Feeding frenzy

blogIMG_9337As a child I was a landlubber, but as an adult some of my fondest travel memories are trips to the water.

I inhaled my first breaths of salty ocean air as a three-month-old baby when my family took an unheard of jaunt to the sea – the Atlantic Ocean. 

Of course, I have no memory of that whatsoever, but there is an old black and white photo that my father took as proof. In that picture, my mother and my two older sisters are sitting on a bench on the Atlantic City boardwalk and I am in my mother’s arms. This was in the 1950’s so we are decked out in dresses.

When I met the Papa of this empty nest, he couldn’t believe that I had never been to ‘the shore’ as we call it on the East Coast. His family vacationed every summer there with extended family. My family…well, we didn’t vacation much except weekends spent at our woodsy camp.

So Papa, who was then my fiancé, hauled me off to the Atlantic for a day at the beach. Since then, we’ve spent time with our family on sandy and rocky shores on both sides of our country – the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. We’ve visited bays and lakes as well.

And in all that time of being near the water, there is one thing I learned quickly. Don’t ever feed the seagulls.

If those pesky birds ever get one slight hint that you have food, they will surround and overwhelm you. They aren’t called scavengers for nothing. And they are greedy little critters who don’t understand the meaning of enough.

A scene from the animated movie, Finding Nemo, comes to my mind where seagulls descend on some tasty morsel and they all scream, “Mine, mine, mine!”

That about sums it up when describing those birds.

During our hotel stay in St. Ignace, Michigan on the shores of Lake Huron, I was reminded of that movie scene.

After I discovered our lakefront view the night we checked in, I wanted to see that view in daylight that next morning. Cloudy overcast skies with a never-ending forecast of rain caused us to be socked into our room trying to decide what to do for the day and rescheduling our plan to visit Mackinac Island.

I drew the sliding glass door curtain open a bit, unlocked the door, and stepped outside onto the patio. Big mistake. The courtyard, formed by the hotel wings and fronting the lake, was filled with seagulls –  screaming, wings beating the air, diving this way and that, greedy gulls all clamoring for a bite to eat.

Seems whoever was staying in the room next to ours had never learned the lesson about feeding those gluttonous birds.  I couldn’t see the person because he or she must have been standing in the doorway and throwing bread outward.

But the air was full of birds, gulping down the bread bits as fast as they could, demanding more with their squawks, and fighting each other for the goods.

It was a feeding frenzy.

I couldn’t venture any further to photograph the lake because the birds obstructed my view and I wasn’t willing to walk through them, not to mention they were dive bombing everywhere and I was sure to get pummeled by one or worse (left a little ‘surprise’ on my head).

As I stood there, watching the craziness, I couldn’t help but think those gulls reminded me of our culture’s ‘news’ media in this age of instant, 24/7 reporting.

Media stalk celebrities, politicians, sports stars, anyone in the public arena. They force themselves en masse onto a scene shoving microphones and TV cameras into people’s faces trying to get the latest sound bite.

They hound, they badger, they show up in a horde just like those always hungry sea birds, all in the guise of getting a first-hand report before anyone else does.  

And it seems, no matter what your politics may be – liberal, conservative, or independent – that they thrive on tearing people to shreds all for the tiniest morsel of information.

Media. Seagulls. They both remind me of an out-of-control feeding frenzy, which is why we should be careful what we throw out there. 

“When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.” ~ Eric Cantona

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


Extraordinary hallway


Hallway to the entrance of Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

Light. It’s an important and necessary aspect of daily life.

I’m one of those people who like the light. When the sun doesn’t shine for days, when overcast skies are the norm, I tend to get a little grumpy. But when Mr. Sun makes an appearance, I do a little happy dance inside.

Light, or the lack of it, definitely affects my mood. As we head into the downhill slide of the year, into the late fall/early winter days ahead of us, it will soon be time to change our clocks. Fall back, spring forward is the rule.

With the clock turned back and the world spinning closer to the shortest day of the year in December, we will have less light each day. Darkness will descend on us like an inky-colored curtain blocking light from entering a window.

And even though, I do relish the colder, crisper days that we’ll soon experience, I will miss the light.

I’m just an amateur photographer, a hobbyist really, but I do know that light is imperative in photography. Proper lighting makes a huge difference in how a picture turns out, not just in terms of brightness and darkness, but also lighting sets the mood for a photo.

Often how I observe light falling on a particular object or in a certain way causes me to pull out my camera and try to capture what I see so clearly with my own eyes.

That happened several times during  Papa’s and my autumn journey to Michigan. As we were walking down a long hallway in the enormous Henry Ford complex en route to the Museum of American Innovation, I grabbed my camera and started shooting.

The hallway was ornately decorated and quite beautiful, but the light…the light as it beamed through the windows and doorways…the light turned the hallway into something extraordinary.

It also reminded me of an extraordinary verse in God’s Word about Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of our souls: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).

As we followed other folks on their way into the museum down that light-filled hallway and I kept taking photos, another thought came to my mind. I’ve often read and heard accounts of people who “died and came back to life.”

In almost all of those accounts, those who experienced this reported that they traveled toward a light. Some talk about having gone through a tunnel of light.

Might that be the hallway to heaven? Some claim it is. I don’t know.

I just know that I will follow my Savior, the Light of this world, throughout this life.  And when the time comes that I must depart from this place, He will be the light that leads me into heaven someday.

“In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.” ~ Aaron Rose

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


No mathematician


Multiplication Cube at Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

Let me just make this statement plainly and simply – I am not a mathematician. 

I can do simple math though and keep my check book balanced to the penny, but higher math is like a foreign language to me. I just don’t get it.

In elementary school, we called it arithmetic and I could manage my way through the simple aspects like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

But once we entered junior and senior high school and took math classes, my brain fogged over. I found Algebra easy because in my logical mind, equations made sense. But after that, higher math left me feeling low.

Somehow I always got stuck placed in accelerated math classes and I was completely boggled as to why I was there. Geometry? Those proofs we had to work through proved I was not a mathematician. And Trigonometry? Huh? Something about sines and cosines…

I finally put my foot down before my senior year when my guidance counselor told me I needed to take Calculus because it would look good on my high school transcript and get me into college. Not if you’re planning to be an English major!

I still am amazed that I had the guts confidence to say no to that counselor because I wasn’t the most assertive teenage girl and was a bit shy as well. But I knew calculus was way out of my league.

My dad was a whiz at math, so somewhere along the line, the genes that enable you to excel with numbers skipped me but got deposited into my children. All three of them have math skills that leave me in the dust. Go figure!

I promise I’m going somewhere with this line of thinking, so just read on please.

On our recent trip to Michigan, Papa and I visited Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit. Our reason for this stop on our autumn journey was to tour “The Henry Ford.”  Even though we knew the site consisted of both indoor and outdoor history museums, we didn’t realize what a huge complex it actually is.

We had hoped to visit both the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and the outdoor Greenfield Village.  But realizing we had only planned one day there, we soon discovered we only had time for one of these areas, so we chose the museum.

Wow! It’s like another version of the Smithsonian. So very much to see and such a wide variety of displays. It literally took us all day to see the exhibits and since we had only allotted one day there, we had to scurry to take it all in.

With every turn into a new room of exhibits, we were amazed at everything. When I first noticed the title of one area called Mathematica, I honestly wondered if I really wanted to go in. I mean, math and I are not exactly cozy buddies.

But I was so glad I did. That section of the museum is filled with interactive, hands-on models and devices that entice children and adults to get involved in them. Everything from kinetics to geometry to probability is portrayed in various exhibits.

One of the displays that truly captivated me was the Multiplication Cube (shown pictured above), made in 1960-61.  This model demonstrates the multiplication of numbers through lights in a cube. Press 7 X 7 and 49 small globes light up. Way cool.

If only math lit up my brain like that, I certainly would have enjoyed it more.

“Mathematics is like childhood diseases. The younger you get it, the better.” ~Arnold Sommerfeld

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com



Adjusting my sails


Lorain West Breakwater Light, also called Lorain Harbor Light – Lake Erie (Ohio)

Songs from the decades of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s are stored in the memory banks of my river of life and lyrics from them float to the surface often.

That’s one aspect that doesn’t change for me.

Seasons are changing. When I gaze outside my windows, I see the change. The leaves are finally dressing up in their fall colors, leaving green behind like yesterday’s news.

And even though I’m in my older years (retirement age), I’m content to see change. I actually welcome change in a lot of areas of life.

Change keeps me on my toes. It helps me move forward instead of being stuck in the same old, same old ruts of life. And I’ve realized that I often need change.

That’s one of the reasons Papa and I enjoy traveling so much. Changes of scenery. Changes from a daily routine. Changes in what we see with our eyes wide open, hear with open ears, and experience with open minds.

In the words of an old Elton John song (Honky Cat) from the 1970’s, “Oh, the change is gonna do me good.”

I always return from one of our travels with a renewed enthusiasm because a trip involves change. Those trips taken with my loved one, the Papa of this empty nest and my marriage partner of over 40 years, invigorate me.

Different sights, different experiences, different parts of the country, those are the aspects of traveling that make me want to experience more.

When we left home for our trip to Michigan, the sun was shining and it was one of those warm, autumn days that almost feels like summer. Driving along our scenic route along Lake Erie in Ohio, our car windows were down and the wind blew through our hair.

I suddenly spotted a lighthouse in the distance and we tried to no avail to find a spot to pull over so I could capture a photo.  Finally, we spied a lovely lakeside park around lunchtime. As we usually do for the first leg of our journeys, I had packed a picnic lunch.

We parked beneath a sheltering tree to eat our lunch since the sun was really warm and noticed the temperature was hovering around 80° F.  As we meandered around the park so I could take photos of the lighthouses (there were two instead of just one that I had spied previously), the heat of the day made me realize I had dressed too warmly in my leggings and three-quarter length sleeve shirt.

The weather was so toasty for an October day that there was actually someone riding a jet-ski around the lake and I managed to get some great shots of him with the lighthouse as a background.

And the more I sweat, the more I began to wonder if I had packed accordingly. When we researched the weather forecast for our destinations, we packed clothing suitable for much cooler temperatures. And now I was roasting and wishing I had packed some summer items.

Never fear. A change was soon to come. By the time we reached our first Michigan destination on our itinerary, the temperature had dropped. And the further north we drove, the more it plummeted.

We began our journey on a summer-like day and soon found ourselves in wintry-like weather – windy and chilly in the middle 30° F marks and even drove through some snow flurries!

Definitely a change. But for this gal who actually likes colder, chillier temperatures, it was a great change. However, as we continued our trip into the upper peninsula of Michigan, I began to wish I had packed a winter coat, gloves, and a hat.

However, I’m adaptable; I can adjust to change. I know how to adjust my sails.

And I managed although I certainly didn’t look like a fashion plate in my strange get-up of many layers of clothing to stay warm and my spur-of-the-moment Wal-Mart purchase (thanks to cell phone GPS in finding a nearby store) of cheap gloves and a headband to keep my ears from the chilly wind.

A 50° temperature change might undo some folks, but the change…well, you know…the “change was gonna do me good.”

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” ~ William Arthur Ward

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Everything old is new again

blogIMG_8996When is something that’s old and worn out really ready to be thrown away?

In this fad of the times – upcycling, repurposing, reusing – everywhere you look online on Pinterest, home decorating sites, Etsy, etc., you find old items whether from your own stash or garage sale and thrift store finds staying out of the landfills.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing, but it seems like some people have just discovered the thriftiness of that mindset or think they’ve invented it. Look back at older generations and you’ll find doing so was a way of life.

My parents and grandparents were staunch re-users and repurposed a lot. I possess a quilt, probably sewn in the 1920’s or 30’s, which my maternal grandmother fashioned from old feed sack material and worn out dresses. Proof positive of repurposing long before the current times.

Back then, nothing was thrown away that could be used over and over again. Worn-out or broken items were fixed not ditched, and other usable goods were saved for a rainy day. In other words, don’t throw anything away, you might need or want it later.

My parents continued that frugal way of living and I find myself doing it as well. Before I even toss something in the recycling bin, I stop and ponder whether it can be reused somehow.

All of this reminds me of the song, Everything Old Is New Again, written by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer:

“And don’t throw the past away
You might need it some other rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again.”

Which brings me to the photo above. Some of you may be too young to remember when barns had tobacco advertisements painted on their sides. Every once in a while, you may notice an old, faded remnant of those somewhere. But many of those ads were painted over and the advertisements relegated to the “remember when” category.

Recently, there’s been a renewed interest in restoring and preserving the ones that still exist. Many years ago, such an advertisement on the side of a building in a town near us was painted over but apparently not forgotten.

A community project to restore the Mail Pouch Tobacco advertisement on that building was launched and completed last month. Papa and I happened to be driving through that town one day and we pulled over so I could snap a photo of the refurbished wall.

“The best things in life are old, loved, and rescued.” ~ unknown

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


For the love of family


Family game time

Family time.

It’s always been an important aspect of our lives here in this empty nest home even when it wasn’t empty.

When our three offspring were young, we tried to spend as much time as possible together, attending activities and sports events to support one another. At times it was oh, so very hectic.

That and living at a great distance away from our extended family – parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins – prevented us from spending as much time with our relatives as we would have liked.

Over 20 years ago, we relocated back to my hometown to be closer to some of our family. Our kids were teens and pre-teens and our household was still a busy one; Papa’s work travels interfered, but we managed to devote time to parents before they passed away and to some of our extended family.

But since Papa’s extended family lived several hours away, we couldn’t always attend family events like reunions.  As the years passed, we found ourselves only seeing those family members at funerals.

Circumstances changed as we entered these retirement years, and we’ve found ourselves with time to devote to family gatherings afar. As the older generations of our families are now gone, it seems more important than ever to stay connected.

Now days, families are scattered hither and yon. Two of our own grown children live in other states as does one of my sisters and one of Papa’s brothers and their families. Visiting with them requires major trips.

Maybe that’s why I relish time with family so very much. We just don’t get to experience that luxury very often.

Back in the beginning of September, Papa and I traveled across our state for an overnight stay to attend a family reunion with his mother’s relatives. Uncles and aunts are now long gone but still the cousins meet on a Sunday afternoon at a state park for a picnic and time together.

We enjoyed our visit and picnic lunch in a quiet, tranquil area of the park. It was a joy to see the “kids” all grown up with spouses and little ones of their own. The day resulted in a wonderful time of reconnecting, reminiscing, and reacquainting.

Just last weekend, we were blessed with another joyful time of family togetherness when our own “kids” all came home for a visit. The house was full. And with two preschoolers running around, a baby, and a dog along with seven adults, it was a loud and boisterous place.

Quite a difference from what this empty nest home usually is like but we wouldn’t have traded that time and noise and chaos for all the world.

It’s family time. And it makes me happy and contented and looking forward to the next time we will gather again.

Christmas this year in this ol’ empty nest is going to be the most wonderful time of the year.

“When we sit thoughtfully pondering in a quiet place and the Spirit speaks to us, there will come into our hearts and souls the things that are truly our greatest desires, those things that are more important in the long run than anything else. Away from the appeal of the world, that greatest desire usually relates to relationships with family and with the Lord. And when that priority is in place, then we begin to plan our lives with purpose. We begin to have goals that cause us to live with anticipation.” ~ Ardeth Kapp

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: marriage threads

blogIMG_8866 (2)I never understood those cartoonish caricatures of marriage. You know, the ones that show the husband attached to the old ball and chain as if being married is like being a prisoner.

And likewise, I remember when our children were planning their weddings, I noticed a cake topper which portrayed a bride as ‘catching’ her groom as if she were a spider ensnaring him in her web.

Some folks’ idea of marriage, no doubt, can be explained that way I suppose. But I don’t think of it that way.

Maybe it’s because my own parents’ and my in-law’s marriages were long-lasting and successful. Both of their unions lasted longer than 50 years until the death do us part came to fruition.

It saddens me immensely to see so many marriages fail. And in today’s world, that is the norm. I’ve often read that about half of the marriages in our country end in divorce. But apparently, that figure is changing.

I recently read that according to some studies, the divorce rate dropped 18% between 2008 and 2016.   But in addition to that seemingly good news is another caveat – marriage rates have also dropped. Fewer and fewer people are walking down the aisle and pledging to “love and cherish until death do us part.”

Maybe it’s time we change those tired, old jokes about marriage. It’s true that marriage is a binding contract. You do make vows that should be kept to one another for a lifetime.

But marriage isn’t a prison sentence and it doesn’t come with a ball and chain when two people respect and honor one another. And it’s not a trap you find yourself in when both husband and wife work together, weaving the threads of love and understanding for one another to make their union last.

“Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.” ~ Simone Signoret

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Thumbs up for the ride


It’s been 42 years today. Over four decades now since two young whippersnappers, who thought they knew it all, stood at the altar of a country church and said those words of promise, “I do.”

Those whippersnappers are now retired folks (well, Papa is semi-retired) living in an empty nest home which once rang with the noise and laughter from three children, now grown and living their own lives and probably thinking they know it all just like their parents once did.

The whippersnappers from all those years ago learned a lot through life’s lessons in the last 40+ years. And no, we certainly did not know it all especially when it comes to the hard work of marriage. Because it IS hard.

It’s hard to deal with the day-to-day aspects of wedded life that gets your shorts in a knot. When he can’t seem to remember not to throw his dirty t-shirts yanked inside out into the clothes hamper or she always leaves the pantry door open. When she gets impatient and cranky over computer/technology glitches and he gets grouchy and rants about politics.

It’s hard to realize you will have disagreements. That you won’t see eye-to-eye on everything.  When you’re newlyweds, it’s difficult to imagine that you will sometimes think, “I don’t really like you right now” in the middle of an argument. 

It’s hard to suffer disappointments in one another because after all, we are human and we will disappoint even our beloved spouse from time to time.

It’s hard to endure changes and setbacks and finances and relocations around the country.

It’s hard to put your heads together and plow through job losses and deaths of parents and heart-wrenching difficulties that threaten your children’s happiness.

Marriage is just plain hard sometimes. Marriage is not a fairy tale or a Hollywood movie. Marriage is real life which sometimes gets awfully messy. But hanging in there, working together through life’s complications as they come, encouraging one another, and bringing out the best in one another while not dwelling on the worst is worth every effort.

Take it from a 42-year veteran.  Papa and I both give a hearty thumbs up for marriage today on our wedding anniversary.  It’s been a worthwhile ride and we look forward to more to come.

“The great secret of successful marriage is to treat all disasters as incidents and none of the incidents as disasters.” ~ Harold George Nicolson

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A losing lesson

blogPNC Park1We didn’t get to raise the Jolly Roger.

If you’re not a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball fan, you won’t understand that sentence. So I’ll explain for those of you don’t get it. Whenever the team wins, the Jolly Roger flag is raised – you know, Jolly Roger as in the flag flown by pirates…Pittsburgh Pirates.

Even though the Pirates lost the game (4-1) to the Seattle Mariners, it was still a beautiful night for us to attend a Major League Baseball game in Pittsburgh’s lovely PNC Park, located in the North Shore district of the city right along the Allegheny River.

Back in July, my name was drawn for a door prize at our church picnic and I received a voucher for free Pirates tickets. Summer slid by us quickly though and before we knew it, baseball season would be coming to a close. So we checked home game schedules and our calendars and secured tickets online, making use of that voucher.

We couldn’t have picked a more perfect evening to attend a ball game. No hot and humid weather that day, just nice balmy temperatures and as the sun set, a cooling breeze floated off the river and into the stadium. 

Our seats located in right field behind first base perhaps weren’t ideal but we were very close to the field and I could actually see players’ facial expressions when they were stretching and preparing pre-game.

The Pirates though were not so perfect as the game unfolded. Unfortunately, they haven’t been all season long with a dismal bottom-of-the-rung standing of 66 wins and 91 losses.

And it showed by gazing around PNC Park that evening. The stadium, with a capacity of over 38,000 people, wasn’t even half full of fans. With an attendance well under 10,000 folks that night, PNC was only a quarter full. 

So many empty seats. In the words of the old Take Me Out to the Ballgame song, there certainly wasn’t a crowd nor a lot of “root, root, root for the home team.” Actually, it seemed as if more noise and applause came from a small section of Mariners fans instead of the home team supporters.

blogPNC Park2

Too many empty seats!

Sad, I thought. And demoralizing for an already losing team.

We watched patiently as each Pirates batter either struck out or hit pop up fly balls resulting in quick one, two, three outs. There was more action on the field on Pittsburgh’s part at the end of the fifth inning when the “Great Pierogi Race” was held than during the game. Click here if you want to know what that’s all about.

blogPNC Park3

The Great Pierogi Race. (Not one of my best photos, but you get the idea.)

Pitching was no better especially when the hurler allowed the Mariners two home runs, one right after the other.

Needless to say, those nine innings of baseball didn’t result in a long game. ‘Fans’ started leaving the game even before the game ended.

And of course, this gave me food for thought.

I wondered what effect the lack of fan support had on those players. I know they’re baseball professionals, they garner boatloads of money to play, and they’re used to the ups and downs of the game, winning or losing, but they are still human. And humans have emotions, positive and negative.

Did it discourage the team when they noticed there were so few fans in the seats? When very few people even clapped for them when the starting line-up was announced? That lack of fan support had to bother them somewhat.

And where were all the baseball fans? Are they that fickle? What’s up with that? Human nature, that’s what’s up.

Why is it that we only seem to get behind winners? Why do people, other than true, die-hard fans, only want to attend games to cheer on a winning team instead of supporting and encouraging a losing one?

We can’t all be winners all the time and yet, that’s what our hearts desire. If the Pirates had been enjoying a winning 2019 season, I guarantee you that ball park would be crowded and full of fans screaming at the top of their lungs.

There’s a good lesson for life in this. When you’re down and out, that’s when you need someone rooting for you, someone in your corner, someone who has your back. Someone who will sit with you, even in defeat, and say, “You did your best. Keep trying. I’ll still be here to cheer you on.”

You know, that’s the kind of person I want to be in life and it took a losing baseball game to remind me of that.

I want to lift up those who feel like they’re failing, those who are downtrodden, with words of encouragement and cheer. It’s more difficult to be the one who stays until the bitter end of a losing battle than running wild with the winner’s mob.

But you know what? It’s worth it.

“There are four words that, when said, will bring out the best in your team, your employees, and your family. They are: ‘I believe in you.’” ~ Coach K

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com