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

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)


— 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.

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