Wordless Wednesday: saguaro


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Once upon a time, story telling was my job.

I mean I actually got paid to tell stories (among other things). For over a decade, I worked for a non-profit organization as its education director. What that really meant is that I visited public and private schools and presented programs to help middle and high school students make smart, healthy life decisions.  

Since I had teacher training with my bachelor’s degree in education and a bit of an “I always wanted to be an actress” complex, I found that telling a really good story in a theatrical way was the perfect method to capture and keep students’ focus.  

I could have stood in front of the classroom spouting off facts and figures and do’s and don’ts but soon would have been looking at glassy-eyed zoned out kids who couldn’t give two figs about the subject matter.

But tell a good story – one that had me moving around the room, using different inflections in my voice, reeling them in with my words, leading up to suspense, and sometimes even startling them a bit…now that got their attention and kept it.

I’m sure they wondered just what is that crazy lady going to do next? I worked hard to keep my presentation full of surprises.

As cool as teenagers try to pretend to be, they truly do not outgrow listening to stories. One of the best kudos I ever received from my story-telling days was when a teacher informed me that a student, in her graduation speech, mentioned a tale told by me to those in her senior class back when when they were 8th graders.  The teacher said all the students laughed at the mention of it and better yet, they remembered the story.

But really, who among us, young or old, doesn’t love a good story?

It’s why authors sell thousands or perhaps even millions of books. It’s why country music song writers and those who perform their songs have number one hits. It’s why script writers, actors, directors, and producers find themselves with a big box office sensation.

Behind it all is a good story.

And the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is just another way of telling a story without words. For the visual learners and thinkers like me, it’s a bonanza.

So this week’s photo challenge just happens to be “story.”

The challenge part was choosing which photos to personify the theme, but I finally decided upon the slideshow above which I hope conveys a story.

And for the next several posts, I’m going to tell you some stories with the added bonus of accompanying photos. 

The stories are real. I hope you find them interesting enough to keep reading them.

And I also hope I’m still a good storyteller. 

“Be unpredictable, be real, be interesting. Tell a good story.” ~ James Dashner

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Going west

blogIMG_2841“Go west, young man, go west.”

That quote originated with a man named John Babsone Lane Soule way back in 1851. But it became a popular saying after newspaperman Horace Greeley used the expression in an 1865 editorial when he penned “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.”

After the Civil War, that’s exactly what many folks did – they ventured west.

And that’s what Papa and I recently did as well. We’re far from young, but we went west. (Did anyone guess correctly?)

It’s been many years since I’ve been out in that part of the country.  Nearly 20 trips around the sun actually.  I believe it’s close to 15 years since I’ve crossed over the Mississippi River. Most of our travels since then have taken place on the eastern side of that great river.

I don’t really keep a bucket list like many folks do, but I do have one travel goal in mind that I’d like to accomplish. To visit all 50 of our states right here in the good ol’ USA.

A significant number of them are tucked under my belt already. When Papa and I took a much needed vacation last summer, I added three states to my visitation list: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

That brought the grand total up to 35 out of 50.

Last fall, Papa and I started bantering around the idea of taking another vacation during the winter season. Somewhere warm. Somewhere sunny. Somewhere I’ve never been before. And we landed on a great idea – visit my sister and brother-in-law in their new home in Arizona by way of Nevada.

Back when Papa worked as a sales representative, he traveled to both states, but this Mama had never been to either one.  So I jumped at the chance to knock two more places off my list leaving only 13 more states to visit and to spend time with a sister I miss so much.

Off we ventured West by airplane,  landed in Las Vegas, and drove south through Nevada and sections of California (been there several times) to Arizona, the Grand Canyon state.

Even though we had to postpone our visit to the Grand Canyon (due to unforeseen circumstances) for another time, what did I learn about the particular area of this state where we visited?

Let me count the lessons I learned:

  1. The desert not only sports tons of sand, various kinds of cacti, and dust but isn’t all flat because large mountains of rock exist there as well. And to get in the desert, you just go to the end of my relatives’ street.
  2. Palm tree bark is sharp as razors. And palm trees get skinned to prevent injuries to people like me.
  3. The dry air will cause you to be electrically charged and you will be shocked by everything and everyone you touch.
  4. The wild burros will steal a just purchased bag of cashews and pistachios right out of your hand.
  5. Four-wheeler ATV (all-terrain vehicle) riding on desert trails is dusty but so exhilarating and maybe even a mite dangerous.
  6. The low to zero humidity climate will dry up your sinuses and you will have to honk junk out of your nose every day.
  7. People really do just pull their RV’s out into the desert and park there to camp in solitude. It’s called dry camping.
  8. Your arthritis pain won’t exist…until you come back home.
  9. A desert town with no residential street lights at night is so dark you can see multitudes of stars.
  10. Quartz rocks shine like diamonds in the sun. And this place is a rock hound’s paradise.
  11. It isn’t always warm. If the air circulates down from the north, some days are chilly and very windy, but still provide an escape from wintry weather you normally experience.
  12. Sunshine isn’t always abundant. Cloud cover caused some overcast periods, but there was only a short sprinkling of rain for about three minutes.
  13. Some palm trees are shaped like pineapples and they’re cute.
  14. You really can get your kicks on Route Six Six.
  15. You may not be immune to jet lag like you thought you were even if there are only a couple of hours difference in time change.
  16. You just never know what you might see out in the middle of nowhere in the desert.
  17. The London Bridge really was falling down but now stands in Arizona.
  18. It’s hard for a photographer (even an amateur like me) to sit still for a 2½ hour cruise up the Colorado River because you jump up every couple of minutes attempting to capture amazing scenery. 
  19. You can visit a memorial for a Syrian man nick-named Hi Jolly, who served as a camel driver for the US Army in the mid-1800’s, and a few other quirky places like that.
  20. Sunsets in Arizona are just as beautiful as they are in your own back yard.

But what did I learn most about our trip?

Our visit in the west was relaxing and exciting at the same time. My sister and brother-in-law were great hosts treating us to lots of sightseeing excursions, restaurants with delicious food, and tasty meals from their own kitchen with my sister’s homemade meatloaf (tasted just like our mom made).  Plus we enjoyed making memories with them that we’ll never forget. 

And you’ll probably get to read about some of those 20 things I learned in Arizona right here on Mama’s Empty Nest in the near future, along with photos I captured. I promise not to bore you with all of them!

“A happy life is one spent in learning, earning, and yearning.” ~ Lillian Gish

(P.S. Monica and Alison, you guessed correctly! And Dor, you had the right idea when you guessed somewhere in the desert.)

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


Wordless Wednesday: another clue


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Out of my world

blogIMG_3416I’m back.

I’ve been out of this world for a couple of weeks…out of the blogging world that is.

But I’ve also been somewhat out of my own world as well. Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t take a trip to the moon virtually or otherwise. I didn’t find myself in some alternate reality either. And I didn’t vacate my mind for a sojourn to live in a fantasy land.

Nope, none of those, but I still was out of my usual world. The Papa of this empty nest and I took a respite. We boarded a big ol’ jet airliner and headed in another direction from our home.  And contrary to the Steve Miller Band lyrics from their song Jet Airliner, the plane did carry us far away.

But that story I’m saving for a later post. This post is meeting the photo challenge of the past week – Out of This World.

Plus I just might be teasing you a tad with my photo to see if you can guess where we traveled.  Leave your speculation in the comments below.

(Facebook friends, sorry, you are disqualified from this round of  “Where in the World Was Mama?” since you viewed photos I posted on my personal Facebook while I was ‘out of this world.’)

“It’s useful to go out of this world and see it from the perspective of another one.” ~ Terry Pratchett

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


Postcard from me to you

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©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


Taking you on a tour

tourguide collage 2018It happens often so I’ve learned to keep my camera near me.

While out and about, countless times I’ve come upon a scene that just begs to be captured by my camera. If I go out purposefully looking for something to photograph, I don’t always succeed. More often than not, I just stumble onto a picturesque setting or a particular angle that catches my eye.

And more times than I can count in the past, I didn’t have my camera along. Those shots I missed unfortunately only exist in my memory. I could try to describe them for you, but I find the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words” to be oh, so true.

I’m a bit behind in the weekly photo challenges, as last week’s challenge was tour guide.

If someone were to visit the area where I live and I would be his tour guide, what would I show him? I think I could conjure up several ideas. But the one thing that stands out for me is this,  the aspect of this place where I live that I love.

We have four distinct seasons of the year.

So let me be your tour guide and take you on a visit to each season – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter – in my neck of the woods.

And the collage I’ve fashioned for you above? I just happened to stumble upon those photo opportunities while I was doing something else.

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” — Lawrence Block

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


Wordless Wednesday: even in summer


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Wordless Wednesday: so long January


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Stitch by stitch variations


blogIMG_0736Wouldn’t life be boring if it was always the same old same old? We need variety – isn’t it the spice of life?

We yearn for variation from the norm. At least I know I do. This past week’s photo challenge has been variations on a theme.

Several thoughts rolled around in my mind as I considered this challenge and I started scrolling through my photo cache to see if I could locate any photos that fit the bill.

My first thought about variations on a theme was musical. Stored back there somewhere in the archives of my quirky brain are a number of classical music pieces entitled thusly.  Composers would take a basic melody and then write variations composing a unique piece of music built around that one musical theme.

Click on this for an example that I particularly liked : Variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky   

My next thought about variations on a theme centered around the age-old art of quilting. My mother was an adept quilter and it was a passion of hers to sit for hours creating beautiful, colorful hand-pieced (rarely by sewing machine) quilt tops which she then put into her large wooden quilting frames and hand-quilted – never quilted by sewing machine.

No doubt my mother learned to quilt from my grandmother who also excelled in this art. Back then, quilting bees were held in which ladies from church or just a group of friends would gather at one home or another and spend an afternoon stitching designs on one quilt. I can actually remember as a young child attending some with my mother.

Stitches produced at these gatherings were variations on a theme because each woman used her needle, thread, and thimble a little differently. Perhaps those who didn’t quilt often used long, uneven stitches but the expert quilters like my mother made small, tight, uniform in length stitches to produce a beautiful end product.

“There are only a handful of basic stitches which are the Adams and Eves of all the others…stem, satin, chain, cross, back, weaving, and filling–upon which untold variations have been built.”
–Erica Wilson

For this photo challenge, I could have opened my mother’s old cedar chest now gracing my own home and carefully lifted out not only a quilt made by my mom, but two very aged quilts made by my maternal grandmother and my husband’s paternal grandmother.

But I decided to save those for another blog post sometime. Instead I’m using other photos I’ve taken that I think personify the theme well.

The top photo is a picture I captured during a visit to the United States Air Force Museum a few years ago. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this branch of service, a huge commemorative quilt was made and hangs in the museum. Each quilt block represents a meaningful aspect of the Air Force but was fashioned by a different person with unique ideas. Hence, variations on a theme.

I snapped the other photo at a Mother-Daughter dinner once held at my church. Attendees were invited to bring some of their favorite quilts to display. And I think it all of those colorful, unique works of art aptly demonstrate variations on a theme as well.

I know I tend to stick to my ‘themes’ in life and share my themes often here in  Mama’s Empty Nest, but I do attempt to spice it up with a little variety from time to time. 

Variations on a theme make life more interesting.

“To me I think artists in general make a statement and for the rest of their lives every album, every book are variations on a theme.” ~ Mark Mothersbaugh

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