretation regarding my present reminding me that what I want is worth waiting for.  (Showing the character of David)

But MOST OF ALL —

— Convinced me that God is really speaking to me!

And to that, I can only say WOW!

And Lord, if I’m sure You’re the one saying to wait, then I can do it gladly….

And Thank You for showing me Steve’s character.  I wouldn’t have believed someone could change so much if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

But thank You even more for a big picture view that you have someone for me like David, who You have made a leader and a witness.

***

So yeah, Bill, your message was kind of a big deal for me.

And I sure don’t think you could have planned that kind of impact.  So thank you for letting God use you!

Well, there you have it, dear Reader – I believe that God speaks – and that He spoke to me throughout my struggles since my husband left. I believe that when James 1 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” – It is talking about asking for guidance, what to DO.

And I find that when I really want to know – God answers.

And maybe I’m deluded? But the waiting the first time was hugely helpful. I honestly think that waiting a second time will be helpful, too.

And on September 15, 2016 – I learned that I was again on the ballot for the Newbery committee – to choose the 2019 Newbery winners!!! I’d been on the ballot four years earlier and missed getting elected by 15 out of about 800 votes. They tell you not to tell anyone – but that time, I never learned when I was allowed to tell. So this time, I asked, when can I tell people? – It’s when it’s officially announced. The person from the nominating committee told me, “I think they announce the ballot in November.” So you can bet, I haunted the ALSC website until they did officially announce who was on the ballot. It was the day after the national election – so people weren’t exactly thinking about the Newbery ballot! But anyway, I was very excited.

The same day I was told I was on the Newbery ballot, I registered for ALA Midwinter Meeting and the ALSC Mini-Institute happening the day before, and got a flight and hotel. I was already planning to campaign! Only ALSC members vote – and they are scattered all across the country. Midwinter meeting is a good time to meet as many as possible and ask for their vote.

On September 17th, I went to a Christian concert all by myself – and had a fantastic time. It was a Newsboys concert, but my favorites were the ones who sang before them, Hawk Nelson (singing “Diamonds”) and Ryan Stevenson (singing “In the Eye of the Storm”). Hawk Nelson has a song “Live Like You’re Loved” that I decided would be my new theme song!

Then on September 18th, I was asked to be a Cybils judge in the area of Young Adult Speculative Fiction. I had put Fiction Picture Books as my first choice – which is a whole lot less work. But I felt like since I wanted to be on the Newbery committee, I couldn’t exactly say that three months of reading as much as I possibly could was too much – I wanted to have to read as much as I possibly could for a whole year! – so I said yes, and I got excited.

And to help me with the reading, I scheduled a day off in October and booked a hotel for a Personal Reading Retreat.

On September 19th, I had an MRA done of my neck – I’d been having lots of neck pain lately. But it still just showed the old right vertebral artery dissection and that narrow artery, but no further problems. Personally, I still think that there are times when that injury hurts me. But it was good that there was no sign of any imminent danger of another stroke. And I’m almost having these done annually – which was what a neurologist had recommended, anyway.

And then my sister Becky came for a short visit! Hooray! She had a conference in DC. I picked her up after work on Saturday September 24th. We had dinner and then came home and watched Mama Mia. And talked and talked.

On Sunday, I got to bring Becky to church with me! And then we went into DC. We were disappointed that both the Capitol and the Library of Congress were closed on Sunday, but we still had fun walking around them.

Now we were outside the Library of Congress.

We finally found a place that was open – the US Botanical Garden.

We also visited the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Art Gallery – but we couldn’t take pictures there, except in the sculpture garden.

On Monday, Becky had an afternoon flight. So as I’d done when Ruth visited, we spent the morning hiking at Manassas Battlefield Park. (Though Becky and I got somewhat lost. But we had a lovely time.)

So that brings me to the end of September 2016, with lots of joyful things happening.

Project 52, Week 52, Part One – Megan’s Wedding!

June 17th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 52!

52 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 52 — June 14, 2016, to June 14, 2017.

So, yes, I am now 53 years old – and it’s time to finish up Project 52!

After all this time, the year I was 51 was the first year I couldn’t cover in a week, but on my birthday I did finish talking about my interview in Eugene, Oregon.

And my 52nd birthday was when I conceived of Project 52. When I hear the number 52, all my classes in Probability (taking them or teaching them) make me think of the number of cards in a deck, so I also played some games of Solitaire to celebrate!

But I also went for a hike at Great Falls, and I was happy that this time, Tim joined me.

I learned that herons flock to Great Falls on my birthday every year (Or at least both times I’ve gone to Great Falls on my birthday).

A heron’s behind me.

And this one highlights the new opal earrings my friend Lauri Ann gave me for my birthday:

We light our candles in binary.

It was nice to have Tim home to sing to me.

Interesting – today in 2017, I decided to skip this month’s Capitol Choices meeting, because I desperately needed to sleep late, since I’m in the middle of booktalking. What’s interesting is that I did the same thing for the June meeting in 2016. I love booktalking – going to the local elementary schools and talking about the Summer Reading Program and about books they’ll enjoy reading – but it’s exhausting. In 2016, Karen and I were the only children’s staff, since Mary had recently retired, and we hadn’t yet hired Amanda. So the two of us did all the booktalks that year.

Here are some pictures of my balcony flowers and my lake from that weekend. I was still loving my beautiful home.

And apparently I still hadn’t closed down my online dating profile. I was thinking I’d been off it longer – but on June 18, 2016, I tried my first Reverse Image Search – and learned that the attractive guy who sent me a rather incoherent message was definitely a scammer. His picture was taken from one of a male model. No wonder he looked good but didn’t sound good!

I was still torn, though, because the same day was a day I played games of Dominion at my friends Alexis and Chris’s house, with Laura and Charles and John – whom I’d met on OKCupid. That still seemed like a win for online dating – having gained such good friends.

But on June 22, I disabled my OKCupid profile “for awhile.” I don’t think I’ve enabled it since. I was getting tired of the scammers. And I decided it was time to take seriously what I thought God had answered me: to “wait on the Lord.”

Also on June 22, I had my last hour working on the Information desk with my good friend Paul – He’d gotten transferred to a different library branch, closer to his home. But at the same time, we’d gotten a wonderful new branch manager, Laura (See, I’m mentioning you, Laura! But you really are wonderful!), and I was hiring a new staff member, Amanda – who also turned out to be fantastic.

I caught my car’s odometer on a palindrome! I hope my car keeps running until I pay off my library school student loans!

I love the late June flowers by my lake!

On Independence Day that year, I made a cake for Tim, because I was going to be in California on his birthday, at my niece Megan’s wedding. We hadn’t gotten a flight for Tim, because we hadn’t known if he’d be in Oregon yet or not. He was talking about going to Oregon anyway – but I told him my heart would break if he left while I was in California. So he promised to wait until after I got back.

But we had a nice birthday celebration. We played a silly game of Dominion, using all Village and Pillage card sets.

That summer I’d signed our library up to do “Maker Camp” – expecting to get instructions. Well, we didn’t – so we had to make something up! And we managed it, using the system 3D printer for three of the six programs. But it was an added challenge that summer!

In July, alas! We learned that the Friday night gaming would be coming to an end. Mike, who hosted half the time, was moving to Washington state. Paul didn’t want to host every week – so the group petered out. So now not only did I not see Paul at work, I didn’t see him weekly at gaming. (We still email, though. He’s one of my most faithful friends about answering emails.) I see that my last night I won both games I played decisively – Dominion Adventures and Concordia. I get a little smile out of the fact I recorded that.

And on July 9, 2016, I bought Tim a ticket to Portland. Sigh. He’d decided it would be easier to find a job if he was out there, and I had to admit, he had a point. He’d found a housemate – a friend of my sister Melanie. So he wouldn’t be putting financial pressure on Jade and Peter by staying with them – they still were unemployed. But I did make sure the ticket was for after I got back from California to go to Megan’s wedding.

I had started Project 52, and it meant a lot that in July, my Dad posted several baby pictures of me so I could use them! Never mind that a few were of my sister Wendy, and he hadn’t realized it! In my big family, it felt super nice to get that much attention.

I was thinking a lot about my coming Truly Empty Nest – but church friends and a timely sermon helped remind me that I am Not Alone.

On July 11th, Amanda began working at City of Fairfax Regional Library. I’d forgotten that on her very first day, I had her help at my Colors and Codes program – teaching kids to make coded messages using prime factorization. I did lose some of the kids – it would be better with an older audience. But Amanda was a good sport about finding out her boss was a math nut right on the first day!

On the 17th, I caught pictures of a hummingbird enjoying my balcony flowers!

On July 22nd, I drove out to Maryland to hear my Dad give the keynote speech at the Chappell Natural Philosophy Society conference! (Basically, it’s a group of people who don’t agree with Einstein’s theories.) He received a Lifetime Achievement Award! I almost felt like I understood his talk! (And people there seemed to follow it much better than I did.)

I brought Dad home with me and took him to the airport the next morning. It was great to see him! And of course, I’m so proud of him! I hope some day his theory gets wider recognition. (And just today he gave me the latest version of a paper to proofread. My Mom used to do that – now it’s a privilege to me to get to.)

And on July 27, I flew to California! It was nice to have Tim there to drive me to the airport. My Dad picked me up and drove me to Rick and Pam’s house, just a mile from my parents’ house, which was full of young families.

The next day, I hung out at my parents’ house.

I was shocked that they’d cut back “my” jacaranda tree – the one whose blossoms I used to enjoy out my window. It used to be the biggest jacaranda tree I’d ever seen. They said it was rotten in its core. I hope it survives such a drastic cut back!

I spent some delightful time playing outside with my sister Abby and niece Arianna.

Arianna was playing with the seed pods of the eucalyptus tree, calling them “Pum-pums.” It was adorable.

And this was when I met baby Meredith! She was only 7 weeks old.

Laura and Meredith:

I enjoyed that my Dad had plaques from when he was on the cover of GPS World.

That afternoon, I went through my parents’ old photo albums and scanned lots of pictures for Project 52. It was actually a lot of fun – and I was doing it in my childhood home. People who later commented that I have a good memory – I also have a Mom who was very very good about dating her photographs. That told me a lot!

And that night, I finished sewing in the yarn ends for the Fibonacci blanket I’d knitted for Meredith!

And July 29th was the day of Megan’s wedding! We assembled at my parents’ house, and I ended up riding with Rick and Pam to the wedding. Ron joined us on the way back. Marcy had arrived, bringing only Zoe – so we were overflowing with adorable Babyness.

Seeing my Mom was hard for me. Since I hadn’t seen her in a year, it was really obvious to me how much worse she was – so much less talking. The only time I heard her talk was at the wedding when she was watching sweet, happy Zoe and Mom started saying, “Look at her! Look at her!”

Mom with Abby:

Rick and Pam:

Zoe was sitting in her car seat, playing with a water bottle and with her feet! And making happy noises. She was being utterly adorable. (This is why I had complete sympathy for my Mom telling us to look at Zoe.)

While we were waiting for the wedding to start, Arianna wanted a little attention.

Meredith was being calm and quiet.

And Zoe was entertaining herself, adorably happy, singing a baby song.

Arianna with her Daddy (Robert) and her Uncle Nathan looking on:

Zoe was getting happier and happier as the wedding was about to begin!

Here’s Kristen, watching for her sister Megan to come down the aisle.

And here comes Megan!

Dave got to have a part in the ceremony.

I’d learned when I was in Oregon in May that Zoe likes to hold onto her ears when she’s tired! So adorable!

Kristen was such a beautiful maid of honor!

Such a beautiful ceremony!

One baby slept through the wedding!

Time for pictures!

Here’s the couple with Dave’s side of the family:

And here are Becky and Dave with all their children – and the new son-in-law. First, a silly picture:

Now being nice:

Laura and Meredith:

Moms and Babies:

Dave’s parents joined the family picture:

(I was in some family pictures, but didn’t get any of those taken with my camera.)

Happy parents with the happy couple:

And then Meredith was sitting there being so cute, making the blanket I’d knitted look so beautiful:

She started smiling!

And making happy noises!

Here’s my nephew Jason and his girlfriend Laura:

Becky, the Mother of the Bride!

Arianna had a Bouncy Castle to play in!

Megan and Zak at the reception:

And back at the tables, little Zoe was playing with her feet again:

Laura and Meredith:

Jeff, Rick, and Pam:

My Dad was adorable, playing with Zoe!

And Meredith was still beautifully modeling the Fibonacci Blanket.

Robert’s family took to the dance floor a little early:

Arianna got several people to dance with her. First was Abby!

Arianna dancing with Grandpa was especially sweet!

Later she enjoyed Daddy’s shoulders:

Michael and Megan, Brother and Bride:

On Saturday, Ruth picked me up and took me to her house. We watched the movie “Miracles from Heaven” and went out to eat, then stayed up doing a puzzle of Jerusalem. We had a great time just talking with each other.

On Sunday, Ruth took me back to my parents’ house. Aunt Abby was the one playing with Arianna again:

Though I helped Arianna do a puzzle.

Then Becky and Dave drove me down to their home in Encinitas. We listened to the Hamilton cast album during the drive. (I had to buy it for myself later!)

I spent most of Monday in Encinitas. Becky and I played some Splendor, then went out to eat and to the Botanical Garden there in Encinitas.

That night, Becky drove me back to Wilmington and we listened to the rest of Hamilton. The next morning, Dad drove me to LAX, and I flew back home.

So that was my 2016 trip to California – short, but packed full of time with family.