Drifting through vacation

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Images captured while speeding down a highway.  Road signs proclaiming their welcome from one state to another.  One night’s stay in a hotel here, another night’s stay in a different hotel there.

Sounds kind of transient, doesn’t it? Drifting from place to place. Stopping only briefly.  Just passing through.

That describes our recent vacation pretty well and transient just happens to be this week’s photo challenge theme.

We traveled in our trusty vehicle northward along the Hudson River Valley, stopping at places that we listed on our itinerary and other spots that just beckoned to us to pause and enjoy the scenery.

One night’s stay in a New York (the Empire State) hotel. Then up early the next morning to drive into Massachusetts on our way to Boston for a couple of days sightseeing and nights of restful sleep in a blessedly cool air-conditioned room with a king-sized bed.

Passing through the Bay State (MA), we decided to detour from our intended path and drive the entire length of Cape Cod, just passing through, but stopping here and there to enjoy the seashore, capture some photos, hike to a lighthouse, and eat a picnic lunch.

Then continuing our transient journey, we headed for the Ocean State (Rhode Island) and into Connecticut (officially the Constitution State but also called the Nutmeg State). Again, another couple of nights in a cool and comfortable hotel room in between more sightseeing and adventures.

Back in our vehicle, we traveled around NYC, drove through the Garden State (New Jersey), and headed for home. But not before another stop. 

Another place to pass through. Another event to place in the memory bank of special moments.

We breezed into Papa’s old hometown, traveled up and down streets familiar yet now different to him, passed by his former homes, and visited his parents’ grave sites. Then we checked into yet another hotel.

But the best part of all was arranging to meet someone for lunch the next day. 

We had a wonderful visit with Papa’s oldest brother, his wife, and our grown up nephew. Brother is 17 years Papa’s senior, a Navy veteran, and someone my husband just doesn’t know all that well because time, distance, and both his and our being transient and moving often separated them.

It’s been almost 19 years since they have seen each other in person and we had a joyous sort of family reunion.

While just passing through. Catching a moment to remember like the fleeting glimpse of a road sign.

“Catch, then, O catch the transient hour; improve each moment as it flies!” ~ St. Jerome

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
 

 

The heat stole my focus

blogIMG_0049It wasn’t supposed to be like that.

Papa and I recently took a well-deserved vacation, something we haven’t been able to do for a few years. We decided where we wanted to venture, plotted our route on the map, and planned a tentative itinerary for each day.

Prior to leaving, I examined and re-confirmed weather forecasts for the areas we were going to visit. Why? Not because I was fearful it would rain. Instead, I wanted to ascertain that the weather would be mild. Because you see, I’m a fair-weather kind of gal.

I absolutely despise hot, humid temperatures. They make me wilt. They make me melt. They make me exceedingly cranky. That’s why generally, summer is not my favorite season.

So I was truly hopeful that the weather forecast I kept checking was accurate and wouldn’t change. Yep, I was that focused on it.

And of course, you know what happened, don’t you? The weather changed drastically. Temperatures that were supposed to settle down in a cozy, comfy mode of pleasant mid-70 degree Fahrenheit weather instead flared and fired up to the mid-90’s.

When the thermometer hit 95 degrees, my face flushed beet-red and my body temperature gauge felt totally out of control. I literally began to drip perspiration, dreaded all the outdoor walking we had planned to do, and thought I’d just turn into spontaneous combustion right there on the city streets of Boston.

That’s when I lost it. My brain fried, my misery escalated with each soaring degree of temperature, and I totally lost my focus.

And that just happens to have been the photo challenge last week – out of focus.

That perfectly described me – out of focus. I couldn’t concentrate on the historical sights we planned to see.  I couldn’t enjoy the city we had looked forward to visit so much. I couldn’t even dredge up the energy to take photos.  (Now you know how far out of focus I was!)

All I could think about was how scorching hot it felt. How the sweat stung my eyes, dripped off my nose, and ran down my back like a waterfall. How I couldn’t wait to find some cool, air-conditioned spot to just sit and vegetate and try desperately to get my focus back. Even Papa, history buff that he is, realized his enthusiasm was draining as well.

So we succumbed to being senior citizens who can’t take the heat. Folks of a certain age whose focus, energy, and gumption lagged as the roasted heat of the day took its toll.

We took a trolley tour of the city of Boston. We still saw all the sights from our shaded trolley seats but I didn’t get many pictures to prove it. And I just didn’t care.

After the tour ended, we decided to take a harbor cruise in hopes of cooling off a little more. It helped somewhat, but I found myself still…well…out of focus.

We opted to head out of the city and stop along some other points of interest on our way to Rhode Island and Connecticut.  The heat still followed us for a while, but I regained motivation when we drove the entire length of Cape Cod, where I snapped the above photo.  

Hot temperatures were like that beach fence separating me from the cooling waves of the Atlantic. The heat, causing me to become out of focus, distracted me from enjoying a couple vacation days.

But once I regained my focus on appreciating our vacation, the rest of the trip was the balm it was meant to be. Ocean breezes always calm me down like a slathering of cool aloe vera gel on sun-scorched skin.

And oh, yeah, guess who forgot her sunscreen?

“Getting distracted by trifles is the easiest thing in the world… Focus on your main duty.” ~ Epictetus

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Order in the vault

blog056 (2)I guess it’s time to let you in on a little secret.

I’m kind of an orderly person. No, if I’m honest, I’m kind of an order freak.

When my house becomes cluttered, items get misplaced, or stacks of out of place belongings start appearing, it totally stresses me out.

I like order.

I like neat and tidy.

I like to have all of my ducks in a row.

Yes, I am that person – the organized one. Everything in its place and a place for everything – that just makes me happier than a kid running up to an ice cream truck on a hot, summer day.

Chaos and disarray make me feel out of control and – ask Papa and he will vouch for this – when that happens, I am one majorly cranky Mama.

So it doesn’t surprise me that when I noticed that this week’s photo challenge theme is order, a photo in my cache came to mind.

Several years ago on a trip to the Deep South, Papa and I drove through Louisville, Kentucky for a bit of sight-seeing.  Before a stop at Churchill Downs, we decided to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum.

It was a fun way to spend a fall morning and we both enjoyed the museum and the factory tour where we got to see how those famous wooden baseball bats are made.

I made sure to photograph a number of items that caught my fancy, including Ken Griffey, Jr.’s bat, who was our son’s favorite baseball player at the time.

One of the areas of the museum that caught my attention though was the Bat Vault. Louisville Slugger bats are used by about 60% of major league baseball players. The Bat Vault is a special room where model bats that were fashioned for 8,000 players who signed contracts with Louisville Slugger are stored.

In order.  Baseball bats used by the greats like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. Nice, neat rows of Louisville sluggers preserved for posterity.

It was enough to make an organized gal like myself breathe a sigh of admiration.

“Good order is the foundation of all great things.” ~ Edmund Burke

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Here today, gone tomorrow

blogIMG_9860I have to be perfectly honest. This week’s photo challenge theme?

I had to look up the word to ensure the definition in my mind was correct. It’s just not a word I use in my daily life and I don’t even think I’ve ever used it in my writing.

Evanescent. Isn’t it an interesting word? A fancy way to say something is likely to vanish. Describe something fleeting. Transitory.

Much of this world can be categorized that way. We are surrounded by aspects which change so quickly and soon vanish. That green grass out there in my yard? In just a few months, the color will turn to brown and won’t reappear until spring comes again. Transitory.

The beautifully lush peony bushes surrounding my backyard deck and covered with bountiful buds? They will burst forth in a fanciful deep pink array, exude their lovely aroma, and then the petals will fall and they will be gone. Fleeting.

Short-lived. Just like that elusive fame that so many wish to attain. Why else would we hear that saying – he had his 15 minutes of fame – bantered about? Because fame can be so short-lived. Likely to vanish.

Evanescent.

Even our lives can be portrayed that way. We’re only on earth for a short time in the grand scope of existence. Some of us inhabit this earth for only a few years, some for a half century or longer, and some fortunate ones may live until they are 100.

But our one life here is evanescent. Vanishing. Fleeting. Transitory. Short-lived.

My Bible tells me: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  James 4:14 

And that verse reminds me once again of one of my favorite contemporary Christian songs by Casting Crowns.

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still you hear me when I’m calling
Lord, you catch me when I’m falling
And you’ve told me who I am
I am yours.

We humans are evanescent, but the God of the universe is not. We are here today, gone tomorrow. But the Creator of all is not. We are temporary. He is permanent.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8

That’s why I never cease to be amazed that God, the Lord of all creation, the great I AM, the Alpha and Omega (the Beginning and the End), the One who is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (all-present/all-seeing), and omnipotent (all-powerful), cares about evanescent me and you.

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?

Not because of who I am
But because of what you’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who you are.

Minister Charles Stanley wrote in his book, Turning the Tide: Real Hope, Real Change:  “Hope founded upon a human being, a man-made philosophy or any institution is always misplaced. Why? Because these things are unreliable and fleeting. They do not last. Rather, to be genuine and enduring, our confidence and hope must be rooted in God and His eternal purposes. You see, the Lord desires for us to base our faith on what is sure, immovable, unchangeable, and unending. So our Savior, Jesus, gives us the one thing that can never be taken away – everlasting life. Imperishable. Undefiled. Unfading. This is true hope – the unshakable confidence and assurance Jesus offers us.”

As alluring as the fixations of this world are whether they be fame or fortune, recognition or ratings, admiration or accomplishments, I don’t want to place my hope in those evanescent things.

Instead, with each moment of time I have on this earth, I place my hope in the Everlasting One who knows my name and I appreciate each evanescent occurrence that He sends my way.

Excuse me while I step outside and breathe in the aroma of blooming peonies.

“Right now a moment of time is fleeting by! Capture its reality… become the moment.” ~ Paul Cerzanne

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Heritage wall

blogIMG_9851 (3)My heritage runs deep here – this place outside of a small town in this particular state.

This place where both my parents were born and their parents and their parents…and so on…and so on.

This place where I can travel down the road about four miles or so and visit not only my parents’ grave site, but also those of some of my ancestors. 

We can trace my ancestry back to the 1600’s and 1700’s when my predecessors arrived in the “New World” and eventually settled here. I’m not an avid genealogist like some folks are, but I do enjoy knowing where and from whom I came. 

My father was the keeper of that sort of information and long before he passed away, he fashioned a notebook for each of his three daughters containing family history. Included were copies of old photos and a family tree for both sides of his and my mother’s families with birth and death dates.

What’s missing though are the family stories of those who came before me. Those I only know by name and vital statistics. Those who were my great-grandparents and ancestors even further back.  I know when they were born and when they left this earth, but I don’t know much else about them.

What kind of folks were they? What did they do for a living? How important was faith to them? What color were their hair, eyes, etc.? Did they have dreams for their children that were bigger than ones they had for themselves? Did they have any musical or artistic talent? What was their favorite food? Did they vote? And what interesting stories could be told about their lives?

This week’s photo challenge theme is heritage.

And I wish I knew more about mine. If only I had had the forethought to ask my parents more questions about our family heritage before they passed away, although what they knew was probably a little sparse since their grandparents were deceased when they were young.

Just like mine. All of my grandparents were gone by the time I passed my 10th birthday.

What was my grandma’s favorite color? I don’t know.  All I do know is a relatively small cache of memories I have of my mother’s parents since my grandfather died the same year as grandma. But I remember Grandma when I pull out her handmade quilt that still emits an aroma that reminds me of her and sometimes causes me to shed a few tears. 

My paternal grandmother died when I was an infant, so all I have are photos of her, no memories. My paternal grandfather passed when Dad was just a baby, so he had no memories of him either, just a couple of photos.

What exactly did grandpa do with his carpentry skills? I don’t know. But I do know his wooden tool box now gathers dust in my basement and I’ve contemplated what I should do with it.

Heritage is important to preserve, especially for our children and grandchildren. Perhaps one day, our grandchildren will reminisce and wonder more about their Nana and Papa.

Perhaps not.

But I still want to leave a heritage for them anyway. Not just one of the items we owned or one with special significance, but our life stories as well or the tale that accompanies a particular item that has been passed down from one generation to the next.   

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My children’s grandparents as newlyweds

Several years ago, Papa and I moved our family of five back here to the homeland when my mother was dying of cancer. Prior to our move and as a farewell gift, a sweet friend presented a book, entitled “A Grandparent’s Book,” to me. 

Questions written as if a grandchild were asking them fill the book with spaces for handwritten answers. I’m grateful now that I took the time to ask both my mother and father to complete it before they passed away, although I realized later that Dad didn’t finish it all.

Reading through it provides a little insight into my parents’ lives from young children through adulthood, but it still lacks the sweetness and poignancy of those family stories.

I too completed the blanks in a spiral bound book for my children called “A Parent’s Book,” but again, it lacks the in-depth picture you gain from listening to someone’s history in person, told in their own voice, from their own memories. 

I once read somewhere that when we die we become stories in the minds of other people, but what happens when those stories aren’t passed down?

Our heritages are lost when they aren’t recorded or at least written down. In some cases I suppose even the written accounts are lost when descendants find them unimportant and toss them in the trash bin.

So I think it’s vital to share the value of family history with our children and grandchildren.

Because someday, when they are mature in years and their forbears are long gone, they may wonder, “Did Nana ever write a blog and what on earth did she ever write about?”

 “How will our children know who they are if they do not know where they came from?” ~ Unknown

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com