Who really has the power? Linemen that’s who.

blogDSCN7812The scorching summer sun, suspended low in the western sky, slowly disappeared out of sight. 

Darkness enveloped the house.   Twinkling fireflies flickering here and there were the only light visible.  

The steady creaking of the porch swing swaying slowly back and forth seemed to be the only sound, except perhaps for the buzzing of insects.

Using as little effort as possible to move in the sweltering heat, they fanned themselves and tried to catch a wisp of any breeze that happened to float by.   “Ahh,” she sighed wistfully as she sipped a glass of already tepid water.   “I think it’s a little cooler now.”

When they couldn’t bear swatting at pesky insects any longer and darkness had completed descended upon them, they moved inside the unlit, still, and noiseless house.    He found the box of wooden matches and carefully lit the kerosene lamp in the kitchen.   An aura of light radiated in a very small circle around the lamp.

They positioned themselves, he on the easy chair and ottoman, she on the couch.  In the dim light, they could barely see one another.   They sat in silence, each one thinking, “What should we do now?”

Minutes passed slowly and he finally stood up, stretched and said, “I think I’ll just go on up to bed.  Maybe get up early in the morning when it’s light and try to get a few things done.”

She agreed there was nothing else they could accomplish and followed him up the stairs.  The bedroom windows were flung as far open as possible in hopes of allowing wafts of air, now not as heavy-laden with humidity as before the violent storm, to circulate through the screens.

She tossed and turned through the night, trying to find a cooler, comfortable spot on her pillow.  What would tomorrow bring?  What would they do if morning signaled another searing day of this heat wave?  As she tried to nod off to sleep, she whispered her prayers and thanked the Lord for yet another day and that she lived in this century.

That scene may sound like a vignette from yesteryear, back in my grandmother’s day before electricity and modern appliances, but in reality, it described our house last Friday night.  A violent thunderstorm blew into our area, bringing gusty winds, rumbling waves of thunder, and wickedly long, jagged bolts of lightning along with torrents of rain that resulted in flash flooding.  Trees downed across power lines, transformers on fire, and a host of other problems across our area were the end result.  We lost power around 5 p.m.

Let me just state right here, for all to read, I am a wimp.  I am way too dependent on my household appliances and electricity at the flip of a switch.  When the weather turns monstrously hot and humid, I rely on air conditioning, big box fans, and my refrigerator’s ice maker to keep me sane.

Neither hubby nor I slept well without power, not just because we had no air conditioning, but because we kept waking up asking each other, “Is the power back on?”

blogDSCN7817And it wasn’t.  The next morning, still no electric.  No electric meant no cooking (and no pickle making either, by the way).  Using the side burner of our propane gas grill on our back yard deck, we heated a kettle for a cup of tea.  Then we decided to acclimate ourselves to the heat by working in the garden.

I know.  What an idea!  As the temperatures soared and the humidity closed in on us, we sweat buckets while we hoed and pulled weeds and did some general clean-up in the garden and yard.

I didn’t last as long as hubby did.  He’s obviously made of more sturdy stuff than his wife.  Why I’m so wimpy is a puzzle because my family background consists of people who most definitely were made of strong stock.  All I know is that I probably wouldn’t have survived being a pioneer woman.

So after my eyes burned from sweat rolling into them and my lips were the saltiest I have ever tasted, all I wanted was shade and a huge glass of water, with a scanty smidge of ice cubes still left in the freezer, which I grabbed out as quickly as I could so I could slam shut the door and keep the coldness inside the appliance.

Later that afternoon still with no electricity, we listened to generators hum through the neighborhood and chain saws cutting up fallen trees.   We decided the outage was lasting so long, we needed to act fast to prevent losing our refrigerator and freezer food.  Hubby drove off in search of any nearby store that still had bags of ice.   When he returned, we loaded up our coolers to commence packing them with food.

And that’s when we heard it.  The distinct hum of the refrigerator sounded after almost 24 hours of silence.  The air conditioning unit sprang to life once more.  Our electric clocks flashed at us screaming, “Set me!”  All was right with the world once more….except for this…I made a resolution, and it’s not even January, to start being more grateful and less helpless.

It’s Chapter 7, Page 25, another day in my life named Opportunity, and as I’m refreshed by central air and ice cubes, I’m so very thankful for electricity and modern appliances.

But I’m even more thankful for all of those power company workers who toil many, long hours in blistering heat and freezing cold to restore our power just so I can flip a switch.  Thank you God, for those who make my life easier because those who do so surely are not wimps.

©2011mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Just call me pickle face

blogIMG_3851“Don’t be a pickle face,” my Mom used to advise me.  In other words, stop looking like a sour puss.  You know, get that grumpy look off your face.  Cheer up, better days ahead and all that.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt apparently was speaking of Calvin Coolidge when she quipped, “He looks as though he’s been weaned on a pickle.”   And she must have thought he looked downright sour.

Due to the massive sauna-like conditions that a good portion of our country is ensconced in right now, I imagine there are a lot of pickle faces out there, mine included.  I do not deal with heat very well and with temperatures hovering near 100 degrees, adding in 95% humidity, I’ve been feeling and looking quite disagreeable.  So just call me pickle face, I don’t care.

Despite the over-heated oven outside, cucumber plants in hubby’s garden are prolifically producing.   So all of a sudden, I’m surrounded by pickles.  Seriously, they’ve infiltrated a shelf in the refrigerator and they’re threatening to take over.  So it’s time to take the cucumber by the…ok, just take the cucumber….slice, mix up some brine, add spices and dill, and cram them into canning jars.  Hubby and I found a quick and easy recipe for refrigerator pickles that we’re going to try this weekend.

In the meantime, I’m attempting to wipe that pickled look off my face, really I am.   Yes, the heat and humidity make me cranky, but I’m so very thankful for central air conditioning and iced tea.  Since pickling is considered a process by which food is preserved, I guess my cool house and glass full of ice cubes actually do pickle me because they sure are preserving my body and my sanity!

Without them, I truly would be in a pickle, a sticky (no pun intended!) situation so to speak.  Lately, I’ve complained to hubby (and anyone else that would listen) that I’m caught in a predicament – just like the baseball term that’s used for a rundown between bases – between a rock and a hard place.   So adding to my grumpiness over the heat wave is my crankiness over my dilemma.

And before I turn really sour, I need to just get over it!   Get my lethargic self up and shake it off.  Maybe I need to go play a game of pickleball, something I vaguely remembering my kids playing in PE classes in their elementary school in the Pacific Northwest.

Nah, playing pickleball there you only got wet from the misty rain when you ventured outdoors, not from drippy humidity and sweat.   Ah, the Pacific Northwest….thoughts of cool summers and rain…..low humidity if any…..and pickled asparagus (something I cannot find in stores here).

Today, Chapter 7, Page 22, in my Opportunity book, while I marinate in humidity, soak in my quandary, and preserve my fond memories of life once lived in a cooler part of the country, I feel better already!

Pickles, anyone?

©2011mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When nature shows no mercy

Image via science.howstuffworks.com

Hubby and I used to live in “Tornado Alley” first in Oklahoma for a few years and then several more residing in the Midwest.

In both areas, tornado watches and warnings are common occurrences in the spring.  Middle daughter is still a little fearful of violent storms because of it.

So the recent rash of relentless twisters that ripped their way through the south brought those memories back to me today.  Our oldest daughter lives in one of the states hardest hit by a tornado resulting in much destruction and the loss of human life.

A twister touched down in her city about 10 miles from her.  Hubby and I were relieved to get her text message last evening announcing she and her roommate were safe and sound in their apartment, without power and for a while no cell phone service, but safe!

What a relief!  But yet this morning, I still felt the edge of anxiety and concern over her well-being and again was reassured when I spoke with her by phone at her place of work.

She had witnessed some debris raining from the sky into her apartment complex parking lot and she and roomie headed to the inside bathroom (the safest place in your home during a tornado if you have no basement or storm cellar) wearing their bike helmets. They are smart young women.

So many others were not as fortunate.  As hubby and I perused photos online of the devastation and read about the death toll, tears welled up in my eyes.   My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones and also to those who lost their homes and everything in it.

I can imagine their grief because I’ve witnessed first-hand the damage ferocious tornadoes wreak and those sights I saw are permanently etched into my mind – sights I will never forget as long as I live.

When hubby and I were a young married couple, we lived in Oklahoma where he served in the military.  There I actually experienced a twister’s fury.  Since then, I often can feel the air’s ripeness for a tornado.  There’s something about the air density, pressure and  stillness I sense just before a fierce funnel cloud twirls through.

I don’t know all the scientific data about that, but I can tell when a tornado watch is looming.   I often amazed friends in the Midwest when I would suddenly announce, “We’re going to have a tornado watch/warning today” and sure enough, the TV weatherman would verify what I felt.

But back to my Oklahoma story – I had no clue what a tornado’s fury was like back then.  That strange day in April, I drove home from work through a wild thunder/hail storm and my car radio warned me there were funnel clouds sighted and evidently touching down in the Texas town across the border.  And they were headed in our direction.

I scurried into our apartment, scared and worried because hubby was scheduled for all night duty at the military post and would not be home that night.   Turning on the TV, I  learned the funnel cloud definitely was heading towards our end of town.  Our apartment faced south – from where the tornado was coming!

I opened the windows a little because I had heard that windows implode inward on you from the force of the twister.   And when the TV person shouted to take cover immediately, I found sanctuary in my walk-in closet.  Our cat refused to stay with me,  instead she perched on the window sill facing south.

In a flash, she jumped off the sill and darted into the closet with me.  And that’s when I heard it – a deafening roar like I have never heard before.  The windows shook and I buried my head in a pile of laundry believing my life was coming to an end.  I prayed that God might spare me or if I died my body would be found quickly in the rubble and my husband and parents would be comforted.

And then there was silence.  I was afraid to move, so I just sat in the closet, clinging to my cat and waited.  How long I do not remember.  But I was safe and others were not.  TV news reported that three people lost their lives in our area, but the real devastation was in the Texas town where three funnel clouds joined together to form a monster tornado which cut a mile wide path many miles long.

I worked at a daily newspaper, not as a ‘hard news’ reporter but one of the ‘fluff’ people –reporting human interest type stories.   The next day at work, I was shocked when a tenant at my complex, who had been brave enough (or stupid) to take a picture of the twister, brought it to the paper in hopes of getting it printed.

The funnel cloud had sped across the wheat field adjacent to our apartment dropping debris as it went.  My home was in its direct path and that photo showed the tornado lifting up into the air over our apartment building (and over me).

Later, I traveled with my fellow news reporters and photographers to the Texas town demolished by the furious twister.  It looked like a war zone.  I cried the entire time in that car full of reporters who were shocked into silence as we drove through areas where emergency workers allowed us.

Where once tree-lined housing subdivisions had been, there was nothing left.  Nothing.  In some areas, a lonely toilet stood but absolutely nothing else.  In other areas, mangled, twisted hunks of unidentifiable materials – pieces of cars, trucks, buildings – were strewn everywhere.

I read hand written signs, fashioned out of a piece of wall or whatever was left and propped up where once a home stood, declaring, “We’re ok!”  “Lost everything, but alive!”  “Please call [number] if you’ve seen [person’s name].

I have never, ever forgotten neither those sights nor the grief I felt that day for all those people who lost everything.

We take so much for granted and in one moment, it can all be blown away with the wind.  Today is Page 28, Chapter 4, in my book of Opportunity and I pray fervently for those who suffered such loss because of this violent weather system.  And I am full of gratitude that my loved one was kept safe from its fierce wrath.

P.S.  For those of you who would like to help tornado victims in need, I highly recommend donating to Samaritan’s Purse – http://www.samaritanspurse.org

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Wherefore art thou, O Spring?

blog014February is playing tricks on me.

This morning, I could have sworn spring arrived.  When I left for another day at the office, it was 56 degrees outside, early in the a.m.

Last night, we endured rain instead of snow, lightning made an electrifying appearance and thunder roared all around us like a ravenous lion.  As a child, I remember cheering boisterously at school when it thundered this time of the year because our teacher informed us those rumbling booms ushered in spring.

Hooray!  My mind applauded this morning at the mere thought of spring time making its grand appearance.  So convinced about the arrival of the season, I wanted to recite the old childhood rhyme: “Spring has sprung, the grass is riz.  I wonder where the posies is.”

Matter of fact, my brain persuaded me that I smelled earthworms, something I always associate with that “after the rain” aroma of the spring season, when I left my house.

Alas, the temperature dropped all day – it’s now 28 degrees – and the atmosphere’s still gloomy and glum while a cold wintry-like wind bites into me.  This morning, I felt certain I would discover little harbingers of spring breaking the soil’s surface around my house, but reality reveals not one sign of our perky crocuses yet.

I’m suffering from color deprivation here! I need “sunshine, lollipops and rainbows!”  I’m tired of the cheerless, dingy landscape outside my window.  I need the hope and happiness of which the spring season reminds us.  Like the late minister Virgil A. Kraft once said, “Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” Can I get an “Amen” to that?

I desperately desire to behold perfectly pert purple crocuses, sunshiny yellow yawning daffodils and robust red rambunctious tulips popping up in my front yard.  I yearn to yield to the fabulous fragrance of a profusion of prolific pink hyacinths,  lavishly lovely lavender lilacs and diminutive dainty delights of white nestled in lily of the valley greenery.

I need spring!  I need warmth.  I need blue skies and sunshine.  I need green grass and an array of colorful flowers.  I need budding and blossoming trees.  Heck, let’s throw in some rainbows too!

Author Paul Fleischman wrote in his book,  Seedfolks: “You can’t see Canada across Lake Erie, but you know it’s there.  It’s the same with spring.  You have to have faith, especially in Cleveland.”

Fleischman’s right and not just in Cleveland!   In my neck of the woods today, I must have faith that spring is coming.

So that’s what I’m latching onto on this last page in Chapter Two in my book of Opportunity. Goodbye February, hello March!  I know you’re bringing us one step closer to Spring.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Winter (and Life) pack a punch

blogwinter time 033It looks like Ol’ Man Winter threw a sucker punch to most of our nation.

Some areas of the country ducked and dodged previous storm systems that blew through, coming out of it with a few scrapes of the snow shovel or pouring a little salt on the ice wounds.  Other areas kept getting smacked with a strong left hook.

But the recent blast of wintry weather caught many unaware; that sucker punch knocked some regions down for the count.

Last night I read my friend Homesteadrambling’s blog and viewed a couple of her pictures of the latest snow storm in her neck of the woods.

My family and I used to live in that section of the country and we experienced eight winters there.  But not once in all those years, do I recall scenes like I viewed online.

Hubby and I watched a slide show of storm photos from the Midwest.  One major highway that we traveled along often was completely shut down in a whiteout blizzard condition.  I read about a young lady forced to spend the night on a stranded bus in Chicago because she couldn’t see more than 100 feet when she attempted to walk home.

Some of my family and friends live in a southwestern state.  They too were caught by winter’s sucker punch as evidenced by their pictures on Facebook.

Again my family once lived there also and we remember how a dusting of snow sent those “sooners” into a frenzy.  In the land where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, evidently the wind swept several inches of snow and ice into their yards.

All of this reminds me of a woman I once worked with years ago when I was a young reporter/assistant section editor at a daily newspaper.  Mrs. Carter was our newsroom librarian.

Long before the internet surfaced, she was our capable and efficient go-to gal for information.  She was an older lady, sweet-natured with a well-worn face and hands.  I suspect that in her youth, she worked long and hard hours on the farm out in the sun-scorched weather.

Her duties were to catalog….everything!  If we needed a picture that our photographers could not easily attain, we asked Mrs. C. to find us one.  And voilà!  She dug through her carefully alphabetized files and found the picture you needed.

Need some background info or a copy of a photo one of our photographers took five years ago?  See Mrs. C.  Need to know who wrote an article about such and such on this date or that?  Our steadfast librarian had gigantic volumes of the actual newspaper pages bound and shelved for your perusal, as well as countless volumes on “microfiche.”

Mrs. C. was an information treasure trove hidden in a backroom office away from the hustle and bustle of the newsroom.  This gem of a lady also possessed the best attitude no matter what.  To this day over 30 years later, one of her oft-spoken phrases has stuck with me.  “My, we are having a time!” she would utter.

She didn’t qualify whether it was a good time or a bad time, a glorious time or a devil of a time.  A gut-wrenching time or a giddy time, a pleasing time or an irritating time.  To Mrs. C., it was always just “a time.”

Today on this third page of Chapter Two in my book, Opportunity,  I glance out at the snow knowing  friends, family and fellow countrymen are digging themselves out of winter’s throes, attempting to land on their feet again, and I sympathize.

Although we were spared the worst from this storm’s sucker punch here in Mama’s Empty Nest, our family has taken a few unexpected hits on the chin this winter in other areas of life.

But for all of us, I just have one thing to say, “My, we are having a time!”

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

You can’t flow when you’re frozen

Artesian well frozen over

There’s snow business like snow business.

Seems like snow is on everyone’s mind lately and in front of our eyes too as the white stuff is making an appearance from the Midwest to the South and back again in my neck of the woods.

Cold weather has been a staple here, as it usually is in the winter months and that lacy-looking precipitation has covered the ground for many weeks.  A little snow squall is working its way by my house even now as I write this.

My oldest daughter lives in the Deep South. Snowflakes dancing through the air aren’t the norm there, but much of the south is currently blanketed by the flurrying stuff.  Daughter was slightly amused Sunday night when she texted me that her employer was closing down for Monday because of a “wintry mix” settling in the area – her first “snow day” there!

After the snow arrived, she was even more amused as evidenced by this status update on her Facebook page: “Seen in my parking lot: one guy staring at his snow-covered truck like he has no clue what to do about it, and another guy using what appears to be a comb to scrape his windshield. Living in the south is so entertaining sometimes.”

Of course, here in the homeland, hubby and I also sometimes chuckle by the frenzy snow evokes in some people.  Even here, the masses get absolutely frantic by the threat of a snowstorm.

However, that is nothing compared to the frazzled state we witnessed while we lived in the Pacific Northwest.  Drivers there would actually abandon their vehicles on the berms of the highways and streets…when there was maybe an inch or two of snow covering the road.

Last winter, we had a big dig-out after feet of snow was dumped in our area.  And guess what?  We didn’t starve, nor did we run out of toilet paper.  Okay, it did take us an entire day to dig our way out of our driveway, but we were on the road again by the next day.

Snow truly isn’t the end of the world.   And it’s actually quite beautiful if you can calm yourself down long enough to enjoy it.

Today on my travels with my work, I passed an artesian well that was frozen over.  What an amazing ice sculpture it made.  If you’re unfamiliar with what an artesian well is, here is a good explanation from wisegeek.com: “An artesian well allows water that has traveled through porous rock from a higher elevation to rise to the surface. This pumpless well seems to defy gravity because the pressure that builds up between layers of rock gets relieved when the water finds a path to the open air. For nearly a thousand years, people have drilled wells to drink this cold, filtered water that doesn’t need to be hauled up from the depths.”

Unfortunately, I left my camera at home in my hurry to leave this morning, so I don’t have a photo to show how eye-catching this sight was.  It was actually much more intricate than the picture I posted with this entry.  But you will have to take my word for it.

Observing this striking sight made me think about artesian wells spouting water up into the air for all to see and enjoy.  Contemplating thoughts about water always reminds me of passages from the Bible.  And as usual, an old song, “Spring Up, Oh Well” comes to mind.

“I’ve got a river of life flowin’ out of me. Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. Opens prison doors, sets the captives free. I’ve got a river of life flowin’ out of me.” “Spring up, oh well, within my soul. Spring up, oh well, and make me whole. Spring up, oh well, and give to me that life abundantly.”

And it occurs to me on Page 11, Chapter One (January 11) in my new book entitled Opportunity that I can’t allow that well to spring up in me if I’m frozen over like that artesian well I saw today.  The river of life that comes from knowing Jesus Christ as my Savior can’t flow out of me if I am stagnant in my faith.

I need to seek after Him through prayer, reading and studying my guidebook (Bible)  and sharing what I learn with others.

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ ”  ~ John 4:13-14 (New International Version)

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Blown away

bloghome with treeBenjamin Franklin once said, “Work while it is called today,  for you know not how much you will be hindered tomorrow.  One today is worth two tomorrows; never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”

Unless you live in a wind tunnel like I do.

Our home sits in a little valley out here in the country and is situated mid-point on a gradual rise.  Our driveway angles up the hill from our house and the ground slopes downward behind it.  The wind, especially in the winter time, races up the valley and slams into our house – literally, we can hear it hit us and swirl around the house.

If we have a storm (rain or snow) accompanied by blustery wind, we can expect some object to go flying through our yard.  Sometimes the shingles sail off our roof, other times the patio furniture takes a nose dive off our deck.

I’ve watched a summer gust of wind lift our outdoor umbrella up from the patio table and completely out of the stand in which it was fastened, then toss it two or three times off the deck and through the back yard.  I’m not talking about tornado fierce winds either.

Since we built our home in a farmer’s field, there were no trees on our property.  We planted some here and there, but they aren’t very large yet because they were saplings when we planted them. Some of the trees are maple and they do turn a lovely color in autumn, as you can see from my photo.

Motoring up the driveway on my way to work earlier this week, I noticed that the largest tree in our front yard had dropped all of its leaves.  A substantial pile of orange-red discarded remnants lay under that tree and around the smaller trees located in our yard as well.  I thought, “Wow, this year I’m going to have to get out there and rake some leaves.”

Raking leaves is a task I haven’t done for a long time, and in a way I almost looked forward to it.  But of course I did not heed good old Ben Franklin’s advice that afternoon, even though his words are very sound wisdom.

Since I was weary when I came home from work, I instead delayed the chore for another day.  After all, I had to write my blog!  So even though the weather was nice and warm, I procrastinated.  I know, Ben would not be pleased.

The next day a weird and wacky weather system blew through our area.  I stopped at a store on my way home from work and when I departed, it was pouring rain.  No, it was a deluge of rain!  The wind was gusting wildly and ferociously, so much that sheets of rain were blowing sideways.

Running to my car in the parking lot, I got drenched, but by the time I arrived safely at home, the storm had blown out of here.   I was wet, shivering from being cold, hungry and tired, so it was definitely one of those nights to just stay inside, curled up all toasty and warm under a blanket on the sofa.

A sunny but crisp, chilly day ensued, and as I again drove up my driveway, I stopped my car and laughed out loud.   Glancing over to the tree where that pile of leaves, begging to be raked and relegated to the compost pile, had once gathered, I noticed that there were no leaves left!

I looked at the smaller tree; I checked the trees on the other side of the driveway.  Same thing, there was not one leaf anywhere in my entire two acre yard.   Every single leaf had blown completely away!  No raking for me  – one scenario where procrastinating actually worked in my favor.  Take that, Ben.

And then it dawned on me, the wind served as a reminder.  Even though the task of raking was not a daunting one, all the work had been accomplished for me by the wind.   Isn’t that just like Jesus and His grace?  We could work and toil and slave to atone for all the wrong-doings we commit in our lives.  We could try to earn our way into Heaven, but it’s not possible.

God forgives our sinful shortcomings when we submit our lives to Jesus Christ.  He enters our souls and with a fresh wind, He wipes us clean,  just as my yard had been swept clean of all those littering leaves.   Jesus already did the hardest task imaginable, He bore upon the cross each and every sin we could commit and paid the price for me, for you.

He endured and accomplished all the work, so you and I may enjoy His gift of grace (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense).   All we need to do to accept the gift is repent, turn away from sin, and allow Christ to transform our lives.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” ~ Acts 3:19

Have you done that?  Have you asked Jesus to blow away the rubbish in your life?  A life centered on loving and serving Him – now that blows me away!

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com