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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



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



In my own little corner

blogDSCN0109 (2)Years ago, okay….many years ago when I was a child, I watched a musical version of Cinderella on television with real, live actors instead of animated ones.

The well-known fairy tale was set to lovely music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and I can still remember the actress Lesley Ann Warren, who played Cinderella, singing a song called, In My Own Little Corner.

Previously here in my blog, I’ve shared a quirky little characteristic I possess, but just in case you missed that, I’ll let you in on it.

More often than not, just the utterance of a mere word causes my brain to flip through all the information stored in it (after 60+ years, there’s a lot up there!) and produce  musical lyrics from the past with that particular word in the song.  

I don’t know why I remember song lyrics (and the music that accompanies them) so well, but I do. And as soon as I read that this week’s photo challenge theme was ‘corner,’ this song from that TV version of Cinderella came to life once more in my head.

“In my own little corner
In my own little chair
I can be whatever I want to be
On the wing of my fancy
I can fly anywhere
And the world will open its arms to me.”

As melancholy as the thought is of poor, abused, lovely Cinderella forced to labor for a vengeful step-mother and mean step-sisters and sit in her little corner of her dingy world, aren’t the song lyrics encouraging?

Despite her terrible condition and place in life, Cinderella rises above it. How? By using her imagination. I love that.

As someone who captures words and photographs attempting to carve them into something creative and inspiring, where would I be without some imagination? Without thoughts that ignite a spark of inspiration? Without a sense of optimism and purpose?

Because in my own little corner (right here in our home office),

In my own little chair (the comfy, swivel desk chair facing the computer screen),

I can be whatever I want to be (I can write whatever I want; I can turn my thoughts into sentences; I can post those words online for you to read).

On the wing of my fancy (inspired by words or photographs),

I can fly anywhere (my posts fly around cyberspace via the internet),

And the world will open its arms to me. (You, my readers, from all over the world, have opened your arms to me by clicking on my posts to read my thoughts.)

Sometimes, I wonder if putting myself ‘out there’ in cyberspace is worth the time and effort I put into writing this blog. Obviously, I don’t write it to make money because I earn absolutely no amount of dollars doing so.

I don’t even write to make a name for myself, or to broaden my ‘brand,’ or whatever the hype is now to publicize your writing because I write this without using my given name attached to it.

So why emerge from my own little corner and hit publish every week? The reason might just be found in yet another set of song lyrics:

“Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar;
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear,
Let not narrow self your way debar;
Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,
Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;
Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,
Brighten the corner where you are.” ~ lyrics by Ina D. Ogdon

I write because maybe, just maybe, from my own little corner I shed a little light into your little corner.

It takes perseverance, it takes discipline, and maybe even a little courage, but I’ll continue to brighten as many corners as I can for as long as I can.

“Courage can’t see around corners but goes around them anyway.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin



Yes, I can

blogIMG_9914Unlike that old Rolling Stones song, I really CAN get satisfaction.

And that just happens to be the weekly photo challenge theme: satisfaction.

Satisfaction comes in many forms and can be the result of hard work and sacrifice.

It can be the completion of a task that has hovered over you for so long that you feel utter relief at finally finishing it.

It can come from a winning season at sports.

Or a day off just resting and relaxing.

Or maybe it’s a family gathering where there is much love and good food to boot.

It can be physical, mental, emotional, or even spiritual.

Satisfaction doesn’t even have to embody success; it can develop from putting forth effort in trying. Satisfaction can result in just a job well done to the best of your ability.

When I think of satisfaction, a young blogging friend of mine comes to my mind. She is working hard towards a goal, both physically and mentally, and satisfaction for her is a series of small steps.  One step at a time.

Successful or not, she steadily moves towards her purpose, her ambition. And each step must give her satisfaction – not to stop but to continue her quest.

For me, I’m not one to want a lot. I’m happy and content with life. I’m pretty well satisfied.

I’m not in search of fame or fortune. I don’t write this blog for recognition or to make a name for myself, which is why I keep it pretty anonymous. I just want to bless and encourage others on my journey.

So many aspects of this life on earth give me satisfaction. My faith. My family. My home in the country.

Even little things like keeping weeds at bay around the shrubs and flower gardens.  Seeing the sweet smiles on my adorable grand-daughters’ faces. A blue sky and sunshine-filled balmy day. A fresh snowfall.

And don’t laugh, but office supplies make me happy.

All things satisfying in my book.

But there is something else that fills up my satisfaction bin. Capturing a photograph that I truly love with my trusty camera.   

When I see a perfect photo with my eyes and the image that I find, straight out of my camera with no editing, demonstrates exactly how I saw it and imagined how it would turn out, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

It doesn’t happen all the time. As a strictly amateur and not all that knowledgeable photographer, I’m often disappointed when a shot doesn’t manifest like I hoped it would.

But oh, the joy,  the satisfaction when it does!

“He who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing.” ~ Epicurus



Drifting through vacation


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




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




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.   

blogIMG_9848 (2)

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



Warning, warning!

blogIMG_5956It lurks out there…everywhere.

It may be in the form of a blood-thirsty shark just cruising along the shoreline looking for its next victim. That is, if you believe the plot in the old movie, Jaws.

It may be in the dark.

Or in the woods.

Or maybe right next door.

It may be in the form of a horrific natural event like a tornado, a hurricane, a tsunami.

Or in climate change.

Or maybe just a snowstorm in your neighborhood, so run out quickly beforehand and grab up the milk, bread, and toilet paper.

It may be in the form of nuclear weapons aimed at your country.

Or in the politics of the land.

Or maybe in your own home.

It’s danger. And the world’s a dangerous place. Or so, some would have us believe. Every day it seems we’re bombarded with the message that it’s dangerous just to exist on this planet. I see and hear it on the television, on the radio, read it in print media and on the internet.

It’s dangerous, I tell you! Be afraid. Be fearful. Wring your hands and cry, “What is this world coming to?”

It’s this week’s photo challenge Danger! – and it reminds me of a science fiction TV show I used to watch as a kid called Lost in Space

In it, the Robinson family were space travelers whose spaceship was sabotaged causing them to land in a different universe where danger always lurked. And there was a trusty robot to alert them to peril at every turn by droning, “Warning, warning” and “Danger, danger!”   

Seems like the robots are still out there.  Warning, warning! Danger, danger!

To be certain, there are real and present dangers. That’s a part of life. But we can’t live this life constantly in fear. You know what President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in the midst of the Great Depression: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  

Fear is crippling and makes us indecisive. Realizing true danger should cause us to take action, not just freeze in fear. I know how that happens. Many years ago when Papa and I were newlyweds and living in rattlesnake country, we were walking on a wooded path when a snake slithered out in front of us. I totally froze to my spot in fear and literally could not move, could not run to safety, could not even think fast enough to react.

And you know what I needed? Help from another human being. I needed my husband to grab my arm and pull me to safety with him.

Whether great danger lurks ahead of me, I have no way of knowing. Whether all of the danger cited now days is real, I also have no way of knowing for certain. But I do know this: often times danger comes from ourselves, from our evil hearts and minds.

And I hope and pray that when and if threat comes our way, we spring into action to help one another through whatever we must face or endure.  

I hope our hearts are open and our actions unselfish because really, we are one big family. The family of humanity. And if we can’t help our fellow humans in perilous times or circumstances, we really are doomed to danger.

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” ~ Pope John Paul II



Forest or trees?

blogIMG_8321Sometimes you really can’t see the forest for the trees.

One of the many truly amazing sights our family encountered while living in the Pacific Northwest was the dense, thick forests there. 

Moving from the mostly plains of the Midwest to that area of the country, I remember well how awestruck I was the first time I saw the size of the massive trees there.

After stepping off the plane on my first trip to the Pacific Northwest for a house-hunting mission, I vividly recall marveling at the colossal Douglas fir trees we saw as Papa and I ventured around the area in search of our new home.  

Once we moved there and settled in, we took our children on many excursions to explore our new domicile and again I marveled at the density of the forests.

As a native northeasterner, forests were nothing new to me. In my childhood, my family spent a lot of time in our modest “camp” near one of the national forest areas of our home state. So I’d seen thick forests. But not like the giants of the Pacific Northwest or the immense Redwoods of Northern California, which we also visited.

I wish now that I had taken the time to photograph those dense forests we visited, but after looking through all of my pictures taken with old-school film (long before digital cameras), I don’t have a shot that I feel does enough justice for this week’s photo challenge – dense.   

So the more recent photo above (a stand of bamboo at a zoo last summer) will have to do, although it is nothing like the thickness of the Pacific Northwest forests. This picture does show density, but not like the almost impenetrable forests ensconced in my memory. Those trees simply take your breath away.

But it’s true you can’t really see the forest for the trees. The trees capture your attention in such a way that you might miss a less commanding sight right there in the forest.

Sometimes things are so dense that you just can’t see your way through, just like those thick, concentrated forests. And often I feel like I’m just as dense.

Like when I just can’t see a solution to a problem even when it’s staring me in the face. Is it really because I’m dumber than a box of rocks? Or is just a case of stubbornness? Not wanting to face the problem or the solution? Maybe even pride?

I’m not sure but I know one thing for certain. When I can’t see the forest for the trees, I need to stop looking at the trees, no matter how glorious they may seem. The answer may just be on the forest floor right in front of me.

“Pride works frequently under a dense mask, and will often assume the garb of humility.”  ~ Adam Clarke (1760 or 1762-1832), British theologian and Biblical scholar