The trip that almost wasn’t

blogIMG_3014.jpgToday is a new day. Just like every single one we are blessed to experience upon awakening each morning.

This morning was just like any other this winter. Snow flurries flying furiously through the air. Again.

I truly do enjoy the winter season. I like the cold, crisp air. I love that winter blanket of pure, white snow. I don’t mind the freezing temperatures.

But this season is different.

I’ve grown impatient with Ol’ Man Winter. I want him gone. I want warm, balmy temperatures. I want to see the sun more often and find color outside my window…or at least, something different than the monochromatic snow or the drab browns, grays, and blacks of the landscape when the snow melts.

Back in the fall when Papa and I planned a mid-winter trip, I didn’t know I was going to be so disenchanted with the perpetually snowy, cold weather winter would bring.

So as the time grew closer to our departure for Arizona back in mid-February, I anticipated our escape to warmer climes with hope for the sunshine that makes me happy and the chance to spend quality time with my sister and brother-in-law in that sunshine.

We spent a considerable amount of time planning our get-away in advance. Bought the airline tickets. Reserved hotel rooms and a rental car so we could take a short side trip to the Grand Canyon after we landed in Las Vegas.  From there, we would drive to Sis’s home in southwestern Arizona.

All systems were go. An escape from winter’s clutches (well, except for the Grand Canyon trip) just for a short time.  This trip sounded so promising and mood-lifting.  And yet…I couldn’t identify what it was, but some intangible thing was holding me back from being overly excited.

And that’s when it happened. About a week before our departure date, Papa experienced something quite out of the norm for him.  He became very ill and was in intense pain. A trip to the emergency room confirmed what we suspected.  Something very tiny that needed to be passed from his body was causing him to be enveloped in the most fierce pain.

The trip? What should we do about our trip? He experienced agonizing pain for several days as the calendar ticked off less time until our departure. I called my sister to inform her that our plans were up in the air, which resulted in four disappointed people.

The pain lingered on and on. What to do? When the meds alleviated the pain, Papa would declare we were still going. But when the pain resumed and he was flat out lying on the floor, we realized there was no way he could withstand a five-hour plane ride.

What to do? What to do?? Which each passing day and no passage of the pain-causing issue, we fretted. We worried. We prayed. Family and friends prayed for Papa.

Indecision reigned. One minute we were going, the next we were staying home. We reluctantly cancelled our hotel rooms and rental car, but, with hope in our hearts, waited on cancelling our airline reservations.

On again. Off again. We honestly didn’t know what to do. We were down to the wire. One more day left to make a decision.

Papa said, “Let’s pack our suitcases anyway.”  We did and we waited. And waited. In my mind, I had already resolved that we weren’t going.  What a disappointment and yet, I had almost sensed it coming. 

With about 24 hours remaining before we were supposed to board a plane and head into the westward sunset, something happened. We didn’t have to cancel our trip after all. We…well I, because Papa was too worn out, practically danced a jig.

We scurried and hurried and got prepared to fly off after all. We kept the Grand Canyon visit nixed, postponing that until another time, and decided to just spend our entire vacation with Sis and Brother-in-law.

Papa rested and rested the day of our departure and reassured me that he was on the mend. I called my sister with the good news; she informed me they would drive to the Las Vegas airport to pick us up that evening.

Our daughter and granddaughter whisked us to the airport and we breathed a huge sigh of relief as we took off on our flight.  

As we ascended into the sky on that airplane, surrounded by fluffy clouds, I paused to give thanks for all of those answered prayers because the trip that almost wasn’t became the trip that was.

And even though we didn’t see the Grand Canyon, we still had a grand time. But that’s a story for another day.

“The journey not the arrival matters.” ~T.S. Eliot





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Once upon a time, story telling was my job.

I mean I actually got paid to tell stories (among other things). For over a decade, I worked for a non-profit organization as its education director. What that really meant is that I visited public and private schools and presented programs to help middle and high school students make smart, healthy life decisions.  

Since I had teacher training with my bachelor’s degree in education and a bit of an “I always wanted to be an actress” complex, I found that telling a really good story in a theatrical way was the perfect method to capture and keep students’ focus.  

I could have stood in front of the classroom spouting off facts and figures and do’s and don’ts but soon would have been looking at glassy-eyed zoned out kids who couldn’t give two figs about the subject matter.

But tell a good story – one that had me moving around the room, using different inflections in my voice, reeling them in with my words, leading up to suspense, and sometimes even startling them a bit…now that got their attention and kept it.

I’m sure they wondered just what is that crazy lady going to do next? I worked hard to keep my presentation full of surprises.

As cool as teenagers try to pretend to be, they truly do not outgrow listening to stories. One of the best kudos I ever received from my story-telling days was when a teacher informed me that a student, in her graduation speech, mentioned a tale told by me to those in her senior class back when when they were 8th graders.  The teacher said all the students laughed at the mention of it and better yet, they remembered the story.

But really, who among us, young or old, doesn’t love a good story?

It’s why authors sell thousands or perhaps even millions of books. It’s why country music song writers and those who perform their songs have number one hits. It’s why script writers, actors, directors, and producers find themselves with a big box office sensation.

Behind it all is a good story.

And the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is just another way of telling a story without words. For the visual learners and thinkers like me, it’s a bonanza.

So this week’s photo challenge just happens to be “story.”

The challenge part was choosing which photos to personify the theme, but I finally decided upon the slideshow above which I hope conveys a story.

And for the next several posts, I’m going to tell you some stories with the added bonus of accompanying photos. 

The stories are real. I hope you find them interesting enough to keep reading them.

And I also hope I’m still a good storyteller. 

“Be unpredictable, be real, be interesting. Tell a good story.” ~ James Dashner



Going west

blogIMG_2841“Go west, young man, go west.”

That quote originated with a man named John Babsone Lane Soule way back in 1851. But it became a popular saying after newspaperman Horace Greeley used the expression in an 1865 editorial when he penned “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.”

After the Civil War, that’s exactly what many folks did – they ventured west.

And that’s what Papa and I recently did as well. We’re far from young, but we went west. (Did anyone guess correctly?)

It’s been many years since I’ve been out in that part of the country.  Nearly 20 trips around the sun actually.  I believe it’s close to 15 years since I’ve crossed over the Mississippi River. Most of our travels since then have taken place on the eastern side of that great river.

I don’t really keep a bucket list like many folks do, but I do have one travel goal in mind that I’d like to accomplish. To visit all 50 of our states right here in the good ol’ USA.

A significant number of them are tucked under my belt already. When Papa and I took a much needed vacation last summer, I added three states to my visitation list: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

That brought the grand total up to 35 out of 50.

Last fall, Papa and I started bantering around the idea of taking another vacation during the winter season. Somewhere warm. Somewhere sunny. Somewhere I’ve never been before. And we landed on a great idea – visit my sister and brother-in-law in their new home in Arizona by way of Nevada.

Back when Papa worked as a sales representative, he traveled to both states, but this Mama had never been to either one.  So I jumped at the chance to knock two more places off my list leaving only 13 more states to visit and to spend time with a sister I miss so much.

Off we ventured West by airplane,  landed in Las Vegas, and drove south through Nevada and sections of California (been there several times) to Arizona, the Grand Canyon state.

Even though we had to postpone our visit to the Grand Canyon (due to unforeseen circumstances) for another time, what did I learn about the particular area of this state where we visited?

Let me count the lessons I learned:

  1. The desert not only sports tons of sand, various kinds of cacti, and dust but isn’t all flat because large mountains of rock exist there as well. And to get in the desert, you just go to the end of my relatives’ street.
  2. Palm tree bark is sharp as razors. And palm trees get skinned to prevent injuries to people like me.
  3. The dry air will cause you to be electrically charged and you will be shocked by everything and everyone you touch.
  4. The wild burros will steal a just purchased bag of cashews and pistachios right out of your hand.
  5. Four-wheeler ATV (all-terrain vehicle) riding on desert trails is dusty but so exhilarating and maybe even a mite dangerous.
  6. The low to zero humidity climate will dry up your sinuses and you will have to honk junk out of your nose every day.
  7. People really do just pull their RV’s out into the desert and park there to camp in solitude. It’s called dry camping.
  8. Your arthritis pain won’t exist…until you come back home.
  9. A desert town with no residential street lights at night is so dark you can see multitudes of stars.
  10. Quartz rocks shine like diamonds in the sun. And this place is a rock hound’s paradise.
  11. It isn’t always warm. If the air circulates down from the north, some days are chilly and very windy, but still provide an escape from wintry weather you normally experience.
  12. Sunshine isn’t always abundant. Cloud cover caused some overcast periods, but there was only a short sprinkling of rain for about three minutes.
  13. Some palm trees are shaped like pineapples and they’re cute.
  14. You really can get your kicks on Route Six Six.
  15. You may not be immune to jet lag like you thought you were even if there are only a couple of hours difference in time change.
  16. You just never know what you might see out in the middle of nowhere in the desert.
  17. The London Bridge really was falling down but now stands in Arizona.
  18. It’s hard for a photographer (even an amateur like me) to sit still for a 2½ hour cruise up the Colorado River because you jump up every couple of minutes attempting to capture amazing scenery. 
  19. You can visit a memorial for a Syrian man nick-named Hi Jolly, who served as a camel driver for the US Army in the mid-1800’s, and a few other quirky places like that.
  20. Sunsets in Arizona are just as beautiful as they are in your own back yard.

But what did I learn most about our trip?

Our visit in the west was relaxing and exciting at the same time. My sister and brother-in-law were great hosts treating us to lots of sightseeing excursions, restaurants with delicious food, and tasty meals from their own kitchen with my sister’s homemade meatloaf (tasted just like our mom made).  Plus we enjoyed making memories with them that we’ll never forget. 

And you’ll probably get to read about some of those 20 things I learned in Arizona right here on Mama’s Empty Nest in the near future, along with photos I captured. I promise not to bore you with all of them!

“A happy life is one spent in learning, earning, and yearning.” ~ Lillian Gish

(P.S. Monica and Alison, you guessed correctly! And Dor, you had the right idea when you guessed somewhere in the desert.)



Wordless Wednesday: another clue




Out of my world

blogIMG_3416I’m back.

I’ve been out of this world for a couple of weeks…out of the blogging world that is.

But I’ve also been somewhat out of my own world as well. Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t take a trip to the moon virtually or otherwise. I didn’t find myself in some alternate reality either. And I didn’t vacate my mind for a sojourn to live in a fantasy land.

Nope, none of those, but I still was out of my usual world. The Papa of this empty nest and I took a respite. We boarded a big ol’ jet airliner and headed in another direction from our home.  And contrary to the Steve Miller Band lyrics from their song Jet Airliner, the plane did carry us far away.

But that story I’m saving for a later post. This post is meeting the photo challenge of the past week – Out of This World.

Plus I just might be teasing you a tad with my photo to see if you can guess where we traveled.  Leave your speculation in the comments below.

(Facebook friends, sorry, you are disqualified from this round of  “Where in the World Was Mama?” since you viewed photos I posted on my personal Facebook while I was ‘out of this world.’)

“It’s useful to go out of this world and see it from the perspective of another one.” ~ Terry Pratchett



Postcard from me to you

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Taking you on a tour

tourguide collage 2018It happens often so I’ve learned to keep my camera near me.

While out and about, countless times I’ve come upon a scene that just begs to be captured by my camera. If I go out purposefully looking for something to photograph, I don’t always succeed. More often than not, I just stumble onto a picturesque setting or a particular angle that catches my eye.

And more times than I can count in the past, I didn’t have my camera along. Those shots I missed unfortunately only exist in my memory. I could try to describe them for you, but I find the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words” to be oh, so true.

I’m a bit behind in the weekly photo challenges, as last week’s challenge was tour guide.

If someone were to visit the area where I live and I would be his tour guide, what would I show him? I think I could conjure up several ideas. But the one thing that stands out for me is this,  the aspect of this place where I live that I love.

We have four distinct seasons of the year.

So let me be your tour guide and take you on a visit to each season – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter – in my neck of the woods.

And the collage I’ve fashioned for you above? I just happened to stumble upon those photo opportunities while I was doing something else.

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” — Lawrence Block



Wordless Wednesday: a valentine wish




How do you love?

Love you collage.jpgIt’s the love month – February – and I often wonder why we don’t celebrate love all the rest of the 11 months of the year? Surely this world would be a better place if we were reminded to show love all year long, wouldn’t it?

Yeah, I know, we celebrate love and affection this month because of Valentine’s Day which is tomorrow.  But today, I’m considering why we even celebrate this holiday at all.

I know the day is named for Saint Valentine, a Catholic priest who lived in Rome during the third century and secretly performed Christian marriage ceremonies for Roman soldiers and their wives.

At the time, Rome was ruled by a pagan emperor who outlawed marriages for his soldiers because no doubt he believed their only focus should be Rome and protecting it.

Valentine was imprisoned for his so-called crimes and eventually executed on February 14. His focus on the importance of love survived and became the stuff of legends.

When Rome became predominantly Christian 200 years later, the Catholic Church, in an attempt to abolish a pagan ritual which had been annually held in February, proclaimed this day as Saint Valentine’s Day.

And so a holiday began. Now all these centuries later, it’s a highly commercialized money-maker. If you visited any store shortly after Christmas – and in some cases even before – store shelves teemed with Valentine greetings, gifts, candy, and all kinds of merchandise pertaining to this holiday.

Buy your sweetheart this fancy card declaring your love. Or this gargantuan stuffed animal. Or this massive heart-shaped box of chocolates. Or a dozen (or more!) red roses. Or this glittering diamond jewelry.

All purchased and delivered to demonstrate your love.

Well, gifts are nice. They can be lovely and yes, certainly heart-felt tokens of affection. And some folks’ boats are definitely floated by receiving gifts. It’s one of those five love languages first written about back in the 1990’s in a book by Christian counselor Gary Chapman.

But for me, purchasing a Valentine doo-dad off the Wal-Mart shelf just doesn’t measure up to showing how much you love someone.

Instead, my go-to for demonstrating love – any kind of love, not just romantic – comes straight from one entire chapter in my Bible.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” ~ 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 New International Version (NIV)

How can I show love every day of the year, not just on Valentine’s Day? 

By being patient with those around me. Being kind to others and not envious of someone else’s success. By not boasting or being prideful about myself.

By honoring others and putting them before me. By being even-tempered and keeping short accounts when it comes to wrongdoings done to me. By seeking truth and rejoicing in it not in evil actions.

By always being faithful to protect my loved ones. By trusting, hoping, and persevering through difficulties with them.

My litmus test? Inserting my name in place of the word ‘love’ in a passage of that scripture. Example: Mama’s Empty Nest is patient. Mama’s Empty Nest is kind, etc.

Because when I do these things, I open up my heart to love – real, honest-to-goodness love. Love to last beyond Valentine’s Day.

“Love stretches your heart and makes you big inside.” ~ Margaret Walker