Saturday, December 31, 2022

Sharing Our Stories: 2022 End of Year Favorite Photos

Some years I revisit the photos that I've taken and create a top pics of the year post.You may recognize some of the pictures from sharing on previous blog posts, but these are the photos that capture the joy of the past year in nature. No photos of people, just photos that bring the joy of particular places and seasons close to my heart. I hope you'll enjoy this brief journey through 2022 with 22 of my favorite photos.

 Goodbye to Mercer Island, home for 25 years
View from vacation house in Chimacum, WA 
where we celebrated 40th wedding anniversary
with our children and grandchildren

Sunrise in Kirkland from bedroom window
 Kirkland sunset
Fall at our Kirkland home

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Slice of Life: It's a Process!

Today was not a snow day in the traditional sense. Kids and teachers had to go to school. We had snow flurries all day, but not much accumulation. This retired teacher had a busier than usual day. Daughter came over to pull out the Christmas decorations. Our smaller home means less space. So it's only the "dearly loved" that make the cut. And I realize that more donations need to be made, even though I thought I'd done a good job downsizing the decorations before the move. I remind myself, "It's a process."

When the grand boys returned to their house, they played outside in the snow. Morning play was met with wet pants and underwear, so they opted for their snow gear for afternoon play. And then big brother came home from school and it was time for more snow play until it was dark. Just ask my daughter, "Playing in the snow (even when there isn't much of it) can be an all-day process."

Tonight was book club. I didn't want to go out in the snow and several couldn't attend in person, so we opted for the pandemic model and had a Zoom book club meeting. It may not be optimal, but it allowed for the most participants to come. I'm getting to know a new group of book lovers in my new congregation. Making new friends is (you guessed it!) a process. But it's definitely easier with a shared interest.

I like making new discoveries at our new place. And today, I spied my own little Christmas tree in the back yard. It's been there all along, but it's a stand out star with a few flakes adorning its green needles. I'm learning to find the beauty in my new surroundings. "It's a process."

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Slice of Life: Friends Old and New

I opened Amy's invitation to write and found this quote: "I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new." -Ralph Waldo Emerson 

I have written less lately than I have in a long time. But an invitation to write about friends is an easy one. Friends keep me sane and make me laugh, friends help me remember (that's why we need old friends), and friends offer listening ears, helping hands, and comforting embraces.

We recently moved (just thirty minutes away) from where we lived for twenty-five years. It's hard to grow new friends. It's a quick drive back to visit my old friends and I do it often. 

But I'm beginning to discover new friends too. I'm grateful for the smiles I receive at church, the new friend who notices me sitting alone in Sunday School and joins me on an empty row, the new friend who sent me a text (after I asked for a ride to book club) "Looking forward to spending more time with you," the new friend who sat beside me and giggled during Sunday School as we decided that Psalms was written for senior citizens with its many admonitions about falling, the new friend who made time to ask how I'm settling in, a new friend who loves picture books as much as I do (I find myself tucking new finds into my church bag to share with her), and the easy camaraderie that came with my first book club meeting last week with new friends. 

And finally a note to my dear slicer friends. I've met a few of you in person. But we don't have to meet to be dear friends because of the connections we've shared through this community. However, there's a special feeling that comes when we embrace in person. Some of us won't be at NCTE, but we'll be thinking of those of you who will be there. So enjoy that slicer dinner and those occasional meet ups! I look forward to hearing from you next week as you share the joy that comes from finally attending another NCTE in person. 

I'm a firm believer in the song I learned as a Brownie scout: "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold." I love filling my life with friends. They are one of life's true treasures.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Finding the Holy

Fran Haley is hosting our gathering today on the theme of holy. Her post reminded us that "...the holy is always there, like a luminous lifeline." The holy is not something to be reserved for Sundays or holy days, but surrounds us every day, if we slow down and pay attention. 

A favorite author of mine, Emily Belle Freeman, in her book Becoming His: A Daily Journey Toward Discipleship points out that becoming holy might ask us " lay aside the task we are focused on to look for the glory of God in the ordinary details of each day. We must learn to turn aside to witness the miracle in the midst of the mundane." She posits that it is in finding holy moments daily that we can become whole.

Thinking about the miracle in the midst of the mundane sent me in search of this favorite quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful;
for beauty is God’s handwriting—a wayside sacrament.
Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower,
and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.”

And I want to add, "welcome it in every brilliant fall leaf." I love the glory of God reflected in nature and I thank him as I drink in the glory of fall color that surrounds and blesses me. 

These words from Fran's post, "In the end, it is all a matter of opening the soul to seeing," reminded me of this quote from Emily Dickinson:

“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.”

Thanks, Fran, for this reminder to open our souls to seeing and welcoming the holy, blissful moments in our days. I know they are there if we look for them. Check out Fran's post at Lit Bits and Pieces where you can find links to more posts from SJT friends.


Here are a few pictures of beauty and holy moments I've captured, examples of
God's handwriting in my world. 


I welcomed these fair faces at my door this past week:

I'll be visiting these cuties this month!

This collection of fall color (I limited myself to seven) 

spans many years, but the last two 

were taken this year in our new neighborhood:

This final pic captures a holy moment last month
as Grandpa readies grandson for naptime:

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Slice of Life and Sharing Our Stories: Serendipity at the Mailbox!

An ordinary trip to the mailbox is transformed when a purple envelope greets me (mixed in with the junk mail and black and white of monthly bills). A sticker on the back of the envelope reveals the contents. My errands can wait! 

I sit in the car and tear open the envelope. This treasure was requested from the author by my son. He met Aubrey Hartman in college. He sent me a link to an interview she did with Mr. Schu on his blog Watch.Read.Connect.  I call my son back with terrible news. The novel is slated for publication on May 2, 2023. 

I ask my son to see if he can obtain an ARC (advance reader's copy) of the book. And the purple envelope is evidence of his success. I pull the book out of the envelope. It is wrapped in gold twine with a handwritten note from the author. 

The cover is stunning: a marvelous depiction of power (a girl riding a winged lion) and terror (a creature with ribbons of green hair, white-orb eyes, and sharp claws).

I carefully peel the sticker (a perfect facsimile of the book cover) from the envelope and press it to the back of the handwritten note. I have a bookmark that will make me smile each time I move it to a new spot in the book. 

I eagerly turn to Chapter 1:

"Far away but not long ago, there was a girl and a house.

The girl? Well, she was nothing special.

But the house . . . was magic."

And I am immediately drawn into the story of Penelope Woodlock aka Poppy, a lion named Sampson, a terrifying water nymph, and the magical Lark-Hayes Manor.

The author's bio on the back flap reveals that Aubrey Hartman, like Poppy, "believes in the kind of magic that's made up of powerful words and characters who curl up in your heart and stay and stay and stay." Welcome to a book that provides that perfect kind of magic! 

You may want to place your pre-order now (and be on the lookout at NCTE for an ARC). Order one for yourself and the middle grade readers in your life who will be entranced by the adventures and perils faced by Poppy and Sampson amidst the once-grand Lark-Hayes Manor.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Spiritual Journey Thursday: In Memory of

Better late than never. Chris provided the prompt for our Spiritual Thursday writing group this month: "In memory of..."

I'm not sure how I missed the first Thursday, but the weeks and months fly by ever more quickly the older I get. I love the theme Chris chose for our writing in October, so here I am - a week and two days late with my October post.

I am no stranger to loss and the grief that accompanies the loss of dear ones. My father died two days after my 25th birthday and my mother died just before my 36th birthday. My brother, Karl, and my sister, Velma, died in December of 2020. I have one surviving sister who is nine years older than I. We get together once a year and our favorite thing to do is to look at photos together and share stories. Memories are precious to our family 

Here's a poem I wrote eight years ago about memories and photos after a visit to California to visit my sister Kay (who now lives in Texas). We hadn't seen each other for almost two years (far too long). I attempted to capture our joy of being together and the special time we spent perusing an old photo album in this poem.

shoulder to shoulder
side by side
arms touching
hearts embracing

turning the pages
savoring black and white images
enticed by memories
of days long past
Places left behind
but not forgotten
loved ones gone
but still remembered
lovingly captured in time
-Ramona Behnke

Earlier this month, a church meeting closed with the hymn, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." I turned to my daughter and explained my tears. When I was newly graduated from college and preparing to leave for an 18 month mission to Hong Kong, this was the closing hymn at my farewell. Nothing unusual about that. But my brother Karl, 2 1/2 years older than me, broke into tears and sobbed as we sang this song. So when we sang it earlier this month, tears fell as I remembered that time 45 years ago and reflected on how much I miss my brother and long for the day when we'll meet again. He left a big hole in my heart and the hearts of all who love him.

You may not be aware that October is Family History month. This blog post of 31 Ways to Celebrate Family History Month reminds us that celebrating this month can be low pressure. There's no need to do something every day, just choose an activity that resonates with you. "As long as you do one thing this month to get to know your family history better or celebrate your own personal story, you can say you’ve officially celebrated Family History Month!"

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Sharing Our Stories and Poetry Friday: Goodbye Evergreen Lane

It's been awhile since I've written except for Spiritual Journey Thursday posts. Our summer was overfull with moving and getting settled in a new-to-us place (closer to daughter's family and only 30 minutes away from where we used to live). 


When I saw the SOS prompt for August: Say Hello or Goodbye, I knew I would need to write a goodbye post to the house we've lived in for 25 years. I made a final visit to our home on Wednesday so I could say goodbye. This is what tumbled out.  



Goodbye Evergreen Lane


Goodbye 25 years of memories on Mercer Island,


beginning with chants of “our house,” as we passed you on West Mercer


until our hoped for dream became a reality, and we moved in.


Our fifth and seventh grader ventured forth


to forge new friends in the Northwest.


Before we knew it, homecoming parades and Island Celebrations


and All Island Band nights became family traditions


and we found ourselves comfortably at home.


Far too soon our nest emptied as Blake and Sara


headed off to college and new adventures.


Days when they returned were the best - 


longed for, relished, and celebrated.


And then their spouses joined us around the table


for games and big breakfasts and laughter and love.


And then the longed for grandchildren arrived


to play with toys from their parents’ childhoods


to roam the bamboo trail on adventures with Grandpa


to bake cookies and read stories with Grandma


to bubble play and scooter time on the paving stones


to crank homemade ice cream in the summer


to the wintry delight of sliding down the snowy little hill.


Through it all we’ve loved you so.


Soon you won’t belong to us,


but our memories are rich 


and you will hold a forever place in our hearts. 


- Ramona Behnke

Friday, September 2, 2022

Spiritual Journey Thursday: How Do We Build Community?

Maureen is hosting our gathering this month with the topic of community.

I thought we might have written about community in the past, so I searched the term "community" on my blog.  Guess what? Almost every blog post I have written comes up in that search. Spiritual Journey Thursday friends are a community, Poetry Friday friends are a specific community who gather around poetry. Sharing Our Stories and Two Writing Teachers are other examples of writing communities that nurture my writing life. These communities are virtual communities (although I have met a few of you in person) and I cherish the friendships and community we share around our shared interests in writing, literacy, teaching, observing the beauty in our world, seeking for spiritual growth, and for some of us, being grandmas.

Spiritual Journey Thursday brings us together for a sacred pause each month to check in with our spiritual batteries. I love the insights that each member brings to our topic of the month. Our backgrounds are varied, but we share an interest and desire to strengthen our spiritual lives.

We moved from our home of 25 years in July. I feel bereft without that community of friends with whom I have shared so much. We moved 30 minutes away in order to be closer to daughter and son-in-law and the grand boys. And so we have a new church community and a new neighborhood. I'm working to be a builder, to reach out to create community in this new neighborhood and church congregation. 

I'm close enough to my old friends to make occasional trips there to stay connected. But I want to build community in my new setting. My niece, who also moved this summer, sent me this text on Sunday: "Yesterday was the first Sunday I started to feel 'at home' in my new ward (congregation). It's taken a lot of me being very chatty and friendly on Sundays." Wisdom from the upcoming generation! Community is created by being chatty and friendly. I'm hoping I remember that next Sunday.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Nurturning our Summer Souls

I totally planned to write this post on Thursday. We had a carpet cleaner coming to our old house and I was looking forward to some time to write and think. Well, by the time I made a drop at the thrift store, stopped by the grocery store and returned home, the carpet cleaner was finished and so was my window of quiet. I did take some pics as I walked around our home of 25 years.

We're headed to a vacation house to celebrate our 40th anniversary with our son's and our daughter's families: with six littles six years and under. It promises to be an adventure, filled with fun memories and happy times together. Little did we know when we planned this trip, that we would be moving just three weeks prior to the trip. 

 Come stroll with me around our soon-to-be-sold home:


Daughter brought taco salad and we dined outside last week with these very important guests who now live six minutes away.

We drove to Chimicum this week and discovered a story walk in one of the parks. When you walk back, there's a second story on the reverse side. I can't wait to read and experience it with the grands this week.

One of my favorite summertime activities is reading outside. An article in last week's NYT book review spotlighted summer readers around the country, including a ferry rider in Seattle.

My summer reading's been sparse this year, but I finished and enjoyed this memoir for my online book club.
I picked this delightful children's book up from the library holds shelf this week.

And I started this one while sitting in the cell phone lot
waiting for the arrival of our son and his family.
Doesn't everyone love to read a Christmas story in August?
Here's hoping you find moments to treasure and nurture your summer soul 
in the middle of your busy summer!