Words for Wednesday: Progression

You know how it goes – you take one step forward and it seems like you end up two steps backward.

Just this past weekend, we who live in places that adhere to Daylight Savings Time turned our clocks back one hour. The old mantra for these time changes is “spring forward, fall backward.”

But really, who wants to go back in time? Go back to high school days? Not on your life, if you ask me. Perhaps there is a time you’d like to return to so you could rectify a wrong or make a different decision. We all have instances in our lives that we regret, but that’s how we learn – from our mistakes.

Or maybe you’d like to step backwards in time to relive those joyous events in life, those happenings that made you so very happy. I can understand that desire for time travel, but what lessons would we learn if all our days were pleasant and blissful?

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” ~ Frederick Douglass

For the most part though, I think human beings like to move forward. Make progress. Not dwell on the past but look ahead to the future.

These thoughts came to mind during one of my early morning walks taken with my husband, the Papa of this empty nest. We walked along on a crisp autumn morning discussing current events which included subjects like politics and the pandemic.

In both cases, it doesn’t seem like our society makes much progress. Politics is still an ugly subject causing people to become angry and close-minded when someone doesn’t agree with their stance.

And here we are nine months into pandemic mode still under the thumb of a virus that prevents us from moving forward into normalcy of life.

Progress? It certainly doesn’t seem like it.

As I weighed these thoughts in my mind while walking along fallen autumn leaf-covered sidewalks, I couldn’t help but notice all the varying kinds of leaves. Maple, oak, birch, sycamore, beech, poplar, elm, and chestnut.

If someone desired to gather an assortment of different fall leaves, it would make a nice project, I thought. And then I began noticing the variations of color even in the same type of leaves.

Here, a dark maroon red and there a crimson red. I stopped and picked them up. There a leaf turning russet. Here a golden yellow. And even there, one still green with no signs yet of changing colors.

I gathered all five leaves, carried them during the rest of my walk, and took them home with me.

“It will make an interesting photograph,” I told Papa.

And then as visual pictures often provide ideas in my mind, one word popped into my mind. Progression. What better visual example of progression than the stages of autumn changing colors in those leaves?

Life goes on. Seasons come and go. The brilliantly colored leaves of autumn have fallen and we will progress into the winter season – actually we had our first dusting of snow just this past Monday. One season following another.

Life is like the seasons. This season of strife – warring politics and a restricting pandemic – is just another aspect of life as we make our way into the future. And it is for that future we must hope.

We must never give up hope even as we face hardships and difficult times. We hope for better outcomes, we cling to hope as we progress into tomorrow no matter the struggles we endure today.  Sacrifice and suffering serve a purpose, to make us stronger than before.

 “As we progress along our path, our experiences help us to define our own character. ~ Richard Allan Krieger

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: true colors

While looking through photos I captured on a day trip with our nearby grandchild to an outdoor animal park, the vibrant colors of this parrot inspired me to write this post. But bear with me, it’s not about the parrot.

One of the most difficult aspects of relationships of any kind is when a mind-boggling revelation comes to light and causes you to wonder if you really ever knew the one with whom you had a connection.

We all like to believe that family, friends, and acquaintances possess the utmost caliber when it comes to character. But what happens when suddenly, under scrutiny or duress, the character that is revealed to us is anything but stellar? Definitely not what we thought?

At one time or another in life, we’ve all met someone who, over time, seemed to become quite different from how we first perceived.  And instead of the positive character we thought we knew, we see some downright negative character traits surface like a monster from the deep.

What happened? Did that person truly change? A Dr. Jekyll turn into a Mr. Hyde? Or was that the ‘real’ person all along?

Some of those people are truly self-centered and think of no one but themselves and eventually that becomes evident. Some are simply users. They get what they want or need from you by “playing nice” and then when they’re finished with you, they discard you like yesterday’s stale, dry bread. And some are purely narcissists.

It’s then when we say people show us their true colors. Their real personality, disposition, or temperament is revealed to us and we shake our heads and wonder why we didn’t realize that earlier.

The reality is some people are experts at masking their true colors. They’ve learned the fine art of manipulation of others to achieve what they want. They put on a smiling face that appears pleasant and likeable so you’ll be attracted to a friendship with them or worse, a romantic relationship. But as time goes on, the persona they tried to show you in order to win your favor slips. Their true identity becomes evident.

“People are like chameleons, they adapt to your favorite color so you’ll like them. But eventually, true colors always show.” ~ source unknown

True colors ultimately are revealed.

It seems to me way too many people’s true colors are exploding in rage as evidenced by nasty, vile, pure rancor spurting out of my fellow human being’s mouths as well as their fingers when they tap away on their keyboards and phones spewing vitriol all over social media and beyond.

I don’t broadcast my political views and I don’t write about them either here in my personal but very public blog or on social media. Believe me, I do have my opinions, but I choose not to make those known unless you are family or a very close friend – in other words, someone I trust completely.

For me, many of my viewpoints are a private thing because that’s what I was taught by my parents. Some things you just keep close to your chest and don’t reveal publicly and I learned the hard way to consider wisely when and how to discuss my opinions on divisive issues.

Years ago, a “friend” confronted me in anger online and told me how “disappointing” I was. This person assumed the worst of me without even discussing an issue with me. What tied this person’s shorts in a knot was not my opinion at all but what “seemed” to be my belief. We eventually straightened it out, but it bothered me that immediately, this friend assumed the worst about me which wasn’t true at all.

I felt like that person should have understood my true colors after knowing me for many years. But by that one jumping on a particular bandwagon at the time and assuming I was on the opposing side created some hard feelings. And that experience altered a relationship. To this day, I’m careful about discussing certain issues with that person because I believe any differing opinions I may have will be attacked.

Right now, politics is one of those issues that fuels people’s firestorms of animosity from both sides of the fence. Call it malevolence, call it contempt, you could also say it’s just pure hatred. Poisonous, bitter loathing just because people don’t agree.

I’ve seen so much aggressive arguing on social media, I truly can’t stand to log in much anymore. To me, the arguing is so hostile and so obnoxious, it repulses me. And honestly, I find it utterly pointless. Do you really believe you are going to change someone’s mind – especially that of strangers – on social media by yelling at them and calling them names because they don’t see eye to eye with you?

I have my thoughts and you have yours. I have my opinions and you do too. Why can’t we respect the fact that they may differ and agree to disagree in an amicable, calm manner? Why can’t we just have a decent discussion with someone who has an opposing view?

Or is it just that our true colors are showing?

For me, as a believer in Christ, I believe our true human nature without Him is revealed with willful sinfulness. We can try to convince ourselves that our motives are noble and that really, mankind is good. But without the saving grace of a Savior, our hearts are dark, venomous, and full of hate.

My desire is to show my true colors – revealing a heart that reflects colors of love and forgiveness, colors I learn from following and imitating my Savior. How about you?

“Hatred is one of the poisons; like jaundice, it alters the true colors of things.” ~ Rae Foley (pseudonym for author Elinor Denniston)

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: butterfly freedom

They bring us smiles and a little moment of joy when we notice them flitting through the air. Butterflies. Every summer our back yard butterfly bush is full of them as they sip the sweet nectar of the flowering shrub.

As it often does, my mind takes me hopping away on rabbit trails when my eyes view certain images and seeing butterflies is no different. I can’t help but think of an old movie from the early 1970’s entitled Butterflies Are Free.

The film was based on a Broadway play by the same name, but long before that, the famed English author, Charles Dickens, wrote these words in his 1852-53 novel, Bleak House: “I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies!” 

When watching butterflies float along in the air, they do connote an air of freedom, don’t they?  Those thoughts occur to me as I recall a day trip we ventured on last month.

Just as the calendar page turned over to September, Nana and Papa realized that the hours we normally spend caring for our first-born granddaughter on week days would become very limited. Why?

Little One would trot off to school the day after Labor Day when our local school district decided to open schools for those who wanted to attend. (Choices were made by parents to either send their masked children to school where social distancing would be the norm or continue online learning.)

So to celebrate those last days of our grandchild’s “freedom,” we suggested to our daughter that the four of us take a day trip – a visit to an interactive animal and adventure park in our area. 

Actually, we all needed a day of freedom – a get-away from pandemic life. We needed a day to feel ‘normal.’ A day for fun. A day spent outdoors in bright, warm sunshine.

Our day trip to this 144-acre park where about 60 different species of animals were available to observe, interact with, and feed was just the ticket.

Little One had a ball while her mommy helped her feed some of the animals. She exclaimed over seeing lions, bears, reindeer, giraffes, ostriches, zebras, camels, lemurs, giant tortoises, birds, and more…the animals were such fun to watch and the goats truly tickled her fancy.  

But hands down, one of the most favorite aspects of the day was entering the butterfly house. Different kinds of butterflies winged their way around us, landing on flowers planted inside the structure, and to Little One’s delight, on us!

The giggles were many as butterflies clung to her mommy’s flowered shirt, landed on Nana’s finger, and eventually situated themselves on Little One.

Butterflies remind us how truly wonderful freedom is. How delightful life can be with just a little sunshine, a day spent outdoors in nature, viewing some of the magnificent creatures God created, and spending time with loved ones.

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.”  ~ Hans Christian Anderson

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: Just smile

The list would be so very long.

Because of all the many restrictions that have been placed on us due to ongoing fear and paranoia about that nasty virus that somehow became unleashed on our world and created havoc everywhere months ago, so many aspects of our lives have changed.

And if we were to compose a list of those things we miss because of this craziness, it would be longer than a record of what a child wants for Christmas.

What do we miss? Let me count the ways. We miss gathering together with family and friends for all kinds of social events and observances – birthday parties, weddings, bridal and baby showers, picnics and potluck dinners, graduations, even memorial services, and congregating together for just plain fun.

We miss attending worship services in person with our fellow believers, and in some cases, just singing our praises to our God, not just sitting in front of a computer or phone watching online.

We miss visiting our loved ones in care facilities and they miss us desperately. We miss sitting in a hospital waiting room with family praying for a good outcome from a medical emergency.

We miss face-to-face meetings with our doctors, dentists, physical therapists, optometrists, chiropractors. We miss undergoing medical tests and procedures that are imperative to maintain good health.

We miss festivals and fairs, community events, and participatory fundraisers for good causes. We miss attending the theater, the movies, and concerts. We miss supporting our favorite sports in person, particularly watching our own children’s and grandchildren’s athletic events.

We miss enjoying a nice dinner out in a restaurant full of other people instead of eating take-out food in cartons at home or having “car picnics” in our vehicles after going through fast food drive-through joints.

We miss sending our children off to their first day back at school, knowing their teachers will instruct them well and they can play with their friends at recess instead of worrying over whether they’re understanding new concepts via online learning and hearing them cry because they can’t play with their friends while they’re weary of trying to learn from a computer.

We miss sending our young adults off to college in a normal fashion where they can exchange ideas in person and mingle together to make new friends instead of being sequestered in their dorm rooms doing online learning (why pay room and board for that??).

We miss seeing our co-workers in meetings at our physical offices, working alongside them as we converse and brainstorm in person instead of through video conferencing.

We miss shopping just for fun, not a mad dash in and out for just the basics hoping the store shelves aren’t empty. We miss wandering up and down store aisles willy-nilly instead of following the directional arrows and the social distancing areas marked on the floor.

We miss all too many locally owned shops and restaurants who have been forced to close their doors for good.

We miss being able to breathe freely without the hindrance of a mask smothering our noses and mouths, fogging up our glasses, and causing us to feel like a criminal every time we put one on before going out in public.

We miss living a life where we aren’t permanently attached to our little bottles of hand sanitizer, or wipes, or sprays.

We miss a lot! But you know what I imagine we miss the most? The touch of our fellow human beings. We miss shaking hands. We miss warm hugs of greetings. We miss a caring hand upon our shoulders. We miss a pat on the back.

And for me, I miss seeing people’s smiles.

“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.”~ Joseph Addison

Everywhere I go, I’m surrounded by masked people, for the most part. Those masks hide their expressions from me just as this darn mask, no matter how lively or bright or playful the material is, hides my face from them.

And I hate it. I hate not seeing people smile. I hate the fact that people I pass as we must social distance (!) can’t see me smiling at them. So they don’t respond with the same gesture.

It’s depressing. It’s denigrating. It’s dehumanizing.

It stinks, it makes me angry, yet it makes me even sadder over the state of our humanity right now.

I live in a state where our governor has enforced and keeps imposing draconian measures (just my opinion, you may have yours). Where parents are not permitted to sit in a football stadium to watch their kids play, where restaurants were allowed to open for inside dining, yet could only seat at 25% capacity.

To attempt to stay sane and experience some sense of freedom during the last few months, Papa and I have taken some day-long road trips – away from home just to get away, traveling to outdoor destinations.

We opt for taking picnic lunches along with us, but on one of our journeys on a week day, not a weekend, we found ourselves still a distance away from home at dinner time. 

We located one of our favorite chain restaurants that was open for indoor seating. Donning the dreaded masks, we walked up to the hostess who was stationed outside the restaurant door. She informed us we would have a 45-minute wait.

Not knowing if we could find any other place to eat dinner besides a drive-through fast food place, we gave her our name and cell phone number so she could text us when a table became available for just the two of us. We sat in our car and waited and waited and waited.   Forty-five minutes turned into an hour and then we received the text.

Walking into that usually bustling, busy, and noisy large restaurant which was only filled to 25% capacity at dinner time was odd to say the least. It was so quiet. There were no people seated near us. Entire sections of the restaurant were closed off with only one party in them. Honestly, it felt like the twilight zone – eerie and unusually strange.

Of course, every person inside that restaurant, including all of the wait staff naturally, wore masks until their food arrived. The few folks, even while eating, weren’t talking. Everyone was quiet as if the masks, even after we took them off to eat our meals, had stolen our voices.

Masks certainly had stolen our facial expressions as no one appeared to be smiling. What once was considered a normal, entertaining thing to do – enjoy a meal in a restaurant – was anything but.

But you know what? There was one bright spot in this dismal picture. Our waitress. Even though most of her face was hidden by her mask, she exuded joy. I’m sure she was happy to just be back in employment.

Regardless, her voice and demeanor were sweet and she seemed genuinely pleased to serve us which cheered me up considerably. I took off my mask and smiled at her.

And she smiled back at me. How do I know that? She had her own mask still solidly covering her nose and mouth and chin. She smiled with her eyes! Her eyes – I could see her smile by looking into her eyes.

So if there’s one word of encouragement I can give to everyone during this most trying and difficult time – one word to help us through this, one word to make not just ourselves feel better but everyone around us, masked or not – it’s this, SMILE.

Smile not just with your mouth because another person can’t see that behind your mask. Smile with your entire self. Smile from your heart so it reaches your eyes. And I guarantee someone else will see your smiling eyes and smile back at you.

“Use your smile to change the world; don’t let the world change your smile.” ~ Chinese Proverb

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: heart to heart

What used to float my boat in a sea of happiness doesn’t have much opportunity to do so any more.

Since I was a very young child, I’ve always loved getting mail. My father ignited that spark inside of me when he sent me my very first envelope, marked with my name on the front, through the U.S. Postal Service. That special Valentine my Daddy sent to me when I was about 4 years old still sits in my special box of memories 60-some years later.

My mailbox used to be full of personal letters and greeting cards on special occasions and sometimes for no occasion at all except to say “thinking of you.” Magazine subscriptions were something else to look forward to filling up my mail box. Heck, I even got a kick out of receiving mail-order catalogs.

But technology squelched my joy. Now emails and text messages replace letters. Social media GIFS are substituted for greeting cards.  Catalogs are very few and far between because you just click on a website now to shop and purchase.

I open up my mail box at the end of our driveway expectantly each day but find disappointment instead as I pull  political ads and a few pieces of junk mail addressed to ‘resident’ out of it.

As a mail recipient lover, it kind of breaks my heart.

But just a couple of weeks ago, my you’ve got mail-ometer soared to new heights. Ding, ding, ding, I had mail! Real mail inserted into envelopes addressed to me with other folks’ actual handwriting! What wonderful surprises! Yes, surprise plural…because there were more than one handwritten envelope in my mailbox.

The first one was a thoughtful card from one of my best friends who doesn’t live near me.  The card’s sentiment read: “You’re never very far away because I keep you in my heart and in my thoughts and in so many of my memories and today I’m wishing you a happy day – just because.” 

Of course, reading those words blessed my heart. But as I opened the card, three yellowed newspaper clippings fell out. What in the world?

While my friend cleaned out her parents’ home, since they have both graduated to a life in heaven, she found some old clippings that had been saved in a box for years and years and she thought I’d enjoy having them.

One was a photo of me accompanied by an engagement notice that my parents placed in the local daily newspaper after Papa proposed and presented a diamond ring to me. (For you young’uns, prior to social media, this was standard procedure utilized back then to make announcements.)

That made me smile as I handled the 43-year-old clipping, but my smile broadened as I unfolded the next newspaper notice. I realized it was a photo of my brother-in-law back in his younger days competing in a local rodeo astride one of his most favorite horses ever. I promptly made the decision to send that little gem on to my now 80-year-old brother-in-law.

The third item was even more yellowed and aged and it caused me to shake my head in complete wonder. The article wasn’t dated but I know it was written before my parents were married in 1941, back in the days when newspapers reported on social gatherings like birthdays.

That very old clipping detailed a large birthday party given for my mother by her parents in their home. Not only who baked the birthday cake was reported and that a noon luncheon was provided for all of the guests but it also listed every guest who attended…all 98 of them!

Now that doesn’t sound like a big deal in 2020 because huge birthday bashes, even for one-year-olds,  are held all the time at different venues with fancy decorations and catering, but this particular birthday for my mom occurred prior to 1940 at my grandparents’ meager home.

That was some party! I knew my maternal grandmother’s gift was hospitality but I can’t imagine cooking and providing lunch for almost 100 people.  And I wondered where did she put that many people? Wow! I’m imagining that it was a warm, sunny day and many folks gathered outside.

As I read down through the list of guests’ names, I realized how many of them were deceased. Even some of the children who attended have passed or are in their 90’s now.

What tickled my fancy was getting to the end of the list where the last guest named was my father and then the newspaper reader was informed that the honored birthday girl, with her maiden name, received “many beautiful gifts.” Ya think??

Obviously, at the time of this birthday, my parents weren’t married yet but were dating. Seriously dating, I believe, because my uncle (Dad’s brother) and my paternal grandmother (Dad’s mother) were also listed as party guests.  That old newspaper clipping is something I now treasure, thanks to my life-long BFF.

The second blessing in my mail box came from Kansas City and from a dear friend’s daughter. During our time living there, Papa and I became close friends with a couple from our church and their three teen-aged daughters.

Our families enjoyed a lot of great fellowship together and the girls babysat for our children often. Both of our friends passed away quite suddenly in the last few years but we have kept contact with their now grown daughters, who are and always will be special friends.

The oldest daughter sent me an envelope holding more memories inside along with a note telling me that while sorting through pictures and papers, she found items she thought I’d enjoy reading. She signed off with this sweet thought: “So thankful we have a long standing friendship with you!”

The envelope contained three pieces of old mail – a Christmas card with a handwritten note I had mailed to their family when they were living abroad for a year and two letters also handwritten by me. One I sent to my friend (her mother) after we moved to the Pacific Northwest and the second, a birthday letter to this particular daughter many years ago. 

As I read those old correspondences, memories floated back to me with ease. Things I had forgotten or relegated to the recesses of my mind suddenly re-appeared and I remembered our times with that family with such fondness and love. More sentimental treasures to cherish.

The third piece of mail that graced my mailbox was yet another hand-addressed envelope from a sweet lady that I’ve known since we were kids. She blessed me with a thoughtful card thanking me for leading the ladies Bible study she has attended in person in the last couple of years and by way of video conferencing recently. Her words encouraged me greatly.  

I’ve often heard that bad things come in three’s, but I believe good things come in three’s as well. I’m thankful for those three special pieces of mail that were delivered to my mailbox. All three of them provided much joy for my heart.

So now you know how to make me happy, how to bring a smile to my face and cheer to my heart. Just send me some blessings by mail.

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.” ~ Phyllis Theroux

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: first day

It’s in the air. I can smell it, I can feel it.

The days are still filled with bright sunshine and warm temperatures tricking us into believing summer is still hanging on till the bitter end, but after the sun sets in the west, the evening produces a bit of a chill.

And in the early mornings? Oh, it’s so very prevalent.

I’m talking about the change of season which signifies another kind of change. It’s back to school time.

Do you remember your very first day of school ever? I truly do not. Since I first hopped onto a big yellow school bus for the first time to attend public school 60 years ago (can THAT be right??!?), I don’t recall my first day at all. But I think it’s safe to say I was probably terrified.

My school didn’t offer kindergarten classes back then and preschool existed only in the cities where children went to “nursery school.”  So first grade was my first experience at school. I do have a few recollections of first grade but mostly they aren’t positive ones.

I was shy and timid and my gray-haired, somber teacher was also the school’s principal, so she was a strict disciplinarian. To me she loomed large over us with her very stern appearance and her unbending rules. Frankly, she scared me and most of the time, I was afraid to even open my mouth.

Once I became an adult, my mother shared a story about my first few days of school with me. As we were adjusting to school and schedules and rules, my classmates and I tended to cry during the day. Obviously, we sobbed because we were frightened or we just wanted to go home or we missed our mothers, who were mostly stay-at-home moms at that time.

So every school day for the first few days or so after I arrived home, my mother would ask me which of my friends cried that day. I didn’t like to admit that I shed tears as well because I really didn’t want her to know that. You know, put on a brave face so mom wouldn’t worry and would believe I truly was a brave, big girl.

One day, Mother asked me that question again and I promptly gave up the wailing culprits’ names. Of course, she suspected I wept as well, so she inquired once more, “Didn’t you cry too?”

My answer was, “Well, I wheened a little.” Apparently I knew the word whined and what it meant, but didn’t know how to properly pronounce it. Obviously, my mother thought it was funny enough to remember it and tell me the story decades later.

That memory came back to me just the other day – the first day of school in our local district. A lot of preparation and anxious discussion preceded it due to covid-19 concerns, but after advisement from area medical personnel and listening to parents give their thoughts and opinions via a video conferencing school board meeting, the district announced school would resume in person for those who wanted their children to attend. For others not comfortable with that, online learning would continue to take place as it had during the months of lockdowns.

Tons of safety precautions and procedures later, those big yellow school buses roared down our roads, picking up students, whose smiles or frowns were hidden by masks. Children must have their temperatures checked at home before they board, practice social distancing on the bus, and undergo another temperature check upon arrival at school.

It’s enough to make your head spin but I know one school student who happily complies. I can hardly believe it, but our grandchild – our oldest one, the first one, the one who loves to stay at Nana and Papa’s while her mommy works – trotted off to kindergarten just the other day.

She couldn’t wait. She was so excited to ride the school bus. She shared that she was eager to make new friends at school and confessed that she was a little nervous because it was a “big school, not like my preschool.” 

Papa and I arrived at her house several minutes before the bus was due to pick her up, we snapped photos, and she looked so big and grown up in her dress carrying her lunch box and her pencil case. She didn’t appear nervous or scared or any of the emotions I’m pretty sure I experienced the first day of my school career.

Instead, it was her Mama and her Nana who were nervous and apprehensive for her – but we didn’t let on to her that we were feeling that way. You know, put on a brave, happy face so she wouldn’t see us cry.

The big yellow school bus stopped in front of her house, she held her Mama’s hand and waited for Mr. School Bus Driver to motion that it was safe to cross the road, and she boarded that bus all by herself. Miss Independent. And at the end of the day, when she jumped off the bus, we could tell that she had a great, fun first day of ‘real’ school.

Even with her mask on, her eyes were smiling. As she removed it, she gushed about all the excitement of the day and she couldn’t wait to go back to school the next day.

A great start to a new season of learning. A new season of experiences. A new season of growing up. A change of life just as the season is changing.

I don’t remember my own first day of school all of those years ago, but I remember other first days. Wasn’t it just the other day that I was sending my own first child to school for the first time? Wasn’t it just yesterday that the other two eventually followed her onto that big, yellow school bus?

I remember those first days when my own children were filled with the same eager excitement that my grandchild experienced. I also remember feeling a little sad and teary-eyed but happy for them at the same time as they began a new phase of life.

And as long as my memory serves, I will remember my grandchild’s first day going off to school as well.

“You’re off to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” ~ Dr. Seuss

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: sea prescription

The news is disheartening. I can’t even turn it on any longer. And I’m staying away more and more from social media these days as well.

Everywhere I look on the air or online, it seems anger, rage, vitriol, obscenity, explosions of it dominate. Life is difficult enough with all of the virus pandemic restrictions still weighing heavily on our lives, but now violence and chaos reign in many of our cities. And hateful spite spews forth online endlessly.

One can’t openly share your own opinion because verbal and sometimes physical attacks descend on you like ravaging wolves preying on a defenseless, wounded creature. You are shouted at, disrespected, and debased just because your thoughts, opinions, and/or beliefs are completely different than theirs.

Remember that old adage, “Live and let live”? Well, it appears that exists no more. People are enraged over every social/political/medical issue and the list goes on. Inconsiderateness, rudeness, and downright nasty meanness seem to prevail in humanity right now and it doesn’t make me angry. Instead it grieves me and saddens my heart.

What have we become? You know what I think? We all need to swallow a chill-pill. We need a prescription to reset ourselves, restore kindness and respect for one another, treat others the way we would want to be treated.

We all need to simmer down.

Maybe what we all require is a trip to the sea to restore a sense of calmness, composure, and civility in our lives.

Last week, I wrote a post about how situating myself beside the ocean, lake, river, or creek is extremely restful and tranquil for me. Maybe it will work for others too.

Might I suggest when rage over whatever causes you to flip a gourd threatens to agitate and overwhelm you, you go sit by a body of water for a time and wipe those thoughts from your mind?

If you’re not close to one, maybe just step into your shower, close your eyes, and let water stream over you until you sense peace filling your thoughts.

Then perhaps we all can discuss our opinions and differences calmly, intelligently, and with respect for each other.

Searching my photo cache for blog posts lately, I noticed that. over the years, I’ve snapped many pictures of waves rolling into shore or creeks rippling over rocks.

Just viewing those pictures gives me a sense of tranquility and reminds me of a poem, Sea Fever, that I remember memorizing as a young student in school. 

The first line of the poem, written by English poet John Masefield (1897-1967) easily came to me once again: “I must go down to the seas again…”

Maybe that’s exactly what we need – we all must go down to the seas again to quiet the loud, angry, and divisive voices that are screaming at us from all sides and maybe even inside our own heads.

My hope is we can find sane restoration from the insanity that prevails.

 “When I sit here by the sea and listen to the sound of waves, I feel free from all obligations and people of this world.” ~ Henry Thoreau

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: At water’s edge

What is it about the water?

If you were to categorize me, I suppose you’d called me a landlubber since I grew up far from any ocean. I’m not particularly fond of actually being in water either be it ocean, lake, river, or even swimming pool.

But there’s something about the water that draws me to it like those moths addicted to and circling my front porch light every evening.

The sound of moving water soothes me. Ocean and lake waves lapping to the shore call to me saying, “Come sit beside me, close your eyes and just listen…listen to my ebb and flow.”

Though the waves may be strong or mild, that rhythmic sound is restful to my soul.

Rushing rivers, babbling brooks, and the cadence of creeks beg me to park myself on their banks, tune out the world’s din, and listen to their mesmerizing, flowing movement over rocks, soothing my quest for tranquility and serenity.

Apparently, science exists to support why I feel the way I do when I’m beside the water.  Psychologists say that being close to water results in positive emotional states – feeling calm, relaxed, restful, and feeling restored.

A marine biologist named Wallace Nichols wrote a book entitled Blue Mind about this phenomenon: our brain chemistry changing when we’re around water.

Nichols states that “Water is considered the elixir and source of life. It covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, makes up nearly 70% of our bodies, and constitutes over 70% of our heart and brains. This deep biological connection has been shown to trigger an immediate response in our brains when we’re near water. In fact, the mere sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and induce relaxation. Thanks to science, we’re now able to connect the dots to the full range of emotional benefits being on, in, or near the water can bring.”

He was quoted in a Psychology Today article as saying, “The best way to handle stress may be to get to the closest beach.”

I’ll buy that.

Perhaps that explains why I’ve noticed most of the vacations Papa and I journeyed on in the last few years have been “down to the water.” We live several miles away from the river that runs through our home town, and not near any creeks or lakes. So our treks to water’s edge must be our way of de-stressing from everyday life.

Just this past week, Papa and I needed a little escape from the sameness and mundaneness of life in these days of social distancing and restrictions. I researched day excursions hoping to find a road trip we could take where we would be outside away from crowds of people.

So Sunday morning we rose early and set our sights on a destination in the state next door, just a couple of hours drive away. There we completed a driving tour of covered bridges located on country roads and viewed two lighthouses on nearby Lake Erie.

Was it coincidence that our travels that day took us to an area where we peacefully ate our picnic lunch while seated on a wooden bench overlooking a rippling creek?

Was it our unconscious desire to find release from stress by ultimately winding up our day relaxing on a porch swing while overlooking a calming view of the lapping lake?

And was it mere chance that several times as we traveled, a particular song – As I Went Down to the River to Pray – played on Papa’s Pandora list? That old song with unknown origins has been called a song about keeping faith in dark times.

I don’t know if that’s truly the meaning of the song or not because I always thought the song was simply about Christian baptism by immersion, but this I do know… going down to the water provided peace, soothed my soul, and gave me pause to pray, thanking God for blessing this world with the sound of water.

“The sound of water is worth more than all the poets’ words.” ~ Octavio Paz

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: closer look

Sometimes the teacher is really the student.

Papa and I spend a lot of time with our oldest grandchild since we provide childcare for our daughter while she works.

When our grandchild is with us, we do a lot of game playing, enacting the roles she provides with her active imagination, and doing outside activities as well like gardening, vegetable picking, flower tending.

So much of the time we do educate her. Papa shows her how to fix something; Nana helps her practice writing her letters and numbers, doing simple math, talking about shapes, sizes, and patterns, learning how to sound out words in the books we read together.

She learns how to make certain crafts from us, how much water it takes to keep her fairy garden growing, and so much more.

I believe we also teach her about faith in God, about the world around us, and about life in general.  But you know what? She teaches us a lot too.

She shows us how vivid an imagination can be and she demonstrates how we should view this world we live in, how to see wonder in the smallest aspects of life from a child’s perspective.

During one of our country drives, Little One gave us a commentary from her back seat car seat each time we came upon a new scene out the vehicle windows.

“Oh, Nana!” she exclaimed as we drove along a long, winding road finally reaching the pinnacle where the view around was pretty amazing, “It’s SO beautiful!”

And you know what? It truly was a beautiful view which may not have even registered as so for us. She notices small things that wouldn’t even cross Nana and Papa’s radar screen like the day she found a praying mantis slowly walking along in the mulch around our shrubs.

We had walked right past it and never saw it. But not Little One. She spied it right away, caused us to stop when she asked what kind of bug it was, and she spent a good bit of time watching it as it made its way up onto the boxwood shrub.  

All of it delighted her. And when she’s delighted, so are we. Grandchildren teach us to slow down, notice what might have been unseen, and take a closer look so we don’t miss a wonderful moment in life.

And that’s a lesson we all need to learn no matter what our age.

“Anything looked at closely becomes wonderful.” ~ A.R. Ammons, American poet

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: Just a bend

The last several months have really thrown us all for a curve, haven’t they?

What we once considered normal life has taken a major turn.  Along with the covid-19 pandemic, it seems like the world just detoured into craziness as highlighted on the news every day – violence, devastation, natural disasters, you name it, it’s happening.

I’m reminded of a quote I once read by pastor and motivational speaker Robert H. Schuller: “What appears to be the end of the road may simply be a bend in the road.”

Times like these certainly are bends in the road and during them Papa and I realize how blessed we are to live in a mostly rural area. We’re close enough to enjoy a city with all it has to offer yet far enough away that we aren’t as affected by some of the less desirable aspects of city life.

During this period of quarantine, isolation, stay-at-home, flatten the curve,  or whatever you want to call it, we’re thankful we can jump in our car and travel through countryside without engaging with other folks and have to wear masks and social distance. Something that those who reside in heavily populated areas or in cities where houses are crammed together or people must live in apartment buildings have not been able to do.

On one of our “road trips” just to get out of our country abode and break up the monotony of staying home, we traveled to an area we’ve often traveled through. But there was one attraction there that we had never stopped at before – the World Famous Horseshoe Curve in Altoona, PA.

Shortly after our state re-opened with restrictions still in place, we checked to see if the landmark was open for visitors. We found the Railroaders Memorial Museum there remains closed, but we were pleased to find the Horseshoe Curve and visitor’s center open, but only on limited days and hours with state department of health restrictions and CDC guidelines in place.  So off we drove for our day-long excursion.

If you’ve been a steady reader of Mama’s Empty Nest for long, you probably remember that Papa is a train enthusiast. He loves them. Because his father’s life-long career was working for the Pennsylvania Railroad, my husband enjoys reading about trains, learning the history of them, and especially riding on them.  

We’ve taken several train excursions and visited railroad museums, but hadn’t traveled to the Horseshoe Curve at the foot of the Allegheny Mountains.

The drive through the mountainous area is scenic but that curve, an engineering feat completed by 450 railroad workers laying 2,375 feet of rail tracks in rough terrain all by hand in the 1800’s, prompted us to exclaim “wow!” Simply amazing.

We arrived at our destination, donned our face masks, paid our entrance fee, and toured the visitor’s center which only contained two other people besides us and we all practiced social distancing.

We learned a number of interesting facts about the Horseshoe Curve and its construction. 

Before the curve was constructed and then opened in 1854, travel across Pennsylvania from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia took the better part of three weeks or so by wagon. When traveling by train and canal, the same trip lasted about four days and relied on the Allegheny Portage Railroad, which didn’t operate at night, to cross the mountains.  Once the Horseshoe Curve was completed, the time for train passengers to travel across the state was reduced to about 15 hours.

Of course, Papa being the train and history buff that he is, spent much more time reading the information placards than I did. But I did find two noteworthy tidbits to share with you that surprised me.

During World War 2, the Horseshoe Curve was on a list of 12 key industrial sites targeted by Nazi saboteurs. Yikes! And well-known people who once traveled by train on the curve were several U.S. Presidents (Lincoln, McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, Hoover, FDR, Eisenhower, and Carter) as well as many entertainment personalities from vaudeville, the theatrical stage, and the silver screen.

After touring the visitor’s center, we ventured outside to view the curve up close and personal. Because the incline ride up the mountain, which takes visitors to the center of the curve was closed due to pandemic restrictions, we began the climb up the steps – all 194 of them – to the observation area.  

Shortly after we reached the top, we found a spot under a shade tree away from other visitors, and waited for a train to come along. We didn’t wait long! And actually during the time we spent there, two different trains traveled through.

Papa, as always, got a kick out of seeing them. And it truly was quite an experience to watch those lengthy trains approach and navigate that curve shaped like a horseshoe on the side of a mountain right in front of us. If you want to see an aerial view click here.

Of course, we enjoyed our road tripping day and a little sightseeing. We relished the opportunity to just get away and forget for a time what was going on in the world.

Once again the experience reminded me how grateful we are that even in this time of uncertainty, when life has definitely thrown all of us a curve ball, we can still hit it out of the park.

There’s always something for which we can be thankful even when life throws us a curve. That bend doesn’t mean the end!

Sometimes our biggest nightmare turns out to be our biggest gift. And it all comes down to our attitude. Life will throw us curve balls and disappointments, even heartbreak. But ultimately we can choose if we’re going to be bitter or better for the experience.” ~ Kathryn Orford

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com