At this time and this place

Late spring is lovely here, as the cherry blossoms give way to azaleas. May 2016

Late spring is lovely here, as the cherry blossoms give way to azaleas. May 2016

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”Azar Nafisi

Now that Jeff is retired, we can sell our Alexandria townhome and take up a less peripatetic existence in York County.  That’s what we plan to do, gradually, but letting go of our part-time home here is more difficult than we imagined it might be.

Strange, really. One could argue that we should be eager to leave. We’ve had the most difficult years of our lives here; one heartbreak after another, devastating news followed by medical trauma followed by losses of loved ones and shattered illusions of permanence and security.

Yet there has been so much beauty too, and even joy.  Our two grandsons came to life during this time, as did this blog.  We’ve somehow survived more than we dreamed was in store for us, and managed to salvage countless moments of light happiness and laughter tucked in between the dreary days, glowing like tiny lighthouses, showing us that there really was shelter in the storm.

We’ve been so grateful for our kind and considerate neighbors here, and their delightful children and precious dogs and cats, and the lovely cherry blossoms and blooming gardens that somehow flourish in the crowded residential areas so close to a huge city.  We’re thankful, too, for the friendships that have blossomed amid the chaos, and the ties that have been formed or renewed as people who care about us have enclosed us in a cocoon of compassion, prayers, and warm expressions of support.

Just as one can never step in the same river twice, no person or place can stay the same. Change is inevitable.  The best we can hope for is accompanying growth, fond memories and bright new opportunities.  Whenever we look back on our time here, I know we might wonder how on earth we managed to endure much of what the years brought.  But we’ll smile, too, thinking of all the blessings. Thanks to each of you for being among them!

Even when we are not planning an upcoming move from one location to another, all of us are continually leaving behind the past and moving into new phases of life.  What will you miss about this time and place?  What will you hold close in heart today, as you savor each moment?


  1. Good morning, Julia! Once again, you’ve challenged my perspective and turned me on my head (thank you; I needed that)!
    I had been missing New Hampshire terribly, and this place I’ve come “home” to doesn’t feel like “home” so much now. But you know, there’s a small terraced garden where I can grow herbs, and I think I can make a cute sunset-watching spot, once I get rid of all the buckthorn that grew in while I was gone….

    • Susan, I can imagine that you must really be missing NH. I think the first year away from someplace is the hardest. In the military lifestyle I learned that one can never go back, so it’s best to think of going again. It can be tough to look at a familiar place with Beginner’s Mind, but I think if we master it, it can give us the best of both worlds: a new experience with less of the jarring adjustment that goes with a totally new place. I can identify with needing to get rid of overgrowth; I noticed last time we were in York Co. that the azaleas are more overgrown than I thought azaleas could get! I need to get in there with some good pruning shears before the “bloom agains” are ready to set new blooms. Not that I know what I’m doing, but nature is resilient, for which I’m thankful.

      • Thank you for another gem, Julia! That looking “at a familiar place with a Beginner’s Mind” is a really good concept for me to practice. This isn’t the house that I bought 20 years ago, but after a couple of hours working in the yard last night, I think I can see potential!

        • Susan, I’ll bet you will have that place looking like a work of art soon…or if not quite that good, at least cozy and unique. Beginner’s Mind can make anything an adventure. So I keep telling myself, anyway…

  2. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia. ☕️ My week just got better, as I read such a lovely post, not once but twice. As the rivers flow, so is life ever changing. I’ve often thought how the ocean waves meet the shore only once. One wave might deliver gifts of shells, while just as quickly another wave could sweep them away! 🐚 🌊 🏖 🐚 So now there is Baby Owen? 💙 Please give hugs to all and congratulations certainly to Drew, upon graduation.

    • Sheila, how true about the shells! In fact, that was a bit of a challenge when I was shelling in Captiva; if I saw something wash up, I knew I needed to get there before the next wave did! I never thought about every wave being new, but so they are. Yes, baby Owen is here, though he was not yet born at the time this post published. I had written it in advance, as usual, and had to go back and change “were born” to “came to life” which seemed technically more accurate. According to Megan, Owen has been kicking around for months (much more active than Grady was) so I figured it was safe to say he had come to life, even if he didn’t get here until yesterday afternoon. At 10 lb. 1 oz., I’m glad he was only 4 days late!

  3. Carolyn

    We are on our way to the mountains . Love the pretty picture of the flowers. Ours were very pretty this year. Send another note later. Hugs and love to all.

    • Carolyn, have a good time! Enjoy those lovely views for me. Love and hugs to you too!

  4. Barbara Seibel

    Wow what great thoughts putting it in perspective. I have been in a state of change for the past 18 months and am glad to leave some things behind and must cherish memories of some dear loved ones and I still have no idea where this will end. Saying goodbye and leaving the comfortable is so hard when moving. But the level depends on where you are heading and who is with you I think.

    • Barbara, change is so hard. It’s difficult enough when the changes are those we’ve chosen, as they say even happy events are stressful. But when the changes come to us against our will or disrupt other plans we had for our life, it’s tremendously difficult. Looking back over the past few years, it seems as if it has been one unwanted change after another for Jeff and me; one long series of things to get used to living with. But when I take the time to think on it, I realize not everything has been bad or unwanted. And you’re right, there are always those things we will be happy NOT to miss! “I still have no idea where this will end.” Wow, I can identify. But in the final analysis, there are really only two groups of people: those who already realize they have no idea what is to come, and those who will be finding that out eventually, or maybe sooner. I’m sending you warm thoughts and prayers that the coming weeks are kind to you!

  5. Carol Hoyos

    Dear Julia,
    Two grandsons? I only know of Grady birth some nearly 3 years ago. What have I missed? 🙄
    Oh how timely your message has been today. It was five years ago today that our mother died and just last week we closed on the house that we had lived in for 17 years….we’ve downsized. Talk about moving on, I should say so! The house was a blessing to finally get sold but the anniversary of Mom’s death is like a juggernaut pulling me back to the past. There are still tears and “if only’s” on my part. I realize this too shall pass and we will move on. On the positive side my sisters and I have become much closer and each other’s support that we could find nowhere else. I’m ashamed to say we used to communicate with each other through Mom but now through text, emails and phone calls we have a three way conversation going almost daily. What a blessing‼️ So thank you Julia and God bless us all! ch

    • Carol, you are just in time, you haven’t missed anything! Owen Ramon was born yesterday afternoon, only four days late, weighing in at 10 lb. 1 oz., 21 inches long. I had written this post in advance, as I always do, and was expecting him to be here before it came out, but he decided to wait a bit longer. Grady is now officially a big brother, though he’s been wearing his “I’m a Big Brother” t-shirt for months now. Jeff and I are eager to see our new grandson but given Jeff’s medical treatments, it’s hard to know when we will be able to get to Atlanta.

      Congratulations on the sale of your home; a bittersweet moment, I’m sure. I can imagine that the anniversary of your mother’s death does pull at you. I am really happy to learn that it has drawn you and your sisters closer; so many times, a parent’s death has the opposite effect. No shame in communicating through Mom; I think almost all of us do that, in part because Moms are usually so happy to play the role of info maven where the family is concerned. But it’s good that you have transitioned to direct contact; it really is a blessing. Thanks for being here and sharing your thought with us. It helps to know how truly universal these human experiences are.

  6. You are speaking my language, Julia. I like that word, peripatetic. I’ve never used it before but it’s been the pretty much the story of my life as well. I don’t plan to leave here anytime soon, but I know the universe may have other ideas so I relish each day. I still kind of miss my apartment for the simplicity of it. No one stayed there very long so neighbors were not the draw. I’m sure the packing and moving will be quite a drain on you as well as leaving behind neighbors and memories. I’m sure you have documented it all well with photographs. Still keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers. Giant happy hugs.

    • Thank you Marlene! Some of us just seem hardwired to enjoy moving about more than others of us do. As much as I always loved adventure, though, it was hard to leave each and every home we ever lived in. In Hawaii it was a bit easier because I missed the mainland and was eager to get back, but even there I felt a lot of emotion at saying goodbye. Moving around does instill the wisdom to “relish each day” just as you say. Thanks for the giant happy hugs — we can never get enough of those!

  7. Good Morning Julia. !!! I’ve missed your wonderful announcement somehow and only just now have realized your new grand baby has arrived. Well dang! That’s so wonderful, congratulations to everyone. Have you been able to spend time together? I must follow my way back this AM. I’m sorry to have been absent for the big announcement. Generous virtual hugs all around xo k
    Your adopted community looks beautiful these days. We’re just at the tail end of Lilac season here. Since we live in an older community, giant lilac trees are around every corner and they smell fantastic. It’s breezy and cool this morning and we’re finally going to get some much needed rain.
    I had never thought about ‘stepping in a river’ and how it’s always different. That’s so true and an interesting phrase. Is that a southern thing you say down there? I like it!
    Will you have to sell furniture and stuff? I’m sure I couldn’t manage two places. Two houses to clean, two yards to finesse, doubling down on groceries and household stuff as mundane as towels and bedsheets, that’s a lot ! It’s the intangible things that are missed I think. Comfortable friendships and I sometimes miss the feeling of looking out at the water and hearing boats in the distance. We’ve been very blessed but it’s time to make new memories. xo ❤ K

    • Good morning, K! I really confused everyone with that last post. I wrote it thinking Owen would be here by the time it published, but actually he just arrived yesterday afternoon, so you didn’t miss it — his pic is on my FB page. There are those virtual lilacs again! I can almost smell them from here. Ever since I told Marlene I was going to plant some, I haven’t found any for sale in the few times I’ve been able to get out. I guess everyone else got to them before I did. So I will just enjoy y’all’s.

      I wish I could say the phrase about the river was a Southern thing, but it’s actually a Middle Eastern thing — specifically Turkey — because it was supposedly said first by Heraclitus of Ephesus. Some people just have a way with words that last for centuries! As for the “two houses to clean” in my case, it’s been closer to “two house to not clean often enough.” I love what you say here: “We’ve been very blessed but it’s time to make new memories.” So true. Life itself teaches us (or in some cases, forces us) to move on, so we may as well put a positive spin on it. You are a champ at that and I love you for it. ❤

      • OM heavens! Welcome little Owen it is then! Fantastic news J. Twice the fun for you all. Young Mr Grady Denton must be over the moon. He’s such a smart little whip, he’ll probably be delivering the bedtime stories in no time. I’ll swing over to FB for a peek. Thanks for sharing your awesome news ❤
        I can't even imagine you're homes being anything but clean. As I recall everything being spotless. But I know how long it takes. Yesterday I had plans to tidy in the AM and garden in the PM. I never did get to the garden. How do just two of us make such a mess? Oh ya, I live with two extra hairy monsters…..errrr darlings. LOL

        BTW, I've learned to count my blessings by visiting you right here so thanks for showing me the way and your generous message xoxo Love you! K

        • K, I began to be very annoyed with housework (aka domestic duties) when I realized that the mess makes itself whether or not we contribute to it. Dust accumulates, insects infiltrate and spiders spin cobwebs, to name just a few of the things that happen without our contribution. So we may as well have a few furry friends around since at least they are so fun that they’re worth it, which is more than I can say about dust. 🙂

          By all accounts, Grady is delighted with Owen. You’re probably right about the bedtime stories. If they are anything like their father and uncle, there will be a lot of books in their lives. I’ll never forget the time I came home and found Drew reading aloud with Matt (as usual) and I asked “What are you guys reading?” and Drew said “The Iliad.” Major nerd alert!

          • The Iliad ?! What slackers, LOL. Is Owen a family members name? When I was little, we lived in a duplex and next door was a young guy named Owen. I remember thinking he was really cute, LOL. But I haven’t heard that name for ages. Sweet!

            • K, I have no idea where they got the name Owen. Nobody on either side of the family has that name. Of course the middle name, Ramon, is from Daddy. I do like the name Owen, though, and so far I think it fits him. Funny how names can seem to fit people, isn’t it? I knew a woman who looked so much like a “Sharon” to me that I called her “Sharon” almost every time I saw her, for years! Her real name was Kim and she looked nothing like anyone named Sharon that I had ever known. I explained to her that I didn’t know why I could not get it into my head her name was not Sharon. She was a sweet person and a good sport about it. I did the same thing to a guy we knew in Hawaii whose name was Doug; I had it in my head he was called “Mark” and that’s what I called him pretty much the whole three years we were there. So it’s a good thing Owen looks like Owen! 🙂

              • It’s funny how that works. How sweet for Grady to have a brother. Two boys means buying less cloths I think. Or maybe hand-me-downs are a thing of the past. I used to wear hand-me-downs even though they came from Kenny. I couldn’t really imagine what my name could be if not Kelly. It’s a pretty casual name. You’d probably not hear of a Princess Kelly or Her Royal Highness Kelly. You might not even know if you’re meeting a boy or a girl. So that’s me I guess, I don’t take myself to seriously. If I were named Elizabeth, I probably prefer Betty….like the girl next door in the Archies. Looking forward to some stories and photo’s of your little grandsons, maybe Owen needs his own page too? xo ❤

                • Where kids are concerned, hand-me-downs are not a thing of the past! In fact, we’ve already seen at least one photo of Owen wearing one of Grady’s onesies. I too wore hand-me-downs. Our parents’ friends who were like our second parents had two daughters who were spaced out exactly between my sister (the oldest of the four) and their younger daughter. So we would pass dressed down four times (in those days mostly all girls wore were dresses; pants were not allowed at school) and I would get them third hand. Interestingly, the youngest of the four of us was the first to marry, and both her sister and I wore the GORGEOUS dress she chose, when it came our turn to be brides. So even as a bride, by my own choice, I wore the dress chosen by Gina, who used to get the dresses I handed down to her (from third hand to fourth hand). Isn’t life fun? 🙂 I had the dress of my dreams and didn’t have to spend a cent on it. Wow, did I ever digress here…

                  There WAS a princess named Kelly, only it was her last name (Grace Kelly). Hey, you do sort of look like a Betty to me! I used to read the Archies too, and Betty was always my favorite. That Veronica got on my nerves big time. Archie had no sense. He was more of a jughead than Jughead.

                  • I agree about that Veronica, she was a real pill wasn’t she? I was also an Archie reader, then moved on to Tiger Beat, ha!. Back then, they were filled with Donny Osmond, Michael Jackson and the Bay City Rollers (LOL remember them?) I used to buy their records too. So affordable back when. I was such a groupie. I had the Donny Osmond posters that came inside the records, hung around my room. I was sure that, if only he and I could meet, he’d want to marry me, LOL.
                    I loved your story about hand-me-downs and your choice of wedding dress. That’s awesome that you were all able to wear it and all loved it. I’m sure it rarely happens that way. I was 27 the first time I married and wore a cocktail length light pink dress I had sewn for me from a butterick pattern. The second time I married, I also had a dress sewn for me. both were under $150 and much simpler than what you see in bridal shops.
                    Oh yes, Grace Kelly! I hadn’t thought of her. Wasn’t she lovely? xox K

                    • Tiger Beat! I totally forgot about that until you mentioned it. I read it too, but in my day it was mostly the Monkees, Herman’s Hermits, and Paul Revere and the Raiders who were the teeny-bopper heartthrobs. Mark Lindsay (of the Raiders) was the big crush for most girls, though I was crazier about Mike or Mickey of the Monkees. My sister and I made a scrapbook of the Monkees. I still listen to some of their old songs, especially Pleasant Valley Sunday or The Door Into Summer. I just read that they (two of them anyway, Mickey and Peter) are having a revival in popularity. How funny! Donny O was past my time and I could never understand his appeal, but plenty of other girls certainly did. I thought it was so cool that Susan Boyle got to meet him in person after he heard she used to have a crush on him when she was a girl!

                      I used to love Butterick patterns. I always thought they were the most stylish except for Vogue, which were too hard for me. Fortunately my Mama was a whiz at sewing those Vogue designer patterns. It was very hard for me to get used to buying dresses in stores after all those years of getting to custom design and custom fit my clothes. Mama could make anything I dreamed up.

  8. Amy

    Hi Sweetie, We just came back late yesterday from our graduation/lake adventure so I have not been looking at FB or e mail for several days. Glad to hear Owen has finally arrived. I can see from several posts that Jeff is doing OK but is tired from the radiation. How are you? How is Matt? I have prayed for you constantly hoping for the best. I know you are ready to make the move to York county but I will miss you. We don’t get together as often as we aught or as often as we had hoped when you first knew you were coming up here and I know it will be even less when you make your move.

    It was lovely to see Aaron graduate. He was a joy for my mom and sister to be around an a balm to their souls which as you know are grieving. It made me sad for the moment we were in and for the future unknown but excited too.

    I came home with a terrible cold. It was the only bad part of our trip. I plan to rest and drink LOADS of tea until I feel better. Give my love to Jeff and Matt. I will call you as soon as I get my voice back and you can catch me up. I love you. A

    • Amy, so glad the trip went well, and that your Mom and sister got some time with A. He’s the sort who is a joy to be around. Do I just see him at all the right times, or is he a pretty cheery person all the time? Hope this finds you mostly over your cold. We are all OK, surviving day to day really. I’ve been gobsmacked by the amount of work involved in this PhD program from day 1 (it started May 9) but in a good way; it’s been a nice distraction for me. Jeff is tired of hearing about John Locke, but other than that he seems happy to have me back in school. But now that I’m having to do ALL the driving, it does put a real time crunch on me. I’ll give you more details whenever we get a chance to talk. Love you!

  9. LB

    Julia, you are the most gracious of women, and a writer, too.
    Is the house on the market?
    How’s that new grandbaby? I’m so glad you have a sweet new baby to love on and to provide big doses of happiness. New memories indeed ❤

    • Hi LB, thanks for your generous words! Oh no, we are a long ways from putting the house on the market. We are still trying to prepare for doing that on an emotional level, but since Jeff’s taking daily radiation and almost certainly going to need further chemo (his CEA, inexplicably, INCREASED by 25 points after the brain tumor was removed; it’s now up to 108, almost twice what it was when he was first diagnosed) we are likely to need the NoVa home for at least some part of every week for several months to come. Right now we are taking things a day or at most a week at a time, while still keeping an eye on the next phase and trying to prepare for it.

      Owen is such a joy, even though we haven’t yet met him! Drew describes him as “a gentle giant” who has been agreeable and calm so far. We hope to find a way to see him and the rest of his family soon.

  10. Julia,
    Your wonderful post only confirms that anything from God can’t help but be good. For only good can come from goodness. Once we look beyond our trials we can see the beauty of the good in our surroundings. I’ve left behind some 56 years of my life and all that was contained there in; the joys and the sorrows. Yet although separated from that home some ten years now I not only hold in my heart all its goodness, but have found goodness where I now reside. For wherever I go, God and His goodness are with me.

    • Thank you Alan. Even though I know how true your words are, it always helps to hear them from someone else. It’s tough some days to see past the trials, but years of experience teach us the truths you describe. Even when I can’t see the beauty or wonder or joy in the sad moments I know it will be there for eventually. I know God is there even during times when it is less obvious, and I know God does stunning things, often when we least expect it. Hope you are enjoying a good week this week!

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