Posted in Life, travel

Why not just enjoy the ride?

blogIMG_7931Turning 65 has its perks and I’m not talking about Medicare and Social Security.

One of the benefits Papa and I have realized as we’ve entered into retirement age is that we have more free time to travel, just the two of us.

Back in June, Papa took a respite from his part-time job and we made good use of an open week for travel, available to us since Little One (our oldest grandchild who we babysit) and her mama were vacationing at the beach.  

In the months prior, we had tossed around several ideas about where we should vacation. We thought about a road trip westward to knock off a few more states on my “Visit All 50 U.S. States” list (South and North Dakota and Montana), but decided to table that for another time.

Honestly, just the thought of a long car ride out there exhausted us and we realized what we really needed was a trip for relaxation purposes having just ended a busy season of life. A trip that wouldn’t require hours and hours of traveling. 

So plans changed while we debated where we should go. We finally settled on visiting Maryland even though we have toured through the state often. This time we ventured to areas we hadn’t been before.

While researching sights to see, we discovered a train trip that promised to be a source of relaxation. Papa loves trains. Papa loves riding on trains. Papa loves reading about trains. Papa, whose father retired from a railroad career, has always been fascinated by that mode of transportation.

So early one Sunday morning at o’dark thirty (as former military man Papa often says), we left our home and drove to Maryland where we boarded the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad  for a leisurely  three-hour trip through the Allegheny Mountains on a nice summer day.

It proved to be a trip we won’t forget in more ways than one.

On the first leg of the train ride, I surveyed our passenger car, which only had a few people seated in it. Because there weren’t many folks in our particular car, you would think the journey would be rather peaceful and restful. Just what Papa and I were hoping for.

Swaying a little back and forth to the rhythm of the train’s motion as it clackety-clacks along the railroad tracks is a soothing experience unless you have motion sickness, which neither of us does.

Viewing lovely scenery out the train windows on a beautiful, sunny day gives you a sense of relaxation as well. We’ve found train trips are a calming and comforting way to travel.

“Trains are wonderful…. To travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches and rivers, in fact, to see life.” ~ Agatha Christie

Enjoying another journey in life, that’s what we had hoped to do. But despite the lack of a train car full of people, I found the first hour of our trip anything but restful. Why? Because of one small group of people (all adults) in the car with us. One loud group of people.

Those folks relished talking – no, not merely conversing, but practically shouting at each other and guffawing rowdily over their stories.  And then their stories, which one couldn’t help but hear, turned to gossiping.

Neither Papa nor I wanted to hear about someone who this group declared bi-polar. We didn’t want to hear tales of that poor soul’s mental illness or that several therapists are being seen all at the same time. There was no way one couldn’t overhear their extremely loud dialogue. 

Some things just aren’t meant for public discussion, you know? I turned to glance at Papa several times through the first hour of our ride, raising my eyebrows as if to say, “Can you believe this?” He just rolled his eyes and shook his head.

It was hard to turn our attention to the sights outside our window and relax. Because those folks were so involved in their yakking it up, I noticed that not one of them even glanced out the windows to partake of the sights. From my observation, the entire group engrossed in their discussion didn’t even seem to be enjoying the train ride at all. And I thought to myself, “Then why take a train trip?”

Their behavior definitely disturbed the first part of our journey, but that wasn’t all. One of the people – a middle-aged woman – could NOT SIT STILL. Up and down out of her seat, she constantly hopped or walked back and forth down the aisle. Next she found the snack car and bounced back and forth between our car and that one. She flitted from one seat to another all the while talking and laughing boisterously to her companions. 

She was like a whirling dervish. And honestly, it was distracting and annoying and anything but restful and relaxing to witness.

We were relieved when the train pulled into the station at the destination and everyone exited. We had a one-hour “layover” to grab a bite of lunch or explore this stop along the ride before boarding once again for the return trip. 

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Enjoying peace and quiet off the train

Papa and I had packed a small lunch and we found a quiet picnic area away from the maddening crowd, who by now had taken their noisy selves up the hill to visit the town.

As we munched on lunch, my thoughts centered on what we had just experienced and I hoped that we would not have to endure a repeat performance on our hour-long trip back. We were thankful for the peace and quiet as we ate and later sat on a park bench basking in the sunshine.

I was hopeful that when we boarded the train for the return trip, we could sit in a different car away from the “noisy neighbors.”

And that’s when this thought occurred to me – some folks just don’t know how to sit back, be still, and enjoy the ride in life.

That’s why Papa and I took the train trip – to enjoy the ride. To add some fun and relaxation to life all at the same time.

Little did we imagine that our next experience on that train would be a once in a lifetime occurrence. But that story will have to wait until tomorrow. Yep, tune in tomorrow for the next sequence of our railroad excursion.

“I think the thing to do is enjoy the ride while you’re on it.” ~ Johnny Depp

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in photography

Build me a bridge

blogIMG_9896When my children were young and sassy teens, they often recited a line to their siblings, whose noses got out of joint over some disagreement, and that saying always caused me to snicker to myself.

Cry me a river, build me a bridge, and get over it.

I laughed because that’s how I felt too. Get over it. There will always be some disparity, some disappointment, some dispute, some deviation from the easy path you wish you had.  But instead of crying your eyes out, you just have to build that bridge over troubled waters, buck up, and get over it.

I have to admit that when the good Lord handed out the quality of being merciful and empathetic, I may have skipped Sunday School that day.

But before you judge me too harshly for that, let me share that often the one I show the least mercy to is…myself. Far too often in life I’ve found myself self-admonishing to stop crying an ever-flowing river, commence bridge building, and get over those grievances that cause me anger and anguish.

But the difficult part about building bridges is this – it takes two sides. A one-sided bridge won’t get you anywhere, unless you fall off the abrupt edge and drop kerplunk into the river below. A real downer if you can’t swim.

And if the other side of the river bank just doesn’t cooperate and reach across the span of the abyss to meet you in the middle, well then, where are you? A bridge to nowhere.

Okay, sometimes I surprise myself with how my quirky mind works when I open my email inbox and find the current weekly photo challenge.  And this week’s theme – bridge – is no different. Bridge building came to my mind.

I didn’t have to search long or hard for a bridge photo in my cache. I have many because I live in an area with lots of bridges over creeks and rivers, several right here in and near my hometown and further down the river in the big city.

So just in case you happen to live where bridges are few and far between, let me bridge the gap for you with my pictures.  I vacillated back and forth while choosing which photo to use for this challenge, so I may share more bridge photos tomorrow on my Wordless Wednesday post.

Bridges. Papa and I crossed a lot of them on our recent vacation, particularly on our journey through New York’s Hudson River Valley, in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and on our way home traveling north of New York City.

On our first day of vacation we stopped along the Hudson River in New York state to see West Point Military Academy and toured its museum to satisfy my former Army man husband and history buff.

Afterwards, we crossed the Mid-Hudson Bridge to locate a spot where we could catch a nice view of the military academy from across the river and I could snap a few photos. By accident, we also found a small, shady, secluded park where we ate a quiet picnic lunch as we had the entire park to ourselves.

Driving back across the bridge again, we traveled northward to Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, which is a 19th century railroad bridge converted into the world’s longest elevated pedestrian park. That’s where I captured the photo above. 

So we not only traversed the Hudson by car, but we also crossed it on foot via that span from Poughkeepsie to Highland, NY, which is 1.28 miles in length one way. We encountered some beautiful views from that bridge and I was able to capture several nice pictures of the river and the vehicle bridge downriver from it.

Back and forth across bridges we journeyed. Easy peasy. Now if we could just transport ourselves over bridges with people as effortlessly as it is to drive or walk over steel and concrete bridges, maybe we could actually make progress.

“Don’t burn bridges. You’ll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river.” ~ H. Jackson Brown Jr., American author

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in photography, Weekly Photo Challenge

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
 

 

Posted in photography, Weekly Photo Challenge

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

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Vacation messages

blogIMG_3644Life isn’t always as rosy as we paint it to be on our social media canvas. I try to put on my happy face and do my best to be encouraging, but sometimes, I feel absolutely overburdened with the trials and troubles this world has in abundance.  Inhumanity.  Greed.  Economic woes.  Political unrest.  Warfare.  Natural disasters. It’s depressing to read the news or watch it on television.

Just the other evening,  Papa and I tuned into one of our local stations to catch the latest since we had been away for several days.  One distressing story after another.  Murders, fires, robberies, drownings…it went on and on until suddenly my husband (keeper of the remote) hit the off button.  He said he’d had enough, and I nodded in agreement.

But I must remind myself that in every dark cloud that hovers over us, (and there sure do seem to be a lot lately) God still sends His rays of light to reach us.  We just have to be on the lookout.  Be sensitive to His voice.  Be open to see and hear and experience Him.  I wish I could say I always do that, but I am remiss way too often.

Early last week, Papa and I prepared to go on a much-needed vacation.  He had a few days left and the old use it or lose it rule is in effect where he works.   So we discussed where we might be able to travel by car for a short trip.   After some thought, discussion, and internet searches for a place to stay, we landed on an opportunity.

I’ve always wanted to see the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.  If I had a bucket list, it would be on it. We found a cottage nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville that one could rent for less than a week, and amazingly it was available over the 4th of July.  We promptly booked it and started packing.

Lately, I’d been feeling listless.  My job search proved fruitless and since school is out for summer, there’s no substitute teaching.  Oh, plenty of projects and chores called out to me here at home, but frankly, I just didn’t have the heart to even start them.   I even felt distant from God, slacked off on prayer and Bible reading time, and found no inspiration for blog writing to boot.  And to top it off, I’ve felt so weary of all of the attacks on people of faith that are constantly being highlighted in the news, not to mention the prevalence of downright rudeness and crass ways people  seem to have adopted. 

Yes, I decided, I needed a vacation away from the hum-drum of everyday life as much as my hard-working husband.  The day before we left, I stopped in a department store on my way home from getting a haircut.  As the store clerk was ringing up my purchase, I noticed a piece of paper taped to the side of her cash register, facing the customer side.   A small metal object in the shape of an angel dangled from the paper, which was a little poem about God’s angels.  I read it and frankly, I don’t even remember what was written.

I was surprised that the poetry was allowed in this public place because someone or other always complains about such things and forces their removal.  But that’s not what amazed me the most.  Underneath that printed poem were these handwritten words:  “God loves you!”  The word you was underlined twice to emphasize it, and I felt as if it were a message just for me that day – one of those little rays of light that God shines down that I must be willing to notice.

And He continued radiating His light all through our vacation.  State by state (we drove through six states in one day), God made Himself known to me.  Along the highway in one state, I glimpsed numerous sets of three crosses on the hillsides.  The middle and largest cross was always painted gold and each time I noticed the cross, it reassured me of His willingness to pay the price for my salvation.

Viewing the countryside of mountains, creeks, and woods on our scenic drive reminded me that only a majestic and powerful God could speak such spectacular creation into being.  Once we arrived at our destination, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the cottage we had rented.  It felt like a haven, a lovely spot of rest, and I knew only the God who loves me and wants what’s best for me provided this little sanctuary for a few days.

As we spent the following day touring the Biltmore Estate (which is absolutely amazing, by the way), we encountered kind and gracious folks, not discourteous or ill-mannered.  Not hearing one bit of foul language proved refreshing and pleasant.  It was as if the Lord was showing me that there are considerate, kindhearted people around us.  Again, that little spot of sunshine in a dark world.

We prepared our own meals but did dine on good North Carolina bar-b-que one evening.  And on our drive back home, we stopped at a chain restaurant in another state for dinner.  Even the waitress was well-mannered asking us politely, “May I take these plates?”   Papa picked up the bill and handed it to me, pointing to what was written on the bottom:  “Bring in your church bulletin on Sunday and get 15% off your bill.”

Another sign for me that there are people out there who still believe in God, who attend church to worship Him, and aren’t afraid to let others know.  People just like the bluegrass quartet of fellows playing guitars, banjo, and bass fiddle and singing their hearts out while beautifully harmonizing in a courtyard in downtown Mt. Airy, NC (Andy Griffith’s hometown and the real Mayberry from his TV show).

It surely was no coincidence that just as Papa and I sat down to listen to them, they began singing “Have a Little Talk with Jesus.”

I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in
And then a little light from heaven filled my soul
He bathed my heart in love and wrote my name above
And just a little talk with Jesus made me whole
(Now let us) have a little talk with Jesus (let us) tell him all about our troubles
(He will) hear our faintest cry (and we will) answer by and by
(Now when you) feel a little pray’r wheel turning
(Then you’ll) know a little fire is burning
(You will) find a little talk with Jesus makes it right
I may have doubts and fears my eyes be filled with tears
But Jesus is a friend who watches day and night
I go to him in prayer he knows my every care
And just a little talk with Jesus makes it right.

Those good ol’ boys didn’t know how they blessed my heart that day and reassured me not only that God is there listening to our cries but that He answers by and by.

Sometimes He answers with obvious rays of sunshine like He showed me one evening on one of our scenic drives through the mountains (my photo above).  Other times he sends us less conspicuous glimmers of ‘Sonshine.’  We just have to be willing to receive His message.  It just took a vacation trip to remind me.

“Whenever I see sunbeams coming through clouds, it always looks to me like God shining himself down onto us. The thing about sunbeams is they’re always there even though we can’t always see them. Same with God.”  ~ Terri Guillemets

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com