O’er the ramparts

blogIMG_8001It’s August. The 4th of July is over, Flag Day (June 14) is long past, and Memorial Day an even more distant memory but the American flag still flies from our front porch.

Some folks only display our country’s red, white, and blue on those holidays with maybe Veteran’s Day tossed in. But at our house, the flag waves from its post yearlong.

I can’t remember exactly when Papa and I decided Ol’ Glory should always remain outside our home come whatever season, whatever weather, day or night, but I know we’ve already worn out one flag and put it to rest as custom and respect dictates.

Our flag flying might be attributed to the fact that my husband is a military veteran and our family is proud and thankful for his service to our country and that flag.  Or it may also be attributed to the history buffs in our family – namely Papa and Middle Daughter.

In any case, we’re a grand old flag flying family. A few years ago, our family’s Australian friends came to the United States to visit and as they traveled around the country, they kept track of how many American flags they spotted flapping in the breeze.  They were surprised as the number increased significantly on their journey and I can only deduce that they don’t see Australian flags in abundance in their own country.

All of these thoughts meander through my mind since one of the stops we made on our week-long venture from home in June was Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland If you’re not familiar with this historical site, during the War of 1812, American soldiers at this coastal fort successfully defended Baltimore Harbor in the Chesapeake Bay from the British navy. 

After the battle finally ended, a large American flag was raised over the fort demonstrating British defeat and American perseverance.

Watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry from a truce ship in the nearby Patapsco River, Frances Scott Key witnessed the flag hoisted into the air and was inspired to write a lengthy poem about the red, white, and blue. Eventually that first verse of his poem became the familiar lyrics to our American national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner.  To read the poem in its entirety, click here.

blogIMG_7992It was a misty, slightly rainy morning as we toured this national park/monument and yet our country’s flag waved overhead.  We shared our time with a few busloads of elementary-aged school children on one of those end-of-the-year field trips and it was tricky to snap photos without getting the students in view.

But amidst all the running and climbing and yelling performed by the children, Papa and I managed to enjoy our tour. We walked around the parameter of the pentagonal-shaped fort, o’er the ramparts, so to speak.

We found a few serene moments just gazing out at the Chesapeake Bay and imagining a fierce battle taking place all those many years ago. And I felt awe and respect for that American spirit of battling for freedom and what is right that those who fought on that ground had done.

But the best part of all for me, the most awe-inspiring moment of the morning, was inside the visitor center. We rested on benches in a small, darkened theater-like area watching a short documentary video detailing the battle at Fort McHenry and the story behind Frances Scott Key witnessing the grand ol’ flag still flying.

At the end of the video, the Star Spangled Banner began to play. Each person stood in respect; some of us placed our hands over our hearts as we listened to those old words that most Americans know by heart.

O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming!
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there:
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

As we faced the large screen where the video had informed us and listened to our national anthem playing, the screen lifted up into the ceiling and in its place, we faced an entire wall of large, floor to ceiling plate glass windows…overlooking outside where the American flag proudly waved.

I was too awe-struck to even pull my camera up to my eye and snap a photo.

Call me sentimental. Call me patriotic. Call me proud to be an American. Call me however you wish to categorize me, but the sight choked me up and tears overflowed as I listened to those words and music while gazing at my country’s symbol of freedom.

It was a moment I won’t soon forget. We may have our struggles in this country. We may not all see eye to eye on a variety of issues. We have our virtues and we have our faults.

But I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but this land, the land of the free and the home of the brave. America, God shed His grace on thee.

“There is nothing wrong in America that can’t be fixed with what is right in America.” ~ former President Bill Clinton in his first inaugural address, 1992

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

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Out of my world

blogIMG_3416I’m back.

I’ve been out of this world for a couple of weeks…out of the blogging world that is.

But I’ve also been somewhat out of my own world as well. Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t take a trip to the moon virtually or otherwise. I didn’t find myself in some alternate reality either. And I didn’t vacate my mind for a sojourn to live in a fantasy land.

Nope, none of those, but I still was out of my usual world. The Papa of this empty nest and I took a respite. We boarded a big ol’ jet airliner and headed in another direction from our home.  And contrary to the Steve Miller Band lyrics from their song Jet Airliner, the plane did carry us far away.

But that story I’m saving for a later post. This post is meeting the photo challenge of the past week – Out of This World.

Plus I just might be teasing you a tad with my photo to see if you can guess where we traveled.  Leave your speculation in the comments below.

(Facebook friends, sorry, you are disqualified from this round of  “Where in the World Was Mama?” since you viewed photos I posted on my personal Facebook while I was ‘out of this world.’)

“It’s useful to go out of this world and see it from the perspective of another one.” ~ Terry Pratchett

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A little adventure

blogIMG_0740Some people are born with an adventurous spirit, some have to have it coaxed out of them.

I wasn’t one of those born with a sense of adventure, nor was I taught to embrace a quest for exploration.  My folks kept pretty close to home when I was a youngster.

Growing up, I can remember only three real vacations with my parents.  As a child, I traveled with them down south to visit my oldest sister and brother-in-law when he was serving in the military and we stopped at interesting points along the way.  As a teenager, my parents took me on one trip to Williamsburg, VA, and one trip to New York state and points in our own home state.  That’s it.

On top of our lack of interesting journeys, I tended to be a fairly shy little girl who didn’t seek out risk-taking or exciting escapades. It wasn’t until I married my husband and he whisked me off to places I’d never been before that I started to enjoy new adventures.

When we were raising our children, I wanted them to have more opportunities than I did to experience new places and different sights, not just the same old, same old of everyday life.

We managed to do some traveling and exposing them to new activities while we lived in the Midwest, but upon moving to the Pacific Northwest, my desire to do that really kicked into high gear.  We endeavored to provide for our children as many adventurous excursions, sight-seeing trips, and vacations as we could on the West Coast of our great country. 

Somewhere along the line, our oldest daughter embraced an adventurous lifestyle with gusto. On her own, with friends, and with her like-minded husband, she’s traveled more places than I can even imagine. 

Those two are the thrill-seekers who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro a couple of years ago. You can read about that by clicking here.

Right now as I write this, they are traveling throughout Peru visiting the Amazon Rainforest and hiking and camping in the Andes Mountains.

Since Papa and I have semi-retired, we’re hoping to fill up our own travel itinerary from time to time. One of my goals has always been to visit each of the 50 states here in America, and so far, I’ve checked off 35 states with 15 more to go. So we’ve got some adventure planning to do of our own.

Our oldest grandchild, who is only 2 ½ spends a great deal of time with Nana and Papa, and we try to take her on little excursions here and there so she too will develop a bit of adventure.

Yesterday, I posted a photo I took back in July when we did just that. We traveled just a couple of hours away from our home with Little One in tow for a sightseeing day trip.

One of the places we visited was actually somewhere that even Nana and Papa had never been before – Kinzua Sky Walk in Kinzua Bridge State Park.

 

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Kinzua Skywalk

Once the highest and longest railroad bridge in the world, the viaduct spanned the Kinzua Gorge. But a tornado ripped through the area almost 15 years ago and shredded a good portion of the bridge into twisted metal.

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Bridge remains from past tornado

Using six steel towers that remained, a skywalk, which extends 624 feet into the gorge, was constructed.  Walking along the skywalk 225 feet above the valley provided some amazing views, which I believe would be even more breathtaking in the fall when all the leaves are brilliantly colored.  For a more complete view of the bridge/skywalk, watch a youtube video here.

Our Little One enjoyed the adventure of something new and different to behold. She loved playing with the wooden toy train and blocks building a replica of the original railroad bridge in the visitor’s center. Even at her young age, she got a kick out of some of the exhibits there as well.

blogIMG_0750And walking on the skywalk was grand fun for her. She was even more mesmerized by the glass blocks near the end of the structure that enable you to look out below down those 224 feet. Not a great place for someone afraid of heights, but our Little One loved it!

blogIMG_0748After a picnic lunch at the park grounds, we traveled on to a couple more spots. Needless to say, Little One tuckered out and slept most of the way home. But what a fun little voyage we experienced and hopefully, we’re teaching her to embrace exploration with gusto.

And wishing her a lifetime of adventures.

“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…” ~ Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

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
 

 

Some have it, some don’t

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Train trip from Silverton to Durango, CO – 1979

Sometimes I wish I had a bit more wanderlust. As defined by my trusty bookshelf dictionary (yes, I’m a dinosaur; I actually use a real book consisting of paper pages), when you have wanderlust, you have a strong impulse to travel.

“The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.” ~ Agnes Repplier

This week’s photo challenge theme – wanderlust – invites me to share a photo that represents travel to me.  I do have many photos from Papa’s and my travels, so it was hard to choose just one.  

But the photo above from a trip we took together early in our marriage called to me. Papa is fond of trains, and we’ve been on quite a few, but this one winding through Colorado mountains was special.

Traveling is an adventure and encountering new sights and experiences is something I relish, but I wouldn’t describe myself as having wanderlust.

Ironically, this topic has been on my mind because just yesterday morning, I ran into my last living first cousin at the grocery store.  He’s a bit older than me and has had some heart health issues in the last few years.  Since he was the nearest cousin in age to me and our families were very close, he has always been my favorite.

Cousin’s grown children and grandchildren live far away from our hometown like some of mine do.  And we talked about traveling to see them and how cross country trips can be tiring as we age.

Then he proclaimed his own dinosaur status and admitted he just doesn’t like to journey far from home any longer.  He always assumed that when he retired, he and his wife would do a lot of traveling. But other than one trip to our ancestral home in England, he hasn’t traveled abroad or even ventured to other areas of our country very much.  And he has no desire to do so. 

Wanderlust? He doesn’t possess it. He’s more than content to stay right here in our little neck of the woods with a few trips here and there to visit his family.

Perhaps the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I recall that my cousin’s father (my uncle and my father’s brother) never liked to trek far from home at all.  Matter of fact, my cousin and I shared a good laugh over a story about Uncle when he took his family to Canada for a visit.  The border guard asked him how long they were going to stay in that country and my nonplussed uncle replied quite seriously, “About 15 minutes.”

After we chuckled, my cousin told me the reason why uncle was without wanderlust.  He had served in World War II, yet never wanted to share much about his time in service. He did tell his family that he promised himself that if he made it out of the war in one piece and back home, he never wanted to leave again.

No wanderlust for my uncle. My dad was unlike him in that respect because Dad liked to travel away from home. He poured over his well-thumbed road atlas and enjoyed planning routes and sights to see along the way.  Mom was more of a homebody, but he did manage to convince her to take several cross country excursions with him.

I wonder what gives a person that sense of wanderlust? I enjoy taking journeys, but I wouldn’t classify myself as someone who has a strong impulse to travel. Papa likes trip-taking as well, but again I wouldn’t say he was bitten by the travel bug.

Now our daughter and son-in-law are birds of a different feather from us.  Wanderlust perfectly defines who they are. They live (and work) to travel! Daughter’s desire for adventure began with a high school trip to France. Then a three-week trek to Africa after she graduated from college.  Followed by short-term mission trips to Honduras, where she met her future husband.

From a honeymoon in Honduras to anniversary trips to Costa Rica and this year to Peru, those two are always on the go.  I’ve lost track of the places and countries they have visited. From climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to their next desire of visiting every high point in the United States, their bucket list is loaded with travel plans around the world.

I haven’t really composed a bucket list but I would like to visit every one of our 50 American states. So far, I count 33 under my belt and soon Papa and I plan to add three more to that list, which will make 36, so 14 to go.  

As far as travels outside of my country, my only claim to fame for that one is a couple trips to Canada.  If I could go anywhere in the world though, I’d choose my dream trip to the British Isles, especially the home of my forefathers in England, and another jaunt to Australia, where we could visit friends. Papa agrees but would add some other European countries to the list as well. And — gasp! – he’d like to venture on a cruise (this traveler nixes that one).

Whether we ever take those excursions remains to be seen. But I can always enjoy journeys to other spots in the world vicariously through my daughter’s wanderlust.

Maybe it will rub off on me.

“The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only a page.” ~ Thomas Fielding, Selected Proverbs of All Nations

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Where liberty dwells

blogDSCN9573We celebrate the day feasting.  Bar-b-que grills fire up all over the country and plates are filled with picnic food galore – everything from hotdogs to watermelon.    Enthusiastic backyard games of softball, volleyball, and badminton continue throughout the day.

Marching parades wind through hometown streets, and there may be patriotic speeches or concerts in other areas.  Everyone’s attire includes red, white, and blue while Old Glory waves from the front porch flagpole.  Stars and stripes bedeck buildings and houses.

The sound of firecrackers pops through the air and as dusk commences its descent on the day’s activities, everyone jumps in the car in search of an awesome fireworks display to ooh and aah over in the summertime night sky.

It’s the way we Americans commemorate the fourth of July, our Independence Day.  It’s the way our family usually celebrates too.  But not this year.

Since the fourth landed on a mid-week day and almost everyone in our family only had that one day off, we couldn’t celebrate the holiday together due to work schedules and distance.

The newlyweds now live in the state south of us and son lives in the state next door.  Only oldest daughter lives close by, in the city.  She arrived at the homestead Tuesday night with a great idea for how the three of us – Mama, Papa, and Daughter – could spend the day on the fourth.

She suggested a day trip.   A couple years after the 9-11 attacks, we visited Flight 93’s crash site in Shanksville, PA on our way to the Outer Banks, North Carolina for vacation.  Oldest daughter, who had just graduated from college and started her new job, was unable to accompany us on that trip.

At the time, only a makeshift memorial existed in honor of the Americans who lost their lives in the quiet Pennsylvania farmland that infamous day.  Now there is a permanent memorial at the site and our daughter wanted to see it, especially because she’d missed our previous visit there.

Since the area is an easy drive from our home, we decided to venture there and then meander around to see what other sights we might encounter.

Years ago when we visited the crash site, I wept when I stepped out of the car.  This time tears did not fall,  but the sense of solemnity in this peaceful, serene place where terror struck so vividly engulfed me.

Flight 93 memorial now

Gone was the makeshift chain link fence serving as a memorial wall with mementos lodged in  it,  including a local firefighter’s coat.   In its place a beautifully designed tribute exists.  Gazing out at the field of grass and wildflowers, it’s almost unfathomable to imagine the violence of that day.

We weren’t the only ones who decided to spend a few moments on Independence Day visiting the Flight 93 Memorial Park.   Vehicles filled the parking area,  yet there was hushed silence among those of us who walked the grounds.

On a hot, summer day, we read the informative placards, we viewed the area where the plane went down, we walked silently to the memorial where we read the names of those who lost their lives, we noted the mementos left in honor, and we sat on a bench quietly contemplating and remembering the day life changed for all of us Americans.  In the silence, it seemed our country’s flag provided a form of taps as it flapped in the gentle breeze.

It was a fitting way to celebrate Independence Day and the freedom we treasure in the United States of America, to remember that freedom isn’t free, and to understand that sometimes the cost of freedom is extremely high and painful.   But freedom is worth the cost.

“Where liberty dwells, there is my country.”  ~ attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

No flight plan, part 2

blogflyingThis wasn’t the flight plan we filed.

We arrived at the airport very early that morning and the departure screen screamed out our first problem of the day – our flight had been cancelled.

We scurried to the check-in counter to be told that there were no other flights on that airline to our destination, but we could be scheduled for a flight the next day!

That was not an option because daughter had just recently returned from a three-week trip to Africa and, with no vacation days left, had to report for work Monday morning. When asked why our flight was cancelled, we were told that our pilot didn’t show up.  What???

The solution was to book us on another airline because we had to get home.  Satisfied with two new tickets in hand and happy to get away from the long line of angry customers, we left the counter and started walking away.

Daughter said, “OK, now we’re flying to Charlotte and from there to our final destination.”  I looked at my ticket and said, “Huh?  No, we’re flying to Houston and then to our home airport!”

Yep, the two of us, who were traveling together, were booked on separate airlines, going in opposite directions and arriving at our final destination many hours apart.    Back to the counter we trotted, which by now was surrounded by throngs of angry would-be passengers.

After a long wait, I realized my flight was calling for final check-ins, so I ran over to encounter another long line there.   What to do?  Check in and fly to Houston?  Wait and see if we can get on another flight together?  Go…wait…go…wait??

Finally, daughter, who had been standing in line at the original airline counter, gets waited on and explains that we need to be on the same stinkin’ plane, for crying out loud! Suddenly, daughter yells above the din, “Wait, Mom!!!  Don’t go!!  They’re getting us on another flight together!”

Relieved, I rushed back to airline counter one and my daughter.   Again we walked away with fresh new tickets, comparing them to find success – we’re both flying to Atlanta on the same plane and then to our destination together.  Finally!  And that’s when we notice our departure time.  Twelve hours from now!

blogA flyingWhat do you do to entertain yourself when you’re stuck in a small city airport for 12 hours and you’ve already turned in your rental car?  And you’ve only brought small carry-on bags, so you don’t have a lot of entertainment fodder with you?  Let’s just say we learned every nook and cranny of that airport and then some.

The nightmare continued when we checked in for our flight all those hours later.  Standing in the long queue for security screening, we were shocked to get pulled out of the line.  Daughter was escorted one way, I was escorted another.

Apparently, the haggard, exhausted looks on our faces made us appear to be would-be terrorists!   I realize now that our names were probably red-flagged because we had been jostled around from flight to flight that day, but hey, that wasn’t our doing! Blame that on the airline!

Our carry-on bags and purses were taken from us, opened and searched thoroughly while we were instructed to sit facing each other.   And as I sat there, shoeless, without my ID, my purse or my carry-on, the screeners took their sweet time examining our belongings first and then us.

Yes, I was frisked and so was my daughter and this was years before the latest TSA security measures.   And still we sat and sat….and by this time, I fumed because I was certain the delay was going to make us miss our flight…which we waited 12 hours to board!

And that’s when it hit me.  We could have driven by car and been almost home by then.  Instead, we literally sprinted to our boarding gate, endured two flights, a layover, and finally arrived at our city airport after midnight.

There we waited another 45 minutes for a shuttle to transport us to the outer parking lot where daughter’s car sat.  We slumped into her car, totally exhausted, and braced for the hour’s drive home.

The trip that should have taken us just a few hours by plane took almost 19 hours!  By the time we actually arrived at our house, we realized that if we had traveled by car we would have been home by dinner time and soundly sleeping in our beds for several hours.

Hassle?  Absolutely.  Stressful?  Without a doubt!  Totally exhausting? Unbelievably.  And that’s why I fear flying.  I would much rather be master of my own trip than place myself at the mercy of airlines and security screeners.   So on this 13th page, Chapter 4, in my book of Opportunity and on any day, I’d much rather say, “Road trip!”

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com