Sunday Stills: 2021 In the #Rear-View Mirror, Nothing Like the Present, The Future is Ours

Winter Wonderland neighborhood view

What a year 2021 has been! When we anticipated 2021, most of us thought we would be done with Covid and our hopes for a healthier and stress-free new year were, well, … dashed? Postponed? Maybe never existed?

2021 was a truly eventful year for my family as we spent our first full winter living in Spokane, WA, having moved mid-December, 2020 from Sacramento, CA. In a nutshell—huge changes as we moved twice between January and March, from a family member’s home to our RV, then to our brand-new home in Nine Mile Falls, 20 miles north of Spokane.

As I share my thoughts and photos that made the most impact on my year, I’ve selected a few of my favorite images for each month of 2021. You can create your own narrative to describe how you lived a year full of change, surprise, or … you fill in those blanks!

“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.”

Taylor Swift

Justifiable January

Did you know January is the best month in which to purchase furniture if you want to save money? Anticipating a 6-8 week waiting period for delivery, we spent several days shopping for new furniture and some appliances. Lots of money changed hands but it was justified in order to furnish our larger home. We expected our home to be ready by March, so the timing was right.

After a loo-oo-ng month living with my hubby’s twin brother and weird roommate, we gritted our teeth and pulled our 30-foot RV through the snowy roads to an RV campground where we lived until almost the end of March.

Freaky February

RV Campground home

February was a COLD month with temps dropping to 9 degrees Fahrenheit for several days. Always fun, when the propane tank runs out at 4 am when you have to get up to use the facilities! February 14, a traditional day of love, marked the day that my dear mother-in-law, Hella Blumenbach Schrandt, peacefully stepped into eternity.

Another March Madness

Similar to March 2020, 2021’s March was a MONTH! Compared to life in 2020, while we were locked down and dealing with the uncertainty of a pandemic, I also lost my mom in early March, 2020 just before everything shut down.

Not only did we get the keys to the house on March 22nd in 2021, and begin the torturous, but super exciting move-in process, we also attended the wake and celebration of life for my mother-in-law who passed in February at the age of 89.

An Abundant April

If finally belonging to a local church and getting a “new-to-me” car doesn’t define abundance, I’m not sure what does. Getting the first of two Moderna vaccination shots gave me the feeling of good health again, if not as abundant as in prior years.

May’s Momentous Moments

With a Pacific Northwest spring in full swing, May was a busy hub of beautiful views, hikes, whirlwind construction, and family visits to our new home.

  • When I discovered I could enjoy sunflowers again, and wild ones at that, which grew on the property, I was in heaven.
  • We finally got all of our vehicles registered in Washington and corresponding plates were handed out at the Department of Licensing. Same-day service…incredible!
  • My daughter and fiance traveled on Memorial Day weekend to spend a few days with us. We took them to the Bowl and Pitcher State Park and to downtown Spokane’s Riverfront Park.
  • In the same month, the contractor began construction on our pole barn/shop/shed/garage.
  • My first stand-up paddle on Lake Spokane!

June’s Journeys

Hmmm, June. An emotional roller coaster of life events and road trips. In May we learned the sad news that my cousin’s beloved husband died of cardiac arrest.

Miraculously, the entire set of families were all vaccinated and we could gather safely in Portland, Oregon, to celebrate his incredible life in early June.

During June’s long days, I witnessed a fantastic lunar eclipse just as the sun rose.

Pink moon in eclipse

“All great beginnings start in the dark, when the moon greets you to a new day at midnight.”

Shannon L. Alder

With one road trip (Bloganuary theme for Jan 2) to Portland under our belt, hubby got ready to take a trip to Sacramento to pick up the rest of our belonging from the storage unit. As he departed from the extreme heat here in the PNW, he headed south to equally hot temps, coupled with crippling smoke from west coast wildfires. How does the Spokane area get to 109 degrees Fahrenheit??

A Truly Emotional “Journey”

Bluebell Court Eagles ©Diana Gigler
Bluebell Court Eagles contemplating their nest in February (image by Diana Gigler, used with permission)

Many of you followed along as I grew emotionally attached to “Journey,” the local celebrity eaglet whose eagle family resided in their nest in a neighbor’s backyard. Diana created a Facebook group “BlueBell Court Eagles,” chronicling the magnificent eagle family with her incredible photography. Thousands of folks followed along daily watching Journey grow into a stunning juvenile eaglet. She graciously allowed me to use her photos.

With June’s unexpected and oppressive heat, Journey fledged too soon and leapt out of the nest, and was rescued with a call from a neighbor to the Birds of Prey Northwest who promptly took Journey to the center for 6-weeks of rehydration and recovery.

Jaw-Dropping July

Expecting cooler summers in the Pacific Northwest, I never dreamed we would experience such devastating heat. The excessive heat that engulfed the west coast sparked hundreds of wildfires that not only devasted hundred of thousands of acres of land and burned homes and structures, but created enough smoke that could be seen from space!

Smokey orb over pine trees
Smoky sunrises were the norm in Summer 2021

In 2021, Spokane also saw the most days with 90-degree temperatures and tied the most days with 100-degree temperatures. Keep in mind that most homes don’t have air conditioning because it is usually not necessary. When we finalized the orders for our manufactured home in September 2020, we added the heat pump/AC at the last minute. I’d spent enough years in hot, smoky Sacramento to know that I didn’t want to endure that again. Thank goodness!

A Little More Journey

Journey was released back into the wild, healthy and strong. During this process, I learned so much about eagles and other raptors and the Birds of Prey Northwest’s efforts of its volunteers. During the unprecedented heat, over 20 bald eagles were rescued in three weeks’ time, compared to other years when the volunteers rescued 1-3 per year. Jaw-dropping indeed! Images by Diana Gigler and used with her permission.

Although Journey did not fly back to his nest, we believe that his parents cared for him out on the lake and continued to teach him how to hunt and fish. We eagerly await the new nesting season and hope that the Bald Eagle pair will return to the nest and lay a new clutch of eggs this spring.

Exhausting August

August was a dizzying month for a variety of reasons. The weather was still very hot and smoky, making me pinch myself to check that we didn’t dream about moving here and were still living in Northern California where heat and smoke were the norms in summer and fall. We stayed mostly local during the first part of the month as the construction on our outbuildings was near completion. I enjoyed driving around and stopping for photo ops.

But then… with upcoming air travel to San Diego, CA, and Phoenix, AZ, I needed a blog break to survive the rest of the month. Many thanks to Natalie for guest hosting Sunday Stills for three weeks!

August highlights included:

  • Kayaking on the Little Spokane River with friends where I saw two moose!
  • A fun stay-over with Marsha in Prescott to see their lovely new home and area, which coincided nicely with our 8th wedding anniversary.
  • My step-daughter’s wedding in Sedona.
  • A visit by a dear friend from Sacramento.
  • Shop doors were FINALLY installed!

Sanguine September

Where August was the whirlwind, September was downright sluggish but sweet and serene! After the Labor Day holiday, summer ends, kids head back to school and normal weather returns. Signs of Autumn showed themselves early here in the PNW. As the pace really slowed down, and I had time for local hikes and more photo ops. Toward the end of the month, another good friend came up for a visit!

We also finalized and converted our construction loan to a mortgage loan at a nice, low percentage rate, which had been another source of stress and uncertainty.

Overjoyed October

I checked a bucket list item off this month. I got to witness the Northern Lights from my front porch! To the naked eye, the lights looked gray and misty, but the camera picked up the green bandwidth of color.

Aurora Borealis from my porch
Aurora Borealis from my porch

As Autumn progressed, we had the opportunity to volunteer for the local nursery each weekend in October and gain 8 free trees in the process! Hubby turned 62, a milestone birthday, which usually marks retirement…what’s that supposed to look like?

A Northwest November

With Autumn still hanging in there, November found us beginning work as substitutes for the local school district; Hans, as a substitute for custodial/facility maintenance, and me as a substitute teacher. Below is a rare moment in between classes in the library resource room.

I also discovered the yellow pine tree, known as Western Larch to add to my collection of amazing things to see in the PNW.

Golden rural street
Western Larch on left in its yellow splendor

In late November, we drove back to Lake Coeur D’ Alene at Higgens Point to hopefully observe the Bald Eagles fishing and hunting for Kokanee salmon that spawn there. Many of you saw these beauties already on social media. These were captured with the Lumix FZ-300. The image on the right is currently being printed onto a large canvas!

December Defined

December Highlights:

  • December 2021 was our first December in our home.
  • Winter Mule Deer Buck
  • A Winter Moon
  • Old-fashioned Christmas tree lighting living in a winter wonderland
  • Thirty-five family members gathered for Christmas Eve at another relative’s home. My sis-in-law is a spectacular decorator and chef!
Christmas Eve Table Decor

Redefining traditions, spending time with extended family, and discovering the jewels of the Pacific Northwest, where every day feels like a new adventure, are some of the reasons we left Northern California. I get a thrill seeing wildlife daily just walking in my own neighborhood or a few miles away.

In this last image, you can see our compound off to the left. This angle was taken from the street looking toward our neighbor’s front yard.

Winter Wonderland neighborhood view
My winter wonderland (last on the card)

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

L. Frank Baum

I leave you with these thoughts for 2022.

Dare to dream. Take the road less traveled. Just do it. There is no try–just do! Life IS short.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” This motto/meme graces most of my social media images.

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”

William E. Vaughan, journalist and author

Photo Challenges this Week

Each week I am inspired by my fellow bloggers’ photo challenges. I find it fun to incorporate these into my Sunday Stills weekly themes.

If you have already published a 2021 “retrospective” post, please feel free to link it to this post so we can see how the year went for all of us. I will be adding your links to each, current Sunday Stills post while it is still live, rather than waiting until the following week. Doing it this way is actually easier and a bit more efficient!

Sunday Stills Photo Challenge Reminders

Sunday Stills weekly photo challenge is easy to join. You have all week to share and link your post.

  • Please create a new post for the theme or link a recent one.
  • Tag your post “Sunday Stills.”
  • Title YOUR blog post a little differently than mine.
  • Don’t forget to create a pingback to this post so that other participants can read your post. I also recommend adding your post’s URL into the comments.
  • Entries for this theme can be posted all week.

My humble and sincere thanks to all who participated in 2021! Sunday Stills is a wonderful community of bloggers and photographers who desire to connect with one another.

To see more of my images and other news, consider following Terri on Social Media by clicking the icons:

Have a great week and I wish you:

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What Swimming With Whale Sharks Taught Me

What swimming with whale sharks taught me

The beginning of a brand new year can be inspiring for most of us. Last year I experienced something I never thought I would do. This is a re-post from January 2016. I hope you enjoy reading this once more.

What swimming with whale sharks taught me

Several weeks ago, while vacationing in Baja, Mexico, I had an amazing opportunity to swim with whale sharks. If we were having coffee today, I would recount that experience with you and explain what the experience taught me about my life. I’ve got a lot of coffee and tea, so please don’t be shy!

About Whale Sharks
Whale sharks are sharks, not whales. In other words, they are fish…the largest fish in the ocean.  They can range in size from 18 to 40 feet long and up to 21 tons! They are literally as big as buses. They also do not have teeth, but instead, like many species of whales, are filter-feeders, using baleen which filters plankton and krill into their four-foot-wide mouths. Ironically, whales and whale sharks, the largest creatures on the planet, eat the smallest living organisms in the ocean.

Whale sharks are surrounded by small schools of fish that also feed off the bits of food. Remora are fish that latch onto the shark’s body and feed off the parasites that cling to its hide. Whale sharks live in tropical waters and are considered endangered. See more about these incredible creatures here or here.

Swimming with the Sharks

To see the whale sharks, two friends, my husband and I chartered a small boat on the Bay of La Paz. The charter companies specialize in whale shark sightings and fishing activities.

After a 20-minute ride to the edge of the bay, our captain stopped the motor and pointed out a few feet to starboard. There it was, a gigantic whale shark! My heart was pounding! We took some photos, and quickly threw on our snorkeling gear, and one by one, we quietly slipped into the water. I was the last one in. As I adjusted my mask, the captain stood above me and pointed down. I shrieked into my snorkel with both fear and delight as the huge whale shark serenely swam just two feet below me.

Close up a a massive whale shark

In my mind, I knew they were harmless creatures. In fact, they reminded me of giant cows lazily grazing in a pasture. These humongous creatures swim with their toothless mouths near the surface feeding on the plankton-rich waters, with no other care in the world.

We all took turns taking photos of each other swimming alongside the sharks with an underwater camera. At one point as my friend took several of me, as he swam backwards to get a better angle, he bumped into a second one that appeared. It was as if he jumped five feet out of the water in surprise and fright!

I had plenty of faith knowing that my other friend had gone swimming with the sharks before, and therefore knew what she was doing. I have a healthy respect for all members of the animal kingdom due to my outdoor nature. And even after swimming alongside for a while, feeling like a mermaid, most of my fear dissipated, until…

I instantly was surrounded by three of them!

People on a nearby boat giggled at my realization when they heard me shriek into my snorkel again. Curious, but respectful, I cautiously reached out and touched the gentle giant just twelve inches away from my outstretched hand. The skin felt like the texture of wet cement. At that moment the shark loomed before me as if it were my whole world. The shark, unfazed, continued to feed as if I did not exist.

To these magnificent creatures, we puny humans appear as insignificant as a fly on the wall of the world’s ocean. When they finish or grow tired of human interaction, they merely dive and completely disappear in the murky depths and move on to their next meal. I imagine with dread, their huge, powerful tail fins could inadvertently send someone somersaulting through the water.

Seeking Inspiration and Time

If we were having coffee, I would tell you, in 2016, I was uninspired with my blogging before I left on my winter vacation. I felt that I had told all the stories I had to tell. I had been wanting to spend time writing a non-fiction book and was seriously ready to shut down the blog. Blogging and its care and feeding take a lot of time. My part-time work teaching as a university lecturer has taken much more time than I anticipated in developing new curricula and prep-work. Something had to give. I’m supposed to be (semi) retired!

As I struggled with finding time to fit everything in, swimming with the whale sharks taught me a few things. Their whole lives are about feeding. They swim, feed, produce young, and repeat.

I realized the daily mechanics of writing my book could wait until summer when I am away from classes for three months. Since I will be writing about leisure, participating in summer leisure activities will provide me more content for which I can use for the book. There is no hurry to write and publish this project. But it will get done.

Read here about my renewed blogging inspiration.

To help with my renewed zest for blogging, I joined two Facebook groups. Blog, Share, Love  is a group that assists with blog promotion and social networking. Another similar group, Blog, Share, Learn  focuses on blog promotion and improvement. Within these groups are committed bloggers, writers, artists and photographers who take their work seriously, and have fun while doing so.

What Swimming with Whale Sharks Taught Me

Swim slowly through life and enjoy the journey. Things done well take time. There is no hurry for excellence, because it will manifest itself when work is carefully crafted. Patience really is a virtue.

Take time for leisure for continued growth and motivation to succeed. Try new things, have fun and do it with passion and gusto. Be open to new ideas and accept the sense of adventure… and prepare to be exhilarated!

Embrace a healthy fear and respect for the animal kingdom. Our planet is not infinite and neither are our lives. Appreciate the beauty of Earth’s creatures and the environments in which they live. Some may not be there tomorrow.

How small and insignificant my problems really are. Our circles of family and friends hold significance for us as we share our values, passions and love. To each other, we ARE significant. Just like the remora and schools of fish that swim with the sharks, we exist in a helpful community.

The really big things in life are harmless in the grand scheme of things. What may seem like an insurmountable or massive problem can be whittled down to plankton-sized bites to be taken in slowly and dealt with in digestible portions.

Have you had adventures that taught you lessons about life? Do tell!

Winter Weekend Coffee SharePlease consider joining the coffee clatch at Part-Time Monster’s Weekend Coffee Share 

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Polar Bear Plunge California Style

California-Polar-Bears

To start out their New Year, willing participants jump into the frigid waters of a public pool. This day the air temp was 50 degrees and the water temperature a crisp 39 degrees.

The woman in the middle wearing the water wings was a local media anchor who participated. The event was a fund-raiser for recreational swimming programs.

Polar Bear Plunges are popular in cold, winter climates, making the plunge something to dread and remember. Here in Northern California, this is as close to cold as it gets.

Off-Season

Four New Years’ Resolutions to Forget

Gym Fitness

New Year's Resolve for Fitness

Being on the planet as long as I have, I see too often how New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken. Raise your hand if you have resolved to change something in the new year and have already broken it…c’mon raise your hand higher. I know mine is raised!

We make New Year’s resolutions out of good intentions motivated in part by guilt, media hype and eek! the mirror. I challenge you to forget four resolutions and be kinder to yourself this year. Who’s with me?

Do Not Join a Gym

Gym Fitness
Image by Scott Webb via Unsplash

What, you ask? Instead of gathering during tourist season and fighting for parking spaces this month, take more walks outside. If you have a dog, walk him—he needs exercise too.

For those living in cold winter regions where walking outside is out of the question, here are some ideas: dig through your old VHS or DVD collections and pull out a Pilates, yoga or Jazzercise workout. If you have cable or satellite TV, surf through stations to find a workout channel. Yoga is great because you can stretch, relax, and minimize tension.

For those who like surfing the net, check out workouts on You-tube. I found a 10-minute workout on Pinterest called the Victoria Secret Model workout. Don’t laugh, it’s pretty darn good. Mobile devices have free apps that you can download: 7 minutes is a good one. TRX suspension training also has a download for those of you who have TRX paraphernalia at home collecting dust.

Speaking of dust, pull your stationary bike or cardio machine out of the garage and start using it. If you feel that belonging to a gym is what you need, then by all means, go join or upgrade your membership. The New Years’ deals will be around for a few more weeks. If your gym is too crowded, consider going at times/days not in prime-time. Early morning workouts are great, because you can get it out of the way, shower and head to work. But make sure you commit to going.

Do Not Start a Diet

One of the common mistakes we make when starting diets is that we approach food as something NOT to eat or enjoy. Of course, we all need to eat more nutritious foods and cut down on calories. Rather than sink our money into diets that will stop working once we stop buying/eating the food, make a list of foods YOU do enjoy.

Diets that restrict calories or food groups are designed to fail. I don’t like Paleo because I enjoy grains like oatmeal and English muffins. I picked all the foods I love and simply eat less of them. No, it is not simple. I have struggled with 15-25 pounds for several years. Tricks like using a smaller plate, measuring out portions, eating smaller meals per day more often, or sitting down at the table and eating slowly can help you begin new eating habits.

Also, do not give up your favorite treats. Allow yourself a treat now and then so you do not feel deprived. If you are dieting and have a relapse, where the dish of ice cream or the bag of chips won, DO NOT give up! Start over at the next meal or the next day. And weigh yourself only ONCE a WEEK, preferably at the same time. All these diet tricks can be found online at Weight Watchers, Nutri-system, etc., without having to join.

Do Not Quit Smoking or Drinking

Why not? There is a caveat to this. If your health is at risk TODAY, and you smoke or overindulge in alcohol, or other addictive substances, then seek immediate help. Deep inside, you know what is best for you. Continuing these behaviors puts not just you and your health at risk, but the health of your family, friends and loved ones. Addiction is nothing to mess with.

Do seek outside help to quit smoking. If you are ready to quit, use the tools available, whether it is using nicotine gum or a patch to slowly and safely quit, or by contacting your medical professional. The idea is to quit slowly. Too many people resolve to quit an addictive behavior and try to do so, either on their own, or by attempting to quit cold-turkey. Again, using tools and quitting on your own is a good start, but most people cannot sustain it for very long.

Sure, we’ve all heard how Mr. Smith abruptly quit smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and was successful. Not everyone can do that. Most of us need help and guidance to stop addictive behaviors and substance use or abuse.

Do Not Start a New Hobby

Here again, is where we feel compelled to learn something new to feel more productive with our leisure time. Over our lives our interests change and evolve. Instead of learning a whole new skill like sewing or cooking, or attempting to play the guitar or learning a foreign language, make a list of skills and hobbies you already have tried. Perhaps you starting knitting 5 years ago and dumped the needles and yarn into your craft box (with other abandoned projects?).

Go shop your closet or garage to see what toys, hobbies, crafts, etc., may be lurking, ready to be used again!  I found a rug-hooking project that I started 30 years ago (to my shame). Yes, I had to You-tube how to hook the rug, but I finished it and felt pretty good about it! If you find an old project that you can re-try, many craft retail stores offer free classes where you can hone your skills and expand into new ones.

Speaking of classes, your local recreation and park department offers a variety of classes for all ages, in fitness, crafts, performing arts, martial arts, swim lessons, lap swimming, the list is endless! Most classes are inexpensive. By taking a class, you can be introduced to a new skill or hobby without putting too much money or effort into it. If you decide you do not want to continue, you can move on. Community colleges and libraries can also be good sources for free and inexpensive classes and programs.

So, yes, I tricked you. Start out your New Year with resolve, not resolutions.

If you want to change behavior or habits, do so slowly and with purpose. Ask for help. You do not have to walk this path alone. And do NOT try to set too many goals or make too many resolutions. Focus on one big item you want to change, and set another smaller goal for something else.

We all have barriers that prevent us from making small changes to our routine. Most of these barriers are of our choosing, and can be psychological or physical. If the top four resolutions don’t exist in your world, there are other things you can do to jazz up your routine. At work, see about changing your work schedule or the hours you work. Now is the time to ask about doing some work from home. If that isn’t allowed, rearrange items on your desk or in your office. Drive a new way to work, to school, to church. Better yet, take public transportation or ride your bike.

Change your perspective in some way. Choose a small, new step to making your New Year better.

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