Words for Wednesday: first day

It’s in the air. I can smell it, I can feel it.

The days are still filled with bright sunshine and warm temperatures tricking us into believing summer is still hanging on till the bitter end, but after the sun sets in the west, the evening produces a bit of a chill.

And in the early mornings? Oh, it’s so very prevalent.

I’m talking about the change of season which signifies another kind of change. It’s back to school time.

Do you remember your very first day of school ever? I truly do not. Since I first hopped onto a big yellow school bus for the first time to attend public school 60 years ago (can THAT be right??!?), I don’t recall my first day at all. But I think it’s safe to say I was probably terrified.

My school didn’t offer kindergarten classes back then and preschool existed only in the cities where children went to “nursery school.”  So first grade was my first experience at school. I do have a few recollections of first grade but mostly they aren’t positive ones.

I was shy and timid and my gray-haired, somber teacher was also the school’s principal, so she was a strict disciplinarian. To me she loomed large over us with her very stern appearance and her unbending rules. Frankly, she scared me and most of the time, I was afraid to even open my mouth.

Once I became an adult, my mother shared a story about my first few days of school with me. As we were adjusting to school and schedules and rules, my classmates and I tended to cry during the day. Obviously, we sobbed because we were frightened or we just wanted to go home or we missed our mothers, who were mostly stay-at-home moms at that time.

So every school day for the first few days or so after I arrived home, my mother would ask me which of my friends cried that day. I didn’t like to admit that I shed tears as well because I really didn’t want her to know that. You know, put on a brave face so mom wouldn’t worry and would believe I truly was a brave, big girl.

One day, Mother asked me that question again and I promptly gave up the wailing culprits’ names. Of course, she suspected I wept as well, so she inquired once more, “Didn’t you cry too?”

My answer was, “Well, I wheened a little.” Apparently I knew the word whined and what it meant, but didn’t know how to properly pronounce it. Obviously, my mother thought it was funny enough to remember it and tell me the story decades later.

That memory came back to me just the other day – the first day of school in our local district. A lot of preparation and anxious discussion preceded it due to covid-19 concerns, but after advisement from area medical personnel and listening to parents give their thoughts and opinions via a video conferencing school board meeting, the district announced school would resume in person for those who wanted their children to attend. For others not comfortable with that, online learning would continue to take place as it had during the months of lockdowns.

Tons of safety precautions and procedures later, those big yellow school buses roared down our roads, picking up students, whose smiles or frowns were hidden by masks. Children must have their temperatures checked at home before they board, practice social distancing on the bus, and undergo another temperature check upon arrival at school.

It’s enough to make your head spin but I know one school student who happily complies. I can hardly believe it, but our grandchild – our oldest one, the first one, the one who loves to stay at Nana and Papa’s while her mommy works – trotted off to kindergarten just the other day.

She couldn’t wait. She was so excited to ride the school bus. She shared that she was eager to make new friends at school and confessed that she was a little nervous because it was a “big school, not like my preschool.” 

Papa and I arrived at her house several minutes before the bus was due to pick her up, we snapped photos, and she looked so big and grown up in her dress carrying her lunch box and her pencil case. She didn’t appear nervous or scared or any of the emotions I’m pretty sure I experienced the first day of my school career.

Instead, it was her Mama and her Nana who were nervous and apprehensive for her – but we didn’t let on to her that we were feeling that way. You know, put on a brave, happy face so she wouldn’t see us cry.

The big yellow school bus stopped in front of her house, she held her Mama’s hand and waited for Mr. School Bus Driver to motion that it was safe to cross the road, and she boarded that bus all by herself. Miss Independent. And at the end of the day, when she jumped off the bus, we could tell that she had a great, fun first day of ‘real’ school.

Even with her mask on, her eyes were smiling. As she removed it, she gushed about all the excitement of the day and she couldn’t wait to go back to school the next day.

A great start to a new season of learning. A new season of experiences. A new season of growing up. A change of life just as the season is changing.

I don’t remember my own first day of school all of those years ago, but I remember other first days. Wasn’t it just the other day that I was sending my own first child to school for the first time? Wasn’t it just yesterday that the other two eventually followed her onto that big, yellow school bus?

I remember those first days when my own children were filled with the same eager excitement that my grandchild experienced. I also remember feeling a little sad and teary-eyed but happy for them at the same time as they began a new phase of life.

And as long as my memory serves, I will remember my grandchild’s first day going off to school as well.

“You’re off to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” ~ Dr. Seuss

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: sea prescription

The news is disheartening. I can’t even turn it on any longer. And I’m staying away more and more from social media these days as well.

Everywhere I look on the air or online, it seems anger, rage, vitriol, obscenity, explosions of it dominate. Life is difficult enough with all of the virus pandemic restrictions still weighing heavily on our lives, but now violence and chaos reign in many of our cities. And hateful spite spews forth online endlessly.

One can’t openly share your own opinion because verbal and sometimes physical attacks descend on you like ravaging wolves preying on a defenseless, wounded creature. You are shouted at, disrespected, and debased just because your thoughts, opinions, and/or beliefs are completely different than theirs.

Remember that old adage, “Live and let live”? Well, it appears that exists no more. People are enraged over every social/political/medical issue and the list goes on. Inconsiderateness, rudeness, and downright nasty meanness seem to prevail in humanity right now and it doesn’t make me angry. Instead it grieves me and saddens my heart.

What have we become? You know what I think? We all need to swallow a chill-pill. We need a prescription to reset ourselves, restore kindness and respect for one another, treat others the way we would want to be treated.

We all need to simmer down.

Maybe what we all require is a trip to the sea to restore a sense of calmness, composure, and civility in our lives.

Last week, I wrote a post about how situating myself beside the ocean, lake, river, or creek is extremely restful and tranquil for me. Maybe it will work for others too.

Might I suggest when rage over whatever causes you to flip a gourd threatens to agitate and overwhelm you, you go sit by a body of water for a time and wipe those thoughts from your mind?

If you’re not close to one, maybe just step into your shower, close your eyes, and let water stream over you until you sense peace filling your thoughts.

Then perhaps we all can discuss our opinions and differences calmly, intelligently, and with respect for each other.

Searching my photo cache for blog posts lately, I noticed that. over the years, I’ve snapped many pictures of waves rolling into shore or creeks rippling over rocks.

Just viewing those pictures gives me a sense of tranquility and reminds me of a poem, Sea Fever, that I remember memorizing as a young student in school. 

The first line of the poem, written by English poet John Masefield (1897-1967) easily came to me once again: “I must go down to the seas again…”

Maybe that’s exactly what we need – we all must go down to the seas again to quiet the loud, angry, and divisive voices that are screaming at us from all sides and maybe even inside our own heads.

My hope is we can find sane restoration from the insanity that prevails.

 “When I sit here by the sea and listen to the sound of waves, I feel free from all obligations and people of this world.” ~ Henry Thoreau

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: At water’s edge

What is it about the water?

If you were to categorize me, I suppose you’d called me a landlubber since I grew up far from any ocean. I’m not particularly fond of actually being in water either be it ocean, lake, river, or even swimming pool.

But there’s something about the water that draws me to it like those moths addicted to and circling my front porch light every evening.

The sound of moving water soothes me. Ocean and lake waves lapping to the shore call to me saying, “Come sit beside me, close your eyes and just listen…listen to my ebb and flow.”

Though the waves may be strong or mild, that rhythmic sound is restful to my soul.

Rushing rivers, babbling brooks, and the cadence of creeks beg me to park myself on their banks, tune out the world’s din, and listen to their mesmerizing, flowing movement over rocks, soothing my quest for tranquility and serenity.

Apparently, science exists to support why I feel the way I do when I’m beside the water.  Psychologists say that being close to water results in positive emotional states – feeling calm, relaxed, restful, and feeling restored.

A marine biologist named Wallace Nichols wrote a book entitled Blue Mind about this phenomenon: our brain chemistry changing when we’re around water.

Nichols states that “Water is considered the elixir and source of life. It covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, makes up nearly 70% of our bodies, and constitutes over 70% of our heart and brains. This deep biological connection has been shown to trigger an immediate response in our brains when we’re near water. In fact, the mere sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and induce relaxation. Thanks to science, we’re now able to connect the dots to the full range of emotional benefits being on, in, or near the water can bring.”

He was quoted in a Psychology Today article as saying, “The best way to handle stress may be to get to the closest beach.”

I’ll buy that.

Perhaps that explains why I’ve noticed most of the vacations Papa and I journeyed on in the last few years have been “down to the water.” We live several miles away from the river that runs through our home town, and not near any creeks or lakes. So our treks to water’s edge must be our way of de-stressing from everyday life.

Just this past week, Papa and I needed a little escape from the sameness and mundaneness of life in these days of social distancing and restrictions. I researched day excursions hoping to find a road trip we could take where we would be outside away from crowds of people.

So Sunday morning we rose early and set our sights on a destination in the state next door, just a couple of hours drive away. There we completed a driving tour of covered bridges located on country roads and viewed two lighthouses on nearby Lake Erie.

Was it coincidence that our travels that day took us to an area where we peacefully ate our picnic lunch while seated on a wooden bench overlooking a rippling creek?

Was it our unconscious desire to find release from stress by ultimately winding up our day relaxing on a porch swing while overlooking a calming view of the lapping lake?

And was it mere chance that several times as we traveled, a particular song – As I Went Down to the River to Pray – played on Papa’s Pandora list? That old song with unknown origins has been called a song about keeping faith in dark times.

I don’t know if that’s truly the meaning of the song or not because I always thought the song was simply about Christian baptism by immersion, but this I do know… going down to the water provided peace, soothed my soul, and gave me pause to pray, thanking God for blessing this world with the sound of water.

“The sound of water is worth more than all the poets’ words.” ~ Octavio Paz

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

What’s missing

What do you miss the most?

That’s a question I’ve heard often in the last few weeks. As this pandemic paranoia continues to press us down with its overreaching heavy hand, we find ourselves waxing nostalgic over simple aspects of life we once managed to accomplish every day without thinking long and hard about it.

You know…things like hugging your family members, sitting closer than six feet apart to have a conversation with your best friend, climbing out of your car without a mask on to enter a business and noticing someone smiling at you, going to the barber shop/hair salon, sitting in a darkened movie theater catching the latest release, live in-person medical and dental check-ups, and attending worship services in person.

Months and months of restrictions that don’t seem to cease have made us weary and, in many cases, downright depressed. That’s the negative side of all of this. But I strive to don my rose-colored glasses and my Pollyanna attitude every day and attempt to find some positive aspects during this trying period.

I know it’s difficult to accentuate the positive, but I do find myself being grateful for the blessings we have. Papa and I are retired so we don’t have to worry about losing jobs or being exposed to the nasty virus at work.

Our children are all grown so we don’t have to stress over whether to send them to school or not and whether to home-school instead.

Our retirement income has remained steady and our home is mortgage-free so we aren’t agonizing over meeting necessary expenses each month.

Even though some of our family members live far from us, thanks to technology we can see and talk with them and that bolsters our spirits.

Our home is situated in the country on 2.5 acres of land in a fairly rural county so we don’t have to fret over living in heavily populated areas and being exposed to large crowds of people.

Our church broadcasts live worship services online and our pastor provides encouraging sessions on Facebook.

And again, thanks to video conferencing, I was able to lead a women’s Bible study online every week since the end of March.

So yes, I find I can be truly thankful for many aspects of life during this difficult time in our lives.

Still there are facets of life that I also truly do miss; one of those is visiting the public library. Papa and I are readers and we regularly spent time at the library perusing the rows upon rows of books available to borrow and usually come home with a tote bag full.

Prior to the pandemic, it wasn’t unusual for me to check out six or eight books at a time so I always had plenty of good reading material available. But alas, the library closed and remained closed during the lockdown edicts from our state governor.

Of course since Papa has a Kindle and I have an iPad with a Kindle app, we still had ample books available to read that way. But I’m old school. I like the feel of a bound book in my hand, paper pages to turn, and a pretty bookmark to mark my place when I close the book.

But there’s another reason I miss jaunts to the library to check out some books. I miss really good books. Well-written books that give me pause to think and use vocabulary that causes me to turn to my handy-dandy dictionary to make sure I understand what that word means.

And frankly, I find those kind of literary works lacking on kindle apps. Today’s fiction seems crude and too simplistic.  And sometimes it’s so poorly written, I can’t stand to continue reading (that’s when the English teacher in me comes out and I want to mark up the pages with my red pen!).

Unfortunately, for me there seems to be an abundance of not-so-great literature out there.

I remember when our kids were still in high school and were required to complete summer reading lists of classic literature and I would read the books compiled on the lists as well. Now that was some challenging reading, some intelligent writing to stimulate your brain and increase your vocabulary.

The writers of old were true wordsmiths, nothing like the drivel that appears today en masse either by traditional publishing companies or through self-publishing. Years ago there was a movement in education that was against what was called “dumbing down” curriculum. Unfortunately, the literary world seems to have fallen prey to dumbing down.

That’s why I can’t wait to get back to the library to find some better books to read. And I can’t express my thoughts in any better words than these written by Alexandre Dumas in his classic novel, The Count of Monte Cristo: “…never forget that until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words, – wait and hope.”

Waiting and hoping is what I’m doing as I anticipate a trip to the library once again.

Wait and hope. Solid, intelligent advice, I’d say. Perfect for this pandemic period. We must wait and hope.

“The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.” ~ Joseph Joubert

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: North Head Light

North Head Lighthouse, Long Beach, Washington (taken with film in 1996)

A long weekend stretched ahead of us. Four days off – no school, no work. And we were itching to go someplace we’d never been before. We wanted a mini escape from busy suburbia and to find a peaceful place of solitude.

On a whim and without any hotel reservations, our family of five left our Oregon home on Memorial Day weekend, no less, and headed north.

Our goal – Long Beach Peninsula in Washington, a 28-mile stretch of quiet sandy beaches along the Pacific Ocean, about a two-hour trip away.  We traveled to Astoria, Oregon where we stopped to view some landmarks and then crossed the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which was quite a sight and interesting drive itself.

This 4.1 mile long span from Astoria to Point Ellice, Washington, crosses the Columbia River at its mouth where it meets the Pacific.  That bridge might give some nervous travelers pause to cross but we found it exciting.

From there we drove up Highway 101 to Long Beach and fortunately found a place to stay right on the beach. Of course, it was May and the Pacific Northwest weather was still very chilly resulting in us wearing sweatshirts AND jackets.

We definitely found the beach peaceful and quiet and enjoyed walks, beach-combing for shells, playing in the sand, and kite flying. Needless to say, no frolicking in the waves since the ocean water proved downright frigid at that time of year.  

During our weekend stay, we also visited another Pacific coast historic lighthouse, North Head Light, situated on a rocky cliff more than 190 feet above sea level near the small town of Ilwaco. 

North Head was built in the late 1890’s to directly face the ocean and be clearly visible to ships traveling southward to the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River.  

Before North Head and nearby Cape Disappointment Lighthouse existed, the only way ships sailing for Portland and Astoria navigated through treacherous waves and ever-changing sandbars was by spying signal fires at night and white flags and shoreline trees with notches in them by day. Not a safe way to travel, which is why waters around Long Beach Peninsula was known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

An interesting fact about North Head Light is that it is considered the windiest lighthouse on the West Coast and the second most windy in North America. Maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard from 1939 to 2012, ownership of this particular light station now belongs to Washington State Parks.

Although North Head Lighthouse is closed for tours currently, visitors can still access the grounds at no charge all year-round from dawn until dusk where they can marvel in awe at the amazing panoramic view of Long Beach Peninsula, the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia River Bar, and even the northern Oregon coast just as we did back in 1996.

Visiting a light station like North Head, one can imagine the wind howling around a vessel out in the Pacific, waves crashing into it and tossing it to and fro, and mariners aboard fearing a violent end against a rocky coast but then…then, the lighthouse comes into view, guiding the ship safely on its way.

Such a scenario reminds me that life often resembles the treacherous sea but that’s when we must look for a light to guide us onward. And like a sentinel guarding the sea, the light will be there. It will always be there.

Loud howls the wind, and the sea runs high,
Bearing the burden of many a cry
For help to land, while the vessel runs,
Firing at random her signal guns.
Black is the night as a sable pall;
The thunder answers the sailor’s call;
And all seems lost till the friendly light
Of the lighthouse bursts on the wearied sight.

Then hurrah for the lighthouse, hurrah!
Her light shall shine o’er the billows afar,
Wherever gloom and doubt prevail,
To guard the storm-tossed shattered sail.

~William Thomas Birch, “The Lighthouse,” Home Reveries, 1871

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: closer look

Sometimes the teacher is really the student.

Papa and I spend a lot of time with our oldest grandchild since we provide childcare for our daughter while she works.

When our grandchild is with us, we do a lot of game playing, enacting the roles she provides with her active imagination, and doing outside activities as well like gardening, vegetable picking, flower tending.

So much of the time we do educate her. Papa shows her how to fix something; Nana helps her practice writing her letters and numbers, doing simple math, talking about shapes, sizes, and patterns, learning how to sound out words in the books we read together.

She learns how to make certain crafts from us, how much water it takes to keep her fairy garden growing, and so much more.

I believe we also teach her about faith in God, about the world around us, and about life in general.  But you know what? She teaches us a lot too.

She shows us how vivid an imagination can be and she demonstrates how we should view this world we live in, how to see wonder in the smallest aspects of life from a child’s perspective.

During one of our country drives, Little One gave us a commentary from her back seat car seat each time we came upon a new scene out the vehicle windows.

“Oh, Nana!” she exclaimed as we drove along a long, winding road finally reaching the pinnacle where the view around was pretty amazing, “It’s SO beautiful!”

And you know what? It truly was a beautiful view which may not have even registered as so for us. She notices small things that wouldn’t even cross Nana and Papa’s radar screen like the day she found a praying mantis slowly walking along in the mulch around our shrubs.

We had walked right past it and never saw it. But not Little One. She spied it right away, caused us to stop when she asked what kind of bug it was, and she spent a good bit of time watching it as it made its way up onto the boxwood shrub.  

All of it delighted her. And when she’s delighted, so are we. Grandchildren teach us to slow down, notice what might have been unseen, and take a closer look so we don’t miss a wonderful moment in life.

And that’s a lesson we all need to learn no matter what our age.

“Anything looked at closely becomes wonderful.” ~ A.R. Ammons, American poet

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: Just a bend

The last several months have really thrown us all for a curve, haven’t they?

What we once considered normal life has taken a major turn.  Along with the covid-19 pandemic, it seems like the world just detoured into craziness as highlighted on the news every day – violence, devastation, natural disasters, you name it, it’s happening.

I’m reminded of a quote I once read by pastor and motivational speaker Robert H. Schuller: “What appears to be the end of the road may simply be a bend in the road.”

Times like these certainly are bends in the road and during them Papa and I realize how blessed we are to live in a mostly rural area. We’re close enough to enjoy a city with all it has to offer yet far enough away that we aren’t as affected by some of the less desirable aspects of city life.

During this period of quarantine, isolation, stay-at-home, flatten the curve,  or whatever you want to call it, we’re thankful we can jump in our car and travel through countryside without engaging with other folks and have to wear masks and social distance. Something that those who reside in heavily populated areas or in cities where houses are crammed together or people must live in apartment buildings have not been able to do.

On one of our “road trips” just to get out of our country abode and break up the monotony of staying home, we traveled to an area we’ve often traveled through. But there was one attraction there that we had never stopped at before – the World Famous Horseshoe Curve in Altoona, PA.

Shortly after our state re-opened with restrictions still in place, we checked to see if the landmark was open for visitors. We found the Railroaders Memorial Museum there remains closed, but we were pleased to find the Horseshoe Curve and visitor’s center open, but only on limited days and hours with state department of health restrictions and CDC guidelines in place.  So off we drove for our day-long excursion.

If you’ve been a steady reader of Mama’s Empty Nest for long, you probably remember that Papa is a train enthusiast. He loves them. Because his father’s life-long career was working for the Pennsylvania Railroad, my husband enjoys reading about trains, learning the history of them, and especially riding on them.  

We’ve taken several train excursions and visited railroad museums, but hadn’t traveled to the Horseshoe Curve at the foot of the Allegheny Mountains.

The drive through the mountainous area is scenic but that curve, an engineering feat completed by 450 railroad workers laying 2,375 feet of rail tracks in rough terrain all by hand in the 1800’s, prompted us to exclaim “wow!” Simply amazing.

We arrived at our destination, donned our face masks, paid our entrance fee, and toured the visitor’s center which only contained two other people besides us and we all practiced social distancing.

We learned a number of interesting facts about the Horseshoe Curve and its construction. 

Before the curve was constructed and then opened in 1854, travel across Pennsylvania from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia took the better part of three weeks or so by wagon. When traveling by train and canal, the same trip lasted about four days and relied on the Allegheny Portage Railroad, which didn’t operate at night, to cross the mountains.  Once the Horseshoe Curve was completed, the time for train passengers to travel across the state was reduced to about 15 hours.

Of course, Papa being the train and history buff that he is, spent much more time reading the information placards than I did. But I did find two noteworthy tidbits to share with you that surprised me.

During World War 2, the Horseshoe Curve was on a list of 12 key industrial sites targeted by Nazi saboteurs. Yikes! And well-known people who once traveled by train on the curve were several U.S. Presidents (Lincoln, McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, Hoover, FDR, Eisenhower, and Carter) as well as many entertainment personalities from vaudeville, the theatrical stage, and the silver screen.

After touring the visitor’s center, we ventured outside to view the curve up close and personal. Because the incline ride up the mountain, which takes visitors to the center of the curve was closed due to pandemic restrictions, we began the climb up the steps – all 194 of them – to the observation area.  

Shortly after we reached the top, we found a spot under a shade tree away from other visitors, and waited for a train to come along. We didn’t wait long! And actually during the time we spent there, two different trains traveled through.

Papa, as always, got a kick out of seeing them. And it truly was quite an experience to watch those lengthy trains approach and navigate that curve shaped like a horseshoe on the side of a mountain right in front of us. If you want to see an aerial view click here.

Of course, we enjoyed our road tripping day and a little sightseeing. We relished the opportunity to just get away and forget for a time what was going on in the world.

Once again the experience reminded me how grateful we are that even in this time of uncertainty, when life has definitely thrown all of us a curve ball, we can still hit it out of the park.

There’s always something for which we can be thankful even when life throws us a curve. That bend doesn’t mean the end!

Sometimes our biggest nightmare turns out to be our biggest gift. And it all comes down to our attitude. Life will throw us curve balls and disappointments, even heartbreak. But ultimately we can choose if we’re going to be bitter or better for the experience.” ~ Kathryn Orford

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: rain needed

The view outside my country home window quickly became as depressing as the state of our country under this continual scourge of covid-19 restrictions and the social unrest taking its toll.

Just like turning on the evening news or gleaning the internet, nothing refreshing appears.  We’re weary and just burned out from discouraging news, divisiveness, and the dehumanizing effects of this pandemic.

Someone voiced an opinion to me the other day and I’m tending to agree with it – “I’m soooooo over this!”

Right now, our expanse of yard – we have 2.25 acres of it – personifies how we feel. It’s lifeless-looking. Brown and crunchy from lack of refreshing rain. Leaves on trees and shrubs are starting to wilt and dry up.  Where I normally view verdant green is now dishearteningly drab.

Rain clouds gather around, look menacing and promising at the same time while we think “Finally, some rain!” and then just as quickly as they assembled, those clouds scurry away from us or dissipate completely. Other areas receive rain, but here at our house we are only getting a few raindrops here and there.

We need a nice, steady rainfall just like we need some good news to fall upon us.

But we’ve had little to no rain. No rain means no water in the rain barrel which we use to water our garden. Consequently, our garden isn’t doing as well as it should even though we use a hose to water it.

No rain means no green. No green means it looks lifeless out there. We take water for granted so often just like we do life. We assume we’ll always have water. We assume we will have life. But the two go hand in hand. Human bodies can sustain life for a number of days without food, but without water, that’s a different story.

Years ago, Papa and I were part of a Bible study group that decided to raise funds to “purchase” a water well in an undeveloped country. People there needed good, clean water to drink for proper hygiene and good health. We achieved our goal and raised enough funds to provide a water well through World Vision.

Remembering that reminded me that the well drilled in that foreign land became the source of not only clear, drinkable water but also a source of hope and encouragement. Water does that. It encourages us, revives us, and makes us feel refreshed.

Right now, we need refreshing in a major way! The news keeps reporting surges of corona infections, the threat of more restrictions, and even returning to lock-downs.

It’s depressing and discouraging. When added on top of all the vile vitriol being spewed on social media, on the news, and everywhere else it seems, it’s disheartening to say the least.

How much more can we take? The other day, Papa and I just needed to “get out of the house.” We escaped in our vehicle and just took a drive. We never left our car nor engaged with any other people so we didn’t don masks; we just took a several hour road trip northward through more rural areas.

The scenic views provided just what we needed to see.  Since the areas we drove through had received more rainfall than we have, our eyes beheld the color green as we traveled. Green – the color of life.

As we neared rivers and creeks, we spied even more green, beautiful green. I shot the photo above on this trip. Green near the water. Refreshing water. Life-sustaining water.

What we saw refreshed us, restored our feelings of peace and well-being. And that gave me pause to reflect on some thoughts.

Maybe what we need in our country is rainfall, not literal raindrops but a different kind of outpouring – rain that restores peace, unity, and banishes fear. The kind of revitalizing rain that only comes from God.

I’m praying God pours refreshing, recovering, renewing, life-giving, life-preserving rain on us all. Will you join me?

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” ~ Sylvia Earle, American marine biologist

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Summer gladness

By now, my readers (and those of you who love summer weather) are weary of my whining about why I don’t enjoy this season. So I won’t subject you to another one of my summer time blues rants.

Instead, I’ll take a different road down the heated pavement of summer. What’s to like about this season? Sunshine – that’s for certain, always a big A-plus in my grade book of life.

With the sunshine, I find there’s one more thing to like about summer. Those gorgeous, multi-colored blooms in people’s yards, flower pots, and porch boxes. They do make a person happy just to see them.

Our front porch boxes boast some huge, beautiful red petunias. When I relax on the front porch swing on evenings cool enough to do so, I gaze at bright orange tiger lilies.

The perennial flower garden is full of bright yellow day lilies, purple balloon flowers, bright pinkish purple blooms on the butterfly bush, and clusters of tiny yellow buds on the yarrow plant.

The rose bush and the clematis also graced us with lovely colors and now the gladiolas have opened up as well.

My mom always had those tall spikes called gladiolas in her garden when I was growing up. She would pick a bunch of them, bring them inside and arrange them in a tall vase of water. My mom called them glads.

And you know what? When I see those particular flowers blooming in our garden in summer, I remember my mom and her glads and that makes ME glad. Yes, GLAD, even in summer! Shocking, I know.

When I photographed the gladiolas in our yard just the other day (because you know, in this time of staying close to home, what else is there to photograph??), it made me happy.

Glad. It made me glad! And when the word glad popped into my mind, my thoughts rabbit trailed as they often do. 

A Christian song immediately started playing in my brain and I can’t get it out of my head. That’s what happens when you get an earworm (defined as a “catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind after it is no longer playing”).

The song, Be Ye Glad, is an old one – I think from the 1980’s – and was performed by an a cappella group also named GLAD. If I remember correctly, the singing group was formed by male students from different universities in my home state Pennsylvania. But what I remember most are the words and the beautiful harmony of the song.

The lyrics, written by Michael Kelly Blanchard in the late 1970’s, are still very fitting in today’s world:

Words and Music by M.K.Blanchard
© Gotz Music/Benson

In these days of confused situations.
In these nights of a restless remorse,
When the heart and the soul of the nation,
lay wounded and cold as a corpse.
From the grave of the innocent Adam,
comes a song bringing joy to the sad.
Oh your cry has been heard and the ransom,
has been paid up in full, Be Ye Glad.
Oh, Be Ye Glad, Be Ye Glad,
Every debt that you ever had
Has been paid up in full by the grace of the Lord,
Be Ye Glad, Be Ye Glad, Be Ye Glad.

From the dungeon a rumor is stirring.
You have heard it again and again.
But this time the cell keys are turning,
and outside there are faces of friends.
And though your body lay weary from wasting,
and your eyes show the sorrow they've had.
Oh the love that your heart is now tasting
has opened the gate, Be Ye Glad.
So be like lights on the rim of the water,
giving hope in a storm sea of night.
Be a refuge amidst the slaughter,
for these fugitives in their flight.
For you are timeless and part of a puzzle.
You are winsome and young as a lad.
And there is no disease or no struggle,
that can pull you from God, Be Ye Glad.

You can listen to the song, its inspiring lyrics, and beautiful harmony as performed by the musical group GLAD here.

Those gladiolas in my garden remind me that even in summer, my least favorite season of all, there’s something to be ye glad about – life and my faith in my Savior Jesus Christ.

“Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love, to work, to play, and to look up at the stars.” ~ Henry Van Dyke

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: finding my thrill

I can usually count on two distinct aspects that normally occur every summer: 1. I fall into a summer slump and 2. Our blueberry bushes provide us with a good crop of berries.

So summer isn’t my favorite season AT ALL. I can hear many of you out there exclaiming, “What???” while shaking your heads.

In your book, summer equals relaxation, warm weather (no snow or ice), beach trips, fun in the sun, swimming and lounging in the pool, picnics, suntans, and the list goes on. I get it. You enjoy all of those activities.

Well, guess what? So do I (with the exception of suntans – this extremely fair skin I inherited from my English ancestors does not tan), but I simply cannot stand the heat and humidity of summer. I wilt like a wet dish rag.

When the weather dials it up several notches to hot, sticky, humid temperatures, I can be found inside in air conditioning. And I don’t want to be inside.

I want to be outdoors in fresh air without sweat dripping off of me, running into my eyes, and burning them. I want to enjoy time outside in sunshine without it sucking the life out of me, draining any ounce of motivation I may have drummed up. (And this, my friends, is why I love fall and spring 100% more than summer.)

What results is what I call the summer slump. I get cranky, lethargic, and totally unmotivated. Heck, I can’t even get inspired to create a lot of blog posts (indoors, of course) when summer rolls around and pushes temps into the upper digits of the thermometer.

I found this definition of “summer slump” on urbandictionary.com:  A period during summer in which a person performs inefficiently due to the excessive amount of free time on their hands. The symptoms often include:

  • remaining around the house for the majority of the day,
  • sleeping in excessive amounts,
  • persistent viewing of television,
  • prolonged exposure to video games,
  • neglecting personal hygiene,
  • consuming large quantities of food (in most cases, junk food),
  • loss of desire to leave their residence,
  • and abstaining contact from the outside world other than Facebook or the occasional trip to 7-11.

The definition continued listing causes as “lack of school or a job, absence of friends, insufficient funds, and/or lack of transportation,” and also listed effects as “moodiness, weight gain, shortness of breath, insomnia, increase of nerdiness, shrinkage of intimacy, and/or depression.

After reading this definition, I realize that perhaps I’m using the term summer slump incorrectly. First of all, I’m retired so I don’t lack a school, job, etc. Instead, I’m glad I don’t have a job right now!

Secondly, I’m not experiencing any of the effects (gee, am I more nerdy??). And lastly but foremost, the only symptoms I truly have is the first one – remaining around the house for the majority of the day.

I don’t sleep a lot, I watch TV rarely, don’t play video games. Don’t worry though because I do shower, so neglecting personal hygiene is not an issue.

I haven’t been eating a lot because it’s too darn hot to cook let alone eat. And I do have a desire to leave my home but between hot weather and this pandemic…well, there you have it.

I’m not sequestering myself away from communicating with the outside world, and Facebook – well, don’t get me started on that subject, so let’s just say I’ve been staying off social media to prevent adding extreme anger to my slumpiness (which I’m sure is not a word!).

I don’t make occasional trips to a 7-11 convenience store because we don’t have one (but there are Sheetz and Get-Go shops within driving distance) and I don’t visit those type of places regularly anyway.

Consequently, I guess I don’t have a classic case of summer slump per this definition, just my particular type – one of my own making I suppose. My summer slump consists of being lazy, unenthusiastic, and just plain uninterested because of the heat, which is totally out of my control.

And that explains aspect number 1. Now on to the second item on my summer happenings list. Blueberries.

A bumper crop of those delicious berries keeps me a tad busy. With multiple pickings, my kitchen counter has been filled with those sweet blue yummy fruit. And now, our freezer has quart-size ziplock bags full of them.

Blueberries force me to get out of my summer slump and do something – wash and dry them after picking, prepare some for eating (on breakfast cereal almost every day) and the rest for freezing.

I blanch them first then cool, dry, and place the berries in a single layer on a tray in the freezer so they freeze individually. Next, the frozen berries go into ziplock bags and I pop them back in the deep freeze. This way they don’t all lump together and you can take as many or as little berries out of the bag at a time as you want.

Prepping the berries is a plus because I’m sticking my head inside the freezer several times a day. And at least I can stay cool that way.

Summer? It doesn’t thrill me. But I’m grateful for the summer blues – blueberries, I mean. I guess you could say I’m like Fats Domino.

“I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill.” ~ Fats Domino

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com