Posted in encouragement, Life

Words for Wednesday: between a rock and a hard place

Have you ever been in a really difficult position, perhaps facing a hard decision, and you just don’t know which way to turn?

You know, that feeling like you’re between a rock and a hard place.  And when you find yourself stuck in that situation, so often it feels like there’s just no way out. No escape. You feel helpless and even hopeless.

I hear people, even my own grown up kids, talking about having a blast at attractions called escape rooms. You’ve probably seen information about them online and in particular on social media and may have even gone to them yourself.

For those of you who might be in the dark about what they are, here’s a quick explanation. Escape rooms are places where you and your friends/family can basically play a game in which together you discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in one room of the attraction so you can unlock the next room. There you do the same until you reach the end, “escaping” in a certain amount of time.

Sound like fun? Not to me. I must admit I’m a bit claustrophobic so the idea of being enclosed anywhere without being able to get out easily kind of freaks me out.

For those of us who like having control over our circumstances, experiences like that create anxiety. A between a rock and a hard place kind of feeling.

Of course, there are times in life when we experience difficult situations, decisions that just aren’t easy to make, and we feel stuck with no way out. It’s easy to feel like we just can’t bust out of the hardship, no matter which way we turn. No escape.

Well over a decade ago, a health diagnosis knocked me for a loop that summer. The news made me realize I didn’t have much control over my situation. I don’t talk much about that experience because I prefer not calling attention to it. Instead, I choose to be grateful I came out of the other side of that rock and hard place when so many others don’t.

My doctor informed me a biopsy revealed cancer, thankfully caught at beginning stages. The solution was surgery and I spent that summer recuperating. But there was one more decision to make – to have further treatment as a precaution or not – in my case radiation.

I decided to proceed even though the idea made me feel a bit like being between that rock and hard place once more.

Being locked in a treatment room with radiation pumped into my body would normally have caused me to hyperventilate and experience overwhelming angst. I feared that I would panic, want to jump off that treatment gurney, scream for the medical personnel to unlock the door, and subsequently run away.

Of course, I couldn’t do so since I was tethered to that radiation machine. So how could I escape that feeling of panic if it loomed large over me? There was only one way I could think of. One way. And that was to call upon my God to help me through it.

Mercifully, I only had to endure one radiation treatment a week for four weeks and being placed in that room alone only lasted for seven minutes (yes, I had to know how long it would take).

While being prepped for treatment each week I prayed and recited scripture to stay calm. And once I was basically restrained and sequestered in the radiation room by myself, I sang a Christian song repeatedly in my mind.

The song was entitled He Knows My Name written by Tommy Walker. The lyrics soothed my anxious heart and mind through every single treatment: “I have a maker; He formed my heart, before even time began, my life was in His hands. He knows my name; He knows my every thought; He sees each tear that falls and hears me when I call. I have a Father, He calls me his own; He’ll never leave me, no matter where I go. He knows my name; He knows my every thought; He sees each tear that falls and hears me when I call.”

Maybe you are experiencing hardships right now and you feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The world seems chaotic and crazy. Anger and strife abound every direction we look. Inflation is taking its toll and throwing people into financial difficulties.

We’re still struggling as we try to recover from the you know what pandemic. Maybe you or a loved one are facing a serious health issue, an addiction problem, or family troubles or…whatever that boulder is that impedes your path.

The river of life has tossed us around from one giant rock to another until we find ourselves wedged in hard places and drowning in our sorrows.

But there is a way out of a locked room of doom. There is an escape we find by simply calling on God, the Sustainer of life and Maker of miracles. He cares. He knows. He’s only a prayer away from reaching out His hand and helping us get unstuck so we can make it through the hardships.

And maybe another song by the same title, He Knows My Name, will help you find your way to Him. Watch this video and listen to the lyrics.

“The road to glory is difficult with its rocks and boulders, its strain and struggle. Things aren’t always as easy as we would like. Surprises and pitfalls wait for us along the road of life. We’re going to sweat and sway, we’re going to wonder why things are the way they are. But every road has an end; every mountain has its peak. If we can just hold on and keep climbing, knowing that God is aware of how we’re straining, he will bring us up and over the mountains.” ~ Thelma Wells

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in choices, Life

Words for Wednesday: treasures of the heart

What do you treasure? Have you ever really pondered that thought? If I asked you what you treasured most, what would your response be?

I’ve been ruminating over the idea of treasures after writing yesterday’s blog post about Papa’s and my visit to the American Treasure Tour Museum. If you missed that, click here.

One person accumulated a lot of “treasures” for his collection which are now available for public view at that museum. Again, that boggles my mind.

Why does someone desire to amass so much stuff? Hoarding aside (because that is a different issue), some people love to acquire collections of their favorite things which can range from matchbooks to celebrity autographs to large items like cars.

I once heard about a wealthy person who had collected so many cars, he purchased several homes just to house cars in the garages. After he passed away, his family had to deal with selling not just all the cars but homes as well.

Let me state here that I’m not knocking those of you who collect things. I get it and I understand the pleasure those items provide. Collecting your favorite gadgets or gizmos makes your heart happy.

“Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure: where your treasure, there your heart; where your heart, there your happiness.” ~ Saint Augustine

I have a collection of tea pots and teacups myself. And I once thought I wanted to collect small music boxes/figurines but then realized I didn’t want to create space to display them all in, so I stopped acquiring them.

At this stage of life – in my senior citizen years – I’m trying to eliminate some of my belongings instead of collecting more. I confess I still have a long way to go to achieve that as evidenced by our basement!

But back to the question at hand – what do you treasure?  What do you collect that makes your heart happy?

For me, my greatest earthly treasures aren’t things. Instead, I treasure my family and the times we are all assembled just enjoying each other’s presence because several of my family members live far away. So, I truly cherish our moments and events that bring us together.

Next on my treasure list are a few possessions, items Papa and I “inherited” from our parents and grandparents: quilts, personal items, photographs, small mementoes. None are of any great monetary value though. They just have beloved memories attached to them.

While on our recent road trip when we visited the quirky museum named above, I noticed sheet music displayed in the Music Room there and snapped a photo of it.

I did so because it reminded me that my late mother-in-law gave me all of her old sheet music when we purchased a piano for our home many years ago.

The music she gave me dates back to the 1920’s and 30’s. I still possess those yellowed musical scores, but they are packed away in a box somewhere (most likely in that basement).

I ask myself why do I keep it? Why is it packed away? I obviously don’t play that music on our piano. And who will want it after I’m gone? Will it just be fodder for the trash can or will someone consider it a treasure?

I found it interesting that prior to visiting the treasure museum I had read an autobiography of Andy Williams, an American singer who is probably most famous for his rendition of the song Moon River and his 1960’s-70’s television variety show.

So it was a bit odd that a piece of sheet music displayed on a music stand at the museum (pictured at the beginning of this post) just so happened to be a song sung by Andy Williams. I noticed it immediately amidst the scads of other memorabilia displayed there. 

Williams died in 2012 and I felt a sense of sadness after reading that library book about his life. And now I wonder what did he treasure during his lifetime? Was it his fame? His talents? And what difference does it make now? Are any of his treasures long lasting or will they all be forgotten eventually?

So, here’s the thing I’ve come to realize over the years – our earthly treasures mean nothing in eternity.

That thought brings a Bible passage immediately to my mind. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus says “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

You know I’ve read that scripture countless times. I’ve heard many sermons preached on it. I’ve understood the meaning of that passage and what Jesus was warning us about.

Our treasures are linked to our hearts. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

It seems to me acquiring treasures is a major problem in our world today even more than it was during Jesus’ time. What do our hearts desire? Are the treasures we seek and collect worldly items like possessions, notoriety, wealth, fame, power, success, influence over others, or maybe just merely scads of trinkets and baubles?

I think desiring and obtaining those “treasures” truly shows how centered we are on ourselves. But when we accumulate (store up) those treasures, they really are insignificant for eternity. Their value is hollow and meaningless.

I’m not saying you need to stop collecting your favorite things or that you should give it all away now. Instead, for those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ, I think we should examine where our focus is.

When a collection takes precedence over our relationship with Jesus, when we spend more time on it than we do with Him, when it becomes our priority instead of praying, reading God’s Word, and doing good works in His name, for His glory, and to lead others to Him, then we need to reassess our treasures.

Someone once told me about a man who was a model train enthusiast. He not only spent his money on building an extensive display for his model trains, but he devoted a lot of time and effort into his display.

That man realized at some point that his “treasure” was usurping his time spent focusing on his Savior. So he got rid of everything he had accumulated- even all the trains.

And I wonder…could I do the same? Examining my own heart, I want to be willing to give up those kinds of treasures. I long to fill my heart and find my greatest joy with the greatest treasure ever given to mankind – a Savior named Jesus Christ.

So how can I store up treasures in heaven while still here on earth? By giving my time, my talents, my resources, my money to glorify God and lead others to Him. That’s a worthwhile treasure.

“The man who has God for his treasure has all things in one.” ~ A.W. Tozer

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: bringing home the bacon

First off, let it be known to all people who read this – I’m not particularly fond of pigs. (All of you University of Arkansas Razorback Hog fans, don’t be offended).

Oh, I do consume meat products we obtain from pigs since I’m not a vegetarian. Pulled pork sandwiches? I’m in. Savory pork chops or a nice tender pork loin or roast? Count me at the dining table. Bacon? Seriously, I can’t deny the tastiness of it. (In limited quantities of course.)

Many years ago, one of my sisters and her family lived on a farm and in addition to other animals they possessed, they raised pigs. Woooo-eeeee, suuuuu-eeeee, those critters are smelly!

I must admit the piglets were pretty cute, but that old sow who escaped from her pen one summer day when we were visiting the farm? I did not relish aiding my sister in chasing that hog back to the barn. At. All. That pig was stubborn and BIG. And to be perfectly honest, she was a bit of a scary swine.

When our kids were young, we often tweaked their toes and recited the age old rhyme: “This little piggie went to market, this little piggie stayed home, this little piggie had roast beef, this little piggie had none, and this little piggie cried wee, wee, wee all the way home.”

Out of our three offspring, only one was fascinated by pigs as a child due to a different reason than our nursery rhyme. It all started when she was gifted with a book about a little girl who loved pigs. That prompted her to commence collecting pig figurines and other porcine what-nots.

Little piggies filled shelves of our daughter’s bedroom bookshelf, then were relegated to storage as she matured. Just a few years ago, she relinquished her collection to a garage sale. But I suspect a remnant of hankering for a pet pig still crosses her mind occasionally.

Pigs. To most of us they do seem like dirty and malodorous critters. But pigs can teach us an important lesson – not to make assumptions without knowing the facts. And boy, are there ever some folks who need to learn THAT lesson!

So here are a few facts about porky as in pigs. They are often depicted as wallowing in the mud. Eww, not a particularly healthy scenario. But they do so because they don’t have sweat glands and burrowing into cool mud helps keep their body temperatures down.

And apparently pigs are credited as being intelligent creatures. Who knew? Well, possibly E.B. White who wrote Charlotte’s Web.

I don’t think I realized or thought about the fact that pigs do not possess good eyesight. Instead, they have a very keen sense of smell to compensate for their poor vision. That’s why they are always using their snouts to find food and who knows what else.

Sticking their nose into everyone’s business we might think, but really they’re just ascertaining what’s out there by smelling since they can’t see it very well.

And that brings me to the photos I’m sharing with you in this post.

While Papa and I were traveling through farm country during last month’s road trip vacation, we stopped at a traffic signal. As usual, my passenger side window was wide open, and I was enjoying fresh air on a balmy summer day.

And that’s when I noticed a truck pulling a livestock trailer stopped beside me and my open window.

I chuckled to see piggy noses poking through the openings of the trailer. Repeatedly, those piggies kept grunting while snout after snout and sometimes an ear or two appeared.

I grabbed my camera and snapped a couple photos quickly because the light was turning green.

Pigs. On their way somewhere. Maybe they had been sold to local farmer. Or maybe…the horrors of it…they were on their way to the meat market. Or was that truck driver just bringing home the bacon in more ways than one?

And of course, that trailer load of piggies reminded me of another old rhyme I learned as a child and often still utter to this day. When we pull into our garage upon return home from a journey, even if it’s just a short jaunt, this comes to my mind:

To market,

To market,

To buy a fat pig.

Home again,

Home again,

Jiggity jig.

To market,

To market,

To buy a fat hog.

Home again,

Home again,

Jiggity jog.

To market,

To market,

To buy a plum bun.

Home again,

Home again,

Market is done.

I’m always amazed at simple aspects of life capturing my attention and causing me to grab my camera on road trips. And it’s safe to say after arriving home again (jiggity jig), nine times out of ten, those photos lend themselves to a blog post.

You might say those experiences bring home the bacon by giving me writing inspiration. Jiggity jog.

“Pigs have a delightful sense of mischief; most of them seem to enjoy a good joke and appreciate music. And that is something you would certainly never suspect from your relationship with a pork chop.” ~ Sy Montgomery

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: heroes and bells

I’m still pondering America’s Independence Day two days afterwards, and my thoughts center on two vastly different things – military veterans and church bells. I have a soft spot in my heart for both.  

Not only did my one and only, my husband and Papa of this empty nest, serve in our nation’s armed forces, but one of my uncles was a World War II veteran, one brother-in-law served in the military, and a man who was once my brother-in-law is a Vietnam vet.

So, any time I learn of organizations supporting our veterans, I applaud them. And it touches my heart to see veterans honored in various ways.

It’s just a small recognition, but I appreciate retail stores designating parking spots for our veterans. I’m grateful when a complete stranger thanks my husband for his service to our country.

When Papa and I visited Valley Forge National Historical Park last month (to read about that, click here), a reverence for veterans was one reason why the Washington Memorial Chapel and its bell tower became one of my favorite spots there.

The other reason I loved viewing and photographing this impressive structure was simply because of its purpose and beauty.

To pay tribute to George Washington, who served our country with integrity and devotion, construction of the Gothic Revival architecture styled chapel began in the early 1900’s but wasn’t completed until almost two decades later.   

Today Washington Memorial Chapel is an active Episcopal church but is open to the public because it’s considered Valley Forge National Historical Park’s visitor chapel.

Not only did we view inside the chapel, but we spent a considerable amount of time in the 102-foot tall National Patriots Bell Tower, added to the site later and dedicated in the 1950’s.  

Both buildings are absolutely gorgeous inside and out and believe it or not, we almost didn’t stop to visit there as it was the last spot on our driving tour. But I’m so very glad we did.

No one else was there as we wandered around the chapel and bell tower and we walked along an outdoor hallway commemorating Revolutionary War regiments who encamped at Valley Forge that long winter of 1777-78. There I shot these calm, soothing photos.

After capturing photos of the outside, we ventured inside the bell tower first. Its beauty is enhanced by intricate stained glass windows, something I love to observe and capture in photos.

Each way we turned, the stained glass was so very eye-catching.

But we really appreciated the Veterans Wall of Honor there which gives permanent tribute to those who served our country in the military from the Revolutionary War to the present.

Vets from all branches of our armed forces, whether they are living or deceased, retired or active duty members, are eligible to be named on the wall with bronze plaques. Each armed services branch is also represented by a flag display.  

How appropriate it seemed to me that the Wall of Honor actually looks out at the Grand Parade area where Washington trained the Continental Army at Valley Forge.

Another display featured inside the tower is the Justice Bell, a replica of the Liberty Bell.  The Justice Bell was used as a symbol during Women’s Suffrage when the right to vote was granted to women.

I love hearing church bells and have seen the actual Liberty Bell in Philadelphia which was used to ring out independence back in 1776. Today, one of the churches in my hometown still plays hymns with church bells during the day and another church in a nearby town does the same. It just makes my heart happy when I hear those.

And of course, what would a bell tower be without bells? A carillon of 58 bells, which are played by hand with a keyboard, are housed in the National Patriots Bell Tower at Valley Forge. Unfortunately, we did not get to hear those bells ringing across the beautiful countryside so rich in history. But we can listen to them here.

After touring the tower, we stepped into the serene and quiet chapel itself and were equally amazed at the exquisite stained glass, the intricate wood carvings, stonework, and various symbols honoring the American soldier.

Unfortunately, I don’t think my photos truly captured the magnificence of the sanctuary. Light was low inside and my status as a strictly amateur hobbyist photographer didn’t help.

Sections of the chapel walls featured amazing wood carvings with various patriot soldier models inserted in them.

Our visit there served as a reminder to be thankful. Ringing bells remind me of our nation’s liberty and call me to honor those heroes who served and those who sacrificed their very lives so that freedom might be won and preserved.

But our sojourn to this chapel and bell tower also reminds me that I have freedom to worship my God and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, my Savior, the greatest Hero of all.

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” ~ Joseph Campbell

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in gardening, Life

Words for Wednesday: pea pickin’ heart

Whenever I’m stumped for something to write about in this blog, I often turn to two sources for inspiration.

First would be my ever-growing cache of photographs I’ve taken over the last decade or so, sometimes many years ago in the case of past travel logs for my weekly Tuesday Tour posts.

My second go-to emerges as old songs stored away in my brain’s jukebox. Often, both the photos and music align much to my surprise.

And that’s the case today.

Papa plants a vegetable garden in our countryside back yard every year and we enjoy produce from it. We just finished up strawberry season which resulted in some containers of that yummy fruit now stored in our freezer.

Alas though, birds discovered a way under the netting, intended to protect the juicy red fruit from being plucked, and helped themselves to a plentiful portion of our crop. And those hungry (but not angry I suppose) birds gorged themselves while Papa and I were on a several days’ excursion from home.

So, there weren’t enough strawberries to make jam as I had hoped. But we had some good strawberry eating and a few left over for freezing.

By the way, I found a great tip for keeping strawberries in the refrigerator. Since our berries were homegrown, I washed dirt off them but let them dry completely. Then I popped them (stems and leaves intact) into a clean quart mason jar, screwed the lid on tight, and placed them in the fridge. They lasted so much longer than any other way I’ve tried.

One morning this week, Little One (our oldest grandchild who’s not so little anymore) and Papa visited the garden to pick peas. I love those tasty little green spheres of goodness. A freshly harvested pot of peas truly is a summer delight if you like them.

Little One’s mama detests peas and has since babyhood when she would slap her highchair tray in disgust as if to say, “No more peas!!” as I attempted to spoon baby food peas into her mouth.

I fear Little One has inherited that dislike from her mama, but she does enjoy picking the fat pods full of tender peas in our garden.

After shelling peas, the pleasant memory of being a young child (around the same age as my grand) perched on my childhood home’s back porch shelling peas with my maternal grandmother popped up first.

Another blast from the past memory surfaced as I exclaimed, “Bless your little pea pickin’ heart!” to my grandchild when she so proudly came in the house with her pea picking bounty.

I distinctly recall that catchphrase used by the 50’s-60’s country singer/entertainer Tennessee Ernie Ford who always uttered it on his TV show.

Ford (real name Ernest Jennings Ford) was a disc jockey, country western and gospel singer, and eventually television star who created his successful hillbilly persona of Tennessee Ernie Ford, even appearing as Cousin Ernie on a few episodes of I Love Lucy.

His catchphrase also reminded me of a song the Ol’ Pea-Picker released when I was a kid. Simply entitled Bless Your Pea Pickin’ Heart, it evidently became Tennessee Ernie Ford’s signature song. His other hits like Sixteen Tons and The Ballad of Davy Crockett also came to my mind.

See where my thoughts take me? Sometimes the crazy rabbit trails lead me to a blog post. All because I exercised my mental muscles while shelling peas.

Wonders like homegrown fruit and vegetables never cease to amaze my pea pickin’ heart and provide writing inspiration as well.

“As cows need milking and sweet peas need picking, so writers must continually exercise their mental muscles by a daily stint.” ~ Joan Aiken

©mamasemptnest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: we’ll cross that bridge

When you’ve been married as long as we two empty nesters have, you don’t always agree. Papa has his ways and I have mine and we can irritate each other because of those differences.

It’s safe to say in any marriage, there will be times of disappointments, times when our expectations don’t match up with our spouse’s.

But over all these many years of marriage, Papa and I have learned to adapt. To bridge the gap between our differences and learn to compromise.

And planning our favorite way to travel – road trips – an aspect we do agree upon, is one way we bridge the gap. Papa loves all things historical, while sometimes an overdose of historical facts, places, and museums gives me a slight case of boredom but since I know he enjoys those aspects, I acquiesce to visiting those. 

And guess what? I almost always find something that fascinates me as well.

I love photographing various spots in nature, covered bridges, lighthouses, or just some unusual sights I happen to spy along our journeys. Papa may not always appreciate me yelling, “Wait, stop! I want to take a picture!”

But he accommodates me by finding a safe spot to turn around and return to the scene. Or he endures convoluted routes of country roads that eventually lead us to a secluded covered bridge or a lighthouse. But he still manages to enjoy those treks and those sights.

Since we decided not to travel far from our country home this summer due to high gasoline prices and just about anything else you have to purchase, Papa and I sat down and discussed where to travel for a vacation.

We bridged the gap and involved aspects we both enjoy and that made our trip fun, pleasurable, and full of worthwhile sights even though we didn’t travel a great distance.

From taking in a theatrical production to visiting an outrageously eclectic and hard to locate museum of sorts, we found interesting and intriguing places to explore.

We incorporated his love of history by visiting a national historical park with my enthusiasm for finding covered bridges. And then we landed oceanside, a place both of us relish, to view eight distinct lighthouses, historical in their own way.

And if that wasn’t enough excitement, we took a nice train trip (another of Papa’s preferences) and hiked through cool, shady woods to view beautiful waterfalls.

Last week on my Tuesday Tour, I highlighted covered bridges we found on our recent excursion. Beginning next week, we’ll commence our tour to all the places we visited, some well-known and some you may never have heard of before.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of enticement to cross the bridge and come along. Hopefully, my posts won’t disappoint my readers because I love writing these Tuesday Tour jaunts.

“Love is what enables us to bridge the gap of disappointment when others don’t live up to the expectations we have of them.” ~ Jeanne Phillips, aka Abigail VanBuren the Dear Abby columnist

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in Life, memories, Summer

Words for Wednesday: summer remembrance

It’s officially the summer season, at least that’s what the calendar says. And sure enough, the mercury in our outdoor thermometer has climbed upwards toward the 90° F mark in agreement.

And, the carnival’s in town. Well, not actually in my town but in a little burg nearby where the volunteer fire department has hosted a carnival on the firehall grounds for…as long as I can remember.

I could write a new blog post about the memories I have pertaining to summertime and this particular carnival I attended every single summer when I was a kid and teenager, but I remembered writing one back in 2011 that pretty much sums it up. And besides that, it’s hot and I’m kinda feeling lazy and lethargic.

So, take a little step back in time with me and read the post I wrote a decade ago about a summer night I still remember over 50 years later. Maybe it will conjure up some summertime memories for you as it does for me.

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,” a line from George Gershwin’s opera, Porgy and Bess, echoes in my mind today. 

As a kid, that phrase summed up June, July, and August accurately because the livin’ really was easy.

Back then, I anticipated three main events of summer, and the rest of the time was pure freedom.  Memorial Day officially kicked off the season, because few school days remained after that.

My family always spent the holiday at an annual picnic hosted by my parents’ friends where relatives and acquaintances gathered for an entire day full of feasting and fun. One or two days later, the last day of school usually arrived and that meant freedom was finally here!

Freedom to do whatever you felt like doing.  No more studying or getting up early.  Freedom meant spending the day reading in a hammock under a shade tree or lounging at my next-door neighbors’ pool.

Freedom represented remaining outdoors as long as I desired, ushering in the darkness by catching fireflies, and staying up late until my heavy eyelids drooped, I dragged my sleepy self up the stairs to bed,  and fell asleep knowing I could sleep in the next day as long as I wanted.

In June, my friends and I eagerly awaited the next big event – the local firemen’s annual carnival, an event still sponsored after all these years.   Matter of fact, carnival week just concluded and that caused me to remember how exciting it all used to be.

Trips to amusement parks were a huge treat back then and I didn’t get to enjoy those outings often.  Vacations were also rare for our family, so the carnival coming to our area was thrilling stuff.

An entire week of entertainment ensued including long parades, where we waved to our friends in the high school bands and grabbed up candy thrown by our local firemen hanging off huge fire trucks; tummy-upsetting thrill rides and games of chance, where you could win the most gargantuan stuffed animal you’d ever seen in your life; and a smorgasbord of appealing carnival food.

We couldn’t wait for carnival week greeting us with dazzling bright lights, loud rock music, the odor of grilled onions, peppers, and sausage, and the carnies’ voices enticing you to spend your money foolishly.  My gal pals and I would try to persuade someone of driving age to transport us there as many nights as possible.

As a younger kid, the joy of riding the Ferris Wheel or the Tilt o’Whirl,  of eating greasy French fries doused with lots of salt and vinegar and freshly spun pink cotton candy,  and finally purchasing a candy apple to take home and enjoy later drew me to the carnival like a moth to the porch light.  But when adolescence hit, the carnival was THE place for girl to meet boy.

My teenage girlfriends and I would circle the midway over and over, walking and talking, stopping to flirt with this group of boys or that.  It was innocent back then though:   boy met girl; boy asked girl to join him for a ride on the Scrambler;  boy strolled around with girl, maybe holding hands;  boy might sneak a kiss from girl behind the firehall;  girl’s parents picked her up; boy went home.

Pretty tame by today’s insane standards, but back then, that was an exciting evening.  I still vividly recall one thrilling night at the carnival.  I  spotted my high school crush and after talking (and flirting) with him, he offered to take me for a ride on his motorcycle.  I was in heaven!

I remember how he gently placed his extra helmet on my head and how that motorcycle roared to life when he started it.  I can still recall the butterflies in my stomach as I hopped on the bike behind him and he instructed me to hold on tightly by putting my arms around him.

“Oh, be still, my heart!” I thought then.

As we sped down the highway away from the flashy neon carnival lights into the darkness, I couldn’t imagine a summer night better than that.   The evening air rushed at my face as I hung onto my crush, making me twice as breathless as I already was with my arms tightly encircling him, experiencing the exhilarating thrill of just being near him. 

I could feel warmth from his back as we raced through the chilly night and I inhaled the scent of his freshly laundered shirt. As a young and innocent 16-yr-old school girl, I thought, “What could be better than this?”

The boy I felt certain I was madly in love with was a perfect 17-year-old gentleman, even though riding a motorcycle was considered a little wild.  After a ride that seemed much too short, he took me back to meet my friends again at the carnival and then sped off into the night on his bike.

I floated along on a dreamy cloud of infatuation for much of the summer after that nighttime motorcycle ride.  Every time I heard a bike roaring down the road outside my house, I would run to the window to see if it was him. 

If I was at my friends’ pool next door, I would leap up from my tanning towel and check to see if my crush was coming for me.   And he did roar up my driveway, but only on one summer day.

That summer I waited – a lot. 

In summers past, I couldn’t wait for the next big event, the 4th of July (the next topic in my summertime reverie).   But during my 16th summer, I found myself impatiently wishing for the season to conclude and school to resume, just so I could see the object of my infatuation every day.

Forty (now it’s fifty) some years later, I wonder how many teenage girls still dream their summers away over puppy love.  I also wonder how many foolishly give themselves to the first object of their infatuation.

I’m thankful I waited for my beloved one, my husband.  And I ponder how many young girls wandering midways under garish carnival lights in attempts to catch the attention of boys, who make their hearts beat faster, realize the importance of that. ©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

“Summer romances begin for all kinds of reasons, but when all is said and done, they have one thing in common. They’re shooting stars, spectacular moments of light from the heavens, a fleeting glimpse of eternity, and in a flash they’re gone.” ~ Nicholas Sparks in The Notebook

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in country life, Home, Life

Words for Wednesday: country roads

The late songwriter/singer John Denver may have said it best in his song, Country Roads: “Country roads, take me home to the place I belong…” (written by Denver and Bill Danoff, released in 1975)  

But the country roads that take me home aren’t in West Virginia like Denver sang about. Instead, my country roads lead me around my state – Pennsylvania – and take me back home.

Sandwiched in between two big cities (Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) on either end of the state, a huge section of rural areas exists – the country. And when I say country I mean not just farmland but small villages and some 7 million acres of forested land.

And a multitude of country roads. Those are the roads I love best. I grew up in the country, a rural location near farms. True enough, I strayed, lured away for many years living in suburbia near big cities.

But my heart has always been rooted in country soil instead of concrete.

“I grew up like a lot of country boys and girls do – amongst the pine trees, dirt roads, farms, mules and people who were real.” ~ Josh Turner, American country/gospel singer

Even though I’ve enjoyed visiting and touring large metropolitan cities – and I’ve been to many across America from New York City to Los Angeles – I’ve never wanted to live in one. I know there are lots of folks who love urban life, but it’s too noisy, too busy and bustling, too crowded and cramped, just too much for me.

That’s why I’ve felt so content, so peaceful, so at home here on our own little 2+ acre country plot. This is my home. In the country, where the nearest neighbor is not just a few feet or inches away but down the road.

I’ve never regretted chucking suburban life and relegating it into the past 24 years ago this month by coming back home to this rural land I love. And it’s safe to say my city bred and born husband hasn’t regretted that decision either, thank goodness.

Country roads take us home.

“One’s home is like a delicious piece of pie you order in a restaurant on a country road one cozy evening – the best piece of pie you have ever eaten in your life – and can never find again. After you leave home, you may find yourself feeling homesick, even if you have a new home that has nicer wallpaper and a more efficient dishwasher than the home in which you grew up.” ~ Daniel Handler, American writer

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in gardening, Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: a peony for my thoughts

One side of our backyard deck is awash with vivid pink and fragranced with an intoxicating aroma. Our peony bushes are blooming.

These lovely and aromatic flowers have a history. I’m not certain how old these perfectly pretty in pink flowers truly are.

For as long as I can remember peonies bloomed in the flower garden of my childhood home, where my maternal grandparents lived with us. Either my maternal grandmother or my mother planted the peonies there.

After Papa and I had our country home built, my father gave us permission to dig up some of the peony plants from my parents’ garden and transplant them around our newly erected deck.

By then, my mother had passed away and possessing the peonies seemed a nice way to keep remembrances of her and my grandparents alive. After Dad passed, my childhood home was sold and now only memories remain of the happy years I spent there.

But these thriving peonies that bloom every year early in June cause me to smile and remember my parents, grandparents, and my childhood home.  

Peonies can be blush pink, bright red, white, cream, or hot pink like ours are. Some can be multi-colored, yellow, or orange as well.

One myth about the peony’s name suggests it was named after Paeon, a student of the Greek god of medicine. When Paeon used a peony root for the first time ever to heal Pluto, Paeon’s teacher became jealous, tried to kill him, but Pluto showed compassion, intervened, and turned Paeon into a peony.

That myth has led folks to believe that the peony symbolizes compassion. But it is interesting to note that the peony’s roots, seeds, and flowers were used for medicinal purposes in ancient and medieval times and were considered a cure for many diseases, so perhaps there is a bit of truth to the myth.

In addition to representing compassion, peony flowers have other meanings symbolizing prosperity, good fortune, honor, and even happiness. They are also believed to encourage happy marriages.

Pink peonies also represent love at first sight and perhaps that’s why they are often used in bridal bouquets and wedding décor.

One word of caution when using garden-grown peonies like ours for weddings or just to enjoy them in your home is that ants abound on them. Apparently, ants love the sweet nectar peonies provide, so it’s necessary to remove the little critters before bringing the aromatic flowers into the house.

Ants or not, whether they mean good fortune or compassion, when I enjoy the beauty and aroma of our peonies, I remember my parents and grandparents and the bright blooms mean love to me.

“I equate peonies with love because they’re the first blooms of summer.” ~Isaac Mizrahi

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022

Posted in family, Life

Words for Wednesday: full hearts

Family time.

The absence of it has been one of the most difficult aspects of the you know what for the last two years (!) for many of us.  Lockdowns, sequesters, quarantines were so challenging especially when families were separated by them.

Reconnecting in person with our loved ones has provided so many moments of joy and caused us to realize how much we sometimes take members of our family for granted.

That’s why Papa and I were elated with a full nest instead of our usual empty one in February when all our chicks and baby chicks came home to roost for a late celebration of Christmas.

And just this past month, our family was able to gather once again for yet another festive occasion. Daughter One attained a milestone birthday recently and decided to commemorate it for an entire month.

She asked all of us to join her for a weekend combining it with a chance to celebrate our youngest grandchild’s birthday (her niece) as well. We all were happy to oblige and accept the invitation.

So, on a Friday late afternoon, Daughter Two and Little One (our first grandchild) traveled with Papa and me from our home state while Son, Daughter-in-Love, and little ones Two and Three drove from the state next door to all congregate at Oldest Daughter and Son-in-Love’s home down south for the birthday fest.

It was short as we all left Sunday afternoon for the long drives back to our homes but sweet. We appreciated the opportunity to relax, converse, enjoy each other’s company, and play lots of games. Our adorable three grandchildren played so happily together and this Papa and Nana loved all the hugs and snuggles we received.

Delicious food, birthday cookie cake, neighborhood walks, a trip to the park, and fun in the summer-like weather on their lovely deck and in the spacious yard completed the weekend.

Even though our nest at home was empty, our hearts were full of love and joy. Having all of our children and grandchildren under one roof, even if it wasn’t ours, was the best!

A little bonus occurred when we noticed a robin’s nest in their front yard tree. Our grandchildren were delighted to be lifted so they could view beautiful robin egg blues in that nest.

The potential for a little bird family warmed our hearts as we were blessed with our own family time. May we never have to be separated for such a long period of time ever again and may we never take any of our loved ones for granted.

“Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family. Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted.” ~ Paul Pearshall

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2022