While you wait

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Waiting for the sheets to dry

From the doctor’s office to sitting in traffic, we’ve all done our fair share of it. Waiting, that is. Depending on your level of patience, waiting can either be just a little blip in the road or a major interruption.

Waiting just happens to be the theme for this week’s photo challenge and I’ve found that I just don’t have the time right now to wait for an idea of inspiration to come to me nor do I have a few spare moments to think about a photo to accompany my words.

So, to keep you, my readers, from waiting any longer, I’m recycling a photo (above) and a post I wrote seven years ago not long after I began my blogging journey here on Word Press. Way back then, I shared my thoughts about waiting and you can read them by clicking here.

“You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.”~ Craig Bruce

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Structure to build upon

blogDSCN0108 (2)I’m not a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person. Nope, I like to have my ducks all in a row and I will count them to make sure they are all there too.

Willy-nilly, I am not. I’m happiest when all around me is in order. This thing put away where it belongs. That thing relegated to the recycling or trash.

Clutter removed from the counters, the shelves, my desk, wherever I can see in plain sight. I want a clean slate when I look around.

A place for everything and everything in its place. That makes me feel calm and secure. And in control.  Because when my surroundings get out of control – and despite my intentions of having a spit-spot clean house, it gets pretty messy here – I feel out of control.

When my own little world isn’t in order, I can sense stress just surging inside of me, intensifying and ascending up my back and neck finally settling in my head like a ticking time bomb ready for a full-blown explosion.  

When I was a young mom with three active children, trying to keep my home orderly darn near drove me crazy. Seriously, how do you do so with toys, games, backpacks full of school papers, books, clothes dirty and clean, shoes galore, sporting equipment (and some of it smelled atrocious!), and all the accoutrements that come along with kids?

So to keep my sanity, I learned to just let some things go. Stop striving for perfection when it came to the orderliness of our home. And as I’ve aged… ahem…matured…I’ve even lightened up a good deal more. Well, as much as I can with a 2½- year-old grandchild in my home.

But what I realize I need, what truly floats my boat, calms my inner perfectionist, and keeps me feeling in control is structure, this week’s photo challenge theme.

My handy desk dictionary –yes, I still use a real paper-paged bound book called a dictionary – defines structure as a noun this way: 1. A complex entity. 2a Organization; arrangement. b. Constitution; make-up. 3. Something constructed esp. a building or part.

Words spoken to me over 40 years ago have remained lodged in my brain and rise to the surface when I think about that word – structure.  At the time I was a starry-eyed, idealistic college senior finishing a semester of student teaching in a junior high school classroom.

My supervising teacher – the 7th grade English teacher at this city school in whose classes I tried out my lesson plans – offered advice to me, which I’ve never forgotten, about launching my teaching career.

He advised me to start out tough, running a tight ship in the classroom with a lot of structure.  

“You can always lighten up, but you can never tighten up,” were the words Mr. D told me. He was right.

Without structure, where would we be? Our bodies certainly have structure in the form of all the bones that comprise our skeletal system.  Without that formation, we’d just be big blobs rolling around.

We take shelter and live in some type of building whether it be our homes made of cement, wood, or brick or even a tent. Without structure, nothing would stand to protect us from the environment.

Our modes of transportation all have structure from cars to buses to planes, trains, and ships. Without their forms, we’d all have to travel only by our own feet.

I’m no scientist, but I do know that there is structure in our DNA as well. If you’ve ever seen a drawing of a DNA molecule, you’ll note that there are two strands, a double helix, that wind around each other and resemble a sort of twisted ladder. Structure.

Our very lives here on earth revolve around structure. Twenty-four hours in a day. Seven days in a week. Fifty-two weeks in a year. Our planet revolves around the sun in an orderly way. All of it based on structure.

And every structure that exists also must have some sort of foundation. For me, the foundation of my structure is my faith. When I feel out of control and structure seems to be totally out of order, I pray. I turn to my guidebook for life, my Bible.

It’s the structure I build my life upon.

“Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.” ~ Saint Augustine

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

In my own little corner

blogDSCN0109 (2)Years ago, okay….many years ago when I was a child, I watched a musical version of Cinderella on television with real, live actors instead of animated ones.

The well-known fairy tale was set to lovely music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and I can still remember the actress Lesley Ann Warren, who played Cinderella, singing a song called, In My Own Little Corner.

Previously here in my blog, I’ve shared a quirky little characteristic I possess, but just in case you missed that, I’ll let you in on it.

More often than not, just the utterance of a mere word causes my brain to flip through all the information stored in it (after 60+ years, there’s a lot up there!) and produce  musical lyrics from the past with that particular word in the song.  

I don’t know why I remember song lyrics (and the music that accompanies them) so well, but I do. And as soon as I read that this week’s photo challenge theme was ‘corner,’ this song from that TV version of Cinderella came to life once more in my head.

“In my own little corner
In my own little chair
I can be whatever I want to be
On the wing of my fancy
I can fly anywhere
And the world will open its arms to me.”

As melancholy as the thought is of poor, abused, lovely Cinderella forced to labor for a vengeful step-mother and mean step-sisters and sit in her little corner of her dingy world, aren’t the song lyrics encouraging?

Despite her terrible condition and place in life, Cinderella rises above it. How? By using her imagination. I love that.

As someone who captures words and photographs attempting to carve them into something creative and inspiring, where would I be without some imagination? Without thoughts that ignite a spark of inspiration? Without a sense of optimism and purpose?

Because in my own little corner (right here in our home office),

In my own little chair (the comfy, swivel desk chair facing the computer screen),

I can be whatever I want to be (I can write whatever I want; I can turn my thoughts into sentences; I can post those words online for you to read).

On the wing of my fancy (inspired by words or photographs),

I can fly anywhere (my posts fly around cyberspace via the internet),

And the world will open its arms to me. (You, my readers, from all over the world, have opened your arms to me by clicking on my posts to read my thoughts.)

Sometimes, I wonder if putting myself ‘out there’ in cyberspace is worth the time and effort I put into writing this blog. Obviously, I don’t write it to make money because I earn absolutely no amount of dollars doing so.

I don’t even write to make a name for myself, or to broaden my ‘brand,’ or whatever the hype is now to publicize your writing because I write this without using my given name attached to it.

So why emerge from my own little corner and hit publish every week? The reason might just be found in yet another set of song lyrics:

“Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar;
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear,
Let not narrow self your way debar;
Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,
Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;
Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,
Brighten the corner where you are.” ~ lyrics by Ina D. Ogdon

I write because maybe, just maybe, from my own little corner I shed a little light into your little corner.

It takes perseverance, it takes discipline, and maybe even a little courage, but I’ll continue to brighten as many corners as I can for as long as I can.

“Courage can’t see around corners but goes around them anyway.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

My shiny

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Distractions.  

Distractions prove to be an issue with a lot of folks, me included.  They cause a little blip in our path. They divert our attention from the goal. They sidetrack us and cause us to lose our focus.

Sometimes they are a well-needed diversion providing a respite during a difficult task. But all too often, distractions are just time-wasters that prevent us from accomplishment.

I’m usually a fairly focused person. Once I set my sights on a short-term goal, I stay the course until it’s finished. But those long-term aspirations? Not so much. I find I’m easily distracted by what some call oooh, a shiny!

We all succumb, I suppose, at one point or another, to those shiny things that call our attention away from the task at hand. Even Olympic gold medal winning gymnast Gabby Johnson admitted to losing her focus when she was quoted as saying, “It’s very tough for me to focus. I’m like: Look, something shiny! No, focus. Oh, there goes a butterfly!”

I started a long-term project a couple of years ago, and I’m sorry to confess that it is nowhere nearly completed. It’s actually gathering digital dust, so to speak, in a flash drive on my desk. Too many ‘shiny’ distractions have caused me to put that project on a shelf.

Why am I writing about distractions today? Because the past week’s photo challenge exhorts participants to capture something shiny which causes you to lose focus, something that attracts your attention.

So what constitutes a distraction for me? 

The most usual and often one is my oldest grandchild. She diverts my attention in a good way though because I adore her and love spending time with her just about every day.

My youngest grandchild lives too far away to be a daily diversion, but still, when I’m with her or looking at videos and/or photos of her, she certainly monopolizes my attention too for all the same reasons; I adore her. Those two absolutely qualify as my “shinies.” 

The negative oooh shiny is my iPad mini, and I’m a little ashamed to say that when it sits there with its cute, little flowery cover on my desk, it just begs me to open it up, tap on either a game called Trivia Crack or a jigsaw puzzle app, read an e-book on the Kindle app, and waste way too much time. Definitely sidetracks me.

But I have an oooh, shiny that occurs every day, an instance that causes me to divert my attention enough to stop whatever I’m doing immediately. 

Sunset.

It’s my oooh, shiny distraction. Viewed right off our backyard deck every evening, it causes me to pause and take a few minutes to watch the sun slide softly into the horizon.

Sunset grabs my attention on a regular basis.  It prompts me to scurry for my camera, step outside no matter what the weather is like, and start focusing with my eyes, my lens, and my complete concentration.

Then I store those images of my shiny things away on my computer and on rainy days, when the sunset is blurred or hidden behind storm clouds, I can click on those photos and gaze at their beauty once more.

Sometimes they even help me make connections to thoughts that become blog posts.

Ah, shiny things. I think we just need to stop and take a look at them, even if they are distracting, because you never know where they may lead. 

“Writers are magpies by nature, always collecting shiny things, storing them away and looking for connections of things.” ~John Connolly

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Texture that sticks

blogIMG_0566A photograph. It’s a reflection of a subject with form and substance but the image itself is flat. A printed picture doesn’t have three-dimensional form like its subject, although it does have size. 

A photograph really doesn’t possess physical  texture though except on its surface be it glossy or matte finish. A photo can show you texture, but the picture itself just isn’t tactile; you can’t feel any textures. 

Take my photo above for instance.  You can see the upholstery of a chair has texture if you peer closely enough. Your eyes tell your brain that visually there are ridges and indentations in the fabric. But you can’t physically feel that texture with your own two hands and fingers.

This week’s photo challenge theme is textures, and since I’m not a very astute artsy kind of person, I’ve struggled with writing some worthwhile thoughts to accompany the photo I think personifies the challenge theme. 

Oh, I could dig back among the dusty corners of my mind, back — way back — to my days of being a college English major, and bring forth some literary definition of textures as in a composite of prose/poetry elements or an identifying quality of a story’s characters.

But my literary study days are long gone, and that kind of analyzing just never was my cup of tea. Honestly, I really wasn’t a typical English major, one to sit around and dissect and discuss a work of literature for its archetypal images or symbolic meanings.

Perhaps I’ve always been too much of a realist, too literal, which is probably why I ended up as a working journalist for a time. Just give me the facts and I’ll weave them into a story. I say what I mean and I mean what I say.

So why did I major in English anyway? Because I loved words. I loved to write. I loved to read. And I loved grammar. Unlike many of my peers, I loved the very structure of English. I enjoyed diagramming sentences because it was logical and made perfect sense to me.

Matter of fact,  a college class solely on structures of English was one of the courses I aced with flying colors along with all of my public speaking ones.

Writing and speaking. Those were my strong points – my make-up, my constitution, my textures if you will  – and they still are to this day.

I try to utilize those skills in whatever I do. For several years, I developed and presented educational programs in public and private school classrooms for a non-profit organization.

Using my tendency for dramatic flair in story-telling — probably why I wanted to be an actress when I was a young girl —  I could always tell when I attracted those easily distracted teen-aged students’ attention.  I worked hard to give them vital information about making healthy choices while entertaining them with a lively story. 

I surely didn’t want to come across as flat or one-dimensional in that endeavor back then. And I still don’t want that as I tell different stories in my blog posts now.

No, I want to have substance, structure, composition.  So I’m claiming this to be my texture: I’m a pretty decent story teller – either written or orally – who just so happens to be capable of logically putting sentences together.

That’s my story when it comes to textures. And I’m sticking to it.

“A good story, just like a good sentence, does more than one job at once. That’s what literature is: a story that does more than tell a story, a story that manages to reflect in some way the multilayered texture of life itself.” ~  Karen Thompson Walker 

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Yes, I can

blogIMG_9914Unlike that old Rolling Stones song, I really CAN get satisfaction.

And that just happens to be the weekly photo challenge theme: satisfaction.

Satisfaction comes in many forms and can be the result of hard work and sacrifice.

It can be the completion of a task that has hovered over you for so long that you feel utter relief at finally finishing it.

It can come from a winning season at sports.

Or a day off just resting and relaxing.

Or maybe it’s a family gathering where there is much love and good food to boot.

It can be physical, mental, emotional, or even spiritual.

Satisfaction doesn’t even have to embody success; it can develop from putting forth effort in trying. Satisfaction can result in just a job well done to the best of your ability.

When I think of satisfaction, a young blogging friend of mine comes to my mind. She is working hard towards a goal, both physically and mentally, and satisfaction for her is a series of small steps.  One step at a time.

Successful or not, she steadily moves towards her purpose, her ambition. And each step must give her satisfaction – not to stop but to continue her quest.

For me, I’m not one to want a lot. I’m happy and content with life. I’m pretty well satisfied.

I’m not in search of fame or fortune. I don’t write this blog for recognition or to make a name for myself, which is why I keep it pretty anonymous. I just want to bless and encourage others on my journey.

So many aspects of this life on earth give me satisfaction. My faith. My family. My home in the country.

Even little things like keeping weeds at bay around the shrubs and flower gardens.  Seeing the sweet smiles on my adorable grand-daughters’ faces. A blue sky and sunshine-filled balmy day. A fresh snowfall.

And don’t laugh, but office supplies make me happy.

All things satisfying in my book.

But there is something else that fills up my satisfaction bin. Capturing a photograph that I truly love with my trusty camera.   

When I see a perfect photo with my eyes and the image that I find, straight out of my camera with no editing, demonstrates exactly how I saw it and imagined how it would turn out, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

It doesn’t happen all the time. As a strictly amateur and not all that knowledgeable photographer, I’m often disappointed when a shot doesn’t manifest like I hoped it would.

But oh, the joy,  the satisfaction when it does!

“He who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing.” ~ Epicurus

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Usual? I think not.

blogIMG_0311As soon as I read this week’s photo challenge theme – unusual you know what happened? An old Tom Jones song from the year 1965 popped into my head.

“It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone, it’s not unusual to have fun with anyone…It’s not unusual to go out at any time…It’s not unusual, to be mad with anyone, it’s not unusual, to be sad with anyone…”

Of course, Jones was singing about being in love, which is not unusual.  Happens pretty often to us human beings. So what is unusual? More than we think.

I’m venturing on a different route here today. Usually, I showcase a photo that personifies the photo challenge and I expound on that theme with one story or thought centered on the subject.

But instead, I’m compiling some unusual events I’ve noticed in totally random order in list form.  So here’s my catalogue of uncommon or rare happenings lately:

  1. Respect for law enforcement. Several months ago when a good bit of verbal bashing of law enforcement officers was publicized in social media and on the news, I witnessed something which stayed in my mind ever since. At a very busy restaurant, our family waited patiently to be seated. The queue of folks giving their names to the hostess just kept getting longer and longer. The restaurant doors opened and in walked two uniformed state policemen, obviously on a dinner break. I watched with interest as the hostess called a couple who had been waiting longer than us for an open table.  Instead of following the hostess, they walked over to the officers and offered the policemen their table. What a kind and respectful thing to do. And how often does that happen I wonder? Unusual, I think.

 

  1. Kindly concern for a stranger. I have a strange skin issue happening; I seem to be losing pigment. As a very fair-skinned person, I’ve always been subject to sunburns easily unless I use sunscreen. Now, I’m even more fair-skinned with the loss of melanin, yet despite the fact that my skin turns very red and looks burned if I’ve been exposed to the sun without protection, it doesn’t hurt and my skin doesn’t peel away as in the past. Instead, the redness just fades away. While on our second day of vacation in the
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    Me looking more like a lobster than this guy!

    blistering heat and sunshine, I forgot my sunscreen. By the third day, I was definitely doing a lobster impression based on the color of my skin, even though I had sunscreen applied by that point. A considerate stranger approached me and asked me if I was alright and did I need some sunscreen because as she stated, “I don’t know if you realize it, but you’re getting very red.” I thanked her kindly, told her I did have sunscreen on, and that I truly was just fine. Random act of kindness? Surely. Unusual, I think. 

 

  1. Loving in-laws. Recently, we enjoyed a visit from my sister and brother-in-law who live out west. On one of their last evenings with us, they invited us to join them, our other sister and brother-in-law, and a couple who have been their long-time friends for dinner at a local eatery. We enjoyed lively conversation and started talking about our parents. As always, we sisters reminisce often about our folks because we are a close family and miss our deceased parents so much. A wistful look passed across my western brother-in-law’s face for a moment as he commented, “They were the most wonderful in-laws a person could ever ask for.” They truly meant the world to him. What a tribute to the kind of people my parents were. And how many folks could and would say that about their own in-laws? Unusual, I think.

 

  1. Thickly Settled. On yet another vacation day, Papa and I were traveling through Massachusetts and stopped at a quaint little town. We missed a turn, so we found a side street in which to turn around. I noticed a street sign reading “Thickly Settled” causing me to pull out my camera. Perplexed by the wording, we assumed that thickly settled meant a densely populated area, but that neighborhood didn’t fit the description to us. The streets of Boston – now those were thickly settled. After we came hblogIMG_0031 (2)ome and shared this unusual sign’s photo with other family members as well as the one that said “Speed Hump” (our signs caution us that there is a speed bump), I conducted a bit of research about why those signs are worded in that fashion. According to the Massachusetts driver’s manual, “a ‘thickly settled’ district is an area where houses or other buildings are located, on average, less than 200 feet apart.” The significance though is an unposted speed limit – 30 mph – exists in those areas, so if you exceed that, it’s considered unreasonable and improper, and you will end up with a speeding ticket. So how would tourists know that I wonder? Should we consider that a speed trap? Unusual, I think.

 

  1. Foxy neighbors. Papa enjoyed some lobster for his birthday dinner while we were in Connecticut on our vacation. We ate a simple meal one evening, sitting outside with a view of the waterfront directly in front of us. While driving back to our hotel in Mystic, we passed through a picturesque village on qblogIMG_0241 (2)uiet neighborhood streets. Quite suddenly, Papa applied the brakes and exclaimed, “Look!” Two foxes were cavorting and playing right in the middle of someone’s yard. And it was a ‘thickly settled’ area too. I managed to snap a quick photo of one of the daring critters. It’s not often you see foxes so close to human houses. What does the fox say? Unusual, I think.

 

  1. Scene from “The Birds.” And finally, one day as I composed blog posts at our home office desktop computer, I saw a flash of movement outside the window. I have to admit I was a tad startled at the sight on our front lawn. I couldn’t count, but it seemed like at least a couple hundred birds the size of robins had descended. I grabbed the camera, stepped out onto the porch and whoosh! They rose up into the air and I swear, I felt like I was in a scene from that scary Alfred Hitchcock movie in the 60’s – The Birds. Creepy and fascinating all at the same time. Would anyone believe me? Here’s the photo above to prove it. Unusual, I think.

So what unusual occurrences have you noticed in your world? They’re out there, you just have to be on the lookout – and if you’re anything like me, that’s usual.

“Today is a most unusual day, because we have never lived it before; we will never live it again; it is the only day we have.” ~ William Arthur Ward

©2017 mamasmeptynest.wordpress.com

 

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