Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Two songs from my heart

God's motive toward us—not only in every moment of our lives but also in death—is love. Love is His very nature, His character, His temperament, His reason for all action. It is out of His love that He creates us and plans our lives. It is by His love that He fulfills each person's purpose and reason for being.
- Zig Ziglar, Confessions of a Grieving Christian

These two songs reflect what is on my heart right now. The first one is an old song by Watermark, one of my all-time favorite bands (Christy Nockels, lead singer). This song, Glory Baby, I heard while running the other day and I almost buckled under the weight of it. I had to turn to a different song. But now I can listen, in the comfort of my home, and cry and let it out and say goodbye. My heart goes out to all of you who have lost babies and those who have lost love before it seemed time. It helps me to personify love as a baby, and to grieve and let go. Just like the lyrics in the song, I can see the baby being held in heaven, taken care of, loved, cherished, until perfection rights all things that should have been but weren't allowed to be on this earth. Goodbye love.

Glory baby you slipped away as fast as we could say baby…baby..
You were growing, what happened dear?
You disappeared on us baby…baby..
Heaven will hold you before we do
Heaven will keep you safe until we’re home with you…
Until we’re home with you…
Miss you everyday
Miss you in every way
But we know there’s a
day when we will hold you
We will hold you
You’ll kiss our tears away
When we’re home to stay
Can’t wait for the day when we will see you
We will see you
But baby let sweet Jesus hold you
‘till mom and dad can hold you…
You’ll just have heaven before we do
You’ll just have heaven before we do
Sweet little babies, it’s hard to
understand it ‘cause we’re hurting
We are hurting
But there is healing
And we know we’re stronger people through the growing
And in knowing-
That all things work together for our good
And God works His purposes just like He said He would…
Just like He said He would…

I can’t imagine heaven’s lullabies
and what they must sound like
But I will rest in knowing, heaven is your home
And it’s all you’ll ever know…all you’ll ever know…

This next song is recent. It took a while for it to grow on me, but now I absolutely adore it. I think it's actually my favorite song right now. My kids and I saw the artist, LeCrae, along with Jamie Grace at the KSBJ Booming by the Bay concert series in Kemah a couple years ago. I blogged about it! This song really makes me realize how much literally every single good thing in my life is of God and is a gift from God. It's so easy to succumb to this selfish notion that we "deserve" happiness, or love or this that and the other thing. We don't. I see God as, well, undefinable, but in part He is the good in the world. He IS love. He IS the hug from my sweet daughter when she hasn't wanted to hug me for a year. He IS the tastiness of delicious food. He is life itself. He is the smile from a stranger. He is the hope that I carry even when times got the darkest. And so all of these blessings, all of the friends that are here today, or have been in my life, were a gift from God. And yet some experiences and even perhaps some people were not gifts from God, per se, but maybe were tests or lessons. In the end, even those are good things if we can learn from them. As the lyrics go, "I know the Spirit's purging me of everything that's hurting me." 

I had this insight into love on that same run, and that was that when you are loved by someone, it gives you hope and increases your faith. When you are not being truly loved, it tests and challenges your faith and even may cause a faith crisis in your life, a loss of hope, a loss of dreams. If there is a relationship that you are in that is leading you into a dark hole of despair, that is not the right place for you. Love makes you better. Love makes you have more hope. Love - the love that is from God - brings life because it IS life.  But I'll be damned if knowing that when you're in the middle of it isn't the hardest thing ever. Because there's the emotion we call love that is really just, well, emotion. And then there is agape love - the act and behavior of giving selflessly and committing to someone else's good.

With every breath I take, with every heart beat,
Sunrise and the moon lights in the dark street.
Every glance, every dance, every note of a song.
It's all a gift undeserved that I shouldn't have known.


If Jesus wasn't executed there's no celebration.
So in times that are good, in times that are bad
For any times that I've had it all I will be glad.
And I will boast in the cross. I'll boast in my pains.


Patiently you turned my heart away from selfishness.
I volunteer for your sanctifying surgery.
I know the Spirit's purging me of everything that's hurting me.

Friday, June 07, 2013

I love me some elephant seals!

Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) at the Piedras Blancas rookery in San Simeon, California.
Copyright (c) 2013 Wendee Nicole

I downloaded the images of the elephant seals I took at Piedras Blancas rookery last week and wanted to post them because they are just So Darn Cute! They are all or mostly subadults, I believe, but you could tell the males are just super cantankerous and like to get all up in eachother's grills. They must be instinctively fighting and standing up for their rights (to parrrrtttttyyy!! Just kidding - Beastie Boys took over for a few minutes), because when one would slither by - moving very much like an inchworm - another would challenge it. I could have watched them for hours. There was one fairly big guy in the water fighting with whoever would go out there, but most of the seals were on the beach just chillaxing. Once they would fight for a while, they would lie down like old friends. Funny dudes! These are just randomly placed on the blog, without captions. Enjoy! And if you really want to see them, Friends of the Elephant Seal has a live webcam!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Big Sur Coast, California

Dogpile!! Elephant seals at Piedra Blancas Elephant Seal rookery, CA.
Copyright (c) 2013 Wendee Nicole

Sunday we drove to Big Sur for a couple of days of camping. First, we went to Piedras Blancas to see the elephant seals! This is a rookery where they mate and give birth, and later return to molt, so you can see the seals almost year-round. This is the time of year when subadults and females return to molt. This shot looks amazingly similar to Sonoma Coast State Beach where I camped with Paige and all of our kids a couple years back!

There were only 1 or 2 big daddy-o's (maybe none?) but there were some cantankerous guys who would rear up at one another and get in eachother's faces. It was quite entertaining to watch. I suspect they were subadult males "practicing" their fighting.

A video of the elephant seals. They made the funniest noises! I don't think the video actually captured the sounds they make, though... 

I have to say, I think the elephant seals were much cuter than I thought they would be! I have seen photos of them and always thought they were rather hideous, but had never seen elephant seals in the wild before. They have those big funky noses, but they are actually super cute! I had a permagrin and could have watched for hours.

When we first arrived, I looked over the cliff edge, and these ones were really close. This one in front was adorbs! Something about her just tickled me.

The seals were in various stages of molting. We stayed about an hour and watched. I could have stayed for hours!!

Wendee feels happy and peaceful  by the sea!! (And, she likes to talk about herself in third person)

This is a shot of the ocean from a random roadside stop. It was really gorgeous and dramatic. The ocean was incredibly blue, also.

A shot of the cliffside from a roadside turnout. By the way, all these are iPhone photos... I have a ton more on my Canon camera that I haven't even downloaded, but I'll upload the best ones when I get a chance.

The view from the Nepenthe restaurant.

We ate dinner here, a restaurant overlooking the Big Sur cliffside and ocean. From their website: "In Greek, Nepenthe means "isle of no care," a place to find surcease from sorrow. So it continues to be for travelers today. A place to stop, to dream, to lift a cup to kindness." 

Miranda and I at Nepenthe. I love this photo!

Bob and Miranda at Nepenthe.

I took this photo at Nepenthe of the ocean. There was a darker blue line on the horizon that made the sea look surreal. Then I instagrammed it, making it even more artsy!

We camped at the Riverside Big Sur campground (all the state parks around were already booked by the time we made our reservation). This is the cute little tent that I brought with me... it was a "Scout" tent and thought it "fits two" it actually was a bit too short for me - ha ha. But I managed. 

We had a site right next to the Big Sur River. It was very peaceful to hear the gurgling sounds of the gentle creek as I fell asleep.

On Monday, all three of us went to look for condors where we thought they may be hanging out. We stopped at Pfeiffer Beach, which was gorgeous!

It was really cool watching the waves crashing through this giant rock just offshore... it's called Keyhole Rock.

This isn't a great photo - the sky was cloudy and foggy until about 3pm - but I thought these trees were very cool looking. This was on the short hike to Pfeiffer Beach.

Another view of Pfeiffer Beach

We took Bob back to the campground and Miranda and I explored a little. We went back to Nepenthe for a latte and soup, and then went to another park to hike. We took a 1-mile hike to the beach at Andrew Molera State Park, which took us through this beautiful California chaparral.

A creek we passed on the way to the beach. In fact, right at the beginning of the hike we had to take our shoes off and cross the freezing-cold Big Sur River!

The skies cleared right as we started hiking, so we were able to enjoy the ocean waves with a clear blue sky... I sat on a rock for a while and just listened to the sea.

Another shot of the ocean from Andrew Molera State Park

We got back to the campground around 5pm, and made our camp dinner and then... Smores! Because it wouldn't be camping without S'mores!

And a blazing campfire! Miranda and I stayed up talking about life long after dark.

Peace out! Headed back home... hasta luego!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Exploring Sonoma & Stanford

Memorial church on the Stanford University campus.
Copyright (c) 2013 Wendee Nicole

I arrived in San Francisco on Wednesday evening, and have had a great time so far. Tomorrow we're headed to Big Sur to go camping. But first, a quick update on what has been happening!

An article I am proud of came out today... CAFOs and Environmental Justice: The Case of North Carolina (or the PDF here which looks even better). This feature article for Environmental Health Perspectives is about factory hog farms and how they are disproportionately located in low-income, minority neighborhoods. I am increasingly trying to write about topics that not only cover environmental issues, but also that touch on poverty and social issues.

The most important news, most dear to my heart, is that my sweet, amazing and smart daughter, Savannah, graduated from high school. I can scarcely believe it! I am so very proud of my girl. She was #9 in a class of 700-something, in National Honor Society & a National Merit Scholar Finalist!

The night before Savannah's graduation, my mom and stepdad came in town, and we took Savannah out to dinner at Jasper's in The Woodlands. This is all of us together at the restaurant.

I don't have a lot of photos of me and my two kids together, especially now that they're older, so I love the photos my parents took!

Sam and Savi being silly at dinner.

My sweet girl with my son, Sam, after graduation, the next morning.

Savi hugging Sam. She is going to school for neuroscience!

San Francisco baby! This is the Golden Gate bridge.... Before I left for SF, I turned in a feature article about EARTH University in Costa Rica, a sustainable ag school that is very impressive. It comes out July 1st. Then, I flew to SF, and the next day I had a few meetings at Stanford, and then Miranda and I drove north to Sonoma.

The first order of business involved stopping at Envolve's Tasting Room. For you Bachelor fans out there, this is the winery of Bachelor Ben Flajnik. Yes, I'm embarrassed to say that though I do not own a working TV (it only plays DVDs), I got addicted to The Bachelor at the gym. And I thought it would be cool to see Ben's winery. It actually is just the tasting room, not the vineyard. I interviewed Ben's partner Mike Benziger, but unfortunately we didn't get to see Ben. I was impressed that the wines are organically grown and they use biodynamic farming practices. Mike Benziger is the nephew of another Mike Benziger who started Benziger wines, which Mike Jr's father also works at, and which are also organic and biodynamically farmed. Because we couldnt see the Envolve vineyards (they just lease the vineyards to grow their grapes), we went on a tour of the Benziger winery but those are on my Canon camera, and I didn't bring the cord to download the photos, so... that will have to be another blog post. These photos are all iPhone pics.

Miranda and I being silly and taking pics at the Envolve tasting room.

This is the only iPhone ic I got at the Benziger vineyard. The land was gorgeous! California poppies are one of my all-time favorite flowers. They remind me of my early childhood!

At 7pm, we had an appointment at Golden Haven Spa in Calistoga for a mud bath! This was suggested by Miranda, who had never had one but heard of them, so I was all, yes let's! You soak - and float - in this giant vat of hot mud that smells somewhere between sulfurous volcanic ash and manure. After just having written an article on hog manure, I must say, it was a bit gross. Ha. But thats' ok, #YOLO right? I can now cross that off my bucket list. After a 15 minute soak in the mud poop stuff (just kidding), you shower off then soak in a hot tub, then you get wrapped up in a blanket and relax for 20 minutes. All in all it was a nice relaxing thing to do. Then we drove back down to Sonoma where we stayed with Miranda's cousin - whose son goes to school with my niece! Small world!

In the morning, my sweet friend Zofia (my niece's mom) picked me up early and we went to breakfast at Sunflower Caffé in Sonoma. I had a salted caramel latte. Um, two. Yum! And we caught up on all the things. :)

Zofia and I taking a self-portrait in the park in the middle of Sonoma.

She had a baby miniature goat in her car! Kira (my niece) is really into animals and these guys are the cutest!

And last but not least, inspired again by the article I just wrote about being carbon-neutral (I am Carbon Neutral. Are You?) and by my editor friend's Terrapass luggage tags, I offset my "lifestyle" again for the past year, and got these handy dandy luggage tags to prove it!