Category Archives: Life According to Olivia

I will use this category to pour out all the crazy, funny, embarrassing, amazing, inspiring, heartbreaking, incredible things swirling around in my head and discuss all my thoughts about life and the universe, as I see it. Be prepared for completely random and utterly out-of-the-blue posts! :)

The Secret of the Sea

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Hi all,

I just got back from a splendid vacation to the beach, during which I did lots of swimming, biking, beachcombing, and indulging in my guilty pleasure, reading, something I don’t have time to do much during the school year. (I read a terrific book called Gift from the Sea, written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I highly recommend it.) It was a very restful vacation, and it did much to refresh my soul, as being near the ocean always does for me. I can’t explain it, but there is something about filling your lungs with moist, salty sea air that has the power both to immediately relax and to invigorate. One morning, early, before the sun had even begun to rise, while the world was silent and still, I slipped out of bed and out of the house with my camera. I walked along the all-too-familiar sandy path to the beach, and there I experienced God’s glory in the brilliant sunrise I witnessed. I took a few photos, and I thought I would share those with you, in addition to one of my favorite poems ever, The Secret of the Sea by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I’m not certain why I love this poem so much, but there is something about it that sends chills down my spine every time I read it. I can practically feel the salty spray on my face and the wind in my hair when I read its haunting, musical verse. I have always felt drawn to the sea, and this poem captures the beauty and mystery of the ocean and the thrill of the unknown.

Ah! what pleasant visions haunt me 

As I gaze upon the sea!

All the old romantic legends,

All my dreams, come back to me.

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Sails of silk and ropes of sandal,

Such as gleam in ancient lore;

And the singing of the sailors,

And the answer from the shore!

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Most of all, the Spanish ballad

Haunts me oft, and tarries long,

Of the noble Count Arnaldos

And the sailor’s mystic song.

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Like the long waves on a sea-beach,

Where the sand as silver shines,

With a soft, monotonous cadence,

Flow its unrhymed lyric lines;

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Telling how the Count Arnaldos,

With his hawk upon his hand,

Saw a fair and stately galley,

Steering onward to the land;

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How he heard the ancient helmsman

Chant a song so wild and clear,

That the sailing sea-bird slowly

Poised upon the mast to hear,

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Till his soul was full of longing,

And he cried, with impulse strong,

“Helmsman! for the love of heaven,

Teach me, too, that wondrous song!”

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“Wouldst thou,” so the helmsman answered,

“Learn the secret of the sea?

Only those who brave its dangers

Comprehend its mystery!”

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In each sail that skims the horizon,

In each landward-blowing breeze,

I behold that stately galley,

Hear those mournful melodies;


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Till my soul is full of longing

For the secret of the sea,

And the heart of the great ocean

Sends a thrilling pulse through me.

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I hope you enjoyed! Isn’t it such a wonderful poem? What are your favorite poems?

Olivia’s Trip to France, Part 2: Paris

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Hi everybody!

Here is (FINALLY) the second installment of photos from my trip to France last summer. Paris is a beautiful, vibrant city, and being there and catching sight of the tip of the Eiffel Tower over the tops of apartment buildings was like a dream. I hope you enjoy and get a feel for the electrifying atmosphere of Paris, the City of Lights, through my photos.

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A glimpse of the famous Eiffel Tower through the trees. What a magical sight…I never get tired of it.

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A street corner a few blocks away from the apartment we were staying.

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I apologize in advance for the multitude of Eiffel Tower photos in this post. While in Paris, I challenged myself to take lots of pictures of the Tower from different vantage points throughout the city, and at different angles and times of day. I had been seeing pictures of the Eiffel Tower in books and my mom’s photo albums for my whole life, and finally getting to see it in person was truly enchanting.

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We saw this plaque on the side of an apartment building. It reads, “Here lived Antoine de Saint-Exupery from 1934 to 1940.” (In case you don’t know, Antoine de Saint-Exupery is the author of the famous French book Le Petit Prince, or The Little Prince.) As wonderful as America is, you just don’t see stuff like that walking around in any old city in the States.

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Les Invalides, which contains the Musée de l’Armée, the military museum of the French Army, as well as the tombs of some of France’s notable war heroes, including Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Napoleon’s tomb. It is HUGE.

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The outside of the Musée de l’Armée.

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The French flag, waving proudly in the warm summer breeze.

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The famous Paris metro sign. In Paris, EVERYONE takes the metro – tourists and locals alike.

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The Arc de Triomphe, one of Paris’s most famous monuments. It commemorates those who fought for France during the Napoleonic Wars. I like this picture because the people milling about underneath give you some perspective on just how big the arch really is.

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Underneath the Arc de Triomphe is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Here the Memorial Flame is perpetually burning to commemorate those unidentified soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.

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The view of the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.

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Outside the Centre Pompidou, a famous modern art museum. Even the outside of the building is artsy. Those red platforms are escalators – this is how you enter the museum. Outside in the square around the museum, musicians and artists gather to perform and sell their work.

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The Stravinsky Fountain, located just across from the Centre Pompidou. The colorful, eccentric moving statues make this fountain a true work of art.

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The view of the Eiffel Tower over the tops of apartment buildings. I took this picture at the top of the escalator going up the side of the Centre Pompidou.

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Another pretty shot of the Eiffel Tower through the trees.

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The famous Jules Verne restaurant at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, my family was not interested in spending $500 for lunch, so we didn’t go, but I hope I get the chance to go someday, even if I can only afford a glass of water. Haha. 🙂 (I’m exaggerating a little. But still, it’s pricey.)

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The view of the Seine from the top of the Eiffel Tower. In case you’re curious, getting to the top required climbing over seven hundred stairs and then waiting in line for twenty minutes to take an elevator that was crammed with about thirty tourists at once.

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The view of the Parc du Champ de Mars from the top of the Tower. (That random building in the background is the Montparnasse Tower. I think that it completely destroys the view. Apparently, I have heard that the only reason to go up in it is so that you don’t have to see it, which is a pretty depressing reason.)

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An artsy picture of the Eiffel Tower. This kind of gives you an idea of its incredible sky-scraping height.

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The Notre Dame cathedral. There was about a mile long line to get in, but it was worth it. It’s absolutely incredible and gives you a sense of the height of God’s glory and majesty.

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A gargoyle atop the Notre Dame.

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Another gargoyle. This one looks rather bored, don’t you think? Guess I don’t blame it – I would be too if I’d been sitting in the same place, in the same position, for over six hundred years.

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Another vibrant view of the city.

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The outside of the Louvre museum. This museum houses the famous Mona Lisa (which is disappointingly small in person), among other incredible things. The museum has one of the largest collections in the world, if not THE largest, and it is just a treasure trove of beautiful artifacts, including ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, tablets carved with Mesopotamian cuneiform writing, and medieval triptychs. The museum itself was once a royal palace, but the more recent addition of the glass pyramids blends modern and traditional architecture, which I find so interesting. It seems bizarre, but it works. It really does – it’s quite a striking sight.

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People sitting on the edge of the fountain in front of the Louvre, dipping their feet in the cool water. It was so incredibly HOT that summer.

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On several bridges throughout Paris, lovestruck tourists write their names on padlocks and lock them onto the gate as a symbol of their everlasting love. I think this is just so romantic and such a sweet idea. All the colorful padlocks create a sort of collage of color, which makes for an interesting photo.

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A closer look.

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A beautiful pastel sunset seen from the Seine.

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Luxembourg Palace. I took this photo strolling through the magnificent gardens of the Jardin du Luxembourg.

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I think the color in this picture is absolutely stunning. The flowers are so vibrant, the grass so green, the sky so deep and blue…

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Yes, we DID stop at a McDonald’s once on our trip. I know, I know – why go to McDonald’s when in Paris, the food capital of the world? Well, as hungry tourists, we weren’t especially interested in a two-hour long sit-down meal at a fancy restaurant, and we were so famished from all our traipsing around the city that we would have eaten anything. So we stopped at this McDonald’s along the Champs-Élysées for a bite to eat. I just thought this was too funny, so I had to take a picture. For the most part, McDonald’s in France is the same as McDonald’s in the U.S. But you can see here that the French have added their own twist.

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La Conciergerie, a former royal palace and prison. Marie Antoinette stayed here briefly before her execution.

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This is a picture of the Paris Plage, or the Paris Beach. Basically what happens is, every summer, a bunch of sand gets dumped on the side of the Seine, and umbrellas are set up and palm trees planted, to transform downtown Paris into a “beach.” Nobody actually goes swimming in the Seine, of course, but I guess it gives people a chance to “escape” urban life for a while if they aren’t able to literally take a vacation. I find this so bizarre and so neat at the same time.

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The Eiffel Tower illuminated at dusk. For the first five minutes of each hour, starting around 9:00 PM, the Eiffel Tower twinkles. At the beginning of each hour, as the twinkling begins, you can hear “ooh”s and “ahh”s from all the awestruck viewers on the lawns below. It is truly a magical sight.

I hope you enjoyed these pictures. I was so thankful for the opportunity to visit such a beautiful city, filled with so much vibrant history and rich culture, and I hope I will be able to return someday. Keep an eye out for the third and final installment of photos from my trip to France last summer, coming (hopefully) soon: Normandy!

À la prochaine (Until next time), Olivia

Spring Has Sprung

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Hi, everyone.

Several weeks ago, I was sitting outside with a book, as I often do, and I was suddenly overcome by the gentle beauty of the world caressed in spring’s sweet embrace. I ran inside to grab my camera, and snapped these photos in my own backyard, inspired by the grace and delicate beauty of the world in springtime. I hope you enjoy this compilation of spring photos and quotes, and I hope they inspire you to get outside and take notice of the beauty of nature as the world awakens from its long, wintry sleep.

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“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'” ~Robin Williams

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“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” ~Virgil Kraft

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“Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” ~Gustav Mahler

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“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come.” ~Song of Solomon 2:11-12

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“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

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“Awake, thou wintry earth – fling off thy sadness! Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth your ancient gladness!” ~Thomas Blackburn, An Easter Hymn

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“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.” ~Isaiah 35:1-2

Your friend, Olivia

Craziness! (And a Message to Readers)

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Hey, everyone!

Just a quickie post to let y’all know that yes, I am still alive! 😉 Life has been super hectic lately; I’m in the middle of a big transition and honestly, posting has been the last thing on my list of priorities lately. I’ve just been SO slammed with homework and commitments in these past few weeks since school started…I’m so sorry to have left you all hanging for over a month!  But I’m hoping to post this weekend — I have a few great posts in store, like the second installment of photos from my trip to France this summer, a new Quote of the Day (which I’m aware we haven’t done in forever), and a Faith post taking a closer look at what it means to really trust God, something I’ve been contemplating a lot lately as I try to navigate the most recent set of challenges life has thrown at me. Now, obviously, that’s not all going to happen this weekend, but you can look forward to those things in the coming weeks.

This is what my desk looks like right now!

This is what my desk looks like right now!

I’m going to try and post more often; I know I’ve been really bad about that. But even if I don’t get to posting this weekend, I’m not going to stress, because I don’t do this blog for anyone but me. This blog is a reflection of my heart and everything that makes me who I am. It is a place for me to come and pour out my all my innermost thoughts and feelings and to share my gifts and passions. If you like what I have to say, then great! I’m so thrilled that you enjoy reading what I write, and I hope you’ll visit often. If not…well, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now. And that’s okay too — everyone’s entitled to their own thoughts and beliefs. But all I’m trying to say is that I’m not going to worry about posting too much, because this blog is for me. I post whenever I feel inspired and moved to post, and I’m not going to stress out if I just can’t find the time. I hope you all understand.  I am so, so thankful to all of you who follow SOTR, who actually take the time to read my lengthy posts and leave comments. Thank you so much, and I hope you’ll stay with me as I try to navigate my frenzied life!  Stay tuned for some new posts coming up (hopefully) soon!

Your friend, Olivia

 

Olivia’s Trip to France, Part 1: The Alps

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Bonjour, tout le monde! (That’s French for “Hello, everyone!”)

Long time no see! 😉 I hope you’ve been enjoying the summer! Can you believe it’s already halfway over? Eeek! I don’t know about you, but I am SO not ready to go back to school yet! Have any of you gone on any cool vacations this summer? Or have you been indulging in a relaxing staycation? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

As for me, I just got back a number of days ago from an incredibly exciting, jam-packed trip to France! It was the first time out of the good old USA for me and my brother, which made the whole ordeal all the more thrilling. My family spent three weeks in July sightseeing, drinking in history and eating good food, and we saw and did so much in those three weeks. We were also lucky enough to have family friends living in France with whom we stayed, which was a totally different experience than staying in a hotel would have been, and which gave us the opportunity to see three wildly different areas of the country — we spent our first week at their tiny alpine cottage in the Alps, the second week at a friend of our friends’ apartment in Paris, and the last week at their beach house along the coast of Normandy.  It was wonderful to be exposed to these three different areas of France, to witness the subtle changes in culture from one side of the country to another and the immensely varying geography, architecture, food, and history that can be found in France. It was an amazing trip — we got to see and do so much (and I feel I can honestly say that while even after a month in France I’m not fluent by any means, my French did drastically improve). Today I’m sharing some photos from the first stop on our vacation: the Alps. I hope you enjoy!

This is the view from the inside of our friends' cottage.

While tiny, our friends’ cottage was very cozy and comfortable, with sweet country charm and a breathtaking view of the mountains.

This was the view I woke up to every morning.

This was the view just outside my window. Pretty amazing, huh? I felt just like Heidi, waking up every morning to see rays of sun spilling over the snow-capped peaks of the Alps and down into the valley below.

The center of town with the majestic, snow-peaked Alps rising in the background,

The center of town with the Alps rising in the background. When I laid eyes on these mountains for the first time, I was at once blown away by their astonishing height and majesty.

A bustling market going on in the village's main street.

A bustling market going on in the village’s main street, lined with tiny shops, grocery stores, crêperies, and ski apparel stores, which runs through the center of town.

Walking along the main street in town.

Walking along the main street in town.

We were awakened each morning by the joyous ringing of church bells echoing throughout the valley.

We were awakened each morning by the joyous ringing of church bells echoing throughout the valley, the only sound breaking the stillness of dawn.

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We went on a five hour hike one day — yes, five hours — and on that day alone, I took over 200 photos! The view was absolutely stunning; there were just too many picture opportunities to pass up! Bright yellow wildflowers waved in the breeze while snow-peaked mountains rose on every side, and streams gurgled and whispered over the rocks on their merry way downhill. Needless to say, we were quite exhausted at the end of the five hours. We stopped to rest multiple times, but the majority of the time was spent walking, and it was rough going! The path was rocky, with edges of stones jutting out everywhere, and it was steep — which, of course, made it very much more enjoyable going down, less enjoyable going up.

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Look at the sun, throwing its rays over the top of the mountain! It almost hurts to look at this photo. 😉

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The pretty yellow wildflowers add a pop of color to this mostly green landscape.

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So great was the beauty around me, and so happy and light my soul, that I would have burst out singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music!” if it weren’t for the many other hikers trekking along the path.

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We came across several pastures where cattle stood grazing or dozing in the hot sunshine, cowbells clinking and clanking, sounding quite like wind chimes in the breeze.

A beautiful church nestled in the pine trees.

A beautiful church, in solitary glory, nestled among the pine trees.

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A gurgling stream meandering through the valley.

Cheerful daisies dotted the hillsides.

Cheerful daisies dotted the hillsides, lifting their faces up to the sun.

The village as dusk began to fall.

Twinkling lights down in the valley as evening began to fall. Something I will never forget is standing on the deck, watching the sun sink beneath the mountains, the last rays of dusk setting the tops of the mountains on fire, staining the sky a deep blood red. (I wish I had a picture to show you, but you’ll have to use your imagination. This spectacular phenomenon lasts for only a few minutes before the sun disappears behind the mountains and all is dark, and I was so captivated watching that I totally forgot about my camera!)

That’s all for today, folks! I hope that these photos gave you a sense of the utterly magnificent and noble beauty of the Alps. Look out for the second installment (photos from Paris), coming soon.

Votre amie (Your friend), Olivia

There’s Something About the Beach…

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Hi, everybody!

Sorry to leave you hanging for so long! The entire month of March has been madness (which explains my severe lack of posts), and my family took a week long vacation to the beach, which we recently returned from. In any case, I’ve had a long time to rest and recharge, and I have some great posts coming up. Today, I’m going to share a few photos from our vacation.

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When we went onto the beach for the first time on our vacation, I ran to the water’s edge and just stood there, letting my feet sink into the sand and the waves wash over my feet. The water was chilly, so we didn’t do a whole lot of swimming, but it didn’t matter to me. I love the beach: the salty breeze, the murmuring waves, the chattering seagulls, the horizon stretching on forever. Just being there was indescribably, blissfully perfect.

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A cool action shot. The screeching of gulls is one of the many sounds that contribute to the ocean’s eerie, wild, and beautiful natural symphony.

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This picture gives you an idea of just how long and flat the beach is. You could walk for miles, and still soft, white sand and azure skies would stretch endlessly ahead of you.

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Spanish moss drapes over the branches of the mighty oak trees, giving them a coastal, breezy look.

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The wildlife here varies from Great Blue Herons to dolphins to egrets to alligators. (You have to keep an eye out when strolling along the lagoon for alligators dozing on the banks underneath the hot afternoon sun!)

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 I just think this is the coolest photo. We went kayaking on the lagoon, and I brought my camera along to snap some pictures from a different perspective. (Don’t worry, I was VERY careful with my camera!)

It was a lovely vacation, and a nice escape from the whirlwind of chaos that had become my life. Just being there and experiencing the laid-back, breezy lifestyle really helped me to relax and breathe. The ocean is my home; I don’t think there is anywhere else on this planet that I love more. There’s just something about the beach that makes you feel alive, that makes you want to leap and sing and dance and praise the Lord God for His creation!

“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch — we are going back from whence we came.” ~John F. Kennedy

Anyway, I am glad to be back, and I hope you’ll stay with me on SOTR as I try and brave the last crazy months of school and keep the posts coming! 😉 Happy Spring, everyone!

Your friend, Olivia

A Valentine’s Day Shout-Out to All the Special People in My Life!

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Hi, everyone.

First of all, I hope everyone had a Happy Valentine’s Day, and I hope your day was filled with candy and pretty cards and things — oh my goodness, I just love Valentine’s Day! I’m sorry I wasn’t able to post yesterday, on the actual holiday, but now that I have time, I’d like to send a shout-out to all the people who make my life special. I feel that Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to tell you all the things I love about you.

To my family: I love you all so much, I don’t even know what to say! Thank you for supporting me in everything and anything I do, and being on my side always, even when I’m wrong. Thank you for believing in me, and for helping me to believe in myself. I want you to know that I could never ask for a better family, and nothing you do goes unnoticed or unappreciated. I feel so blessed knowing that wherever I may go in this life, your love goes with me! Thanks for having my back, and cheering for me in whatever I do. I thank God for you everyday. I love you to the moon and back a million times, and more!

To my friends: (You know who you are.) For all my true-blue gals reading this — well, first of all, I just want to say that you are the most beautiful, incredible, amazing group of ladies and I love you more than words can say! I don’t know what I did to deserve such wonderful friends, but I am SO thankful for each and every one of you. Thank you for the laughs and the good times we’ve shared, and now, wherever life takes us from here, as the song goes, “I have been changed for good!” I want you to know that each one of you sparkles in your own way and that wherever you go, whatever you do, I’m rooting for you and praying for you all the way! Love ya! ❤

To Sadie (haha 😉 ): You are so fuzzy and cute and waggy and silly and I love you!!! Thanks for being my adorable doggy! I really appreciate all your different methods of brightening my day (i.e. licking my face, bringing me a slipper, trying to bark with a ball in your mouth, posing for hilarious pics, coming into my room and jumping up on my bed and dropping a stinky bone in my face at 7:00 in the morning). Haha, I am cracking up right now…

And, finally, to everyone out there reading this…

Thanks for reading my blog, and for sharing thoughts, hopes, and dreams with me on SOTR. Thank you for all the kind comments, and the likes on my posts, and the page views (one week ago was a record: 136! Yes!). I hope I’ve been able to inspire and entertain you through my writing, and I hope you’ll come back again!

Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤ ❤ ❤

XOXO, Olivia