Posted in human nature, Life

Words for Wednesday: who, me?

This is Barley. The photo above is when he was an adorable puppy in 2014. Now he is older of course, but he’s still pretty adorable.

Barley belongs to our son, daughter-in-law, and two of our grandchildren. Barley is a full-bred Brittany, a breed of dog once called Brittany Spaniel until the early 1980’s when the name was changed to simply Brittany.

Barley totally fits the description of his breed. He is extremely smart, loves to please, and has a lot of energy so he is most enthusiastic about taking long, brisk walks. He’s also very obedient and our son has trained him well. He follows commands and willingly performs a repertoire of tricks.

But one of the aspects of Barley’s personality is that he is oh, so loving. I recall when our son and daughter-in-law first brought Barley to meet us and told us the breeder referred to him as a “love bug.”

That he surely is. Someone along the way forgot to inform Barley that he’s not a lap dog because he loves to jump up into our son’s arms or hop into your lap for snuggling. And that’s a lot of dog in your lap!

Barley is truly a great pooch, loyal to his family, well-trained, lovable, and bright. But now it’s time for confession: I’m not a dog person, but I do love Barley.

Honestly, I’ve never wanted a dog to join my family. I grew up with many felines as pets, not once a canine.  

As a child, I remember one occasion when I came very close to being bitten by a mutt, and I recall as a young teenager taking a walk with my friends when we were chased by a fierce looking, growling German Shepherd.  

Just a bit frightening, but I’m not necessarily afraid of dogs, I’m just not fond of them and I have never liked when they jump up on me and try to lick my face. Yuck.   

But Barley is a different story. He is so eager to see us, he becomes wound up and excited but he’s obedient enough not to jump up on me. He follows me begging for my attention and affection.

And when he turns those deep brown eyes full of love on me, I just swoon and coo to him in baby talk. “Is Barley a good boy? Does Barley love his Nana?”

Yeah, I’m a sucker for him. If I’m sitting down, he hops up into my lap and closely snuggles with me. He’s just so lovable, I cannot resist him.

Barley is smart enough to know when he’s done something wrong though. The expression in his eyes and look on his face tells the story. That sheepish, “who me?” kind of look.

And that prompted me to think about us humans. Don’t we do the same thing? We say or do something we know is wrong but when we’re called out on it, we feign a ‘who, me?’ look on our faces to try to deny it.

For those of you who thought this post was a cute story about an endearing doggie, you might want to brace yourself for this next part.

An epidemic of wrongdoing is occurring in our society currently and it seems the human race is pitted against one another. We rail with denigrating, vehement words and deeds against people who don’t think the same way we do.

One political party against another. One supporter of this policy or that against the anti-whatevers. One side claiming to be justified while pointing fingers at their perceived adversaries as wrong or uneducated or worse yet, stupid.

And it’s dividing us in so many ways. Dividing friends, dividing families, dividing us by race, creed, and religion. All because we don’t agree.

We can claim, “not me, I don’t do that.” But you know what? We are all guilty as charged. We do it and we continue to do so. We’ve bought into this ‘you’re either for me or against me’ mentality that society has promoted. Some of us just haven’t been called out on it yet.

Speaking of myself here, when all is said and done, I know that my words, my actions, and yes, even my thoughts will be called out someday, if I don’t address them today by admitting those wrongdoings and repenting of them.

When I rant against and denounce those who don’t agree with my stand on life’s aspects, or my beliefs, or my political persuasions, I can’t say I’m blameless. I can’t put that ‘who, me? I didn’t do it’ look on my face.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, it’s a sobering thought to know that all mankind will stand before God to be judged.  Jesus said in Matthew 12:36-37: “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

According to the Bible, those who don’t believe in Christ will be judged and then punished according to what they’ve done. But believers’ deeds will also be judged (Romans 14:10 tells us about the judgment seat of Christ). Those whose names are noted in the Book of Life (those believers who have accepted the gift of salvation) will be judged to determine their rewards in heaven.

But here’s the thing: just claiming to be a Christian won’t be your one-way ticket into eternal life in heaven. Going to church, tithing your money, opening up your Bible from time to time, and being “a good person” are all activities we often associate with being a Christian.

But if we’re not following and obeying Christ, if we don’t have a real and personal relationship with Him, if we don’t put Him first and foremost as Lord of our lives, our eternal life is in deep jeopardy.

Too easily even believers can reject truth, turn away from God, and be drawn to loving and adhering to what our society deems ‘good’ instead of following Christ and His Word.

It’s all about our hearts and what desire lies within. Is it truly believing God’s Word and its declaration of what is good and what is evil? Or is it embracing our society’s version and its worldview?

Do we love Christ above all else and glorify His name in what we say, think, or do? Or does self-gratification, acquiring money, power, notoriety, or being perceived as “politically correct” rule our hearts?

No matter what, we will all answer those questions someday. And when we must, we won’t be able to claim “Who, me?” and deny the truth.

Wouldn’t it be better if those of us who profess to be Christians prayed for our fellow humans, especially those we don’t agree with? Prayed for this strife between fellow humans to end? Prayed for those we perceive to be our “enemies?” Prayed for truth to prevail?

“Facing the truth might be uncomfortable but denying it is devastating.” ~ unknown

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: memories as vast as the ocean

Can you ever get tired of pictures of the ocean? I can’t and I’m hoping you can’t either today as we journey down the Oregon Coast Highway, US Route 101, on my Tuesday Tour.

If a traveler desires to travel from start to finish along the Oregon coast, the first place to start is Astoria.  Next stops might include Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Rockaway Beach, Tillamook (best ice cream and cheese ever!), Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, and Newport.

During our years living in the Pacific Northwest, we visited them all and you can read about those places and see my photographs in my previous blog posts.

But today I’m highlighting some of the Pacific Ocean’s beautiful sights, which our young family of five observed on our way to northern California for the first time in the early 1990’s, and showcasing just some of my captures with the 35 mm automatic film camera I had at the time.

Traveling south on US Route 101 just past Depoe Bay, we stopped at Cape Foulweather, a land formation 500 feet above the Pacific. Named by a seagoing captain named James Cook in 1778 after enduring terrible weather and rough ocean conditions, this area is now a state park where visitors may be fortunate enough to spy gray whales and bald eagles.

A little further south brought us to Yaquina Head Lighthouse, which has existed there since 1873 and I highlighted in my Tuesday Tour series on lighthouses. An interesting note to the Cape Foulweather area is that winds there can reach up to 100 miles/hour. Now you know why it’s named thusly.

Between Newport and Waldport, we found Seal Rock State Park, a perfect place to eat our picnic lunch in the day-use area. Then we explored the sandy beach, collecting seashells and examining the interesting tidepools.  

Our next stop was to view a spot located in Suislaw National Forest, which runs right up to the ocean. A small inlet called Devil’s Churn was carved into rock there by the crashing ocean waves over a multitude of years. Visitors have been known to be hit by the waves churning into the outlet when they send saltwater hundreds of feet into the air.

From there we continued southward to Florence, where one finds miles of beaches and the beginning of mountains of sand dunes. We also caught a glimpse of Heceta Head Lighthouse from a distance there. Another big attraction in the Florence area are the Sea Lion Caves, called America’s largest sea cave and home to scads of sea lions, which you can view while they lounge around inside the cave.

For almost 40 miles from Florence to Coos Bay, we felt like we were in another area of the world. Why? Because the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is located there, an amazing place where the forest, the desert, and the ocean all meet.

Our children loved frolicking over the huge sand dunes and pretending they were in a never-ending desert of sand looking for an oasis to find fresh water. With three rambunctious children who needed to get exercise outside of a long car ride, a lot of crawling and clowning around took place.

Our first day of that road trip ended when we spent the night in Gold Beach, a town in the Siskiyou Mountains where the Rogue River deposits itself into the Pacific Ocean. It’s a great spot for wild, whitewater rafting on the river, jet boat tours, and plenty of fishing for salmon. 

The next day we passed through Brookings, the last Oregon town on US Route 101 and six miles from the California border. Driving into northern California, plenty more adventures awaited us as we made our way to Eureka and eventually San Francisco.

But for now, we’re going to leave the USA’s west coast and those travels from the past for a spell and I’ll take you on a more recent journey away from our empty nest beginning next Tuesday.

Those amazing ocean views will step back into my memories but won’t be forgotten. At some point in future Tuesday Tour posts, I’ll continue sharing some sites Papa and I explored ‘back in the day.’

“Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.” ~ Unknown

©2021 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in Life, Summer

Wordless Wednesday: hummingbird wisdom

Summer will soon begin winding down. The days will shorten, the nights grow cooler yet, summer blooms will begin to fade, and the garden will stop producing its bounty.

Thoughts resort to back-to-school preparation for those to be educated and those who educate. Fall decorations will pop up reminding us the season will soon change.

Often, the end of summer causes me to recall those seasons of my younger years. This current summer reminds me a lot of ones I enjoyed as a child.  

Like many summers when I was a kid, the temperatures this season weren’t high with heat and stickiness, laced with humidity so thick it makes it hard to drum up energy. The usually hot and humidity-laced weather is mostly the reason why summer’s not my favorite season.

But this year, for the most part, summer was pleasant, and I appreciated this season, when we’ve not used our central air conditioning as often,  much more than I have in recent years.

Sunny, warm days followed by cooler nights when we could sleep with fresh air wafting through our open bedroom windows prevailed.

Summer evenings when I could relax on the front porch swing without feeling like I was encased in an oven were more the norm.

And remembering those kinds of summers reminded me of a song from the past.

Like any teenaged girl, I listened to popular music on the radio, especially a favorite past-time in summer when I hung out at my next-door neighbor friend’s swimming pool with her and her sister.

And in those days, I purchased vinyl records of my favorite songs — yes, I’m THAT old — which I played repeatedly on my record player (received as a Christmas gift when I was about 13), while tucked away in my bedroom.

Vinyl records were determined by diameter size and rotational speed in revolutions per minute (rpm) at which they were played on a record player’s turntable. Single songs were recorded on 7-inch 45 rpm discs while several songs were recorded on LPs, long-playing albums, 12-inch in size and played at 33 1/3 rpms.

I owned an entire case full of 45’s as a young teenager then graduated into buying albums as an older teen/young adult.

One of those albums was entitled Summer Breeze by American soft-rock musicians named Seals and Crofts. I purchased that album when I was in college and it was a favorite of mine. The songs were so easy to listen and sing along to, so mellow.

The lyrics still play in my mind when I think of the song titles – “Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind….”

Hey, it was the early 70’s when we wore bell-bottomed jeans embellished with patches or embroidery, mini or midi skirts, ponchos, choker necklaces often made of tiny beads or puka shells, and fringed leather belts and vests. Everything was “cool” or “groovy.” A bohemian, hippie style was in fashion and music reflected that as well.

Number one music hits ranged from groups like The Beatles to Three Dog Night to The Rolling Stones to Simon and Garfunkel and single performers from Carly Simon to James Taylor to Carole King to Stevie Wonder.

Another popular song, Hummingbird, from that era and Seals and Crofts’ Summer Breeze album recently played in my mind’s jukebox.

On a recent day trip away from our country home, Papa and I visited a beautiful farm where we spied plenty of hummingbirds sipping sweet nectar from hanging feeders.

Zoom, they buzzed by. Wings beating so fast, they were a complete blur. Whiz, whir, zip. Sometimes those tiny birds were quicker than the eye. And often quicker than this amateur photograph behind the lens of my camera could capture.

That’s when those old lyrics buzzed through my brain along with the hummingbirds’ buzzing in my ears:

Hummingbird don’t fly away, fly away
Hummingbird don’t fly away, fly away

Thinking about those lyrics later as I downloaded the photos I’d taken, I looked up the words and was surprised to find the real meaning behind them.

Apparently, those lyrics written by James Seals and put to music by Seals and his singing partner Dash Crofts in 1971 weren’t really about a tiny bird that flits from fragrant, brightly colored flower to flower sipping up nectar.

Instead, hummingbird was a metaphor for a prophet of the Baha’i faith, of which both Seals and Crofts had converted to in 1969. They actively promoted their new-found faith and attempted to evangelize people into it through their music and following their concerts.

I honestly do not remember that aspect even though Papa and I (while dating in college) attended a Seals and Crofts concert because we both liked the duo’s music. But when I read those lyrics now at the ripe old age that I currently am, I clearly notice references to a different kind of faith than the one I have.

What strikes me most about this song’s information I just discovered and the soft-rock duo that sang it is that as a young, impressionable “adult” girl in the early 1970’s, I didn’t realize then that I was singing lyrics meant to exalt a belief I didn’t embrace. And I didn’t understand what those words even meant.

Which makes me wonder how easily young people are influenced by the music they listen to, the media they watch and read, the video games they play…you get my drift. I’ve often read that medical and psychologic research suggests that human brains aren’t fully developed until age 25.  

So even though physically, a young person may be mature in their late teens and young adulthood in college, they may not be able to make the best life decisions. I can attest to that from personal experience. Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with the onset of adulthood, does it?

I thought watching and marveling at hummingbirds was purely just entertaining. Who knew they would prove to be “enlightening” in another way long into adulthood?

“Time passes as fast as a hummingbird flutters.” ~ Anonymous

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: photographic memories

Since I was a kid, taking photographs interested me. I received my very own first camera, a Polaroid Swinger (popular in the 1960’s), when I was 12 years old. With it, I could tell within a few minutes, as the photo developed in front of my eyes, whether the picture was good or not.

As an adult, I graduated onto fully automatic 35 mm film cameras. The film, of course, had to be developed, so it took longer to ascertain whether the shots I captured were worthwhile. That’s why I now enjoy my digital single lens reflex camera so much. I know immediately whether the photo is a keeper or not.

But back in the 1990’s, film cameras were only available, and that’s how I captured photos. Point and shoot and hope for the best. When it came to photographing the Pacific Ocean off the coast of our newly acquired altered state back then, I hoped often and was rewarded with nice photos most of the time.

Today on my Tuesday Tour, I’m chronicling jaunts our family made to the northwest corner of Oregon and into Washington state.  

On two occasions, our family of five spent weekends in Long Beach, Washington, located on a peninsula of the same name and noted as the longest (28 miles) contiguous beach in the United States.

The little town of Long Beach was founded in 1880 as a tourist camp for Portland, Oregon residents who would travel there by stern wheeler on the Columbia River since roads to the Washington and Oregon coast did not exist yet.

During our visits to Long Beach, we loved the fact that often we were the only ones on the beach, and we could easily fly our kite, play in the sand, investigate tide pools, build driftwood sculptures and forts, and just enjoy nature.

Keep in mind, often the Washington and Oregon beaches aren’t necessarily lay-on-the-sand and suntan kind of places, especially when the weather is still a bit chilly and the water is frigid, which it was both years we were in Long Beach during Memorial Day weekend trips.   

Seafood is, of course, most plentiful on Long Beach Peninsula, especially oysters. We remember observing tons of oyster shells everywhere and I recall our children got their first taste of clams and crab legs there. Another first for us was spotting and visiting North Head Lighthouse on that Washington state coast.

To arrive in Long Beach, we first traveled from our home in suburban Portland to Astoria, Oregon. This city, where numerous movies have been filmed including The Goonies, Free Willy, and Kindergarten Cop to name a couple, sits along the Columbia River and not far from the Pacific Ocean.

Astoria is considered the oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. On its highest hilltop, we visited the Astoria Column, a 125-foot-tall structure erected in 1926, where we viewed the Columbia River, Young’s Bay, and the Pacific Ocean as well as huge evergreen trees.  

To cross the Columbia River from Astoria to Long Beach, we drove across the Astoria Bridge stretching 4.1 miles across the river and connecting Oregon and Washington on US Route 101. Again, I believe crossing that bridge was the first time any of us had been on a bridge that long.

I recall thinking it was a bit scary and I surmise that’s why I wasn’t keen on holding a camera in front of my face while we were driving along, since I don’t have photos of the bridge other than the one below taken from the Astoria Column.

The Pacific Coast became one of my favorite places to photograph and on a subsequent Tuesday Tour, I’ll take you along on a journey we took southward on the Oregon Coast Highway, US Route 101.

Capturing many pictures, even if they weren’t always the best, on our travels during the time we lived in the Pacific Northwest was a pleasurable experience because that coastline mesmerized me with its unique beauty. And those photos provide lots of wonderful memories for me.

“Photography is thus brought within reach of every human being who desires to preserve a record of what he sees … and enables the fortunate possessor to go back by the light of his own fireside to scenes which would otherwise fade from memory and be lost.” ~ George Eastman

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: in the back yard

Sometimes you should search for treasures in your own back yard.

After almost a decade living in the Midwestern United States, our family of five relocated to a Pacific Northwest altered state (to us) in the early 1990’s.

It didn’t take long to settle into a routine of work, school, church, and a myriad of activities that accompanied those aspects of our lives. But we still found time to scope out our horizons and realize travel far from our home wasn’t necessary to see sights worth seeing and experience excursions our children would enjoy while making memories for years to come.

I chronicled much of those with my point and shoot 35 mm film camera, but now 25 years later, I find my photos featured more of our family (and rightly so) in those places instead of just capturing scenic spots (except for the many pictures I captured of the Pacific Ocean coast which seemed to cast a magic spell on me).

Those first couple years in our new abode, we searched in our “own backyard” for new places to visit and we found plenty of opportunities to do so, whether it was watching wind surfers on the Columbia River near a town named Hood River, a well-known top spot for that sport; visiting the Oregon Zoo; attending festivals; spying all kinds of wildlife in a drive-through animal park called Wildlife Safari; or just enjoying walks through the farmer’s market buying fresh produce and baked goods.

Today’s Tuesday Tour highlights a few experiences we enjoyed when we traveled not far from our suburban Portland, Oregon home.

Papa has long been a history buff and, as a military veteran, he’s especially keen on Civil War battles, so when he learned that a Civil War Reenactment was scheduled at a state park not too far from Portland, our family of five jumped in our station wagon and headed out for a day trip.

The event took place in Silver Falls State Park located south of the city and east of Salem. The park itself contains more than 35 miles of trails for hiking, biking, or horseback riding and campground areas suitable for tents and RVs as well as cabin rentals.

We visited the South Falls day use area there, with wide, clear spaces and picnic areas, where the re-enactment took place over a July weekend. Authentic-looking Civil War era camps enticed our curiosity.

Imagine seeing our 16th President Abraham Lincoln in conversations with visitors, watching Confederate troops with rebel yells charging Union troops and reenacting a battle right in front of our eyes. History presented itself live-time and it wasn’t just Papa that was fascinated.  

On other occasions closer to home, we visited Portland’s International Rose Test Garden several times. The site of more than 10,000 roses, it is the oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the country. From its location in one of the oldest city parks, Washington Park, the Rose Garden is composed of smaller areas known as the Royal Rosarian Garden, the Shakespeare Garden, and the Miniature Rose Garden. 

Views of downtown Portland and also Mount Hood can be seen from the Rose Garden, which is open daily and offers free admission. The best times of the year to visit are May through September when the myriad of roses of every kind and name are blooming prolifically providing a feast for the eyes and aromatic scents for the nose.

Tucked away in the city’s west hills and near the Rose Garden is another beautiful spot we found, the Portland Japanese Garden. A visit there, named as “one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan,” provided a calm, tranquil, and relaxed experience, even for our children.

This 5 ½ acre garden was developed in 1963 as a symbol of healing between the United States and Japan, countries who warred against one another during World War 2. For an admission charge, visitors can observe Mount Hood from the Japanese Garden and venture along walking paths into several different areas: the Tea Garden, the Strolling Pond Garden, the Natural Garden, the Sand and Stone Garden, and the Flat Garden.

Because Portland is blessed with ideal weather for growing roses, it’s dubbed the “City of Roses.” Every year for over a century, the Portland Rose Festival is held beginning in late May and continuing through the second weekend of June. The festival includes parades, a carnival, art shows, live music, food booths, and many other events.

Occurring simultaneously with the festival is Fleet Week. Since 1907, the Rose Festival has been a port of call for the United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and Royal Canadian Navy.

Huge naval ships and even submarines make their way to Portland’s Waterfront Park offering chances for the public to take ship tours onboard, meet and converse with sailors, and hear their stories. In addition, numerous pleasure crafts cruise along the Willamette River during the festival. (As pictured at the beginning of this post.)

We found the Rose Festival a fun, entertaining event for our young family. Papa, who’s always been interested in all things naval, appreciated seeing the various ships and our children’s eyes widened in awe since they had never seen immense sea-going vessels in person before.

During our six years of living in Oregon, we never ran out of memorable experiences, many of them so close by they were just day trips, and because of the mild, temperate weather year-round, we could enjoy the great outdoors. Eventually, we spread out a little farther from our suburban home and ventured into Washington state, California, and other areas of the altered state in which we lived.

Tuesday Tour will continue as I dig out more film photos, scan them, and highlight some of those memorable experiences we’ve encountered, and eventually I’ll share a recent trip Papa and were blessed to take this summer. Spoiler alert: There will be lighthouses!

Although travel may still be somewhat hindered where you live during this difficult time we continue to endure, there just might be a hidden gem, a treasure, in your own back yard that you may be able to visit.

“Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near.” ~ Paulo Coelho

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in inspiration, Life, Love

Words for Wednesday: message in a balloon

It’s just a word.

It’s just a word but it says so much.

It’s just a word but it can have more than one connotation.

It’s the word love. Those of us who think, speak, and write only in the English language are at a disadvantage when it comes to this word. We have only word for love which is exactly that – love.

But how many varying aspects exist that encompass that one single English word?

I love the fall season. But that love is entirely different from the love I feel for my family.

I love donuts but loving to fill my belly with a tasty treat is not the same as the heartfelt caring, respect, and admiration I have for my husband.

I love a temperate, sunny autumn day with blue skies abounding but the love I have for my fellow humans is quite unlike that.

I love where I live in my country home, but my love for my Savior is so much greater.

And the love He has for me is infinite, unchanging, unconditional.

That is hard to wrap your head around, isn’t it? How can a love like that exist? How can we know we are loved by an everlasting, ever-existing God of the universe? Especially when we often feel so unworthy, so unlovable, so unloved in this tired, volatile world where there is much strife, discontent, anger, and just about every horrible and wicked aspect that comes to mind.

On those days when I feel distressed, weighed down and burdened by this world, I look for something to cross my path that I may have not noticed before. Something that brings a smile to my face, a bounce to my step, a moment of joy to my heart.

And I usually discover one. Do I think those little bright moments just happen? Coincidence when I’m feeling low? When I’m feeling unloved? When I seem churlish and bad-tempered? Or feeling unlovely and well…frankly, unlovable?

I don’t consider those uncanny glimpses of something ordinary becoming extraordinary as a coincidence at all. Instead, I find them to be simple signs in everyday life that might be unnoticed by most, overlooked by some, or even disregarded.

For me though, I count them as just a hint, just a little sign, just a nudge from the one and only true God, letting me know He hears me, He cares about me, and He loves me.

Unfortunately, I don’t always take the time to be observant, to listen, to watch for those signs from Him. But recently, one of those tiny taps on my shoulder arrived. And in a way that most folks would probably ignore.

During my daily morning walk with my long-time friend, I noticed something in the distance flitting and flapping around in the breeze. At first, all I could distinguish was its red color as it swooped and swayed, sometimes alighting on the street, sometimes sailing back up into the air again. It tossed and turned as the wind carried it to and fro.

As we neared it, we could ascertain what it was. A bright red mylar balloon, once filled with helium, but deflated and tossed aside. (Although since there are no residences in the area we walk, who knows from whence it came?)

I stopped to examine it, pulled out my cell phone to capture a photo, and read the message on the balloon.

I Love You.

Valentine’s Day was long ago, so chances are it’s not a leftover from that holiday. Perhaps it was part of a birthday bouquet of balloons.  Who knows?

The message was simple though. I Love You.

And as I silently read those words, certain thoughts immediately came to my mind.

You are loved. You are my beloved. I love you with an everlasting love.

Words that seemed to evolve, not from my own mind, but from the heart of the One in whom I believe. Jesus, my Savior.

Coincidence on a day when I felt an overwhelming sense of burden for the times we live in? I don’t think so.

Upon returning home, those thoughts remained with me throughout the day and beyond. I opened my Bible and sought out a few passages that reminded me of God’s eternal love given to us through the gift of salvation offered by His very own Son, Jesus Christ.

  • “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow — not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below — indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39)
  • “See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know Him.” (1 John 3:1)
  • “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” (Romans 5:5)
  • And finally, these words from Jeremiah 31:3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

I am loved. But I am not the only one. You too are loved. Beyond measure. How do I know this? A stray balloon and God’s Word told me so.

“God is unchanging in His love. He loves you. He has a plan for your life. Don’t let the newspaper headlines frighten you. God is still sovereign; He’s still on the throne.” ~ Billy Graham

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: to the sea

Take a land-locked country girl and show her a mighty ocean and she becomes mesmerized.

That girl was me. I was born and raised in a northeastern state that did not have a coastline, except for a bit along one of the Great Lakes.

My neck of the woods was rural, outside a small town, farther out from a big city. Sure, creeks, ponds, some lakes within driving distance existed there, and we crossed over rivers daily, but nothing compared to getting a glimpse of the sea.

My husband showed me the ocean – the Atlantic – for the first time before we said our I do’s. We showed our young daughters the ocean – again the Atlantic – for the first time several years later.

When we moved from the land-locked Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, we reveled in the fact that we lived about an hour from the massive Pacific Ocean, where our last-born, our son, caught his first ocean view.  

After settling in our new altered state (“Oregon, Things Look Different Here” – once a state slogan from the Oregon Department of Tourism) in the 1990’s, we were drawn back time and time again to that state’s Pacific coast.

The coast – not called the shore or the beach as we named oceanside in the east – became one of the places we always took those who came to visit us, from two sets of Midwestern friends to Papa’s mother and aunt who flew across the country to see us in our new home to my parents and sister who drove a very long way to see the west and us.  

And each time I couldn’t get enough of viewing the ebb and flow of those Pacific Ocean waves along the rugged coast and capturing as many photographs as possible with my trusty point and shoot 35 mm film camera.

Our first few ocean-side visits took place in summer or early fall months, and native Oregonians advised us to experience the Pacific in winter when it was often stormy, the waves violently slammed into the rocks, and when you might catch sight of southward migrating whales.

So that’s what we did. During our first year of residence there, we traveled to the coast shortly after Christmas to spend a few days. Our destination was a snug little cabin in a quaint harbor town called Depoe Bay, located on US Route 101. This town’s claim to fame is being known as the “world’s smallest navigable harbor.”

The late December weather was rainy and chilly, but it didn’t deter our mission.  We braved the elements to embark on a whale-watching cruise, but the only thing we encountered was a couple cases of seasickness, no whales in sight.

On another day, we watched diligently from the Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center, a state parks-staffed visitor center which stands next to the harbor entrance, to catch sight of the migrating whales, but still came up empty.

But our sightseeing certainly did not prove devoid and involved some first-time experiences for us. And I took plenty of photos to prove it.

Driving along the Oregon Coast on Highway 101 is breathtaking. The rocky coastline with Pacific waves crashing upon it does not disappoint viewers and travelers will find themselves stopping at every spot they can just to see the view.

One of the fascinating sights we observed while driving from Depoe Bay to Newport, Oregon, was located within a state natural area called the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a piece of land that protrudes into the ocean. This amazing place is actually a hollow rock formation shaped just like a gigantic punch bowl.

I imagine the devil got added to it because during stormy winter weather, waves slam into this bowl-like formation swirling, churning, and foaming away as if the brew inside is downright wicked. Speculation is this formation might have been created when a roof collapsed over two sea caves and subsequently was shaped by waves over time.

Shortly after we ate lunch at a picnic area near the Devil’s Punch Bowl, we experienced our first visit to a lighthouse. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse, located north of Newport, also fascinated us. For more information about this Oregon lighthouse, read my blog post here.

In Newport, we visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium, newly opened in 1992, for the first time. What a delightful place it proved to be for our young family as we enjoyed both indoor and outdoor exhibits.

Situated along Yaquina Bay, this aquarium, open daily from 10 am – 6 pm, is now considered world-class and ranked among the top 10 aquariums in North America.

Check out the aquarium’s live camera (sharks, sea birds, or otters) here.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium became well-known in the years 1996-1998 when an orca whale named Keiko, star of the movie Free Willy, called it home before he was released to the ocean once more in Iceland.

Our trip down a portion of the Oregon Coast wasn’t our last because this area of the Pacific Ocean continued to compel us to visit.

During the years we resided in the Pacific Northwest, we traveled the length of the Oregon coastline through the southern part of the state and into northern California, but I’ll highlight that in yet another Tuesday Tour blog post.

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

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: mountain high, valley low

We lived in the valley.

When we moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest in the early 1990’s, we found a home in the valley – the Willamette Valley, between the Oregon Coast Range Mountains and the Cascade Mountain Range.

When a mountain presents itself, you should go explore it and that is what our young family of five set out to accomplish. Today’s Tuesday Tour gives you just a glimpse at some of the mountain peaks we viewed and I captured with my simple point and shoot 35 mm film camera, during our years of living in Oregon.

The easiest mountain to view from the Portland area is Mount Hood, a usually snow-covered dormant volcano and Oregon’s highest mountain (pictured above), about an hour’s drive from the city.

Snowboarders and skiers abound on this mountain which boasts six ski areas and nature enthusiasts enjoy camping, biking, climbing, and hiking in the Mount Hood National Forest with over 1,200 miles of trails.

The Mount Hood area can be a treacherous place though where hikers get lost and over 100 people have lost their lives in climbing accidents.

At an elevation of over 11,200 feet, Mount Hood is easily seen from Portland and on clear days, we could spot it to the east of us from a street bordering our suburban housing subdivision.

Shortly after moving into our new home in this altered state so different from where we’d previously lived, we ventured off to check out this mountain, which has been touted as Oregon’s most likely volcano to erupt in the future.  

One of the interesting spots on Mount Hood we often took visiting family and friends to was Timberline Lodge, not only a ski resort, which has the longest ski season in the country open year-round, but a major tourist attraction as well. Built during the Depression years of the 1930’s by WPA, the lodge is a National Historic Landmark.

Visitors can drive to the lodge, located at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet, via the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. Inside the lodge, one can view the furnishings provided by local artisans and craftsmen.

I regret that I don’t have a good photo of the lodge itself, but I distinctly remembered we climbed up the mountain a little at the lodge with our young children on a hot, summer’s day when there was very little snow.

Not long after our trek to Mount Hood, we ventured northeastward into Washington state to Mount Saint Helens, the famous volcano that blew off its top in 1980 when its eruption made world-wide news. The devastation that day in May killed 57 people, destroyed 200 homes, many bridges, railways, and 185 miles of highway.

Even though we visited Mt. St. Helens over a decade after the event, we could still see the destruction it had caused, particularly in an area called Lava Canyon.

That landscape, which had once been green and forested, looked like a barren wasteland. But amidst the scars, a little beacon of hope that the land might be replenished stood out to me when I captured this wildflower blooming.

In addition to those two famous mountains, we traveled to a scenic overlook called Bald Peak Scenic Viewpoint. Located in the Chehalem Mountains west of Portland, Bald Peak stands at an elevation of over 1,600 feet and if the weather cooperates and is clear, visitors can view five mountain peaks – Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount Saint Helens in Washington and Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson in Oregon – from the lookout point in this small state park.

The following photos aren’t the best because they were taken with a point and shoot camera and no telephoto lens, but it gives you an idea how amazing this vista truly is. Not only can you spy the mountains, but you can observe a panoramic scenic view of the Tualatin and Yamhill valleys, part of the Willamette Valley.

Mountains and valleys. We would not only observe those terrains during our years of residence in Oregon, but we would experience mountains and valleys in our personal lives as well.

Some years we encountered mountain top experiences, amazing times and sights we will never forget. Other times, we found ourselves in low valleys, facing challenging circumstances and decisions to be made.

But we wouldn’t change one thing about our time living there, a time that provided so many adventures, so many memories to keep, as well as long-lasting friendships that we still maintain today over 25 years later.  

And above all else, our six years spent in the Pacific Northwest caused us to grow spiritually and deepened our faith in God.

“You have to go through those mountains and valleys – because that’s what life is: soul growth.” ~ Wayne Newton

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, Summer

Words for Wednesday: a berry good summer

If it’s summertime at our house, you can be sure of a number of aspects.

The front porch swing is prepared for visitors to enjoy a nice, breezy summer day.

The perennial flower bed and various pots of brightly colored blooms, including porch boxes, paint some brilliance among the green expanse of yard.

The vegetable garden flourishes with summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, green peppers, and sometimes peas and pumpkins.

The fence is to keep the deer from eating our veggies!

And there will be blueberries. If the weather cooperates, the Japanese beetles don’t attack, and our structured enclosure with netting prevents the birds from feasting, scads of blueberries await picking.  

We are in the throes of filling our pails with tasty blueberries right now. They commence ripening around the fourth of July every year often coinciding with our grown-up kids flying “home” to roost for an Independence Day celebration.

Last year, because of the you know what, Papa and I picked our berries mostly by ourselves with a little help from nearby daughter and grandchild, who loves blueberries. When she was just a toddler, she called them “blueies” and gobbled them up as quickly as she could pick them (and still does!).

This past Independence Day, our oldest daughter and son-in-love traveled northeast from their home to ours to celebrate with us for the first time since Christmas 2019.

Unfortunately, our son, daughter-in-love and two other grandchildren from the state next door were not able to make the journey this time and we missed having our entire family together again, which hasn’t happened since our all-family beach trip in August 2020. But we have high hopes for an all-family get-together soon.

In between gorging on picnic food, playing tons of games indoor and outside, catching fireflies, and watching our own little version of fireworks in our back yard, we enjoyed some blueberry picking over the July 4th weekend.

It was hot and it was a bit sweaty, but the labor was worth the prize.

Fresh blueberries for breakfast on your cereal or in your pancakes, waffles, or muffins are delicious. Anything with blueberries is berry good just like this summer has been at our country home.

 “You’ll never regret eating blueberries or working up a sweat.” ~  Jacquelyn Mitchard

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: soaring west

You might say we followed Horace Greeley’s advice when he wrote this in 1837: “Fly, scatter through the country — go to the Great West.”

Our family adventure westward occurred 150-some years later in the 1990’s when we moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. We traveled the Oregon Trail, but we did it the easy way, we flew from Kansas to Oregon.

As soon as we unpacked, we hit more trails in our newly acquired territory, but this time we traveled by car to explore our surroundings so different from those we had become accustomed to. I’m sharing some of those adventures on today’s Tuesday Tour.

As if to reinforce the reality of “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” one morning as we were preparing for the school day, something exciting happened.

Hot air balloons soared over our neighborhood subdivision. Our kids were thrilled to watch them while waiting for the school bus. And Mama had to snap a few photos with my trusty point and shoot 35 mm film camera.

Those balloons weren’t the only sights we would see soaring high in the sky. When the weekend rolled around, we were off to sightsee, driving west for one purpose – to get our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.

Our youngest child had never seen an ocean. Our two oldest had been oceanside on the Atlantic coast, but that was when they were too young to truly remember. Papa viewed the Pacific Ocean from the air when he flew overseas for military duty, but this Mama had never experienced the Pacific either.

Our first sight captivated us. The Oregon coast was like nothing we had seen before. Papa and I were used to mostly flat, wide, sandy and warm Atlantic beaches as far as the eye can see, but what Oregon’s Pacific coast offered were more rocky beaches, steep cliffs, forested areas, huge sand dunes, and ice-cold ocean water.

Our formerly landlocked, Midwestern-raised kids were enthralled with our first steps onto the sandy beach at Seaside, Oregon, a popular spot. They couldn’t wait to slip out of their shoes and play in the sand and even though the water was frigid, they dabbled their feet in it with shrieks of delight.

We traveled to the next enticing spot along the coast – Cannon Beach, a trendy area with shops and art galleries, but most famous for its Haystack Rock, mammoth in size.  

As we continued south, we entered another coastal town called Rockaway Beach, where we found several miles of uninterrupted shoreline. But a fun discovery there was a kite-flying festival in session. We spent the rest of our day there watching amazing kites flying high over the ocean, enjoying a little train ride, and devouring some tasty treats.

Even though we previously lived in the windy Midwest, we never had much luck flying kites. But right then and there at that Oregon coast kite festival, we resolved to purchase a kite at a gift shop. Observing how high our kite could soar on the Pacific coast became a fun, family activity.

We thoroughly relished our first trip westward to the Pacific Ocean, but it certainly would not be our last. Eventually, we would explore the entire Oregon coast marveling along the way, but that will be fodder for another Tuesday Tour.

“Sometimes just being on a beach with my loved ones is all the adventure I need.” ~ Guy Laliberte

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021