Talk about vibrant


It’s the subject of this past week’s WordPress photo challenge.

The first thought that comes to mind when you encounter the word vibrant may be vivid and brilliant color. Many bloggers chose to go that route with their photographs depicting that word and you can view their entries by clicking on this link

But the more I’ve pondered on the word this week, another thought pervaded my mind.

So plucking my trusty American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language off the shelf here in our home office, I checked the definition of the word vibrant.

The first definition: “Exhibiting, characterized by, or resulting from vibration; vibrating.” No, that wasn’t quite what I was thinking.

So I continued to read the second definition: “Pulsing with energy or activity.” Yes, that was it!  That’s what floated around my brain all week.  Vibrant meaning lively, vivacious, exciting.    

Immediately, I knew which photograph I would post for this challenge – a quick capture I snapped standing in Times Square in New York City.

After a day-long excursion around the Big Apple, Papa, our son and daughter-in-law, and I rode the subway to Times Square for dinner and to sightsee some more.  As we ascended the stairs from our subway stop to street level, I instantly sensed the feverish energy and almost manic activity of Times Square. 

All of my senses heightened.  It was evening and the myriad of flashing brilliant neon lights and signs flooded my eyes.  The noise level increased tremendously as we brushed against the crowds of people on the sidewalk. Everywhere you turned something to observe or hear or experience presented itself. Sensory overload, but in a good and exciting way.

Times Square definitely pulsed with non-stop energy and exhilarating activity.  And if that isn’t an example of vibrant, I don’t know what is.

“There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.” ~ Simone Beauvoir


Grand day for the groundhog

blogIMG_6162It’s February 2.  Groundhog Day.  A pretty big deal here in my home state, especially in this part of the commonwealth, western Pennsylvania.

“It’s a freakin’ holiday entirely based on the power of a psychic rodent. If that isn’t the epitome of awesome, I don’t know what is.”  ~Flying LlamaFish

What may seem bizarre and absurd to others is normal in the little town of Punxsutawney, where the weather predicting groundhog Phil lives and prognosticates.

When our famous rodent emerges from his hibernating hidey hole (or burrow) to check on the state of the weather, a bright sunny day will cause him to see his shadow on the ground.  Supposedly this scares him enough to run back into his comfy home and stay there for six more weeks – hence, we will have more winter weather. 

But if the day proves cloudy, there won’t be a shadow to frighten Phil back into hibernation, so the groundhog stays above ground indicating spring weather is on its way.

I grew up with this folklore legend and can remember as a child cheering for his spring prediction and groaning over the thought of six more weeks of winter with my classmates in elementary school.  

“If ground-hog day was bright and fair,
The beast came forth, but not to stay;
His shadow turned him to his lair,
Where six weeks more, he dormant lay
Secure in subterranean hold—
So wondrous weatherwise was he—
Against six weeks of ice and cold,
Which, very certain, there would be…” ~H.L. Fisher, “Popular Superstitions,” Olden Times: Pennsylvania Rural Life, Some Fifty Years Ago, and Other Poems, 1888

How did this crazy tradition begin? According to history, German immigrants who lived in the Punxsutawney area observed Groundhog Day as early as 1886.

February 2 became Groundhog Day because they based it on a European tradition of predicting the length of winter by noting weather conditions on Candlemas, which was an ancient Christian festival held on that day.

“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another fight;
But if Candlemas Day be clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.” ~old rhyme

Furthermore, if Candlemas Day proved sunny, the legend stated an animal, such as the hedgehog, would cast a shadow and that indicated more winter weather to come. The immigrants found no hedgehogs in Punxsutawney but there were plenty of groundhogs.

So voilà! The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club was established in 1899 and to this day, the club’s inner circle (the guys who wear formal wear and top hats on Groundhog Day) are the officials responsible for Phil and the Groundhog Day celebration.

blogIMG_6153Even though I’ve been in the area of Phil’s hometown in the past, I had never actually visited Gobbler’s Knob – the site of the official Groundhog Day proclamation. Our oldest daughter braved cold weather elements one year with a bunch of her college friends to join the throng of visitors there on Groundhog Day just to check it off her bucket list and they had so much fun.

One day last summer, Papa and I took a Sunday afternoon drive meandering along country roads which eventually led us to Punxsutawney and “the Knob.”

Gobbler’s Knob.  Isn’t that a hoot of a name? Supposedly, the name originated from gatherings of the Groundhog Club, who would actually hunt groundhogs and “gobble” up what they bagged or some say it may have come from the abundance of turkey gobblers in the area.

During our visit there, we didn’t see any turkeys, but we did spy a groundhog running into the brush, although it wasn’t the famous Phil.  He hangs out in his own private burrow in town.

We had to imagine thousands of people gathered at Gobbler’s Knob on a February morning just to see Punxsutawney Phil emerge from his burrow during all the hoopla because it was a quiet Sunday afternoon in August when we visited and we were the only folks there.

We wandered around a bit and I captured some photos of “the spot” where Phil publicly declares his weather forecast. Afterwards, we drove back into the quaint and friendly little town and strolled through the streets to locate all of the large groundhog statues painted in various arrays and stationed in front of shops or public buildings. Tomorrow on Wordless Wednesday, I will post a slide show of some of the statues I photographed there.

blogIMG_6165We visited famous Phil who was taking a Sunday afternoon nap in his official digs (pardon the pun), his “burrow” in Punxy which is attached to the town library. An outside viewing area allows you to see Phil but we realized he wasn’t interested in us one bit since he just continued taking his siesta while I attempted to get his picture behind the glass wall that separated him from us.

According to Punxsutawney’s Groundhog Day powers that be, ol’ Phil really IS old. They say he is the original groundhog, the only one after all of these 100 plus years, because he drinks a magic elixir every year that keeps him going for seven more years.  Uh-huh.

But just because Punxsutawney Phil is ancient doesn’t mean he’s behind the times.  He’s got his own Facebook page, Twitter, Pinterest, and glory be…his very own blog, From the Burrow.

You can check those out and everything else you wanted to know about Punxsutawney Phil but were afraid to ask at the official web site.

Today Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow so he predicted we will have an early spring. One way or another, spring will come and it will be here before we know it. But thanks, Phil, for giving us a forecast to cheer for! 

“The trouble with weather forecasting is that it’s right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it.” ~Patrick Young


Onward and upward

blogIMG_3839Back when Mama was a stay-at-home with young children, I met another young mom while doing volunteer work and being involved in a parent-teacher organization at our local elementary school.

This other mom and I became fast friends as we worked on several projects together. I lived all the way across the country from my hometown where my parents and family lived.  She lived all the way across an ocean and several countries from where she called home.

Fun to be around, my friend was always ready for a good story to make one laugh.  She also shared my love for a good hot cup of tea. She made you feel comfortable at once, so it was easy to converse with her, like her, work with her, and listen to her stories of her home country.

I only knew her for a few years as eventually, Papa and I made a leap of faith decision to move back East to our home state, but I will never, ever forget my friendship with Kathleen (not her real name).

Kathleen’s speech sported a bit of a brogue because she was Irish.  Not Irish-American – but a native of Éire, which we call Ireland. Her husband’s career brought them to the United States and she jumped into making American friends with gusto. I honestly can’t remember not enjoying her company with smiles and laughter.

When our family prepared to make our big move, Kathleen surprised me with a lovely going away gift, a beautiful china teapot enhanced by delicate purple violets and gold entwined designs with a matching tea cup that served as a lid for the pot.

That teapot rests in a special spot among my collection and I think of Kathleen each time I look at it.  I remember her graciousness, her zest for life, her befriending of me, and her kindness in bestowing that special gift upon me because she knew that I loved tea cups decorated with purple violets.

But even more than all of those aspects, one thing always comes to mind when I think of Kathleen.  Her optimism.  If we were working on a project that didn’t go quite as planned, she would be the first to comment, “Oh well, onward and upward.”

That saying described my friend to a T.  You might say it was her signature saying. Always looking on the bright side.  Always looking up.  And always looking to better times in the future.

I learned a lot from my friend Kathleen.  I learned more from watching her quiet faith in action when she encountered a devastating loss. 

When I visited her shortly after this event, stifling my own tears while trying to wrap my mind around what grief she must be experiencing, Kathleen surprised me with stoic strength and unshakeable faith.  She explained that she didn’t understand why she had to endure such sadness but that she knew it was God’s will for her life and that she would accept it.

Just like that. Oh, there were many tears and great sorrow but through it all, she showed incredible faith in God.

Onward and upward.

That’s what she believed wholeheartedly.

That’s what I always think of when I remember Kathleen.  And she continually comes to my mind if I happen to use those words myself. Onward and upward.

It’s not just a matter of being optimistic or not.  It’s a matter of having the strength to accept the circumstances life throws your way and rely on our God who is stronger and more capable of handling our trials if we just turn to Him for help to get through.

Optimistic just happens to be this week’s WordPress photo challenge.  Being optimistic can be a challenge in itself if you don’t have clear vision.  If you aren’t reminding yourself to continue to look at life onward and upward.

I think this photo I snapped while entering the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio a couple of years ago fits the theme optimistic quite well.

It reminds me to always look upward even if the skies aren’t as blue as they were in this picture.  Because upward is where my thoughts need to be – focusing on God and His Word.  And to do that, I must continue onward in my journey of faith.

What about you? What vision helps you keep looking onward and upward? 

“When you have vision it affects your attitude. Your attitude is optimistic rather than pessimistic.” ~ Charles R. Swindoll


Charged but unplugged

blogIMG_7001You might say I’m a little charged up as I write this.

Everywhere I look there’s something that needs charged.  As I sit in our home office at the desktop computer, wires and cables snake their way around this desk. 

Electrical outlets abound in our house and most of them have some item or another plugged into them. Lamps, televisions, TV cable boxes, DVD players, and (gasp!) we even still use a VCR.  Appliances – refrigerator, stove, freezer, coffee maker, toaster, mixer, Nutri Bullet, – all of these get their juice from electrical outlets.

Then there are the electronics that need constant re-charging – cell phones, ipad, Kindle, hubby’s MP3 player, laptop computers, cameras, the list goes on and on.

We’re wired at our house even though some items claim to be wireless. 

So yes, I am charged.  But not the way you may think.

Before I explain, let me state that I am truly grateful for electricity and the ability to charge up and use our devices when we need them. All it takes to realize you’re dependent on electricity is for the power to go out. And then we’re oh, so thankful for all of those power linemen who go out in inclement weather to restore the charge we need.

So yes, being charged up is good in that instance.  But I’m charged up because I think we are overly-charged. We are too wired.  We are too plugged in and I think we need to pull the plug.

Let me explain.

This past weekend, we fortunately did not receive the nor’easter blizzard that crippled quite a large area of the East Coast.  Only a few inches of snow fell in our area – the worst was south and east of us.

So Friday evening, even though it was snowing a bit but not more than we are accustomed to, daughter and I decided to meet Papa after his work day was finished for dinner at a restaurant in the city where his office is located.

Dinner hour already in full swing, the restaurant was crowded when we arrived before Papa did.  Lots of people hovered around waiting for a table and for the hostess to call their names. We asked her how long the wait was – 30 minutes – and proceeded to queue up with all the others after she noted our name and how many were in our dining party.

No room inside, we stood in the outer entrance of the restaurant waiting our turn with several other patrons. I pulled my cell out, called Papa to tell him that we had arrived and the wait was 30 minutes, so he didn’t need to hurry too much from the errands he was running.

Then I placed my cell phone back in my purse…where it stayed. I use my cell for three things: phone calls, texting my kids and friends, and snapping an occasional photo or video. That’s it.

Call me an old fogey, a dinosaur, I don’t care.  To me, real life is more important than sticking my nose in a cell phone to read tweets, Facebook, play games, whatever.

In a short while, some seating in a waiting area inside, which was much warmer, became available so daughter and I moved to that nook of the establishment. Once seated, I do what I normally do in a public place.  I started looking around. 

I am a people watcher, an observer.  It’s what I do and you never know when you might receive some good blogging fodder.

Ah, now you might be getting my drift.

Folks kept arriving for dinner, so the waiting line continued to grow.  In the small seating area where we were, I glanced around at my fellow hungry patrons and that’s when something hit me like a ton of bricks. No, not literally.  Figuratively.

I couldn’t count how many folks were milling around the inside doorway or waiting in the outer entrance but my guess was 30-35 people. I began counting how many people were either sitting or standing nearby us just in our small waiting area.

I counted 10 human beings around me, including daughter and myself. And out of those 10, no one was talking even though some were with another person – a married couple, friends, family. No one came in alone.

I noticed immediately that the reason they were not conversing was because every one of those nine other people, including my daughter, had their eyes glued to their cell phones.  Every. Single. Person. But me.

I leaned over to my daughter and whispered my revelation to her. She shrugged her shoulders and continued to scroll through something on her cell.

Nine out of ten people were plugged into their phones. Nine out of ten! And they weren’t teenagers but instead ranged in age from their 20’s to some grey-haired folks who looked older than me.

Seriously, what is so important or so mind-boggling that you can’t be without it for just a few minutes? Our cell phones. 

Like electricity, cell phones are a great invention. I’m grateful for mine so I can get in touch quickly with family when we’re apart. They help us be safe; I can remember times before the age of cell phones when I certainly could have used one.

But just like anything, it’s how we use them and whether we allow them to take over our lives. Because they can and they do.

You know we talk so much about addiction – addiction to tobacco, alcohol, drugs, pornography – but have we considered how addicted we humans are to that little electronic device? 

We are wired, folks. And it’s an addiction. Do we really need to be plugged into our cells 24/7? This quote maybe says it all: 

“The cell phone has become the adult’s transitional object, replacing the toddler’s teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.” ~ Margaret Heffernan

Really?? This truly has me charged up. And vowing to become more unplugged than ever before. And encouraging others to do the same. 

We’re missing out on life, on real face-to-face conversations with ones we love, on observing and enjoying our surroundings, on so many worthwhile activities that truly enhance our time here on earth.

But instead, we stare at a little screen held in our hands.

If that doesn’t scare you, nothing will.

“Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.” ~ Steven Spielberg




Brought to you by the letter H

blogIMG_4522We learned it at an early age.

We can recite it without a hitch because it’s ingrained in our minds with a catchy little jingle.

No, I’m not talking about the Oscar Mayer Weiner song, although now that I’ve mentioned it, I bet it’s playing over and over again in your head (and mine). 

I’m talking about our ABC’s.  The alphabet. A to Z. It’s the topic of this week’s WordPress photo challenge.

The alphabet greets me every morning.  All I have to do is walk into my family room and there it is.  Boldly displayed in bright colors on foam pieces that fit together and form a play mat.  Yep, it’s still there on my family room floor. A, B, C, D….

It’s where baby granddaughter spends time playing with her toys here at Nana’s house. It’s where Papa, Nana, and Mommy crawl around and play with baby too.

Some of us have even been known to lie down on the ABC’s plastered onto the floor, which makes baby think we’re funny.  Actually, we’re just tired from trying to keep up with this busy little bee.

So it would have been a simple choice to showcase a photograph of my family room floor featuring the ABC’s, all 26 letters of the alphabet rolled up in one easy picture. But I decided against that. Too easy.

ABC. It’s easy as 1,2,3.  Those words automatically bring back an old Jackson 5 song.  Now you’re welcome for the second earworm I’ve given you today.

Back to thinking about the alphabet. Where would we be without our ABC’s?

We use alphabet letters in all kinds of things daily.  LOL – that’s just one. And ASAP.  That one requires some action.  Sometimes things in life are A-OK, sometimes TMI. We might even be told to mind our P’s and Q’s.

When Papa served in the military, letters were a big deal as there were tons of acronyms used and I read some everyday when I worked for a government contractor. Some of those ABC’s still rattle around in my brain.  And then there’s the special alphabet the military uses as in Alpha (A), Bravo (B), Charlie (C)…

We’d be lost without our letters.  We couldn’t read, we couldn’t write, we couldn’t understand much of the world around us.

It’s the same way with history. Without knowing history, we’d keep making the same mistakes over and over (perhaps, we still do).

Without history, medical personnel treating us for a health condition may not make the proper diagnosis or treatment choice.

Without history, we wouldn’t know those fascinating facts about our family ancestors.

History is important with a capital H. That’s why I’ve chosen another picture from my photo cache. I bring you the letter H, just one member of the alphabet, courtesy of the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

“History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” ~David McCullough



Winning at life

blogSteelers gameYou win some, you lose some.

If you’re a football fan and you were cheering on any of my three favorite teams –  Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, or Seattle Seahawks – you’re on the losing side. 

Over this past weekend, all three teams lost their bids for a trip to the Super Bowl. For them, it just wasn’t to be.

If you’re a good sport, you congratulate the winning teams and say better luck next year to the ones who came up short.  But I truly wonder how many good sports are really out there in football fever land?

In my opinion, the sports world can get pretty ugly. Overzealous and unruly fans. Nasty trash talking.  Obnoxious celebrating on and off the field when a quarterback gets sacked. People actually cheering because a particular player is injured on the field. I don’t get that kind of behavior.

I’m sorry to say I’ve witnessed that kind of ugliness years ago from parents on the sidelines of the youth sports my own kids played.  And I didn’t like it then.  No, cross that off, I hated that aspect of sports and I still do.

I once had a friend remark that sports brought out her evil twin and I laughed and agreed at the time that it did the same for me. But it’s true.

Whether you’re a spectator or a participant, it seems the evil twins are more evident than ever.

Losing and winning are a fact of life.  But those experiences don’t have to define a life.  When my favorite sports team loses, sure, I’m disappointed.  But to me, it’s only a game. It’s certainly not the most important thing in the world nor will I make it so.

So I don’t get it. I don’t understand why fans actually cry when their team loses or worse, get so incredibly angry.  Those responses don’t make sense to me. 

I can chalk it up to this fallen world where we put everything but God on a pedestal to worship. And believe me, people do worship sports. I’ve even seen the word worship flash across the television screen during a sports commercial. 

But I still don’t get it. Why do we make aspects of life that truly aren’t vital the center of our world? 

Whether it be sports, or winning that millions of dollars in the Powerball lottery, or driving down the road in the newest, most expensive car, our focus seems to be askew.  We hold material goods, events, or ideas in such high esteem when in the course of a lifetime, they don’t truly matter.

I’ve often heard it said that when a person is lying on his death bed, he won’t wish for more stuff or more time spent focusing on his work or acquiring great wealth or even winning a Super Bowl. 

When you look back over your life, the items you thought were the most valuable don’t compare to knowing that you loved others and were loved back in return. And for me, knowing a Savior who loved me enough to die for me.  That’s what I call winning at life.

So yes, I love my Steelers, but sorry guys, I don’t love you that much.  Better luck next year.

“If the game of life ended tonight, would you be a winner?” ~ Bobby Richardson, New York Yankees second baseman, 1955-1966



Weighty thoughts

blog171We are just about halfway through this brand new month of this brand new year and I bet you lots of people are focused on weight.  That New Year resolution to lose the extra pounds, exercise daily, or start a healthy eating plan is top priority on the list.

Have you noticed there’s always a solution touted to help you do so?  Just pick up a sales circular from any department or discount store; all the exercise clothes, equipment, and diet stuff is on sale.  The “lose weight feel great” ads are all over the media whether it’s on TV or radio, in magazines or newspapers, or on the computer screen as you browse the internet.

This diet. This exercise program. This exercise machine. This pill or this powder or this shake or this energy bar….whatever it may be, the promise is that you will lose the excess weight if you just buy the product or join the club.

We are obsessed with losing weight and I can’t even imagine the amount of money we Americans pour into trying to achieve that goal.  Lord knows, I’ve succumbed in the past. 

But now, I’m not as worried about the number on the scales as I am about whether I’m keeping myself healthy or not. And keeping healthy doesn’t just mean my physical body, it encompasses my mental, emotional, and even more importantly, my spiritual health.

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is “weight (less).”  You get to choose.  You may demonstrate something with weight or not by showing something seemingly weightless.

A number of years ago, our oldest daughter lived and worked down South.  One fall, Papa and I spent a week’s vacation driving down there to spend time with her. Together, the three of us toured the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL, an amazing place to visit.

While walking through the outdoor Rocket Park there, we came upon a display portraying what a moon crater might be like and Papa and Daughter tried their hardest to appear weightless like they were walking on the moon.

Of course, gravity always brought them down to earth and it took several tries before I got a decent picture of them being “weightless.”

And in life, isn’t that the truth? We may experience a sky-high period of excitement in life whether it’s falling in love or the best vacation ever or experiencing the birth of a child but something always brings us down to earth.

We may say we love someone to the moon and back but that’s the thing, we always come back.  Back to real life.  Back to reality at its best and worst.  We get weighed down by daily life, by troubles that come our way (and they do come, no matter who you are), by disappointments or disagreements, by the horrific events that take place in our world.

We often feel like we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could just feel weightless?

What we do with those burdens that befall upon us is our choice though.  We can trudge through this life saddled with a huge encumbrance weighing us down, breaking our spirit for life, and carry that load until we fall exhausted and broken.

Or we can turn that millstone over to Someone who has more strength and ability to carry the load.  Someone who already carried all the burdens this world has to offer on an old rugged cross.  Someone who offers us rest from our wearying weight.

That Someone gave us an invitation to do exactly that in Matthew 11:28-30:  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Life is too precious to spend it carrying a heavy load.  I’m choosing to be weightless.

“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” ~ Walter Anderson