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.

blogIMG_0112

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

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Climb every mountain

blogMtKilimanjaro

Son-in-law, daughter, and friend at Mt. Kilimanjaro summit

Okay, it’s confession time.  Mama’s not a big risk taker.  I like a little adventure for sure, but I usually play it safe.  It’s true that Papa is a little bit more daring than me, but I still truly wonder from where our adult children inherited their ‘adventure genes.’

All three of them have traveled to other countries outside of our own.  I have only been to Canada a couple of times, although Papa promises we will expand our horizons when he retires.  All three of them have successfully and willingly jumped out of an airplane to sky dive.  I’m definitely not planning that anytime soon.  There have been episodes of helicopter piloting and waterfall rappelling.  Um…no, not for me.

Mama seldom takes the path less traveled because she doesn’t want to get lost.  Give me a map and I’ll be fine but don’t set me adrift without directions.  But more than that, Mama just doesn’t have that sense of adventure.  Papa can’t even get me on a cruise ship.  Airplanes are fine but the thought of being on a ship out in the middle of the ocean sets my heart to racing and gives me visions of panic attacks.

So adventurous living might not be my forte but I do admire those who dare to be bold.  That’s probably why I hate to miss any episodes of TV’s Amazing Race.  And I enjoy exciting ventures vicariously through my own offspring as well. 

Some of you may remember that my oldest daughter and son-in-law are on a grand adventure right now.  They flew to Tanzania in Africa via Amsterdam (with a short sightseeing tour there) to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Prior to their trip, I knew some basic facts about this mountain.  I knew it’s located in Africa and is the tallest free-standing (not part of a mountain range) mountain in the world at an elevation of over 19,300-some feet.  I also knew that it would take several days of hiking to reach the summit.

Now, this Mama has been to the mountains.  I’ve even hiked a little in some of them.  But the highest elevation I’ve ever been (not counting airline flights) occurred when Papa and I took a vacation to western Colorado’s San Juan Mountains way back when we were young whippersnappers. 

Hiking in Colorado mountains - 1979

Hiking in Colorado mountains – 1979

We drove from the flat prairieland of Oklahoma to places where the altitude gave me headaches.  Little did I know then that headaches are a symptom of altitude sickness.   We traveled by railroad from Durango to Silverton (9, 305 feet), by car to Ouray and crossed Wolf Creek Pass (altitude 10,857 feet), one of the high mountain passes on the Continental Divide.

I’ve been on other mountains in the Pacific Northwest like Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens, to Mount Shasta in northern California, through the Appalachian Mountains here in the east and recently to the top of Mount Mitchell in North Carolina (altitude 6,683), the highest point east of the Mississippi River. 

But I’ve never trekked up a mountain on foot like my loved ones are doing.  I’m extremely happy and relieved to say that they reached the Uhuru Peak on Kilimanjaro sometime early yesterday morning (our time) and after an arduous climb to the top, they began their descent down the mountain.

My ‘kids’ assured me that the trek up the mountain wasn’t technical mountain climbing, more like hiking several hours a day for a week through different ecological zones starting in a tropical jungle and going through the savannah and the desert, entering forests, and finally reaching the alpine zone above the timberline.  Click here to watch a video to see what a trek up Kilimanjaro is like. 

Well, I’m glad that I didn’t google information about this trip before they actually left as it would have made me worry even more than I did about their safety.  I mean this mountain is named Kilimanjaro (does anyone besides me hear that ‘kill a man’ part in there?

But seriously, I read daunting facts like these from National Geographic just yesterday that gave me a little pause for alarm:  the overall average successful ascents to the peak is 45% out of the approximate 35,000 climbers who attempt the trek yearly.  And that there are an estimated 10-15 deaths annually because of severe altitude sickness, hypothermia, falls or other medical issues.  And that my loved ones would have a difficult scramble over something called the Barranco Wall (click on that for another video).

Or that even though it takes the average person a minimum of between six to nine days to reach Kilimanjaro’s summit,  the real challenge is how altitude affects the body and the incidence of acute mountain sickness is high – a possible 75% of trekkers suffer from it on summit night. 

I received a text from son-in-law last Friday that informed us that they had been up to 17,000 feet that day and were camping at 13,000 feet.  So far the weather had been, in his words, “absolutely incredible.”  But as they faced the Barranco Wall the next day, he asked us to pray for our daughter who had a slight headache and loss of appetite (some symptoms of altitude sickness). 

Just like her mother, I thought, and then I promptly asked everyone I knew to start praying for her.  Other than feeling occasionally a bit breathless, our son-in-law reported he was fine and their friend traveling with them was also doing well.

We waited on pins and needles (and that was before I googled information or watched these videos) to hear from them again.  Yesterday early in the morning around 2:15, my phone awakened me with a text, again from son-in-law.  They had reached the summit which was “incredibly hard, especially coming back down.”  They still had three more hours to hike to get to the campsite from there and I spent much time in prayer for them.

On one hand, I was relieved but on the other hand, I definitely stayed on prayer alert until they got down off that mountain.  I’m grateful that they experienced a mountaintop adventure and achieved such a lofty goal. From there, they will go on a safari in the Serengeti National Park and do more touring around Tanzania before they fly back to Amsterdam, where they will sightsee once more, before finally arriving back home.

For oldest daughter and son-in-law, this grand adventure in life is a dream trip.  As the words to “Climb Every Mountain” from the musical The Sound of Music run through my mind, I can’t wait to hear all about this mountain dream of theirs that became reality.

 “Adventure is not outside man; it is within.” ~ George Eliot

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Adventure? Who, me?

blogAZ1“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ― Helen Keller, The Open Door

When God handed out the trait for being adventurous, I must have been absent.  Adventurous is not a word I would use to describe myself at all.  As a child, I was anything but.  I was shy and I certainly was not a risk taker.  

That quiet student in the school classroom who never raised her hand to answer teachers’ questions but would shyly respond with the correct answer if called upon?  That was me.  Why didn’t I raise my hand?  Because I might be wrong and I just didn’t want to take that chance.

So adventurous? Me? Hah.  But my kids, now they are the thrill-seekers.  And they have passport stamps to prove it. They’ve traveled to foreign countries from Mexico to Honduras, from Belize to France, from England to Mozambique, from Costa Rica to South Africa.  

Me?  The only foreign country I’ve visited isn’t that foreign – it’s our neighbor to the north, Canada.  Oh, I’ve traveled.  At last count, I’ve been in 32 of our 50 states here in the US and I suppose that counts as an adventure.

But exciting escapades…it seems I enjoy them vicariously through my adult children on their jaunts from safaris to sky diving to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  From para-sailing to participating in a triathlon to rappelling down waterfalls.  From cruising on the ocean to cruising along the skyline via helicopter.  

Yes, it’s safe to say my kids are adventurers.  They relish crossing items off their adventure bucket lists and are ever eager to step out of their comfort zones enjoying the journeys along the way.  And I like to think that I, the one who was raised on the motto ‘better safe than sorry,’ helped encourage them to do so.

In comparison, my life probably doesn’t appear to be very exciting, but when I stop to really consider it, I have had a few adventures of my own.  I’ve watched the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean and I’ve observed it setting over the Pacific. 

I’ve viewed the majesty of the Rocky Mountains and the lemon yellow color of aspen trees in the fall as well as the seemingly unending horizon of the Plains and the golden waves of grain growing there.  I’ve visited a volcano (Mount St. Helens),  one of the deepest, clearest lakes in the world (Crater Lake), and witnessed the power of a mighty waterfall (Niagara Falls).

From fields of bright-colored tulips in the spring to fields of happy sunflowers in summer to hillsides of trees adorned in fall’s brightly colored leaves to mounds of sparkling snow covered landscapes in winter, I’ve witnessed the beauty of nature. 

I’ve strolled along sunshine-laden sandy strips of beach on one side of my country and hiked through moss-covered giant redwood trees deep in the forest a couple of thousand miles away on the other side.  

I’ve also walked on the streets of some of the most well-known cities in our nation from New York City to Dallas to San Francisco to Washington, DC just to name a few.  I’ve traveled by plane, train, boat, ferry, subway, cable car, and even by incline while many people have never traveled in anything other than a car or have ever been outside their home towns.

But there’s more to an adventurous life than just travel and sightseeing.  So often God has led me out of my shy shell in daring ways.  He’s placed me in locations and situations out of my comfort zone.  No doubt He wanted to teach me a lesson about relying on Him, trusting Him, putting my faith in Him. 

All the locales I’ve visited, the places I’ve lived, the people I’ve met, and situations that became a part of my life have truly been adventures and they molded me into the person I am now.  And I believe God is responsible for all of those times in order to give my faith room to grow. 

He gave me blessed opportunities to witness the birth of another human being three times when I had my own children and He placed me in the life of a friend to listen and weep with her when her heart was broken by abortion.   

He provided occasions to reach out and touch others’ lives in ways I never thought I could do through my words, both spoken and written, and through encounters with strangers and people who soon became friends in places where I knew absolutely no one other than my immediate family. 

As I sit here safely ensconced in my comfortable home writing this post, doing so doesn’t sound very daring or exciting at all – not much of an adventure perhaps.  But it occurs to me that I truly have traveled an adventurous route and even writing this blog has proved to be a bold move on my part.  And better yet, there are new  journeys that still await.  My bucket list just may be different from my kids and different from yours. 

I believe God offers me opportunities every day to boldly go where I haven’t gone before.   All I have to do is listen to His voice, take His hand, and let Him lead me. It’s my choice to take the dare or not. 

I may seem as meek and mild as a sheep, but I know who my Master is.  I know my Shepherd and I listen for His voice.  Wherever He leads me, I want to follow because I know it will be an adventure.

This scripture reminds me: “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” ~ John 10:2-4 (NIV) 

Helen Keller was right – life IS either an adventure or nothing at all.  At the end of my life when I stand before God, I want to be able to say I chose the adventure of living a life for Christ because to chose otherwise means nothing.

Linking up with Weekly Photo Challenge.

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com