Words of Encouragement for 2014

Winter at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

Winter at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

Holley Gerth, author of “You’re Made For a God Sized Dream” has a 2014 Encouragement Challenge going on. For the first week, she’s thrown out the question:

What encouraging words do you want the people you care about
to hear as they begin a new year?

You know what I want to remind each and every one of you, my readers and friends?  When times are tough and discouragement is high, remember. . . it doesn’t last forever.

Either it ends, and things go back to normal.

Sometimes it ends with a new normal that is different than the old normal.

And sometimes, you have to get used to this is the way it is and it will never go back to what it was.  You can be miserable grasping at what you can’t have or you learn to be content and grateful where you are at.  I know this is similar to the one above, but the new normal is a change that after an adjustment, is doable and acceptable.  This is more of a devastation that will never go away and all you can do is grieve it and move on.

Now what I’m sharing here is Nancy’s observations.  It’s lessons from my life, not anything special from a book or an advanced education (other than my very advanced degree in the school of hard knocks) and it’s certainly not vetted by the supposed experts who supposedly know more than I do how to live a life.  No, I’m sharing what I’ve done in my life.

So sometimes a tough time ends and things go back to what passes as normal.  I’ll finally get over a cold and lingering bronchitis and have energy again to do something – anything! – after work or on the weekends.  I’ll get a bonus at work, pay down some bills, and have a little extra to take a vacation (always so very nice).

During one extended period, after my favorite boy toy quit work to pursue his art and raise our daughter, we had to downsize to a very small house.  Interest rates were high, which didn’t help, and our neighbors were obnoxious (loud parties, vandalism, trash, vicious gossip).  We stayed for nearly two years and then interest rates went down.  We started looking into refinancing the house and realized we could afford to move about ten miles away to a much bigger and nicer house for nearly the same money.  It was such a relief to do that and escape that house and neighborhood.

But things don’t always go back to the old normal.  The new normal isn’t all that bad, but it is different.  That can be hard to accept and adjust to, especially if you really liked the old normal.  That was hard for me in my career.  At one point, I handled a lot of federal tax audits for my employer (i.e., I defended against the I.R.S.).  As my employer was losing money and people left, I picked up more and more responsibility including all the state income taxes.  Eventually the company went out of business during a terrible recession.  The only job I could find was doing state income taxes.  I was mad, I was upset, and I was really unhappy.  But I needed to support my family and I took the job doing state income taxes.

It took a long time for me to realize how well that worked out.  My new employer was a huge pharmaceutical company.  They filed in all 50 states in the United States and were audited by pretty much everyone (no, they wouldn’t let me go to Hawaii to file the tax returns but I did ask).  I was responsible for all of it.  My employer was fairly derogatory about what I did because the tax dollars were so much larger in the federal and international income taxes and my area was a nuisance that got done because it had to.  What I found though was that I was very, very good at state income taxes.  I could be an average federal income tax person or I could be an outstanding state income tax person.

The respect in the workplace has improved a lot, particularly with the SEC investigations and the new accounting requirements.  Companies who don’t need my skills continue to be rather derogatory about it.  But when they need a state income tax person, there aren’t many out there like me and I am well known in my field.  The Vice-President that I work for likes to tease me that state tax people have their own little club.  I told him it’s because we’re all weird and need to hang out together.  It gave him a good laugh that I could poke fun at myself like that.

And sometimes, I have to get used to the fact that normal will never come back again.  Several years before I become our main breadwinner, I had a real meltdown that I couldn’t stay home to raise our daughter.  I wrote about that in this post here.  It was a very hard time in my life to accept that I couldn’t have what I wanted and to grieve the loss of that dream.  But I’m glad I didn’t stay stuck on it and that I did eventually move on past it to acceptance, so that I could be happy with my life and grateful for what I had.

Alexander Graham Bell once said:

When one door closes, another opens;
 but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door
that we do not see the one which has opened for us.

I encourage you in 2014 to remember that the tough times don’t go on forever.  Either they will change or you will change.  And that change may not be bad, even though you don’t like it.  But hang in there and see it through.  It will eventually be resolved.

Categories: 2014 Encouragement Challenge, Coffee For Your Heart, Discouragement, Faith, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

The Bride Was Beautiful

It’s been a while since I’ve been here and the reasons have been many.  One of the very best reasons has been our daughter’s recent wedding to her super smart sweetie.

The minister was my son-in-law's cousin.  I thought it was great that he did the ceremony for them!

The minister was my son-in-law’s cousin. I thought it was great that he did the ceremony for them!

After a year long courtship, the two of them decided that yes, they did want to get married.  Shortly after, they set the date – for four weeks later!  My favorite boy toy and I made a quick trip to Atlanta to help them plan it out.  I was so proud of my daughter as we picked out her wedding dress.  She was happy and in a good mood, treating the sales person with respect and courtesy as she made her choice.  We laughed our way through it, from the dresses that didn’t fit to the ones that looked like a giant pillowcase billowing out in front of her.

The bride and groom with her parents.

The bride and groom with her parents.

It was a wonderful evening.  Even though it was short notice, there was a good turnout of friends and family to wish them well and enjoy the celebration.  The wedding was held outside and unfortunately, the weather was unseasonably cold.  I gave up after a while and just wore my winter coat.  My daughter’s dress was so heavy and thickly lined she didn’t notice the cold until towards the end, so thankfully it wasn’t much of an issue.

Something about the lights in the gazebo made her diamond ring glitter like a strobe light - it was really cool!

Aren’t they happy?  And good looking too!

During the toasts, her new father-in-law talked about when he and her mother-in-law first met my daughter.  They expected a princess who would hang out in the air conditioning while the family was working on the farm, repairing and stringing fencing on that day.  Instead, they got a girl who asked for a pair of work gloves, then marched out and spent the day working with them in the hot sun.  He finally sent her back to the house with his wife for interrogation to find out who she was and where she came from.  They fell in love with her from the get-go and wanted to make sure their son kept bringing her around.  Later, they would meet her mastiffs and understand that she was used to hard heavy work with animals and her own house.

I love the intimacy of this picture as they share a private joke.

I love the intimacy of this picture as they share a private joke.  The pearls on her wrist were given to me by my great aunt (my daughter shares her middle name).

Our son-in-law is a great guy and we’re glad that she kept dating despite the many disappointments she had out there.  He was worth waiting for.  His parents are good people too and she’s enjoyed many visits with them already, letting them stay in her guest room whenever they come to visit (her sweetie shared bachelor quarters with several other guys and had nowhere to put them up).  They treat her well and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them.

So it’s been a bit busy around here lately!  Between tax season at work and getting ready for a wedding, time has flown by quickly.  It always does, but lately it seems to move even quicker.

I’d like to thank my sister and my son-in-law’s friend, Alex, who shared photos they took during the ceremony.  There will be other photos from a professional photographer, but not for a while yet.

Have a good week!

Categories: Family | Tags: , , | 33 Comments

Sometimes I Wonder

This bee looks like he's perched rather precariously on the flower!

The organist plays his flower.

I grew up in the Lutheran Church.  As a child, I spent many Sunday mornings looking around the church and noticing many details about it.  Although the Bible inspires the physical trapping of worship, as I edited my recent photos from the botanical gardens, I couldn’t help but wonder how much nature also inspired it.  The bee in the above picture so reminded me of the organist who creates beautiful music with both their hands and their feet.

Could this have been the inspiration for a pipe organ?

Could this have been the inspiration for a pipe organ?

And who thought empty tubes would create the music of a pipe organ?  Was it knocking a stick against the neck of an empty beer bottle or was it the inspiration of seeing a paper wasp nest stretching up that made the artist realize that music could be made with pipes that reached up to the sky?

The sun caught this just right as I walked by.

The sun caught this just right as I walked by.

And what inspired stained glass windows?  Did someone just wake up one day and say hmm, wouldn’t it be nice to have the sunlight come through colored glass?  Or did they notice that when the light shone through a plant leaf in just the right way, it lit up and made a beautiful design, something that soothed the soul and made the mind rejoice in beauty?

What about the liturgical colors?  They’re not Biblical, but they do mark the changing of the church year.  Purple is used for Advent and Lent, rose for the third Sunday in Advent and the fourth Sunday in Lent.  Green is used most of the rest of the year.  Green, the color of renewal, the color and lushness of nature.

Such intricate detail in those wings!

Such intricate detail in those wings!

What of parchment paper used in the old scrolls?  I’m sure the existing paper technology was a big part of it, yet some of the old parchments are so thin!  Yet, they preserved better than you would have expected.  I’ve seen some of our old, old family Bibles.  They’re not in great shape, but I’m amazed at how they still exist in my great-grandmother’s handwriting.

I even found angel wings in the gardens.

I even found angel wings in the gardens.

And when you think about the wings of an angel – how should they be?  Big or small, bird-like or bat-like?  I think large and elegant, sweeping back in a grand, bold way is the way they should be.  I wonder where that inspiration comes from.

So even for those of you who aren’t church-goers, I hope you enjoyed the garden tour and wondering along with me, whether the great churches and cathedrals didn’t find their inspirations in both the written Bible and in the visual bounty of God’s nature.

And God saw all that he made, and it was very good.
Genesis 1:31

Categories: Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Nature, Religion, Virginia | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

Congratulations Darling Daughter!

1st place for her & top 10 for him!

1st place for her & top 10 for him!

My darling daughter and her super smart sweetie have been training all summer long for various races.  Last weekend, they ran in Skylar’s 10k Run and my daughter placed first in the women’s division!  WOO-HOO!!!  And her boyfriend was in the top ten for men, which is a personal best for him also!!  All their hard work and sacrifice has paid off as they continue training for a half marathon later this year.

I visited them several weeks ago and got a chance to see it first hand.  On Saturday, I went out for a leisurely breakfast while they got up early and went for a long run.  While they went afterwards to the Farmer’s Market, I was tasked with buying groceries.  I still got home before they did and had a few minutes to sit outside, relaxing and reading.

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Here they are getting the bikes out and discussing which route to take.

Sunday started hot and humid.  That didn’t stop them from getting in a bike ride for some cross-training.  I didn’t get many pictures – my camera was directly in front of the air conditioning vent as we drove over to Stone Mountain Park.  Thankfully I took these couple of pictures quickly before my camera fogged up.  I eventually had to put my camera back in the car and forget about pictures as the humidity wouldn’t let the lens clear up.

What a nice smile she gave me!  She really looks cute in her biking gear.

What a nice smile she gave me! She really looks cute in her biking gear.

So while the two of them went bike riding, I took a walk.  There were some pretty steep hills, so I got a good workout and really sweated in the heat and humidity.  People were friendly – I got a lot of hellos and isn’t it hot out, head nods and smiles.  I was surprised that each time I wiped my face on my sleeve, there were traces of yellow pollen.  It’s August – the end of summer! – and I was wearing my wide brimmed hat.  I have no idea where I got that pollen from, but it sure was there.

I impressed my daughter and her boyfriend though when I told them about the distance biking her Dad and I used do when she was little – anywhere from 15 to 50 miles nearly every weekend when were her age.  We lived near several nice limestone paths that used to be old railroad lines, so it was safe from cars although not from divebombing birds, frisky cows or sunbathing snakes, all of which we encountered at some point.  We often left her with her grandmother for the morning while we did it, although later I went by myself as my favorite boy toy enjoyed it less and less due to knee problems.  Bike riding is fun to a point, but after a while your crotch and feet get numb and then it loses its appeal.  I found shorter rides were much more fun and a better balance to my family life after working all week.

Just about ready to push off.

I had a nice visit with my daughter.  I usually go each August – it’s that last quiet time at work before the federal income tax return is done and it’s time to start filing the state income tax returns (for which my team is responsible).  Once we get done with filing the returns, Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away, so I go now to see her.  It’s been this way for years.  We didn’t do anything special this visit – the three of us just enjoyed some time together, did a little shopping, rented a few movies, and played board games while my favorite boy toy stayed home with da’ boyz.  He enjoyed having the house to himself, although I strongly suspect that someone did not think he was generous enough with the treats.  I’m not naming names here, but I hear that the treats were a bit. . . skimpy.  Just because the beagle is a bit fat is no excuse – at least not to him!

Categories: Family | Tags: , , | 16 Comments

Summer Colors

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The summer doldrums came early this year.  Last year, I didn’t complain about it until nearly the end of August.  This year, I’ve been languishing in it for the last several weeks.

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It didn’t stop me from going to the botanical gardens several weeks ago to see if possibly – MAYBE – I could find something to take pictures of.

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Maybe I could.

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Or maybe not :)

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Or maybe you have to look very closely at the center of this rather mediocre picture to see that oh wow!  Nancy got a hummingbird in her picture!  And she did it with a fisheye wide angle lens that was full out opened up, because she didn’t have time to do anything except swing the camera up, snap two pictures and this was the best one to show everyone!

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Because if you want to know what a picture looks like when a fisheye wide angle lens does when it’s all the way open, this is what you get (and that bridge is actually straight):

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Elsewhere in the garden, the roses were still in bloom, although you didn’t want to look too closely at most of them.  Still, you can see how green everything is.  We’ve had rain and rain and rain and . . . well, you get the picture.  Hopefully there are no hurricanes anytime soon.  The ground is so saturated, we could lose a lot of trees if the winds got too bad.

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It’s been much more fun to come home from work, sit on the deck for a while, eat supper, read, play with a few photos and then go to bed, then to do just about anything else.  I’d say sorry about that, but I’m not.  I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

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Did you like the roses in the very first picture?  Did you notice there were two bees in the right one?  They weren’t fighting either.  In that photo, the wide angle lens made the roses really pop out while the ones behind receded very nicely.  Kind of the opposite of the bokeh effect that I usually do (where the background is blurred).

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And now I’ve used up the rest of the pictures that I uploaded.  Time to go.  Bye!

Categories: Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Seasons, Virginia | Tags: , , , | 35 Comments

Hydrangeas in Bloom


With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?
― Oscar Wilde

And I learned what is obvious to a child.
That life is simply a collection
of little lives, each lived one day at a time.
 That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers
and poetry and talking to animals.
That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets
and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.
But most of all, I learned that life is
about sitting on benches next to ancient creeks
with my hand on her knee and sometimes,
on good days, for falling in love.
― Nicholas Sparks

For more about hydrangeas, check out these websites:



Photos were taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and along the James River Canal by Brown’s Island in Richmond, Virginia.

Categories: Brown's Island, Flowers, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

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