Words for Wednesday: you lookin’ at me?

blogIMG_8381 (2)Even though all the wild horses were hiding from us (you can read about that misadventure in my post yesterday), we did manage to see a lot of birds of a feather flocking together when we visited Assateague Island National Seashore.

Bird watchers would truly enjoy it there. Most of the fine feathered friends we saw were chowing down at whatever goodies lurked in the marshy water underneath them.

blogIMG_8378But one fellow, an egret seemed to just be taking his daily stroll through the reedy grass. He seemed unconcerned about us until I started taking his photo. That got his attention and at one point he looked at me dead on.

“You lookin’ at me?” he seemed to be saying.

And that got me to thinking. Some of us like it when people look at us, some of us don’t. Some of us enjoy it when we’re the center of attention. Some of us just can’t stand it and will do anything to stay unnoticed.

I think I might just fall in the middle somewhere because I don’t necessarily like standing out in a crowd, but then again, I don’t like just being lost in the crowd either.

And that kind of reminds me of social media. Some folks will post anything or write outrageous stuff just to get attention. Some folks, albeit they often hide their real identity by creating fake personas, seem to get their kicks out of being trolls. They’re attention-seekers whether they admit it or not.

They like saying, “You lookin’ at me?” We look at them but we don’t really see them. We do see that they enjoy arguing back and forth with those who take offense to what they’ve written or posted. But I often wonder if they would say the things they do if they were face to face to someone. You know, in person.

Not me, I’m not a confrontational kind of person. I’m not going to post something just so you will look at me or engage in online arguments, and I definitely won’t insult others because I don’t agree with their posts or they might offend me. I just scroll on by those items in search of something more inspirational.

I try my hardest to post encouraging not disparaging things on my social media account. And when I write these blog posts, I endeavor to do the same.

Do I want to be heard (or read)? Of course. In a way, I guess I am saying ‘look at me,’ but you don’t have to wonder what kind of person I am when you read what I write.

You don’t have to speculate where I’m coming from because I believe I’m pretty transparent about that. I write from my heart. I write from a position of faith. I write, not to get attention, but to insert a bit of hope and inspiration into the forays of this internet world.

Unless you know me personally, you don’t literally see me. You may not even know my name. But, in a sense, if you regularly read this blog, you do know me and hear me without seeing my face, just by reading what I write. And I thank you for ‘lookin’ at me.’ 

“When I write, I can be heard. And known. But nobody has to look at me. Nobody has to see me at all.” ~ Nora Raleigh Baskin, American author

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Be still…and enjoy the tulips

blogIMG_7690I’m back from my blogging hiatus, at least I hope. 

If you’re a follower or frequent reader of Mama’s Empty Nest, you’ll know that I’ve been absent for well over a month from the blogging world. I decided to take a break from writing because, to be frank, I just wasn’t feeling motivated or inspired to write any more. It was time for me to just be still.

That break was only supposed to last for a short time – I envisioned it for maybe a week or two. Well, that turned into the longest period of time that Mama remained mum (in words that is) in over nine years of blogging.

For this writer, the art of putting words into sentences and then into paragraphs takes a large chunk of time, especially since I’ll admit I’m a perfectionist when it comes to this craft.

I tend to read over and over what I’ve written several times proofreading for typos, mistakes, misspellings, and bad grammar and changing sentences to make them more readable and more concise.

It’s the natural editor in me and explains why I was more than capable at two of my former jobs (newspaper reporter/editor and technical editor). Doing all of the writing, reading, proofing, and editing to produce blog posts does require a considerable amount of time every week for me.

So the month-long, self-imposed writing break from blogging provided me with plenty of free time. In a day when most people cram every waking moment into busyness and may crave free time but don’t actually take time to “stop and smell the roses,” I totally enjoyed the fact that my calendar wasn’t full of activities and to-do lists.

And by not writing in this blog, I found ample opportunities to just sit and think and not be bound by time nor duty.

So what in the world DID I do with spare time on my hands? I’ve decided to show you in a series of posts I’m calling “Be Still…” via photographs and in writing and, as always, by utilizing quotes from those collections of words I acquire and keep handy in my old trusty notebook.

Today’s post is a photo of the beautiful tulips gifted to be by my oldest daughter and son-in-love last month. For several days as I just practiced being still, they graced my kitchen island counter reminding me so vividly to stop and smell the flowers each day and take time to admire the beauty of spring emerging in my world.

“Flowers heal me. Tulips make me happy.” ~ Rebecca Wells

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Time to be still

blogIMG_5629 (2)The creativity grindstone has come to a halt. I just can’t seem to squeeze out any creative juice. This Mama/Nana has been busy of late and yet stuck in the mundane mud.

My imagination has gone on hiatus. My inspiration to write is sadly missing…again.  I can’t quite put my finger on the cause, whether it be too much else to do, feeling weary and tired, or just a lack of motivation. Or maybe it’s just the dreary weather.

But I find myself sitting in front of the keyboard and drawing a blank.

I know there are words, ideas, and images up there somewhere in the expanse of my brain that seems cluttered with other thoughts right now. So I think I need a blogging break.

I need some time to think. I need some time to just be…well, not chained to the keyboard desperately attempting to put some coherent thoughts together into meaningful sentences.

So, I’m taking a bit of a break. I’ll be back after I just sit still awhile.

“Stillness is where creativity and solutions are found.” ~ Meister Eckhart

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When the keyboard is silent

blogIMG_7029.jpgWhen you’ve been blogging for a long time, you start to notice certain patterns. It doesn’t mean you like the patterns that emerge, it just means you begin to understand them, acknowledge them, and if necessary, work to change them.

So here’s my dilemma. After blogging for over 10 years total (sporadically for a couple of years on another site and consistently for almost 9 years on this WordPress blog), I’ve definitely noticed a pattern in my writing.

I get bogged down at certain times of the year and experience a bit of writer’s block. One of those times is in late winter, especially if it drags on too long. I’m not that great of an analyst, but I’m chalking my lack of writing inspiration up to a bit of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) but different from the usual.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is defined this way: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.

As usual, I’m not like most people. I don’t feel the typical SAD symptoms in fall. I LOVE fall! Fall invigorates me and I’m one happy camper throughout the season. And when winter arrives, I’m all for it. I love the colder temperatures, hauling out the winter coat, scarves, gloves, and boots. Fresh snowfalls make me happy.

But as winter trudges on into February and March, that’s when I think SAD kicks in. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I become depressed, but I definitely become weather weary and that hinders my creative juices for writing.

The dreary skies, the browns, grays, and blacks of the landscape void of color, the lack of sunshine here in my neck of the woods, all of those things contribute to my overall feeling of BLAH.

And when I feel blah, I don’t feel like writing. Creativity sinks into the doldrums. There seems to be nothing awe-inspiring or word-inspiring to capture with my camera. That also hampers my blogging ideas because, as a very visual person, so often a picture is what fuels my fire to write.

It’s been an ongoing problem. I usually post three times a week here at Mama’s Empty Nest. But all throughout the month of March, I only managed to post twice a week and often only actually writing once while using a photo and quotation for those Words for Wednesdays, which made for a grand total of nine posts. Sad or SAD, I don’t know which.

Whatever it is, I don’t like it. The calendar page just turned over to April. And April Fool’s on us – the temperature took a nose dive and it snowed on April 1st. 

I sat staring at my computer screen and keyboard willing something – ANYTHING – to come to my mind to put into words. I even changed the desktop photo to something colorful to try to jump-start some words.

I sat. I stared. I sat. I stared. Nothing.

I grabbed my trusty and well-worn quotes notebook and shuffled through the pages upon pages and the loose notes stuffed in there.

And the best I could come up with was this post, spurred on by the quotation you will find at the end of this rant. ACK!

I’m hopeful though. As I sit writing this, the sun is shining on my front porch. I can spy blue skies and fluffy white clouds through the office window. Surely spring is coming.

And hopefully, inspiration will bounce back into my brain fogged over by too many dreary days, setting my fingers to fly across this keyboard, and produce something worthwhile to read.

Send some sunshine and color my way this April, will you?

“This is how you do it. You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy and that hard.” ~ Neil Gaiman, English author

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Once upon a time

ballpoint pen classic coffee composition

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Once upon a time, I was an English major in college plunking away on a manual typewriter or setting words to paper with pen in hand.

And since having an English degree alone didn’t necessarily lead to a lot of opportunities in the job market, I decided to put my degree to good use by becoming an English teacher. Hence, my Bachelor of Science degree is in English Education.

Often I wonder why I chose that major. I was the first one in my family to attend college, let alone graduate. From early on, my parents encouraged me to get an education, preferably in college. I remember my mom beaming when I told her I wanted to become a teacher.

My two older sisters had married young but still managed to obtain decent jobs with just a high school education, but I distinctly remember my mother trying to steer me away from a young marriage.  That was fine with me because I didn’t want to get married, if at all, for a very long time. 

Since my siblings were so much older than I was, I’m not really certain why neither one of them aspired to get an education beyond high school. One of them is extremely skilled with numbers, bookkeeping, and in business and would have made an excellent CPA. The other one is empathetic and has a personality suited to be a care-giver and I remember she considered being a nurse, but she did not pursue that field.

So maybe my folks just wanted me to reach for a different future than the rest of my family.  And perhaps they hoped that when I went away to college, I would explore new horizons, not just academically but socially as well, and would discover that there was someone better romantically for me than my high school boyfriend, who wasn’t a real winner.

Whatever the reason, after I received my college acceptance letters, I made my choice about which school to attend and had to declare a major. I honestly didn’t know what to select. So in the end, I picked English because it was a subject I excelled in and I liked to read and write.

But I wasn’t a typical English major. I didn’t get my kicks out of reading authors’ works of prose and poetry and analyzing themes or archetypal images in classic or modern literature.  Sometimes I would read an assigned work and think, “Huh?? What do I make of that?”

I remember sitting in class listening to my fellow English majors discussing those analytical aspects and me kind of shrinking in my seat, hoping the professor didn’t call on me to add to the discussion.

Because honestly, I had no clue what they were talking about. I didn’t see those analytical features that they so easily identified in a short story, a novel, poetry, or a play.

So I kept mum and nodded my head a lot and, if I’m honest with myself, pretended to be something I was not. If a thought did come to my mind, I feared it just didn’t measure up to the kind of discourse fellow classmates were having.

I thought expressing my thoughts would sound stupid or clueless. I just didn’t believe I measured up to being the typical creative, often non-mainstream type of person who was an English major. In other words, I felt extremely lacking.

But when it came to writing, there’s where I found my niche. I always had a good command of grammar, syntax, and excellent editing and proofreading skills. So crafting sentences and paragraphs, writing and re-writing, proofing and editing what I wrote (and often proofing non-English majors’ papers or helping them write) came easy to me.

“Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.” ~ Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

I can still spot grammatical errors, typos, and misspelled or misused words immediately in reading material. Papa probably gets tired of hearing me spout off about all the mistakes I find in our local newspaper when I say “Don’t they teach these kids how to write well in journalism school now days?” 

So writing is my thing. It always has been. But it wasn’t until I acquired a job as a reporter/assistant editor at a daily newspaper that I honed my craft even more.

I should have majored in journalism instead of declaring an English major, but by the time my university offered journalism as a major I had completed almost all of my requirements for an English Education degree.

The thought of changing majors and taking more courses which would require attending college longer just did not appeal to me.  I was ready to be done and graduate and move on.

But writing was my saving grace. And it still is now, over 45 years later. However, I’m still not this vastly creative kind of person who has tons of novel and short story ideas floating around my brain.

I find the kind of writing I excel in is more real-to-life.  I tend to be more of a journalist or an essayist, I suppose. I take facts and weave them into a story that hopefully appeals to and resonates with my readers.

Recently, while going through some old belongings and purging items, I found a journal in which I had written poetry from my high school and college days and as a young adult.  

Bad poetry, is how I imagine my old English professors would rate most of it. But the poems were written from my heart at the time.

Here’s a sample:

"On the Death of an Uncle"

You floated in and out
Of my existence.
Why was your life
Snuffed out like a candle
In one short blow?

Why did you go
Without warning?
Without me being there?
When I was so far away?

People always thought
You were “odd;”
I always thought
You were “unique.”
Well…not always.

I remember how angry
I was with you
For telling me I shouldn’t float my toy boat
Down the tiny trickle of water
Flowing through the yard.

“Watch out for copperheads,” you said.
Part of me, in all my 10-year-old wisdom
Called you a fool,
Yet the other part
Believed you.

You always enjoyed
Arguing and teasing with me.
And even scaring me
A little.

Yet I remember
The hand-picked bouquet of lilacs.
“These are for you,” you said.
And I believed
In you.

I remember the honeycombs,
Dripping with honey
Magically produced by
Those bees of yours.
But mostly I remember
How proud you were
Of them, the bees,
And me too,
I think.

I always thought
I was your favorite niece.
Why did you leave
Before I could say goodbye?

I know you didn’t like
Dealing with death,
Me either.
I remember how
The two of us sat,
Huddled in the funeral home corner
And cried
When Great Aunt died.

Is that why you
Left so quickly?
To spare me the grief,
To spare me the tears?

It didn’t work, you know.
My tears sill flow.
My grief is still here.
Why did you go
And not say goodbye?

©CCM 1979

Tell me what you think. You can be brutally honest. I can take it, because I learned to be brutally honest with myself once upon a time.

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” ~Harper Lee

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Texture that sticks

blogIMG_0566A photograph. It’s a reflection of a subject with form and substance but the image itself is flat. A printed picture doesn’t have three-dimensional form like its subject, although it does have size. 

A photograph really doesn’t possess physical  texture though except on its surface be it glossy or matte finish. A photo can show you texture, but the picture itself just isn’t tactile; you can’t feel any textures. 

Take my photo above for instance.  You can see the upholstery of a chair has texture if you peer closely enough. Your eyes tell your brain that visually there are ridges and indentations in the fabric. But you can’t physically feel that texture with your own two hands and fingers.

This week’s photo challenge theme is textures, and since I’m not a very astute artsy kind of person, I’ve struggled with writing some worthwhile thoughts to accompany the photo I think personifies the challenge theme. 

Oh, I could dig back among the dusty corners of my mind, back — way back — to my days of being a college English major, and bring forth some literary definition of textures as in a composite of prose/poetry elements or an identifying quality of a story’s characters.

But my literary study days are long gone, and that kind of analyzing just never was my cup of tea. Honestly, I really wasn’t a typical English major, one to sit around and dissect and discuss a work of literature for its archetypal images or symbolic meanings.

Perhaps I’ve always been too much of a realist, too literal, which is probably why I ended up as a working journalist for a time. Just give me the facts and I’ll weave them into a story. I say what I mean and I mean what I say.

So why did I major in English anyway? Because I loved words. I loved to write. I loved to read. And I loved grammar. Unlike many of my peers, I loved the very structure of English. I enjoyed diagramming sentences because it was logical and made perfect sense to me.

Matter of fact,  a college class solely on structures of English was one of the courses I aced with flying colors along with all of my public speaking ones.

Writing and speaking. Those were my strong points – my make-up, my constitution, my textures if you will  – and they still are to this day.

I try to utilize those skills in whatever I do. For several years, I developed and presented educational programs in public and private school classrooms for a non-profit organization.

Using my tendency for dramatic flair in story-telling — probably why I wanted to be an actress when I was a young girl —  I could always tell when I attracted those easily distracted teen-aged students’ attention.  I worked hard to give them vital information about making healthy choices while entertaining them with a lively story. 

I surely didn’t want to come across as flat or one-dimensional in that endeavor back then. And I still don’t want that as I tell different stories in my blog posts now.

No, I want to have substance, structure, composition.  So I’m claiming this to be my texture: I’m a pretty decent story teller – either written or orally – who just so happens to be capable of logically putting sentences together.

That’s my story when it comes to textures. And I’m sticking to it.

“A good story, just like a good sentence, does more than one job at once. That’s what literature is: a story that does more than tell a story, a story that manages to reflect in some way the multilayered texture of life itself.” ~  Karen Thompson Walker 

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Just visiting a friend

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Mama’s Empty Nest is visiting today at my gracious Florida friend Debby’s blog.  I’m honored that she asked me to be a part of a friendship series she’s hosting at her site.

Please check out my post, A Friend For All Seasons, at Debby’s site. Click here to read it. 

I’ll be back here tomorrow for Wordless Wednesday.

“A friend is a gift you give yourself.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Sojourn

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I’ve been a little AWOLYK (absent without letting you know) in both the blogging world and also in social media.

Some of you may wonder what’s been occupying my time because I haven’t written much at all lately or even showcased many of my photos. My Facebook page looks pretty vacant except for items posted by my daughters when they tag me and I finally made the decision to stop using Twitter. For me, it’s a waste of time.

I guess I’ve chosen to unplug myself for awhile. So what have I been doing? Papa and I did take a little trip to visit family for a few days, enjoying the time off to spend with loved ones and just relaxing.

But lately, I’ve been lacking in the inspiration to write department. Frankly, I haven’t felt inspired to do much of anything very productive. Call it the dog days of August, but I’ve been feeling this way since the beginning of July. And it continues.  Perhaps it’s just the summer doldrums….or not.

Whatever the case, I’m taking a hiatus.  I began blogging pretty regularly here at Mama’s Empty Nest over six years ago and before that, I wrote sporadically on another blog site. So that equates to about seven years of writing from my heart and soul.

My inspiration to create this blog evolved from finding myself somewhat at wit’s end while dealing with the empty nest syndrome when my last child completed his college education and set off for new horizons launching his career far from home.

Add the fact that my last living parent had passed away by then and I turned to what I always do best when I’m overcome by thoughts, emotions, and perplexing situations – pour out my heart in words.

But that was six years ago. I came to terms with my empty nest and a lot of other life changes and those words I tapped out on my computer screen to share with you helped me do so. My hope is that in some way, my words encouraged others as well.

So where will my words take me from here? I know there are more words to come…they’re just not coming to me right now. Because of that, I’ve decided to take a sojourn – a period of time when you stay temporarily in one place – and embark on a break from blogging.

I don’t know how long I’ll be off the grid, but I want to inform my loyal readers why I’ll be silent for awhile. My sojourn could last a week or two but it may also be a bit longer; I’m just not sure yet. If I follow your blog, I will still read your posts so I don’t get too far behind.

But I am certain I need to do exactly as my photo above says – regroup, refocus, and recharge. And remember why I began this blogging journey while considering where I venture from here.

In the words of The Terminator though, “I’ll be back.”

“Taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective.” ~ Doe Zantamata

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Lumber in the attic

blogIMG_7809It happened.  My brain has turned to mush.

I don’t know how. I don’t know why.  All I know is I’m left with the result…mush brain. 

Maybe it was just too much time spent playing Trivia Crack – no, wait – shouldn’t being able to recall answers to all those tidbits of information sharpen my mind, not dull it?

Maybe my mind just went on vacation…and didn’t take the rest of my body?

Maybe perusing Facebook just sucked thoughts and coherent sentences right out of my head?  After all, some of the stupid stuff posted there does boggle my mind.

Maybe my diet is lacking in food that boosts brain function…things, according to WebMD, like blueberries, wild salmon, nuts and seeds, avocados, whole grains, beans, pomegranate juice, freshly brewed tea, and dark chocolate?

Nah,  I drink plenty of freshly brewed tea, eat enough blueberries, nuts and seeds, whole grains, beans, and – yes!!! – dark chocolate to keep my brain fully functioning, I think.

I could blame watching too much television…but I hardly ever watch it.

Perhaps stress, worry, and upset has something to do with it – I’ve certainly encountered enough of that to qualify for a reason.

But still. I don’t know why there’s a puddle of mush in my skull where my brain used to light up and fire away so much writing fodder for this blog that it kept me awake at night.

And I can’t really explain why my creative muses have packed up and vacated the premises.

All I know is I’m left with a mush brain.  A brain that can’t (or won’t) come up with one creative idea to morph into a blog post.

That explains my sporadic posts and downright absence from the blogosphere for the last few weeks for you, my readers. But not for me.

I just didn’t understand it until I ran across this quote, attributed to Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes stories.

“A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle

I actually do have a little “lumber room library” both on my computer and in a paper notebook where I jot down blogging ideas and even though I’ve accessed my library over and over again, I still haven’t been able to nail down an idea and hammer out a worthwhile post.

Digging a little deeper into that quote though, I found what Doyle actually wrote in his novel, A Study in Scarlet:  

“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that this little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it, there comes a time when for any addition of knowledge, you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”  

Aha! That’s it! There’s way too much lumber in my attic brain.

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Swimming through the wall

blogIMG_5042“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” ~ Michael Jordan

I’m not saying Michael Jordan is a great philosopher.  Or a wise sage.  Or an inspirational guru.  But I will say this: that quote I found that’s attributed to him speaks to me right now.

You see, I’ve hit a wall.  I’ve been away from blogging for about a month.  I haven’t written a darn thing in that entire time.  Oh, I was busy. I spent the better part of a month at my daughter’s home helping with my adorable and precious new grand-baby, cleaning, laundering, cooking, etc.  Frankly, I didn’t have time to write.

But I’m home now, back in the empty nest and even though there’s plenty to do, my camera is laden with photos galore, and my computer sits idle, I can’t think of a thing to say.  I’m not sure if it’s that I’m exhausted in many ways, or that my emotions have been on high alert, or that I just am speechless right now, but I’ve hit the wall hard.

It’s not a brick wall because if it were, I’m fairly certain I have the willpower to knock it down – yeah, I’m strong-willed like that.  No, this wall is different.  It’s fluid.  It swallows me up.  It causes me to drift away.  It ebbs and flows.  It sucks me into its whirlpool effect.  And it’s drowning my words.

The photo above seems to be a perfect representation for how I’m feeling and for this past week’s photo challenge theme: Wall.

I took the photo during the long wait outside the labor and delivery department in the hospital while my grand-daughter was making her entry into this world. 

It was around two in the morning and a running water sculpture encased in glass kept grabbing my attention while we waited…and waited…and waited.  It just kept running and bubbling along ticking off the hours as we patiently anticipated our first grandchild’s birth.

I snapped the photo because I needed something to occupy my time and I thought the water ‘wall’ would make an interesting photo. 

I never thought it would describe exactly how I’m feeling right now nor did I imagine it would personify a photo challenge. 

But I do know one thing.  Eventually, I’ll push my way through the wall, even if I have to do the backstroke.  My words will come back.  I’ll rise to the surface and be able to express all the joy and love that is captive in my heart.   And I’ll be writing again.

“A boundary is not that at which something stops, but that from which something begins.” ~ Martin Heidegger

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com