To you today

Like the sun in the coldest winter, the dream shines on. Karula National Park, Estonia by Amadvr via Wikimedia Commons

Like the sun in the coldest winter, Dr. King’s dream shines on.
Karula National Park, Estonia by Amadvr via Wikimedia Commons

“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.  I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King’s words continue to inspire us because his message was timeless.  In the face of centuries of oppression and injustice, he urged his listeners toward the higher ground of perseverance, nonviolence, determination, faith and hope.

Though his speech will forever be linked to that August day in 1963, the principles he describes transcend the immediate context to resonate today in countless ways.  May his resolve bring you renewed belief in your own ability to defeat despair.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Role models

Jack Russell Terrier by Steve-65 via Wikimedia Commons

Jack Russell Terrier by Steve-65 via Wikimedia Commons

“Dogs are my favorite role models. I want to work like a dog, doing what I was born to do with joy and purpose. I want to play like a dog, with total, jolly abandon. I want to love like a dog, with unabashed devotion and complete lack of concern about what people do for a living, how much money they have, or how much they weigh. The fact that we still live with dogs, even when we don’t have to herd or hunt our dinner, gives me hope for humans and canines alike.”Oprah Winfrey

I loved this quote from Oprah, so I went hunting on Wikimedia Commons, looking for some good images of dogs.  WOW, what a fun way to spend a few minutes.  Advance warning: you will probably be seeing lots more photos of dogs in upcoming weeks, because there were so many good ones it was hard to choose which to use here.

This one made the cut, though, partly because I just love Jack Russell Terriers, and partly because it seemed to capture many of the things mentioned in the quote.  I have learned much from animals, and dogs head my personal list of favorites.  It would be hard to overestimate the therapeutic benefit dogs have added to my life.

Whether you favor dogs, cats, birds, all of the above, or some other furry, feathered or scaled companion, I wish for you the joy, contentment, laughter and reassurance that friendship with animals can give us.  If you are blessed to have an animal living in your home, give him or her (or them) a friendly greeting from me, along with thanks for making life more fun.

Thanks to Ann for sharing this photo of Bentley and Solomon!

Thanks to Ann for sharing this photo of Bentley and Solomon!

Thanks also to Sheila for sharing a photo of Jack...

Thanks also to Sheila for sharing a photo of Jack…

...and also Mr. and Mrs. Clownfish (and their eggs)

…and also Mr. and Mrs. Clownfish (and their eggs)

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Reality, freed

Welcome to winter on Captiva Island! I took this photo in January, 2012, but we're going there NOW.

Welcome to winter on Captiva Island!
I took this photo in January, 2013, but we’re going there NOW.

“Trapped by reality, freed by imagination.” — Nicolas Manetta*

Okay, the holidays are history now.  The winter has set in, and it has been pretty COLD lately for most of us.  Time for a quick getaway.  Come with me a lovely little spot on Captiva Island, Florida.  I’ll set the scene for you.

Everyone is invited.  Bring your seashore wardrobe and towels.  We’re all enjoying a day at the beach this sunny, warm afternoon. What beach, you ask?  This one:

Captiva beach scene Jan 2014

It’s fairly deserted as usual, except for us, of course.  We’ve been diligent with the sunscreen, so we can spend several hours out here, chatting and beach combing and dozing and reading some great novels.  If you get thirsty, head back up to the house just over the dunes. I’ve got iced tea waiting.  Plus lemonade and fruit punch, if you don’t like tea.

Captiva neighbors

No, not THAT house!  Go a few doors down…

Our beach house, Captiva Jan 2014

Yes! THIS one.

You can spread the seashells you collected out to dry on the table on the screened porch.

Seashells on table

Then we can stroll into town and pick a spot to eat.

Captiva street

After dinner, we can go outside and watch the sunset.  Bring a jacket…it’s cool on January nights, even here!

Sunset on Captiva Jan 2014

Time to head back home now.  Thank you for flying with us on Imaginary Airlines, where we go anywhere you want to go, for free, and there are never any delays!  See you again soon.

*I was unable to find any information about Nicholas Manetta, only several places that attributed this quote to him.  Maybe he is a figment of someone’s imagination.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Nonetheless

Our wooded lot feels enchanted in winter.  February 2010

Our wooded lot feels enchanted in winter. February 2010

Welcome, winter. Your late dawns and chilled breath make me lazy, but I love you nonetheless.Terri Guillemets

Even in summer, I love sleeping late.  My aversion to getting up in the morning is much greater in the winter, when the cold weather makes a snug warm bed all the more appealing.

Despite this, I’m learning to appreciate rising early, even when I don’t enjoy it.  While winter brings a lazy streak, it also sparks my inner drive to get organized, set goals and form good habits.  Those winter resolutions, along with the beauty of the snowfalls such as the one I’m seeing right now, are reasons why I love winter despite the discomfort and inconvenience of inclement weather.

I hope you are enjoying January too, whatever kinds of weather it brings to where you are.  If you are in the midst of your summer, or live in a tropical climate, enjoy it!  Sip an iced tea for me, and go barefoot in the sand of a seashore whenever you have the chance.

If you, like me, are in “cozy hibernation” mode, keep that kettle on and lots of tea, coffee or cocoa handy.  Check out some of the many self-improvement articles that proliferate in January via magazines and websites, and dream of springtime.  As I keep reminding myself, it will be here before we know it!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Of the soul

A lovely day at Arlington National Cemetery, December 2014

A lovely day at Arlington National Cemetery, December 2014

“Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Oddly enough, it’s my belief in the sentiment expressed here by Longfellow that underlies my enjoyment of visiting graveyards and cemeteries.  When one believes in the immortality of the soul, the sadness or fear often associated with burial grounds is lifted, and the wonder of each human life is seen with sharpened focus.

Nowhere is this more true than at Arlington National Cemetery.  I did my walking there one beautiful sunny day last week, because I wanted to see the wreaths on display.  Over 300,000 people are buried at Arlington, and beautiful fresh evergreen wreaths with large red bows adorn most of the graves.  This yearly practice is quite an accomplishment.  I walked several miles inside Arlington that day and did not see a single headstone without a wreath.

Something about the sight of so much evergreen amid the winter landscape is a fitting reminder that death is a universal threshold we all must approach, and we need not fear it.  Faith and hope are well represented by the bright red and green amid the subdued winter landscape.

The headstones at Arlington recall the lives of citizens of all ages and stations; those who were born two hundred years ago, and infants who died in recent years; supreme court justices and statesmen, two U. S. Presidents, soldiers of every rank, and their families.  Some tell poignant stories, and some give us only the name and life span of the person buried there, leaving the details to our imaginations.

The beauty of the hills, trees and quiet pathways, and the monuments stretching as far as the eye can see are a reassuring sight for grieving families, as well as a refreshing break from the clamor of the city for tourists visiting from all over the world.  Walking through the well-kept grounds, I was happy that Jeff has decided he wants to be buried there, which will mean that Matt and I, too, will be laid to rest beside him.

I hope this doesn’t seem like an odd meditation with which to begin the year.  Remembering the brevity of earthly life is a great way to strengthen our resolve to live fully and well for whatever time remains for us.  As the old quote says, today is the first day of the rest of our lives.  Let’s recognize each day as a real and earnest gift, one we receive with gratitude and celebration.

Soldier who died in Iraq  Cobeil grave  Family headstone
Civil War veteran  Doubleday grave  IMG_8049

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Join in our chime

May 2015 bring you clearing skies and warming weather. Photo by Daniel Schwen via Magdeleine

May 2015 bring you clearing skies and warming weather.
Photo by Daniel Schwen via Magdeleine

And ye, who have met with Adversity’s blast,
And been bow’d to the earth by its fury;
To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently pass’d
Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury –
Still, fill to the Future! and join in our chime,
The regrets of remembrance to cozen,
And having obtained a New Trial of Time,
Shout in hopes of a kindlier dozen.

                                                                             —   Thomas Hood

If anyone who reads this readily identifies with the poet’s words, my heart is with you.  Adversity’s blast has hit our family hard each year since 2012, and sometimes we wonder whether harsh news will ever stop coming.

Still, we continue to rejoice in all that is good, right, holy and beautiful, and we are ever hopeful that the year to come will bring lighter hearts and soothing respite from sorrow.

Though 2014 brought seemingly more than its share of trials, we are able to look back and see moments that sparkle and joys that glow even in the dark.  We hope you are able to do the same.  May 2015 bring showers of blessings to you and your loved ones!

Here’s a New Year’s card for you; read the details at the end to learn about the “first footing” custom.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

This place is full

I snapped this photo from our table at the Carrot Tree, December 2014. Join us!

I snapped this photo from our table at the Carrot Tree, December 2014. Join us!

“This place is full of absent friends.” Ashleigh Brilliant

The Saturday after Christmas, I met my friend Darla for lunch at the Carrot Tree on Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown. Darla lives in the historic district of Yorktown, and I can’t visit her without thinking: 1. how lucky she is to live in this enchanted little village, and 2. how lucky I am to have a friend who actually lives right here, not just nearby.

We had a lovely meal — tomato basil soup and Quiche Lorraine for me — and then prowled around in the shops until the clock forced us to leave for other obligations.  Darla knows pretty much everyone who runs every business, so there was lots of friendly chatting going on as we browsed among more cute and pretty things than anybody could possibly take home.

Even though “downtown” Yorktown is a tiny (very tiny) place, it has more charm per square inch than any other place I can think of, and we had more than enough to keep us busy during what seemed like a very short afternoon.  It was wonderful!  The only thing missing was you.

Every time I go to the historic part of Yorktown, I think how I should go there more often, and how many people I wish I could bring with me.  During our short time there on Saturday, I thought of so many of you; how you probably would enjoy the afternoon stroll as much as Darla and I did.

So, just as I invited you to visit me on Christmas, so I invite you to visit our home town.  How many places this small can boast a location smack in the middle of a national historic park, a beach, gorgeous hilltop views, a downtown that can be easily walked, free shuttle service to Colonial Williamsburg, and the distinction of being the place where the future USA won their war for independence?

If you were among the many, many friends who were absent on Saturday, come join us in your imagination.  Read up on the interesting story of the British surrender at the Yorktown Victory Center; chat with the friendly shopkeepers on Riverwalk Landing, and stroll quiet streets where people still live in many of the historic homes.

If you overhear two women talking, laughing and exclaiming over how adorable some craft is, or how beautiful some quilt or floral arrangement is, that might be Darla and me.   Be sure to come over and say hi!  We’ll be happy to see you.

Images of Riverwalk Landing (above) and the historic village (below)

Images of Riverwalk Landing (above) and the historic village (below)

Yorktown historic district

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

The genial flame

Jeff snapped this photo of me just before guests arrived at our York home, December 2010.

Jeff snapped this photo of me just before guests arrived at our York home, December 2010.

“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. ”Washington Irving

Those who have been following this blog for over two years now will know that our family has so much for which to feel grateful this Christmas.  But there also have been many changes and losses; people and things that we miss more keenly at this season.

One thing I have missed most in the past two years is the way we used to have dinner parties and company during the Christmas holidays.  While Jeff’s cancer diagnosis and ongoing treatment have meant this is not feasible for now, perhaps we will someday again have lots of people to our home for festive merry-making.

Until then, I invite you over for a virtual visit with us.  Grab a plate, fill a mug, pull up a chair and chat while you sip and snack.  Afterwards, gather around the tree with other fun-loving folks for some hilarious surprises and maybe some fun singing.  Stay as long as you want.  The beauty of a virtual visit is that it can happen anytime, and be as short or long as you want.

Merry Christmas to everyone who is reading these words.  Whatever brought you to our online home, we’re glad you are here!  We wish you a lovely finish to 2014, and a year bright with promise in 2015.

Grady greets you from our Alexandria home, December 23, 2014.

Grady greets you from our Alexandria home, December 23, 2014.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Saving graces

Christmas at Rockefeller Plaza by Rob Young By Rob Young from United Kingdom (Christmas @ Rockefeller Plaza) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Christmas at Rockefeller Plaza by Rob Young, United Kingdom
CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“I can understand people simply fleeing the mountainous effort Christmas has become. But there are always a few saving graces and finally they make up for all the bother and distress.”May Sarton

If you’ve ever been to Rockefeller Center at Christmas, you know how magical it can be. Even if you don’t catch the truly spectacular Christmas extravaganza at the Radio City Music Hall, just seeing the dazzling tree and ice skaters is unforgettable.  For me, there’s a paradoxical feeling of peace there amid the frenetic pace of the city, as if the sheer beauty creates a world apart.

The great thing is that we need not travel to Manhattan to experience this sort of bliss.  Our home towns and living rooms and back yards also hold moments of enchantment.  For me, these have included hearing the excited voices of neighborhood children outside our windows, the glow of Christmas lights at night after all is quiet, and the cards, crossing the miles from faraway friends, that connect us to people we will always hold dear.

Whether this finds you rushing about finishing up last minute details, or basking in the delight of having nothing more to do but enjoy the holidays, I hope your day will be filled with these moments of grace that provide a fitting benediction to a year we have been blessed to survive.  May your days this week be merry and bright!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Softer and more beautiful

Our Christmas tree, December 2006

Our Christmas tree, December 2006

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ”Norman Vincent Peale

When you think of the holiday season, what words come to mind?  I’m afraid that too often, we think of words such as busy, excited, rushed, tired, pressured.  But no matter how many activities and events we jam into our December schedules, there are usually at least a few moments of quiet beauty that refresh our spirits and feed our souls.

I wish you many such moments this year!  Feel free to share your thoughts about the softer, more beautiful gifts you are enjoying this season.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

So much happiness (2014 version)

This is the 1938 edition that started it all for us, photographed December 14, 2014.

This is the 1938 edition that started it all for us, photographed December 14, 2014.

“He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk– that anything– could give him so much happiness.”Charles Dickens

Everywhere we have lived, in big cities and small coastal towns, there has been at least one (and sometimes more than one) annual theatrical production of Dickens’ beloved classic A Christmas Carol.  My delight at the widespread and enduring popularity of this story has been surpassed only by my amazement at the near-impossibility of getting good tickets anytime close to Christmas.  This year, I made the mistake of waiting until late November to get tickets to the Ford’s Theater production.  I’ll know better next year.

My siblings and I were raised on this story, learning it alongside the Bible stories we were taught from earliest memory.  We gleefully saw every version of the Scrooge story that was filmed over the years, and enjoyed almost every one; several are among those we watch again and again.  Some of us favor the Alistair Sim version, others the Albert Finney version or the Muppet version or the Magoo version, not to mention the unforgettable Dr. Seuss version (aka the Grinch).  All end with the ebullient joy of a miser who discovers, in the nick of time (no pun intended) that it’s never too late to have a good and happy life.

Among the artifacts I treasure most are my father’s childhood copy of the book (which I believe was given to him by his Aunt Henrietta, whence came most of the books in that family) and a very old reel-to-reel tape of him reading the entire novella aloud, for us to have available if he had to be out flying on Christmas Eve.  I’m thankful to remember only one such occasion when he was absent; Daddy was the heart and soul of Christmas in our home, and his love of A Christmas Carol is one of the finest gifts he gave his children.  All four of us adore the tale, as do our children and presumably, in years to come, their children.

What is it about this story that appeals to generation after generation of readers?  It’s partly due to the venerated skill of the author, whose ability to create characters is unsurpassed.  The ghostly aspects of the story add an exciting shiver of suspense, and the plot moves quickly while encompassing an amazing amount of detail in relatively few words.

But I think it’s the central theme of the story that strikes a chord within so many of us.  Who among us has not felt alone, misunderstood or unwanted at some time or other?  Which of us does not fear poverty, or hesitate to share whatever possessions we claim?  How many of us are thoughtless about what our friends and fellow workers may be enduring?  Scrooge lives in each of us, for better or worse.

Little wonder, then, that his jubilant reclamation draws us to his story again and again.  For all of us, I wish the sort of Christmas old Scrooge was finally able to have.  May it bring us the multitude of pleasures he discovered; joys that had lain dormant within his reach for far too many years.

My love of this season is no secret to anyone who has ever been within five feet of me at this time of year.  In fact, I once joked that I wanted this quote from the end of Dickens’ story to be read at my funeral: “…it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

So today I finish with the rest of that quote: “May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

Book Cover Copyright pageThis post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Better throughout the year

Our friends' children under the Christmas tree at Tammy and JJ's home, December 2009.

Our friends’ children under the Christmas tree at Tammy and JJ’s home, December 2009.

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Do you have any favorite childhood memories of Christmas that bring you joy to this day?  I do, and I hope you do too.  Part of the appeal of the holiday season is the chance to put away our older, wiser and grouchier personae for at least a short time, and embrace our inner children.  We eat too much, stay up too late, and “deck the halls” in a variety of ways that make life a bit cheerier, even in the face of oncoming winter months.

Today, I hope you will take a few minutes to do something that you are normally too busy to do.  Write seasonal cards to friends, listen to a favorite Christmas song or two, hang an ornament on your tree or wherever you can find a place to hang it, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, coffee or tea (or if you’re like me, maybe one of each?) and enjoy the gifts of December.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Charity that returned

Do you like holiday cards? If so, I'll send you one!

Do you like holiday cards? If so, I’ll send you one!

“All my life I have written letters – to our mother, our relatives, a wide circle of friends and acquaintance, to my husband, to you. Correspondence has always been as necessary to my happiness as a well-cooked dinner, and I’ve found it more sustaining for its generosity: an act of charity that returned to me a hundredfold…”Delia Sherman

I’ve always loved sending and receiving personal cards and letters.  I knew things had really changed when I started to dread the mail.  Initially I wrote it off as a sign of advanced adulthood; no more childlike delight at the surprise and connection that came with a letter or card.  I came to realize, though, that my increasing distaste for the mail is really because it has been largely hijacked by the junk, advertising and bills that so outnumber the pleasant things we like to receive.

Since I love sending mail, and because this is the time of year when we have a good excuse to send holiday wishes, I am offering to do my part to increase the amount of wanted versus unwanted mail.  Do you like to get holiday cards?  If so, I’ll be glad to send you one.

Between now and December 18, anyone who leaves me a card request with an address to which I should send it, I will send a holiday card to you.  If you’d rather send your address via email, you can send it to defeatdespair@verizon.net and I’ll get it.  If you know someone who is deployed military, shut in due to illness or aging, incarcerated, or simply lonely and in need of encouragement, I will send them a card too, and say that you told me they might like one (unless you’d rather be anonymous).

Please send an address ONLY for someone you feel certain would not mind having their name and addresses shared.  As always, I will guard the privacy of these addresses as I guard my own.  I will redact your personal info from any comments, and will pledge NOT to use any address for any purpose other than sending a requested card.

And for those of you who prefer the less expensive, earth-friendly, paper-and-privacy saving, anonymous digital variety of greeting, this one is just for you!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Sanctified bull doggedness

This stag was a bit more determined than his peers. Chital Stag in Nagarhole National Park, by Yathin S. Krishnappa [CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chital stag in Nagarhole National Park, by Yathin S. Krishnappa
  [CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

“Your success does not depend upon the brilliance and the impetuosity with which you take hold, but upon the ever lasting and sanctified bull doggedness with which you hang on after you have taken hold.”Dr. A. B. Meldrum

As anyone who knows me well can tell you, tenacity is a virtue that sometimes becomes a disadvantage.  There’s such a thing as being too stubborn and too persistent when facing obstacles, whether tangible, conversational or imaginary.  People with autism are often described as engaging in perseveration, but I’ve known more than a few so-called normal people (myself among them) who can’t seem to find the “off” switch and don’t know when to move on.

Still, if given the choice between too much tenacity and too little, I’d go for too much every time.  History is full of stories that demonstrate how important it is not to give up easily.  Since Jeff shares this trait of tenacity with me, I have seen first hand how it can literally be a lifesaving tendency.  His refusal to give up in the face of agonizing pain and long odds has been an inspiration to me.

It’s a fine line to walk, knowing when to give up and when to keep trying.  On which side do you tend to err?  Are there areas of your life that you need to let go of?  Are there others that might be resolved with sustained effort and patience?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Different from the sum of its parts

Winter im Oberdorf by Jens Japel, CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Winter im Oberdof by Jens Japel, CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“When I looked, I knew I might never again see so much of the earth so beautiful, the beautiful being something you know added to something you see, in a whole that is different from the sum of its parts. What I saw might have been just another winter scene, although an impressive one. But what I knew was that the earth underneath was alive and that by tomorrow, certainly by the day after, it would be all green again. So what I saw because of what I knew was a kind of death with the marvelous promise of less than a three-day resurrection.”Norman Maclean

I’ve written here before about the beauty of what lies hidden.  Winter is the epitome of unseen splendor, as the earth lies under a blanket of snow in much of the world, and the promise of spring sweetens our winter solitude.  Before the the year-end holidays are upon us, let’s take a few minutes to enjoy the silent consolation of nature’s magnificence, dormant at times, but always alive.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

First find thankfulness

I photographed this harvest display at Montreal Botanical Garden, May 2009.

I photographed this harvest display at Montreal Botanical Garden, May 2009.

“This is the only life you will have before you enter eternity. If you want to find joy, you must first find thankfulness. Indeed, the one who is thankful for even a little enjoys much…It does not matter what your circumstances are; the instant you begin to thank God, even though your situation has not changed, you begin to change. The key that unlocks the gates of heaven is a thankful heart.” —  Francis Frangipane

We are thankful today!  We are thankful that Jeff is not in the hospital fighting for his life, as he was one year ago.  We are thankful that he is still able to work and enjoy life.  We are thankful that Matt survived his long-dreaded fifth major heart surgery, and that it has so far been successful at controlling his ever-increasing cardiac issues.

We are thankful for our precious grandson, Grady, and for our extended families.  We are grateful for the endless blessings of life, and for the friendship, prayers and support we have found here and elsewhere.  We are keenly aware of those who are hurting today, and our hearts share their sorrow even as we acknowledge that there is always reason to rejoice.  We pray for open eyes  to see opportunities to share our bounty with those in need.

We are thankful you are here with us today!  Feel free to leave a comment sharing your joys and sorrows, as we lift our hearts in appreciation for this wonderful, complicated, difficult, rewarding gift of being alive in this world.  Happy Thanksgiving Day!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

The greatest time machines

An old forty-niner takes school children back to the California Gold Rush. Coloma, California, July 2004

An old forty-niner takes school children time-traveling back to the California Gold Rush.
Coloma, California, July 2004

“Two of the greatest time machines ever invented are called memory and imagination.”
Ashleigh Brilliant

It’s beginning to look as if this winter will mean a lot of time indoors for most of us.  So it’s a great chance for some time travel!  Pick up a historical novel (and feel free to share recommendations for us in the comments below), watch a TV or movie drama based in another era, or simply daydream about what life was like 100 years ago, and what it might be like 100 years from now.

Those of us who have been around long enough to remember the 1950’s or 1960’s can share a bit of nostalgia for more recent times gone by.  (Raynard, what’s the first TV show that comes to mind when you read this?)  Or the techies among us can tell us what lies on the horizon for advances we might live to see eventually.  Beam us up by sharing your thoughts with us today!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

All about us

This hibiscus was one of many lovely plants on Mama and Daddy's back porch, September 2014.

One of many lovely plants on Mama and Daddy’s back porch, September 2014.

“It seems to me that people are forever traveling great distances, and journeying to strange countries, to see things that, if they only knew it, exist beside their own doorstep…Whether one goes to nature for truth, or for beauty, for knowledge or for relaxation, these things can be found in a yard in the city as well as in a tropical jungle, for they exist in the common, simple, everyday things all about us, as well as in the rare and exotic.” Leonard Dubkin

It’s easy to assume that older people enjoy nature because they have nothing more urgent to do, and perhaps that is true to some extent.  Having known my parents for nearly 60 years, though, I can’t remember a time when they were too busy to appreciate the commonplace joys of life.  Hearing Mama regularly exclaim over the beauty of various plants that grew in our yard and neighborhood taught me the names of many of them.  Watching Daddy work faithfully for years at a career he obviously and genuinely loved gave me a powerful example that it’s possible to maintain deep appreciation of what could easily become too familiar to see clearly.

I count myself fortunate to have grown up hearing frequent praises for extraordinary, ordinary things.  Whether it was the taste of food fresh from a garden, the sound of a particularly spirited or touching piece of music on an oft-played record album, or the joyful antics of birds, squirrels and other wildlife, I learned early to pay attention to the abundance that surrounds us.  It’s a lesson that has paid rich dividends.

What are the ordinary gifts in your everyday world, that would be worth traveling great distances to experience?  If you and I could swap places for just one day, what would you want me to be sure not to miss?  Since we can’t swap places, you can tell me about it here and I can enjoy it through your words…and you can appreciate it anew by revisiting the joy or excitement or contentment you feel just by thinking of it.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

All the magic

Autumn tree with roses, November 2014

The streets of our York neighborhood are alight with autumn, November 2014.

“The Sussex lanes were very lovely in the autumn. I started going for long lone country walks among the spendthrift gold and glory of the year-end, giving myself up to the earth-scents and the sky-winds and all the magic of the countryside which is ordained for the healing of the soul.”Monica Baldwin

Saturday (two days ago; I’m no longer two weeks ahead in writing these posts) I was a bit reluctant to head out into the cold for my walk.  I wasn’t feeling all that well, and the 40-degree weather was not inviting, despite the afternoon sunshine.  I imagine some of you who live far north of here might laugh at the idea of being kept indoors by temperatures in the 40’s, but you can’t take the southern out of the girl…

In any case, I bundled up in five layers– yes, FIVE– and tucked my camera into my pocket as an added incentive.  Almost immediately, I was so happy I did not chicken out of the walk.  It was splendid, exactly what I needed that afternoon.  I took the photo above, along with many, many more, on the streets of our York neighborhood where I imagine that I and my camera have become familiar to most of the neighbors.

Perhaps Baldwin is not exaggerating when she says the autumnal splendor, along with other beauties of the countryside, are ordained for the healing of the soul.  It certainly felt healing to me that day, as it almost always does.

It may be growing quite cold where you live (or perhaps getting uncomfortably warm, if you are south of the equator) but I hope that you will brave the weather for the balm of nature’s abundant gifts.  Tuck a few memories away in your mind or your camera, and enjoy the vivid canvas of November before the colors are muted and dormant.  I’ll have hot tea and scones for you when you return.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

What we give

They're going to get your goat...literally! I photographed this goat in Germany, August 2005.

They’re going to get your goat…literally!
I photographed this goat in Germany, August 2005

“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.”Ben Carson

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”Anne Frank

WOW, thanks to everyone who participated in the second anniversary blog celebration on Monday.  I will go into all the details below, but the short version is that $2600 in donations are being processed as I write this. YIPPEE!

Before this post gets really silly, I want to start by sharing an article from the NYTimes that was sent to me on Monday by Susan V., a fabulous lady who lives in our neighborhood in Alexandria. (Lucky us!)  Those who chose to request a goat donation will be interested to read this story of how a goat donated to her family literally changed a young woman’s life.

If you were keeping track on Monday, you already knew that we received donation requests for seven goats, three doctor visits, two water filters, one mosquito net, six donations to USO, seven to the ARC of Greater Williamsburg, six to Healing Hands International’s clean water projects (and two to their food sustainability programs) and two to Cerebral Palsy of Virginia, and a partridge in a pear tree plus several anonymous and unspecified donations to various organizations listed.  All that added up to twelve hundred dollars.

Because our donor likes nice round numbers, (s)he decided to round all these totals upward to sort of even things out, which meant DOUBLING that twelve hundred to $2400!  As if that was not enough, yesterday I got a $200 check in the mail from yet another anonymous donor, made out to Cerebral Palsy of Virginia! So the grand total is now at $2600. I hope to be posting some letters from these organizations soon, but meanwhile it was a lot of fun contacting them (“Hello, Madrene, this is Julia…do you guys have at least eight goats available?”) and adding everything up.  And speaking of fun…

My friend Amy, about whom you’ve read here several times before (and who speaks up in the comments from time to time) is currently home recovering from hand surgery after an accident.  I asked her whether she would be willing to use her good hand to do the drawing, since Matt was such a reluctant cheater peeker helper in last year’s drawing.  Like the good sport she is, Amy agreed to do the honors.  For the results, watch this video (or you can scroll down below it to get to the names right away).  DISCLAIMER: We were not drinking anything but TEA when this video was made! We are just normally this silly.

OK, for those who did not have time for the video, the winners are: Sheila, Conrad, Cherie, Ann and Rene — and of course, Amy herself, which was definitely not planned, but was a hilarious surprise.  When she drew her own name out we had a good laugh, but I decided to make it six names instead of five, just so nobody got too suspicious.

If your name was one of those chosen, I will be emailing you to get an address where you’d like your gift card and chocolate sent, and also to find out whether you prefer milk or dark chocolate, with or without nuts.  If you prefer a $10 gift card to Cracker Barrel instead of Amazon, you can let me know that too.  Since Cracker Barrel is my favorite restaurant (they do cornbread right) I always keep a few of their gift cards on hand.

Thanks so much to everyone who helped make this 2nd Anniversary celebration a time to remember. I hope there will be lots of smiles popping up all over the world as the people you’ve reached get a touch of that great Defeat Despair spirit!

The readers of this blog have meant more to me than I’ll ever be able to say (despite my using so many words all the time 😀 ).  I don’t wish hard, sad, or scary times on anyone, but if you’ve ever been in circumstances such as some of us find ourselves facing, you know how much it means to have the warm wishes, prayers and support of other people.  As always, THANKS FOR BEING HERE! ❤ ❤ ❤

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

 

Put a smile on someone’s face

2008 USO Holiday Tour in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Celebrities bring music and entertainment to service members and their families stationed overseas. DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley; image in the public domain.

2008 USO celebrity holiday tour in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley; image in the public domain.

“We must learn to realize that “now” is happening and will very soon be gone…We must look at the ink on the calendar and see an immediate opportunity to do something wonderful, incredible, or beautiful. It’s that simple.” – Dan Pearce

“If you’ve put a smile on someone’s face today, you’ve done more good than you know.”Richelle E. Goodrich

Update for 2021: this is the last of my daily postings, which I continued for the first two years of my blog. As of today, the frequency of re-blogged posts will drop to twice per week. I may add some new ones here and there, but that will depend on many things, including how much time I’m able to make for it. However, I will do my very best to continue re-posting the five years of  twice-daily posts. 

The celebration described here is not an active one, but a distant and very happy memory. As you can see by the 101 comments, we had quite an event! I wouldn’t rule out doing something like that again sometime. Has anyone figured out who the mystery donor was?

Xhosa children by via Wikimedia commons

Xhosa children by Zakysant, licensed under CCA-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Okay readers, today is the day. Thanks for joining us.
Let the two-year anniversary celebration begin!

Crowd of smiling children in Bangladesh, via Wikimedia Commons

Smiling children in Bangladesh, by bri vos via CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s put some smiles out there in the world.

Australian AusAID volunteers in Cambodia, 2010, via Wikimedia Commons,

Australian AusAID volunteers in Cambodia, 2010, via Wikimedia Commons

There are all sorts of ways to do it…

Girls carrying water in India, via Wikimedia Commons

Girls carrying water in India, via Wikimedia Commons

…but today you have an opportunity that won’t cost you anything but good will.

A young victim of the Haiti earthquake gets medical help from the U. S. Navy. Public domain image

A victim of the Haiti earthquake gets help from the U. S. Navy. Public domain image

 Read more about our celebration here.

Jill Biden and Michelle Obama at a USO celebration, public domain image.

Jill Biden and Michelle Obama at a USO celebration, public domain image.

 

Choose one of the nonprofit group opportunities listed…

Children collect clean water provided by UKAid. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Children collect clean water provided by UKAid. Image via Wikimedia Commons

 …and leave a comment here, specifying where you’d like us to make a donation in your honor.

Matt with friends at Camp Baker, 2012

Matt with friends at Camp Baker, 2012

We’ll be glad you did…and we hope you will too!

 The NGO Give a Kid a Backpack brings smiles in 2010. Via Wikimedia Commons Public domain photograph from defenseimagery.mil

The NGO Give a Kid a Backpack brings smiles in 2010. Via Wikimedia Commons
Public domain photograph from defenseimagery.mil

LIVE UPDATE, 12 noon 11/10/14 – We still have a long ways to go before reaching the donation limit, so keep those requests coming in! I’ll be back in a few hours to update again.  Help us defeat despair and put smiles on lots of faces!

Disclaimer: all but one of these photos are from Wikimedia Commons, depicting various forms of humanitarian assistance.  They do not represent our celebration today, nor does the use of these photos constitute an endorsement of this effort by any organization pictured.  They are meant only to provide inspiration for global outreach, and also maybe put a smile on your face today.

This post was first published seven years ago today. As I continue to re-blog the posts from seven years past, they will (due to calendar variations) now fall on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so that the dates will correspond exactly. The celebration linked above has come and gone, but I continue to be in touch with all the non-profit groups listed, and I’m still actively involved with many of them in one way or another.

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

 

Illumination comes to our rescue

Blick aus dem entree (View from the entrance) by Henrik Nordenberg, Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

Blick aus dem Entrée (View from the entrance) by Henrik Nordenberg,
Public domain image — cropped detail, via Wikimedia Commons

“But sometimes illumination comes to our rescue at the very moment when all seems lost; we have knocked at every door and they open on nothing until, at last, we stumble unconsciously against the only one through which we can enter the kingdom we have sought in vain a hundred years – and it opens.”Marcel Proust

Yesterday’s post was about saving memories, and I have an abundance of them to save here at this blog.  The great thing about blogging is that it’s automatically stored; all the posts and photos, as well as the comments that make it an interactive experience.  There is so much to treasure here, and I thank everyone who has been a part of it, through reading, commenting, leaving your Gravatar in the “likes” section, and generally encouraging me during two of the most stressful years of our lives.

This blog was begun at a time that seemed filled with despair.  Our family, along with many others I knew, faced trials and obstacles that seemed impossible to endure.  Some who read this blog have been through stormy seas as well.  Now, two years later, on the day of my 730th daily post, we can look back and see that we survived, and sometimes even thrived, in between the days of chaos or doubt or agony.

For most of us, life will never be easy or carefree.  But each day we can go on defeating despair.  Some days we’ll do it by celebrating simple joys, or laughing at the endless comedy taking place all around us, or looking back in gratitude at the blessings we’ve enjoyed.  Some days we’ll do it simply by putting one foot in front of the other and getting through until another night of rest.  But we WILL do it!

Beginning tomorrow, the blog schedule here will change.  I’ll no longer be blogging daily, because our lives have reached the point where I can’t keep making the time.  Besides, it’s an awful lot for readers to keep up with!  (A special thanks to those readers who have been with me almost every day; you deserve some sort of medal, if I could only think of what to call it.)

It’s my intent now to blog twice weekly, on Mondays and Thursdays.  Posts will be scheduled in advance, as usual.  A lot of these may be short posts, even just a photo and/or quote, but I don’t want to lose touch with any of you, and I think twice weekly is enough to maintain contact.

In between, I’ll be checking comments at least every day or two.  For anyone who wants or needs an encouraging word on any day I’m not posting, please search the archives of 730 posts (and counting!) by topic, to find something that might be helpful.  Or just pick a date at random, or read that particular date’s post from 2013 or 2014.  From time to time, I may re-blog a post I like from another blog, but these will not be according to any schedule; they’ll just be fun surprises (and I will try to be restrained enough not to overdo it; I’m sure my own time constraints will help keep it at bay).

SO, I hope you will join me tomorrow for the second anniversary celebration, which will be my first Monday post of my third blog year.  I hope you will pick a charity and leave a comment requesting a donation to be made by our anonymous donor, to your choice of the ones listed in the post linked above– just click on CELEBRATE (AGAIN) to read more about it– and let’s help defeat despair all over the world!  I’ll bring you a summary of the results on Thursday.

Thanks again for being part of the illumination that has come to my rescue!

One year ago today:

A fork in the road

This post was first published seven years ago today. As I continue to re-blog the posts from seven years past, they will (due to calendar variations) now fall on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so that the dates will correspond exactly. The celebration linked above has come and gone, but I continue to be in touch with all the non-profit groups listed, and I’m still actively involved with many of them in one way or another.

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Memories of you

Jeff with one of his youngest patients, San Antonio, Texas, 1996

Jeff with one of his youngest patients, San Antonio, Texas, 1996

I am a miser of my memories of you
And will not spend them.   — Witter Bynner

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the importance of learning to let go of things.  It’s an ongoing challenge for me, but I’m making headway.  There are some things, however, that I know I’ll never give up willingly, and my dearest memories are among them.

If you’re like me, you never heard of Witter Bynner, but when I found this quote I did a bit of research and learned he is noteworthy, if only for the memories he refused to squander.  Specifically, at the Harvard database linked to his name above, there’s an inventory of the personal letters he donated to the college, sent to him by people whose names we immediately recognize.  I’m sure Harvard is glad Bynner was a miser of memories.  I am glad, too.

The great thing about hoarding memories is that they, like other intangible things, can be shared infinitely, with countless permutations and echoes.  If we are careful to be misers of the right memories, we can bless ourselves, our loved ones and future generations by sharing them.  What memories do you have to share?  What memories have others shared with you, enriching you with their recollections?

One year ago today:

Captured and preserved

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Watch with glittering eyes

I hope Grady always watches the world with this much joyful anticipation. January, 2014

I hope Grady always watches the world with this much joyful anticipation. January, 2014

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.”Roald Dahl

Look around you today.  Great secrets and enlightening discoveries may be hiding in plain sight.  What are the unlikely places you tend to look past?  What secret discoveries might be waiting for you where you least expect them?  Every day is an adventure, though we seldom see it as such.  I’d love to hear your reports from the trails you are walking today.  Turn your glittering eyes on the whole world around you, and watch what happens.

Grady found the view Mama and Daddy's dining room fascinating.  March 2014

Grady found the view from Mama and Daddy’s dining room fascinating. March 2014

One year ago today:

The last thing you expect

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

A happier state of mind

"Retired picnic at Otford Lookout" by Alex Proimos, Sydney, Australia CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Retired picnic at Otford Lookout” by Alex Proimos, Sydney, Australia
CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”George Santayana

Here in the northern hemisphere, we are enjoying the colors of the foliage and the cooling weather.  Meanwhile, our neighbors south of the equator are enjoying the end of winter and the return of warmth.  Those who are fortunate enough to live near the equator probably will still sense seasonal changes, though not as closely tied to the changing weather.  Almost everyone I know feels happy to enjoy the changing seasons as they paint variety into our landscape.

Having lived nearly six decades now, I believe Santayana’s words are true not only of the yearly calendar, but also the evolving seasons of life.  It’s easy, of course, to be “hopelessly in love with spring,” that time of new beginnings and hope for bright days to come.  In a youth-obsessed culture, that tendency is even more exaggerated.  But just as I love fall the best of all seasons of the year, I find that the autumn of life has similar charms.  I’m happy to be in the stage of life I’m in now, despite its often bittersweet flavor.

If you’re in the spring or summer of life, enjoy it!  Remind yourself often that you will never be in exactly this same place again.  I think one reason I have felt no regret in growing older is that I so totally relished the beauty of the years that have passed.  Despite a life that has arguably had its full share of sorrows, I have almost always felt blessed just to be alive.  I hope you can say the same.

For those of us in the fall or winter of life, may we take joy in every moment and treasure the storehouse of memories that we have gathered so far, living always in faith and anticipation of more blessings to come.

One year ago today:

Autumn asks

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

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