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!

This post was first published seven years ago today. Since that time, the British pen pal I mentioned, Sue, came to spend two wonderful weeks with me in late 2019, just before Covid hit the world. In that seven years I also met several of my readers in person. Susan has been to visit me several times. On one visit she went with Matt and me to celebrate Raynard’s birthday, with his wife Mary and dozens of his friends and family at the Shady Maple, a memory I now treasure. Another memory close to my heart is my visit to Judy and Stew and their sweet doggie in Pennsylvania. And those are just a few examples of the gifts this blog has given me.

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.


  1. You and Matt are loved and are Love!🏵🌸🏵. I cherish your words of comfort and peace and pray Good into your life, dear friend!☀❤☀

    • Cherie, thank you so much for your friendship and faithful presence here. What a long road we have traveled together so far! We so need and appreciate your prayers. ❤

  2. Judy

    I had to smile, even giggle, when I read your words about how your posts add up to several full length novels — and also would be the equivalent of an annual Christmas letter going all the way back to the Magna Carta! Wow, how little things add up as years go by. Add to that all the letters and emails you’ve surely written, and they make an amazing record of the insights and connections of one woman in her place and time. If some future historian puts it all together, it will be fascinating reading for people a few hundred years from now! Julia, you could have followers who won’t even be born for centuries 🙂

    • Judy, thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement. To be completely honest, the past nearly six years since Jeff’s death have found me clearing out and selling two different homes of many years, and cleaning out many, many belongings– and needing to clear out even more. These experiences have taught me that, at least in my own personal case, all these stored letters, writings and memories seem valuable only to me (now that Jeff is gone, since Matt’s autism means he can only really focus on the present moment– something that is not an altogether bad trait to have). Even so-called “valuable” possessions and keepsakes are not, as far as I can tell, anything that anyone will want when I’m gone. From conversations with other friends my age, I know this is not a situation unique to me. Though I still have a hard time parting with memorabilia, I have lost enough loved ones, and watched the disposition of their small or large estates, to know what becomes of what we leave behind.

      Having said all of that, I do find it amazing, the sheer bulk of what I’ve written over the years. I have no way of quantifying it, because so much of it has been lost in computer crashes and the aforementioned cleaning out. But I would estimate that I have written, in the form of letters, emails, essays and school work, easily 20 or 30 times as much as I’ve written on this blog, and likely even more than that. Back to my earliest report cards in first and second grate (which I recently found and re-read), teachers noted my tendency toward written expression. I’ve been writing almost as long as I’ve been reading. Though I am no author. I am most definitely a writer. And there are worse things to be in this life! 🙂 Here’s a quote I came across recently that seems particularly apt:

      “A writer’s occupation is one of the loneliest in the world, even if the loneliness is only an inner solitude and isolation, for that he must have at times if he is to be truly creative. And so I believe only the person who knows and is not afraid of loneliness should aspire to be a writer. But there are also rewards that are rich and peculiarly satisfying.”— Rachel Carson

  3. Mike

    Congratulations on post 800. Just got back from trip to Seattle and Aberdeen- to the cabin. Hey guess what? Got Covid in Seattle. So far just a bad for me. How is your recuperation going.? I have one more UR publication coming out in May-next edition. That will be my number three.

    • Mike, congratulations on your upcoming UR devotional! As for Covid, with only one or two exceptions related to pre-existing conditions, nobody I know personally got very sick with Covid. Some got the illness before vaccines were available (as did I) and others after being fully vaccinated and boosted, and some who refused to get the vaccine. All had pretty much the same experience, regardless of other issues such as being overweight, elderly. immunocompromised from recent chemotherapy, or whatever. I won’t go into the implications of this except to say that it’s pretty eye-opening in terms of human arrogance about what we know and don’t know (which is often cited as “science” — when it is convenient to do so), and how easily people are controlled and manipulated by fear.

  4. mike

    Angeloninas (sp) are heat loving plants that are supposed to do well here. I don’t really know them.? I have developed a relationship with the plant supplier here at Holly Springs Wallmary. Mary and she is a distributor for Metrolina nurseries out of North Carolina. She asked me if i wanted to work for her. No thanks.
    I grow so tired of shootings in Metro area Atlanta. When we came home here and turned on the Tellie- the first things mentioned was -another drive by shooting on 285. I am now chicken even to venture into downtown Atlanta. Yesterday an employee was killed at a Subway over a customer’s order and her coworker -also shot- is in the ICU.

    • Mike, there’s a lot– a whole lot, actually– that I could say about this, but I don’t think it would accomplish anything. Suffice it to say that I grew up in a very different Atlanta, with very different standards and a much safer downtown, where I went freely and without fear day and night. My heart breaks for Atlanta and other once-beautiful cities — such as SFO, MSP, NYC…Progress? Not in my book.

      • And yes, even in those long-ago days, the mayor and other top politicians in Atlanta were Black. I even met some of them in person when I was a student. Hosea Williams, Mary Welcome, etc. and Maynard Jackson (whose stepdaughter I waited on at Rich’s) was mayor. It was in those years, Atlanta set the example of peace, a legacy from Dr. King that is sadly forgotten.

  5. Sheila

    Julia, congratulations are in order again❣️ 800 plus is a huge accomplishment, filled with your word of wisdom and hope and encouragement. Whether I get to comment regularly anymore, I think of you every day and know there’s only one Julia that comes to mind when I long for a porch visit and a refreshing sweet tea! We are forever close in our own special way! Love crosses the miles because the road to a friend’s house is never long♥️

    • The actual number when I stopped writing new posts (as you know) is over 1100! So there will be quite a few for me to re-post before I have to decide whether to keep this blog online. I so appreciate your thinking of me. You have been a ray of sunshine in my life, and in those early years, your daily encouragement was a rare and precious gift.

  6. Good morning, Julia!
    I love this post, the associated photo, and the update!
    I am smiling from ear to ear! Thank you so much for picking up your pen (or computer, I guess) and starting this long and amazing journey!

    • Thank you, Susan! “What a long strange trip it’s been.” 😀

  7. mike c

    It is a very different world we live in.And country. My younger son and several friends kids are seriously looking at emigrating to other countries. If i was younger i would probably go with. I should have stayed in Australia, back in 94.”Yes- i imagine you could have a few things to say about Atlanta. I was driving to AMC for hospice patients on occasion, but now refuse to go there. ‘

    • Mike, my sister and I half-jokingly talked of moving to Australia, but I know I will probably never leave the USA. “Never say never” but I still love my country, even when I don’t like the direction it’s headed…

  8. mike c

    if there is a web site you think i should check out. let me know. I trust your recuperation is going well.? My son listens to the Van Hessler radio show. Have you heard of the “Red Clay” podcast? I am still playing in the worship band at Hickory Flat UMC at the early Service 9.am. They put the recordings on UTube if you want to check it out.

    • Mike, I don’t think I ever knew about that band…or if so, I’ve forgotten– something I’m doing more and more often lately. What instrument do you play?

  9. mike c

    Was it the 96 Olympics that changed Atlanta for good.? I watched the movie about the bombing and the miss accusations against the security guard whose name now escapes me.

    • No, in my opinion that was one of many steps in the wrong direction. I haven’t seen the movie but it was a shame what happened to Mr. Jewell.

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