Washington State!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And being in this forest felt so RIGHT…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NaNoWriMo & Newberys, Headaches & Hassles

I’m thinking about life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is good!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Columbus Day Interlude


For Columbus Day weekend, my big goal was to spend lots of time at my computer and catch up on posting book reviews on my website.  I had been writing reviews and posting them on the blog part of the site, but had more than 40 reviews which I had never transferred over to the main site, complete with links and pictures of the cover.

It was going great.  It’s Monday, and I only have two more sections to update — Children’s Fiction, and Picture Books, about 16 reviews.  I didn’t want to stop, but I had to do the grocery shopping.

That’s when I noticed what a glorious day it is!  The temperature is 75, a little on the warm side.  Most of the leaves are still green, but there are so many splashes of color!  I wouldn’t have thought they would change in such warm weather, and indeed not many leaves are falling just yet, but there is so much color in the treetops.  The sun is shining brightly, so the colors shine against the brilliant blue sky.

I decided to take a break from computer work and go for a walk over the bridge to Frying Pan Park and “our” waterfall.  It turns out there is a whole network of trails on the other side of the waterfall.  The creek is low, so it is easy to cross.

My favorites are the bright red vines that twine around the tree trunks and outline the tree branches, as in my “cover” picture above.

I was flooded with a sense of well-being as I went on my little less-than-an-hour walk.  (I’ve already spent more time uploading the pictures than I did on the walk!  But it was worth it.)  It was odd seeing so much fall color when the weather was warm, almost hot.  But so beautiful.  The woods seem very much alive still, yet so brilliantly colored.

I saw other people at the waterfall, but nowhere else along the path.  I am definitely going to have to make more of a habit of walking in the woods.




After the narrow walking trails, I got to some horse trails, that lead out of the woods to the barn at Frying Pan Park.  Along the trails, there were jumps set up.  When I saw this “room” with a roof of colored branches and the horse jumps, I was transported back to my girlhood reading horse books.  How easy to imagine a girl keeping her horse at Frying Pan Farm and teaching him to become a champion jumper, in the woods, destined for greatness!


Below is one of the trees stretching over the horse jumps:


It ended up being such a lovely interlude!  I do so love Autumn!  Having grown up in Southern California, it still seems such a wonderful miracle.

Life is good!

An Evening Walk



It was a lovely summer evening after a full day of work.  I asked my son to take a walk with me, and he agreed!  There’s a little creek and waterfall at an abandoned corner about a five minutes’ walk from our home.  It’s nice to walk over and just hear the water above the sound of cars rushing past.  There is a bridge across the busy street, so we don’t have to deal with traffic and can get a little lull of time in the woods.  I don’t go there nearly often enough.

I’m still reviewing my summer from the pictures I took.  This was early in the summer.  One thing I reflect about it was that I sure enjoy my son’s company.  It’s just the two of us now, but I am so thankful that he is such good company.

Longwood Gardens

Okay, I’m slowly telling the story of my Summer Vacation.  The day after my birthday and graduation, I had breakfast with my classmates and fellow graduates, and then drove back to Virginia.  Along the way, I stopped at Longwood Gardens and spent a few hours there.

Years before, when Josh was a toddler, we visited Longwood Gardens with my parents-in-law and met some family friends who lived in Pennsylvania.  (We lived in New Jersey at the time.)  I believe that was when I met Lorinda, who often leaves comments on this blog.

It was funny, because I barely remembered that trip — until I went inside the large greenhouse and peeked at the Children’s Garden.  Then I remembered that on that long-ago visit, it rained, so we spent most of our time inside the greenhouse.  I also got a weird sense of deja vu when I watched the small dancing fountains going to a recording of Stars & Stripes Forever, because my father-in-law had videotaped the entire performance, and it was identical, after all those years!

Anyway, my trip this June was a totally different experience.  That trip was a large gathering, planned by my mother-in-law, and with a toddler in tow.  This trip was a solitary ramble in a beautiful place on a gorgeous day.  I was thinking about graduation and new beginnings and all the hope my future holds.  I did a lot of praying and thinking about the future, and a lot of simply enjoying the beauty.

The water gardens were beautiful to listen to as well as to see.  There was a bit of forest I was able to hike through.  I sat on a bench and simply enjoyed the woods.  It was very nice to have nobody tired of me taking pictures or bored with simply looking.

It was funny — the day was Father’s Day, and there simply weren’t too many families that celebrated Father’s Day by going to gardens!  Those that were there were on a very different, child-centered agenda, from what I was doing.  It felt wonderful to ramble through a safe, slightly wild, gorgeous place and reflect on how blessed I am.

I’ll post the full album on Facebook, but include some of the best pictures here:





























Bluebells and Home

When my son got accepted to Thomas Jefferson High School, a shift happened in my mind.

Before this, I was still hoping for reconciliation with my husband and assumed that would mean I would move to live with him.  As I followed him for all of our married lives.  That’s what wives do, right?

I’m still hoping for reconciliation.  But now, whether or not that happens, I am making a Home here.  My son gets to go to the BEST high school in the nation!  As long as I live in Fairfax County.  We went to the Freshman Preview Night and were so impressed.  There is simply no way I’d have the heart to give him a taste of that wonderful school and then pull him out and make him go to an ordinary school.

So — at least for the next four years, I fully intend to live in Fairfax County.

And you know what?  I like that idea!  I can make a home here.

I have wonderful friends here — new friends as well as friends I’ve known almost my entire life.  I have a fabulous, loving and welcoming church where people worship God and talk about God and God guides and directs.  Tim was already going to an excellent school, and in high school he’s going to go to an even better one.  And I got a wonderful job working as a Children’s Librarian, working with more fabulous people.

Truly God is richly blessing me, right here and right now.

I had a Friday off, with Tim in school.  I work for Fairfax County, and a daily news update mentioned that it was now Bluebell Season at Bull Run Regional Park.  Shortly after cherry blossom season, the bluebells burst into bloom by the riverside.  The trees still don’t have enough foliage to block the sunlight, and the flowers turn into a sea of blue.

Well, Bull Run Regional Park isn’t far at all from my home.  (And I’d heard of Bull Run since I was a little girl — when my brother did a panorama of the Civil War battle.  Pretty cool to actually see it!)  The day was glorious.  The sun was shining and breezes were blowing.  An utterly wonderful day for a walk. 

The trail ended up being a nice loop along Cub Run and Bull Run, about a 45-minute walk with stops for pictures, and totally flat.  It was a magnificent way to spend some time, and I felt I was truly appreciating my new, beautiful home!


I’ll post a link to my facebook album of pictures as soon as I get them edited.

In Thrall to Seasons

What Barbara Kingsolver says about seasons echoes how I feel about them, having grown up in the LA area.  I still find it so amazing that all the trees burst into bloom at the same time!  I was so delighted to read that someone else feels the same way, I’m going to copy the passage here:

“January brings the snow . . . ,” began the well-thumbed, illustrated children’s book about the seasons that my children cleaved to as gospel, while growing up in a place where January did nothing of the kind….

Nevertheless, in every winter of the world, Arizona schoolchildren fold and snip paper snowflakes to tape around the blackboard.  In October they cut out orange paper leaves, and tulips in spring, just as colonial American and Australian schoolchildren once memorized poems about British skylarks while the blue jays or cockatoos (according to the continent) squawked outside, utterly ignored.  The dominant culture has a way of becoming more real than the stuff at hand.

Now, at our farm, when the fully predicted snow fell from the sky, or the leaves changed, or tulips popped out of the ground, we felt a shock of thrill.  For the kids it seemed like living in storybook land; for Steven and me it was a more normal return to childhood, the old days, the way things ought to be.  If we remembered the snow being deeper, the walks to school harder and longer, we refrained from mentioning that to any young person.  But the seasons held me in thrall.

— Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, p. 296-297

Skyline Drive

Two Sundays ago, we were having unseasonably glorious cool weather, and I was meeting my husband to bring my son back home.  They had been exploring the Shenandoah Valley–so I arranged to meet them and come back by way of Skyline Drive.  After meeting, I was running late, so we only did one segment of the drive.  But it was so beautiful, and wonderfully peaceful, with very few other travelers, and the leaves just beginning to turn.  Here are some pictures:

Mom, just drive on!


Many panoramic vistas:



We even saw a flock of wild turkeys!





Hiking at Great Falls


After looking at the waterfalls, my son and I went for a short hike along the river.

There’s something about hiking that refreshes my spirit, no matter how hot the day.  I love it that such a beautiful place is so close to the big city.


Setting off on the hike.


The sky was so blue that day.


Unfortunately, the bridge didn’t work for Poohsticks.


A peaceful spot by the canal around the falls


In a tunnel of trees

Throwing rocks into the Potomac: