Not just any road

blogimg_1512-2I’ve always been a fan of New Englander Robert Frost’s poetry.  

A coffee table book, entitled Robert Frost: A Tribute to the Source, rests on our living room book shelf. The book chronicles biographical text about the poet interspersed with Frost poems and photographs depicting rural life to accompany them.  

So when I realized this week’s photo challenge theme was “the road taken,” my mind immediately went to a Frost poem – “The Road Not Taken.”

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” ~ Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

Yes, I know. The word not, as in the road not taken, is not in the photo theme, but bear with me and I’ll explain where my mind is going with this one.

The road taken. Most folks stick to the road most traveled. We do it when we want to get from point A to point B quickly. Often we choose to travel the road that everyone else takes because well….everyone else is doing it.

The road taken. But sometimes, especially if we want to be individualists, the road we take is actually the road that everyone else does not take. That path that is less traveled by. The way some might even reject.

The road taken. That thoroughfare – that road taken – might be one that few use for their journey. The one off the beaten trail. See what I mean? The road taken can also become that road not taken, the lane that Frost wrote about in his poem so many years ago.

When two avenues present themselves to us on our journey of life, which one should we choose? The road taken? Do we follow the masses and become just one of the many, a lost face in the crowd blindly following everyone else?  Or do we announce our individuality by braving it alone on an alternate route? That other road taken?

Often when we choose the other road, we are rewarded with sights we’ve never seen before.  Papa and I experience that when traveling by car and we decide to take a less direct route to get where we’re going. We marvel at surprises that pop up along the way and I’ve asked him to stop the car many times so I can jump out and capture a picture.

But other times when we choose that alternative route, it leads us to disappointment and frustration. I’m remembering a day trip Papa and I took last summer when we chose to travel by blue highways and it took us forever to get to our destination and the journey was regretful. 

The road taken. It can be a defining moment in life, that’s for certain.

For me, the road taken is actually the road not taken. I take that road not because I dwell on negativity or because I want to stand out from the crowd, but instead because my choice is one not taken by all, and it is indeed a path that many reject.

The road taken. It’s not an easy one, this road I’ve chosen.  Often it has turns and twists along the way and difficult obstacles to encounter. And many times I have to ask for help to muster through hurdles that impede my way. But this course, this road taken, has led me on my journey of faith in the right direction, keeping me from getting lost along the way, and it has proven to be a steadfast path. 

The road taken. The way I’ve chosen is to follow a Savior whose name is Jesus.  He leads me on the road I’ve taken, and even though that path may be the one less traveled by, in my life it has made all the difference.

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

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Go big or go home

blogimg_2949I’m sure I’ve uttered it – that phrase “go big or go home” – countless times but I wonder if I truly accomplish that.  You know, go big or go home.

Big is the theme for Day 7 of the Developing Your Eye photography workshop I’m determined to finish (only three more photography topics to go!).  As I was contemplating what photo personified the theme, that idiom immediately came to my mind.

Go big or go home. It means to go all out. Put your effort into something to the utmost. Be extravagant. Be bold. 

I’m fairly certain embracing boldness is not something I do regularly.  And those who know me can attest that being extravagant doesn’t describe me either. But I do know how to ‘go big.’

A few years ago, our son and daughter-in-love lived near New York City.  During a visit Papa and I made to their place, the four of us ventured into the city for a day.  New York, New York. The Big Apple. The Empire City. The city that never sleeps.

New York is a pretty bold place. And depending on what you do there, it also can be extravagant. It’s a go big or go home kind of place.

For this ol’ country girl, the big city is fun and exciting. And I was determined to go big or go home by climbing all 192 steps from the ground to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Huffing and puffing all the way, I did it, but didn’t have the endurance to go the remaining 154 steps from pedestal to her crown.  Still the reward was awesome seeing the view from the pedestal and also looking up at Lady Liberty to experience first-hand just how gigantic she really was.

She is one BIG girl. From my photo above, you can see the evidence in the folds of her dress and the size of her hand.  From her base to her torch, she stands 151 feet. Including the pedestal and foundation, her full height is 305 feet. Her eight-foot high face is taller than me by almost three feet and she weighs a whopping 450,000 pounds (or 225 tons)!

That big lady represents a big tenet we hold in our country. Freedom from oppression.  Just one of the freedoms, which we foolishly take for granted, that our forefathers fought so tenaciously to secure for future generations.  I easily imagine that our forebears were of the ‘go big or go home’ type of people, don’t you?

They possessed the capability of seeing the big picture and must have been very amazing visionaries to envision what was best for our country’s future as they laid the foundation for it.  Have we lost that ability? I wonder, when it seems like instead of focusing on the bigger picture, we tend to get snagged in petty, little things that really don’t matter.

I’m just as guilty as the next person because I can zero in on petty things and fail to consider the bigger picture.  But I’m also one of those ‘attention to details’ kind of folks. And taking care of the details correctly helps progress towards the big picture or final result.

So the key is balance, I think. Take care of the small (but not petty) things to succeed at the big things.

The one aspect of life in which I definitely want to go big or go home pertains to my faith. The bigger picture can be found by reading God’s Word. I admit it isn’t always clear to me, but one very big thing absolutely is crystal clear. I believe in a Savior who embraces me with bold, extravagant love.  He is a go big or go home Savior.

Jesus went big by dying on the cross to make a way for us to go home, that place where the bigger picture will be revealed to us and where He returned after His time on this earth. Someday, He’s coming back to gather those who get the picture and believe in Him in the small and big things.

But until then, I want to focus on getting not just the small things right but the big things as well – ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27-28)

You see, I want to go big – all the way for Jesus – so that someday when He does call me home He is able to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

If you can’t get a handle on the small things, how will you ever get it together to focus on the big things?” ~ Joyce Meyer

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A good match

blogmama-and-papa2

He is tall. I am short. He loves seafood. I hate it.

He didn’t wear glasses until the last few years and needs them only for reading.  I’ve worn glasses since I was five years old and need those to make everything blurry clear.

He’s a terrible speller. I always excelled in spelling.  He admits he is not a writer and doesn’t enjoy doing so. I’ve always been a writer and it gives me joy.

He came from a family of brothers. I came from a family of sisters. He had lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins in his extended family.  I had only a handful.

His family vacationed at the Jersey shore every summer. My family took very few vacations and I never saw the ocean until I was a young adult.

He grew up in the city with bricks for a yard and no grass. I grew up in the country with a yard a couple of acres large to play in.

As a youngster, he ran up and down the halls of the Capitol building in our state capital while playing with neighborhood friends.  I rode up and down country roads on a bicycle playing with my neighborhood friends.

He has the patience to read the instruction manuals. I have little patience with them and tend to just wing it until I encounter a problem; then I turn to him and his instruction manuals.

He is usually slow to anger. I often possess a short fuse.

He takes his good old time working on projects. I want to hurry up and get them completed ASAP.

He loves all things historical and pertaining to the military and reads just about every display card in museums. I am more fascinated by the personal touches of history and am not interested in movies, books, or displays about wars or the military. I also am way ahead of him while making our way through museums.

He would love to go on a cruise someday. I am terrified of the concept.

You might say we have enough differences to prove we are not compatible at all. But you would be wrong. Our differences aren’t what define us. Our shared history together makes us who we are. And we are not totally mismatched; we do have several things in common.

We are a married couple who have spent the last 43 years together – dating for three years before marriage and this fall will mark 40 years since we said “I do” in front of family and friends.

We’ve endured separations when Papa was obligated for military duty far away, many moves, job changes, health scares, and difficult circumstances during our time together.

We’ve experienced grief and sadness, but we have shared so much joy and laughter as well. And through it all, we endured together. Ours isn’t a perfect relationship but it is one cemented with commitment, love, and respect for one another.

You might just say we are a good match after all (which happens to be this week’s photo challenge).

“It’s not about having the perfect relationship. It’s about finding someone who matches you and will go through everything without giving up.” ~ Unknown

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Swiftly fly the years

blognewborn

Our son with his newborn baby girl

Our son, our last born, celebrates a birthday this week. When I think of him, I smile and remember what a surprise he was when he emerged in that delivery room.  A boy! We had expected another girl and only had a girl’s name chosen.

But surprise! The doctor announced, “It’s a boy!” and we were actually shocked. The one thing I remember saying to Papa, who was right by my side through labor and delivery, after our son’s arrival was, “But he doesn’t have a name!”

We deliberated awhile and finally chose the name that my own father suggested.  It is a good, solid name. And I blinked and that baby boy grew up and turned out to be a good, solid man.

When I stop to think about the stage of life he’s in now (almost to his 30’s), the lyrics to the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof automatically come to my mind:

Is this the little girl I carried, 
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older, 
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty, 
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?
Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days.

When did that little boy who played with Legos, cars, and Star Wars toys as well as every sport that came his way, the son who made his parents proud with all his accomplishments, grow to be so tall?

And now after all the sunrises and sunsets that have passed, he is a parent himself.

He and our lovely daughter-in-love just had their first baby – our precious second granddaughter – right before Christmas. How can it be that baby that I once held in my arms – my last one – is now all grown up and holding his own beloved little one?

Because the days, just like in that song, do flow by swiftly.  And the years follow in suit.

My dad used to tell me how quickly time flew by for him in his 90 years on earth. When I was a youngster, it seemed that time passed by slowly. 

A friend and I were just discussing this recently. How when we were girlhood friends, we couldn’t wait for school to be left out for summer recess or we couldn’t wait until Christmas.  Or when we couldn’t wait to become teenagers. Then we couldn’t wait to drive. Then we couldn’t wait to graduate from high school. And then we couldn’t wait until we graduated from college….got married…had a career…or a family….or….. 

We just couldn’t wait to grow up! 

Before we knew it, we were grown up, our children became adults, our parents passed away, and we found ourselves to be the older generation. And now we wish time would slow down.

Just like that. [snaps fingers] Time goes by. And continues to do so.  Which is why it’s so important to make the most of our time before it runs out.

“Time passes so slowly if you are unaware of it and so quickly if you are aware of it.”~ Marc Bolan

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

What are the odds?

blogimg_8384

Odds were it was a boy but…

We take chances every day. You might say each day of life is a gamble because we never know what is going to happen next. And you never know whether the odds will be in your favor or not.

I’m not a gambling person – I’m probably one of a few people who ever attended a horse race at Churchill Downs in Kentucky but never placed a bet;  I’ve never stepped inside a casino; and I admit I’ve never even bought a lottery ticket – but sometimes I still like to know the chances of something occurring.

Why else would I switch on the weather channel to see what the odds are that it will snow today?  Or rain? Or hit the 100 degree mark? Or temperatures fall below zero?

If something strange happens, I often hear folks remark, “Well, what were the odds of that?” Poll takers are constantly telling us the odds of this or that and often times they are dead wrong.

And when that takes place, we say that surely happened against the odds, which is this week’s photo challenge.

As usually occurs, a photo challenge theme speaks to me not just by a chosen picture but with words as well and I have to chime in my two cents on the topic. What are the odds of that? Usually about 99.9%, I’d say, but don’t bank on it.

So considering this photo theme – against the odds –  several thoughts about how my husband and I have gone against the odds popped up in my convoluted brainwaves.

This year, Papa and I will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.  With the standard statistic that’s been thrown around for several years telling us about 50% of marriages end in divorce, I’d say our long-standing marriage has endured against the odds.

Perusing the internet, you can find all kinds of interesting stats.  I located this one while thoughts of against the odds were percolating in my head: the majority of American-born adults (56%) have not lived outside their birth state.

Again, Papa and I have gone against the odds because we spent several years living in other states far away from our birth state and our families. And we also may have gone against the odds again when we actually moved back to my hometown after 20 plus years living in different areas of the country. 

Even when we were blessed with our three children, it seems we went against the odds. Our first two babies were girls. What are the odds of having a boy if the previous children are all the same gender? According to some research I found, if you have two girls, your odds of having a boy for your third child drops to 46%. Our little odds breaker, our third child, was a boy.

Taking this one step (and one generation) further, the odds (and research) say that boys outnumber girls at birth. Apparently, hundreds of years of research demonstrates this and the conjecture is that because males have a higher mortality rate than females, this is nature’s way of creating a gender balance.  

Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know but I do know that again Papa and I, against the odds regarding that research,  welcomed our first two grandchildren who were girls not boys.

Whatever the odds, it has taken effort and perseverance to keep marriage and family relationships intact and we continue to strive to do so against the odds

Adding in love, forgiveness, and a whole lot of grace, our faith is often the glue that holds us all together against the odds.

So what is my wish for my readers in writing this post? I could wish as it’s said in the Hunger Games book/movie, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

But instead of wishing on odds, I’d rather bank on the faithfulness and steadfastness of a Savior, who promises to be with us against the odds.

My hope is that, against the odds, you can do the same.

“Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you.” ~ Arnold Palmer

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Kicking shadows to the curb

blogdscn8713

Just me and my shadow strolling down the avenue.

When I read last week’s photo challenge theme, that song lyric instantly popped into my head.  You guessed it, the theme is shadow.

At the mere mention of certain words, my music synapses fire up overtime and lines from songs immediately sing through my mind.  Honestly, does anyone else do that? I once had a co-worker who experienced the same thing and we used to try to stump one another with words that we couldn’t think of songs to.  It made for interesting car rides anyhow.

Although Judy Garland sang the song, “Me and My Shadow,” in the late ‘50’s, it’s the Frank Sinatra/Sammy Davis Jr duet that I mostly remember from the 1960’s. If you’re not sure of the song I’m talking about, you can hear/watch their version here:

“Me and my shadow,  all alone and feeling blue.”  Aren’t those lyrics the truth sometimes? Often when you are all alone in the middle of a difficult circumstance, you tend to feel bluer than blue (cue the Bobby Vinton song: Blue on blue, heartache on heartache) because you have no one to talk to, no one to confide in, no one to ask advice from, no one to commiserate with. And you just feel sorry for yourself enough to have a pity party and cry. (Cue the song: It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to).

When you’re in that shade of blue, it seems the shadows just envelop you. Everywhere you look, you’re surrounded by them.  I’ve felt that way enough times, not really in the throes of depression but just in the shadows of feeling a tad blue. Like a little dark cloud keeps following me around and parking itself over my head, casting its shadow over me.

But you know what sends the shadows where they belong? Behind you? The sun. Oh boy, more song lyrics just fired up in my brain: here comes the sun…sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…I could go on and on…on the sunny side of my street.

Seriously though, being an optimist means you’re always looking at the bright side and that’s what I strive for. Even when one unfortunate happenstance after another befalls me, I keep looking for the sunshine.

And it’s there. Maybe not physically because we are in the gray, bleak last days of winter. And maybe not circumstantially either because mishaps continue to come our way.  (Ask me about the three-hour ordeal hubby and daughter went through in the dead of night on a snowy, unplowed country road when daughter’s car got stuck while driving home from her late night hospital shift and Papa went to rescue her.)

It’s a  continuous story called, “that’s life.” Cue the Frank Sinatra song lyrics again: That’s life, that’s what people say; you’re riding high in April, shot down in May.

But like that song says: I’ve been up and down and over and out, and I know one thing. Each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race.

How? Because spiritually, I seek the light. And that light shines brightest and best in my Savior, Jesus. The Son. Because when I am all alone and feeling blue and life knocks my feet out from under me, I do have someone to talk to. Jesus. He always listens.  Always hears. Always promises to be by my side. Always gives me hope.

My faith, my prayers, my reading of God’s Word – those are the rays of light that kick my shadows to the curb.

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” ~  Walt Whitman

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Solitude’s good for the soul

blogimg_8294

“I’m not anti-social. I’m pro-solitude.” ~ unknown 

I’m killing two birds with one stone today.

You know, accomplishing two things at the same time because it’s convenient to do both.

It just so happens that the weekly photo challenge theme and also Day 6’s theme in Developing Your Eye photography workshop (that I’m determined to finish) was “solitude.”

Two birds exactly the same and I’m going to hurl my stone and put them both to rest.

But for a minute, I’m going to digress, and I’m hopeful it will bring me back around to this theme. The mental picture I get of hurling a stone at two birds causes me to remember a funny story. And maybe I can somehow relate it to solitude. 

Many years ago when I was just a teen, my mother was continually disgusted by a solitary skunk who frequented our yard. We lived in the country where pesky animals like rabbits and deer liked to use my mom’s garden as a one-stop salad bar.

But the skunk really didn’t fall into that category.  Mom just didn’t like the stinky thing in our yard and I believe she also worried that our tom cat would tangle with it and come back to the house smelling to high heaven one day.

So one summer evening, the skunk appeared in our yard yet again.  Since it was after dinner, Dad was home from work and the three of us were sitting on the side porch looking out at the majority of our expansive nearly four acre yard.

Mom spied the skunk and said to Dad, “Go get your shotgun and shoot that skunk. I don’t want him in the yard.”

Dad replied, “He’s not hurting anything. Actually, skunks eat the grubs in the grass, so he’s a good thing.”

Dad didn’t budge, so Mom decided to take matters in her own hands.  She grabbed a brick that was lying around in the garage, and with that in hand, walked towards the skunk while Dad and I watched.  

“She’s going to get sprayed,” Dad commented shaking his head.  I nodded agreement, yet watched fascinated as my mom exhibited enough courage to head towards a skunk with only a brick for a weapon.

She got within a few feet of that skunk, wound up her brick-toting arm and hurled that brick at the critter with all her might, hitting him smack dab on the head.  He fell right over, instantly dead, while Dad and I stood amazed and speechless.

From then on, my Dad teasingly called my mom “dead-eye.”

My mother was one of a kind. She was an only child, born to older parents, so I imagine she had her fair share of being alone in life. And that brings my thoughts back around to that theme of solitude – the state of being alone.

When her elderly parents both reached the point where they no longer could live unassisted, Mom didn’t have any siblings to rely on for help. So we moved into the larger house where my grandparents lived in order for Mom to take care of them. By herself.

When they both passed away the same year, even though she had my dad, my sisters and their husbands, and me as family, I know she felt that sense of solitude again. 

My mother enjoyed anything she could create with her hands and many of her hobbies involved moments of solitude like quilting, sewing, crocheting, even cooking and baking, which she liked to do by herself. She usually rejected any offers of help in the kitchen because I think she did enjoy her moments of being alone.

Often we think of solitude as a lonely way of life, but I don’t believe it is. Sometimes we need a period of being apart from others. Being alone. In solitude. To think. To pray. To mull things over. To heal.

A bit of solitude can do wonders for your soul. I’m pretty sure my mother knew that too.

“Solitude is not a way of running away from life … from our feelings. On the contrary. This is the time we sort them out, air them, get over them, and go on without the burden of yesterday.” ~Joan Chittister (The Gift of Years: Growing Old Gracefully

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com