A Seaside Winter Walk

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New Year’s Day promised to be a beautiful 60 degrees outside, so my husband, younger son and I decided to head to the beach for a winter’s walk.  We began at our favorite little cafe in Lewis, Olive and Oats, then fortified with a delicious lunch, which included the obligatory black-eyed peas, we headed to the Cape.

 

Below is the beautiful boardwalk towards the beginning of the trail…

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leading to the spectacular scenery just beyond and along the path.

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colorful marsh
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egrets
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gulls and egrets with WWII lookout tower in background

All along the path were the subdued and peaceful colors of winter, and many other friendly New Year’s Day walkers/cyclists as well.

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escaping the crowd

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Before exiting the park, we happened upon the white-tailed deer, always very plentiful here…

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white-tailed deer fawn
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grazing in playing field

One last look at the sea, then back home to a cozy fire and the promise of more winter walks ahead.

Until next time,

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∼ Jen

Thrill of Hope

 

DSC_0953Normally I am not at fan of the fall season changing-of-the-clocks. It messes with my sleep pattern for what seems like months, and really, who wants darkness in the winter before 5 p.m.?  This year’s “fall-back,” though, has brought a welcome surprise.  I am actually now waking before sunrise on most days…well rested and able to enjoy the peaceful hours of pre-dawn and observe the first glorious rays of the sun as it peeks through the trees and reflects on the creek below.

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reflections on the creek

Today was no exception, and on this morning as I was treated to the first rays of pink and gold, the line from my favorite Christmas carol came to mind so clearly:

…a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn….

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As I reflected on the familiar Christmas story, I was reminded that it is the hope behind the story that brings the greatest joy.

I love that God didn’t send his only son to be raised by earthly royalty, but… to a blue-collar worker-a carpenter, who by trade takes blank pieces of wood and crafts them into beautiful works for art or service.  As for his mother, a soon to be common housewife, who humbly and lovingly spends her days looking to the needs of her family.

 I love that His birth wasn’t in the cold, sterile, marble halls of a palace, but in a stable, where the sweet smell of warm hay mingled with the less desirable smells of nature …bringing him into the world as close to the common earth as it gets.

I love that in his earthly lineage, as recorded in His genealogy by Matthew, is not only nobility but a reformed pagan, Ruth, as well as a prostitute, (gasp!) Rahabforeshadowing the redemptive power of God’s love to even the most looked-down-upon among us.

…long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt it’s worth…

And finally,  I love that his birth was first announced to common shepherds and not aristocrats ….that a star broke through the darkness signalling not only His birth but the greatest hope into hopelessness the world had ever seen.

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Until next time, may His hope eternal bring you and yours the peace and joy found in this blessed birth.

∼Jen

Unknown Friends

There are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met…

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My football friend and mentor, Randy 🙂

When  I was growing up, one of the things I remember clearly was going shopping or on any outing with my mom and watching, ok, cringing, as she would engage in conversations or small talk with total strangers.  I simply could not understand why one would start a conversation or even make a comment to someone they had never met.  No place was safe…and the grocery store, especially the check-out line, was the absolute worst.

Fast forward many years to my adulthood, and the apple apparently has not fallen far from the tree!  It is to the point that my husband will jokingly ask me when I get home from shopping at my favorite grocery store, “Well, did you make any friends today?”  Yes, I now know the joy and fun of engaging total strangers on outings, and how nice, even if just for a brief moment, to get to know some of the wonderful people surrounding us in this journey of life.

On a recent day trip with one of my dearest friends to my first pro-football game ever,     I had the absolute pleasure of sitting next to Randy, who hours before was a total stranger. By the end of the game we were posing together for a selfie.  I asked him about a play on the field, and from that question he took it to heart that I knew absolutely nothing about football and proceeded to explain to me every single thing as it was happening in the game from that point onward.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I actually understood the very basic concepts, I just allowed him to continue his one-on-one ,play-by-play narration of the game.  It wasn’t just me, the whole section of strangers was high-fiving and sharing laughs and hugs as if we had all known each other for years.  In fact, it was the joy of interacting with total strangers, even more than the game, that took the fun to a whole nother level!

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Early to our section, soon to be filled with lots of “unknown friends!”

I am apparently not alone in my sentiment about interactions with strangers.  I can think of at least two times when just popping into a convenience store I have been stopped by total strangers.  One was a dear old man who had just lost his wife and wanted a friendly face to pour out his heart to, another was a woman who seemed to need to tell someone about the pain of her recent break-up. For me, a trip to the grocery store without engaging strangers is empty indeed.

My apples did not fall far from my tree either.  Both my sons love engaging total strangers in certain scenarios, and thankfully they are old enough that I don’t have to be concerned about their safety…just happy to observe that they see people in a friendly way as well.

In the end, wouldn’t the world be a much nicer place if strangers were seen as possible friends yet unknown…

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Celebrating a birthday after the game and friendship since first grade!

Until next time, go make a “friend!”

∼Jen

Tree-top Lunch

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Saturday was a beautiful, perfect-cycling-weather kind of day.  I was mindlessly pedaling along, smiling peacefully, taking in all the natural serenity surrounding me on one of the first gorgeous days of fall.

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Not far up ahead a group was pulled off to the side, looking up into a tree-top.  Oh, wow, was I ever glad I made a vow to never cycle without my camera again!  I pulled over to join them, and as quietly and quickly as I could, pulled the camera out with record speed.  I was so concerned he was going to fly before I could focus, and equally concerned I would send him flying with my movements.

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My concerns were unfounded as he was happily enjoying a feast fit for an eagle…no movement of mine or any other new-comers were apt to disturb him from finishing his lunch.

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I did get pictures of him eating, but I’ve spared you those, just sharing his post-lunch poses.

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Using tree branch as napkin after lunch

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We were able to enjoy him for at least five minutes. After he cleaned his beak and looked down at us a few times as if to ask, “Haven’t you guys ever seen an eagle eating before?” he took to the skies, leaving us all with a profound sense of awe and gratitude for the incredible display of nature we had just shared.

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Until next time, look up occasionally, you never know what spectacle may be perched above your head!

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∼ Jen

Life’s Precious Moments…

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Life is full of beautiful gifts, and yesterday morning brought that truth to light in a very special way…

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Wings still very much wet after emerging

It was the birthday of my neighbor across the street, a neighbor I have become very close to in the last several months.  It was also her first birthday since the death of her husband in early April.  When we walked the day before yesterday she told me “…it’s just another day…” but to me, a birthday is to be celebrated-new life is always a blessing to be celebrated.  Knowing it was the first birthday since her husband’s passing, I wanted to make sure I acknowledged it in a special way before she met with her family later to celebrate with them.

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Wings a bit dryer….not much longer now!

In the morning I texted to see if she wanted to take our neighborhood walk, then quickly stuck some breakfast cookies in the oven to take over with a card.  Three minutes before the cookies were due to come out of the oven, I got a text from her: ” A Monarch butterfly has just emerged from its chrysalis, come see!”  Funny, just the day before I noticed all the milkweed in her garden and meant to ask if she had ever seen the Monarchs hatch.

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Good view of chrysalis

The cookies couldn’t come out fast enough, as I was sure the newly emerged butterfly would take flight before I could cross the street!  As it was, I arrived in plenty of time to see the newly transformed Monarch since it was at least another hour or so from taking flight.  My oldest son was off that day so was also able to come enjoy the scene with us, reminding me of the time we watched a newly emerged butterfly take flight when he was young.

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Picked up by neighbor after failed first attempt at flight

As we talked and marvelled at the beauty of nature, I couldn’t help but think what a beautiful gift of new life she had been given on her birthday.  She said she had never witnessed a butterfly emerge till that morning… a touching reminder that life does indeed bring renewed joy after pain.

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Resting on milkweed leaf before attempting flight again

My neighbor sent me off yesterday with Milkweed seedlings to plant in my own yard, and today while gardening I had a little visitor of my own, keeping me company as I worked…

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Until next time, may you experience renewed joy and wonder in your life as well.

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∼ Jen

…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning  Psalm 30:5

 

Link about butterflies emerging, scientific term: eclosion https://www.reimangardens.com/butterfly/butterfliesmoths-spread-wings-emerging/

Monarch Factshttps://www.monarch-butterfly.com/monarch-butterflies-facts.html

Book Review: What Birds Teach Us

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One of my absolute favorite things to do with my children when they were young was read aloud to them.  I collected many nature books, both fiction and non, to teach my sons about the beautiful world around us, and the book What Birds Teach Us by Ashley Hewson is one I truly would love to have had in my collection. The below description of his book is taken from his site:

The author and his wife are both avid ‘recreational birders’ This interest integrated with  the author’s family counseling studies, fulfills his desire to encourage and build into the lives of our youth, so that they can make healthy life choices and do life well. 

The book is a collection of the author’s observations and photographs from his beautiful country of Australia.  I have enjoyed his blog for the past year, so I was looking forward to having a collection of his pictures and words of wisdom in book form.  The book surely did not disappoint, and in fact, exceeded my expectations in the amount of content it contained.

It is a collection of very positive words of wisdom and advice based on the traits observed by the author and his wife of the various birds they have watched in the wild.  In short, it compares the traits and habits of the various birds to different character traits we humans, both young and old, would be wise to incorporate into our own personal lives.  In fact, there are so many more character traits than the ones that would first come to a person’s mind, and that is where it truly exceeded my expectations.

My one son has pointed out to me repeatedly how much he hated Aesop’s Fables as a kid. I read it aloud to he and his brother many times and had no idea of its traumatizing effects…I guess I should have known that turtles smashed on rocks due to their pride may have been a bit too much!  I wish I had a book such as this one, to teach those positive character traits, and many more, in a much more gentle way!  Not to mention, the photographs are simply beautiful.

I really can’t recommend this book highly enough. It would be a wonderful gift for any child in your life, starting as early as age four or five and upwards. Honestly, there are even a few good reminders for adults as well-my personal favorite is the chapter on creativity. It truly is a gift that will keep on giving!!

Until next time,

∼ Jen

 

Bambi Invasion!

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When I look back on my childhood, there is one movie that will always stick out in my mind as a favorite….Bambi!  Somehow I think I’m not alone in that sentiment.

Lately in our neighborhood I believe we could film our own version of Bamb in real-life form. The below picure is one I took after our growling cat (I used to think only dogs growled) alerted me to something just outside the window on a recent morning…

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I was able to shoot a few more pictures before it ran off to the more heavily wooded area.  All the pictures in this post, with the exception of one, are shot through the window and some at a distance, so they won’t always be the clearest.

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A few mornings later my husband and I were enjoying coffee on the porch when we spotted our early visitor…

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After I greeted her with a “good morning,” she took off.  Apparently she likes eating our flowers in solitude, or maybe her guilty concious got the best of her. Either way, we would have enjoyed having her company a little longer.

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Our flowers were not the only ones the deer enjoyed as evidenced when I peered across the street to my neighbor’s yard. In the above picture, the smorgasboard had just begun.  They casually made their way all across her lawn, munching as they went. Knowing she doesn’t bother to shoo them away anymore than we do,  I captured all the pictures I could to share with her later.  She had told me previously that she has counted up to eight at one time in her back yard at dusk and is captivated by their visits as much as we are.

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shamelessly munching

Who needs flowers anyway!?!

When driving by another neighbors late one afternoon we stopped to talk to him and he pointed out his visitors to us-what I have come to call the elusive twin fawns:

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One of the fawns is on the far right, the other on the left, very heavily camouflaged.

The picture is the best I could get with only a cellphone, and though I have walked back several more times to try to capture them with a real camera, they have unfortunately proven to be camera-shy.  We saw them a few more times when driving by, but my neighbor has informed me that they haven’t been around for the last several days.  In his words “they have eaten all the flowers we had, so they took off.” Neither he nor any of our neighbors seem to care that their flowers have been digested by Bambi and friends, and that is one of the reasons I love living here!

 I end this post with what is still my favorite picture of our neighborhood deer…

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She was just casually strolling along for her morning walk like the rest of the neighbors when my sweet Princess alerted me to her.

I hope you have enjoyed my version of Bambi, Until next time!

 

∼Jen

For the Love of Weeds-Pt. 2…Round-Up Pesticide, Blessing or Curse?

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Well, I certainly never thought I would do a part two on a blog post having to do with weeds, but here goes!  This post has to do with my statement about my intense dislike of Round-Up, and I have been asked to explain why I hold that opinion by fellow blogger Michelle at one of my favorite blogs, https://rabbitpatchdiary.com.  I’ll add some pretty pictures to hopefully charm it up a bit!

The material out there is vast, but I will do my best to sum it up in as brief a post as possible. I will post links at the end of this post so you can do your own follow-up studies and draw your own conclusions.  Hopefully for the sake of the environment and ultimately your health and those you love, you will reach the same conculusion as I have come to, and look for alternative methods to control weeds. When I am not pulling, this recipe  is a simple one to use and it works!

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One of my main sources for health news is Dr. Mercola, and I have read many articles relating to the dangers of Round-Up on his website alone.  I will use other sources for this post, however, to give a broader analysis of the topic.  According to the Dr. Mercola article, Monsanto is Inside Everything. this so called crop-saver is showing up in urine samples, breast-milk, blood samples, water supplies, and in the very air we breathe.

A study reported by The Detox Project reported that glyphosate, the active main ingredient in Round-Up, was found in women’s breast milk at 760-1600 times higher than the level allowed by the EU in drinking water. So the purest form of food for the tiniest among us is now contaminated by man-made killer chemicals!  Further studies showed glyphosate crosses the placental barrier with 15% reaching the fetal compartment.

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To quote Angelika Hilbeck, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich:

This is reckless and irresponsible conduct in a democratic society, which still has a living memory of previous reckless chemical contaminations, such as DDT.”

Blood samples and urine samples in Canadian and US women respectively were found to be at maximum levels for urine and levels similar to the concentration found to have endocrine-disrupting effects in vitro in the blood samples.

While on the topic of embryonic health, the inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, in Round-Up was actually found to be more deadly than the active ingredient, glyphosate, according to the article in the Scientific American Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells. In this article, evidence is shown that just because an ingredient is listed as inert-Federal law classifies all pesticide ingredients that don’t harm pests as “inert,”-doesn’t mean they aren’t necessarily biologically or toxicologically harmless. “This clearly confirms that the [inert ingredients] in Roundup formulations are not inert,” wrote the study authors from France’s University of Caen.“Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death [at the] residual levels” found on Roundup-treated crops, such as soybeans, alfalfa and corn, or lawns and gardens.

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Mother and fawn taken in Colorado Rockies

So what if you don’t use Round-Up… why should you care…doesn’t it simply disappear after it kills the weeds, isn’t it “biodegradable” like we are told in most places that sell it.

No

In 2009, a French court found Monsanto guilty of lying; falsely advertising its Roundup herbicide as “biodegradable,” “environmentally friendly” and claiming it “left the soil clean.”

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Furthermore, if you eat, you need to care…Glyphosate is sprayed on some crops right before they are harvested to help then dry out. Monsanto’s patented genes are present in about 95 percent of U.S.-grown soybeans and 80 percent of our corn.In 2014, Roundup Ready crops accounted for 94 percent of soybeans and 89 percent of corn. Between the two, these crops cover more than half of America’s farmland.  The problem is certainly not limited to America… In Argentina, where Monsanto’s Roundup has turned the country into the world’s third-largest soybean producer, a report by the Ministry of Health revealed that, between 2005 and 2009, cancerous tumors were double the national average in the areas where GMO crops are grown and agro-chemicals like Roundup are used. Now, more than 30,000 doctors and health professionals in Argentina are urging the government to ban Monsanto products. (https://draxe.com/monsanto-roundup/).

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So what exactly is Round-up ready and GMO crops?  Simply put, they are crops from seeds altered to withstand the effects of Round-up while the weeds around them die.  It is  argued that GMO crops increase food supply thereby helping to curb world hunger.  There is no evidence to prove that this is the case according to the New Soil Association in 2008. In fact not only does it not increase yield, it leads to terminator seeds-seeds that are grown for a second generation that are sterile…leading to just the opposite of increased yield. In addition to less yield, GMO corn is shown to have 18 times the safe level of glyphosate set by the EPA…I would argue there is no safe level, period.  About 75 percent of the food available at the grocery store contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs), grown from Roundup Ready crops, in particular alfalfa, corn and soy. (https://draxe.com/monsanto-roundup/)

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To help yourself and your family, look for organics and foods labeled non-GM0 whenever possible; shop at local organic farm markets if available and if you eat meat buy only  organic, 100% grass-fed or non-gmo food fed animals, ideally  from a local farmer you can get to know; on-line sites such as Vita-cost sells organic non-perishables, and they offer great sales from time to time.  Shop around, your health is worth it! A list of the top pesticide ridden foods and ones you can get by with not being organic can be found here: http://borntogrow.net/dangerous-pesticide-ridden-foods/  Also, soaking veggies and fruit in baking soda for 15 minutes can remove some of the pesticides, depending on the food, but even that labeled organic should be soaked.

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So what are some of the other affects on our health from this ignorantly loved chemical…autism, breast cancer, Parkinson’s, depression, anxiety disorders, gastrointestinal disorders and diseases, inflammatory bowel conditions, obesity, cardiovascular disease, infertility, ALS, multiple sclerosis, infertility, allergies, cancer and much more…

A very interesting chart, one that would be very hard to argue with, shows the instances of autism rates with the rise of glyphosate usage, please use the following link to see the astonishing chart as well as watch a very informative interview with Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), revealing how glyphosate wrecks havoc on human health.

::https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/06/09/monsanto-roundup-herbicide.aspx

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I am going to stop here, but trust me, this only scratches the surface!  There is so much more that can be said and explained, but this post is very long as is!! And please note, though this post is about Round-Up, pesticide use in general should be thoroughly looked into. Please see the links below, and especially read ways to avoid consuming this chemical, and many others, even if you are against using as I am.  I may add a third post for nutritional ways to combat toxins and another on the beauty and nutrition of certain weeds, inspired by Barry.

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I will say in closing, it is a shame that those of us who try to protect the earth we have been entrusted to take care of are sometimes dismissed as hippies, crazies or over-zealous earth-worshippers.  I don’t worship the earth, though my “About” picture certainly portrays me as a tree-hugger 😉  I do, however, worship the God who gave me this beautiful place to live and I believe as a Christian I am responsible even more to show gratitude for what He made and gave as a gift…this incredible creation, including ourselves, that we are to treasure and take care of.

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Until next time, please let’s all do our part…the adorable subjects in the pictures, and those in the future will be glad you did!

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∼Jen

 

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/06/09/monsanto-roundup-herbicide.aspx…Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide May Be Most Important Factor in Development of Autism and Other Chronic Disease

http://www.drmercola.com/digestive-health/glyphosate-the-celiac-causing-culprit/

http://borntogrow.net/dangerous-pesticide-ridden-foods/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/margie-kelly/genetically-modified-food_b_2039455.html

http://web.mit.edu/demoscience/Monsanto/impact.html

http://www.holistichelp.net/blog/is-roundup-weed-killer-glyphosate-affecting-your-health/

For the Love of …Weeds!

 

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The collected hours of “therapy!”

Yes, that’s right, weeds, and let me tell you, there was a whole lotta love happening in my front garden today!

This has been the rainiest summer I can ever remember in my lifetime.  And when it was not raining of late, the temps soared to the ninetys, when rain was once again a welcome relief.  Given that combination of weather, other things of more importance to be done, throw in an out-of-town trip on top, and my weeds absolutely thrived!

Now, I am surrounded for the most part by neighbors with pristine yards who have an ongoing love affair with Round-Up.  I could spend a whole post on my hatred of that substance, but since this is a blog focused on “beauty” I’ll forgo that soap-box.  On the other side of that scenario, when weeds are pulled by hand, there are those occasions when you are that neighbor.

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Since I really don’t want to be that neighbor, and usually I am not, I apologized before taking off on my trip to my fellow outdoor enthusiast across the street and assured her things would be restored to normal when I returned.  Since she and I have a shared love of gardening and spent many hours chatting across the street as we happily sweat and battled the weeds, she had no cause for concern.

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Halfway there!

The first few days back I had other things to catch up on, so I pulled a Scarlet O’Hara and chanted “tomorrow,” but, today was the day! As I contemplated the task ahead of me, I assure you I was not at all looking forward to it.  After a quick walk down the street in search of the elusive twin fawns, I donned gardening gloves and hat and headed toward my foes.  Or were they?

I had not been pulling for more than a few minutes when the thought occurred to me that this was not at all the horror I expected, and I quickly became thankful for the time of quiet contemplation. Usually alone-time in the morning with a cup of coffee is all that’s needed to start my day, but this day I needed some activity along with my quiet, and my weeds proved to be just the thing.  I know they are considered a cursed nuisance to the garden, but on this morning as I pulled…I prayed, Bible verses came to mind, and I remembered the Creator always has the best answers…sometimes shown through a good patch of weeds!

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Return to normalcy!

Until next time, wishing you your own patch of weeds, if needed!

∼Jen

 

Waiting out the Storm

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This has been the rainiest start to a summer I can recall in recent memory.  With one stormy weekend after another, we had not so much as stuck a toe in the sand until the last weekend in June.  So, it was with great anticipation that I packed all of our beach gear and food to finally meet up with one of our favorite families for a beach bonfire….yeah!!

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We never go to the beach early, I’m not a fan of sunscreen and arriving after the crowds leave is even better.  We got there around 4 pm, perfect timing…now to find our friends in the sea of people still remaining.

Her text tells me she is all the way at the end. Unfortunately, for my cooler-toting son and husband, it turned out to be at the very opposite end of where we were…so, after walking and stopping to catch our breath numerous times in what must have been a two-mile hike through the sand, we were more than happy, to say the least, when we finally made our rendezvous.

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Ahh, to at last kick back in our chairs, ocean water lapping at our feet, as we basked in the sights and sounds of the great Atlantic.  It was delightful…until….

When lightening strikes anywhere near the beach, sticking around is not an option, not if you value your life that is.  A few carelessly stayed in the waves, but we high-tailed it out of there, opting to not risk even carrying our metal chairs.  We decided to wait it out a while in our vehicles, eating a few snacks to curb our hunger and hoping the storm would pass so we could continue on with our plans. At least, that’s what a few of us were hoping, another few wanted to pack it in, call it a night, and head for the nearest restaurant. It remained to be seen who would get their wish.

After about 30 minutes and many consumed snacks later, my friend ventured toward the beach, looked back with a big smile on her face, and pointed to the sky…

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Yes, sometimes things are definitely worth waiting through, because you just never know what beauty awaits on the other side of a storm.

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Until next time,

∼ Jen

 

 

∗ Special thanks to my son for sharing his pictures and video.