Drifting through vacation

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Images captured while speeding down a highway.  Road signs proclaiming their welcome from one state to another.  One night’s stay in a hotel here, another night’s stay in a different hotel there.

Sounds kind of transient, doesn’t it? Drifting from place to place. Stopping only briefly.  Just passing through.

That describes our recent vacation pretty well and transient just happens to be this week’s photo challenge theme.

We traveled in our trusty vehicle northward along the Hudson River Valley, stopping at places that we listed on our itinerary and other spots that just beckoned to us to pause and enjoy the scenery.

One night’s stay in a New York (the Empire State) hotel. Then up early the next morning to drive into Massachusetts on our way to Boston for a couple of days sightseeing and nights of restful sleep in a blessedly cool air-conditioned room with a king-sized bed.

Passing through the Bay State (MA), we decided to detour from our intended path and drive the entire length of Cape Cod, just passing through, but stopping here and there to enjoy the seashore, capture some photos, hike to a lighthouse, and eat a picnic lunch.

Then continuing our transient journey, we headed for the Ocean State (Rhode Island) and into Connecticut (officially the Constitution State but also called the Nutmeg State). Again, another couple of nights in a cool and comfortable hotel room in between more sightseeing and adventures.

Back in our vehicle, we traveled around NYC, drove through the Garden State (New Jersey), and headed for home. But not before another stop. 

Another place to pass through. Another event to place in the memory bank of special moments.

We breezed into Papa’s old hometown, traveled up and down streets familiar yet now different to him, passed by his former homes, and visited his parents’ grave sites. Then we checked into yet another hotel.

But the best part of all was arranging to meet someone for lunch the next day. 

We had a wonderful visit with Papa’s oldest brother, his wife, and our grown up nephew. Brother is 17 years Papa’s senior, a Navy veteran, and someone my husband just doesn’t know all that well because time, distance, and both his and our being transient and moving often separated them.

It’s been almost 19 years since they have seen each other in person and we had a joyous sort of family reunion.

While just passing through. Catching a moment to remember like the fleeting glimpse of a road sign.

“Catch, then, O catch the transient hour; improve each moment as it flies!” ~ St. Jerome

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
 

 

The heat stole my focus

blogIMG_0049It wasn’t supposed to be like that.

Papa and I recently took a well-deserved vacation, something we haven’t been able to do for a few years. We decided where we wanted to venture, plotted our route on the map, and planned a tentative itinerary for each day.

Prior to leaving, I examined and re-confirmed weather forecasts for the areas we were going to visit. Why? Not because I was fearful it would rain. Instead, I wanted to ascertain that the weather would be mild. Because you see, I’m a fair-weather kind of gal.

I absolutely despise hot, humid temperatures. They make me wilt. They make me melt. They make me exceedingly cranky. That’s why generally, summer is not my favorite season.

So I was truly hopeful that the weather forecast I kept checking was accurate and wouldn’t change. Yep, I was that focused on it.

And of course, you know what happened, don’t you? The weather changed drastically. Temperatures that were supposed to settle down in a cozy, comfy mode of pleasant mid-70 degree Fahrenheit weather instead flared and fired up to the mid-90’s.

When the thermometer hit 95 degrees, my face flushed beet-red and my body temperature gauge felt totally out of control. I literally began to drip perspiration, dreaded all the outdoor walking we had planned to do, and thought I’d just turn into spontaneous combustion right there on the city streets of Boston.

That’s when I lost it. My brain fried, my misery escalated with each soaring degree of temperature, and I totally lost my focus.

And that just happens to have been the photo challenge last week – out of focus.

That perfectly described me – out of focus. I couldn’t concentrate on the historical sights we planned to see.  I couldn’t enjoy the city we had looked forward to visit so much. I couldn’t even dredge up the energy to take photos.  (Now you know how far out of focus I was!)

All I could think about was how scorching hot it felt. How the sweat stung my eyes, dripped off my nose, and ran down my back like a waterfall. How I couldn’t wait to find some cool, air-conditioned spot to just sit and vegetate and try desperately to get my focus back. Even Papa, history buff that he is, realized his enthusiasm was draining as well.

So we succumbed to being senior citizens who can’t take the heat. Folks of a certain age whose focus, energy, and gumption lagged as the roasted heat of the day took its toll.

We took a trolley tour of the city of Boston. We still saw all the sights from our shaded trolley seats but I didn’t get many pictures to prove it. And I just didn’t care.

After the tour ended, we decided to take a harbor cruise in hopes of cooling off a little more. It helped somewhat, but I found myself still…well…out of focus.

We opted to head out of the city and stop along some other points of interest on our way to Rhode Island and Connecticut.  The heat still followed us for a while, but I regained motivation when we drove the entire length of Cape Cod, where I snapped the above photo.  

Hot temperatures were like that beach fence separating me from the cooling waves of the Atlantic. The heat, causing me to become out of focus, distracted me from enjoying a couple vacation days.

But once I regained my focus on appreciating our vacation, the rest of the trip was the balm it was meant to be. Ocean breezes always calm me down like a slathering of cool aloe vera gel on sun-scorched skin.

And oh, yeah, guess who forgot her sunscreen?

“Getting distracted by trifles is the easiest thing in the world… Focus on your main duty.” ~ Epictetus

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Order in the vault

blog056 (2)I guess it’s time to let you in on a little secret.

I’m kind of an orderly person. No, if I’m honest, I’m kind of an order freak.

When my house becomes cluttered, items get misplaced, or stacks of out of place belongings start appearing, it totally stresses me out.

I like order.

I like neat and tidy.

I like to have all of my ducks in a row.

Yes, I am that person – the organized one. Everything in its place and a place for everything – that just makes me happier than a kid running up to an ice cream truck on a hot, summer day.

Chaos and disarray make me feel out of control and – ask Papa and he will vouch for this – when that happens, I am one majorly cranky Mama.

So it doesn’t surprise me that when I noticed that this week’s photo challenge theme is order, a photo in my cache came to mind.

Several years ago on a trip to the Deep South, Papa and I drove through Louisville, Kentucky for a bit of sight-seeing.  Before a stop at Churchill Downs, we decided to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum.

It was a fun way to spend a fall morning and we both enjoyed the museum and the factory tour where we got to see how those famous wooden baseball bats are made.

I made sure to photograph a number of items that caught my fancy, including Ken Griffey, Jr.’s bat, who was our son’s favorite baseball player at the time.

One of the areas of the museum that caught my attention though was the Bat Vault. Louisville Slugger bats are used by about 60% of major league baseball players. The Bat Vault is a special room where model bats that were fashioned for 8,000 players who signed contracts with Louisville Slugger are stored.

In order.  Baseball bats used by the greats like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. Nice, neat rows of Louisville sluggers preserved for posterity.

It was enough to make an organized gal like myself breathe a sigh of admiration.

“Good order is the foundation of all great things.” ~ Edmund Burke

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

If I call you friend

blogScan_oldfriends

Me (front right) with some friends on my 13th birthday. 

Friend. It’s the weekly photo challenge theme.

And the timing of the challenge is perfect because I recently received a surprise long-distance phone call from a friend wishing me a Happy Birthday. 

My friend lives all the way across the country from me. My friend is someone I spent a lot of time with over 20 years ago. She is someone who I haven’t seen in person for about 15 years.

Time and distance separate us, but yet when I have the chance to talk with my friend, it’s like time and distance disappear. We pick right up where we last left off and away we go. There’s never a lull in conversation. Never an awkward moment. Never enough time to talk as much as we want it seems.

“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I can think aloud.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friend. How many people can I attribute that title to?

Friend. If I look on my blog stats, I have 1000 friends because so far, that’s how many people follow my blog. But a huge majority of those people are folks I’ve never met or shared any kind of conversation with online or in person.

So, even though I appreciate each and every one of those who follow my blog regularly, I can’t really call those readers my friends. What you know of me is only what I write publicly and very few of you even know my name. And what I know of you is probably much less.

When it comes to Twitter, it’s the same story. Many followers, but only a couple that I actually know. So friends? I don’t think so. Not so long ago, I deactivated my account because Twitter just seemed so senseless to me. (I know what people believe about having writer’s platforms, etc., etc., but it’s just not for me.)

Turning the social media page to Facebook, at last count, over 100 people like this blog’s fan page. Some of those are personal friends, some are not. Some are complete strangers to me. 

On my personal Facebook page, I have only 245 friends – small potatoes compared to those who have thousands of “friends.” But I purposely keep my personal Facebook page limited to people I actually know, those who have personal connections with me,  and folks from the past with whom I’ve continued to maintain a friendship. 

So if I call you friend, who are you?

Friend. Childhood friends come and go, but three of my childhood and teen years friends have always been there for me, sharing happiness and sorrow, disappointments and accomplishments.  True steadfast friendships that have endured to this day. Lifelong friends.

Friend. College friends seem like your best friends during those years because you share living spaces, new experiences, heartaches, and fun times with them. But only a couple of those friendships have stood the test of time.

Friend. During my season as a young married military wife, friends who shared the same hardships and the ups and downs of standing alongside husbands who served their country became lifelines. Some of those friendships have prevailed over the years, others have not.

Friend. In my career years, gals I worked with were my supportive and understanding friends. Ones with whom I could share frustrations with over lunch or on break or during a shopping trip. But many of those friendships have faded over time.

Friend. Then came a season of stay-at-home motherhood and I found myself in a new circle of friends. Moms like me with families and a home as our priority. These friends provided a listening ear, a helping hand, and much support since we lived so far away from family. Several of those friendships remain intact even though we are separated by distance, we connect on Facebook.

Friend. And then there were my friends of faith, particularly when my family lived in the Pacific Northwest. How precious they were to me as they helped me cultivate contentment in my circumstances, or how to be thankful in all things, or how to pray consistently and effectively for my children. Those friendships always remain special to me.

Friend. As my season of life changed yet again with a move back to our native state, friends helped sustain me through the illness of my mother, both my mother and mother-in-law’s deaths, and getting acclimated to living in a rural setting once more after so many years in suburbia.

Friend. While working for a non-profit ministry, I gained another new set of friends. Mature and spiritual friends with whom I regularly prayed. Friends who anointed and laid hands on me for healing when I faced my own cancer diagnosis. And to quote a Michael W. Smith song, “Friends are friends forever when the Lord’s the Lord of them.”

Friend. The empty nest, when the last of my three children graduated from college and moved away, literally knocked me for a loop following the death of my father.  I felt adrift in a turbulent sea without a rudder to steer by. 

I struggled with the concept of friendship during that time because those relationships I had with my children’s parents changed dramatically.  My heart ached for like-minded friends who were willing to be soul-sharing kind of friends, not just acquaintances.

That’s when I turned to blogging to pour out words which seemed trapped in my head, heart, and soul. And that’s when the Lord orchestrated another crossing of paths in the pursuit of friendship.

Friend. I never would have thought that I would find good friends online. People whom I’ve never met in person, yet are so dear to me for their encouraging words, thoughtful emails, and in one case, even handwritten letters, texts, and phone calls.  Only a handful, yet you know who you are.

Friend. Being friends requires a lot of giving of oneself. Friends require understanding. Friends must travel a two-way street.  Friends need one another. Friends are good sounding boards, cheerleaders, and sympathetic listening ears.

Much about this life is uncertain, but one thing is clear. If I call you friend, you truly are just that.

Friend.

“To know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or thoughts expressed – that can make life a garden.”~ Goethe

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Here today, gone tomorrow

blogIMG_9860I have to be perfectly honest. This week’s photo challenge theme?

I had to look up the word to ensure the definition in my mind was correct. It’s just not a word I use in my daily life and I don’t even think I’ve ever used it in my writing.

Evanescent. Isn’t it an interesting word? A fancy way to say something is likely to vanish. Describe something fleeting. Transitory.

Much of this world can be categorized that way. We are surrounded by aspects which change so quickly and soon vanish. That green grass out there in my yard? In just a few months, the color will turn to brown and won’t reappear until spring comes again. Transitory.

The beautifully lush peony bushes surrounding my backyard deck and covered with bountiful buds? They will burst forth in a fanciful deep pink array, exude their lovely aroma, and then the petals will fall and they will be gone. Fleeting.

Short-lived. Just like that elusive fame that so many wish to attain. Why else would we hear that saying – he had his 15 minutes of fame – bantered about? Because fame can be so short-lived. Likely to vanish.

Evanescent.

Even our lives can be portrayed that way. We’re only on earth for a short time in the grand scope of existence. Some of us inhabit this earth for only a few years, some for a half century or longer, and some fortunate ones may live until they are 100.

But our one life here is evanescent. Vanishing. Fleeting. Transitory. Short-lived.

My Bible tells me: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  James 4:14 

And that verse reminds me once again of one of my favorite contemporary Christian songs by Casting Crowns.

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still you hear me when I’m calling
Lord, you catch me when I’m falling
And you’ve told me who I am
I am yours.

We humans are evanescent, but the God of the universe is not. We are here today, gone tomorrow. But the Creator of all is not. We are temporary. He is permanent.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8

That’s why I never cease to be amazed that God, the Lord of all creation, the great I AM, the Alpha and Omega (the Beginning and the End), the One who is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (all-present/all-seeing), and omnipotent (all-powerful), cares about evanescent me and you.

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?

Not because of who I am
But because of what you’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who you are.

Minister Charles Stanley wrote in his book, Turning the Tide: Real Hope, Real Change:  “Hope founded upon a human being, a man-made philosophy or any institution is always misplaced. Why? Because these things are unreliable and fleeting. They do not last. Rather, to be genuine and enduring, our confidence and hope must be rooted in God and His eternal purposes. You see, the Lord desires for us to base our faith on what is sure, immovable, unchangeable, and unending. So our Savior, Jesus, gives us the one thing that can never be taken away – everlasting life. Imperishable. Undefiled. Unfading. This is true hope – the unshakable confidence and assurance Jesus offers us.”

As alluring as the fixations of this world are whether they be fame or fortune, recognition or ratings, admiration or accomplishments, I don’t want to place my hope in those evanescent things.

Instead, with each moment of time I have on this earth, I place my hope in the Everlasting One who knows my name and I appreciate each evanescent occurrence that He sends my way.

Excuse me while I step outside and breathe in the aroma of blooming peonies.

“Right now a moment of time is fleeting by! Capture its reality… become the moment.” ~ Paul Cerzanne

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Reflecting on the blessings

blogIMG_1006Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard once wrote:  “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Just yesterday morning, I visited for a short time with one of my dearest, long-time friends. The one who’s constantly in my prayers because of her serious health diagnosis about a year ago and her latest brush with a dire emergency that almost cost her life.

Since she was in the area for a short visit with her mother, we sat in my friend’s childhood home on the same living room couch where we spent many hours in the past chatting with one another as young girls, teenagers, and young adults. If the seat cushions of that couch could talk, they would divulge countless stories of our times together upon them.

Often when my friend and I converse, we spend much of the time reflecting. And yesterday was no exception.  In many ways, my visit reflected the past, the way life used to be.

And since I brought my Little One (granddaughter) along with me, we glanced at even more reflections of our childhoods past when my wee one played with some old toys that have called this place home for numerous years.

As we were leaving, we walked outside onto the front porch to say our farewells. And that’s when Little One spotted my friend’s mom’s bright green gazing ball resting on a pedestal in the yard. 

Little One was absolutely fascinated by it and laughed at her own reflection in the ball.  Over and over again. And then at our reflections as well, going round and round the shiny orb never taking her eyes off of those images she spied within it.

It’s ironic that this week’s photo challenge theme is reflecting when I’ve been ruminating over that word – one which evokes a couple of meanings in my mind.  Of course, there’s the obvious one of an image being mirrored.  And then there’s the one that connotes thinking or seriously considering.

Like thinking of and seriously considering the past. Similar to my little one circling that gazing ball, often my mind goes round and round those reflections of times gone by. Over and over again.

Reflections of the way we used to be.

And that phrase prompts the ongoing radio in my mind to play an old song by The Supremes:

Through the mirror of my mind
Time after time
I see reflections of you and me

Reflections of
The way life used to be
Reflections of
The love you took from me

And even though that song expresses a sad tale of lost love, happiness ripped away, and painful reflection, I find valuable reminders in those lyrics.

Through the mirror of my mind
Through these tears that I’m crying
Reflects a hurt I can’t control
‘Cause although you’re gone
I keep holding on
To the happy times
Oh, when you were mine

Isn’t that how we so often view yesteryear? We attempt to remember only the pleasant moments and the joyous occasions when we reflect on times past. We keep holding onto those memories and that helps us through the present.

And that’s how my friend and I recall our childhoods.  Contented times, hours of fun playing together as children, sharing secrets and dreams as teenage girls do. Easy times of no responsibilities, no earth-shattering worries or occurrences, an idyllic age really.

Through the hollow of my tears
I see a dream that’s lost

Reflecting back now as adults, many of our hopes and dream for the future did not come to fruition, but some did.  And we both have had a blessed life, but not one without struggles and difficulties. This last year, my friend’s life has been a complete upheaval. 

In you I put
All my faith and trust
Right before my eyes
My world has turned to dust

In one consultation with her doctor, my friend’s world seemed to turn to dust. And it just kept splintering into pieces, one experience after another sawing its way through her strength leaving mounds of accumulating sawdust. 

Procedures, medications, treatments, hospital stays, medical emergencies, more hospital stays, therapies, home health nurse visits. At one point, when I sat beside my lifelong friend in the hospital, she confided her weariness over not having a normal life.

But here’s where my friend and I differ vastly from the song lyrics. Because instead of putting our faith and trust in another person (because honestly, we humans do let one another down often), we put our faith and trust in God.  All of our faith. All of our trust.

Because He never forsakes us. Never lets us down. Never stops loving us. He is the Great Physician. The Healer. The Savior. The Lover of our souls and Listener to our prayers. The One who is granting my lifelong friend’s desire to start to feel “normal again.”

So instead of singing “reflections of the way life used to be,” I believe I will change the song lyrics to “reflections of the way life needs to be; reflections of the love God has for me.”  And for my cherished friend.

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ~ Charles Dickens

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com