Posted in family, Life

Words for Wednesday: full hearts

Family time.

The absence of it has been one of the most difficult aspects of the you know what for the last two years (!) for many of us.  Lockdowns, sequesters, quarantines were so challenging especially when families were separated by them.

Reconnecting in person with our loved ones has provided so many moments of joy and caused us to realize how much we sometimes take members of our family for granted.

That’s why Papa and I were elated with a full nest instead of our usual empty one in February when all our chicks and baby chicks came home to roost for a late celebration of Christmas.

And just this past month, our family was able to gather once again for yet another festive occasion. Daughter One attained a milestone birthday recently and decided to commemorate it for an entire month.

She asked all of us to join her for a weekend combining it with a chance to celebrate our youngest grandchild’s birthday (her niece) as well. We all were happy to oblige and accept the invitation.

So, on a Friday late afternoon, Daughter Two and Little One (our first grandchild) traveled with Papa and me from our home state while Son, Daughter-in-Love, and little ones Two and Three drove from the state next door to all congregate at Oldest Daughter and Son-in-Love’s home down south for the birthday fest.

It was short as we all left Sunday afternoon for the long drives back to our homes but sweet. We appreciated the opportunity to relax, converse, enjoy each other’s company, and play lots of games. Our adorable three grandchildren played so happily together and this Papa and Nana loved all the hugs and snuggles we received.

Delicious food, birthday cookie cake, neighborhood walks, a trip to the park, and fun in the summer-like weather on their lovely deck and in the spacious yard completed the weekend.

Even though our nest at home was empty, our hearts were full of love and joy. Having all of our children and grandchildren under one roof, even if it wasn’t ours, was the best!

A little bonus occurred when we noticed a robin’s nest in their front yard tree. Our grandchildren were delighted to be lifted so they could view beautiful robin egg blues in that nest.

The potential for a little bird family warmed our hearts as we were blessed with our own family time. May we never have to be separated for such a long period of time ever again and may we never take any of our loved ones for granted.

“Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family. Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted.” ~ Paul Pearshall

© 2022

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: the big D

Many folks remember it from a popular long-running television show, but Papa and I have fond memories of actually traveling there in the late 70’s/early 80’s on our excursions away from our military post home back when Papa served in the armed forces.

I’m talking about Big D – Dallas, Texas. And when I think of Big D, I remember a song by the same name, written by Frank Loesser in 1956 for the musical The Most Happy Fella: ♪♫♪ “You’re from Big D…”Big D, little A, double L, A, S.”  ♪♫♪

Road trips to Dallas proved fun and exciting; sightseeing, entertainment, shopping, and delicious steak dinners were highlights of those jaunts. Some of the photos from those times were taken with a point and shoot film camera and aren’t the best quality. A couple were taken later with a 35 mm SLR film camera.

For fun, we enjoyed excursions with friends to Six Flags Over Texas, a 212-acre amusement/theme park located between Dallas and Fort Worth.  Being young couples with no children in tow, we spent an entire day on thrilling rides and watching live shows there.

The first park in the Six Flags family opened in 1961. The developer chose to name it Six Flags Over Texas to represent flags of six different countries – Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and United States of America – that all governed the state at some time in its history.

For historical observation, we visited Dealey Plaza, “the exact spot where President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot,” the JFK Memorial, and the Texas School Book Depository Building from where it was concluded assassin Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots that killed the President in 1963.

The JFK Memorial, a white concrete monument located in downtown Dallas not far from Dealey Plaza, was designed by architect Philip Johnson. The design is a 30 feet high and 50 by 50 feet wide square, open at the top, and is an imposing piece of art dedicated in 1970 to the late President.

We viewed the Texas School Book Depository Building from the street. At the time of our visit, the building had just been restored but the sixth floor (where Oswald fired from) remained empty. Much later in 1989, the Sixth Floor Museum with exhibits about the Kennedy assassination opened and is a popular attraction today.

Another museum giving historical information about Dallas County was housed in the 1892 Old Red Courthouse. Currently, this historic building is undergoing renovation and the museum is being moved to other buildings. Unfortunately, I took the following photo on a drive through the downtown area of the city, so it’s not the best shot.

Another site we spotted on an earlier drive that surprised us was a log cabin smack dab in the middle of this modern city. It proved to be a replica of the one-room John Neely Bryan Cabin, the first home in the city founded by Bryan in the early 1840’s.  

For shopping purposes, the first time we ever stepped inside the famous Neiman-Marcus store happened to be in Dallas. And I distinctly remember a very glitzy mall where it wasn’t unusual to see men in expensive cowboy hats, boots, and Western-styled suits along with their wives in fur coats.

But one memory I’ll never forget was experiencing Olla Podrida, a one-of-a-kind shopping gallery that existed in North Dallas on Coit Road. What a neat eclectic place it proved to be!

With unusual architectural structure, it was like shopping at an artisanal fair all under one roof. Inside Olla Podrida, which means “a bit of everything,” five levels of shops were found along walkways with canvas draped overhead.

All sorts of recycled building materials ranging from weathered timber and railroad ties to cell doors from an old jailhouse to antique stained glass windows were used in the construction of this one-of-a-kind place.

Shoppers could find an assortment of wares from artists and craftsmen including weavings, pottery, leather crafts, hand-made jewelry, amidst the 60+ specialty shops, galleries, restaurants, and antique stores.  

The photo above is one I found on Pinterest (source unknown). I truly regret that I didn’t take any photos inside that amazing place, which no longer exists. But I have memories of what pleasant and entertaining experiences we had there.

I also have two concrete reminders of Olla Podrida. One is a “tin-type” style photograph of us dressed in vintage clothing taken in a specialty photography shop there.

The other is an antique wooden printer’s drawer that originally held printer’s type letters and symbols used in printing presses. This was of special interest to me because at the time I was a reporter/editor for a daily newspaper.

We bought this one, along with a couple blocks of type and some miniature items that reflected our lives at the time. It has graced a wall in every home we’ve lived in ever since. Over the years, we’ve added memorabilia from places our family has visited until that antique printer’s drawer is full.

Every time I glance at it and the trinkets it holds, it resembles a sort of travel diary and causes me to recall wonderful memories of so many amazing places including the Big D.  

“Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.” ~ Oscar Wilde

© 2022

Posted in Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: staying green

Finally!!! It’s green outside of Mama’s Empty Nest!

When spring finally springs forth and the color green appears before my eyes, it makes me happy. (Yes, sunshine does that too!)

I wandered outside on a balmy spring day last week with my trusty camera in hand. Green everywhere. To quote an old saying, “What a sight for sore eyes.”

Green, green, green. And that dialed up an old 1960’s folk song, sung by the New Christy Minstrels, in my head’s jukebox.

“Green, green, it’s green they say on the far side of the hill. Green, green, I’m going away to where the grass is greener still.”

I’m happy that I don’t have to travel to the far side of the hill to find greener grass than my own backyard. Our 2.25 acre yard is covered with a green blanket of grass. Green plants are popping up all around our house.

For most people, the color green is symbolic of growth, new beginnings, and flourishing aspects of life. It invokes thoughts of resurrection and restoration when we notice withered plants that appear dead and brown in color suddenly sprout a hint of green.

If you’ve been a long-time reader of Mama’s Empty Nest, you’ll know that my faith is important to me.  

For me as a believer in Christ, green symbolizes new birth (becoming a new person through the saving grace of a Savior) and everlasting life as well as spiritual growth and fruitfulness (exhibiting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as found in Galatians 5:22–23).

After capturing photos of the many green signs of Spring I found in my yard, I sought Bible verses that mention that vibrant color. Today I’m sharing those that resonated with me the most in hope (because isn’t that also what the season Spring invokes in us?) that God’s Word inspires and encourages my readers.   

The first one, taken from the 23rd Psalm, is probably most familiar to many people: “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.” ~ Psalm 23:2

The entire psalm brings a balm to the soul but that verse paints a peaceful picture. Why? Because God heals our wounded and troubled souls when He forgives us. We find rest and restoration in Him when we figuratively “lie down in green pastures.” And when we do so, He also restores us with cool, refreshing water as our souls drink in His words of love and acceptance.

When we are refreshed and restored, it’s then important to embrace our new beginning in Christ, growing in faith, placing full confidence in God’s provision and love and exhibiting that good fruit that comes from a green tree or vine.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8

The key to staying green, growing spiritually in faith, and thriving is trusting God in all circumstances as we continue through life here on this earth.  

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.” ~  Psalm 52:8 ESV

Just as a green growing season literally comes to an end, so do our human lives. Since I’m considered a ‘senior citizen,’ I find encouragement in the following verse from Psalm 92:14 – “They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green…”

Unlike the grass that dies, the plants that wither and fade away, even we who are mature in age must and can remain fruitful as seasons and years go by.

We must never stop encouraging, helping, and praying for those around us. We can leave legacies of faith for those who come after us, lead others to find rest and restoration for their weary souls, and glorify God with our good works done in His name.

For me faith is green. It never dies. It continues to flourish and grow no matter how old you are and what season of life you’re in.

“Beauty, strength, youth, are flowers but fading seen; duty, faith, love, are roots, and ever green.” ~ George Peele (Elizabethan dramatist & poet)

© 2022

Posted in Life, travel

Tuesday Tour: off the post

It’s true that photographs remind us of precious memories. Capture a picture or visual image and that will stick with me for a long time. I sometimes even think via pictures.

With that said, I’m kinda bummed that I don’t have photos of the places we’re visiting in today’s Tuesday Tour. But the memories, I have lots of those.

Back when Papa was a military man, we were stationed in the OK state – Oklahoma. The fun aspect of living where we did then was that it wasn’t a very distant drive to get to places worth seeing.

Whenever we got the opportunity, we left military installation housing where we lived (pictured above) and moseyed off to different surroundings, but I don’t have many photos of those times.

One fall, we ventured over to the eastern part of the state and spent a day enjoying nature at Lake Eufaula in Arrowhead State Park near McAllister, OK and at Robbers Cave State Park near Wilberton, OK. (Photos taken in the late 1970’s with an instamatic film camera weren’t the best quality.)

But being a young married couple without children, we really relished traveling to metropolitan areas like Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and even Dallas, Texas (the subject of next week’s Tuesday Tour).

Who knew back then that I’d need more photos of places to highlight in a personal blog than shots of friends/family along with us in those visited spots? And to protect the privacy of those friends/family, I choose not to publish their photos in this very public blog.

So…with that being said, today I’ll probably share more memories than photos.

We visited Tulsa, which began as an oil boom town, a few times sightseeing and shopping in the late 1970’s/early 80’s. But the memory that is brightest for me was during the Christmas holiday one year.

The city was adorned with bright white lights everywhere and even though there was no chance of a white Christmas with snow, it was a festive sight. Our oldest child was just a toddler, and we thought a visit to Santa Claus in a Tulsa shopping mall would be a fun experience.

Not so! He frightened the daylights out of her and from that day on she associated jingle bells with Santa. If she heard bells, she would exclaim, “No! No! No jingle bells! No jingles!” She did recover from that early trauma and the next year was delighted by the idea of Santa.

During that same trip, we visited an ice cream parlor. (I know, in December!) The name of it escapes me but the ice cream sundae we enthusiastically enjoyed has become a family tradition.

Every year, our family makes Christmas Eve sundaes (I know, in December!) fashioned after that ice cream treat we first experienced in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Scoops of chocolate mint ice cream with chocolate syrup in between scoops, topped with whipped cream, red and green sugar sprinkles, maraschino cherry, and a miniature peppermint candy cane hanging off the side of the dessert glass.

An unforgettable memory from almost 40 years ago that we still retain today. Since I don’t have any pictures of our Tulsa tours, here’s one of our tradition sundaes.

I can’t even recall how many trips we took to Oklahoma City where we took in sights like Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma City Zoo, numerous live theater productions and musical concerts, lots of shopping, and plenty of memorable restaurants.

One that stands out in my memory was Molly Murphy’s House of Fine Repute, which closed in the 1990’s after almost 20 years in business. The first time Papa and I ate there, it was an unforgettable and very entertaining experience.

We went with friends to this highly popular restaurant with eclectic and crazy décor inside and a costumed wait staff. But the servers didn’t just wear costumes, they BECAME the characters they outrageously represented, and you never knew what to expect from them.

For instance, our waiter was dressed as Rasputin the Mad Monk. He was a tad terrifying especially when, with an insane look on his face, he stuck a steak knife into our wooden table after delivering our steak dinner plates.

We also learned quickly that you shouldn’t ask servers where the restrooms were located because they would grab you by the hand, drag you through the restaurant, and announce quite loudly to the crowds that you “had to go pee” and would anyone else like to go along? Then they all clapped wildly when you exited the restroom!

And I’ll never forget the 1963 bright red Jaguar sports car in the middle of the restaurant that served as the salad bar, nor will I forget a very tall young man dressed as the Jolly Green Giant who kept the salad bowls full and the area clean.

Memories remain but photos don’t exist in my stash, so I found this one above online.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, but a memory is priceless.” ~ Unknown

© 2022

Posted in Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: through the lens

Looking at old photographs makes me smile. I probably wouldn’t have said that a few years ago when I had mountains of them to sort through, decide to keep or toss, categorize chronologically, and arrange in photo albums/storage boxes. It was a several months-long project and I was relieved to complete it.

But now, I pull out those albums and boxes marked by years and take pleasure in perusing the contents from time to time. I’ve enjoyed taking photos since I got my very first camera – a Swinger Polaroid which took black and white instant photos – for my 12th birthday.

Back then from 1966-70, my cat, my family, and items I owned were my favorite subjects. Today I decided to share some photos I’ve taken with different kinds of cameras over the years.

After my Swinger became obsolete and film not available, I used an instamatic Kodak 110 film camera that needed flash cubes to shoot photos indoors. My photography skills weren’t the best and the photo quality wasn’t that great either.

Most of my shots were of family celebrations, college friends, a few places, and of course, my cat (although a different one). I don’t remember what happened to that camera I used in the 1970’s, but of course, it too became outdated.

After Papa and I married, we saved up some cash and bought a 35 mm film SLR Yashica camera from the military PX (Post Exchange) in 1979. We had no clue how to actually use it, so we took a photography class together where we also learned how to develop our own black and white photos.

I still took pictures of family and celebrations but started shooting more photos of places we traveled to and visited. Some of those photos have been highlighted in my previous Tuesday Tour posts.

Photographs were fun to take once more because they were better quality. Naturally, I wasn’t always sure I had good shots until the films were developed. But I took scads of photos with that camera throughout the 1980’s.

Somewhere along the line, it stopped working properly and we didn’t want to spend money to repair it because by then, we had children, purchased our first home, and money was tight living on one income.

Eventually, we acquired one of those large, cumbersome video cameras that became popular and captured our lives with it for the most part.  When that too gave up the ghost, we purchased a new, smaller, improved video camera.

In the meantime, I also owned a couple of point and shoot film cameras, but they also became inoperable after some time. Most of the photos taken with those are of our children and our extended family, with a few vacations thrown in for good measure.

By the 2000’s, compact point and shoot digital cameras became the rage, and I inherited a used one from our daughter after she purchased a new one. Being able to see your shots immediately to ascertain whether it was decent or not like the one below (yes, another cat!) was amazing!

Image ©

I used that camera for some time until Papa gifted me with a compact Nikon CoolPix point and shoot digital and I loved that pretty, little, burgundy thing. So small and handy, I could keep it in my purse, and I used it frequently.

Taking photographs became a nice hobby, especially when we became empty nesters with kids flying out of the coop and when I found myself with more free time.

Enter the DSLR camera that I received as a gift from Papa and my kids. A whole new world of photography unfolded before me with that camera and its interchangeable lenses that I still use today.

It has traveled with me to fascinating places and captured many gatherings and endearing photos of my loved ones, especially our grandchildren.  I do use my smartphone camera from time to time because of the convenience of having it available and its size, but I still can’t relinquish my dependable Canon.

While taking thousands of photos, my camera has served me well, giving me a different perspective on my world as I look at it through the camera lens. As long as it still works well, I’ll use it as my trusty companion.  

If you need me, I’ll be behind the camera, just to show where I’ve been.

“Our pictures are our footprints. It’s the best way to tell people we were here.” ~ Joe McNally, American photographer

© 2022

Posted in History, travel

Tuesday Tour: fuel for the trip

It’s no surprise that this empty nest Papa and Mama love road trips.

If you’ve been following my previous Tuesday Tour posts, you’ll remember that almost all the trips I’ve highlighted have been taken by vehicular transportation not by air.

We have flown many times and enjoyed those trips for the most part. There’s something exhilarating and thrilling for those of us who aren’t terrified by the speed at which an aircraft touches down on land and eventually stops at its destination.

But after a couple not-so-great experiences traveling by air, which had nothing to do with the actual flying but the aggravation at airline terminals, this Mama would rather travel by road trip.

Papa and I have been raring to go – to jump in our vehicle and head out to a destination via highways and byways. But…causing our desire to screech to a halt, the price of gasoline in our state is outrageous.

So, we’ve been sticking pretty close to home yet wanting to go…somewhere. One balmy Saturday afternoon recently, we attended our oldest granddaughter’s soccer game. The weather was perfect – not too warm, not too chilly, with abundant sunshine.

We could have just gone home after the game ended and worked outside, but neither one of us wanted to get dirty and sweaty. So, we pondered. Could we take a little road trip somewhere, anywhere for the rest of the day?

Stumped for a destination since we were already halfway through the day, we ascertained we couldn’t travel too far away and get back home at a decent hour or see much before darkness fell. And that posed a conundrum. Places in our area of the state that we haven’t already visited have become slim pickings.

But we crawled back into our vehicle, rolled the windows down, donned our sunglasses, and Papa started driving northward on less traveled highways. Today’s Tuesday Tour takes you along to the places we “landed.”

Our first stop was the Kennerdell Overlook in Venango County, Pennsylvania, where we parked, walked along a small site with a park bench, and read informative placards about the area.

This site provided a very nice view of the Allegheny River weaving its way through mountainous terrain in this part of the state from hundreds of feet above the river which is surrounded by forested hillsides.  

I actually did not take a photo because being as far north as we were, spring hadn’t truly arrived there yet. Trees were still bare causing the scenic area to look quite drab. But Papa and I decided it was definitely worth a trip back there in summer and especially fall when the dense wooded area would display brilliant autumn colors.

We did learn, however, that back in the days before railroads, the town of Kennderdell was noted as a busy trade center since it was located along the river. By the early 1800’s, tons of timber, coal, and wool were being shipped down river from the area. Even farm produce was shipped by barge down the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh.

From there, we moseyed along more of those blue highways until we reached the town of Titusville, PA. In my childhood I’d been through there countless times, but Papa and I visited back in 2017 when we took a train ride on the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad.

This time though, we decided to check out Drake Well Museum and Park, known as the birthplace of Pennsylvania’s petroleum industry, where Edwin Drake drilled for oil along the banks of what is now Oil Creek in 1859. The 69.5-foot-deep well was the first commercial oil well in the United States and sparked an oil boom in our country.

A full-sized replica of the Drake Well is the main feature of the 240-acre park which also houses a museum. By the time we reached this attraction, the museum had closed for the day but the outdoor exhibits and park were still accessible to visitors.

The Drake Well replica, composed of the engine house and derrick, was constructed in 1945. Weekend visitors from May to October can view  working reproductions of the wood-fired boiler and steam engine that Drake used to drill and pump oil from the well until 1861.

A collection of historic drilling rigs, including an interactive Spring Pole Drilling Rig, can also be examined on the grounds. Papa tried his hand – or I should say legs – at working that rig.

Other exhibits at the site include those for producing, transporting, and storing oil as well as a building representing the Grant Well Oil Company, where tourists can learn how oil stocks were sold, how workers were hired, and how the oil was sent to market.

An interesting activity that occurs on the last Saturdays of the month from March through October is watching craftsmen forge oil field tools in the blacksmith shop.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966; as a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1979; and a National Historic Chemical Landmark in 2009, the Drake Well Museum and Park is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays April 1-October 31 and Fridays-Sundays from November 1 through March 31.

Admission rates for adults (12-64) is $10; senior citizens (65+) $8; youth aged 3-11 $5; and 2 years and under are free.

Nearby, visitors can find plenty of recreational areas including paved bike trails, hiking trails, picnic facilities, fishing, and canoeing at Oil Creek State Park.

And even though it cost us a half a tank of gasoline, our afternoon spur-of-the-moment road trip provided another kind of fuel for us – some interesting historical information for Papa and a pleasant get-away on a beautiful day for me.

All proof that even if we’re not sure where we’re going, we’ll find something worthwhile when we get there and that is priceless.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” ~ Lewis Carroll

© 2022

Posted in Life, Spring

Words for Wednesday: flower memories

The month of May always brings thoughts of flowers to my mind.

Spring has finally arrived here at Mama’s Empty Nest now that it’s May. The old saying “April showers bring May flowers” has yet to prove true though. April brought showers of rain and snow, but May flowers are just beginning to awaken.

Just the other day, we noticed blooms bursting forth on our bleeding heart plant. The lily of the valley stalks pushed their way up through the soil, but those white, delicate bell-like flowers with a lovely aroma have yet to bloom.

Flowers truly are gorgeous, aren’t they? Their colors and aromas tantalize our senses,  bring smiles to our faces and joy to our hearts. For many, receiving flowers as a gift is most delightful.

And receiving flowers for the first time is always special.

Recently, our oldest granddaughter was the recipient of such a gift for the first time in her young life – a lovely wrist corsage for a special occasion. I snapped a photo of her, with such a look of joy on her little face, as she received those first flowers. I hope she remembers that moment for a long time to come.

Does anyone else remember the first time you received flowers? I’m not sure I do. I do recall, as a child, giving flowers when I picked little bouquets of wildflowers – sometimes just dandelions – and presented them to my mother. She would always smile and place them in a glass of water.

I suspect the first flowers I ever received were corsages at Easter and on Mother’s Day to wear to church. When I was a youngster, one wore a red or pink carnation pinned to your church dress if your mother was still living and a white one if your mother had passed away.

My father usually purchased those gifts of flowers for Mom, my sisters, and me. Mother’s Day also meant we gave flowers to Mom – sometimes a beautiful bouquet, other times flats of flowers to plant outside.

Two other May instances regarding flowers I received come to my mind, and both occurred when I was a junior high school student.

At the end of my ninth grade year, a dance was held where the girls wore a fancy dress (and by fancy, I mean a dress you’d wear to church but not school) and the boys wore suits and ties. Boys asked the girls to attend, and since I didn’t have a boyfriend, I didn’t expect to be asked.

One of my classmates, who happened to be the smartest boy in our class, was very shy. To my surprise, his friend asked me if I would go to the dance with shy guy. At first, I thought it was a joke, but the friend assured me shy guy was just too nervous and timid to do it himself.

After asking my parents if I could go, I accepted the invitation.  Shy guy was from a different culture than I was and because his parents were what we would now days call old-school, they frowned upon him socializing. Getting an education was more important and certainly taking a girl to a dance meant disapproval.  

Arrangements were made for me to meet shy guy at the school on the evening of the dance, which was perfectly acceptable for my parents as they provided my transportation to and from. (My dad was not keen on me going out with boys yet.)

What surprised me even more was when this boy met me on the school steps, he presented a beautiful corsage to me. He had saved up his money for not only the dance tickets but also the flowers and arranged for his friend to keep the corsage until dance time, apparently so he wouldn’t have to explain to his parents what they were for.

His shy demeanor continued at the dance and we didn’t talk much or even dance a lot. Mostly we sat at a table partaking of refreshments, and I’m ashamed to admit as a fickle teenage girl, I spent a good bit of time eyeing another boy I had a crush on. (That memory bothered me as an adult and I actually apologized to shy guy at a high school reunion many years later.)

Even though I considered my dance date just another classmate and had no romantic feelings for him, I kept the corsage of flowers he gave me for a very long time until it dried up and fell apart.

On another warm, spring day in May, my older sisters picked me up after school to take me home instead of my usual riding the school bus. The junior high school building was located just a few blocks from our hometown’s waterfront park along the river.

Driving home from town, we had to cross a bridge, but a red traffic signal before the bridge stopped us, so we sat alongside the park waiting for the light to turn green.

For one reason or another, I had had a crummy day. I don’t really recall why, but I do remember being down in the dumps, tired, probably just ready for school to end for the summer. I sat in my oldest sister’s vehicle in the front passenger seat with the window down, staring out at the park, no doubt with a forlorn look on my face.

Suddenly, a smiling young man (who I didn’t know) appeared at my window holding a small branch of fragrant blooms off the budding park trees, said, “These are for you,” and walked away. Despite being shocked and surprised, I had enough sense to take the offering and thank him.

I’ve never forgotten that gesture said with flowers. The young man probably was a college student from the university branch campus in our town and he obviously had been enjoying a walk in the park. How did he notice a young teenage girl who looked sad and despondent? I don’t know.

But he acted on an impulse when he gave me that gift of sweet-smelling blossoms. He changed my ordinary, humdrum, downtrodden day into a special occurrence I’ve never forgotten some 50-plus years later.

I’d like to think that the young man was a believer in God and that he listened as God whispered in his ear that a teenaged girl needed cheering up. Of course, I don’t know if that’s true. But I do know truth comes from God and His Word – the Bible – and those words last forever, unlike flowers.

Even though flowers eventually wither, die, and are forgotten, sometimes memories associated with those fragrant and beautiful “gifts” may also fade away.  But one thing I know for certain, God’s Word certainly never does.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” ~ Isaiah 40:8

© 2022

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: Of Cowboys and Indians

As a kid I played “Cowboys and Indians” and absorbed a steady diet of more western-themed television shows in the 1960’s than today’s kids could even imagine.

I recently read a quote by famous old-time cowboy Tom Mix: “The Old West is not a certain place in a certain time; it’s a state of mind. It’s whatever you want it to be.” That prodded me into reminiscing about those old television westerns.   

Mix, a fellow Pennsylvania native turned western cowboy, became famous in radio and cowboy movies and was dubbed “King of the Cowboys” in the 1920’s. He was known to be an excellent horseman, shooter, and showman. Did his popularity spur a continuing interest in the western genre of entertainment? By the 1950’s and 60’s, television programs and movies featuring Cowboys and Indians were plentiful on the air waves.

For fun and to test my memory, I listed those television series I recall best and 16 easily came to mind. From early shows like Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Wyatt Earp, Wagon Train, Death Valley Days, The Rifleman, Sugarfoot, and Cheyenne to those long running series Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and The Virginian which lasted until the early 1970’s, I remember them all.  Not to mention all those John Wayne cowboy movies I’ve seen.

“Don’t ever for a minute make the mistake of looking down your nose at westerns. They’re art – the good ones, I mean. They deal in life and sudden death and primitive struggle, and with the basic emotions – love, hate, and anger – thrown in. We’ll have westerns films as long as the cameras keep turning. The fascination that the Old West has will never die. And as long as people want to pay money to see me act, I’ll keep on making westerns until the day I die.” ~ John Wayne

Thinking about all those Cowboys and Indians also caused me to remember some places Papa and I visited in the past, the subject of today’s Tuesday Tour displaying old photos taken with a point and shoot film camera.

As a young married couple, we were transplanted from the Northeast to a place where cowboys and Native Americans were prevalent. Well over 40 years ago, Papa was a military man, and we were stationed in Oklahoma.

While there, we visited some sites that celebrated the Old West. In addition to locating Geronimo’s grave out on the range, we traveled to Anadarko, Oklahoma where an outdoor museum, known back then as Indian City, existed.

The town of Anadarko calls itself the “Indian Capital of the Nation” and the National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians can also be found there.

Back in 1980 when we visited, the museum consisted of outside displays of reconstructed dwellings to represent seven different tribes that called the southwest and southern plains home: the Wichita, Caddo, Pawnee, Pueblo, Chiricahua, Apache, and Plains.

We viewed native dancing demonstrations, Native American arts and crafts displays in the Indian City Museum, and enjoyed a guided tour, when our guide related information about American Indians’ way of life including their cultures.

The museum was founded in the mid 1950’s on the site where the Tonkawa Indians massacre by Shawnees and other tribes occurred during the Civil War. Another interesting fact is the University of Oklahoma’s Anthropology Department supervised building the facsimile dwellings for Indian City, and the grounds contained the only authentic restoration of American Indian dwellings and their way of life in the United States.

Scouring the internet to see if Indian City still exists now in 2022, I found that unfortunately, time had taken its toll on the museum grounds and it was in a dire state of disrepair when the owners listed it for sale in 2004.

For now, the site is closed; however, I learned the Kiowa Tribe purchased it and has plans to renovate the outdoor museum and build a state-of-the-art Native American cultural center there. Hopefully, this worthwhile endeavor will succeed as more aspects of Native American culture that be preserved and displayed.

From American Indians to Cowboys, Papa and I also viewed an amazing collection of Western history, art, and culture when we twice visited what was then called The Cowboy Hall of Fame and is now known as the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

This 80,000 square foot museum on 20 acres was founded in 1955 to preserve and exhibit artifacts and Western art featuring the legacy of the American West.  Visitors can view an outstanding collection of Western art including works by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell.

One of the eye-catching pieces I’ve never forgotten is a huge sculpture by James Earle Fraser called The End of the Trail.

Other exhibits showcase American cowboys, the sport of rodeo, Native American culture, and a re-creation of a turn-of-the-century Western town called Prosperity Junction.

Three major halls display history of the American west: Hall of Great Westerners honoring those men and women who made significant contributions to the American West; Hall of Great Western Performers honoring those who advanced the western genre in entertainment; and Rodeo Hall of Fame where those receiving rodeo awards, chosen by the Rodeo Historical Society, are honored.

Obviously, this site attracts people interested in America’s Western way of life since the museum website reports more than 10 million visitors from around the world have come through the doors. To see some of the collection items there, click here.    

Living in Oklahoma, Papa and I experienced just a little of what Cowboy and Indian life was like by visiting those two note-worthy places. On top of that, real cowboys, who not only owned horses but competed in rodeos as well, were part of our family and we enjoyed attending some rodeos.

Those days are past for us, but for those who still enjoy Cowboys and Indians, I am amazed to have found a magazine simply entitled Cowboys & Indians. Click here to check it out.

“It’s about passion. Our pages are filled with it. Passion for a place called the American West. Passion for the lifestyle, the attitude, the outlook. It’s uniquely American and increasingly international. It honors the past and forges the future.” ~ Cowboys & Indians magazine

© 2022

Posted in empty nest, Life, nature

Words for Wednesday: where the wild things are

Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play…well, no antelope…just deer.

Situated in a rural area where this Mama’s empty nest home is, the opening line of that old song rings true except, of course, for the antelope part.

Frequently, our home plot of ground appears to be a wildlife refuge. Glancing out our windows, we aren’t surprised to find a wild critter or several moseying through our yard and we have had to take extra measures to keep them out of our garden which they think is a free lunch.

Naturally, we have the usual creatures traversing through. Rabbits galore and one very brave fellow who often came right up onto our front porch several times one fall. I suspect he was enticed by the pumpkins displayed as fall décor by our front door.

Since we lost our calico kitty a few years ago, field mice have been found nesting in our fire ring when it was stored under our deck for winter, in our outside air conditioning condenser, and even in our clothes dryer vent. That problem was soon remedied!

Nighttime brings racoons and opossums around the neighborhood, not to mention the odious skunks, who we often smell before we see. Huge fat groundhogs wander around during the day.

White-tailed deer regularly romp and stomp their way through our yard. A flock of wild turkeys strut around while toms flaunt their stuff with wide wingspans trying to impress the hens.  

One evening a few years ago while relaxing on the front porch swing and chatting by phone with a friend, I was surprised (and frightened!) to see a black bear poke his head around the corner of our garage. I was thankful that he was startled by a neighbor’s lawn tractor noise and turned around and lumbered out of here.

On another occasion, as Papa and I drove just down the road from our house, we were shocked to see a bobcat cross in front of us.

It’s true we never know what may cross our path out here in the country. Even though we don’t have a pond near us, geese have waddled through our yard and once we even found a turtle on our driveway.

Sometimes, the wild critters leave us a “present” like the one we found at the foot of our deck steps one morning, which we think was bear scat.

A myriad of beautiful birds gather at our bird feeder and suet cake holder: cardinals. tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee, white-throated sparrow, house finch, song sparrow, American goldfinch, cat bird, black-eyed junko, mourning doves, and a red-bellied woodpecker who frequents the suet.

Of course, those bully birds – blue jays – also appear and attempt to chase away the smaller birds. And then there are the pesky crows who seem to think our place is their hangout spot.

Often, we notice a hawk soaring overhead or sitting patiently, waiting for a chance to swoop down on its prey from one of the trees bordering our acreage and dividing it from the farmer’s field behind us.

On occasion, we’ve found evidence of predator violence on our property. We suspected a young wild turkey met fowl foul play in the jaws of some wild meat-eating creature. All that remained were feathers and “remnants.” I’m sparing you the gory photos I took and only showing you the “G-rated” ones.

Just the other day, Papa called to me to come quickly to the kitchen windows. We were both surprised to see a beautiful creature we’ve never seen in our backyard before – a red fox.

He wandered through the grass coming closer and closer to our house, stopped within just 10 feet or so, then turned around and hurried back towards the brushy area behind our property and continued into our neighbor’s yard. Regretfully, I wasn’t quick enough to grab my camera or cell phone to capture a photo of Mr. or Ms. Fox.

As I write this, my morning visitor has arrived. I’m often situated at our home office desktop computer early in the morning, checking email, writing/reading blog posts, editing photos. And for the last couple of weeks, a female cardinal has come to visit me.

She flies onto our front porch, perches on one of the outdoor chairs in front of our office window, and peers in. We don’t believe she can see her reflection in the glass because the window screen probably prevents that, but something entices her there.

She arrives every day, looks all around, and then seems to peek in at me sitting here at the desk watching her.

And every morning, I whisper to her: “Good morning, Mrs. Cardinal. Did you come to visit me again today?” She cocks her head as if she hears me and then flies away.

Unfortunately, if I arise from the desk chair or move in any way, she’s frightened off in a hurry. So, I’ve been trying to take her photo as best I can (not easy through blinds and screen) without getting closer to the window. The photo at the beginning of this post is the best I’ve been able to get so far.

Sometimes the Mister comes along. You can see his bright red color in the photo below. He never perches on the chair though – that seems to be the spot for the Missus – but he does rest on the porch railing.

Perhaps they are building a nest somewhere in our front yard, but I haven’t noticed one yet.

Wherever their nest is, I completely understand their urge to provide a safe home and protect their young ones. One day though, their nest will be empty, and the fledglings will have flown away.

I too know how that feels as I perch here in our rural home akin to a wildlife refuge, but I wouldn’t want my empty nest to be anywhere else.

“Living in a rural setting exposes you to so many marvelous things – the natural world and the particular texture of small-town life, and the exhilarating experience of open space.” ~ Susan Orlean

© 2022

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: all about that space

It was a year of firsts.

It happened near the end of my very first year as a school student. Even though I was only nearly seven years old and in first grade, I distinctly remember when the very first American astronaut, Alan Shephard, was launched into outer space for the first time – a grand total of 15 minutes in May of 1961.

It was a huge history-making event and ushered in a new era of being a bit space-crazy.

Television shows about space garnered the air waves and I watched them all, fascinated. From the 60’s era cartoon The Jetsons to the silly My Favorite Martian to the campy Lost in Space (“Danger, Will Robinson!”) to the mostly forgotten It’s About Time , they all attracted my attention on the television screen. 

Being in the same generation as I was, Papa watched those shows too and became a big fan of the long-running series Star Trek after its debut in the late 1960’s.

During that decade, space travel for real continued until the ultimate happened – Americans landed and walked on the moon. I remember being glued to the television set watching that seemingly miraculous event in 1969 and nearly filling up a scrapbook with clippings about that momentous day.

So, it’s no wonder both Papa and I enjoyed a visit to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center during our inaugural empty nest road trip back in 2010. That visit, when we met up with our daughter who lived down South back then, is the subject of today’s Tuesday Tour.

Located at One Tranquility Base in Huntsville, Alabama, we spent an entire day at that site, which is a Smithsonian Institute Affiliate.

Huntsville became renown as Dr. Wernher von Braun, along with a team of rocket scientists, established the beginnings of America’s space program there when they developed rockets that not only launched the first American satellite into orbit but also eventually sent astronauts to the moon.  

While working on those projects, Dr. von Braun envisioned creating a museum, along with the U.S. Army Missile Command and NASA, to feature permanent exhibits of the space program’s hardware.

On United States Army donated land, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center became a reality and opened in 1970, displaying one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia in the world.  An estimated 17 million visitors have toured the center since it opened.

The museum is open daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets for adults (aged 13+) are $30; children aged 5-12 are $20; and those under 4 are free.

Admission to the center includes numerous interactive indoor exhibits, museum simulators and rides, and access to the outdoor attractions including Shuttle Park, Rocket Park, Military Park, and the Moon Crater.

Where else could you view over 1,500 space artifacts, the largest display in the world of rockets, and try your hand at a flight simulator or be flung 140 feet straight upwards in 2.5 seconds on the Space Shot just so you can feel what it’s like to be in a rocket launch?

Papa and Daughter were adventurous enough to brave the Space Shot while this Mama stood by snapping photos with a point and shoot digital camera.

We also viewed an assortment of military hardware: rockets, missiles, missile launchers, and other aircraft, including a space shuttle. Much of it reminded Papa and I of our younger years when Papa was a military man and I edited documentation for a software company with a military contract.

One of our favorite spots though was a facsimile of the Apollo 11 moon landing site complete with a lunar landing model and a replica of the American flag astronauts planted on the cratered surface of the moon. There we enjoyed staging photos to appear weightless and walking on the moon.

And of course, a stop in the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Gift Shop was a must where we found all kinds of fun NASA-related products and souvenirs. Our science-minded daughter noticed the perfect book she would have liked as a child.

And I literally laughed out loud at a mug which we just had to purchase. Its message still makes me chuckle to this day.

Since the center is also home to Space Camp®, an on-site educational camp program that enables participants to experience what it’s like to train to be astronauts, there is also a Space Camp Store. Although I thought only school-aged children could attend the camp, it is actually open to individuals, families, and even international visitors, but advance booking is necessary.

Much has been added and improved at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center since we visited over a decade ago. One of the additions is the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, an enormous exhibit hall containing a full-size prototype Saturn V rocket, the type of rockets that took astronauts to the moon.

Today’s visitors can also try the G-Force Accelerator, where they experience 3Gs of centrifugal force. And for an additional cost, more adventurous tourists can try virtual reality experiences like the Apollo Virtual Reality Experience or DIVR+ (virtual reality snorkeling system with sensory feedback).

Many other experiences can be enjoyed at the center as well. Click here for more information.  

Although we didn’t become “lost in space” while visiting this historical one-of-a-kind museum, we did find it fascinating and became more appreciative of those who dreamed big about journeying into space and made that dream a reality.

“Space is an inspirational concept that allows you to dream big.” ~ Peter Diamandis

© 2022