Advent 3: The Light of Glory

image by Pexels from Pixabay

Week 3 – The Light of Glory 
December 13-19

Say aloud together: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Light three candles (two purple, one pink): We light these candles to celebrate Jesus, who comes into the darkness to shine the light of hope, life, and glory.

Read Scripture: John 1:6-18
(Shorter reading: John 1:9-14)

Read: The sun rises every day without fail even when clouds block our view of its brilliance. The moon and stars sparkle through each night while we sleep. God dazzles His light on the whole world, and those who open their eyes to see His glory receive a startling new identity-gift: we become His very own beloved children.

Pray: God of glory, illuminate our eyes to read your living Word filled with grace and truth. In the name of Jesus, we wait and pray. Amen.

design by @thecreativeresource

Monday Matthew 17:1-8 What does Jesus want to say to you?
Tuesday Acts 9:1-5 Has God ever unexpectedly redirected your plans? 
Wednesday 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 Ask God to shine His light in your heart.
Thursday Ephesians 5:8-9 What does it mean to you personally to be a child of light? How will you shine goodness on others today?
Friday James 1:17 What good and perfect gifts has the Father of the heavenly lights given you?
Saturday 1 Peter 2:9 How does knowing that you are chosen and called by God add beauty and meaning to your life?

To see the complete Advent devotional beautifully designed by The Creative Resource, click here.

I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
–Jan Richardson, “How the Light Comes,” The Cure for Sorrow

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Cover image by Jan Zatloukal from Pixabay

Word Play & Dog Walks: Fun-Ambulist

As a writer, I am a total geek for fun words. I have fond memories of spelling and vocabulary lessons as far back as elementary school; also, some not-so-fond memories when, because I was such an avid reader and therefore exposed to oh so many words, my spelling words were marked incorrect because I wrote the alternate rather than teacher-approved spelling – for example, theatre as opposed to theater. Both correct, only one the right answer.

I also have a quirky memory of being in the children’s section of our local library, seated at a tiny table covered with books I had cherry picked from many shelves. I may have been seven years old. An older girl sat down across from me and commented on my book stack. She couldn’t believe I could read the books in front of me. She picked up a biography with the word “colonel” in the title and demanded I read it aloud. I pronounced it properly: “kernel.” She laughed triumphantly, and insisted that I sound it out: “It should be col-on-el, not kernel,” she snickered. I silently stared back at her, proud of myself, pitying her.

Because I enjoy words, I often subscribe to vocabulary emails. Recently I began receiving daily emails from School of Word Play. I don’t actually remember signing up for this list, but so far it has chucked some playful words in my direction. Words like “funambulist.”

I hadn’t encountered “funambulist” before. It looks like fun-ambulist, and I thought it might be someone who walks for fun…like me. However, the correct pronunciation is fyoo-nam-byuh-list and the definition is a tight-rope walker…absolutely never will be me. [The “fun” comes from the French or Latin funis, or rope].

Let’s go, boys!

Still, it’s been making me laugh on my many, many dog walks to think of myself as a fun-ambulist, as a fun-walker, strolling along with our three funny dogs. A neighbor recently hollered at us from her jog on the other side of the road that seeing us with our entourage, our dog-tourage, makes her laugh. In the best way, I assume. We are quite the pack.

Most days Guy and I walk together. When he’s unavailable, I do two “laps” of the neighborhood, taking the two younger dogs first before returning home to swap the middle dog for the older one; the Power Puppy needs more than all the exercise we can give him, so he gets to trot along on both laps.

Power Puppy likes to hold the Old Lady’s leash

Walking these dogs has been one of the great joys of my life in this strange year. I have walked and prayed, walked and ruminated, walked and ranted (to myself), walked and pondered, walked and noticed, walked and wondered, walked and meditated, walked until I’d burned out whatever frustration the day has presented, walked until I’d paced myself back into being present and peaceful.

What’s been adding life (and laughter) to your life in this strange year?

More painted rocks I noticed on a recent walk

Speaking of word play, last night I wrote a list-poem that made me laugh…

Boring Words
Just
Very
That
Really
Right
Stuff-Thing
Then

Exhilarating Words
(The) Whimsical
Funambulist
Futz(ed and)
Lollygag(ged, then tumbled)
Catawampus(, causing a thudding)
Brouhaha (for the)
Nincompoop (spectator below)

Advent 2: The Light of Life

tree of life by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay

Week 2 – The Light of Life
December 6-12

Say aloud together: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Light two candles (purple): We light these candles to celebrate Jesus, who comes into the darkness to shine the light of hope and life.

Read Scripture: John 1:1-5

Read: In the beginning, God spoke into the vast emptiness to create life. From His infinite imagination, God spoke into being amoebas and armadillos, light and life and love, mountains and mollusks, rhinos and roses, wombats and waterfalls, and so much more—declaring each “good.” To us—all of us, human beings created in His image—He spoke the blessing “very good.”

Pray: Creator God, thank you for the gift of life on earth and life eternal. In the name of Jesus we wait and pray, Amen.

design by @thecreativeresource

Monday Psalm 27:1 How does the light of the Lord keep you from being afraid?
Tuesday Psalm 43:3 What help do we receive from light? How does God care for us through His light? 
Wednesday Psalm 97:11 When have you experienced feeling light and joy as a result of your decisions to follow Jesus?
Thursday Psalm 119:105 How can the Bible make clear your next step?
Friday Psalm 139:11-12 When have you felt like hiding from God? How did He respond?
Saturday Proverbs 20:27 Do you tend to trust or doubt your intuition? How might this verse help you receive it as a gift from God?

To see the complete Advent devotional beautifully designed by The Creative Resource, click here.

“God redeems darkness. He wants to infiltrate the shadows the hardest life has to offer and bring light beyond our comprehension.” –Tsh Oxenreider, Shadow & Light: a Journey into Advent

Image by My pictures are CC0. When doing composings: from Pixabay

Living Under Hope’s Roof

The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. ― Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

As Guy handed me the bouquet of tightly curled, fist-sized pink peonies he just couldn’t resist buying he remarked, “I hope they’ll open.” We have, in the past, purchased cut peonies only to be disappointed that they never unfurled their petals.

Hope. We place such varying weights on this little word, from wishes (I hope she likes it) to aspirations (I hope to become a surgeon), dreams and desires (I hope to travel to Thailand someday) to pound-the-pavement plans (because I hope she’ll win the election, I’ll join the campaign efforts). Longings for loving relationships. Expectations for how the world should be.

I’ll say it again: we are living in a messy moment in history, a confluence of what might have been and what was. It will be fascinating to someday read about 2020 in my grandchildren’s textbooks, to recall the TP shortages, endless hand washing, and frozen Zoom calls, almost comical sidebars boxed alongside the heaviness of illness and death and the racial and political strife dividing loved ones as it threatens to irreparably crack the democracy we claim to hold dear.

And it is also the first week of Advent in my church tradition, the four weeks before Christmas in which we anticipate the birth of Jesus. The theme for this first week is hope.

Last week Americans celebrated Thanksgiving and, as with so much of this year, the festivities might have looked different with loved ones on Zoom rather than around the table. In this odd year it may be harder to locate our gratitude, more difficult to name our hopes. Once again I turned to Facebook and asked friends and neighbors: What are you hopeful for – for the last few weeks of this year or this holiday season or next year, for yourself or your loved ones or our community, country, world?

Interestingly, answers poured in when I invited people to share their uniquely 2020 points of gratitude. It took longer to receive less input on hope, perhaps evidence of our collective weariness. Yet hope is resilient, and personally I hope that in sharing we will nurture our individual hope-filled seedlings. Like the entwining of tree roots under the surface, we gain strength from one another.

And so, we hope…

We hope for good health and that a COVID vaccine will become widely available soon.

We have many hopes for our children but this year our hopes have nuances – that, with tweaks to at-home desk arrangements, they can become more successful in remote learning; that somehow we can mitigate stress and preserve their mental health; that their memories of childhood won’t be scarred by hand sanitizer and social distancing. We yearn to see children playing, hugging, and running freely with friends. We’re hopeful to soon hear the giggling of unrestrained joy.

We hope to get back to normal and yet we also hope that we will have allowed this time to change us for the better. We hope for a new-and-improved normal over the version of normal we left behind last March. We hope for light and love to outshine hate and darkness. We hope for the unity of the United States, to disagree and discuss our varied viewpoints (how boring life would be if everyone agreed on everything) while maintaining respect through civil discourse.

We hope for peace. For a peaceful transition of power come January and for global goal-setting and collaboration. We hope to experience a greater appreciation for our human family. We hope that the pandemic has given us space to grow into being the humans the world needs, more patient, more compassionate, more flexible, more grateful. Willing to do what it takes to address not only our own health but the health of our planet. We hope to emerge with a renewed understanding of what matters most and commitments to prioritizing what we say we value, like creativity and kindness. We hope to experience an unstoppable wave of love washing over our hurting planet.

And let’s have a laugh: we hope that January 1, 2021, doesn’t inexplicably flip the calendar back to the beginning of 2020 – it feels like Groundhog Day around here.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that hope seen isn’t hope – who hopes for what they already have? The whole point of hope is that we hope for what we don’t yet have. He advises us to wait patiently, especially when it’s hard, and this year has been beyond hard for many of us. I’m not very patient; it’s all I can do not to peak at the Christmas presents not cleverly hidden. Still, Christmas is coming. 2020 will end, as will the pandemic.

So we wait, with all the patience we can muster, joyful in hope.

By the way, the peonies bloomed fantastically like something out of Alice in Wonderland. For almost two weeks they have graced us with their beauty, worth every penny of that hope-filled purchase.

Art by Morgan Harper Nichols, https://www.instagram.com/morganharpernichols/

Waiting: Advent 2020

The global experiences of this unusual year have changed the way we express ourselves. So much so that the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary couldn’t choose just one Word of the Year for 2020. While pandemic and Coronavirus are obvious, look at others that rose to the top: Blursday (the blurry sameness of everyday); doomscrolling (reading online all the opinions/facts); social distancing and flatten the curve and the fun new ways we use remote to describe work and education.

I’ll add another: waiting.

Waiting has become one of the names of this pandemic game. We’re waiting for normal, for justice, for civility, for people to consider and honor the common good, for election results, for a vaccine, for schools and businesses to reopen safely, for empathy, for the time when we can venture forth without anxiety, for hugs, for a new year, for hope.

We’re waiting. Oh Lord, we’re waiting, and we’re fatigued from all the waiting. We don’t like waiting in general and this year we are certainly learning that lesson…among others.

Advent, which comes from the Latin word for “coming,” is the Church season in which we wait for God. We celebrate God coming to dwell among us in Jesus. We open our hearts to how God wants to come into our lives now. And we anticipate with hope our everlasting life with God.

I write about many things on this blog, stories featuring my family and friends and pets, creativity, travel, vegetarian recipes…all ways I experience everyday epiphanies regarding the miracles smack in front of my distractable eyes. This month I’ll focus on Advent, and I hope you’ll join me for the journey. On Sundays I’ll post daily readings; the readings for Sundays in particular are meant to accompany the lighting of candles in an Advent wreath. If that’s not part of your tradition, you can light any candle and follow along.

If you’d like to see the beautifully designed Advent devotional guide by The Creative Resource, click here.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.Psalm 139:11-12

Week 1 – The Light of Hope
November 29- December 5

Say aloud together: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Light the first candle (middle purple candle): We light these candles to celebrate Jesus, who comes into the darkness to shine the light of hope.

Read Scripture: Luke 1:67-80
(Shorter reading: Luke 1:67-70, 76-79)

Read: Praise be to our God, who sent prophets to remind us of His covenant of love, sustain our hope, and prepare the way for our coming Lord who will shine His light in our darkness and guide our feet to the path of peace.

Pray: Most High God, thank you for the gift of people who remind us of your great love. With hope we anticipate the birth of your Son, in whose name we wait and pray, Amen.

Monday Genesis 1:3-4 What does it mean to you personally that God has the power to create light out of darkness? 
Tuesday Exodus 3:2-3 When have you seen God’s light appear in surprising places?
Wednesday Exodus 13:21-22 How does God’s light go in front of you?
Thursday 1 Kings 18:33-39 What big or small miracles have you witnessed that help you know that the Lord is God?
Friday 2 Chronicles 13:10-11 How might lighting a candle in your home remind you to honor and serve the Lord?
Saturday Psalm 19:8 How do God’s commands give light to our eyes? What does that mean for you today?

Cover image by Jan Zatloukal from Pixabay

Giving Thanks in An Exceptional Year

I always prefer to focus on gratitude, yet I hadn’t been feeling it this Thanksgiving week. So I posed a question to our community via Facebook:

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wonder if you would share what uniquely 2020-related things you are thankful for?

In this exceptional year, I thought we might move beyond the typical answers: life, health, family, community. As it turns out, those answers carry exceptional significance this year. When U.S. COVID cases have reached 12.7 million and 260,000+ have died, the essential facts that we and our loved ones are alive and healthy becomes a precious truth for those who can claim it. This year has yielded a renewed awareness that we aren’t promised anything and everything can change without warning. We are learning anew to appreciate our own vitality, the breaths we inhale and exhale over minutes that become hours that become days, and the people with whom we share breathing space—especially those we trust within six feet.

Which leads us to: Family. We’re grateful not to frantically rush out the door for our commutes or carpooling children hither and thither and instead to move a little slower. To share family lunches, hearing about school in the middle of the day. To teach kids to ride a bike or overhear through the bedroom door as they sing along with the school choir. To have unexpected time with littles who grow too fast or with older children who will soon fly the nest, or those who tried and got COVID-grounded or those who’ve made a return trip with fledglings of their own. We’ve had time and space to connect and care for one another differently as we’ve all gone through the strange experiences of this year. Some increased the love under their roof by adding dogs or cats to their households.

Zoom has taught many of us that we can work remotely and it’s given us another tool to connect with family and friends in other places. Some have been holding weekly dinners or game nights via Zoom, an idea that likely wouldn’t have occurred to them before March. Who can tell how many families and friends will celebrate with a virtual Thanksgiving feast?

We are grateful for friends who make us laugh. Last spring the world witnessed Italians singing from the balconies of their homes and apartment-dwellers who held evening calisthenics each outside their own front door. As we walked our dogs, we saw socially-distanced neighbors in cul-de-sacs and on street corners enjoying a “six feet at six o’clock” cocktail hour. A local DJ held socially-distanced neighborhood dance parties. One person commented, and many chimed in, that she is grateful for the way those in our community “swarm” to help others with small or big needs; this swarm produces honey as it relieves life’s stings.

We’ve rediscovered ways to savor time, playing board games and card games with family, hiking our spectacular trail system under smoke-free skies, or dabbling in watercolor painting through a subscription art kit. Reading lots and lots of books. Developing our skills through online classes.

It seems to me that the unexpected and initially undesirable changes brought about by the pandemic initiated so much more than cleaner closets and bread baking skills. It gave us quiet in which to reflect on our priorities and lingering conversations with family and neighbors. It forced us to get creative about how we would maintain the essentials for living and it freed us to be creative in other previously neglected and also life-giving ways. It freed us to live into who we are and who we want to be.

One respondent admitted that she found my question difficult to answer since the pandemic has hit her family hard. Although I’ve never met her nor do I know the specifics of her situation, I extended sympathy. As we say, “we’re in this together,” and clearly this year has been hard…illness, death, unemployment, draining bank accounts, loneliness, mental health issues, grief on so many levels. That’s precisely why I asked the question. We know how hard it’s been, and most of us know that our mis/fortunes rest along a spectrum: we have it hard, and also easier than others. Everyone’s lives have changed…in the same and vastly different ways.

In my faith tradition we acknowledge that when you don’t have words to pray for yourself you can rest in the prayers of others. Similarly, when I couldn’t name my own gratitude, I relied on the gratitude of others. “Yes,” I repeated with each response. “Yes, me too,” I’m grateful for that, and that, and I’m grateful to hear about that small or spectacular development in your life.

And so…

A Prayer of Overflowing Gratitude During Thanksgiving Week of an Entirely Unexpected and Exceptional Year

To the One from whom all good gifts flow I whisper Thank You for life and breath and health and the reminder that we can’t take any of it for granted. For families and slow time to hike and ride bikes and learn to cook or bake or support local restaurants by eating delicious take-out food. For the particular humans I get to call “mine,” and for the shared memories and the coming moments that will be tomorrow’s memories. For board games and card games, even the video games I don’t like but over which my guys bond and burn through their frustration loudly in the garage while I quietly read a book in another room. For skin care products which matter so much more than make up and baseball caps to hide the pandemic-casualty formerly known as a hairstyle and for the comfort of lounge wear all day and night. For the enthusiastic love of our furry friends and the hours upon hours we’ve walked dogs through neighborhoods and along trails, watching the tiny and wondrous changes of the seasons. Thank you for California poppies and irises and hawkweed and thistles, roses and hydrangeas and mums, and mustard plants that grow taller than our 85-pound dog. For sunshine and clear skies and the end of fire season and for the twisting and turning of rainbow-colored autumn leaves on the trees and the ground. For the neighbors we’ve greeted from a distance and waved at through windows and conversed with on the phone or over social media or Facetime or Zoom. For books and our library system and my never-empty Kindle. For Netflix and The Queen’s Gambit and Schitt’s Creek and Disney+ and Hamilton; may Lin Manuel live to write many more plays. For creativity and its multiple expressions we might not have witnessed except for this year. For freedom and those striving for freedom for all. In this Thanksgiving week and on every day of this ridiculous year whether I feel it or not, I whisper Thank You. We say Thank You. The people shout Thank You. And so, Amen.

Books Make the Best Gifts – Holiday 2020

I just finished reading my 74th book in 2020. Way back in January, or what feels like eight years ago now, I set a goal to read 55 books; Goodreads tells me I’m at 135% of that goal–and I’m not done yet!

Still, it’s time to purchase holiday gifts and I have some readers on my list. I’m a firm believer that books make great gifts. I have so many Christmas memories involving books… quelling my Christmas Eve anticipation by hiding away in a book, or putting off the inevitable let-down I always felt at the end of the extra-special holiday season and the return to “normal” life by, you guessed it, sticking my nose firmly in a book.

Sure, I liked toys and gadgets as much as the next child–like my Simon game with its colorful and annoying beeping patterns, or my first eight-track cassette player with a now-embarrassing Shawn Cassidy crooning at me–but a stack of books was always my favorite.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

So here are a few of my favorites from the books I’ve read this year for your consideration…

For the bibliophile/fantasy reader: The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern

For the reader who enjoys a life-affirming story: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

For the literary fiction lover:
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett

For the historical fiction fan: The Exiles by Christina Baker Klein

For those who thrill to a creative reinterpretation of biblical stories:
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Book of V. by Anna Solomon

For the art lover: The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

For teenagers and/or the young at heart:
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Dear Martin by Nic Stone

For the non-fiction world-changer: The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton

For the friend who’s worn through their walking shoes in this pandemic year: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

For the mindful reader: Radical Compassion by Tara Brach

For those who appreciate spiritually-focused memoirs:
Miracles and Other Reasonable Things by Sarah Bessey
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Book titles link to Amazon for more info + easy purchasing. Please note: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

Storm Reflections

Today it’s blustery and gray outside, and the forecasted rain is most certainly on its way. It’s chilly and the storm hasn’t yet hit. It will be colder and wetter soon.

But not that long ago the sun radiated through the autumn-bedazzled green-yellow trees. The sky was a brilliant blue and even with a slight breeze the sun warmed my skin as I strolled the dogs through our neighborhood.

Today’s storm will hit and darkness will descend during daylight hours. But we know, in hope and from experience, that the sun will rise again.

Even on sunny days, for many of us 2020 has been a stormy year. Things have changed, minor inconveniences and devastating losses, and despite our attempts to calibrate to this “new normal” or our plaintive longings for the old “normal” that may have been the song on repeat but also may have been more ear worm than desirable—can anyone define what we even mean by “normal”?—this has been an exhausting year replete with challenges we’d prefer to have avoided. We’ve been shoved into a marathon for which we didn’t train; we’re parched and gasping for breath to fill our aching lungs.

But when we’re alone in our rooms, quiet outside and in (hard as that may be), we can take comfort that this, too, shall pass. We know, in hope and from experience, that the storm will cease and the sun will rise.

We don’t know when, or how, or what the newly-illuminated landscape will look like. We have theories, arguments, conjectures, sure we do. Or at least we try to conjure or adopt or collage theories, arguments, and conjectures so we appear educated, thoughtful, “in the know.” Other times we simply throw up our hands, shrug our shoulders, and sigh with the admission that we have no idea. We’re just doing our best to slug our way through today.

So today I’m going to light candles and start a fire in the fireplace. I’m going to drink hot tea. I’m going to listen as the rain thrums on the roof and the wind whistles and I’ll watch through the windows as the trees enthusiastically dance like they’ve been waiting for the storm as debutantes waited all season for the grand ball.

I will seek moments of beauty in the storm. Living in drought-prone California, I’m trained to appreciate water falling from the sky even when it’s inconvenient. I will respect the storm for what it is, for its differently beautiful gifts that nudge me to a new and necessary perspective.

I know, I know, that may be easier said in an actual rainstorm than done in the unimaginable storms of this year. Yet I can’t help but wonder: what candles can we light, and what will we admire in their glow? What unexpected gifts might this year offer as it prods us to reconsider our priorities, as individuals, neighbors, and citizens of our country and the world?

Because the sun will rise. It’s coming, friends.

Cover Image by Kerstin Riemer from Pixabay

2020 Travel: Tahoe

A week ago I began a blog and Instagram series on 2020 Armchair Traveling: My Life in Coffee Mugs. I wrote about New York City, Norway, and the San Francisco Bay Area and on IG posted about each of these destinations as well as San Diego. This is the final post in this series…for now.

Irony: planning and posting a series about Armchair Travel in the same week that generous church folks gifted us a few days’ stay in their Lake Tahoe vacation home. Of course we went.

Before we moved from SoCal to NorCal, someone who had moved the opposite direction mentioned that soon enough we’d be vacationing in Tahoe. He might as well have said we’d be hitting up Ibiza on the regular, it sounded so unlikely. He wasn’t wrong.

I’m not a snow sports person and I mostly like to experience snow through a picture window. But I do love to hike, and camp, and we’ve done a lot of both in Tahoe. And we have several generous friends who have handed us the keys to their vacation homes for an off-season weekend away.

My favorite picture from my first Tahoe birthday in 2007

Typically my birthday, which in early November means “mud season” and low crowds – tucked in between the crowded months of summer sun seekers floating on the Truckee River and boating on the lake and winter snow seekers.

Time stretches differently on vacation. Even though we had remote work/school on Thursday and Friday, we also had time for long hikes and soaking in the hot tub. We talked more and about different topics. We created new memories.

The sounds of the trip: the “slush” of lake-front sand or sloshy snow and the “crunch” of gravel or icy snow under our feet; the occasional “wa-wa-wa-whoops!” as we slipped on ice and flailed our arms seeking upright-balance like birds flapping hard against uneven wind currents; and the haunting-hollow clarinet howl-squeak of the wind during the day it stormed.

And laughter. Lots of conversation punctuated by joyous peals of laughter.

2020 Armchair Traveling: San Francisco

This week I’m armchair traveling on my blog and Instagram to share My Life in Coffee Mugs.

I grew up in San Diego. I went away to college and eventually returned. And then we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where we’ve lived for almost 15 years.

The Bay Area is where our kids grew up. They were 7 and 2 years old when we landed, so this is their home like San Diego will always be mine.

My husband used to comment that SoCal didn’t have trees, and I didn’t understand—could he not see the palm trees and eucalyptus trees, the citrus and avocado trees? Now I get it, though, since we have giant redwood trees in our own backyard. We drive three minutes to a redwood forest.

I love the natural open spaces, walking from home to scenic hiking trails. I love our walkable neighborhood and the hours I spend each week pounding the pavement with my pups.

I love the weather, that we have distinct yet not severe seasons; you can take the girl out of SoCal but she will still prefer mild year-round weather. I love real rain storms and bundling up and lighting a fire on chilly days—we can get to snow when we want to but we don’t have to shovel driveways—and I’m grateful to wear sandals most of the year.

I love our small town, and that we can be in San Francisco in short order (traffic depending), to visit the beach (Crissy Field is our favorite), Pier 39, the Ferry Building, particularly on Saturday mornings for the Farmers’ Market, Union Square during the holidays or Ghirardelli Square for, what else?, chocolate. Or we can be wine tasting in Napa in 45 minutes, or at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in less than two hours. This is the farthest I’ve lived from the beach and yet we get to the beach regularly.

Because this is where our family grew up, no matter where life may take us, the Bay Area will always also be Home.