Hopeful signs

Tracy Caldwell Dyson is looking in your direction, and so am I! Self-portrait by Dyson, Expedition 24 flight engineer, International Space Station,  September 2010.  NASA photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Tracy Caldwell Dyson is looking in your direction, and so am I!
Self-portrait by Dyson, Expedition 24 flight engineer, International Space Station,
September 2010.  NASA photo via Wikimedia Commons.

“I’m looking for some hopeful signs — and something keeps telling me to look in your direction.” Ashleigh Brilliant

Today is my 800th published post, not counting the special posts linked above.  That number becomes more amazing to me the more I think about it.  Not only have I been writing that much, but many of you have been reading that much!

This blog contains enough of my words to constitute several full length novels, which is proof that writing a little bit every day can eventually make you an author.  Or not.  But at least it’s a substantial amount of practice.  And those of you who have read most of my posts have now read the equivalent of several full length books, in terms of quantity (no claims about quality implied).  At the very least, you have earned my respect for your stamina.

If each of these blog posts had been an annual Christmas newsletter, I would have been sending them out every year since 1215, when noteworthy happenings to report would have included King John signing the Magna Carta, Genghis Khan and the Mongols capturing Beijing, and the birth of Kublai Khan, an event that would have resounding consequences for American high school English students centuries later.

All that to say, I am deeply honored to realize that you have been willing to join me here read my rambling thoughts, and to exchange ideas, observations, jokes, joys and sorrows.  For those of you who have been with me steadfastly for over two years, I now have had more contact with you, more frequently, than with almost anyone else I know.  Considering that there are some of you whom I’ve still not met face to face, I think that’s a special kind of wonderful.

I got a letter yesterday from my British pen pal, Sue, and we had shared our amazement at having been writing to each other for 25 years now.  We have met face-to-face only once, in 2001.  Yet our friendship has outlasted many relationships that were largely based on geographic proximity.

Maybe this says something about the power of the written word.  Or maybe it means I’m easier to take in writing than in person. Either way, I’m humbled by the many ties I’ve formed through this blog.  On a continual basis, I see and hear things that remind me of you. And I have learned so much from you!

I smile so often to think of Sheila (and Bill and Walter and Jack) in their oceanfront home in South Carolina.  I think of Merry in Oklahoma and Susan in New Hampshire and Carolyn in Tennessee and Michael in Washington and Mary Ann in California and Bob in Oregon and Cherie in Florida, and I’m literally all over the USA map without taking a step outside my door.

When we visited Lancaster County recently, I thought of Judy when I saw the exquisite crafts, and of Raynard when we went to the Shady Maple. (We weren’t hungry enough for the Smorgasbord, Raynard, but we did enjoy shopping and snacking — and plan to go back one day with bigger appetites! It really is amazing.)  We had never been to that part of Pennsylvania, but it felt more familiar than it would have felt even three years ago.

Thanks to Sheila, I know what a Sun Conure is– in fact, I count one among my animal friends now (hello, Walter! 😀 ).  Thanks to Boomdee, I know that Canadian rabbits change colors with the seasons.  Thanks to Eric, I know those rabbits are called Snowshoe Hares.  Thanks to Alys, Michael and others, I know a lot more about the flowers and shrubs I love so much. Sometimes I’ll catch myself saying “I wonder why this plant isn’t blooming? I need to ask Alys” or “What kind of flower is that? Maybe Michael would know…”

I shouldn’t have started naming names, because now so many of you are coming to mind that there’s no way I can write about all of you. When I hear news from around the world, there are so many I’ve met via this blog whose faces come to mind, bringing to life countries where I’ve never had the privilege of traveling.  When I pray, I remember the struggles and trials you have shared with me, and ask for blessings in your lives.

Each of you, with your comments or your cheerful Gravatars left at the bottom of my posts, have been part of this online world that has been a source of comfort and joy since the earliest days of Defeat Despair, when our family was coming to terms with lives that had abruptly and unexpectedly and irrevocably changed.  Though I don’t post daily now, I still feel connected to all of you every day, and count my associations with you, whether brief or extensive, among the blessings of my life.

I hope you can keep looking here for encouragement.  And when I’m in need of reminders of goodness, I know I can look in your direction. As I’ve said so many times– thanks for being here!



  1. Hello! I only found you fairly recently, but it has been lovely to make your acquaintance – long may you continue blogging ❤

    • Thank you! I took a few minutes early this morning to visit your blog, which feels like an island of calm and sanity amid the stresses of life. Over the years I have sometimes been the butt of jokes for my compulsive drive to “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” and my love of finding ways to re-purpose and recycle. So I am very happy to know about your blog too, even though I wish I had far more time to explore it. But just knowing it’s there is a comfort. Whenever I get agitated at seeing the huge piles of stuff sitting on the sidewalks every trash pickup day, I can flee to your blog and realize that there are many of us — and more every day, I think — who are determined to call a halt to excessive consumption, beginning in our own homes. I’m sending you a gift of some virtual yarn as a thank-you for the inspiration, and to spark your creativity!

  2. Cherie

    Julia, you have been such a comfort in my life since Ron first became ill over a year ago. I pray a word of thanks everyday for your friendship. May you have many more posts. It has definitely defeated despair in my life. God Bless You and Yours! Love, Cherie

    • Cherie, thanks so much for your kind words. Your support here has meant more than I can say. I think of you often and keep you and Ron in my prayers. I appreciate your sharing “love and light” with us here and at UR! I’m reflecting it right back to you. ❤

  3. Good morning, Julia! Wow, 800 posts! I hadn’t been counting, but I know that you and Defeat Despair have had an important positive impact on my life and have influenced me to strive toward encouraging and supportive communication as a conscious choice. You draw out the eternal in the tangible dailies of our lives, and for this I feel especially blessed. Thank you!
    I’m also very grateful to your friends, family and other readers who have posted such profound or whimsical or wonderful things on this site.
    I’m just captivated by the photo of Tracy Caldwell Dyson. I remember wanting to be an astronaut when I was younger. I’m so happy for her! 😀

    • Susan, thanks so much for your kind words and support, which have meant so much to me. I too fell in love with that beautiful self-portrait by Dyson. I just knew I would have to include it with this post and Ashleigh’s quote. I was energized just looking at it, and proud to see such a young woman in SPACE! I never wanted to be an astronaut myself — I found the idea of it TERRIFYING, especially during the Gemini years, when tales of the Mercury astronauts who had “the right stuff” to be able to fly into space all alone filled me with equal parts amazement, awe and admiration. And one of my favorite memories is of hearing Borman, Anders and Lovell take turns reading aloud from Genesis on Christmas Eve 1968, while seeing those amazing photos of our own planet sent back from space. To this day, just thinking about it gives me chills! WOW, I’m so glad I did not miss that part of history!

  4. Ann Weldon

    Hi Julia,
    Wow, I feel like we’ve both accomplished alot! You’ve written so much, share wonderful photographs and quotes, And shared your thoughts & family with us. I’ve read all of your blog entries and sometimes search the archives for a special one! I feel like I know you and your family, your neighborhood, and Pasha. Thanks for sharing with us.

    P.S. Now if I could just learn how to turn off the automatic spell changing feature😀

    • Thank you Ann, your presence here and support have meant so much. Your name was one of the ones in my mind when I realized I’d have to call a halt to the post before it got WAY, WAY too long…but I was thinking of you when I wrote it! Thanks, too, for remembering our sweet Pasha. It was two years ago tomorrow that he left us, but we still miss him so much.

      P.S. I didn’t even know there was an automatic spell changing feature in WordPress! If I knew where it was, I could tell you how to turn it off. Maybe Alys knows. My big beef with the commenting is that I often write one of my typically L-O-N-G comments only to have it “vaporize” before I send it — still haven’t figured out why that happens; perhaps its some cosmic sign that I need to BE QUIET ALREADY!! 😀 😀 😀

  5. Good Monday morning, my friend, Julia. I can honestly say that Defeat Despair, along with your friendship, has been a “learning experience”. It’s been a different way (of sorts) for me to get to know someone, to share thoughts and prayers, tears and laughter. Just last week when I was in the Piggly Wiggly grocery store, I was buying BUTTER BEANS and thought of you. That happens often and happily! 😃👭😍 So many special people have come together here from Upper Room and enjoyed words, photos, and various encouragements. Congratulations on reaching your 800th post. Always your friend, Sheila 🙏

    • Sheila, just hearing the words “Piggly Wiggly” brings a smile to my face! And that was even before you mentioned the butter beans! Thank you so much for being here. Among many, many wonderful and supportive people in this online community, I believe that you get the prize for being the most consistent and steadfast reader; you’ve been in touch with me pretty much daily for the two years I was posting daily, and twice weekly (or more) since then — I don’t know anyone else who doesn’t live with me who could make that claim! I am forever grateful, though those words don’t begin to cover it. ❤ ❤ ❤

      • Good morning with a little “funny” for you from Walter. He is ready to take on this day, actually at 6:30. 🐥 I was almost awake when I heard his loud pleading from the Florida room…. “Move me!”, his call to join society (or at least our household). ☕️ I’m just going to match his enthusiasm for this beautiful day. How about you? Gives new meaning to EARLY BIRD, haha! Hi to Jeff and Matt. She

        • Sheila, I think Walter must have had radar pointed my way this morning; I had a harder time than usual waking up! So I re-set the clock to get up at 6:35 and Walter must have been worried I wasn’t going to get up in time, hee-hee. Seriously, that cracks me up that he was eager to get on with the day. I’m trying to learn to be an early bird, but I’ll never catch Jeff (or Walter!). Hope you guys have a beautiful day. After a rainy start, it’s now sunny here, but a bit cooler than it has been on some days, so I can’t complain.

          • Sheila


  6. Julia, congratulations! I can truthfully announce to all your devoted readers that meeting you in person was even better than meeting you through reading your posts! I came away totally enamoured by your strength, humour, vitality and depth!! 🙂 Much love to you and your amazing fellows! xoxo

    • Awww, thank you Pauline, you are so kind and generous. It was a dream come true to have you sitting in my kitchen sipping tea and chatting. The time passed all too quickly but the memories will be ours always. Thanks for being here!

  7. raynard

    Julia glad ” I wasnt trying to stay behind the scenes in The Witness Protection Program. I digress.The lemon lime cake was the last one for June. With one BBQ canceled , the pressure is off to make only one cake.Let me finally let the cat out of the bag.. lol Between now and September, ” I spun The Wheel of Fortune/ The Price is Right and picked out” 3 people to mail cakes to.. To show my gratitude and appreciation of their support and friendship, your name came up first. When you get a moment, send me a email and” no I dont make ” everything but the Kitchen sink cakes or” the one they made on The Little Rascals T.V Show from the 1930’s lol Be blessed

    • WOW, I hardly ever win anything; maybe this means my luck is changing. I will send you the details. I may drop a few hints about buttercream frosting chocolate making sure we will be home when it arrives. 😀 Hope you have a great week and rest up with the pressure off for awhile.

  8. Congrats on 800 posts, Julia. VERY impressive. I’ve been blogging 4 years almost and only at just over 160. I’m glad I found my way here though I don’t get here often enough. You are a strong woman and I know how much the blogging community helps. Here’s to 800 more. 🙂

    • Thank you, Marlene! I have enjoyed your visits here tremendously. Thanks for joining us!

  9. Judy in Pennsylvania

    When you began sharing your thoughts on this blog, you probably never envisioned doing 800 posts. That’s a lot of writing and looking for just the right photo to go with each piece! Or maybe sometimes it starts with looking at a photo and having it inspire you to write. I love the way your pictures and writings always fit together and enhance one another. It all seems to flow naturally from you in such a beautiful, uplifting way. You have a talent that’s a true gift, and your posts are a wellspring of encouragement and insight to others, Julia. You’re a blessing, you really are. Thank you for sharing your life and your wisdom in all those posts, and may you continue to find joy and guidance for writing many more.

    • Judy, thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement. I’m happy you enjoy the posts. Sometimes they begin with a photo, sometimes with a quote. Since I’ve been blogging I keep little post-it flags nearby whenever I read, and I have books full of flagged quotes, more than I will ever be able to use. Likewise, when I’m out with my camera I often see something that I think would be fun to blog about, and it gives me incentive to get as good a shot as I can. It’s great because I end up with so much more awareness of interesting thoughts (I have to stop and consider each quote carefully before I write) and memorable sights (some of which I might miss if I wasn’t wired to be looking for things to share). So blogging has been very therapeutic for me, and if it has helped anyone else or made someone’s day brighter, that’s a wonderful reward for me. I really appreciate your support for us here. I’m so glad you found us!

  10. Wow! Congratulations on your 800th published post! 🙂

    • Thank you Timi! I’m so happy you found us here.

  11. Ann, South Carolina

    I was getting upset reading the morning news so I deliberately put down the newspaper and opened up your blog- always a place of solace and positive energy.

    • Thank you Ann! I know just what you mean about getting distressed over the news. They seem always to manage to put a negative spin on things. I think they have figured out that worried or frightened people will keep coming back for more, looking for reassurance in all the wrong places. If you are able to find positive energy here, that is a great compliment that makes my day! I appreciate your presence here!

  12. tpeastin

    Bravo, Julia, for your 800th post! Though I seldom comment, your blog is part of my weekly rhythm on Monday and Thursday (and often on Tuesday and Friday when I check the comments). I appreciate your ability to express your thoughts in writing and your willingness to allow your readers to have a glimpse into your thoughts and your life…and I certainly enjoy your photos, captions, and quotes. May God bless you and keep you encouraged!!! Love, Pat

    • Thank you Pat! I always enjoy your comments, and have been so grateful for your letters and gifts too. You are often in my thoughts, especially when I see a quote that you might like or appreciate. Even when you do not comment, I see your Gravatar on the bottom of the blog telling me “Pat was here!” and it lifts my spirits. Blessings and love to you too – hope all is well in your world.

  13. Congratulations, Julia! I’m so glad you started a blog, as we would not likely have crossed paths otherwise. I owe a big thank you to Boomdee to introducing you. The rest has been a beautiful history in the making. Thinking of you today and always.

    • Alys, Boomdee has a gift for bringing people together…I have “met” so many people through her, including all of those who came to visit in April. I think of you too; in fact, I have had a note card lying on my desk for over a week now, intending to send it to you!! It will get there eventually… 🙂 Till then it’s nice to visit here.

      • Boomdee does have that gift. Aren’t we lucky?! I will look forward to your card any time you send it. I enjoy simply knowing it is there.


        • Well, I’ll try not to spill any tea on it before it gets sent. It was originally meant to be a thank-you card for the sweet package you sent, but it feels WAY too late for just that, so I’ll try to make it a multipurpose “thinking of you” card. 🙂 Thanks for your patience.

          • Julia, you are so cute. A splash of tea wouldn’t be so bad. It would tell me that you are enjoying two pursuits: writing lovely notes and drinking tea. While you’re at it, take it outside and let some rainfall on the envelope seal. 😉

            • Great idea! It’s rained at least a little each day for the past several days, so it should be easy to do.

          • I loved your card and all those wonderful teabags! What a clever way to package them. Mike picked it up off the counter and thought it was a craft project. 🙂 I assured him that it was all for drinking and he promptly brewed me a cup. xox

            • Oh, good! I’m glad you got them. Let me know if there are any you especially like and I’ll send some more. ❤

              • Thank you, Julia. You are so sweet. I’m heading to our local tea store in another week or two. Is there anything interesting you would like me to get for you?

                • Just do some virtual shopping for me, which consists of looking at lots of different varieties, enjoying the aromas and feeling happy about how fortunate we are to have such abundance available to us. If you decide to try anything new, you can also send me a review! 🙂

  14. Julia, I went to our Verandah for July and loved the Bar Harbor porch. I thought about all that beauty and a tea company, too! I would love to go there someday, but for now I’ll settle for the “porch version”! 😉

    • Sheila, when I turned over the calendar page today I got a delightful surprise! You probably recall how much I love Bar Harbor. Maybe we can meet there sometime! 😀 But for now we’ll just meet there via Club Verandah. I could just feel that cool breeze washing over me. As it happens, today I’m serving some Northern Lights Maple Strawberry tea, which is the first flavor I really fell for many years ago when Jeff brought me back a tin of it from a business trip to Montreal. They sell it in Bar Harbor too. (They have no idea I am endorsing their product. 😀 )

  15. Megan

    800 posts to defeat despair! I think it has worked! And what a lovely tribute to your readers!

    • Aw, thanks Megan. Grady has been a great inspiration! 🙂 ❤

  16. Julia,
    Congrats on the 800th!

    • Thank you, Alan! I’m so happy to have you here with us.

  17. Michael

    Congrats on 800th post. I have been busy doing applications for Atlanta positions. My son started a lawn mowing business around Canton and I went a couple of days and ran the edger machine. When it comes to manual labor, well- “I ain’t no spring chicken,.” as my grandma used to say. I may have to move down there and help him out a little. Housing seems quite reasonable there compared to Seattle area- and I think rents are also affordable.
    Yesterday it was actually hotter in Seattle than Atlanta. -92 degrees here. Steamy Seattle rather than Hotlanta. Wow 800 – I am wondering what I have done 800 of? Maybe chili-dogs.
    I did send in another little ditty for the Upper Room that other day, Yesterdays post was very nice, I thought, about the intertwining Live Oak trees and how the tree roots connects and share nutrients for mutual support- an ideal for the church community.
    My friend in Atlanta is a hospice chaplain with Cross roads hospice. His wife is the pastor of St. Mark United Methodist downtown. Nice people. Mark does a lot of writing about hospice on the Crossroads website.

    • Michael, I think it would be great if you moved to Atlanta. You know I think it’s a wonderful town.

      As for the yard work, Jeff feels your pain there. (I have never done any real yard work aside from weeding, which I love, although I have asked Jeff to show me how to use the edger. I can count on one hand the times I’ve mowed the grass, and at least three of them were in Hawaii, where our yards were tiny — I had to mow while Jeff was off playing MASH in Texas for 6 weeks, learning to do combat casualty treatment. Other than that, he’s always taken care of it; he says he likes it, though he’s reluctantly had to use a lawn service the past 2 years.

      WOW, something seems seriously off when Seattle is hotter than Atlanta. I am guessing people there could hardly stand it.

      Thanks for telling me about that devotional at UR. I agree that it was quite a good analogy. The Live Oak is the state tree of Georgia, but I never realized that about the root structures being interlaced. I do know from watching the very tall tree fall here several years ago that a weakened root structure can be very risky. The tree that fell across our lot and damaged our fence was on the other side of the creek bank, where the soil had eroded away from the root. One morning after a heavy rain the previous night, it just keeled over with a loud BOOM and I happened to be standing at the sink when it fell — an amazing sight, and scary because I was afraid it might hit our house or garage, but luckily it did not. Interconnected roots might have saved it.

      I am not familiar with Crossroads hospice but I looked it up and it looks like a nice company. I hope you are able to find just the right position in Atlanta.

  18. Michael

    Another good analogy: weakened roots can destroy. And in the church community there are things that can affect the roots…
    Was not the movie filmed in New Orleans- “Midnight in the garden of good and Evil,” chock full of live oaks. Aren’t they the ones with the long strands of Spanish moss hanging down their trunks? I am sure I have seen these around Georgia, but not exactly sure I could identify. Have to get a book on Georgia trees. Of course some may have been covered by the Kudzu invaders.
    It is surprising the number of folks here who have or who are getting inside air-conditioners. We still have a bunch of fans going. People here don’t do heat that well -including my spouse.

    • Yes, and the scary thing is, we can’t see the roots to know whether they are being damaged. Live oaks in the deep south often have Spanish moss hanging from them (I remember being quite impressed with their beauty during a childhood trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia) but there are lots of them that don’t have the moss. If y’all take a gander at this here photo I found on eHow, you will see why Georgians love our Live Oak trees. They create lovely shade, too. Doing heat well is a learned skill. Y’all in Washington State need to brew you some iced tea. A rocking chair and a good old-fashioned funeral-parlor style handheld fan with a pretty photo on the back wouldn’t hurt either. Some of y’all will know exactly what I am talking about here.

  19. Michael

    The girls- Norah and Josephine- birthdays are only a week apart in September- so hope to go down then.

    • I hope you are able to be there! It will mean so much to them. Now and later, too.

  20. Michael

    Beautiful picture. We have some of these in Washington but they are tiny compared to the real ones. We do have a rain forest with some hanging moss on the Olympic Peninsula. I have been there once. Also our magnolias are tiny, but once in a while we see a big one. By the way, did you know the yellow magnolia was developed at Brooklyn Botanical garden, which I got to tour on our May visit. Hope to go there once again.
    They have sweet tea now at McDonalds in Seattle. Not bad, but not the “real thing,” like they used to say about Coke.
    My son also has a “Sweet gum” growing on the green belt behind his house. Supposed to have nice fall color.

    • Wow, I didn’t know that about the Magnolia. Someday I’d like to go to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. I really haven’t seen that much of Brooklyn; East New York, though it’s supposed to be nicer than it was in the late 70’s when I visited there, is still probably not a fair representation of the entire borough. We loved our short stay Fort Hamilton, right at the foot of the bridge.

      I don’t know how it is in Seattle, but the McDonald’s sweet tea here is more like syrup. I have to mix it with unsweetened tea to drink it at all. They should call it “extremely sweet tea.”

      I’m not that familiar with the Sweet Gum, but I love any tree with good fall color. Jeff and I want to get a pink dogwood to replace the Ironwood tree we had removed. The pink dogwood can look fabulous three seasons of the year.

  21. Michael

    Pink Dogwoods are awesome-“Cornus Kousa?” We have one that has been doing pretty well for the last 15 years.
    Right now the garden is spitting out zuchinni. Tonight we tried grilling them – not recommended, and earlier today I heard a recipe for a faux crab cake made with zucchini and Old Bay Seasoning. I have the link if anyone wants it. Planning to try this one out.

    • Michael, good luck with the faux crab cakes. Since I don’t eat the real thing, I could not tell you whether I thought that was a good idea or not! But I do know that the only way I like zuchinni is for it to be stir-fried hibachi style, with lots of seasonings and sprouts and bok choy and other such ingredients. Zuchinni doesn’t get much love as a vegetable, but they are apparently so easy to grow that any attempt to make them more palatable is an honorable pursuit. Plus they are said to be quite nutritious.

  22. Michael

    Have to try the stir fry thing, and Verie makes a tomato/zuchinni concoction that is very good.

    • Tomatoes might be able to redeem zuchinni. I have had vegetable soups with zuchinni and I manage not to pick them out, although I wouldn’t choose to put the in, either. The stir fry option is great, especially with lots of other tastier ingredients. The zuchinni doesn’t get mushy that way.

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