Posted in Life

Words for Wednesday: gifted

Am I the only one who does this?

For those of you who are parents, do you ever look at your offspring and wonder where in the world a certain trait, personality, or skill came from? I mean, I sometimes wonder if some of those aspects just skip generations.

Papa’s and my young’uns are no longer children but are full-fledged adults. As they grew into maturity portraying certain abilities and skills, I often questioned how they possessed some of their talents.

I assumed somehow it was woven into their genes from an ancestor somewhere along the line because they certainly didn’t inherit some of those traits from their parents.

Like mathematics. All three of our kids excelled in that subject. And while Papa and I can balance our checkbook and perform basic math procedures, we are not stellar mathematicians.  

Case in point: number one daughter. Our oldest, she has always been interested in everything science and excels in that field. She attained a molecular biology degree and during her career has worked in medical research. On top of that all, she’s a runner and participated in track and cross country.

Where did any of that come from? I’m sorry to say neither Papa nor I were top-notch science students, nor did we desire a career in that intensive field in any way. And we certainly are not runners. Fast walkers maybe, but running for competition and pleasure? No way.

Next is daughter two, also adept in math and science and even as a child, sensitive to others’ needs.  She’s a medical professional and has worked at large hospitals attending to very sick patients. In the sports world, she shined in soccer until injuries halted play on her college team, so she too adopted running cross country.

Where did all that come from? Her parents aren’t necessarily full of mercy and sensitivity. Again, no proclivities for desiring a career taking care of sick patients in a hospital environment either.  Heck, her Mama can’t deal with the sight or smell of regurgitation, let alone tend to ill people’s physical ailments. Neither Mama nor Papa ever showed any prowess at soccer either.

Then there’s the last one, our son. Skilled in mathematics, science, and a straight-A student with a lot of artistic bent, he also played four different sports: soccer, basketball, baseball, and track in high school. He acquired his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering.

His parents? Not particularly athletic, certainly not merit-worthy scholars or artistically talented, and would not know a differential equation if it smacked us in the face (let alone know how to even begin to solve one).

Where do these abilities come from? Frankly, it stumps me when I pause to ponder it. Their mother holds a college degree in English and is only adept at writing, by no means math or science.

Their father’s bachelor of arts is in Criminology, for crying out loud. And even though his career was mostly in the sales business after serving in the military, he wasn’t the cream of the crop in math or science either.

So, can we attribute their skills and capabilities so very different from ours to recessive genes? Throwbacks to some ancestors? Who the heck knows?

I say all of this not to brag about our offspring, but to prove a point. Our kids amazed us with their abilities and talents and we’re thankful and appreciative for them.

Just in the last couple of years, we’ve been pleasantly astonished when our son demonstrated another of his talented sides. He remodeled the kitchen in a former home of his and our daughter-in-law’s.

It looked like this when they moved into the 60’s era house, which had been updated somewhat, before they owned it.

After their purchase of this home, our son redesigned and remodeled the kitchen himself and constructed the beautiful wood countertop on the center island and our talented daughter-in-law decorated their kitchen.

And it looked like this – something out of house beautiful magazine pages. The best part? Son really relished planning and completing this project.

That’s a plus – thoroughly garnering delight and satisfaction while using your talents. And that exactly describes the feelings I’ve experienced while writing this blog for over 11 years now. It’s not a chore, it’s a joy and a talent I’ve tried to use wisely.

From where do our talents, abilities, and skills come? This I know – hard work is part of it. My parents instilled that value in me, and Papa and I always encouraged our children to do their best and work diligently as well.

“Talent comes from God. If you have been given some, then value it, cultivate it, work and develop it.” ~Denzel Washington

But I also believe God graciously endows us with capabilities He wants us to use for His glory, to do His will, to somehow help others along the way.

And I believe each one of us possesses God-given gifts that He intends us to use for some purpose, a reason to be grateful even if that purpose isn’t completely obvious to us. He’ll show us if we listen for His instruction.

Each of us is a somebody, a person with talents that shouldn’t go to waste.

“God didn’t have time to make a nobody, only a somebody. I believe that each of us has God-given talents within us waiting to be brought to fruition.” ~ Mary Kay Ash

© 2021

Posted in Life

Words for Wednesday: left-brained?

Maybe I’m just obtuse – my definition: thick as a brick, just not getting it – but I have a difficult time understanding modern or contemporary art.

I certainly can appreciate the time, effort, and expression an artist puts into creating this genre of art, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it represents or means.

Maybe I’m just too much of a realist, which could also explain why I’m not a prolific fiction writer and stick to essay-style writing here in my blog.

I don’t have a vivid imagination enabling me to fill page after page with a fabricated story. If there’s any truth to the theory that right-brained people are more creative free thinkers and left-brained are more prone to logic and details, you could probably categorize me as a lefty.

And that could explain why I’m very adept at editing other’s writing. Not only am I a good proofreader finding typos and mistakes, but I am proficient at improving word choice, grammar, sentence structure, style, plot and character development, and using more concise writing. (It’s the former English teacher in me.)

Case in point: just the other day I read a self-published book, which will remain nameless here, one I actually borrowed from the public library. Whew, boy. That author needed an editor!

Not only was the plot weak and the characters undeveloped, but the author chose to tell the story by continuous dialogue between all the characters. Talk about uninteresting. It was like eavesdropping on people’s mundane conversations and surely did not engage me in the story at all.

I put the book down several times because I’m sorry to say it was just so boring, but then would pick it back up and continue reading in hopes it would eventually improve.

Nope. Page after page of just dialogue. No descriptions. No interactions. Just blabbing. I’m glad it was short, but I skipped through most of the book anyhow.

I mean when you write this as a phone conversation in your book: “Hello, what are you doing?” “Not much, how about you?” “Can you meet me at the library?” “Sure, see you there, bye.” “Bye!”

You’re going to bore your reader to tears.

So enough of that diatribe. If I had edited that book for the author, I would have suggested SO MANY ways to make it better. That I get.

But back to modern or contemporary art. That I don’t get.

Too many times I view examples of artwork and they just stump me. Whatever does it signify? What was the artist attempting to portray or express? Beats me.

A few years ago, Papa and I took a day trip to a well-known museum which also features an entire building with various forms of artistic expressions.  I enjoyed most of it, but try as I might, the modern and contemporary art sculptures, paintings, and mixed media stymied me.

This past summer I was once again reminded that I am pretty obtuse when it comes to understanding this form of artwork.

On our way to visit family, Papa and I stopped for lunch in an area where there were several shopping centers. Because of the you know what, some restaurants were still not open for seating, so we just ordered at a drive-thru Chick-fil-A to grab a sandwich.

We found a fairly empty parking lot outside of a sporting goods store and pulled over to eat. On our way to the area where no vehicles were parked or driving through, we passed two sculptures.

Of course, I had to vacate the car for a couple minutes to take photos of them.

This one I understood. It was simple and easy for me to say, ‘Aha, I get it.’

But this other one? Well, it certainly was beautiful – all shiny and glowing – situated there on a little plot of green grass. However, I haven’t a clue what it represents or the emotions or thoughts it’s meant to evoke in the viewer.

The only thoughts I had were “Hmm…what is that supposed to be?” And “Gee, why was it placed way back here in the far area of this shopping center where not many people can see it instead of in a more prominent spot?

See how my brain works? How about yours? Does the sculpture above speak to you in some way? What impression does it give you? Any meaning come to your mind?

Enquiring minds (and probably left-brained) like mine want to know.

“You never know when contemporary art is going to insinuate itself into a normally art-free zone.” ~ Roberta Smith, art critic

© 2021

Posted in Humor, photography, travel

Words for Wednesday: eau de toilette

You can’t fight city hall, or can you?

If you’re unfamiliar with this idiom, “You can’t fight city hall,” most of us Americans use it to mean there’s no way we can win against the bureaucracy of government whether it be local, city, or national.

Supposedly, this saying originated and became popular back in the 19th century when a very powerful political machine, Tammany Hall, controlled New York’s Democratic party. And by controlling the party, that organization controlled city government. Anyone outside of that political organization had no say so.

With that in mind, I found it fascinating that an unusual photo opportunity we discovered on our summer journey to New York state provided me with not only quirky pictures but a story about one man “fighting city hall.”

While cruising through the New York town of Potsdam, I couldn’t help but notice an entire vacant lot filled with toilets. Yep, you read that correctly. Toilets. What toddlers call potties. In POTSdam. (I found that particularly funny.)

Now this wasn’t just a couple of abandoned toilets on a plot of ground. Oh no, toilet after toilet lined up in rows all adorned with brightly colored artificial flowers – potty posies.

Naturally, I yelled, “Stop the car!” to Papa and even though he managed to do so because we were at a traffic signal turning red, he willingly obliged me by going around the block, returning to the scene, and locating a spot to park so I could satisfy my trigger-happy finger on my camera.

Shaking my head in wonderment and after quite a lengthy conversation with Papa about what possibly could be the reason for someone purposefully adorning a vacant lot with a plethora of potties, I decided as soon as we arrived home, I’d search the all-knowing internet for an answer.

And I found one.

Pottsdam is a college town, home to Clarkson University and SUNY College at Potsdam, so you might think the toilets were placed there as a prank by students.  Nope. Turns out, a businessman and life-long Potsdam resident named Hank Robar created this “toilet garden,” one of two such unusual attractions.

Is he a budding contemporary artist of some sort? Well, no. He actually installed the first of his “gardens” as a protest. His own fight against City Hall because the town planning board rejected his bid to have his residential lot rezoned commercial. Back in 2004, he wanted to sell that property to Dunkin’ Donuts which would construct a store on the site, but city hall said no way.

In retrospect, I wonder if they are now regretting that decision since probably a donut shop would have been more preferable than a toilet garden. Or maybe they can just call it an outdoor art exhibit since New York Times bestselling author Jenny Larson wrote: “It’s okay to keep a broken oven in your yard as long as you call it art.”

So why not artful toilets – they are a form of pottery after all?

Regardless, the Potsdam potty garden provided a fun photo-op and some eau de toilette (literally translated: toilet water) humor that made me laugh even while I was writing this post, my ode to toilet.  

“Problems are like toilet paper. You pull on one and ten more come.” ~ Woody Allen

© 2021

Posted in photography, season changes

Words for Wednesday: waiting for autumn

It’s here. All the signs are evident. The days grow shorter. The nights turn cooler. Summer flowers are fading fast. And here and there, a bright spot of color other than green appears on our trees.

My favorite season of the year is autumn. I recently noticed one of those cute signs that folks put out in their yard for fall decorating that said: “There are two times of year: autumn and waiting for autumn.”

I can agree with that. Right now, our front porch is demonstrating that thought. Our bright red petunias still bloom in the dark green porch boxes hanging on our railing, but gorgeous yellow mums stand at attention like sentries beside our front door, waiting for autumn.

The porch swing still adorns the porch and the tree swing remains suspended in the front yard. But we gleaned six pumpkins from just a couple vines in our garden patch and they grace the front sidewalk, waiting for autumn.

We visited a local pumpkin patch with our oldest grandchild to enjoy some fall fun. After meandering through a corn maze, we noticed an entire field of sunflowers were still blooming just like the ones in the photo above snapped at a Maryland lavender farm back in July. Apparently, they are waiting for autumn.

The calendar says it’s autumn…yet here we’re still waiting for it to fully arrive. Waiting for the leaves to completely transform into fall’s colored hues and that special nutty aroma that announces autumn is in session.

I’ll be patient because all good things come to those who wait.

“Go, sit upon the lofty hill, And turn your eyes around, Where waving woods and waters wild Do hymn an autumn sound. The summer sun is faint on them— The summer flowers depart— Sit still— as all transform’d to stone, Except your musing heart.” ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in her poem The Autumn

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Words for Wednesday: balanced history

The Papa of this empty nest and I have history.

Considering how many relationships end after just a few years nowadays in society, Papa’s and my history goes back pretty far. We met as college students and dated for three years before we took the plunge into wedlock 44 years ago as we were launching our careers.

In just a few years, Lord willing, we will hit the big 5-0. Not 50 years of age, that’s long past. Not quite 50 years of marriage yet, but adding up the time we’ve been a couple, 50 years together.

We’ve learned much through all these years, but one of the most significant aspects of successful relationships we’ve discovered is balance.

Picture one of those instruments used for weighing items, like the scales of justice shown below. Composed of an arm, supported in the center, extending out with two dishes suspended on each side of the arm’s ends.  When material of equal weight is placed in both pans, the scale is perfectly balanced.  

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on

Balance is a key in wedded life. Not perfect because no relationship ever attains that rating. Balance in an equal partnership. Balance in fulfilling both person’s needs. Balance in love, caring, and respect.  

And that’s what Papa and I have strived for during our married life. Honestly, we didn’t always succeed but we persevered in trying. Life throws relationships curve balls, and we experienced our share of those, but we learned to adjust and take care of one another until we could hit that ball out of the park.

Why am I reminded of this? Since our nest became empty when our last offspring graduated college and flew away over 10 years ago, Papa and I started contemplating more seriously what retirement years would be like.

And now we are in that stage of life. Spending more time together than ever since taking care of our children and working away from home doesn’t require our time any longer. And we enjoy traveling together to view new sights and gain new experiences.

When we plan a vacation or trip, we try to keep balanced. We discuss travel plans and include places I would like to visit and spots that interest Papa as well. Sometimes we travel to a place where one of us has visited before, but the other hasn’t. Instead of saying, “Oh, I’ve been there; I don’t want to go back,” we agree to travel there so either Papa or I can see that spot for the first time.

Unusual places and natural sights interest me, and I appreciate opportunities to photograph those. Papa loves historical and nautical attractions and museums. So, we try to combine both of our interests into our journeys.

Our early summer trip along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in western New York is a perfect example of how we include balance in our excursions.

Since Papa is fascinated by historical facts and places, we not only visited the lighthouses along that national scenic byway but also spent a considerable amount of time exploring Sackets Harbor Battlefield, the site of two battles during the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain.

The well-protected harbor on Lake Ontario became the US Navy’s Great Lakes headquarters and played an important role during that war. Papa relished reading all the historical signage about this village, where thousands of naval and army troops once worked, building ships, forts, and barracks, as I captured scenic photos of the lake and battlefield.

The historic area of Sackets Harbor is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has many well-preserved 19th century structures. Today Sackets Harbor is a quaint village with many shops and restaurants as well as a spot for boat enthusiasts and a historical tourist attraction.

As we walked around the battlefield that nice summer day, only a few people were there. But the village itself where the shops and restaurants were located was very busy.

Too busy for us. A fact that both Papa and I have discovered in which we have balance. Neither of us cares to be in crowded, congested places for long. Our history proves it.

“History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” ~  David McCullough

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Words for Wednesday: mark my shoe

“No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving something behind.”

That quote is attributed to George Washington Carver, an early 20th century agricultural scientist, inventor, and professor, who is well-known for discovering an amazing amount of uses for peanuts, soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes. I distinctly remember learning and writing a report about him in elementary school detailing some of the research he conducted on peanuts.

This man who came from a very humble background, was the first black student admitted to Simpson College in Iowa and became the first black faculty member of Iowa College. Because of his industrious career and the many achievements and awards he received, Carver definitely left something behind – his mark – on our world in a most positive way.

But somehow, I don’t believe when he spoke of leaving something behind or making your mark in the world the following is what he had in mind.

While on our early summer journey through western New York state in search of the many lighthouses along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, Papa and I encountered a sight that really made us scratch our heads in bewilderment, turn the car around, and head back to ascertain that we saw what we really saw.

Somewhere between two lighthouses – Thirty Mile Point and Oak Orchard – on our way to Rochester, NY, this is what we stumbled upon.

Shoes. Hundreds of shoes hanging from trees. A whole new meaning to the word shoe tree. A shoe tree, in case you’re not familiar with that item, is a form you insert into your shoes to help keep them in their original shape.

So, we astonishingly saw shoe trees. Not shoe forms. Shoe trees. Literally four trees, upon which hung shoes of all kinds, colors, shapes, and sizes, situated in a triangle-shaped grassy area at an intersection near the town of Lyndonville.

Shoe trees. According to a little blurb I discovered on the website Atlas Obscura, “Shoe trees are a phenomenon that pop up all over the place, all of them loaded with legend, but rarely explained as much more than a tradition of the area.”

You got to believe the purpose of this sight perplexed us, and of course, I HAD to photograph this because who would believe me? After doing a tad of research on why in the world so many shoes dangle from trees, I discovered the reasons varied.

Supposedly, the most popular explanation is if you are successful at hurling your shoes upwards and they catch on a tree branch, you will be granted a wish or at the very least, good luck. Ah-huh.

But some of the shoes and boots on these four trees in the Lyndonville area were actually nailed or somehow affixed to the trees, not just tossed up and luckily catching on a branch.

Apparently, this is a decades old thing that I never was aware of until I saw it myself with my very own eyes. And being the practical-minded person that I am, I don’t quite understand why people – men, women, and children – are willing to leave their perfectly fine footwear (for the most part these weren’t old, worn out, dilapidated, or broken) behind on a tree.

Maybe people just want to leave their mark somehow that they were there? So, leave your shoes? Your perfectly good shoes?? Or instead of “if the shoe fits, wear it,” if the shoe doesn’t fit, toss it into a tree?

Naturally, this practice is discouraged and deemed environmentally irresponsible by some, yet it continues.  Shoes and boots flung skyward continue to hang suspended causing visiting passers-by to take a second look and for this tourist, an amusing photo opportunity and blog post fodder.

Even though I tend to kick off my shoes when Papa and I road trip, I won’t be flinging them into a tree anytime soon. No thank you, I believe I’ll hang onto my shoes.

I think I’ll need them when I depart our vehicle on an escapade to capture entertaining photographs to share with my readers right here in Mama’s Empty Nest. This blog may be the legacy I leave the world, instead of my shoes.

“If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.” ~ Maya Angelou

© 2021

Posted in Humor, Life

Words for Wednesday: sign of the times

Photo by Maria Gulyaeva on

Signs. If you live in any community, no matter where on this planet, you more than likely will see a sign or two or twenty.

Signs on street corners, signs on billboards along the highway, signs in cities, small towns, and even in rural areas. Signs in people’s front yards.

Signs that advertise. Signs that inform. Signs that endorse political candidates. Signs that provide direction. Signs that label this street, road, or lane or this or that building.

Signs are everywhere. Even when Papa and I drove along a long stretch of the famous Route 66 in Arizona on one of our jaunts out west, we saw signs. Not many cars or trucks. Very few houses. But every so often, we read the iconic Burma Shave signs of old. And we got a big kick (get your kicks on Route Six-Six) out of reading those signs.

Likewise, on our summer trip through western New York along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, we noticed some signs that gave us some good belly laughs. Alas, I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to capture those signs, but I did remember them.

Like the one I spied as we drove through Batavia, New York, a quaint mid-sized town, one evening after checking into our hotel. We were on the lookout for ice cream and we found it at a delightful candy shop called Oliver’s, where we also sampled our first ever taste of chocolate sponge candy. Delicious, by the way.

Cruising around town before we found the goodies, I noticed a variety of garage/yard sale signs, but a particular one caught my eye. It was a large, hand-painted sign that read “Mammoth Sale Today!” And I wondered out loud how the sellers managed to find a mammoth for sale? I thought those were extinct.

Not long afterwards, I spied a second sign at a nursery/garden center that made me chuckle. “Help Wanted for Mums.” Well, what about Dads? Don’t they need help also? Or is it just Mums who can’t cope and need assistance?

But the one that totally cracked my husband up had been noticed earlier in the day, somewhere along the highway, and I honestly don’t remember exactly where we were in New York but I do recall it was in a rural area.

That one had a rather large photo of that state’s governor with this editorial comment painted under his smiling face: “My Governor is an idiot.”

Okay, it certainly is not right to call anyone names, but my guess is that there are a lot of folks all over the place (and not just in my country) who probably think the same thing about their leaders.

I’m reminded of a catchphrase that comedian Bill Engvall used a lot in his comedic monologues: “Here’s your sign.” I imagine that he could make some pretty funny jokes about all of these signs.

A spot of humor. A dash of lightheartedness. A moment that brings a smile to our faces and causes us to laugh out loud. Isn’t that what we all need a bit of in light of all the bleak, dark realities of our world?

A sense of humor… is needed armor. Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.~ Hugh Sidey

© 2021

Posted in family, Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: into the woods

School is now in session. But you don’t always have to be in school just to learn something new.

It’s that time of year when the big yellow buses travel down our road stopping every few houses to pick up school students. New backpacks, lunchboxes, shoes, clothes, and other school necessities have been purchased.

The school bell is ringing, and our oldest grandchild is growing up before our eyes as she is launched into a new year of learning.

The end of a lazy, hazy summer arrived before we could believe it, and we wanted to enjoy one last hurrah before her first day of school.

So, one day while her mama worked, Nana and Papa took Little One on a day trip that promised not only to be full of outdoor fun but also would allow some exploring and learning to boot.

Little One helped Nana pack a picnic basket with our lunch, sunscreen, tick repellant, and a thermos of ice water and off we set on an adventure into the woods. Our destination was a spot for which I have fond memories from my own childhood.

We traveled to Cook Forest State Park, an 8,500-acre area along the Clarion River in northwestern Pennsylvania. Sometimes thought to be a gateway to the Allegheny National Forest, Cook Forest is well known for its thickets of old growth white pine and hemlock trees.

It’s a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing down the river as well as offering cabins for vacation stays, camping areas, picnic spots, and many wooded hiking trails.

We first stopped at an old, historic fire tower that I remember climbing as a teenager. Papa and Little One braved the 80-foot climb to the top while Nana snapped photos of their ascent. From its pinnacle, the scenic view from the tower is panoramic.

After being cooped up in the car, Little One thoroughly enjoyed the short hike through the woods to and from the fire tower and climbing over gigantic rocks. Being active was a plus, but what she didn’t realize was that she was also learning something new.

We stopped along the way to inspect fungi growing on trees, toadstools, moss, and giant gnarly tree roots. Papa helped her count the rings on a tree stump to determine how old the tree must have been.

At lunchtime, we found a quiet picnic spot beside a creek which provided even more adventure and education. While eating, Little One noticed two kinds of butterflies on a nearby tree and enjoyed watching them.

After eating, we explored a short trail that took us over the creek via two wooden bridges. But the best part was when she examined critters and rocks in the creek.

Tadpoles were a delight to watch. Wading up and down the cold-water creek was even more so and giggles of glee abounded.

From there, we drove along the river where we watched a few folks paddling kayaks and those tubing along on floats.  We even found a spot to wade in the shallow water and toss stones to determine the largest splashes and kerplops made.

A quick shower of rain didn’t dampen our fun either. As the day wound down and it was time to head back home, how did we end our excursion? By eating delicious scoops of ice cream, of course, from the Cooksburg Café.

Little One devoured her strawberry ice cream cone happily discovering chunks of real strawberries in it. Papa indulged in white chocolate raspberry trifle and Nana satisfied her cravings with a chocolate peanut butter cone that included the largest pieces of frozen peanut butter I’ve ever eaten in my life.

It was a great way to end a summer’s day, to enjoy an outing before school resumed, and learn a few of nature’s lessons.

Our Little One may be growing up with no way to stop time but we hope she never halts her desire to learn new things in this life. And her Nana and Papa will provide those opportunities as long as we are able.

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

© 2021

Posted in human nature, Life

Words for Wednesday: who, me?

This is Barley. The photo above is when he was an adorable puppy in 2014. Now he is older of course, but he’s still pretty adorable.

Barley belongs to our son, daughter-in-law, and two of our grandchildren. Barley is a full-bred Brittany, a breed of dog once called Brittany Spaniel until the early 1980’s when the name was changed to simply Brittany.

Barley totally fits the description of his breed. He is extremely smart, loves to please, and has a lot of energy so he is most enthusiastic about taking long, brisk walks. He’s also very obedient and our son has trained him well. He follows commands and willingly performs a repertoire of tricks.

But one of the aspects of Barley’s personality is that he is oh, so loving. I recall when our son and daughter-in-law first brought Barley to meet us and told us the breeder referred to him as a “love bug.”

That he surely is. Someone along the way forgot to inform Barley that he’s not a lap dog because he loves to jump up into our son’s arms or hop into your lap for snuggling. And that’s a lot of dog in your lap!

Barley is truly a great pooch, loyal to his family, well-trained, lovable, and bright. But now it’s time for confession: I’m not a dog person, but I do love Barley.

Honestly, I’ve never wanted a dog to join my family. I grew up with many felines as pets, not once a canine.  

As a child, I remember one occasion when I came very close to being bitten by a mutt, and I recall as a young teenager taking a walk with my friends when we were chased by a fierce looking, growling German Shepherd.  

Just a bit frightening, but I’m not necessarily afraid of dogs, I’m just not fond of them and I have never liked when they jump up on me and try to lick my face. Yuck.   

But Barley is a different story. He is so eager to see us, he becomes wound up and excited but he’s obedient enough not to jump up on me. He follows me begging for my attention and affection.

And when he turns those deep brown eyes full of love on me, I just swoon and coo to him in baby talk. “Is Barley a good boy? Does Barley love his Nana?”

Yeah, I’m a sucker for him. If I’m sitting down, he hops up into my lap and closely snuggles with me. He’s just so lovable, I cannot resist him.

Barley is smart enough to know when he’s done something wrong though. The expression in his eyes and look on his face tells the story. That sheepish, “who me?” kind of look.

And that prompted me to think about us humans. Don’t we do the same thing? We say or do something we know is wrong but when we’re called out on it, we feign a ‘who, me?’ look on our faces to try to deny it.

For those of you who thought this post was a cute story about an endearing doggie, you might want to brace yourself for this next part.

An epidemic of wrongdoing is occurring in our society currently and it seems the human race is pitted against one another. We rail with denigrating, vehement words and deeds against people who don’t think the same way we do.

One political party against another. One supporter of this policy or that against the anti-whatevers. One side claiming to be justified while pointing fingers at their perceived adversaries as wrong or uneducated or worse yet, stupid.

And it’s dividing us in so many ways. Dividing friends, dividing families, dividing us by race, creed, and religion. All because we don’t agree.

We can claim, “not me, I don’t do that.” But you know what? We are all guilty as charged. We do it and we continue to do so. We’ve bought into this ‘you’re either for me or against me’ mentality that society has promoted. Some of us just haven’t been called out on it yet.

Speaking of myself here, when all is said and done, I know that my words, my actions, and yes, even my thoughts will be called out someday, if I don’t address them today by admitting those wrongdoings and repenting of them.

When I rant against and denounce those who don’t agree with my stand on life’s aspects, or my beliefs, or my political persuasions, I can’t say I’m blameless. I can’t put that ‘who, me? I didn’t do it’ look on my face.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, it’s a sobering thought to know that all mankind will stand before God to be judged.  Jesus said in Matthew 12:36-37: “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

According to the Bible, those who don’t believe in Christ will be judged and then punished according to what they’ve done. But believers’ deeds will also be judged (Romans 14:10 tells us about the judgment seat of Christ). Those whose names are noted in the Book of Life (those believers who have accepted the gift of salvation) will be judged to determine their rewards in heaven.

But here’s the thing: just claiming to be a Christian won’t be your one-way ticket into eternal life in heaven. Going to church, tithing your money, opening up your Bible from time to time, and being “a good person” are all activities we often associate with being a Christian.

But if we’re not following and obeying Christ, if we don’t have a real and personal relationship with Him, if we don’t put Him first and foremost as Lord of our lives, our eternal life is in deep jeopardy.

Too easily even believers can reject truth, turn away from God, and be drawn to loving and adhering to what our society deems ‘good’ instead of following Christ and His Word.

It’s all about our hearts and what desire lies within. Is it truly believing God’s Word and its declaration of what is good and what is evil? Or is it embracing our society’s version and its worldview?

Do we love Christ above all else and glorify His name in what we say, think, or do? Or does self-gratification, acquiring money, power, notoriety, or being perceived as “politically correct” rule our hearts?

No matter what, we will all answer those questions someday. And when we must, we won’t be able to claim “Who, me?” and deny the truth.

Wouldn’t it be better if those of us who profess to be Christians prayed for our fellow humans, especially those we don’t agree with? Prayed for this strife between fellow humans to end? Prayed for those we perceive to be our “enemies?” Prayed for truth to prevail?

“Facing the truth might be uncomfortable but denying it is devastating.” ~ unknown

© 2021

Posted in Life, Summer

Wordless Wednesday: hummingbird wisdom

Summer will soon begin winding down. The days will shorten, the nights grow cooler yet, summer blooms will begin to fade, and the garden will stop producing its bounty.

Thoughts resort to back-to-school preparation for those to be educated and those who educate. Fall decorations will pop up reminding us the season will soon change.

Often, the end of summer causes me to recall those seasons of my younger years. This current summer reminds me a lot of ones I enjoyed as a child.  

Like many summers when I was a kid, the temperatures this season weren’t high with heat and stickiness, laced with humidity so thick it makes it hard to drum up energy. The usually hot and humidity-laced weather is mostly the reason why summer’s not my favorite season.

But this year, for the most part, summer was pleasant, and I appreciated this season, when we’ve not used our central air conditioning as often,  much more than I have in recent years.

Sunny, warm days followed by cooler nights when we could sleep with fresh air wafting through our open bedroom windows prevailed.

Summer evenings when I could relax on the front porch swing without feeling like I was encased in an oven were more the norm.

And remembering those kinds of summers reminded me of a song from the past.

Like any teenaged girl, I listened to popular music on the radio, especially a favorite past-time in summer when I hung out at my next-door neighbor friend’s swimming pool with her and her sister.

And in those days, I purchased vinyl records of my favorite songs — yes, I’m THAT old — which I played repeatedly on my record player (received as a Christmas gift when I was about 13), while tucked away in my bedroom.

Vinyl records were determined by diameter size and rotational speed in revolutions per minute (rpm) at which they were played on a record player’s turntable. Single songs were recorded on 7-inch 45 rpm discs while several songs were recorded on LPs, long-playing albums, 12-inch in size and played at 33 1/3 rpms.

I owned an entire case full of 45’s as a young teenager then graduated into buying albums as an older teen/young adult.

One of those albums was entitled Summer Breeze by American soft-rock musicians named Seals and Crofts. I purchased that album when I was in college and it was a favorite of mine. The songs were so easy to listen and sing along to, so mellow.

The lyrics still play in my mind when I think of the song titles – “Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind….”

Hey, it was the early 70’s when we wore bell-bottomed jeans embellished with patches or embroidery, mini or midi skirts, ponchos, choker necklaces often made of tiny beads or puka shells, and fringed leather belts and vests. Everything was “cool” or “groovy.” A bohemian, hippie style was in fashion and music reflected that as well.

Number one music hits ranged from groups like The Beatles to Three Dog Night to The Rolling Stones to Simon and Garfunkel and single performers from Carly Simon to James Taylor to Carole King to Stevie Wonder.

Another popular song, Hummingbird, from that era and Seals and Crofts’ Summer Breeze album recently played in my mind’s jukebox.

On a recent day trip away from our country home, Papa and I visited a beautiful farm where we spied plenty of hummingbirds sipping sweet nectar from hanging feeders.

Zoom, they buzzed by. Wings beating so fast, they were a complete blur. Whiz, whir, zip. Sometimes those tiny birds were quicker than the eye. And often quicker than this amateur photograph behind the lens of my camera could capture.

That’s when those old lyrics buzzed through my brain along with the hummingbirds’ buzzing in my ears:

Hummingbird don’t fly away, fly away
Hummingbird don’t fly away, fly away

Thinking about those lyrics later as I downloaded the photos I’d taken, I looked up the words and was surprised to find the real meaning behind them.

Apparently, those lyrics written by James Seals and put to music by Seals and his singing partner Dash Crofts in 1971 weren’t really about a tiny bird that flits from fragrant, brightly colored flower to flower sipping up nectar.

Instead, hummingbird was a metaphor for a prophet of the Baha’i faith, of which both Seals and Crofts had converted to in 1969. They actively promoted their new-found faith and attempted to evangelize people into it through their music and following their concerts.

I honestly do not remember that aspect even though Papa and I (while dating in college) attended a Seals and Crofts concert because we both liked the duo’s music. But when I read those lyrics now at the ripe old age that I currently am, I clearly notice references to a different kind of faith than the one I have.

What strikes me most about this song’s information I just discovered and the soft-rock duo that sang it is that as a young, impressionable “adult” girl in the early 1970’s, I didn’t realize then that I was singing lyrics meant to exalt a belief I didn’t embrace. And I didn’t understand what those words even meant.

Which makes me wonder how easily young people are influenced by the music they listen to, the media they watch and read, the video games they play…you get my drift. I’ve often read that medical and psychologic research suggests that human brains aren’t fully developed until age 25.  

So even though physically, a young person may be mature in their late teens and young adulthood in college, they may not be able to make the best life decisions. I can attest to that from personal experience. Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with the onset of adulthood, does it?

I thought watching and marveling at hummingbirds was purely just entertaining. Who knew they would prove to be “enlightening” in another way long into adulthood?

“Time passes as fast as a hummingbird flutters.” ~ Anonymous

© 2021