Posted in lighthouses, photography, travel

Words for Wednesday: Go visit a lighthouse

It’s no secret, and if you are a regular reader of Mama’s Empty Nest, you’ll know that I love lighthouses.

I love visiting them and I love capturing their likeness with my camera. I haven’t always possessed an affinity for those beacons of light, but it’s become an acquired pleasure during many of Papa’s and my travels.

For me, lighthouses, no matter their colors, sizes, and materials they are constructed from, are simply beautiful.  Wherever they stand tall and scenic on the shores of a river, lake, bay, or ocean, they provided beacons of light for centuries while guiding mariners safely through dangerous reefs, harbors, and shorelines.

Their histories prove interesting and the scenic sights they provide inspire me. They offered a symbol of hope for sea goers in search of secure passage amidst storms and the darkness of night. And that promising symbolism still resonates today.

When I gaze upon a lighthouse, I often recall an old hymn, Send the Light by Charles H. Gabriel, which my elderly grandmother taught me as a child while we snuggled together in her rocking chair.  

There’s a call comes ringing o’er the restless wave,

Send the light! Send the light!

There are souls to rescue, there are souls to save,

Send the light! Send the light!

Refrain:

Send the light, the blessed Gospel light.

Let it shine from shore to shore!

Send the light, and let its radiant beams

Light the world forevermore!

Hope for a dark world – that’s the light of the Gospel message. Perhaps knowing that as a believer in Jesus Christ is what draws me to lighthouses.

This week, a special day honoring those earthly beacons of light will be celebrated. August 7th is National Lighthouse Day, and on that day, our country’s lighthouses will be open to for public visitors, if possible.

Way back on August 7, 1789, the United States Congress passed an act to establish and federally support lighthouses and the first federal lighthouse was commissioned then.

Fast forward to the same day in 1989, Congress passed a resolution designating August 7th as National Lighthouse Day to commemorate the act’s 200th anniversary. But the resolution was only good for that year.

A second resolution passed in 2013 when the Senate declared August 7th as National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day, but again only for that year.

However, even though officially the day is not listed on our country’s calendar of “national days,” lighthouse organizations across the nation still celebrate August 7th as National Lighthouse Day.

According to the National Lighthouse Foundation, “… the nationwide lighthouse community continues to “keep the flame” of our rich lighthouse heritage burning bright. Each year, August 7 is celebrated as National Lighthouse Day, with lighthouse groups offering the general public a host of fun-learning activities to enjoy – including tours, cruises and presentations that pay special tribute to America’s lighthouses and their grand history.”

From their perches on shores, coasts, rocky cliffs, and even islands, these beacons of light have stood the test of time through adverse conditions, violent storms, high wind, and sometimes neglect, but are being preserved by those who understand their value, their historical significance, and their beauty.

Recently on a road trip to our son’s family home in the state next door, Papa and I had the opportunity to revisit a Lake Erie lighthouse, the oldest one in continuous operation on the American side of the Great Lakes.

When we visited this site a couple of years ago, Marblehead Lighthouse was shrouded in scaffolding and covered for repainting and some repair work, so I couldn’t take a photo showing its beauty.

This time, our stop came to lovely fruition as we not only viewed the historic lighthouse pictured at the beginning of this post, but Papa and our oldest grandchild also climbed the circular stairs inside leading to a grand view of Lake Erie from the top of the tower.

I greatly appreciate the time and effort taken to preserve our treasured lighthouses each time I visit one of these magnificent structures and have the privilege to capture their lovely essence in a photograph.

Go visit a lighthouse if you can. You don’t have to wait for a proclaimed national day to do so.

“I do love to capture beauty in this world. And photos can last the test of time.” ~ Nathaniel Buzolic

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: by the sea

Maybe it’s because we lived in landlocked states for several years of our marriage or because we both grew up in another state with no ocean border.

Or maybe it’s because one of the places I’d never laid eyes on was the Atlantic Ocean and Papa took me to the beach for the first time before our marriage.

Maybe his Jersey seashore summer vacations as a youngster rubbed off on me. Or maybe it’s just because the ocean waves call to us.

Whatever the reason, Papa and I enjoy going oceanside. To the coast or the shore, whatever you prefer to call it, we’ve whiled away many happy days on either the Atlantic shore or the Pacific coast.

When I recall those trips, lyrics from an old song (from the musical, For Me and My Gal, written by Harold Atteridge and Harry Carroll) rush into my mind along with the sound of ocean waves: “By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea! You and me, you and me, oh how happy we’ll be!”

Even though we decided not to travel a great distance on our summer vacation road trip in June, we still opted to somehow land by the sea. After a trek across our home state stopping at various sites, we decided to visit as many lighthouses (a favorite of ours) along the New Jersey shore as we could in one day.

On today’s Tuesday Tour, I’m sharing the first one we encountered – East Point Lighthouse – as we began our drive up Jersey’s Atlantic coastline.

A beautifully restored active lighthouse located on the southern Delaware Bay in Cumberland County, East Point is the only remaining New Jersey land-based beacon on the bay, where it marks the mouth of the Maurice River.

This historic landmark, the second oldest lighthouse in the state, was constructed in 1849 and today still serves as an active navigational aid serviced by the United States Coast Guard.

East Point consists of an integrated keeper’s dwelling and tower and the lovely two-story Cape Cod style structure with a bright red roof has not only been restored but also fully furnished by the Maurice River Historical Society. That organization maintains the site and a year-round museum and gift shop.

Discontinued by the Coast Guard in 1941, the lighthouse had fallen into disrepair by 1971 when concerned citizens decided to form the historical society to save and restore it.  Surprisingly, the Coast Guard placed East Point back on the active navigation aids list and its lantern once again was re-lit. At night, the beacon blinks red.

In 1995, the picturesque lighthouse was named to both the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.

The lighthouse grounds and the beach there are always open to the public. Visitors may also tour the structure and climb the tower during available times and dates; special events are also held there year-round.

When we arrived, the lighthouse and museum were closed, but we strolled around the property and appreciated the peace and quiet there as we were the only tourists at the time. And of course, relished those glimpses of ocean waves.

As our first spot to visit on our lighthouse road trip up the New Jersey coast, it brought smiles to our faces, sand between our toes, and the scent of the sea.

Happiness…by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” ~ Jacques Cousteau

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in encouragement, Life

Words for Wednesday: between a rock and a hard place

Have you ever been in a really difficult position, perhaps facing a hard decision, and you just don’t know which way to turn?

You know, that feeling like you’re between a rock and a hard place.  And when you find yourself stuck in that situation, so often it feels like there’s just no way out. No escape. You feel helpless and even hopeless.

I hear people, even my own grown up kids, talking about having a blast at attractions called escape rooms. You’ve probably seen information about them online and in particular on social media and may have even gone to them yourself.

For those of you who might be in the dark about what they are, here’s a quick explanation. Escape rooms are places where you and your friends/family can basically play a game in which together you discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in one room of the attraction so you can unlock the next room. There you do the same until you reach the end, “escaping” in a certain amount of time.

Sound like fun? Not to me. I must admit I’m a bit claustrophobic so the idea of being enclosed anywhere without being able to get out easily kind of freaks me out.

For those of us who like having control over our circumstances, experiences like that create anxiety. A between a rock and a hard place kind of feeling.

Of course, there are times in life when we experience difficult situations, decisions that just aren’t easy to make, and we feel stuck with no way out. It’s easy to feel like we just can’t bust out of the hardship, no matter which way we turn. No escape.

Well over a decade ago, a health diagnosis knocked me for a loop that summer. The news made me realize I didn’t have much control over my situation. I don’t talk much about that experience because I prefer not calling attention to it. Instead, I choose to be grateful I came out of the other side of that rock and hard place when so many others don’t.

My doctor informed me a biopsy revealed cancer, thankfully caught at beginning stages. The solution was surgery and I spent that summer recuperating. But there was one more decision to make – to have further treatment as a precaution or not – in my case radiation.

I decided to proceed even though the idea made me feel a bit like being between that rock and hard place once more.

Being locked in a treatment room with radiation pumped into my body would normally have caused me to hyperventilate and experience overwhelming angst. I feared that I would panic, want to jump off that treatment gurney, scream for the medical personnel to unlock the door, and subsequently run away.

Of course, I couldn’t do so since I was tethered to that radiation machine. So how could I escape that feeling of panic if it loomed large over me? There was only one way I could think of. One way. And that was to call upon my God to help me through it.

Mercifully, I only had to endure one radiation treatment a week for four weeks and being placed in that room alone only lasted for seven minutes (yes, I had to know how long it would take).

While being prepped for treatment each week I prayed and recited scripture to stay calm. And once I was basically restrained and sequestered in the radiation room by myself, I sang a Christian song repeatedly in my mind.

The song was entitled He Knows My Name written by Tommy Walker. The lyrics soothed my anxious heart and mind through every single treatment: “I have a maker; He formed my heart, before even time began, my life was in His hands. He knows my name; He knows my every thought; He sees each tear that falls and hears me when I call. I have a Father, He calls me his own; He’ll never leave me, no matter where I go. He knows my name; He knows my every thought; He sees each tear that falls and hears me when I call.”

Maybe you are experiencing hardships right now and you feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The world seems chaotic and crazy. Anger and strife abound every direction we look. Inflation is taking its toll and throwing people into financial difficulties.

We’re still struggling as we try to recover from the you know what pandemic. Maybe you or a loved one are facing a serious health issue, an addiction problem, or family troubles or…whatever that boulder is that impedes your path.

The river of life has tossed us around from one giant rock to another until we find ourselves wedged in hard places and drowning in our sorrows.

But there is a way out of a locked room of doom. There is an escape we find by simply calling on God, the Sustainer of life and Maker of miracles. He cares. He knows. He’s only a prayer away from reaching out His hand and helping us get unstuck so we can make it through the hardships.

And maybe another song by the same title, He Knows My Name, will help you find your way to Him. Watch this video and listen to the lyrics.

“The road to glory is difficult with its rocks and boulders, its strain and struggle. Things aren’t always as easy as we would like. Surprises and pitfalls wait for us along the road of life. We’re going to sweat and sway, we’re going to wonder why things are the way they are. But every road has an end; every mountain has its peak. If we can just hold on and keep climbing, knowing that God is aware of how we’re straining, he will bring us up and over the mountains.” ~ Thelma Wells

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: a field of boulders

We’re right in the middle of summer and many American families are either on vacation or planning one soon, if they can afford gas for their cars and all the other costs associated with trips.

So, I wonder how many vacationers consider finding places in their own back yards to visit. Or at least in their own state.

When Papa and I pondered over where we might travel on a short road trip last month, we did just that. We researched places in our home state to visit that we’d never been before.

Over the years, we’ve traveled all over Pennsylvania, but we still found interesting attractions in the eastern part of our state to check out and they boggled our minds.

And since it’s just a hop over the border line to the state next door, we journeyed there for some specific sightseeing as well. Those I’ll highlight in the next few weeks.

But today on this Tuesday Tour, I’m taking you to a place I bet most people – even fellow Pennsylvanians – have never heard of.

Traveling to this particular location, secluded in Hickory Run State Park in White Haven, PA, wasn’t the easiest jaunt. We drove slowly out of necessity on a rough, winding dirt road (closed in winter), for several miles before we reached our destination. I would imagine it’s best to traverse that back road in a pick-up truck or an all-wheel drive vehicle (which we have) for this drive.

More adventurous folks and those in good physical shape and stamina could hike along a six-mile trail, which is open all year long, to view this amazing site instead of opting for the drive.

At one point before we finally arrived, we seriously doubted we were on the correct route, but we persevered and that bumpy washboard one-lane road led us to the natural wonder we sought.

We stepped out of our vehicle and couldn’t believe our eyes! Surrounded by trees, a field 1,800 feet long and 400 feet wide lay in front of us. And this field, not called Boulder Field for no reason, was full of nothing but red sandstone and quartz conglomerate rocks as far as our eyes could see!

Boulder Field is a natural wonder which scientists say began forming thousands of years ago when the earth began to warm up after an ice age. Once the temperature averaged above the freezing point, the field of rocks stopped forming and has continued to be in existence ever since.

Most boulder fields that formed during that eras eventually became destroyed by time but this one in a remote area endured. However, Boulder Field is endangered because of vandalism — it disturbed us to find graffiti spray painted on some of the rocks — and people removing rocks from the field over the years.

A warning sign that those who do so will be prosecuted since the site is a National Natural Landmark (declared so in 1967) and was designated a State Natural Park Area in 1993 to preserve the site clearly informs visitors.  

But you can climb out on that field of rocks as long as you don’t move or vandalize them. Papa stepped out onto nearby boulders to capture photos, but I did not feel sure-footed enough to do so because I could envision slipping between them, wedging an ankle, or falling and breaking a bone.

So, I just stood there at the edge of the field exclaiming to Papa how incredulous the sight was while viewing rocks upon rocks of all sizes from small ones that are just a few inches big to huge boulders 25 feet long. 

I captured several photos with my DSLR camera and Papa took some – including a panoramic picture – with his cell phone. None of the photos do justice to this amazing natural phenomenon and the scope and size of it.

We were the only visitors there at the time, so we were able to stay as long as we wanted just gaping in astonishment at the extraordinary Boulder Field.

As always, we felt blessed to embark on a road trip – even down a dusty, undeveloped road – to experience something new and worthwhile.

“May your boulders be your blessings. May you be able to embrace them. And may you find what’s extraordinary in yourself.” ~ Aron Ralston

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in choices, Life

Words for Wednesday: treasures of the heart

What do you treasure? Have you ever really pondered that thought? If I asked you what you treasured most, what would your response be?

I’ve been ruminating over the idea of treasures after writing yesterday’s blog post about Papa’s and my visit to the American Treasure Tour Museum. If you missed that, click here.

One person accumulated a lot of “treasures” for his collection which are now available for public view at that museum. Again, that boggles my mind.

Why does someone desire to amass so much stuff? Hoarding aside (because that is a different issue), some people love to acquire collections of their favorite things which can range from matchbooks to celebrity autographs to large items like cars.

I once heard about a wealthy person who had collected so many cars, he purchased several homes just to house cars in the garages. After he passed away, his family had to deal with selling not just all the cars but homes as well.

Let me state here that I’m not knocking those of you who collect things. I get it and I understand the pleasure those items provide. Collecting your favorite gadgets or gizmos makes your heart happy.

“Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure: where your treasure, there your heart; where your heart, there your happiness.” ~ Saint Augustine

I have a collection of tea pots and teacups myself. And I once thought I wanted to collect small music boxes/figurines but then realized I didn’t want to create space to display them all in, so I stopped acquiring them.

At this stage of life – in my senior citizen years – I’m trying to eliminate some of my belongings instead of collecting more. I confess I still have a long way to go to achieve that as evidenced by our basement!

But back to the question at hand – what do you treasure?  What do you collect that makes your heart happy?

For me, my greatest earthly treasures aren’t things. Instead, I treasure my family and the times we are all assembled just enjoying each other’s presence because several of my family members live far away. So, I truly cherish our moments and events that bring us together.

Next on my treasure list are a few possessions, items Papa and I “inherited” from our parents and grandparents: quilts, personal items, photographs, small mementoes. None are of any great monetary value though. They just have beloved memories attached to them.

While on our recent road trip when we visited the quirky museum named above, I noticed sheet music displayed in the Music Room there and snapped a photo of it.

I did so because it reminded me that my late mother-in-law gave me all of her old sheet music when we purchased a piano for our home many years ago.

The music she gave me dates back to the 1920’s and 30’s. I still possess those yellowed musical scores, but they are packed away in a box somewhere (most likely in that basement).

I ask myself why do I keep it? Why is it packed away? I obviously don’t play that music on our piano. And who will want it after I’m gone? Will it just be fodder for the trash can or will someone consider it a treasure?

I found it interesting that prior to visiting the treasure museum I had read an autobiography of Andy Williams, an American singer who is probably most famous for his rendition of the song Moon River and his 1960’s-70’s television variety show.

So it was a bit odd that a piece of sheet music displayed on a music stand at the museum (pictured at the beginning of this post) just so happened to be a song sung by Andy Williams. I noticed it immediately amidst the scads of other memorabilia displayed there. 

Williams died in 2012 and I felt a sense of sadness after reading that library book about his life. And now I wonder what did he treasure during his lifetime? Was it his fame? His talents? And what difference does it make now? Are any of his treasures long lasting or will they all be forgotten eventually?

So, here’s the thing I’ve come to realize over the years – our earthly treasures mean nothing in eternity.

That thought brings a Bible passage immediately to my mind. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus says “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

You know I’ve read that scripture countless times. I’ve heard many sermons preached on it. I’ve understood the meaning of that passage and what Jesus was warning us about.

Our treasures are linked to our hearts. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

It seems to me acquiring treasures is a major problem in our world today even more than it was during Jesus’ time. What do our hearts desire? Are the treasures we seek and collect worldly items like possessions, notoriety, wealth, fame, power, success, influence over others, or maybe just merely scads of trinkets and baubles?

I think desiring and obtaining those “treasures” truly shows how centered we are on ourselves. But when we accumulate (store up) those treasures, they really are insignificant for eternity. Their value is hollow and meaningless.

I’m not saying you need to stop collecting your favorite things or that you should give it all away now. Instead, for those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ, I think we should examine where our focus is.

When a collection takes precedence over our relationship with Jesus, when we spend more time on it than we do with Him, when it becomes our priority instead of praying, reading God’s Word, and doing good works in His name, for His glory, and to lead others to Him, then we need to reassess our treasures.

Someone once told me about a man who was a model train enthusiast. He not only spent his money on building an extensive display for his model trains, but he devoted a lot of time and effort into his display.

That man realized at some point that his “treasure” was usurping his time spent focusing on his Savior. So he got rid of everything he had accumulated- even all the trains.

And I wonder…could I do the same? Examining my own heart, I want to be willing to give up those kinds of treasures. I long to fill my heart and find my greatest joy with the greatest treasure ever given to mankind – a Savior named Jesus Christ.

So how can I store up treasures in heaven while still here on earth? By giving my time, my talents, my resources, my money to glorify God and lead others to Him. That’s a worthwhile treasure.

“The man who has God for his treasure has all things in one.” ~ A.W. Tozer

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: finding a treasure trove

You know the old saying, “One man’s trash is another one’s treasure?”

Well, you might be able to deduce from the photo above that Papa and I hit the treasure mother lode on our road trip vacation in June when we visited the American Treasure Tour Museum located in Oaks, Pennsylvania (west of Valley Forge National Historic Park and about 20 miles outside Philadelphia).

Finding the quirky museum proved somewhat difficult as it’s housed in a former Goodrich tire factory now repurposed. However, we persevered and finally, after a few turn-arounds and scratching our heads often because the GPS just wasn’t helpful, found the place.

And what a find it was! More items than one can imagine are displayed in a 100,000 square foot floor of this former industrial site. And I do mean just about everything that might be considered an Americana oddity, curiosity, or unusual antique.

We entered the building on the ground level and immediately were surprised at the enormous and quite elegant-looking chandelier hanging from the ceiling, basicaly in a warehouse!

After climbing a set of stairs to the second floor museum, we purchased tickets from a pleasant and helpful lady behind the counter in what is called the Music Room.

She directed us across the hall to ride a guided tour tram car with an audio recording to educate us about the displays occupying the adjacent room, a 75,000 square-foot jam packed space called the Toy Box. The vast collection we viewed boggled our minds.

In 2009, the American Treasure Tour first opened to the public so an enormous and eclectic private collection of memorabilia from the late 1800’s to the present, including pop culture items as well as unusual novelties and musical miscellanies, could be viewed.

What impresses and mystifies museum goers is the fact that all of the items came from one person’s collection and that collector has chosen to be completely anonymous, a request the museum honors. I can’t even imagine the amount of money spent to amass this gigantic assortment of “treasures.”

All the walls and floor space are covered with display items as well as many hanging from the ceiling. About 75 classic cars, several model airplanes, motorcycles, pedal cars, and even a rare seven-seat bicycle are exhibited.

Add in animated store displays including antique Christmas scenes from Macy’s New York City store, circus and clown art, dolls and stuffed animals galore, all kinds of advertising gimmicks, neon signs, and even a collection of clocks and Tiffany lamps.

The museum houses one of the world’s largest private collection of automated musical instruments including carousel band organs, nickelodeons, and calliopes. A couple light up and play music as your tram pauses to allow you to enjoy them. They surely tickled my fancy!

So much fills the massive space your eyes can hardly take it all in.

Want to see a giant Gumby? They have it.

How about a humongous 22-foot-tall white high heel shoe that was used in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park to promote a cable TV show Wedding Central? You can see it there.

Perhaps you’d like to see the 2009 Guinness Book of World Records-winning Popsicle Stick Structure, a castle created by one individual using about 400,000 sticks? You got it.

What kid wouldn’t want a bigger than life gumball machine? There it stands.

As you can imagine, I was quite busy snapping photos which fortunately are allowed in the museum.

After the tram ride was over, we were encouraged to browse and walk around the Toy Room in sectioned off pathways but of course asked to refrain from touching any of the displays.

Next we meandered back across the hall to the Music Room which also houses a small gift shop area. Over 150 automatic music machines including nickelodians, player pianos, and other musical instruments are also located in this area.  

Record album covers as well as vinyl 33-1/3, 48, and 78 speed records, movie memorabilia, and autographed celebrity photos are displayed all over the walls of this room. We got a kick out of identifying those albums we once had in our own collection.

Also to be noted is an entire area devoted to miniatures, beautiful dollhouses, a quite large Raggedy Ann and Andy collection, and radios. For those cell phone using younguns who’ve never seen a telephone, there are shelves of the earliest to modern phones, a switchboard, and even a phone booth.

But for me, the star of the show was the music box collection. Over 100 various types of music boxes are on loan to the American Treasure Tour Museum from the Music Box Society International. For any music lover, they are simply amazing.

There is just so very much to see in this unusual museum, named the 2017 Best of Philly’s “Best Weird Museum.”  And I’ve only shown you a small portion of it all in these photos. If you’d like to view more, watch this video.

We learned the anonymous collector continues to supply the museum with additions as space allows. And the museum will consider purchasing collections from others. Collectors are urged to send photos, descriptions, and prices asked by email for consideration.

It’s safe to say this unusual attraction is entertaining for everyone from children to senior citizens. The American Treasure Tour Museum is open weekends only (Friday-Sunday) from 10 am to 3:30 pm.

Admission rates, which include the tram ride, are: $17.50 for adults; $15 for seniors 65+ and military; $10 for ages 13-17; $5 for children 12 & under; and children under 2 are free.

Parking is free; the site is handicap accessible. Visitors can simply walk in or make advanced reservations on the museum’s website.

While some unappreciative folks might consider that museum’s vast collection as trash, obviously for one person all that miscellaneous stuff was treasure that needed to be preserved for people like us to come and marvel at.

We’re glad we stopped at this “weird museum” because it provided some moments of nostalgia, some incredulous astonishment, put smiles on our faces and songs in our hearts, and was a truly pleasurable way to spend an afternoon.

“Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.” ~ Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean films

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: bringing home the bacon

First off, let it be known to all people who read this – I’m not particularly fond of pigs. (All of you University of Arkansas Razorback Hog fans, don’t be offended).

Oh, I do consume meat products we obtain from pigs since I’m not a vegetarian. Pulled pork sandwiches? I’m in. Savory pork chops or a nice tender pork loin or roast? Count me at the dining table. Bacon? Seriously, I can’t deny the tastiness of it. (In limited quantities of course.)

Many years ago, one of my sisters and her family lived on a farm and in addition to other animals they possessed, they raised pigs. Woooo-eeeee, suuuuu-eeeee, those critters are smelly!

I must admit the piglets were pretty cute, but that old sow who escaped from her pen one summer day when we were visiting the farm? I did not relish aiding my sister in chasing that hog back to the barn. At. All. That pig was stubborn and BIG. And to be perfectly honest, she was a bit of a scary swine.

When our kids were young, we often tweaked their toes and recited the age old rhyme: “This little piggie went to market, this little piggie stayed home, this little piggie had roast beef, this little piggie had none, and this little piggie cried wee, wee, wee all the way home.”

Out of our three offspring, only one was fascinated by pigs as a child due to a different reason than our nursery rhyme. It all started when she was gifted with a book about a little girl who loved pigs. That prompted her to commence collecting pig figurines and other porcine what-nots.

Little piggies filled shelves of our daughter’s bedroom bookshelf, then were relegated to storage as she matured. Just a few years ago, she relinquished her collection to a garage sale. But I suspect a remnant of hankering for a pet pig still crosses her mind occasionally.

Pigs. To most of us they do seem like dirty and malodorous critters. But pigs can teach us an important lesson – not to make assumptions without knowing the facts. And boy, are there ever some folks who need to learn THAT lesson!

So here are a few facts about porky as in pigs. They are often depicted as wallowing in the mud. Eww, not a particularly healthy scenario. But they do so because they don’t have sweat glands and burrowing into cool mud helps keep their body temperatures down.

And apparently pigs are credited as being intelligent creatures. Who knew? Well, possibly E.B. White who wrote Charlotte’s Web.

I don’t think I realized or thought about the fact that pigs do not possess good eyesight. Instead, they have a very keen sense of smell to compensate for their poor vision. That’s why they are always using their snouts to find food and who knows what else.

Sticking their nose into everyone’s business we might think, but really they’re just ascertaining what’s out there by smelling since they can’t see it very well.

And that brings me to the photos I’m sharing with you in this post.

While Papa and I were traveling through farm country during last month’s road trip vacation, we stopped at a traffic signal. As usual, my passenger side window was wide open, and I was enjoying fresh air on a balmy summer day.

And that’s when I noticed a truck pulling a livestock trailer stopped beside me and my open window.

I chuckled to see piggy noses poking through the openings of the trailer. Repeatedly, those piggies kept grunting while snout after snout and sometimes an ear or two appeared.

I grabbed my camera and snapped a couple photos quickly because the light was turning green.

Pigs. On their way somewhere. Maybe they had been sold to local farmer. Or maybe…the horrors of it…they were on their way to the meat market. Or was that truck driver just bringing home the bacon in more ways than one?

And of course, that trailer load of piggies reminded me of another old rhyme I learned as a child and often still utter to this day. When we pull into our garage upon return home from a journey, even if it’s just a short jaunt, this comes to my mind:

To market,

To market,

To buy a fat pig.

Home again,

Home again,

Jiggity jig.

To market,

To market,

To buy a fat hog.

Home again,

Home again,

Jiggity jog.

To market,

To market,

To buy a plum bun.

Home again,

Home again,

Market is done.

I’m always amazed at simple aspects of life capturing my attention and causing me to grab my camera on road trips. And it’s safe to say after arriving home again (jiggity jig), nine times out of ten, those photos lend themselves to a blog post.

You might say those experiences bring home the bacon by giving me writing inspiration. Jiggity jog.

“Pigs have a delightful sense of mischief; most of them seem to enjoy a good joke and appreciate music. And that is something you would certainly never suspect from your relationship with a pork chop.” ~ Sy Montgomery

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in theater, travel

Tuesday Tour: Sight and Sound

Many people are familiar with the fact that Amish communities reside in Pennsylvania. They may even know that Lancaster County is the oldest and most well-known area for Amish settlements.

Papa and I often have toured, stayed in, and traveled through Lancaster which is a popular tourist attraction area because of the Amish’s existence. But one place we had never visited is Sight and Sound Theatre, where Bible stories come to life, located in Ronks, PA.

We remedied that on our road trip vacation last month. Knowing we’d travel through Lancaster County, we searched online to see if we could procure tickets for the latest live production of David, the Biblical story of a beloved shepherd boy chosen by God to become Israel’s king.

David was not only courageous and a great warrior, but he was a man after God’s own heart. Not perfect by any means, he failed miserably in his sins, but repented, was forgiven, and returned to the God he loved. David’s intellect and devotion to God is evident in his song (or psalm) writing, where is recorded in the Bible’s book of Psalms.

Papa and I had heard what marvelous productions Sight and Sound Theatre offered, so we purchased our tickets online and attended the sold-out performance on our first day of vacation.

This beautiful theater is a very attractive (and busy) place. Outside of the massive theater, a statue of a Lion and Lamb together is a spot that garners a lot of attention.  Before and after each show, throngs of people attempt to get their photo taken in front of it.

I managed a quick photo (trying not to get too many people in it) with my cell phone. I left my DSLR camera in our vehicle since no cameras or recording devices are allowed inside the theater during the performance.

Once we were admitted to the lobby, a tantalizing aroma of roasted almonds, sold in the concession area, wafted to us. We easily found our seats even though there are plenty of ushers to assist ticket holders. And we settled down, people watching as we waited for the production to begin.

And what a production it was! Amazing really. David’s story was told in two acts beginning with his time as a young boy sent to the field to learn how to be a shepherd to his death and final words.

The sets were spectacular with some three stories high and spread out on both sides of the center stage. Costumes and props so authentic looking – even David’s harp had been hand carved by a harp maker – one truly felt transported back to Biblical times.

Live animals, including horses, sheep, and goats added to the fun. I’m still boggled as to how those sheep were trained to do exactly what they were supposed to because, you know, sheep are considered kinda dumb.

Live actors performed to professionally recorded music and they were marvelous with excellent speaking and singing voices. But the truly amazing scene was young David aiming his slingshot at a mechanical 22-foot tall Goliath and taking him down. I’m still not sure how the theater managed to create Goliath, but it was awe-inspiring.

This particular production took fours years to bring to fruition, partly because of the pandemic lockdown, but I suspect most all theater goers who experienced it would say it was worth the wait.

According to the theater program booklet, Sight and Sound Theatres (located not only near Lancaster but also in Branson, Missouri) began as a simple slide show in 1964 presented by Lancaster County dairy farmer Glenn Eshelman. By the mid 1970’s, he and his wife Shirley needed a permanent place to hold their shows, opening a theater for that purpose.

After adding live components to their programs, an even larger theater was necessary by 1991. However, that facility was destroyed by fire just a few years later.  Not deterred by the disaster, the founders then opened a 2,000-seat, state of the art theater and the theater’s live productions became increasingly popular through the early 2000’s.

That in turn prompted them to open a second theater in Branson in 2008. Not only does Sight And Sound present live and very professional performances at both theaters but they also release DVDs, launched online streaming across the world in 2020, and have branched into movies.

What began simply as a farmer’s way of portraying God’s beautiful creation while sharing His Word eventually became a family-owned business employing 700 people who bring the Bible to life via live theater, television, and film.

Sight and Sound Theatres also offers a two-year apprenticeship at its Conservatory for performing artists who desire to give Christ-centered performances. Those enrolled take classes in acting, singing, dancing, and other theatrical courses as well as perform professionally in the theater’s musical stage productions.

The production David is ongoing through December at the Lancaster theater while on the Branson stage, theater-goers can attend Jesus until October.

For more information, visit Sight and Sound Theatre website

After a few hours of travel, we were glad we visited this one-of-a-kind theater to watch the story of David unfold before us. The sounds and sights we experienced there added enjoyment and enrichment to our day as well as reminding us of the beautifully told story of God’s chosen king, from whom an even greater King would come to save us all.

His name is Jesus.

A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.” ~ Lewis Mumford

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: heroes and bells

I’m still pondering America’s Independence Day two days afterwards, and my thoughts center on two vastly different things – military veterans and church bells. I have a soft spot in my heart for both.  

Not only did my one and only, my husband and Papa of this empty nest, serve in our nation’s armed forces, but one of my uncles was a World War II veteran, one brother-in-law served in the military, and a man who was once my brother-in-law is a Vietnam vet.

So, any time I learn of organizations supporting our veterans, I applaud them. And it touches my heart to see veterans honored in various ways.

It’s just a small recognition, but I appreciate retail stores designating parking spots for our veterans. I’m grateful when a complete stranger thanks my husband for his service to our country.

When Papa and I visited Valley Forge National Historical Park last month (to read about that, click here), a reverence for veterans was one reason why the Washington Memorial Chapel and its bell tower became one of my favorite spots there.

The other reason I loved viewing and photographing this impressive structure was simply because of its purpose and beauty.

To pay tribute to George Washington, who served our country with integrity and devotion, construction of the Gothic Revival architecture styled chapel began in the early 1900’s but wasn’t completed until almost two decades later.   

Today Washington Memorial Chapel is an active Episcopal church but is open to the public because it’s considered Valley Forge National Historical Park’s visitor chapel.

Not only did we view inside the chapel, but we spent a considerable amount of time in the 102-foot tall National Patriots Bell Tower, added to the site later and dedicated in the 1950’s.  

Both buildings are absolutely gorgeous inside and out and believe it or not, we almost didn’t stop to visit there as it was the last spot on our driving tour. But I’m so very glad we did.

No one else was there as we wandered around the chapel and bell tower and we walked along an outdoor hallway commemorating Revolutionary War regiments who encamped at Valley Forge that long winter of 1777-78. There I shot these calm, soothing photos.

After capturing photos of the outside, we ventured inside the bell tower first. Its beauty is enhanced by intricate stained glass windows, something I love to observe and capture in photos.

Each way we turned, the stained glass was so very eye-catching.

But we really appreciated the Veterans Wall of Honor there which gives permanent tribute to those who served our country in the military from the Revolutionary War to the present.

Vets from all branches of our armed forces, whether they are living or deceased, retired or active duty members, are eligible to be named on the wall with bronze plaques. Each armed services branch is also represented by a flag display.  

How appropriate it seemed to me that the Wall of Honor actually looks out at the Grand Parade area where Washington trained the Continental Army at Valley Forge.

Another display featured inside the tower is the Justice Bell, a replica of the Liberty Bell.  The Justice Bell was used as a symbol during Women’s Suffrage when the right to vote was granted to women.

I love hearing church bells and have seen the actual Liberty Bell in Philadelphia which was used to ring out independence back in 1776. Today, one of the churches in my hometown still plays hymns with church bells during the day and another church in a nearby town does the same. It just makes my heart happy when I hear those.

And of course, what would a bell tower be without bells? A carillon of 58 bells, which are played by hand with a keyboard, are housed in the National Patriots Bell Tower at Valley Forge. Unfortunately, we did not get to hear those bells ringing across the beautiful countryside so rich in history. But we can listen to them here.

After touring the tower, we stepped into the serene and quiet chapel itself and were equally amazed at the exquisite stained glass, the intricate wood carvings, stonework, and various symbols honoring the American soldier.

Unfortunately, I don’t think my photos truly captured the magnificence of the sanctuary. Light was low inside and my status as a strictly amateur hobbyist photographer didn’t help.

Sections of the chapel walls featured amazing wood carvings with various patriot soldier models inserted in them.

Our visit there served as a reminder to be thankful. Ringing bells remind me of our nation’s liberty and call me to honor those heroes who served and those who sacrificed their very lives so that freedom might be won and preserved.

But our sojourn to this chapel and bell tower also reminds me that I have freedom to worship my God and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, my Savior, the greatest Hero of all.

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” ~ Joseph Campbell

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: preserved perseverance

We Americans just celebrated Independence Day or the Fourth of July as we often call it.  It’s not just a holiday but an extremely important remembrance in our country’s history commemorating that day, July 4, in the year 1776, when the Continental Congress passed the Declaration of Independence.

When we celebrate with our barbeques, leisure outings, parades, and tons of fireworks going off all over the place, I wonder how many of us truly ponder what the real significance of this day means? How many of us would be willing to stand up as that patriot of old, Patrick Henry, did and declare, “Give me liberty or give me death!”?

As we often say, freedom isn’t free. Those who came before us paid a dear price for our liberty. So, it is a day not just to celebrate but to also pause and be grateful for.

Today on my Tuesday Tour, I’m taking you along on our recent short vacation right here in my home state to a historical spot which played a significant role in our young nation’s valiant fight to gain liberty from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War.

Since Papa is a history buff, we journeyed to Valley Forge National Park, the winter encampment site where over 12,000 colonial solders were located during the 1777-78 American Revolutionary War years. It’s also a place neither of us had visited before.

Here’s a short history lesson. By late 1777 the British occupied Philadelphia, the newly proclaimed nation’s capital and home of the Continental Congress. As a result Congress retreated to York, Pennsylvania, a safer location.

General George Washington, leader of the Continental Army, then decided to establish winter camp at Valley Forge to train and regroup his troops since the season’s harsh weather caused a pause in fighting.

Valley Forge was within a day’s travel from Philadelphia and the area terrain created a good defense against any attacking British. But what a hard winter it proved to be for the patriot troops. Not only was the weather adverse but food and supplies were scanty and infectious diseases like influenza and typhoid ran rampant through the encampment.

Yet the soldiers, under the inspiring leadership of Washington persevered, united in cause, and became successful in winning our independence by defeating the British in the years afterward.

So, Valley Forge became a key turning point in the war and today this historical site is preserved and maintained by the United States National Park Service. 

Visitors can walk or bike along 26 miles of trails, picnic, and take various tours including a 10-mile encampment driving tour with nine stops using your personal auto, a walking tour with a park ranger, or an open-air trolley tour.

Upon our arrival, we first explored the Visitor’s Center where we picked up a map for the driving tour and checked out exhibits and the gift shop there.

On our self-guided driving tour, we observed reconstructed army huts at the site of General Muhlenberg’s brigade, the artillery park area, Washington’s headquarters (the original stone house serving as his residence and office), and the Wayne Statue of General Anthony Wayne, a Pennsylvania native.

We ate a picnic lunch on a beautiful balmy summer day before completing the tour, ruminating on the hardships endured on that site over 200 years ago and mindful of the sacrifices many gave in order for us to enjoy the freedom we have today.

It’s safe to say my history loving husband enjoyed every minute at Valley Forge, but two sites we explored became my favorites, not just due to the history they represented but because they provided intriguing aspects for me to “see” through my camera lens. I loved photographing them.

The first was the National Memorial Arch, a massive structure to honor those patriot soldiers for their perseverance at Valley Forge and also to provide hope for generations to come after them.

As we traveled the walkway to that arch, I stopped abruptly because I perceived a breathtaking picture presented before me – the flag of the United States of America seen through that monumental memorial. I patiently waited for some other visitors to leave before capturing that photo featured in the beginning of this post.

Notice the size of this monument compared to my six-foot tall husband standing under it.

Inscriptions on the arch were fascinating to read and we took quite a bit of time just examining them.

This photo is from the other side of the structure and provides a lovely scene as well.

The second Valley Forge spot I couldn’t get enough of was the Washington Memorial Chapel with its impressively tall bell tower.

This active Episcopal church honors Revolutionary War soldiers and of course, George Washington throughout it. The structure is majestic and strikingly beautiful both inside and outside. I’ll highlight more photos of it in tomorrow’s blog post.

Valley Forge National Historical Park is located west of Philadelphia near the town of King of Prussia. The park is free to the public and the Visitor’s Center is open daily 9 am-5 pm except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

One of the many aspects I learned at Valley Forge was this: the letters USA intertwined and embossed on Continental Army soldiers’ uniform buttons symbolized how they were trained to transfer allegiance from their home states to one united nation and to provide a unified fighting force in order to defeat the British.

Photo found on Pinterest

The motto, “Out of Many, One,” emerged during that time, and our nation’s founding leaders chose to use the Latin translation of that phrase, E pluribus unum, as our country’s motto.

Out of many, one. Are we still that unified country today? With all the divisiveness blasting across the media each day, I don’t think so. Perhaps it’s time to remember our rich heritage and history as the United States of America. Just some food for thought.

And on that note, my hope is that these words a Continental Army soldier wrote in his journal after the Valley Forge troops endured hunger, illness, and terrible hardship for six months 245 years ago inspires us today: “We had engaged in the defense of our injured country and were willing, nay, we were determined to persevere.” ~ Private Joseph Plumb Martin.

To me, it seems like our country is injured today in so many ways. Are we Americans willing to unite as one and be determined to persevere? If we want to retain our freedom, we must.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” ~ Maya Angelou

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022