Posted in choices, Life

Pucker up or suck it up

I bet you know this old cliché – When life gives you lemons…make lemonade.

I can recall those words plastered on rolled up posters which folks of my generation purchased and tried to unroll so we could hang them on our college dormitory room walls.

I googled the phrase to see where it originated from because, as we all know, Google seems to know everything there is to know. But I actually discovered on that the original saying was coined by the famed speaker Dale Carnegie when he wrote “If you have a lemon, make a lemonade” in his book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.   

Regardless of its derivation, it’s one cliché that comes to mind when life goes awry and that certainly happens more often than not.

Life has a way of lending us lots of lemons; but instead of turning sour from unfortunate circumstances or trying times we’re dealt, this saying encourages us to turn the sour into something sweet. Or at least more palatable like lemonade.

I, for one, actually like the lemon flavor. I love lemon sorbet. I like to use lemon essential oil to keep berries fresh. I like lemonade and I also squirt juice from lemon wedges into water for a refreshing drink.

Lemon meringue pie? To die for in my book. Lemon cookies? Yummy.

The fresh, clean scent of lemon – it just exudes cleanliness to me.

But bite into a lemon? No, thank you. That makes me pucker up and crinkle my nose at its extreme tartness.

However, it’s a lemon that makes me write this post today.

At the onset of this crazy pandemic that’s held us all hostage for so long, Papa and I were out west visiting relatives.  Just about every day, we enjoyed a brisk walk around the quiet Arizona neighborhood where my sister and brother-in-law live.

On our treks, we didn’t see very many folks but we encountered quite a few dogs disliking our “intrusion” in their territories and barking zealously at us, behind fences thank goodness.

Just a day or so before we were scheduled to fly back home to the East Coast, we enjoyed a cool, morning walk in abundant sunshine down a street we hadn’t ventured on before. There we encountered a gentleman strolling out of a garage onto the driveway.

He cordially called hello and began walking towards us, so we stopped and chatted with him for a while. Soon his wife joined us and we had a nice conversation with this couple, learning that they were neighbors of ours to the north – from Canada.

They shared that they visited this Arizona town every winter and rented the same house for their stay each time. But because of the pandemic threat, their vacation in sunshine became limited and cut short as they had been advised to get back home before the borders closed.

We were a bit astonished to hear that they drove all the way from Ontario every year for their winter/spring vacation. They were packed up, ready to leave, and were just biding time until the property management company they rented from opened to turn in keys, etc.

Before we bid them farewell and safety on their journey back home, the gentleman directed us to a house just down the street. The folks who owned that vacation home resided in California and every few days, they stationed a box full of California grown lemons and oranges on their driveway with a sign reading,  “Free, please take as many as you want.”

We stopped and looked at the free fruit. The oranges looked so tasty, but those lemons! They were huge! Honestly, the largest lemons I think I’ve ever seen in my life. We took a few oranges and a couple of lemons, because that was all we could carry, back to my sister and brother-in-law’s home to share with them.

The oranges were just as they promised to be – sweet, juicy, and oh, so delicious. Of course, those large lemons were a different story. Tart enough to make one pucker up, that’s for sure.

We didn’t make lemonade, but we certainly could have. Instead, we just squeezed a few shots of lemon juice into our iced water.  Practically instant refreshment and no added sugar.

Wouldn’t it be grand if we could really turn all the lemons of our lives into something good for us, something refreshing, something pleasant?

We can. It’s called attitude. And it’s a choice. We can either pucker up and choose to be sour and bitter. Or we can suck it up, work through our circumstances with hope and faith and choose to be sweet and pleasant.

I’ll take the latter with just a hint of lemon please.

“Nothing is so sour that it can’t be sweetened by a good attitude.” ~ Woodrow M. Kroll


Posted in choices, fear, Life, New Year

Brighten your corner

blogimg_8942-2As I write this, it’s the second week of January. In a brand new year. One I haven’t yet become accustomed to as I still automatically write 2016, not 2017.

Just yesterday it seems we were all up in arms and worried about the year passing from one century into another one – you know, a new millennial, Y2K– the year 2000. Fear and apprehension over that coming year ran rampant. The result? The year 2000 chimed in with barely a blip on that worry radar.

In the year 2000, our oldest graduated from high school and we sent her off to college that fall with excitement and trepidation. Even though our other two were still in high school and middle school, that was the beginning of what would eventually become this empty nest of mine.

In the year 2000, Papa, employed as a sales rep for a national company, endured a lot of overnight travel with his job while I held down the fort and kept the home fires burning.

In the year 2000, my father was still alive and at age 80 keeping himself busy after my mom’s passing the year before by learning a new skill. He bought himself a computer and was figuring out how to use it and amazing us at his new found hobby.

In the year 2000, our family moved into our brand new house built right here on this farmer’s field putting down roots like we never had before since previously the longest we ever lived in any of our homes was six years.

In the year 2000, this Mama ventured back into the work field initiating and developing a program for a non-profit local ministry where I devoted my time and passion and energy for 13 years. 

So here we are seventeen years later. 2017!

Seventeen years into a century I couldn’t even imagine when I was just a kid because it seemed so distant into the future. And there are new concerns and alarms spreading out there in the big, bad world worse than Y2K, but I refuse to listen to or embrace them.

As a person born in the 1950’s, my generation has had our fair share of worrisome events and downright fear promoted in this world and hanging over our heads.

From the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and air raid drills in school to the assassinations of public figures including President John F. Kennedy to worrying about family members serving in the Vietnam War to race riots to the Kent State protest shootings in the turbulent 1960’s, we experienced fright.

From blackouts and gasoline shortages to the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island to hostages held in Iran in the 1970’s, we experienced panics.

From Mount Saint Helens volcanic eruption to the space shuttle Challenger explosion to a myriad of natural disasters like earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes to the Iraq war and threats of others in the 1980’s, we experienced trepidation.

From the Oklahoma City bombing to mass shootings to economic crises to numerous plane crashes in the 1990’s, we experienced qualms.

And to the most horrific day of them all, September 11, 2001, we’ve experienced terror of the highest magnitude at the hands of terrorists.

All of these frightening events have crossed my fear awareness screen and are permanently etched in my memory.  

And it’s safe to say, there will be more to come. But I cannot worry about what may happen in the future because as we take the good that happens (and there have been just as many amazing events that have occurred in my lifetime too), we must also take the bad. 

I can’t join in with all of those who say our world is going to ‘hell in a hand basket” because really, hasn’t it always been so? Since the beginning of time? If you don’t think so, open up a factual history book and take a gander.

Or better yet, open up God’s Word – the Bible – and see that mankind has been heading that way ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden.

Terrible events will always happen. It’s a given. It’s life. But how we respond to those events is what matters most.

In just three short years, we will reach the year 2020. What will the world be like at this milestone? Will we humans be any wiser? Any safer? Any more peaceful? Or will we still allow fear, misery, and anxiety to rule over us?

Just as this brand new year lies ahead of each one of us, so does a choice we each must make. We either choose to focus on the negative aspects of living or we take the higher road.

We can dwell on the ills of this world and allow them to frighten us into inaction or wring our hands as we hibernate from the world or we can choose to be bold enough to speak out against evil and make a difference by striving to be a light of peace, joy, kindness, and helpfulness even amidst the darkness – right there in your own little corner of the world.

“Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.” ~ Ina D. Ogden



Posted in choices, encouragement, new beginnings

Words Full Wednesday: New Year’s Eve

blogHappyNewYearWednesdays are usually my no words day here at Mama’s Empty Nest.  Usually I post a photograph I’ve taken that hopefully speaks for itself, slap a title on it that categorizes it, and add no other words. Voila! Wordless Wednesday.

But today I’m deviating from the norm.  It is, after all, the last day of the year.  We say goodbye to 2014 at midnight and hello to brand new 2015 at 12:01.

And today I find on this last Wednesday of the year that I do have words to convey.  So this middle of the week post will be a ‘words full Wednesday.’

The graphic I designed above boasts a citation that is in my well-worn quote notebook.  Supposedly, it came from one of the works of Greek playwright Euripedes.  Many moons ago, I took a classical literature class in college where we read many of the Greek classics.  I didn’t remember the quote at all or where it came from, so I wanted to do a bit of research to see if it even came from Euripedes’ pen.

As near as I can glean from a quick research scan (and I do mean quick), the actual quote is “Waste not fresh tears over old griefs.”  Some of the old Greek’s tragedies were lost or only fragments remain. Apparently, this line came from one of those.

No matter the source, the line speaks well for today of all days – New Year’s Eve.  Another year has passed which included some wondrous occurrences and some disappointing or devastating ones.  Such is life.

I spent a good part of this past year grieving over an old wound from 2013.  Yes, I wasted fresh tears over it.  Sometimes it haunted my dreams; often it consumed my joy during daytime hours.  Some days it just fired my anger into a red hot flame.

But you know what?  No more.  Was what was done to me right?  By no means.  It was unjust and no mercy or grace was shown.  But I refuse to let that grievous event define me any more.  I will not waste tears over old griefs any longer.  I’ve learned to put that wrong and the people involved behind me.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t forgiven them because I have, it just means I will no longer allow those circumstances to reign over my emotions and thoughts.

As I move forward to a new year of opportunity, I will not waste one more minute over this old grief.  It will stay in the past where it belongs.

What about you?  Is there something from the past that you need to let go with the ringing in of a new year? I pray you find the courage to do so and waste not your own tears over past griefs.  Let’s greet the new year with joy instead of sorrow, with excitement instead of disappointment, with opportunity instead of regrets.

Happy New Year!

“Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.” – Brooks Atkinson



Posted in choices

The world according to Dove

blogIMG_0400I love chocolate just as much as the next chocoholic. 

That creamy, smooth, sweet concoction always seems to make everything taste better in my world. 

Except for yesterday.  I have a little stash of chocolate candy, which I’ve been rationing,  left over from Christmas.  Amidst the dark chocolate Hershey kisses, there are a few Dove milk chocolates and one or two Godiva truffles left.

I always read the little heartwarming saying on the inside of the Dove candy wrapper, but yesterday’s tidbit left me colder than a frozen Dove ice cream bar.

“Do what feels right. Love, Dove.”  That’s what the wrapper advised me.

Do what FEELS right?  Oh, boy.  Houston, we have a problem.

Now, I realize not many people actually run their lives according to Dove’s recommendations, (at least I hope not) but I have issues with that suggestion to do what feels right.

How about instead we do what IS right?  The way I see it, if I always succumb to the mantra of doing what feels right, I’ll most likely be wrong. 

The Bible calls not doing what is right a sin.  James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  (English Standard Version)

When it comes to doing what is right or wrong, we can’t rely on our feelings.  For example, if I did what I feel is right when someone steps ahead of me in the checkout line, completing ignoring the fact that I was there first, I’d tell that person off in angry language and make a big, loud scene. 

But is that really what is right to do?  No.  The right response would be to say politely, “Excuse me, I was here first, but if you’re in that big of a hurry, why don’t you go ahead.”

If I did what I feel is right, I’d turn off my alarm clock and go back to sleep some mornings because I feel like being lazy, instead of crawling out of bed and getting ready for work. 

But is that right?  No, there are people who depend on me to do my job and do it well and that’s how I earn my wages.

What do I feel is right when my husband makes me angry?  I feel like he’s the one in the wrong and he should apologize because I deserve the apology. 

But is that the right thing to do especially when my anger is fueled by my own stress, being overly tired, or just plain crankiness and all of that makes me a little more explosive today?  Perhaps the right thing to do is apologize to him for blowing up over nothing.

What about when the car behind me tailgates me?  If I did what I feel is right, I’d slam on my brakes to teach that person a lesson and make him hit me from behind.  But that’s not the right thing to do.  That would only make a bad situation much, much worse.

I like the advice Mark Twain gave when he said, “Always do right – this will gratify some and astonish the rest.”

If I live my life doing what I feel is right, the world would revolve around me, my desires, and my rules.  There it is again, that self-centeredness.  And that’s what our world tells us.  Do what you feel.  Do what you want.  Do what serves you.

I don’t want any part of that world, do you hear me, Dove chocolates?  I can be selfish enough without you goading me on!

I’m writing on my heart that today is the best day of the year because I realize, thanks to Dove chocolate’s worldly view of doing the right thing, that I want to astonish people by doing what I know IS right.

“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.”  ~ General H. Norman Schwarzkopf


Posted in choices, joy, new beginnings, New Year's, Uncategorized

Do you see what I see?

blogDSCN0265A new day.  A new year.  A new opportunity.  Isn’t that what New Year’s Day signifies?

For some, it’s the opportunity to make resolutions perhaps to commence a healthy diet, lose weight,  stop whatever bad habit they’ve acquired, or change some aspect of their lives.

For some, it’s a new beginning, time to put a year of difficulty or sadness or trial behind them.

For some, it’s just another day….whatever.

On January 1, here at Mama’s Empty Nest, we usually take down the festive Christmas trimmings that adorn our home inside and out.

Papa handles the outdoor lights and carefully stores them away for next year’s use.  I pack away the indoor garlands, lights, and other Christmas festoons.  Together we will tear down the tree and place the ornaments safely in their packages where they rest undisturbed until the day after Thanksgiving.

There’s something about clearing out the reminders of holiday festivities though that brings out a cleaning streak in me.  I get the urge to purge when January rolls around on the calendar.

Once the boxes of Christmas are stashed away, I want to clean the house top to bottom, closet by closet, room by room, and de-clutter.  I’ve been this way for as long as I’ve been married.   In the last few years though, I feel the intense desire to undertake all of this, but don’t always possess the energy to actually accomplish it all.  But I try.

This yearning to clean up and improve my physical surroundings reminded me of this quote from my trusty old notebook:

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.” ~Ellen Goodman

Isn’t that the truth?  As I walk through my house after Christmas is over, room by room, I notice the things that need attended to, items to repair, unnecessary fluff to discard or pass on to someone who could truly use it.

But how often do I walk through the rooms of my life as that writer suggested?  Do I examine my heart, my actions, my words, and my motivation as closely as I scrutinize my house?

I liked Goodman’s last premise, “not looking for flaws, but for potential.”   I find it as easy to determine the flaws I harbor in my being as it is to identify imperfections in my home that require attention.   But this year I want to look earnestly for potential in my days… yes, I will say it, the opportunities.

Last year, I opened my book I called Opportunity on New Year’s Day.  Today on this first day in 2012, I’m still leafing my book open to prospects, but I’m adding another aspect.  I’m searching for the potential for joy each day of this new year.  No, strike that – I’m choosing joy each day this year.

Yes, that’s it!  I am choosing JOY.  And I’m taking a clue from Dr. Seuss when he wrote, “You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.  You’re on your own and you know what you know.  And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

So it’s decided.  I’m opting for  joy.  I will examine each circumstance as it comes my way (and there will be many I’m sure!) and I will ask the Lord to show me JOY in the midst.

For years, I’ve claimed this scripture from the Holy Bible as my life verse:   “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Did you catch that?   Be.  Joyful.  Always.  Not just some of the time, not just when situations make me happy or conditions are right or surroundings are pleasant, but always. No matter the circumstances.

I know you might be shaking your head thinking, “Oh, wow, she’s crazy.  This is not going to be easy.”  You’re right, I know it.  But I’m still going to try and with God’s help and direction, with prayer and searching His Word, I’m setting sail on a journey of joy.  Who’s coming with me?

If you’re coming along, go back up and look at my picture at the top of the page.  Do you see the word “joy” like I do?  It’s written with sparklers on the right hand side.  It proves to me that all I have to do is look for joy and I’ll find it!

Copyright ©2012

Posted in choices

Tired of excuses

blogexcusesIt’s Thursday.  Page three already in Chapter 11 in my Opportunity book.  And you know what?

I can’t wait for Friday!  I cannot wait for this week to be over.   I’m not usually one to wish my week away, but this week…..yeah, so ready for it to be over.

You want to know why?  Several things actually have contributed to my crankiness but there is only one source.  People.  That about sums it up.  So if you arrived at my blog expecting to find something lighthearted or heartwarming today, you might want to stop reading now.  You can go ahead and click out of here, I won’t know and I won’t hold it against you.

Today I’m tired of being irritated and I’m going to vent.  And I’m not making any excuses for it.

My fellow human beings can truly be annoying.  My fellow human beings can be extremely disappointing.  My fellow human beings have the ability to irritate me, anger me, and make me want to throw up my hands in disgust and say, “That’s it.  I’m done with that.”

Why is it that when someone has done something oh, so very wrong, excuses are made for their behavior?  Pick one:

  • “He’s just a product of his poor upbringing.”
  • “She doesn’t know any better.”
  • “He has issues that make him feel uncomfortable.”
  • “She comes from a very disadvantaged family.”
  • “His problem is [insert whatever here].  That’s why he can’t control his behavior.”

You know what I hear when I hear these explanations?  Excuses.

So what is the excuse for someone to willingly prowl up and down a city street in the darkness to deliberately slash parked automobile tires for a Halloween “prank?”  This happened to oldest daughter’s car this week.  And the culprits, who will never be brought to justice, didn’t just slice one of her car tires but three and dozens of other cars were damaged as well.

What is the excuse for being completely disrespectful and defiant to someone trying to help you?  This happened to me somewhere this week, but I’m not able to share the details.

What is the excuse for stealing someone’s credit card number and running up huge purchases on that person’s card?  This happened to my middle daughter and a friend of ours.

What is the excuse for two teenage girls getting into an argument on a social media network which escalated into physically mauling one another?  This happened this week and was reported on the news.

What is the excuse for road rage?  Or harassment?  Or physical abuse?  Or theft?  Or murder?  Turn on your television, your computer or read your newspaper and more than likely, those things have happened in your neck of the woods this week.

There are no excuses.   We all make our own choices.  And we need to take responsibility for our actions.

I’m reminded of a movie from a few years ago, The Pursuit of Happyness, based on the real-life story of Chris Gardner.  According to his autobiography, Gardner’s childhood entailed poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual abuse and family illiteracy. Even though he never knew his father, lived in foster homes from time to time, he was determined to not let his disadvantaged upbringing define who he was.  He knew that “in spite of where he came from, he could chart another path and attain whatever goals he set for himself.”

After a stint in the Navy, he found a job, married and had a child.  But his wife abandoned him and his son when their finances took a turn for the worse.  He ended up as a single dad, broke, with no job and homeless.

Did he make excuses for the turn his life took?  No.  He did what he had to do for his son and himself to survive even when that meant eating in soup kitchens and sleeping in public restrooms and worked hard to learn as much as he could about a profession he dreamed of entering.  He persevered until he landed his dream job as a broker without a college degree, limited experience and no connections.  And he didn’t blame his circumstances on excuses.

No excuses.  I like the sound of that.

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” ~ Benjamin Franklin