Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: an altered state

A distinct change of scenery. A pronounced change of life. Even a distinguishable change of climate.

That’s what awaited our family in the early 1990’s. After close to a decade living in the Midwest, we moved across the country to the Pacific Northwest, a place truly diverse from our usual surroundings.

Due to Papa’s promotion/job transfer, we packed our household goods and watched movers load everything we owned, including our family vehicle, onto a trailer truck and drive away for a long haul west.

All we had left in our possession was one piece of luggage per person and our carry-on bags. We then boarded an airplane and landed in what felt like a different country or at least an altered state.

Moving from the flat lands and rolling small hills of the Great Plains, where there were four discernable seasons with hot, humid, and often dry summers and frigid, windy, snowy winters, to a mountainous, heavily forested location just an hour or so away from the Pacific Ocean with a mild climate and abundant rainfall astounded us all.

Today’s Tuesday Tour will highlight some of the first photos taken on my initial glimpse of that altered state and serve as an introduction for the next few posts of amazing places we visited in our six years of living in the Pacific Northwest.

Scenic spots we experienced inspired me to capture scads of scenic photos. My pictures back then were limited by my not-so-great photography skills and using an inexpensive film point and shoot camera, but I still managed to get some nice shots.

Prior to our big move, Papa had already acclimated to those new surroundings for a few months while this Mama and our three young children stayed in our Midwest suburb to get our house there sold.

Papa accomplished one dream he harbored when he accepted an invitation from some of his sales customers to go sailing in the San Juan Islands area of Washington. Living in a location so near the ocean and two major rivers would prove to be an extraordinary experience for us all.

Papa living the dream — sailing in the San Juan Islands, Washington

Before the move, I flew out for a few days to Portland, Oregon to join Papa in our quest for a suburban residence there while my parents came from their Northeast home to care for our children.

After landing at Portland International Airport, I could not stop exclaiming over the remarkably different environment right in front of my eyes.

The first thing that caught my eye and boggled my mind were the gigantic Douglas Fir trees…everywhere! Compared to the woods in the Kansas City area, those trees were massively tall. And I just could not get over it.

Even though it was early spring, grass was green, many of the deciduous trees already had leaves, and flowers were abundantly blooming. The majority of my first visit to the Portland area was spent searching for a place to live, but Papa and I managed a little bit of sightseeing as well.

What fun it was to stroll through the Portland Saturday Market, an open-air handmade arts and crafts market with local vendors, food kiosks, and live music.  Open on Saturdays and Sundays from March through December, this must-visit place, which opened in 1974, is known as the largest continuously operating market of its kind in the United States.

During the years we lived in the Portland area, the market was located near the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood under the Burnside Bridge. Now the market is situated in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park along the Willamette (pronounced Will-LAM-ette) River.

We still own a lovely hand-made pottery pitcher we purchased there, and I remember listening and enjoying the steel drum (or steelpan) music provided under a large canopy. Now the Portland Saturday Market is more permanent and folks can even purchase the unique merchandise from the artisans online. For those interested, click here.

We ambled along the waterfront park catching glimpses of RiverPlace Marina and the Portland Convention Center and just viewing the Willamette River. Soon we would call this unique (to us) place in the valley between mountains and ocean our home. And exploring beautiful new sights would begin.  

“Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.” ~ Leonard Koren

© 2021

Posted in Life, travel

Tuesday Tour: cruising through the 80’s

Sometimes I jokingly retort that I missed the 80’s.

Oh, I don’t necessarily pine nostalgically for that particular decade of time. Instead, I have to pause and try to recall events that occurred during the 1980’s. Those 10 years of my life whipped by me like a runaway train on a steep downhill track.

So the 80’s? A blur in my memory bank because then I was preoccupied with birthing and taking care of my babies. Three to be exact.  All our children were born in that decade, and I spent many sleepless days and nights rocking babies, nursing babies, worrying over babies, being a hospital patient delivering babies, and even recovering from surgery to remove a pesky gall bladder.

Is it possible I walked around in a daze of fatigue for much of that decade? Probably.

The 80’s became a decade of major life changes for us. Papa decided to leave the military and became a traveling sales representative for a national company which deposited us in the Midwest.

His sales territory covered two large states so when he traveled by company car for two or three nights a week, much of his time away from home was on the road. And since none of our family lived near us, my days and nights were consumed being a stay-at-home mother 24/7 to three little ones.

Not only were we attempting to make ends meet on one salary, but we had purchased our first home (whew, mortgage interest rates were sky high at that time!), spent time and money updating and modifying that house, and thus, funds for extravagant family vacations just did not exist.

Vacations with three tots under the age of six also didn’t sound super relaxing in our minds either. Our last child was born in the late 80’s hence he was just a baby/toddler and the sheer magnitude of packing everything needed for a week for our family of five boggled my mind and shredded my nerves.

So, travel for vacations to exciting and scenic locales were practically non-existent during that decade, yet I can share one highlight of that era for my Tuesday Tour today.

Since far-away grandparents were eager to spend quality time with their far-away grandchildren, most of our “vacations” were trips back east to our home state. On one occasion, we relished the opportunity to spend a few days with extended family in a lovely cottage on the Atlantic Ocean shore in New Jersey.

And occasionally, we managed a side trip of some interest on the way to or from visiting family. We lived in the Kansas City metro area back then, and on our way east, we always traveled through the city of St. Louis located in Missouri on the mighty Mississippi River.  

We always spied the famous Gateway to the West archway as we buzzed through that city, but because we adhered to a strict timetable for travel, we didn’t take time to stop there. Our itinerary was a bit crazy but it worked for us.

Papa worked on Friday, come home a bit early to load up all our luggage and what seemed like tons of other stuff for the children that I had already packed.

We would hit the road around 4 pm, drive until dinner time, stop and eat then change the kiddies into their jammies and keep on driving through the night, changing drivers between the two of us while they slept.

A long 17-hour drive straight through and we would then arrive at my folks’ home Saturday morning exhausted. Grandma and Grandpa would look after the children and Papa and I would take a little nap.

But on one of our trips back to Kansas City, we decided to stop in St. Louis to visit the iconic Arch located inside a U.S. National Park along the river.

Papa and I, with two little ones in tow (prior to our last child’s birth), enjoyed a short cruise on the Mississippi River via a 19th century paddle-wheel riverboat replica. I do recall the excursion was fun and cool on the river on a hot, muggy summer day. Along the way, we had a nice view of the Gateway Arch and also downtown St. Louis.

Today, visitors can still take various cruises on riverboats, including those named Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer, which were originally utilized beginning in 1964 to allow tourists to view the Arch as it was being constructed from the river.

Next, we visited the Gateway Arch itself. An amazing monument it truly is. Standing 630 feet tall, the 63-stories high monument was constructed using 43 thousand tons of concrete and steel to commemorate President Thomas Jefferson’s vision of expanding the United States westward. The city of St. Louis and the many pioneers who made that possible are celebrated by the Arch. 

Designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, construction on the Arch, touted as the America’s tallest monument, began in 1963 and was completed by the fall of 1965. Building the arch itself cost $11 million, with 75% of the cost supplied by federal funding and 25% by St. Louis city funds. An additional $2 million financed the arch transportation system (trams inside the monument which take visitors to the top of it) which was completed in 1967-68.

Millions of sightseers have traveled to the top of the Gateway Arch to view the Mississippi River, which flows below the arch east windows, and look 30 miles to both the east and west of the city on a clear day.

I’m happy to say we were some of those millions who took the tram ride to the top of the arch. Going up takes about four minutes but to someone a bit claustrophobic, it might seem longer.

I just remember I was relieved to reach the top, where there are narrow, small windows on each side of the arch in the viewing area, although since it was a hazy, humid day, our view wasn’t the greatest. 

Of course, what goes up must come down and even though there is a stairway, that is only used by arch personnel and is not open to the public, so you must ride the tram back down to ground level.

Looking up at the arch from ground level

Once we arrived on solid ground again, we toured the arch museum, not overwhelmingly interesting for our very young children but my history loving husband enjoyed the exhibits featuring over 200 years of history.

It was just a short stop – one day of touring – as we traveled through St. Louis on our way back to our Midwest home in 1986, but it was a worthwhile stop. And the photos I managed with an inexpensive point and shoot film camera give me memories of it.

Sometimes a deviation from the tried-and-true path is exactly what’s needed. That proved evident both in our travels as well as during that 80’s decade.  That much I certainly remember.

“Take the long way home.” ~ Unknown

© 2021

Posted in Aging, Life

Words for Wednesday: with these hands

Since observing a recent birthday – notice I did not say celebrating a birthday because as you get older, the day just isn’t as exciting as it was when you were a youngster.

So after passing certain decades of living, I don’t find myself celebrating the day of my birth. But I do observe it and give thanks for another year of life.

As a senior citizen, my mind is a bit boggled at how quickly I’ve arrived at that status. I mean, really, just the other day wasn’t I racing around chasing after three children, juggling chores at home and lots of volunteer opportunities, and even working part-time?

Wasn’t it not so long ago that my calendar was filled with my children’s school, sports, and social activities instead of reminders to accomplish tasks I tend to forget?

Let’s face facts. Even though my mind stills thinks I’m young, my body signals me all too well that I’m not. A prime example of this is when I glanced at my hands one day while I was reading (a real book, not an e-reader) and thought, “Whose hands ARE these?”

And that set my mind to contemplating these hands that don’t look like they used to.

Hands. Do we really consider those appendages? How we’ve used them? What they’ve done? How they’ve helped or hurt others?

We can use our hands to accomplish beneficial and compassionate actions in the world or we can utilize them for negative, downright wicked deeds as well.

“What the hand does the mind remembers.” ~ Maria Montessori

We may bite the hand that feeds us, gain the upper hand, force someone’s hand, be underhanded, act with a heavy hand, or have blood on our hands.

Or we may give a hand, lend a hand, take someone by the hand, or hand it to someone to give them a compliment.

We might know something firsthand or like the back of one’s hand. Perhaps we’re even an old hand at something.

But sometimes, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and we throw our hands up in frustration or even defeat with a hands-off attitude.

If we have our hands full, maybe it’s because we are too hands-on. Perhaps we played into someone’s hands or just simply got our own hands dirty.

On the other hand, it’s possible to overplay your hand, allow situations to get out of hand, and end up washing our hands of it all.

To win hands down, it’s better if one hand washes the other, and we call for all hands on deck.  That way, we all feel like we’re in good or safe hands.

We can hand something down, hand something in, hand something off, hand something on, hand something out, or hand something over.

Whatever the case, our hands are on hand, available to us to use them wisely or not. I’m reminded of an old adage that says, “The devil makes work for idle hands.” What goes hand in hand with that is when we aren’t busy using our hands for good, we are easily tempted to do wrong.

That saying may have come from a verse, Proverbs 16:27, in the Living Bible: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece.”

And that reminds me of something I want to always keep on hand – God’s Word. If I line up my hands with His Word, I can’t go wrong.

Martin Luther, the famous German theologian who initiated the Protestant Reformation, once wrote: “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

That sounds like excellent advice to me. Place everything in God’s hands instead of my own. I need to remember that every time I look at these aging hands.

“The hand expresses what the heart already knows.” ~ Samuel Mockbee

© 2021

Posted in Life, Spring

Old becomes new

Out with old, in with new.

Sounds like I’m celebrating New Year’s, doesn’t it? Out with the old year, in with the new one. 

Well, no, I’m not behind the times. My calendar points out that it is April, not January. And whew, aren’t we all glad it is? Finally, spring is arriving.

With its arrival, our thoughts turn to new life, new growth, a reemergence of hope. We smile at the crocuses, daffodils, and tulips pushing their way up through the earth to burst forth into our drab world in an array of spring green and brilliantly vibrant colors.

Out with the old, in with the new. Out with Ol’ Man Winter, in with the new season of Spring.

But my thoughts take another turn as I consider that phrase – out with the old, in with the new.

And again, pictures truly are worth a thousand words as they inspire me with thoughts worth putting down in this blog.

One day last year, as Papa and I did so often during this you know what, we took a little driving jaunt with our oldest grandchild along. We ended up parked in an area watching an old building, once used for multiple purposes but now decrepit and unusable, being demolished. (pictured above)

Little One had never seen that kind of destruction ever before, so she was fascinated and asked several questions about the scene we watched. My memory bank took me back to an occasion that reminded me of her mama, our daughter, when she was a preschooler.

At that time, we lived in a suburb of a midwestern city where new housing developments were springing up hither and yon. For some reason, we drove through one of those areas where a new house was under construction.

Imagine our astonishment when our little daughter asked this question from her back seat booster: “Why is that house broken?”

Huh? It took a minute or so for us to realize that our little one had never seen a house in various stages of construction, so to her, the house looked like it was being dismantled rather than being assembled.

In her eyes, that edifice was broken not newly constructed; she categorized it as old and wrecked, not new and erect. Perspective matters, doesn’t it?

Just recently, a flurry of activity occurred on a parcel of land zoned commercial near us. For years, a vacant building existed there. The place wasn’t dilapidated, just empty, not used.

Wrecking crews and large machinery spent several weeks destroying the existing building and leveling the ground there. Out with the old.

But then, a different kind of activity began. Brand new construction commenced for a new business to be located there. In with the new.

A drastic change began taking place. Pondering this, I can compare it to our spiritual lives. We find ourselves set in old patterns of sinful behavior leaving us feeling broken. Sometimes our lives seem wrecked, even destroyed by the consequences of our own actions.

But something amazing happens when we invite a Savior named Jesus to enter our lives, our hearts, our very being. He heals the broken-hearted, He restores the wrecked, He erases destruction and, in its place, new construction arises.

A new identity. A new creation. A new life. That’s the promise and blessing of a Christ-centered choice to become a follower of Him.

Through Christ we have a new identity. We should not be speaking to our old man, the sinner, and giving him his identity back.” ~ Eric Samuel Timm

A verse in God’s Holy Word, the Bible, tells us what happens when we make that choice:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The onset of spring reminds me to leave old inclinations, old thoughts,  old ways, and old sins behind me and start fresh with new inspiration, new perceptions, new life.

Out with the old. In with the new. Sounds like the promise of spring, doesn’t it?

“You cannot move on to a new phase in life if you bring your old baggage with you, let the bad go, and move onto the new.” ~ Patrick Read Johnson

© 2021

Posted in family, grandparenting, Life

Words for Wednesday: first day

It’s in the air. I can smell it, I can feel it.

The days are still filled with bright sunshine and warm temperatures tricking us into believing summer is still hanging on till the bitter end, but after the sun sets in the west, the evening produces a bit of a chill.

And in the early mornings? Oh, it’s so very prevalent.

I’m talking about the change of season which signifies another kind of change. It’s back to school time.

Do you remember your very first day of school ever? I truly do not. Since I first hopped onto a big yellow school bus for the first time to attend public school 60 years ago (can THAT be right??!?), I don’t recall my first day at all. But I think it’s safe to say I was probably terrified.

My school didn’t offer kindergarten classes back then and preschool existed only in the cities where children went to “nursery school.”  So first grade was my first experience at school. I do have a few recollections of first grade but mostly they aren’t positive ones.

I was shy and timid and my gray-haired, somber teacher was also the school’s principal, so she was a strict disciplinarian. To me she loomed large over us with her very stern appearance and her unbending rules. Frankly, she scared me and most of the time, I was afraid to even open my mouth.

Once I became an adult, my mother shared a story about my first few days of school with me. As we were adjusting to school and schedules and rules, my classmates and I tended to cry during the day. Obviously, we sobbed because we were frightened or we just wanted to go home or we missed our mothers, who were mostly stay-at-home moms at that time.

So every school day for the first few days or so after I arrived home, my mother would ask me which of my friends cried that day. I didn’t like to admit that I shed tears as well because I really didn’t want her to know that. You know, put on a brave face so mom wouldn’t worry and would believe I truly was a brave, big girl.

One day, Mother asked me that question again and I promptly gave up the wailing culprits’ names. Of course, she suspected I wept as well, so she inquired once more, “Didn’t you cry too?”

My answer was, “Well, I wheened a little.” Apparently I knew the word whined and what it meant, but didn’t know how to properly pronounce it. Obviously, my mother thought it was funny enough to remember it and tell me the story decades later.

That memory came back to me just the other day – the first day of school in our local district. A lot of preparation and anxious discussion preceded it due to covid-19 concerns, but after advisement from area medical personnel and listening to parents give their thoughts and opinions via a video conferencing school board meeting, the district announced school would resume in person for those who wanted their children to attend. For others not comfortable with that, online learning would continue to take place as it had during the months of lockdowns.

Tons of safety precautions and procedures later, those big yellow school buses roared down our roads, picking up students, whose smiles or frowns were hidden by masks. Children must have their temperatures checked at home before they board, practice social distancing on the bus, and undergo another temperature check upon arrival at school.

It’s enough to make your head spin but I know one school student who happily complies. I can hardly believe it, but our grandchild – our oldest one, the first one, the one who loves to stay at Nana and Papa’s while her mommy works – trotted off to kindergarten just the other day.

She couldn’t wait. She was so excited to ride the school bus. She shared that she was eager to make new friends at school and confessed that she was a little nervous because it was a “big school, not like my preschool.” 

Papa and I arrived at her house several minutes before the bus was due to pick her up, we snapped photos, and she looked so big and grown up in her dress carrying her lunch box and her pencil case. She didn’t appear nervous or scared or any of the emotions I’m pretty sure I experienced the first day of my school career.

Instead, it was her Mama and her Nana who were nervous and apprehensive for her – but we didn’t let on to her that we were feeling that way. You know, put on a brave, happy face so she wouldn’t see us cry.

The big yellow school bus stopped in front of her house, she held her Mama’s hand and waited for Mr. School Bus Driver to motion that it was safe to cross the road, and she boarded that bus all by herself. Miss Independent. And at the end of the day, when she jumped off the bus, we could tell that she had a great, fun first day of ‘real’ school.

Even with her mask on, her eyes were smiling. As she removed it, she gushed about all the excitement of the day and she couldn’t wait to go back to school the next day.

A great start to a new season of learning. A new season of experiences. A new season of growing up. A change of life just as the season is changing.

I don’t remember my own first day of school all of those years ago, but I remember other first days. Wasn’t it just the other day that I was sending my own first child to school for the first time? Wasn’t it just yesterday that the other two eventually followed her onto that big, yellow school bus?

I remember those first days when my own children were filled with the same eager excitement that my grandchild experienced. I also remember feeling a little sad and teary-eyed but happy for them at the same time as they began a new phase of life.

And as long as my memory serves, I will remember my grandchild’s first day going off to school as well.

“You’re off to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” ~ Dr. Seuss


Posted in family, Life

Just different, that’s all

blogIMG_1583It wasn’t a typical Mother’s Day. But then again what’s typical in this ever-changing world we live in?

A typical Mother’s Day for me consists of attending worship service at our church with some or all of my family, then enjoying a home-cooked lunch prepared by Papa and my grown-up kids, and spending the remainder of the day with my family in the same house as me until it is time for them to journey to their own homes.

If our three with spouses and grandchildren in tow can’t be here to celebrate this special day, at least one of them would make an appearance in person – our daughter and grandchild who live close to us – and I would receive phone calls from the others.

But Mother’s Day was different this year. Not terrible, just different, due to the continued sheltering in place or lockdown we’re enduring because of this virus which holds us hostage in our own homes.

Instead of worshipping my God in our church, Papa and I gathered around the computer to listen online to our pastor’s message for the day while Little One watched Journeys for Jesus. We scarfed down some left-over pizza for lunch since it was just the three of us around the kitchen table.

After lunch, we drove Little One to Daughter’s house so Little One could deliver her Mother’s Day gift to her mommy – a basket of pretty pansies and a homemade card, which is so much more of a keepsake than a purchased card anyway.

We visited with our daughter/her mommy from her front porch. She was quarantined behind her glass front storm door. We sat on the opposite side. No hugs, no kisses on the cheek. Just talk between glass. Different? Certainly.

blogIMG_1567The wind kicked up, the sun disappeared behind clouds (again!), and the temperature chilled, so it was time to bid farewell. Being weary of staying home for so many dreary, sun-deprived days, we opted for a Sunday drive around our area’s country roads.

Little One fell asleep in her car seat in the back of our vehicle and the lull of the car’s motion enticed me to take a little nap in the front as well. Papa drove in silence – a bit of peace and quiet for him.

Different Mother’s Day? It sure was.

But one thing wasn’t different. Words of love and appreciation from all of my grown children, photos of my other two little grandchildren, and a special gift delivered by UPS.

My oldest daughter knows I can’t stand the taste of coffee and am a devoted tea drinker. So what did she and my son-in-law send me? What could be more perfect on these unseasonably chilly May days than a hot cup of tea?

My special Mother’s Day gift was a package of “Novel Teas” from Bag Ladies Tea. Each of the 25 English Breakfast tea bags boasts literary tags with humorous or insightful quotes from well-known authors printed upon them.

Quotes like this one from Henry Ward Beecher: “Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?”

I could bemoan the fact that I didn’t get to spend Mother’s Day with my beloved offspring and all of my grandchildren. But I won’t because life is just a bit different right now – not terrible, just different and I must keep that in perspective.

“I am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy in whatever situation I may be, for I have also learnt from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances.” ~ Martha Washington


Posted in Faith, Life

Remembering the road home

It was January. Not exactly the best month of the year to move because winter was in full force.

Not only that, the year 2000 had arrived and everyone had been freaking out beforehand about Y2K, the term being used for the new year in a new millennium.

Concerns that Y2K would cause all kinds of computer havoc as the year changed,  because many computer programs didn’t account for the date transition from 99 (as in 1999) to 00 (as in 2000), had been blasted over the airwaves for months.

Fear abounded that computers would be unable to operate as 2000 was ushered in and that would affect all kinds of major aspects of our modern life. People bought generators thinking we would have no power and stockpiled food, water, and other necessities. Some folks seemed to be completely panicked.

But Papa and I weren’t overly concerned. First of all, our faith in God assured us that no matter what happened, God would help us through. And secondly, our focus was on something more concrete – building our new home.

Fortunately, not much actually occurred because of Y2K. But for us, something more important did happen. We moved into our brand new house in January 2000.

Twenty years ago this month, we began living in this building we call home. For the 18 months prior to that, we endured a tumultuous journey as a family.

In late spring of 1998, we began that journey when we sold our home in the Pacific Northwest, purged some household goods, hired a moving company to transport furniture and other household items, and drove two cars with three kids all the way across the United States to my hometown.

We uprooted our kids, abandoned suburban life, and headed to the country where I grew up in Papa’s and my home state. My mother was ill – terminally, we discovered – and Papa’s elderly mother was also not in good health.  It was time to live closer to family.

Papa had resigned from his sales job on the West Coast, but we looked forward to a promising interview scheduled just shortly after we arrived back in our home state in June 1998.  The bottom fell out of that hope when Papa learned the company he had interviewed with had decided not to expand like they had planned, which resulted in no open position for him.

Our family of five moved in with my parents in my childhood home. For a few months, we lived on savings as Papa searched for a new job. Shortly after God provided that, Papa’s mother was hospitalized and we lost her. Another difficult life event.

Four months later, my own mother succumbed to that dreaded disease, cancer.  Another devastating loss. We continued staying with my father to keep him company and because we were continuing a long search for our own place to live.

Originally, we had planned to build a home next door to my parents’ on some of their land (they owned four acres), but that plan fell through completely when we couldn’t obtain clearance for a septic system there. Those are the trials you encounter when living in rural areas, but that was yet another disappointment and set back.

Finally, after we had exhausted available real estate offerings, a family friend showed us a plot of ground owned by his relative. If the septic test would pass, we could purchase a 2.24 acre plot that was once a farmer’s field. 

I remember the five of us – Papa, our three offspring, and me – standing on that plot of earth, holding hands while forming a circle, and praying over what would be the site of our new home. We asked God for His protection, His guidance, and for His peace to reign in the house which would be built there.

With excitement, ground was broken in August 1999 and we watched our house take shape.

Those five months flew by in a dizzying array of busyness. In between Papa traveling for his job and our teenagers’ schedules of school, sports, and activities, we made decisions on the house. We watched the year 2000 arrive without a glitch and prepared to move the few miles between my parents’ home and ours.

It felt like Christmas all over again as we moved our furniture out of storage and opened up boxes that had been packed 18 months prior.

Yet amidst the joy and excitement, the happiness of finally having our own home once again, I experienced feelings that I didn’t expect. The day before we would actually start living in our new home, we spent our last night sleeping in my parents’ home, my childhood home.

At bedtime, after biding my widowed father good night, I burst into tears. I was happy and thrilled to be blessed with a place to call our own once again, but leaving my father to live by himself, especially without my mother’s presence, wreaked havoc on my emotions.

And I was leaving that place I called “home” once more, a bittersweet moment.

Every January for the last 20 years, I’ve remembered those feelings and the difficulties we encountered on our journey to our home.

My father passed away over 10 years ago, and my childhood home was sold afterwards. The new owner has changed it significantly so that “home” as it was only exists in my memory now.

All that transpired during that time has made me realize something so very important. This place, this house that became my residence 20 years ago, this dwelling where Papa and I have lived longer than any other place we’ve resided, is just my earthly home. It wasn’t an easy path to acquire this home, but we managed only through God’s help.   

Yet another home awaits me, the one Jesus has prepared for me and all others who believe in Him and call Him their Savior and Lord.  I don’t know how much longer I’ll live in my earthly home, this house of mortar and wood, and what difficulties still lie ahead, but I know where my eternal home is.  How about you?

“Why should you worry whether God wants you to reach the heavenly home by way of the desert or by the fields, when by the one as well as by the other one arrives all the same at a Blessed Eternity? Keep far from you excessive preoccupation which arises from the trials which the good God wishes to visit upon you.”  ~ Pio of Pietrelcina


Posted in Life

When you’re just not found

blogScreenshot (2)
Just one of the screenshots of my glitchy moments

I’ve been taking a break.

From this blog.  From social media for the most part.  From a lot of things.

Part of the break was intentional and another chunk was not. 

One thing just led to another and the longer I took a break from writing blog posts, taking photographs to share, and making comments or status updates on other folks’ blogs or Facebook, the longer it felt right to do so.

For the last several months, life spun me in a different direction.  I’ve been needed elsewhere.  I’ve gathered up as much strength as I could muster to give it to someone else whose world was shattered.  And I’d be bold-faced lying if I didn’t confess that the experience has left me spent, exhausted, and in need of some retreat.

That’s part of the reason I’ve been ‘breaking.’  Days and nights were consumed with helping someone else.  There just was no time for doing much blogging.

But that’s not the lone cause.

I noticed an online meme this morning that was intended to be used as a Facebook cover photo and it summed up my feelings quite well: “Taking a break…my life needs me.”

Lately, my preoccupations have centered on my life instead of writing in this blog.  Yep, it’s safe to say my life needed me and I needed my life.  And that life does not revolve around my online presence nor do I want it to.

I’ve gone back to school – in one form or another.  I’m back at substitute teaching so that does occupy some daylight hours here and there, and I find doing so improves my outlook.  Just being around those teens and pre-teens does make my heart happy.

And I’ve also begun taking an online course in something I’ve always wanted to do.  And you know what?  That makes my heart happy too.  And it absorbs my ‘online time’ so that I don’t really want to spend any more time on social media. I count that as a plus. 

However, there’s more to the story.

A glitchy problem arose with my blog a few weeks ago which also prevented me from posting and giving me an excuse not to.  After several efforts at trying to address the issue, I finally threw up my hands and contacted my host site for help.  Technology (and the ire it causes me when it doesn’t work the way I think it should) often baffles me and I have to call in the big guns for reinforcement.

After several attempts and days of emailing back and forth, in between everything else that needed my attention, and sending screenshots to help rectify the situation, one of the ‘Happiness Engineers’ from WordPress sent me a satisfying resolution.  She was awesome, by the way.

But with the problem solved, I found I still wasn’t quite ready to resume blog posts.  I’m still not sure I’m game. 

I’m wrestling with several decisions like deactivating my Twitter account because really, who cares?  And limiting my Facebook activity because really, the only reason I stay on is to keep in touch with far-away friends and promote this blog. And what to do with this blog because really, I don’t know.

Just so many questions and so much I’m unsure about right now.  And honestly, with some new life changes, my time is limited for promoting an online presence.  And do I REALLY want one?? 

Then there’s the bottom line: does my blog really encourage anyone?  In this crazy, mixed up, messed up world, does my writing or photography really make a difference?

I’m pretty certain I have some deep thinking and praying to do.  So for the time being, I hope this at least explains my absence and why I’m just not found right now.

“Sometimes a break from your routine is the very thing you need.” ~unknown


Posted in Uncategorized

Thirty days of thanks giving

blogthanksIt’s November.  The 11th month of the year. 

In one way November reminds us the year is winding down and the garden’s growing season has come to an end. Most things of color  turn brown and either die or go dormant.   We feel a shiver in the air as the season whisks autumn’s leaves from the trees scattering them to the ground while we prepare to settle in for winter.  Another year of life is drawing to a close.

On the other hand, the onset of November also reminds us to gear up because Christmas is coming and there’s so much to be done.  Holiday frenzy will soon be upon us and we will find ourselves stressed to the max preparing for the big event, then toasting out the old year and welcoming in the new.

I’ve always felt that November gets the short stick, squeezed in like a thin piece of American cheese between two thickly sliced hunks of tasty fresh-baked bread.  It’s overlooked, it’s forgotten.  It just doesn’t have the appeal or commercial factor sandwiched in between Halloween and Christmas.  November holidays – especially Thanksgiving –  somehow get lost in the shuffle.   Only important enough for one day of celebration.  And that bothers me…a lot.

So it’s November.  And with the change of season, I’m in need of a change – in my heart and in my blog.  If you missed the post in which I wrote about this change, please take a minute and read it by clicking here.  You see, I take too many aspects of my life for granted, I spend too much time on myself,  and I don’t spend nearly enough time in thanksgiving.  And I don’t mean ‘Thanksgiving’ – preparing a feast, sitting at a well-appointed table, and gorging myself with turkey and all the trimmings.  I mean thanks giving.  Giving thanks with joy.  Giving thanks with prayer.  Giving thanks in all things to the One who provides all things.

For many years I have claimed my life verses are a passage from the Bible found in 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5.  You can read those words in the graphic I designed to accompany this post and I’ll share why those verses changed my thought processes many years ago in a future post this month. 

While these verses do guide and direct me and hold profound meaning,  my heart tells me – no, my heart demands that I cease using lip service for this passage and commence putting these words that sustain me into real action.

This month, this very month of November, this month of thanks giving, I will attempt each day to post with words and/or photos about aspects of life for which I am most thankful.  Some aspects may be awe-inspiring;  some may be just simple everyday occurrences or objects or feelings causing you to wonder why I’m thankful for such small things.  Some of these  thankful blog posts will describe events or experiences that are considered difficult and trying.  But see that’s the thing.  God’s Word tells me to be thankful for ALL things, not just the good stuff.

Join me this November as I chronicle my thanks giving not to glorify myself but to give glory and honor to the One who deserves my praise and grateful heart.  My prayer is that you’ll find the month of November causes you to pause and be full of your own thanks giving as well.

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” ~ W.J. Cameron


Posted in Christian living

Repurposing me

Father-in-law’s wooden puzzle from childhood

Repurposing appears to be all the rage now days. 

What today’s savvy crafter or decorator calls repurposing – using something old or that could  be discarded for an entirely new purpose – is what we used to call just reusing what we had lying around the house or garage.  My parents were experts at reusing.  Both of them grew up during the Great Depression and money was not just tight, in some instances it was practically non-existent, so they learned from their parents to reuse everything possible.

Maybe that’s why my father had an over-sized two-car garage full of all kinds of bits and pieces:  old electrical wiring and plugs, any kind of old screws, nuts, bolts, or nails, jars, pieces of lumber/tile/whatever, string/rope/twine, parts for this and parts from that, and on and on and on.  My parents only threw something away when it was totally unusable.  And many times that whatsit that Dad had saved in the garage came handy for fixing or fabricating something else.

Fast forward to current times.  Everyone is ‘repurposing.’  You can find scads of ideas on Pinterest and there are entire websites dedicated to reusing, remaking, and repurposing all kinds of things.  I noticed some really great ideas and some incredulous ones as well (like turning an old baby Grand piano into a fountain) on this Twisted Sifter site. And I regularly check out interesting reusing ideas on the Facebook page Hometalk.

Mother’s childhood cabinet

I’ve repurposed a number of things right here at Mama’s Empty Nest now that I have more time on my hands.  After my mom passed away, I inherited one of her toys – a child-sized wooden cabinet that she put her play dishes in as a little girl.  It gathered dust in my basement for several years because I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. 

One day I brought it upstairs, cleaned and polished it and found a spot in my dining room for it.   I repurposed it by adorning it with some vintage doilies and various tea-related items in addition to special tea cups and saucers and my mother-in-law’s antique cream pitchers and was happy with the result.  I especially like that it reminds me not only of my mom and my mother-in-law but also the friends and family who gave me the gifts it now holds.

Repurpose Win #1.

After my father passed, my sisters and I faced the monumental task of cleaning out our parents’ home and garage – not an easy job in lots of ways.  In the garage, I found the old insulated dairy box that used to stand on our porch for the milkman to deposit our weekly bottles of milk in when I was a kid.  It was still in relatively decent shape, and since neither one of my sisters wanted it, it came home with me.  Of course, it too found a dusty spot in my basement to hide.  This summer, I repurposed it into a flower pot container for pretty red geraniums on my front porch.

Old milk box back on the porch

Repurpose Win #2.

For years, my hubby has kept a wooden puzzle in an old cardboard stationary box of his mother’s.  The puzzle is most unique in that it is printed on both sides – one side is the face of a clock in Roman numerals, the other gives the seasons of the year, names of the months, and how many days each month has.  The puzzle is special to us because it was a boyhood toy for my father-in-law who was born in 1898 (yes, you read that right!).  Instead of being hidden away in a box, this little bit of family history now rests inside a glass frame and hangs on my husband’s study wall (see photo at top).

Repurpose Win #3.

So repurposing – I’ve been up for it.  I’ve managed it.  There are still some items in my home that I have plans to reuse in one way or another.  That’s the easy aspect of repurposing.  Just go online, look up ideas, scan a few magazines, voila! You’ve got an idea what to do and how to do it.

But when it comes to life?  How do you repurpose that?  Not so easy.  That’s something I’ve been struggling with for over a year now.  Altering your life is so much more difficult than altering an object.  Finding a new purpose for yourself proves harder than finding a new purpose for an old, dusty thing.

This passage of scripture from 2 Timothy 2:20-21 which I read in The Message the other day encouraged me:   “In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.”

With God’s guidance and according to His purpose, I believe He’s repurposing me, altering my container so I can be used to bless others.

And I’m hoping.  And praying.  And waiting for Repurpose Win #4.

“Living involves tearing up one rough draft after another.” ~Author Unknown