Change of pace, change of place

blogIMG_2930One of the perks of this semi-retirement gig that Papa and I have entered into is that we’ve had time and opportunity to embark on some journeys from home.

Since Papa left his full-time (headache-filled, stress inducing – need I say more?) job a couple of years ago, he has been working part-time in another place of employment.  Eventually, he will fully retire but not just yet. 

He enjoys this current position but appreciates even more the fact that when he departs from his job,  he leaves work-related worries behind and doesn’t ‘bring them home’ with him.

Even though in the last few years I only substitute taught part-time, I too have vacated the working world to babysit one of our granddaughters a couple of times a week.

So far, it’s worked out well and we’ve been able to realize our dream of traveling. We’ve actually ventured on more trips this past year than we have taken in a long time.

One aspect of retirement that we discussed long before reaching our 60’s was that we wanted to do a bit of traveling when we hit our retirement years. Not big extravagant trips like an 80 days around the world thing, just jaunts here and there to places we’ve never been.  

Partake of time off to go visit our grown up offspring who live in different states than us. And maybe, if finances and health endure, we dreamed about perhaps one day visiting the old countries – places in Europe where our ancestors once came from.

I don’t know if we will fulfill that dream, but for now, we’re content to travel right here in our own native land – the USA. I’m not really one to make bucket lists, but I do have a goal of visiting all 50 of our states. I have 10 more to go and I’ll have achieved that aspiration.  Plus there are a number of places that we would like to visit again because we didn’t see all that we hoped to see.

BlogUSA map (2)

Visited states marked with blue car

Last June, we journeyed north with stops in New York state (where we’ve been many times before) for some sightseeing in areas we had not seen. From there we drove to Massachusetts and my history buff husband ticked off some historic sites from his own to-see list including Concord, Boston, Quincy, and Plymouth. We both thoroughly delighted in a drive to the tip of Cape Cod as well. And from there, we visited Rhode Island and Connecticut.

In the fall, history won out again. Our middle daughter inherited that history-loving gene from her dad. She had never been to a well-known Civil War battlefield in our own state. Both Papa and I have been there before, but we knew it would be worthwhile going back, so we loaded up daughter and granddaughter and spent a few days there.

For our 40th wedding anniversary, our children gave us a monetary gift to take a respite away for just the two of us. Their suggested idea was a bed and breakfast somewhere within driving distance, but Papa and I decided instead to use the gift for airfare.

In February, we boarded a plane and flew westward to spend some time with my oldest sister and brother-in-law who have retired to a beautiful spot in Arizona. Two more states checked off my list as we ventured not only to interesting places in their area but also to Nevada as well.

In addition to those jaunts, we also traveled out of state to visit our children, taking a couple of little side trips for sightseeing along the way.

And just last month, a vacation to the New England states of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine gave us a time of refreshment away from home.

We stopped at various scenic sites  in Vermont – covered bridges, the Quechee Gorge, and a few small, quaint towns there. Traveling into New Hampshire, we viewed the majestic White Mountains and on Papa’s birthday, we rode the Cog Railway to the summit of Mount Washington, the highest point in New England.

From there, we ventured into Maine to the Acadia National Park and took a leisurely drive down the coastline stopping at a few lighthouses on the way.

It was just the ticket this Mama needed. A chance to get away from the hum-drum of everyday life. A welcome change of scenery. A trip making memories.

My plan is to share some of my travel photos with you as they inspire me to write future blog posts.  A change of place, even through photography, can serve as a catalyst for creativity, at least for me. 

Since we’ve been back home, I’ve felt refreshed and renewed. That’s what travel does for someone who enjoys a change of pace and a change of place every once in a while.

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca




That winter respite


The lovely pool we never got to use because it just wasn’t warm enough!

The old saying, “I’ve got egg on my face” might have been appropriate because (pardon the pun), the “yoke” (joke) was on us.

For some time, Papa and I were taunting our family and friends by saying we were going to escape the clutches of Ol’ Man Winter by traveling to the balmy temperatures and sunshine-filled days in Arizona.

Papa even texted a friend informing him that Papa would not be attending a meeting because he’d be “walking around in a T-shirt and shorts” instead.

Warm weather prevailed in my sister and brother-in-law’s location before we arrived and Sis even reminded me to bring sandals and capris along on my trip.

But being the “what if” kind of person I am who takes the motto “be prepared” to heart, I usually pack for any and all circumstances that might befall. Good thing.

Even though my suitcase held flip-flops, short-sleeved shirts, and capris, I also threw in jeans, a sweater, a sweatshirt, and even a winter coat, hat, and gloves. And I sure was glad I did.

We did experience sunshine during our trip and I did manage to wear those capris, but we experienced a couple of overcast days as well.  We did enjoy some days with balmy temperatures but the northern wind whipped down around and we had some downright chilly days – like one with a high of 56° F. 

And the joke really was on us because that same day, it was near 80° back home!

But we bundled up and braved the cold wind and went on several sight-seeing excursions and ATV riding. I was happy to accept my sister’s gift of some beautiful, hand-knit (by her) neck scarves to wind around my throat and ward off the chill on those not-so-Arizona-like days.

I have a few more posts and photos to share about our winter retreat trip because right now as we wait patiently for spring to come, I’m in a bit of a slump. March snowfalls, although beautiful, tend to make me a bit desperate for color.

So I’m back to re-living our Arizona vacation because it was such a welcome change from the old hum drum of winter and we truly did see some sights that left me speechless.

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta





The trip that almost wasn’t

blogIMG_3014.jpgToday is a new day. Just like every single one we are blessed to experience upon awakening each morning.

This morning was just like any other this winter. Snow flurries flying furiously through the air. Again.

I truly do enjoy the winter season. I like the cold, crisp air. I love that winter blanket of pure, white snow. I don’t mind the freezing temperatures.

But this season is different.

I’ve grown impatient with Ol’ Man Winter. I want him gone. I want warm, balmy temperatures. I want to see the sun more often and find color outside my window…or at least, something different than the monochromatic snow or the drab browns, grays, and blacks of the landscape when the snow melts.

Back in the fall when Papa and I planned a mid-winter trip, I didn’t know I was going to be so disenchanted with the perpetually snowy, cold weather winter would bring.

So as the time grew closer to our departure for Arizona back in mid-February, I anticipated our escape to warmer climes with hope for the sunshine that makes me happy and the chance to spend quality time with my sister and brother-in-law in that sunshine.

We spent a considerable amount of time planning our get-away in advance. Bought the airline tickets. Reserved hotel rooms and a rental car so we could take a short side trip to the Grand Canyon after we landed in Las Vegas.  From there, we would drive to Sis’s home in southwestern Arizona.

All systems were go. An escape from winter’s clutches (well, except for the Grand Canyon trip) just for a short time.  This trip sounded so promising and mood-lifting.  And yet…I couldn’t identify what it was, but some intangible thing was holding me back from being overly excited.

And that’s when it happened. About a week before our departure date, Papa experienced something quite out of the norm for him.  He became very ill and was in intense pain. A trip to the emergency room confirmed what we suspected.  Something very tiny that needed to be passed from his body was causing him to be enveloped in the most fierce pain.

The trip? What should we do about our trip? He experienced agonizing pain for several days as the calendar ticked off less time until our departure. I called my sister to inform her that our plans were up in the air, which resulted in four disappointed people.

The pain lingered on and on. What to do? When the meds alleviated the pain, Papa would declare we were still going. But when the pain resumed and he was flat out lying on the floor, we realized there was no way he could withstand a five-hour plane ride.

What to do? What to do?? Which each passing day and no passage of the pain-causing issue, we fretted. We worried. We prayed. Family and friends prayed for Papa.

Indecision reigned. One minute we were going, the next we were staying home. We reluctantly cancelled our hotel rooms and rental car, but, with hope in our hearts, waited on cancelling our airline reservations.

On again. Off again. We honestly didn’t know what to do. We were down to the wire. One more day left to make a decision.

Papa said, “Let’s pack our suitcases anyway.”  We did and we waited. And waited. In my mind, I had already resolved that we weren’t going.  What a disappointment and yet, I had almost sensed it coming. 

With about 24 hours remaining before we were supposed to board a plane and head into the westward sunset, something happened. We didn’t have to cancel our trip after all. We…well I, because Papa was too worn out, practically danced a jig.

We scurried and hurried and got prepared to fly off after all. We kept the Grand Canyon visit nixed, postponing that until another time, and decided to just spend our entire vacation with Sis and Brother-in-law.

Papa rested and rested the day of our departure and reassured me that he was on the mend. I called my sister with the good news; she informed me they would drive to the Las Vegas airport to pick us up that evening.

Our daughter and granddaughter whisked us to the airport and we breathed a huge sigh of relief as we took off on our flight.  

As we ascended into the sky on that airplane, surrounded by fluffy clouds, I paused to give thanks for all of those answered prayers because the trip that almost wasn’t became the trip that was.

And even though we didn’t see the Grand Canyon, we still had a grand time. But that’s a story for another day.

“The journey not the arrival matters.” ~T.S. Eliot


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.)


A little adventure

blogIMG_0740Some people are born with an adventurous spirit, some have to have it coaxed out of them.

I wasn’t one of those born with a sense of adventure, nor was I taught to embrace a quest for exploration.  My folks kept pretty close to home when I was a youngster.

Growing up, I can remember only three real vacations with my parents.  As a child, I traveled with them down south to visit my oldest sister and brother-in-law when he was serving in the military and we stopped at interesting points along the way.  As a teenager, my parents took me on one trip to Williamsburg, VA, and one trip to New York state and points in our own home state.  That’s it.

On top of our lack of interesting journeys, I tended to be a fairly shy little girl who didn’t seek out risk-taking or exciting escapades. It wasn’t until I married my husband and he whisked me off to places I’d never been before that I started to enjoy new adventures.

When we were raising our children, I wanted them to have more opportunities than I did to experience new places and different sights, not just the same old, same old of everyday life.

We managed to do some traveling and exposing them to new activities while we lived in the Midwest, but upon moving to the Pacific Northwest, my desire to do that really kicked into high gear.  We endeavored to provide for our children as many adventurous excursions, sight-seeing trips, and vacations as we could on the West Coast of our great country. 

Somewhere along the line, our oldest daughter embraced an adventurous lifestyle with gusto. On her own, with friends, and with her like-minded husband, she’s traveled more places than I can even imagine. 

Those two are the thrill-seekers who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro a couple of years ago. You can read about that by clicking here.

Right now as I write this, they are traveling throughout Peru visiting the Amazon Rainforest and hiking and camping in the Andes Mountains.

Since Papa and I have semi-retired, we’re hoping to fill up our own travel itinerary from time to time. One of my goals has always been to visit each of the 50 states here in America, and so far, I’ve checked off 35 states with 15 more to go. So we’ve got some adventure planning to do of our own.

Our oldest grandchild, who is only 2 ½ spends a great deal of time with Nana and Papa, and we try to take her on little excursions here and there so she too will develop a bit of adventure.

Yesterday, I posted a photo I took back in July when we did just that. We traveled just a couple of hours away from our home with Little One in tow for a sightseeing day trip.

One of the places we visited was actually somewhere that even Nana and Papa had never been before – Kinzua Sky Walk in Kinzua Bridge State Park.



Kinzua Skywalk

Once the highest and longest railroad bridge in the world, the viaduct spanned the Kinzua Gorge. But a tornado ripped through the area almost 15 years ago and shredded a good portion of the bridge into twisted metal.


Bridge remains from past tornado

Using six steel towers that remained, a skywalk, which extends 624 feet into the gorge, was constructed.  Walking along the skywalk 225 feet above the valley provided some amazing views, which I believe would be even more breathtaking in the fall when all the leaves are brilliantly colored.  For a more complete view of the bridge/skywalk, watch a youtube video here.

Our Little One enjoyed the adventure of something new and different to behold. She loved playing with the wooden toy train and blocks building a replica of the original railroad bridge in the visitor’s center. Even at her young age, she got a kick out of some of the exhibits there as well.

blogIMG_0750And walking on the skywalk was grand fun for her. She was even more mesmerized by the glass blocks near the end of the structure that enable you to look out below down those 224 feet. Not a great place for someone afraid of heights, but our Little One loved it!

blogIMG_0748After a picnic lunch at the park grounds, we traveled on to a couple more spots. Needless to say, Little One tuckered out and slept most of the way home. But what a fun little voyage we experienced and hopefully, we’re teaching her to embrace exploration with gusto.

And wishing her a lifetime of adventures.

“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…” ~ Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland



When Papa’s happy

blogIMG_0211This husband of mine, this empty nest Papa, this man I’ve been married to for almost 40 years, I know what makes him tick. He loves anything historical. And trains. And ships.

His fascination with things nautical possibly emerged because his oldest brother, 17 years older than he, served in the Navy for some of my husband’s growing up years. We even have an old photo of my hubby as a boy dressed in his big brother’s sailor clothes.

As a teenager, hubby joined the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps, a program for students to develop leadership skills and learn basic seamanship, with some opportunities to become disciplined and self-reliant as well on an actual ship.  

The opportunity to spend two weeks one summer as a Sea Cadet aboard a Navy aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Mexico proved to be something he relished.  

So I’m supposing those experiences, along with spending every summer vacation at Atlantic Ocean beaches, had a hand in this boy maturing into a man who enjoys the sea and all the vessels that sail upon it.  Books, written by C.S. Forester about the fictional naval officer Horatio Hornblower, still remain some of my husband’s favorite reads.

Deep down inside this man, my husband, is a little boy who I think always wanted to be a sailor.  In college, he would have preferred Navy ROTC, but only the Army offered ROTC there, so he took that route instead.

This former Army man though has never lost his enchantment for the sea. I know he would love to learn how to sail, but this landlubber (me) doesn’t share his enthusiasm for such a thing. When we lived in the Pacific Northwest, he did experience sailing once with some co-workers and that really….ahem…floated his boat.

In our married life, Papa has managed to convince me to board an Oregon whale watching day cruise, several ferries on both sides of the country, New York City and Boston harbor cruises, and also some boat rides on the Mississippi, Allegheny, and Ohio rivers, but hasn’t yet talked me into a several day ocean cruise as a future vacation.

That one will be a hard sell because I’m more of a stay on the beach and listen to the surf than actually be in it or on it. When Papa and I developed an itinerary for our summer vacation this year, we made a bargain. 

While I enjoy history but am not quite as fascinated by museums and every display in them as Papa is, we agreed we would visit enough to satisfy him yet not overwhelm me.  And while I do enjoy the seaside as much as he does, preferably on the shore not on the sea, we also agreed to visit some nautical attractions as well.

It worked perfectly for us.

I’m happy to report this vacation satisfied both of our longings.  Enough military, history, and nautical venues for Papa and plenty of new experiences, sights, and gorgeous views to make Mama and her camera content.

Our travel schedule included several points along the Hudson River Valley including West Point Military Academy, Revolutionary War sites in Lexington & Concord and Boston, with side trips to Quincy and Plymouth, MA culminating in just the right amount of history for Papa but not so much that it bored Mama.

In Boston, we both enjoyed boarding the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship called Old Ironsides, and imagining all that had taken place on this mighty 200-year-old vessel.  

However, Papa was pretty disappointed that the regal sailing ship was dry-docked for repair work and the sails were off the riggings. He also satisfied his ship-loving side by getting to see the USS Massachusetts.  

During our visit to Mystic Seaport, CT, Papa participated in a demonstration that brought a huge smile to his face and pleased me to see him so delighted.  While touring the Charles W. Morgan, the oldest commercial whaling ship still afloat, we happened to be there at just the right time.

The knowledgeable guide on the vessel explained that it was time to hoist one of the sails and that he and the other guides needed help doing so.  My hubby was one of the first to volunteer. 

The guide instructed volunteers when to pull on the halyard rope to hoist the sail and when to let go.  He explained that he would sing a chantey, a type of call-and-response song, like those used long ago to coordinate the sailing ship’s crew while they worked together to raise a sail.

blogIMG_0107After he explained, he commenced singing an old seafaring chantey and each time he sang, “Blow, ye boys, blow,” the volunteers pulled as hard as they could in unison on the beat ‘blow.’

I don’t remember the exact chantey song he sang, but it might have been something like this one I found:

“A Yankee ship came down the river,
Blow, boys, blow!

Her masts and spars they shine like silver,
Blow, my bully boys, blow!

With each pull on the word “blow,” the sail rose higher and higher until it was aloft.


The hoisted sail! 

I could tell from the look on my husband’s face that he enjoyed the experience immensely.

“Was it fun?” I asked him when the demonstration was complete. With that little boy grin on his face, he replied, “It sure was!”

And you know what? It was fun. I got a kick out of watching him revel in the experience of being a sailing ship crew member (even if it was only for a few moments).

Because when Papa’s happy, so is Mama.

“Happiness is like a kiss. You must share it to enjoy it.” ~ Bernard Meltzer