ADVENT: (Quickie) Snapshot & Whatnot


Chincoteague National Wildlife Reserve, VA


Waiting is a big part of Advent, something that at times is not the easiest thing to do (especially for impatient red-heads!) Here’s an arresting thought & prayer from my favorite Trappist monk for our minds & hearts to munch on this 3rd day of Advent.

“Teach us to wait, as we hang in the balance of the past and the possible.” Thomas Merton

grace, peace & inspired waiting

Virginia : )

Chincoteague National Wildlife Reserve, VA

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ADVENT CANDY CANES (of Love & Understanding)

Advent is a season of waiting, of preparation, of seeking (like wise men and women.)

For new Roses in the Rubble readers, Virginia’s post-a-day Advent gig usually entails a brief inspirational quote, picture, carol or (occasionally) more prolific thoughts. I realize many readers (& friends on Facebook) follow different faith traditions (or none at all), but perhaps this is an opportunity to see what the Advent and Christmas fuss is all about and be inspired along the way by universal themes of peace, joy & love that come with this season (and, in my opinion, we could use lots more the whole year round!)

Oh, and goodwill to all. Yup, ALL!  Our diverse humanity around the globe of every shape, creed, and hue – all beloved of God.

That’s what we believe, anyway (even if lots of faith-spouting folks don’t act like it.)

Ouch, Virginia needs to transform her leftover Halloween broomstick into a candy cane of Advent love & understanding.

“We look at God and claim to believe, but our actions and thoughts don’t correspond to our beliefs. Here’s the difference between belief & faith: Belief is to know. Faith is to see.” Mother Angelica

Just sayin’, open eyes, open minds, open hearts might be a good place to start this year’s Advent journey.

Open to the coming of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Who loves us with everlasting love.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love, so I am constant in my affection for you.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

We have a choice this Advent to believe in Love, to open our lives to receive Love and BE LOVE that shines brightly in the swirling darkness of our whacked-out world.

Like Christmas candy canes – sticky and sweet, but hard with mint that wakes up our senses & motivates, let’s be candy canes of Advent Love.

grace, peace & motivated candy canes

Virginia : )

“Like it or not, we either add to the darkness of indifference and out-and-out evil which surround us, or we light a candle to see by.” Madeleine L’Engle

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And so it begins, ADVENT IS HERE. Today! The 1st Sunday of Advent, the countdown to Christmas (22 days to go!?!) Virginia had plans to post something grand, but today is the Grand Illumination in Colonial Williamsburg, so a post haste departure looms ever near (to get a parking spot? the all too difficult task betwixt holiday goings-on.)

Dashing, but not through the snow. Why all this haste? In years past, Virginia engaged in an Advent post-a-day gig here @ Roses in the Rubble. Hoping to do the same this year, but here’s the first day and scribbled notes a blog does not make.

The last two years I took a complete holiday from Advent posts. Nary a one (okay, so a measly 3 last year, and just ONE the previous year.) And this matters, because?

The last time I did the post-a-day Advent gig, my Mama served as the blog-posting elf’s helper extraordinaire. Each day she cheered me on. Perched here in the study she’d take her recovery period (PC for nap) checking every now & then on progress (which helped the get-it-done factor tremendously!)

She also served as a Christmas model, helped stage pictures, was a huge encourager & provided lots of inspiration as a co-conspirator (especially engendering motivation, like with chocolate!)

Oh, how I miss her!!! Lots & lots & lots & lots & lots & lots & lots!!!

Sometimes the holidays can be difficult missing our loved ones. Not just difficult, but full on hard to bear.

But, every now & then there’s something special when it somehow seems that the veil is thin between here & the Heavenlies.

This Thanksgiving as we loaded up piles of food to take to my sister’s home, my brother said, “Look, look, BLUEBIRDS!!” Out the kitchen windows we scurried to look – a whole family of bluebirds descended upon our birdbath & the ground all around. Like, 7 of them.

A BLUEBIRD SIGHTING — and not just one, but a whole family!! Never before have we ever seen such bountiful bluebirds, most times we’re blessed to see just ONE.

Or maybe a couple, but SEVEN? Nada.

Two minutes later they all flew away. Since then? No bluebirds. But what a special gift that lifted our spirits and reminded us of Mama: bluebirds were her favorites, a sighting always cause for celebration.

We miss Papa, too! Putting up Christmas ornaments yesterday, I missed his presence and all the special times we had putting up the tree each year when he cheered us on from his bedfast-quadriplegia hospital bed.

But, he & Mama have passed & are now together, forever.

Although the legacy of Mama & Papa’s love surrounds me, there’s still a big hole in my heart and life. As treasured memories flood that hole, my joy is not diminished because grief takes it deeper to a place where it can not be taken away.

“We cannot wait til the world is sane

to raise our songs with joyful voice,

for to share our grief, to touch our pain,

He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!”

Madeleine L’Engle

grace, peace & Advent gigs

Virginia : )

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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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