A Thanksgiving photo essay

As we prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving Day, the day we set aside to express our gratefulness for all the blessings in our lives (and even the not-so-great things), may you be encouraged with my photo essay.  I set my photos to the ‘tune’ of an old hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth.”

For the beauty of the earth,blogDSCN7166

for the glory of the skies,  blogIMG_3644

for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise. blogIMG_5075

For the beauty of each hour 
of the day and of the night, 
blogDSCN7830hill and vale, and tree and flower, 
blogIMG_1049(2)sun and moon, and stars of light; 
blogIMG_6298Lord of all, to thee we raise 
this our hymn of grateful praise. 

For the joy of ear and eye, 
for the heart and mind’s delight, 
for the mystic harmony, 
linking sense to sound and sight; 
blogIMG_2143Lord of all, to thee we raise 
this our hymn of grateful praise. 

For the joy of human love, 
brother, sister, parent, child, 
blogIMG_5667 (2)friends on earth and friends above, 
for all gentle thoughts and mild; 
blogIMG_6441 (2)Lord of all, to thee we raise 
this our hymn of grateful praise. 

For thy church, that evermore 
lifteth holy hands above, 
offering up on every shore 
her pure sacrifice of love; 
blogIMG_1885Lord of all, to thee we raise 
this our hymn of grateful praise. 

For thyself, best Gift Divine, 
to the world so freely given, 
for that great, great love of thine, 
peace on earth, and joy in heaven: 
blogIMG_2220 (3)Lord of all, to thee we raise 
this our hymn of grateful praise. 

~ “For the Beauty of the Earth,” words written by Folliott S. Pierpoint (1835-1917)

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Thank you, Applebee’s


(Photo credit: restaurantnews.com)

It’s something we’ve never done before.

For the last few years, Papa and I have noticed that on Veterans Day, several eating establishments offer free meals to veterans and those currently serving our country in the military. 

As a former serviceman, my husband sincerely appreciates those efforts to honor fellow vets, but we’ve never taken advantage of the offers.  Some retailers also give veterans discounts on November 11 and Papa has used that service in the past.

But yesterday, with our daughter and baby granddaughter in tow, we decided to visit Applebee’s, one of the many eateries honoring Veterans Day, for dinner.

And wow, we were surprised!  Papa left work a tad early and the three of us met him at a nearby Applebee’s that happens to be across the street from a Veterans Hospital.  And I felt immediate regret that I didn’t bring my camera along.

A completely full parking lot and a crowd of folks waiting outside the restaurant was the first surprise. 

This was one busy place but it warmed our hearts to see so many elderly gentlemen, some with canes or walkers, even wheelchairs, patiently waiting to be seated.  So many of our honored vets in one place truly humbled me.

I scanned the crowd and these were the things I noticed.  A slow moving white-haired gentleman dressed in suit jacket and tie with a baseball cap identifying him as a World War II veteran.  Others with US Army or Navy logos on hats or jackets. 

One retired man sported his red Marines sweatshirt and ball cap.  Still others wore Vietnam vets insignia of some kind. Active duty servicemen in their uniforms were also spotted enjoying their free dinner.

And I wanted to run up to each and every one of these fine Americans and say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, because of you, I live in a free country!”

All military honorees, all in one place, a wonderful sight to behold.

Noticing scads of small American flags completely surrounding the establishment and waving gently in the slight breeze was yet another surprise.  Folks were greeted by members of a local American Legion who audibly thanked each person for their service.  I’m not sure how many hours those men and ladies stood at their posts.

Yet another surprise.  Two young men stood at the entrance to the establishment and opened the double doors for each and every person who entered or departed.

An empty table of honor sat front and center as we entered the restaurant, a poignant reminder of those veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

The Applebee’s staff were on ‘high alert’ mode as they seated people quickly and efficiently and treated each customer with kindness and honor.  We enjoyed a delicious meal and Papa relished his free steak. 

Our waitress gave us excellent service and she made sure to thank my husband for his time of duty to our country.  Papa was also given a discount card to use on another visit, which some may call smart marketing, but I choose to be thankful for this small gift.

All around us were smiling faces.  Even grandbaby sitting in her highchair was happy. And I felt blessed to be there.  I felt blessed to be an American.  I felt blessed that so many men and women consider it an honor and their duty to protect and serve this country we live in, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I felt honored to be among those Americans who took this oath with no hesitation or concern for their own well-being, those who sacrificed much for this country and for each of us:

“I, _____, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

Applebee’s Veterans Day promotion read like this:  “Every Veterans Day, Applebee’s invites vets and active duty military to come have a meal on us. It’s our way of saying thanks for their service. But, really, every day is an opportunity to say thank you. So, join us in our Thank You Movement to personally show your gratitude for those who have served, or are currently serving, in our military.”

This veteran’s family appreciates Applebee’s involvement in the Thank You Movement, thanking and honoring our military. 

But really, Applebee’s, we thank YOU.

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”  — Thucydides

(P.S. I have not been given any compensation for writing this; I just truly appreciate Applebee’s, and all other establishments, who support the Thank You Movement.) 

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Simply ornate

blogIMG_3559I’m not an ornate person. 

I dress simply; I don’t wear a ton of jewelry, although I love it.  Overly lavish attire is just not my style, so you won’t find a lot of bling on me. 

My house is a simple design, a farmhouse style, plain and modest with white clapboard type siding and dark green shutters yet attractive I think. 

Inside, I strive to make my home warm, inviting, and comfortable.  But ornate it is not. Opulence, you won’t find it here.

And even though I don’t incorporate anything elaborate or over-the-top into my lifestyle, I am captivated by ornate things. They intrigue me, they make fascinating photographs, they give my eyes a treat to behold, but I just don’t want them.

If you guessed that ‘ornate’ is the theme of this week’s photo challenge, you win the prize.  It just won’t be elaborately decorated if it comes from me.

I’ve chosen two photos from my ever-growing cache of pictures to personify this theme. 

The first is the magnificent structure of the Biltmore House and Gardens, an 8,000 acre, 250-room estate completed in 1895 for the Vanderbilts in in Asheville, North Carolina.  

The design is rich in ornamental and elaborate architecture and I could have spent hours just taking photos when Papa and I visited there in the summer of 2014. 

No photographs are allowed inside the enormous mansion but each room we toured fit the description of ornate.  Again, the entire place truly fascinated me and I’d love to visit there again especially during the Christmas season to see the elaborate chateau dolled up in seasonal decorations.

I couldn’t stop at just one picture that embodied the theme ornate.  Since Christmas will be upon us in no time at all, I decided to include a photo I took of an ornate crèche. 

One day last fall, Papa and I toured Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Among the intriguing exhibits in the five-story museum is a section with items from the various ethnic groups who settled in the Pittsburgh area.  I don’t recall whether this photo of the nativity scene in a replica of a church is of Slovak, Ukrainian, or some other ethnicity, but I found it enchanting enough to capture a photo of it.

blogIMG_4504Ornate or simple? 

What is your preference?  I prefer simple, but I appreciate ornate.  And the photographs that I take are a nice mix of both.

“Photography is pretty simple stuff. You just react to what you see, and take many, many pictures.” ~ Elliott Erwitt

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When love is a midnight run to Wal-Mart

blogIMG_6495 (2)I’ve been down with a creeping crud for over a week now. And when you’re sick, you have lots of time to think in between sessions of much needed naps, hacking up a lung, medicating, emptying yet another box of tissues, and just generally lying around feeling awful.

And my husband…he who probably shared his contagion with me (although he did not have this crud as severely as I have)…he’s been his typical self.  His serving self.  His loving self.

And that has caused me to think about one subject in particular.

Love.  It’s been defined in so many ways.  Most think love is the ooey gooey feeling you get when you’re infatuated with someone.  Others confuse love with lustfulness.

We humans romanticize love.  Feelings, attraction, hearts and flowers and romantic gestures.  Of course they all have a part in convincing yourself you’re in love. And that love leads a young lady in white lace and a young man with promises on his lips to the altar of marriage.

But what does love look like after decades of marriage? What is it like after the bouts of in sickness and health?  For richer or poorer? For better or worse?  Will it last until death do us part?

Here’s my definition of love, in no particular order.

Love is:

  • phoning home every night you’re away on business just to let her know where you are;
  • sacrificing your wants for the welfare of your family;
  • holding her hair back while she throws up every morning in the early stages of pregnancy;
  • supporting her in every endeavor she tries and encouraging her when she fails;
  • cleaning and dressing her 28 staples long incision from cancer surgery and caring for her during recovery;
  • going to a steak restaurant for your anniversary because she doesn’t like seafood but you love it;
  • getting up countless times a night to rock that third baby back to sleep even though you have to work the next morning;
  • working hard and saving for the future just so she can stay home to nurture and care for your children;
  • holding her tightly while she is wracked with sobs of grief over the death of her parents;
  • bathing the children and putting them to bed because she’s exhausted even though you just got back from a business trip and you’re tired as well;
  • undergoing a sleep study because your snoring keeps her up at night;
  • dropping everything to assist her and the children when they need you;
  • setting a godly example as a father by not just attending church with your family but praying and reading your Bible;
  • never giving up when you’re suddenly without a job;
  • standing out in the pouring rain/freezing cold/snowstorm to fill her car with gas because you know she needs it in the morning;
  • taking off work to sit in a hospital waiting room with her while your teenage/adult child has surgery;
  • listening to her pour out the things that scare her, trouble her, and cause her to cry out in heart-brokenness and reassuring her you’ll always be there to help;
  • standing up for her, protecting her, providing for her, and caring for her;
  • midnight trips to Wal-Mart because the flu is keeping her from sleep and she’s all out of cold remedies.

Love is putting the other person’s needs ahead of your own.

Love is my husband of 38 years.

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

My happy place…my own back yard


The theme for this week’s photo challenge theme is ‘happy place,‘ a subject I’ve written about before.  You can click here if you missed that post.  

I don’t have a plethora of words to impart right now.  But I do have photos.

And my happy place is taking pictures that I can share with others.  My happy place is spending time with my loved ones. My happy place is found in my faith.  

And even though I enjoy traveling and seeing new sights, experiencing new places, and meeting new people, I’m always glad to come back here.  

To my home.  To sit on my backyard deck and observe God’s creation settling down for a rest on this side of the world.


Painted with brilliant colors by the Master Artist.

In my own back yard.

 It’s one of my favorite happy places.

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” ~ from the poem “Home Sweet Home” by John Howard Payne

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com