Snapshots (lots) & Whatnot: CHINCOTEAGUE!!


Today’s Snapshots highlight a recent visit to Chincoteague Island, located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. I know – confusing! Virginia (the blogger) lives in Virginia (the state of) located on the East Coast of the U.S.A.

Chincoteague is just a few hours from home, but it’s a cool trip getting there over the 23-mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (that includes two tunnels) and up the Eastern Shore, home to small farming & fishing communities along the way. Chincoteague Island is located at the tip of Virginia, just before the Maryland line.

What makes Chincoteague special? Lots of things, like proximity to rocket launches from NASA’s Wallops Island (as shared in my last post) but Chincoteague Island is also next to Assateague Island, which is home to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge where all kinds of wildlife can be seen on nature trails and beaches.

Since my brother & I visited during a blustery cold November week, our beach wildlife was limited to birds (vs. the human summer variety), but the big draw of Chincoteague? WILD PONIES.  The last time we visited Chincoteague we saw them every day (during a June visit?) This time we searched (high & low) and didn’t see any for six days, until…

Check snapshots to find out – wild pony sightings??


The Marsh Loop, rainy day (pic taken juggling umbrella)

The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge hosts trails, walks & roads for ‘nature crawls’ – driving slowly so as not to miss any wildlife sightings, whereupon you jump out of your car (along with everyone else) to view wildlife through your binoculars or through gigantic cameras, which many visitors stalkingly set up on tripods to capture pics for posterity. (Note, my camera fits in my pocket – easier to tote around!)

Near Tom’s Cove & The Woodland Trail, a ‘nature crawl’ sighting

Even on the cloudy, cold days of our visit, we saw amazing sights like these egrets branching out. (Checking back the next day, they had branched off!)

Wildlife loop, blue heron

Walking the four mile Wildlife Loop, we had to look carefully for birdies hiding in the brush. Quiet, quietly, sometimes we were rewarded…

Wildlife Loop, Blue Heron in flight

Wildlife Loop, nature crawl blue heron sighting

Other times, it was fun watching them perch from inside our warm car. We saw many blue herons, but we also enjoyed the beauty of the white egrets. On the first morning at our house rental, I looked out the porch to see four egrets five feet away in the marsh. What a way to start the day!

Tranquil Shores Egrets

Blustery walk @ Swan Cove Beach

We also enjoyed walking along the beaches. On dreary days the clouds can be so interesting! But it’s always nice on sunny days.

Sunny day @ Tom’s Cove Beach

We didn’t last long there (can you see our shadows shaking?) It may have been sunny, but it was FREEZING! (Temps dropped into the 30s F/ 0 to -1 C)!

Dashing back to our car, we made a new friend…

Tom’s Cove, “what’s up with leaving so soon?”

After hiking the Woodland Trail and seeing a few ponies in (far far away) binocular distance, on the day of the ‘no launch launch’ when we had been up at 3:30AM & braved the cold at Wallops Island, we decided to do another nature crawl that afternoon…

Wild Pony nature crawl sighting (near Woodland Trail)

Wild Pony (outside the fence) sighting

As I jumped out of the car & my brother tried to find a spot to pull over (there was a reason a gazillion people had pulled over) I saw ELEVEN ponies. Trying to find my brother, I went back up the road to find him tracking along with this spotted pony who somehow slipped outside the fenced area. AMAZING!

Wild Pony munching lunch, Chincoteague

Wild pony sighting, Chincoteague

But, this wild pony stole my heart! What a blessing to see the ponies on our 6th day of traipsing about the trails, paths, and roads of Chincoteague National Wildlife Reserve. Each day after our many walks, hiking, and nature crawls we thoroughly enjoyed the Visitor Center.

Especially the rocking chairs!

Walking & nature crawling the trails, each time we saw beautiful birds, amazing trees, beautiful beaches & PONIES! A grand time all around on Chincoteague Island.

“Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.”  Victor Hugo

grace, peace & singing nature groupies

Virginia : )

p.s. forgot the grand finale…

Sunset over Chincoteague, a grand ending to our trip!

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Rockets! Rockets! Rockets!

Last Sunday while visiting Chincoteague Island my brother and I had a blast viewing NASA’s Orbital ATK Antares rocket launch from Wallops Island on its way to the International Space Station.

How cool is that?

REALLY COLD!! When we arrived at Wallops Island Visitor Center at 4:30AM (3 hours before Saturday’s scheduled 7:37AM launch, as suggested online & by visitor center reps), it was a whopping 25F (17F windchill.) Hundreds of folks were already there (we barely found a grassy parking space near the back) & hundreds more continued to pour in.

We left Williamsburg the previous Monday thinking the weather would be moderate (turtleneck? flannel shirt? rain jacket?) After one warm day temps dropped, and dropped, until reaching birrizzzy range during our launch viewing outside on cold metal bleachers.

View of Orbital’s rocket from Wallop’s Visitor Center, 11th November

Once the sun came up, the view was amazing. Huddling in & out of the warmth of Wallops Visitor Center, we met such interesting folks – NASA enthusiasts young & old, tall & small, families, groups of friends, children, teachers from all over – Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Va. Beach – one family drove 4 hours that morning from Petersburg, VA.

As the broadcast countdown brought us to our feet to see the launch (binoculars at the ready) at one minute (& counting) NASA had to abort the launch due to a beanhead pilot from MD flying his private plane in the no-fly zone.

We were disappointed, but when NASA rescheduled for the next morning we still had a few more nights in Chincoteague to give it another look-see.

This time round, however, no getting up at 3:00AM and sitting in the freezing cold for us. On Sunday we rolled out of our hotel rooms & down to the pier where we were staying at 7:00AM to see the 7:15AM launch.

View of launch from Waterside Inn’s pier -Nov 12th blast off!!

As a group of us watched from the pier, the sound blasted over and around us, reverberating as it flew in the clouds above us.

Up, up and away… to the International Space Station!

It was really cool!

On the pier, a NASA representative from Wallops Island had his laptop real-time linked to the control center, so we had a chance to hear the official buzz as the rocket made it into orbit (everyone in the control room clapped, like in the movies!!) Then he stayed around for a half hour answering all our questions.

(One of mine: did the re-supply include vodka for the Russian astronauts? what kind? As a Slavic Studies minor in university, Stoli was our go-to vodka.)

Evidently we get along with the Russians in space (they provide transport for astronauts to & from the International Space Station) – why can’t we get along better on this planet?

🚀 grace, peace & rockets 🚀

Virginia : )

“No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.” Albert Einstein

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Snapshot & Whatnot: Life (quickie quote & pics!)



Zooming out this morning for a week away (yaaay!) but here’s a thought to munch on this week as things truly are whacked out in our insane world and country. Once again my heart and prayers go out to the people of Texas after yesterday’s horrific mass shooting in a Baptist Church.

When will this insane violence stop?

“To treat life as less than a miracle is to give up on it.” Wendell Berry

grace, peace & beauteous life (all around us)*

Virginia : )

*if we are looking for it! (‘it’ = beauty, even amidst insane bleakness & darkness)

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HAPPILY EVER AFTER (on Halloween?)

In our go-to fairy tales (& costume considerations for Halloween) why do we think ‘they lived happily ever after’ will ever come to be?

Will I ever find my prince?

Maybe, maybe not. That’s ok, because the trick is to find my way for ME to treat me right.(Think trick and treat, not trick or treat.)

How can I be happy with someone else if I’m not happy with me?

Cinderella’s glass slippers are hard to walk in and certainly not practical to dance in, either. (I’d rather be traipsing about in comfortable shoes.)

Hanging out with Snow White’s seven dwarves? Certainly wouldn’t have much time to belabor aloneness and friendship is comfortingly good. Who needs a prince?

Sleepwalking through life, like Sleeping Beauty, I’m not sure a prince would be enough to wake me up. (Really loud & clamoring? I might open my eyes a minute or two.)

The thing is, life is NOT a fairy tale. Landmines hide along the paths of our dreams. We step on them – BOOM! – dreams obliterated, pieces of our hopes strewn amidst debris.

Hate to break it to ya, but there is no ‘happily ever after.’

Beanheads lurk around every many corners of our dating lives. If I haven’t found my prince (or a living breathing guy, to, like, share my life with) that’s ok.

Because I’m in charge of this story. I am my own heroine.

I don’t need glass slippers that shatter. I don’t need glass slippers to be ME!

I can go as myself on Halloween.

I never resonated with Cinderella (I have big feet), or Snow White (too beautiful to be seen), or Sleeping Beauty (wake up, wake UP!) but I do (did, will always) love Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas because she loves Jack Skellington (The Pumpkin King) and I’ve been crushing on him for years!

Sally keeps it together by a thread (literally) as she rushes to save Santa Claus from Oogie Boogie when Jack Skellington is off taking over Santa’s Christmas duties (& botching it up a little.)

woah, maybe I better back up for those of you unfamiliar with this Tim Burton movie that came out in 1993 and resonated with me, mightily (seen 4 times in the theater whilst living overseas.)

After presiding over a roaringly successful Halloween, restless Jack Skellington (my kind of prince, actually a king – the Pumpkin King) stumbles into Christmas Town where he is bedazzled by everything Christmas. Returning home, he galvanizes the goblins and ghouls of Halloween to take over Christmas (including kidnapping Mr. Santy Claus.)

Jack, a little bored with the status quo

That is the basic story line (no spoilers, here) loaded with hysterical fun. It’s been one of my favorite movies for 24 years.

And, Sally, she is my kinda gal. Patched zig-zaggedly with stuffing occasionally coming out, she sews herself back together and does her bit saving the day (in between being there for Jack Skellington.)


Skellington Jack, the Pumpkin King!! Misguided, misdirected, misunderstood, possibly mistaken, but committed…

My dearest friend, if you don’t mind…

I’d like to join you by your side.

Where we can gaze into the stars…  And sit together, now and forever.

For it is plain, as anyone can see.

We’re simply meant to be.

Maybe ‘happily-ever-afters’ are possible – on Halloween!

If you haven’t seen The Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s on Netflix (& in a few theaters for Halloween) and will be showing here @ Virginia’s, who also watches it (again) every year before Christmas (it works for both holidays.)

grace, peace & Happily-Ever-After-Halloweens

Virginia : )

For a peek at the original movie trailer on YouTube, click here:

The Nightmare Before Christmas

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My heart overflows with affirming grace from the response to last week’s “MeToo” post. A warm, heart-to-heart thank you to blogging buddies around the world and faithful Roses in the Rubble groupies for your encouragement and love – and to many friends on Facebook who surprised me with an outpouring of support.

It means a lot.  A whole lot of a lot.

Thank you from Virginia @ Roses in the Rubble!

As more and more speak out, as more and more listen, maybe we can change the culture of denigration that perpetuates inequality in minds bent with malicious intent — to unbend bent minds with understanding that we are ALL beloved of God.

We are all precious, each and every one us.

“The only thing is to accept and let the scar heal. Scar tissue is the strongest tissue in the body. I shouldn’t be surprised if it’s the strongest part of the soul.” Madeleine L’Engle

I recently found my journals from university & after. Reading through them reiterated healing is a journey that takes time. And, although I was grateful to God for saving my life, I was mad at God at the same time (for some time.)

Why me? Why this? Why now?

Questions we may all ask when challenges of all shapes and sizes loom large in our lives.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many become strong at the broken places.” Ernest Hemingway

There’s much more to say about those why questions (another post, maybe?) but for now it’s onto a thought for our minds (& hearts) to munch on.

“You give up too easily.”

Good advice for today, or any gray day when life seems dull, lapsed; when seemingly insurmountable obstacles bewilder us and our ‘try again’ muscles are worn out.

After grad school I once had an opportunity for a big job (with a big salary) in a U.S. city I liked, very much. I received “go for it” counsel from wise mentors I sought out.

All but one.

Susan, who, if my dress didn’t look good (when asked) said so.

As I enthusiastically told her about this job opportunity in the private sector, she called me on the carpet. “Virginia, you got your MBA to help others. What about XYZ organization?” (She is the one who introduced me to XYZ organization, for which I had previously worked some years overseas in the relief & development sector; worked very hard I might add.)

The floodgates opened. She didn’t understand the many opportunities that hadn’t panned out with them, their cumbersome HR department, and so on and so forth I bemoaned.

Her response?

“Virginia, you give up too easily.”

I shut up and listened. After her call I gave XYZ’s website one more look and saw a new posting for Tanzania. Interesting, uniquely interesting.

Taking a circuitous route through a friend in Eastern Europe (for a position in Africa?) I sent off my CV with an emailed, “last try before taking job offer in DC, can you assist?”

Experience married opportunity as six weeks later I moved to Tanzania working for XYZ-(TZ) helping women, children, communities and refugees.

Sometimes, it’s not about me, but God in me – what God wants.

The point is, not to give up too easily on our dreams, our hopes, our will to be and do – what we’re meant to be and do, or want to be and do.

Or, want to change – things like attitudes – (me first, my attitude!)

I would not trade those years working in Tanzania for anything – the incredible people, friendships, amazing opportunities and challenges overcome will inspire me the rest of my life.

Thank God I heeded Susan’s advice and didn’t give up (too easily.)



Sound familiar? Here it is from fun fav movie Galaxy Quest:

(For friends getting this in email, you have to click to the Roses in Rubble website to access the YouTube video. Don’t miss this 39 seconds of encouragement!)

“Never, never, never give up.”  Winston Churchill

grace, peace & Full Speed Ahead!

Virginia : )

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Social media feeds have been buzzing with the hashtag #MeToo, a movement started 10 years ago by activist Tarana Burke that catapulted into global attention this week with actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet to ‘give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.’ 

The problem being sexual harassment, abuse and assault.

For many women, it’s a chance to speak up. To be heard. To realize we’re not alone.

Although not an easy thing to share, I add my #MeToo as a victim of violent assault: third year in university, wrong place, wrong time, bad stuff happens. Lying in the snow, battered and bruised, violated; suddenly life seemed important, a gift.

Faced with death, I asked God for life… and miraculously I survived.

Why is it so hard to share our stories? Why is it victims are ashamed? When will we get it through our heads “it’s not our fault?” Part of this shouting out is to let others know we are NOT alone.

And, we are NOT to blame.

Many suffer in silence, too afraid to say anything that might chip away at masks we put on that everything is OK. As a southerner I can masterfully whip on an ‘everything is fine’ mask. But, when you’ve endured abuse and assault, it’s certainly not fine or OK.

Back then, it was hard sharing even with close friends, because I didn’t want to drag them into the dark place of fear where I lived for awhile. Total terror, even in bright sunshine? Not an easy place to be.

A few years later, while working in D.C. in 1990 when a speaker couldn’t come to a monthly women’s gathering, a friend said, “Virginia, you should share your story.” It took a bit of courage to ironically give that talk entitled ‘Courage,’ but it opened something up in the women in that room as over half shared personal stories of abuse, rape, and assault.

Wealth, color, age – didn’t seem to matter (although we were mostly 20-somethings.)  It opened my eyes to how violence and abuse against women is such a horribly big issue. Not just here, but all around the world as I saw later in Kosovo, where rape was used as a weapon of war, and with Congolese refugees in Tanzania.

Today, when there have been over half a million tweets & Facebook “MeToos,” the magnitude of this challenge has not diminished. If anything, it’s worse.

“You are more than the bad things that happen to you. You are the grace that follows.” (Malaya, Code Black)

There’s a lot of horror associated with abuse and violence. Victims do not just immediately bounce back into the groove of life. It can take years to sort out, especially dealing with fears that jump us in all shapes, sizes, and ways. Insecurities, ditto. How we view ourselves? How we find our beauty grooves when denigration chips away at our insides?

Life is a gift, but sometimes it’s hard to receive when it comes in wrapping paper of suffering. It takes courage to open our hearts to love, the healing kind that’s God’s specialty, to find beauty again inside the gift of our lives. To let ribbons of celestial joy lift our desolation. To let the Everlasting Arms of God’s everlasting love encircle our hurts and ease our pain.

We cannot change what happened to us. Some scars will stay with us forever. But, we have a choice: these scars can be red and throbbing, debilitating, or we can let the white-hot poker of God’s love pass over them with healing grace.

Scars still, but white & fading.

It’s an arduous journey, courage required. One size does not fit all, but the love of God does, will, and is, all about helping us deal with impossible hurts in our hearts, our minds, our lives.

For me, there has been so much grace, so much healing, so much love.

God used that horrible event in my life to open my heart to helping others. From being scared of my shadow to later standing between gun-toting-soldiers and children in conflict zones – God dried my tears, took away my fears, and turned my pain into compassion for others with the healing love of Jesus.

As all these ‘#MeToos’ overwhelm us in magnitude, there is HOPE.

We are not alone.

grace, peace & hope


She Walks in Beauty

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

Lord Byron

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“The Lord does not look so much at the magnitude of anything we do as at the love with which we do it.”  –Saint Teresa of Avila

It’s late on this busy Sunday, but I wanted to post something about Teresa of Avila before the clock strikes twelve. (Cinderella Blogger must get grooving – without a glass slipper – although hanging out with a handsome prince would be nice.) 🙂

I am a huge groupie of this AMAZING woman of faith who lived a long time ago (1515-1582), but who continues 500+ years later to impact many people through her writings, life of dynamic faith, dedicated courage & passionate love of Jesus Christ. She loved Jesus with her whole being, everything of hers was His. She put all her trust in Him during tense times of the Inquisition, whilst writing when she was under rigorous scrutiny (one investigator priest consulted a huge stack of deep theological books “to understand an hour with Teresa”), and as she pushed for the reform of her contemplative order when many challenges were stacked against her.

Reading Saint Teresa of Avila’s books, “The Interior Castle” and “My Life” in my early 20s strengthened and deepened my faith in new ways. Teresa’s images of long ago are still relevant today as she likens our faith journey to a castle we enter level by level (dealing with tough internal stuff along the way.) Her “Way of Perfection is also excellent, and anything else of hers you can let your mind and heart to munch on! Her words have a way of jumping off the page and zapping our hearts, edging their way through difficult doors to get our interior change motors moving in Christ.

Saint Teresa’s strong sense of humor helped infuse joy in joyless times (like making a formal street procession with musical instruments after a lice infestation to mock the unwelcome critters out of her nun sisters’ hair!)

Teresa of Avila had a tough go of it as a woman in times when women did not have much recourse to realize their dreams and initiatives. Her father didn’t want her to be a nun, but she managed to become a nun anyway. She ended up as spiritual director of St. John of the Cross – totally radical for that time. Today, Teresa of Avila is a Doctor of the Church – the first woman so named, and one of only four (with St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Therese of Lisieux and Hildegard of Bingen.)

“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.”

Saint Teresa of Avila

Now Cinderella blogger must dash on to feast-making (on this feast day of one of her most favorite saints), taking to heart St. Teresa’s admonishment to her contemplative sisters who had to leave prayer stations for food duty:

“Know that if it is in the kitchen, the Lord walks among the pots and pans.”

grace, peace & (joyful) simmering pots

Virginia : )

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