Firing up inspiration

blogIMG_1825 (2).jpgSometimes my think tank runs dry. There’s just no fuel in there.

And when that happens, I find myself without the energy I need to get those creative juices flowing again. No topic springs to mind jump-starting my brain and causing an imaginative spark to ignite. Often times I’m just running on empty.

That’s one of the reasons why, for the last couple of years, I’ve enjoyed the weekly photo challenges Word Press published each week. Each weekly theme provided fodder for thought. And thought usually led to a photo I’ve taken either from my files or one I chose to capture just for the challenge. And viewing the actual picture prompted more creative fuel producing written blog posts to accompany the photo.

But the photo challenges have officially ended while the creative folks at Word Press move on in a different direction, and I’m going to miss them.  I know there are other picture challenges out there in cyber-land, but I’m just too lazy unmotivated to spend time searching for one that strikes my fancy.

So I must revert to igniting my own creative fires when it comes to writing this blog. Whoo-boy, that’s a more difficult challenge than simply opening up an email and saying, “Ah yes, a theme!” and tap, tap, tapping away at my computer keyboard.

When I first launched this blog, prior to engaging with the photo challenges, I summoned up my own creative ideas, studied my surroundings and God’s Word, and thoughtfully considered things I’d read, seen, or experienced as worthy writing fodder.

In my defense, my life was a bit simpler back when this empty nest blog became reality. My grown children were all off on their own and living far from home, and the Papa of this empty nest still toiled full-time long hours at his job.

And even though I worked at a part-time job myself, I still had a whole lot of free time on my hands. Time I didn’t know what to do with. So almost eight years ago, I started seriously blogging and Mama’s Empty Nest breathed life.

As time progressed though, I started relying more on the photo challenges and Wordless Wednesday for blog posts instead of my own creativity. It was easier and less time consuming and if I’m honest, also less tiring.

I could sit down at my desktop, peruse my photos, and start composing an accompanying blog post personifying the weekly theme. And I cranked one out just about every week. Wordless Wednesdays were even simpler – choose a photo, type in a title, and voila! A blog post.

In the last couple of years, I just haven’t possessed as much open, free, and uninterrupted time like I once did, so yes, I confess I grabbed the easy route like a white-water rafter tossed overboard grabs a well-placed tree branch in the river to save him.

Time with little or no distractions is still an issue since I watch my three-year-old grandchild while her mama works.  And other issues often prevent me from sitting down in front of my computer screen to get my thoughts down in writing.

Changes happen. It’s just the way life is. And stages of life come and go, reminding me of an old 1960’s Herman’s Hermits song, “years may come, years may go, some go fast, some go slow…”

With each new change that comes along, I must learn to adapt and go with the flow. So as one chapter ends – my use of weekly photo challenges (unless I find another interesting one) – another must begin. Because of this, I may not post as often until I get some creative inspiration flaring again, so I’m preparing you, my faithful readers.

Please don’t give up reading my blog because of that.  I’ll still be here. Just maybe not as often.  But then again, you never know. If creativity sparks a flame, I may post as regularly as before if not more.  Hope springs eternal, you know.

“Don’t fan the flames of despair. Ignite the spark of hope instead.” ~Doe Zantamata

And hopefully, something will light my fire every week and inspiration will come, even if I have to chase after it.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ~ Jack London

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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When you’re smiling

What makes you smile?

What is it that makes you demonstrate a certain facial expression that tells the world you’re either pleased, have affection for something, or are just plain amused by the object of your attention? What causes the corners of your mouth to turn up in a recognizable curve?

Back in the day, crooner Dean Martin sang these lyrics: “When you’re smilin’ the whole world smiles with you.”

Is that true? Is a smile contagious? Does a smile on my face cause a smile to emerge on yours?

I once read a Chinese proverb that proclaimed, “Use your smile to change the world; don’t let the world change your smile.”

That surely makes it sound like something as simple as a smile can make a huge difference in this world.

If you guessed that this past week’s Word Press photo challenge theme is smile, you can go ahead and let your face light up with a grin because you are absolutely correct.

I find it’s hard not to reciprocate when someone greets you with a big ol’ smile on his/her face. That tells me that there is something about this facial expression that is hard to keep to yourself.

Several years ago in this blog, I wrote about a little boy who gave me a smile, a rare thing for him according to his peers. If you care to read that post, which may cause your mouth to curve upward in that familiar expression, you can click here.  

Mother Teresa once said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

So what are the things that make me smile? That make my face break into a happy dance?  That demonstrate the things I love?

Sunsets and sunrises. My two adorable little grandchildren. When my family is all together in one place at one time.

A vibrant fall foliage-dressed tree. Blue skies and sunshine.  Blooming flowers bursting into colors of the rainbow.

And yes, while we’re at it, rainbows after a storm.  Birds enjoying a feast at our bird feeder. Baby animals.

Spending time with good friends. Hearing an old special song on the radio. Worshiping my Lord in and out of church.

I could plaster this post with pictures of all of those smile-giving items I just mentioned, so it proved to be a challenge just to choose one photo. But I finally decided on this one. My oldest sister and brother-in-law. Two people I love dearly and don’t get to see enough because they live far away from me.

blogIMG_1356.jpgI snapped this photo of them sharing a smile one summer a couple of years ago when they were visiting us. I can’t remember at all what made them turn to each other with big grins on their faces.  Life hasn’t always been easy for them in their well over 50 years of marriage, and they’ve had to endure some health issues, but they still can smile.

And that makes me smile.

“Smile, it is the key that fits the lock of everybody’s heart.” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Favorite place, favorite thing

blogIMG_3517I once saw a piece of wall art that read “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

That pretty much sums it up for me this week. I’m behind. In everything.

I’ve been working on a project at home that involves printed photographs – hundreds of them. And they all need organized and put in a place where they can be easily accessed. And the more I try to hurry this project along, the more behind I get.

This project is taking me forever hours upon hours to complete. Matter of fact, I’m not even seeing the light at the end of the tunnel yet.  And because of that, I’m behind in doing the routine things I accomplish at home.

And because of that, I’m also behind in writing for this blog. I usually like to prepare my blog posts well in advance and have them all nicely queued up ready to publish a week or at least several days ahead of time.  

Last week because of the photograph project, no writing happened. And this week it didn’t happen again because not only has the project worn me down, but I’ve been under the weather with a respiratory virus. I’m hoping it’s just a common cold but it’s made me feel crummy and fatigued all week long.

Go figure. I didn’t succumb to a cold all winter and now that hopefully, spring is on the horizon, I get sick. Blah.

And because of all of that, I’ve been scrambling to put together blog posts at the very last minute this week. And it’s Easter week! One of my favorite times of year. I haven’t had the time, the energy, or the inclination to write about that at all because my sinus-stuffed head is foggy.

I’m also behind when it comes to the Word Press weekly photo challenge theme from last week – favorite place.

So here’s my last ditch effort to catch up at least here in the blogging world.

My favorite place just happens to be where my favorite thing is. Cue the song from The Sound of Music….♪♫ “These are a few of my favorite things…” ♪♫

The photo above is my favorite place, the view of our yard from our front porch, early on a spring or summer morning, sitting on my favorite thing – our wooden porch swing – enjoying a nice cup of tea.

It’s my favorite thing in my favorite place. It’s my happy place. And I sure would like to be there now.

 “Find your safe spot and your happy place. Allow no one to penetrate your soul.” ~Anonymous

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

I would rather

The calendar tells me it’s officially Spring. You know, the season where the days get warmer, the grass greens up, the trees start to bud, and flowers burst forth in a profusion of color.

It’s the season of renewal and I do find it renews my spirit and mood as well, particularly after a long winter season.

So Spring is here, but it’s not here. The view outside my window tells me differently. And even though it’s only 10 days until April comes, Winter still has us in its grips, at least here in my neck of the woods.

So on this 24th day of March, I would rather see this:

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than this:

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But the latter is what’s outside my window. Spring will come….eventually, I hope.

“The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.” ~ Bernard Williams

(Another post for last week’s photo challenge.)

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Would you rather?

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And we’re off with Brother-in-law and Sis in the lead.

One entertaining game our family enjoys playing together is “would you rather?” Each participant is given a question to answer and the rest of us attempt to guess what answer will be chosen.   

The questions range from silly and frivolous like “Would you rather have a unicorn’s horn or the bill of a duck?” to ridiculous like “Would you rather surf in shark-infested waters or jump free fall with a parachute into the Grand Canyon?”

But the questions can be more thought provoking as well. “Would you rather save the life of an elderly family member or the life of a child to whom you are not related?”

This all came to my mind because the current weekly photo challenge theme is “I’d Rather Be.”

My first thought wasn’t about the would you rather game though. Instead, an old Simon and Garfunkel tune played through my mind.

“I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail. Yes I would. If I could, I surely would. I’d rather be a hammer than a nail….I’d rather be a forest than a street…I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet.”

It’s all about choices. We make choices every day of this life. Some choices are inconsequential like choosing whether to have a ham or turkey sandwich for lunch. But some decisions we must make are monumental; even life-changing. And consequences may arise from those choices we make, so we better be wise as we decide.

Do we play it safe or go for the adventure? Should we soar like a sparrow through life, or plod along, feet firmly planted on the ground, like the snail?

Are we the driving force in our life decisions like the hammer or would we rather be driven by circumstances like the nail?

I admit I’m not always the most decisive person (just ask Papa who has withstood this trait of mine for 40+ years).  I might even lean more towards the safe and secure side of choices rather than embrace the daring, adventurous one.

But every once in awhile, I surprise those who know me well.

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The trails through the terrain were rough and tight at times.

Prior to our winter retreat in Arizona to visit my sister and brother-in-law, our oldest daughter and son-in-law also flew westward and spent some time there.

Daughter and son-in-law are the adventurous type. They love trying new experiences in new places.

They’ve been bitten by the travel bug and the only way to appease the wanderlust venom running through them is to plan exciting and thrill-seeking trips to different areas around the world, which they do as often as their pocketbooks allow.

While visiting Arizona, they were treated to an ATV excursion into the desert with aunt and uncle, who have been quad riding for years with a group of retired RV’er friends.  Since my sister and brother-in-law no longer own horses, quad riding has become one of their favorite past-times.

For some time now, Bro-in-law has been itching for us to come visit their Arizona home and go on ATV treks with him because he was certain my hubby would get a kick out of it.  Of course, our daring offspring were more than ready and raring to try it out themselves when they visited and they had a blast.

But apparently sometime while discussing the fact that her parents (us) would soon make the trip to Arizona also, our daughter was fairly certain that her Mama would not want to go ATV riding.  Papa, yes, absolutely. Mama, not so much. At least that’s what daughter thought.

Fast forward a few weeks later. Mama and Papa were sitting in Sis and Bro-in-law’s living room discussing excursion plans for the week with them.  And of course, ATV riding came up. Sis and Bro-in-law looked at me apprehensively and Sister tentatively asked me, “Would you want to go?”

“Sure, why not?” I responded. That’s when Sis spilled the beans that Daughter had said, “Mom won’t want to go.”

I was incredulous. Why not? Okay, I thought, maybe she believed the bone-jarring rough-riding up and down steep hills for miles and miles strapped into a side by side all-terrain vehicle would be too much for this old lady, but her aunt and uncle are over a decade older than me and they manage it quite nicely.

Maybe Daughter just thought her Mama has no sense of adventure. Uh, wrong. I still enjoy excitement and trying something new and different from my normal routine.

So off we roared.  Brother-in-law and Sis in one side by side 4WD all terrain vehicle; Papa and I following behind with Papa at the wheel of another.

We drove down to the end of their street and rumbled out into the desert. Up and down steep rocky trails, winding out in nature so completely different from what we are used to, among the cacti and the dust, we thoroughly enjoyed a 24-mile round trip ride on our first go-round.

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Look closely in the left-hand third of the photo and you can see my sister and brother-in-law’s ATV on the trail ahead of us. 

And I loved it! So much so, we went again another day on a 34-mile trip and Papa and Brother-in-Law took at 60-mile ride one afternoon while Sis and I shopped.

And guess what?  When it comes to a winter time desert excursion, which would I prefer? Sitting in an enclosed vehicle driving down the highway viewing the scenery from a car window?  Or riding in the passenger side of a side by side ATV out in the open air and sunshine, gazing at the desert views through a helmet shield for miles and miles?

I’d rather be in the southwestern Arizona desert on a cool, winter’s day with the ones I love soaking in amazing sights and sunshine on an exhilarating ATV ride, hanging on for dear life, stopping for a little lunch miles away from the hustle and bustle of town. 

I’d rather be adventurous, at least some days, when the circumstances and the company are right.

“One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.” ~ Henry Miller

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Storyteller

 

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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

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

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

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com