Defying gravity

blogIMG_8196When life knocks you flat on your back, remember it left you looking up.

I look up a lot.  Life has taught me to do that. Often I never know what’s coming down the pike, so I tend to look up to the heavens for help to get through the next big thing.

From where does my help come? “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” ~ Psalm 121:2

I do find myself looking up — a lot.  In the warmth of summer, I turn my face upwards toward the sun.  After a rain, I look up to see if there’s a rainbow spread across the sky.  At night, I find myself gazing at the stars and marveling at how many I can see living out here in the country.

Yes, I look up.  I look up at clouds, whether they be puffy, fluffy white cotton-like or dark, menacing, stormy ones.

I look up to see a jet leaving its contrail plume behind it. 

I look up as I hear helicopter blades chopping the silence and I often utter a silent prayer for someone possibly being life-flighted to one of the trauma hospitals in our nearby city.

I look up when I notice a hot air balloon or a blimp coasting along the airways.

I look up to watch birds take wing to soar or butterflies flit and float by.

I look up as I walk down a woodsy path when I hear the leaves rustle through the trees over my head.

I look up because life on this earth is hard enough without always looking down.

Looking down weighs me down just as surely as gravity holds me on this planet. Looking down secures me to this earth where people are viciously cruel to one another, folks become seriously ill, hearts get trampled and broken, disappointments abound, and life eventually deteriorates and ends, and it all grieves my soul. 

I look up because it makes me happier.  I look up because it makes me realize how tiny and insignificant I am compared to the power of my God, who holds everything I see in the palm of His hand.

I look up because it gives me hope.

I look up because it provides me inspiration.

I look up because it strengthens my faith.

“Believers, look up — take courage. The angels are nearer than you think.” ~ Billy Graham

(Linking up to the weekly photo challenge theme – Look Up – today.)

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Best laid plans

blogIMG_8057There’s a saying that I’ve often heard, “The best laid plans of mice and men go astray.” 

The actual line came from a poem written by Robert Burns way back in 1786. Apparently, the line is actually, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry,” written in a poem Burns penned as an apology to a field mouse whose nest he destroyed while plowing up a field.

That line floated to the surface of the river of thoughts that meander through my mind just recently when Papa and I made what we thought would be a best-laid plan.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we must forego any kind of real vacation this year. So instead we’ve decided that we will take a day or two here and there as the schedule allows and journey on a day trip to some place we’ve not visited or seen or sounds interesting.

We set a date, checked the weather forecast which promised mild, summer temperatures and blue skies, decided upon a destination, and researched attractions there.  You know, made plans.

Papa plotted our trip, which would take a couple of hours one way, by checking both Google Maps and Mapquest.  We decided upon a more scenic route instead of the more direct one, which would take us through our nearby city at rush hour, something we’ve done way too many times. You know, been there, done that.

And so our journey began.  And with that, our best laid plans started going awry.

The scenic route proved to be the most convoluted, time-consuming, go 1.5 miles then turn, then drive 3 miles and turn, then go 1.5 miles and turn again kind of trip. The longest distance we covered on one road turned out to be 12 miles I believe.  Those blue highways were making us really blue as we started getting annoyed by the directions which seemed to meander all over the countryside instead of making real progress. Busted plan #1.

Twice we pulled over along the roadside because we were convinced we had missed one of those turns and finally, I dug in the glove compartment and felt like shouting ‘Eureka, I’ve found it!’ when I located a map of the state next door in which we were traveling.

With map spread out before us, we finally made our destination more than an hour later than we had hoped. When we arrived, we found construction through the little town we were attempting to visit and traffic back-ups.  Still we forged on and decided to stop at a flea market that promised a little something for everyone.

Um…not something for us. We stayed only an hour and found nothing worth spending time to investigate nor anything to purchase.  Instead disappointment loomed as I picked up several ‘craft’ items only to discover ‘made in China’ on the backs of them. Bust #2.

So those plans went awry too. We then visited some shops which we found expensive and full of items that this couple married for almost 40 years didn’t want and certainly didn’t need.  At this point in our lives, I want to get rid of clutter in my house, not bring in more. Yep, bust #3 in our best laid plans.

We had packed a picnic lunch and were certain we could find a park or some shady beckoning spot to stop, spread a blanket, and eat. We drove and we drove and we drove some more.  No parks to be found, only parking lots.

We ended up sitting in our vehicle in a parking lot spot in front of an empty store front in a small strip mall under the one shade tree there. Busted plan #4.

By this time, it was afternoon and these two disillusioned travelers felt like we should have either:  #1- stayed home or #2- made a last minute plan to visit elsewhere.  (We had considered driving to Lake Erie for the day and just sitting on the beach, taking some nature walks, checking out the lighthouse, and maybe searching for sea glass.)

Throughout the day as those best laid plans went awry, Papa and I kidded each other by saying, “We should have gone to Lake Erie.”  Finally we did find a large pavilion full of antiques that proved interesting and enjoyable to look over and directly behind it another crafts “mall” with real honest-to-goodness handmade crafts.  But after visiting them, we were tired, a tad cranky, and frankly, ready to pull out that map again and find a better path home.

But first, we decided to stop to eat our last meal of the day at a home-style cooking restaurant before we hit the highway home. It was a bit early for dinner (I was glad of that as there weren’t many people there yet and you will soon find out why), but we wanted to get on the road back home. 

After being seated in the large, airy, and nicely decorated country style place, we placed our drink orders and perused the menu.  The waitress came back to our table to serve Papa his raspberry iced tea and me my half sweet, half unsweetened tea.  We were looking forward to just sitting, relaxing, and sipping our iced teas while we decided whether we would have the chicken pot pie or the home style meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

And then it happened.  The waitress placed the raspberry tea in front of Papa and hurriedly began to place my sweet tea down when….surprise! She knocked it over and an entire glass of tea and ice cubes promptly got dumped into my lap! It happened so quickly that I couldn’t even jump back from the table in time to escape the waterfall of tea running down the checkered vinyl table cover. 

I was too shocked to even comprehend how it happened as I sat there with a lap full of tea all over my khaki capri pants. The waitress grabbed some napkins, mumbled an apology, and ran off to get more.

I stood up and tea ran down my legs onto my sandaled feet – sticky, cold, and what a mess. I was given a couple of wet cloths to mop up the tea from my pants, legs, and feet and of course, the table. The waitress said she felt bad, and I replied that accidents happen. But I tell you, it wasn’t very enjoyable trying to eat dinner with soaking wet pants. And it was a bit embarrassing as well. Bust #5.

We ate quickly, – we did have the meatloaf which was good – paid our bill, and couldn’t wait to leave. As we got in our car, we looked at one another and said, “We REALLY should have gone to Lake Erie!”

The trip home was shorter and happily uneventful.  We chalked those plans up to just not our thing and put the day into the memory banks or so we thought.

The next morning I awakened at 6 a.m. to find Papa searching throughout the bedroom with our landline phone held up to his ear.  Groggily I asked him what he was doing.  He was dialing his cell number because he couldn’t find his cell phone. He searched high and low all through the house and the car hoping to hear it vibrate.  It was nowhere to be found. He lost it on our trip! Bust #6.

Again, we should have gone to Lake Erie!

Finally, we thought through where we may have been when he last used it the day before.  He liked some leather handmade belts at the crafts mall, and he tried one on to make sure it fit before he purchased it. When he took his old belt off to do so, he laid his cell down on the display,  got distracted, and forgot to pick it back up. At least that’s what we thought had happened.

Neither one of us wanted to make the return trip to the place where our best laid plans went awry.  We waited until 9 a.m. when the shops opened and called to ask if anyone had turned in a cell phone. No, was the answer but Papa asked if they would check at the display.  Eureka! It was still there and the manager said they would ship it to us at no charge to us.  One bright spot from a day of one disappointment after another.

It’s just like life. Sometimes plans don’t go the way you hope they would. But there’s always something to be thankful for. At least, Papa got his cell phone back.

But…our next day trip probably is going to be to Lake Erie. And we’re not going to plan anything.

“Adventure is just bad planning.” ~ Roald Amundsen, Norwegian explorer

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

One of these things is not like the other

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Opposites.  Things that are altogether different.  Some things are considered polar opposites – diametrically opposed, as far from each other as possible.  In today’s world, it seems folks have polar opposite views in everything from politics to faith issues to climate change.

It’s safe to say our views each day are full of opposites.  And often we find that opposites actually do attract.  You’ve seen it in relationships where two people are so fundamentally dissimilar in all aspects of life that you scratch your head and wonder how in the world they get along well enough to be married.

This week’s photo challenge theme is opposite and I located one of my photos that personified that theme well I think.  One day while Papa and I were traveling down one of those blue highways meandering through the countryside, opposites appeared right through our car windshield. 

An Amish buggy pulled by one single trotting horse in front of us had just been passed by a speeding automobile (and not in a passing zone either). You can’t get more opposite than those two modes of transportation.  One old-fashioned and slow.  One thoroughly modern and capable of speediness.

One portraying the simplicity and humility of its driver, the other a symbol for some folks of pride and vanity.  One simple and uncomplicated way, a horse pulling a carriage, of moving from one place to another and the other powered by complex and complicated means, an engine with computerized parts accelerating an intricately designed vehicle.

Opposites. Just like the people traveling inside those two different means of conveyance. One in an obvious hurry, one not.

And Papa and I fell somewhere in the middle.

Which makes me wonder….what is the opposite of middle?

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Happy Birthday, America!

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“The United States is the only country with a known birthday.”  ~James G. Blaine

The United States of America.  It’s my country and I wouldn’t have wanted to be a native citizen of any other country in this world.  Patriotic? Yes, I am. As some unknown person once said, “My blood runs red, white, and blue.”

Why? Because I grew up in a time when we were taught to be proud of our nation yet remember the utmost sacrifices that were made to secure freedom and never take that freedom for granted.

I was taught that the Declaration of Independence was written with these words:  

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I learned the preamble to the United States Constitution and what that important document established:

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

My parents taught me to honor the symbol of our nation and its freedom, our flag, and the proper way to treat it and display it. I still recite the pledge of allegiance to our flag.

I know every word to The Star Spangled Banner; My Country ‘Tis of Thee; America, the Beautiful, and God Bless America.

My love for my country does not supersede my love for my Lord, but I know that my nation cannot and will not survive without being one nation under God.

I pray for this great nation of mine because it seems like we are sinking into a muddy mire of our own doing. And it’s time for we the people to speak up and out. As I reflect on this day – this Independence Day – the 4th of July,  the 240th birthday of my country, I take to heart the words of some of our founding fathers and former presidents because they still ring true.

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

“How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” ~ Thomas Jefferson

“A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”  ~ Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, February 12, 1779

“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.” ~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower

And finally a birthday blessing straight from the song, America, the Beautiful, written by Katharine Lee Bates:

“America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”

Happy Birthday to my country, the United States of America. May God bless it and keep it and may it continue to be a shining light of liberty in a dark world of oppression.

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Howdy, pardner!

blogIMG_1405 (2)Whenever my photography cache gets low, I usually grab my camera and head outside my house or I pack it in its trusty case and venture out into my world – out here in ruralville America.

I live a few miles outside my tiny hometown and although we don’t live in a very secluded area, I’m surrounded by country roads of cement or macadam pavement, gravel, and even dirt, farmers’ fields, and plenty of woods.  A sight to capture with my trusty Canon Rebel T3i always presents itself somehow.

It’s me and my camera searching out interesting shots to take.  You might call us a partnership because I’d be lost without my camera and my camera couldn’t capture anything without me behind the lens.

That’s how I define partners.  Two working in tandem together to accomplish a goal whether it’s in relationship like marriage (my hubby is certainly my partner in life)  or found in business where two people put forth their best effort to create and maintain a lucrative company.

Partners are found in any community project where they plan and organize resources to achieve a successful event.  And the concept should be in our churches where we believers partner with God to bring the message of salvation to those who don’t know Him.

This week’s photo challenge theme is partners. I’ve stewed on the subject ever since I read the announcement last Friday. I’ve gleaned through my photos, contemplated over how to portray the theme in a photo opportunity not yet taken, and I kind of came up empty-handed.

Until I searched through some old photos again.

On one of those lazy summer days a couple of years ago, I happened to be driving down a nearby country road in my neck of the woods, my trusty camera by my side. Doing so, sometimes I find an awesome sight which prompts me to pull my car over to the side of the road, pull the Canon up to my eye, and click away. 

And often, I spy something that just kind of boggles my mind and I just have to capture it because…well, seeing is believing. I shared one of those times here

If you think that one is crazy, sometime I’ll have to post a photo of the life-sized black painted wooden thing resembling a monster that someone decided to erect right on the edge of one of our woodsy country roads. This thing scares the living daylights out of you when you first drive by it at dusk.  We’re talking “Oh, my gosh! Is that Bigfoot????”

Let’s hope Bigfoot doesn’t have any partners.

But back to the source of the photo today. While meandering around in search of subjects for another photo after I captured the “fowl play” I wrote about in my link above, I noticed two young llamas (or are they alpacas?) in a field. I don’t know if they were siblings but they stayed together as they moved about the area eating grass.  And it made a cute photo op and has been sitting in my photos file on my computer ever since.

The llamas appeared to be partners – at least partners in eating. Maybe they are just friends. But friends make great partners in just about any endeavor you attempt. 

Just like the old song says, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”   I have some great friends, both in person and here in the blogging world, and to me, you are all great partners too.

Together we try to make this world a better place, and I couldn’t ask for better partners to do so with. Thanks,”pardners!”

“Friendship is essentially a partnership.” ~Aristotle

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Sips to savor

blogIMG_8028Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day.

Those lyrics to a song from the musical Oklahoma waltz through my thoughts as I sit at my computer to write this. So far, the month of June has been glorious weather-wise and I’ve caught myself saying more than once to whomever is listening, “If every summer were like this, I’d enjoy the season a lot more!”

The balmy but sunny, blue skies with fluffy white cloud-filled days and cool sleep-with-the-windows-wide-open nights are just my cup of tea. Last year’s June was awful.  Even though I had much to be thankful for, the month and the entire summer was stressful and kept me wondering what was coming down the pike next. 

But this June -this glorious month of June – has been different. I enjoy sitting outside without heat and humidity. I awaken after a restful night’s sleep and greet the day with peace not worrying about what troubles the day may bring.

This June we celebrated both my birthday and my husband’s, not with any grand fanfare but quietly and simply, just the way we like it.  I enjoyed a couple pieces of birthday cake from one of my favorite bakeries and hubby got his go-to dessert, ice cream in the form of a cake.

A surprise package arrived at my doorstep one day from sweet friends of ours in Australia. Packages or letters in the mail always float my boat not because I desire gifts but because I love the thought that someone thinks about me long enough to care to send me greetings.  And to be honest, I just adore getting mail (but not bills!).

So inside my surprise birthday parcel was a lovely teacup and saucer as you can see in my photo above. Anyone who knows me well knows I drink tea, not coffee, and after water, it is my favorite drink – hot or iced.  The gift and the lovely thought behind it was a gracious gesture but the little saying printed on the teacup –“Savor every sip of life”– truly captured my attention.  

Savor every sip of life.

Because life is meant to be savored.  Moments are meant to be remembered. Every breath we take is meant to matter. Time spent with family and friends is meant to be treasured.

And each new day, especially like those I’ve experienced lately, are like a sweet cube of sugar plunked into my teacup of life.

It’s the reason I can turn my face up to the sunshine, close my eyes, smile, and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude while a cool summer breeze gently wafts through my hair.

And it’s the reason I think to myself, savor every sip of life. 

Since classes are finished for the school year, no more substitute teaching until fall which frees up more precious time for me to savor. 

Time to devote to my grandbaby who is quickly becoming a toddler, learning and growing and giving me joy each day.   Just the other day, she and I passed a good portion of the morning exploring outdoors, blowing soapy bubbles into the air, swaying back and forth on the front porch swing, investigating dandelions on the lawn, rough bark on the trees, and weeds in the flower gardens, and sharing giggles and grins.

Time for Papa and me to visit with my recuperating-from-her-car-accident sister and her hubby playing card games, laughing, singing to oldies songs, and just enjoying each other’s company some evenings or Sunday afternoons.

Time to catch up with my family and their comings and goings like learning about our oldest daughter and son-in-law’s recent mission trip to Honduras, or listening to our middle daughter’s vacation plans, or hearing about son and daughter-in-law’s recent excursion, how their jobs are going, and more importantly, how the baby bump is coming along.  Yes, Papa and I are going to be grandparents again and we are so over the moon happy and excited!

Time to reconnect with dear friends, some near and some far.  Time for two and a half hour luncheons with one of my oldest (we’ve been pals for over 50 years) and dearest friends sharing our hearts and faith together in ways that cement our friendship even more.

Time to meet for breakfast with another busy friend and again share a heart to heart talk, coming away with that uplifting feeling when you’ve enjoyed conversing with and listening to a kind-hearted, like-minded soul.

Time to chat for hours by cell phone with yet another friend on the other side of the country, catch up on each other’s lives, and feel like neither time nor distance has changed our solid friendship.

Time to devote to quiet, earnest prayer for another life-long friend who recently received a serious health diagnosis and time to encourage and support her with love and care.

Can you tell I have been savoring the sips of life? And all of this does my heart glad, makes my soul sing, gives me sunshine on my shoulders. This summer is going to be different than last, I can say that with certainty. Putting the stress and angst of last year behind us, I’m moving forward with hope, and joy, and the remembrance to savor every sip of life, even if some sips turn out a tad bitter.

You know why? Because it will all pass by as it needs to do. I can’t stay frozen in winter with an ice-bound heart. I’m busting out of my dreary place and welcoming the sunshine of summer.  Not just welcoming it, but embracing it, because before I know it, this too shall pass.

“The way to live in the present is to remember that “this too shall pass.”  When you experience joy, remembering that “this too shall pass” helps you savor the here and now.  When you experience pain and sorrow, remembering that “this too shall pass” reminds you that grief, like joy, is only temporary.” ~ Joey Green

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Curve ahead

blogIMG_1954When life throws you a curve, you just need to keep your eyes ahead and focused on your journey. That’s all the wisdom I have for today as I’m linking up with the WordPress weekly photo challenge and its theme – curve.

I captured this shot one beautiful fall day a couple of years ago when my husband and I ventured out of our empty nest and traveled into our nearby city to spend the day seeing some sights we hadn’t taken the time before to view.  We enjoyed not only the day but each other’s company and what could be better than that?

Curves and all, the Papa of this empty nest and I have stayed on this journey called marriage for almost 4o years, supporting one another, sharing our joys and sorrows with each other, and continuing on the path together.  He helps me stay on the straight and narrow when the curves of life throw me out of whack.  He’s steady and steadfast like that – well, one of us needs to be!

 “My life is one long curve, full of turning points.” ~ Pierre Elliott Trudeau

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com