Once upon a time

ballpoint pen classic coffee composition

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Once upon a time, I was an English major in college plunking away on a manual typewriter or setting words to paper with pen in hand.

And since having an English degree alone didn’t necessarily lead to a lot of opportunities in the job market, I decided to put my degree to good use by becoming an English teacher. Hence, my Bachelor of Science degree is in English Education.

Often I wonder why I chose that major. I was the first one in my family to attend college, let alone graduate. From early on, my parents encouraged me to get an education, preferably in college. I remember my mom beaming when I told her I wanted to become a teacher.

My two older sisters had married young but still managed to obtain decent jobs with just a high school education, but I distinctly remember my mother trying to steer me away from a young marriage.  That was fine with me because I didn’t want to get married, if at all, for a very long time. 

Since my siblings were so much older than I was, I’m not really certain why neither one of them aspired to get an education beyond high school. One of them is extremely skilled with numbers, bookkeeping, and in business and would have made an excellent CPA. The other one is empathetic and has a personality suited to be a care-giver and I remember she considered being a nurse, but she did not pursue that field.

So maybe my folks just wanted me to reach for a different future than the rest of my family.  And perhaps they hoped that when I went away to college, I would explore new horizons, not just academically but socially as well, and would discover that there was someone better romantically for me than my high school boyfriend, who wasn’t a real winner.

Whatever the reason, after I received my college acceptance letters, I made my choice about which school to attend and had to declare a major. I honestly didn’t know what to select. So in the end, I picked English because it was a subject I excelled in and I liked to read and write.

But I wasn’t a typical English major. I didn’t get my kicks out of reading authors’ works of prose and poetry and analyzing themes or archetypal images in classic or modern literature.  Sometimes I would read an assigned work and think, “Huh?? What do I make of that?”

I remember sitting in class listening to my fellow English majors discussing those analytical aspects and me kind of shrinking in my seat, hoping the professor didn’t call on me to add to the discussion.

Because honestly, I had no clue what they were talking about. I didn’t see those analytical features that they so easily identified in a short story, a novel, poetry, or a play.

So I kept mum and nodded my head a lot and, if I’m honest with myself, pretended to be something I was not. If a thought did come to my mind, I feared it just didn’t measure up to the kind of discourse fellow classmates were having.

I thought expressing my thoughts would sound stupid or clueless. I just didn’t believe I measured up to being the typical creative, often non-mainstream type of person who was an English major. In other words, I felt extremely lacking.

But when it came to writing, there’s where I found my niche. I always had a good command of grammar, syntax, and excellent editing and proofreading skills. So crafting sentences and paragraphs, writing and re-writing, proofing and editing what I wrote (and often proofing non-English majors’ papers or helping them write) came easy to me.

“Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.” ~ Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

I can still spot grammatical errors, typos, and misspelled or misused words immediately in reading material. Papa probably gets tired of hearing me spout off about all the mistakes I find in our local newspaper when I say “Don’t they teach these kids how to write well in journalism school now days?” 

So writing is my thing. It always has been. But it wasn’t until I acquired a job as a reporter/assistant editor at a daily newspaper that I honed my craft even more.

I should have majored in journalism instead of declaring an English major, but by the time my university offered journalism as a major I had completed almost all of my requirements for an English Education degree.

The thought of changing majors and taking more courses which would require attending college longer just did not appeal to me.  I was ready to be done and graduate and move on.

But writing was my saving grace. And it still is now, over 45 years later. However, I’m still not this vastly creative kind of person who has tons of novel and short story ideas floating around my brain.

I find the kind of writing I excel in is more real-to-life.  I tend to be more of a journalist or an essayist, I suppose. I take facts and weave them into a story that hopefully appeals to and resonates with my readers.

Recently, while going through some old belongings and purging items, I found a journal in which I had written poetry from my high school and college days and as a young adult.  

Bad poetry, is how I imagine my old English professors would rate most of it. But the poems were written from my heart at the time.

Here’s a sample:

"On the Death of an Uncle"

You floated in and out
Of my existence.
Why was your life
Snuffed out like a candle
In one short blow?

Why did you go
Without warning?
Without me being there?
When I was so far away?

People always thought
You were “odd;”
I always thought
You were “unique.”
Well…not always.

I remember how angry
I was with you
For telling me I shouldn’t float my toy boat
Down the tiny trickle of water
Flowing through the yard.

“Watch out for copperheads,” you said.
Part of me, in all my 10-year-old wisdom
Called you a fool,
Yet the other part
Believed you.

You always enjoyed
Arguing and teasing with me.
And even scaring me
A little.

Yet I remember
The hand-picked bouquet of lilacs.
“These are for you,” you said.
And I believed
In you.

I remember the honeycombs,
Dripping with honey
Magically produced by
Those bees of yours.
But mostly I remember
How proud you were
Of them, the bees,
And me too,
I think.

I always thought
I was your favorite niece.
Why did you leave
Before I could say goodbye?

I know you didn’t like
Dealing with death,
Me either.
I remember how
The two of us sat,
Huddled in the funeral home corner
And cried
When Great Aunt died.

Is that why you
Left so quickly?
To spare me the grief,
To spare me the tears?

It didn’t work, you know.
My tears sill flow.
My grief is still here.
Why did you go
And not say goodbye?

©CCM 1979

Tell me what you think. You can be brutally honest. I can take it, because I learned to be brutally honest with myself once upon a time.

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” ~Harper Lee

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

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Writing signposts

blogIMG_1009 (2)One of the best compliments I ever received was from an acquaintance.

My acquaintance is not someone I know very well although we both were members of an organization a few years ago and that was our connection.  We do have a few things in common, one of those is that both of us love to write.

I’ve been writing this blog for over eight years now and at some point during that time,  this lady told me she loved my writing so much because she felt like she was right there with me experiencing what I wrote. She called my writing vivid.

Wow. That blew me away. And I’ve never forgotten what she said. What writer doesn’t want to hear that? Receiving that kind of compliment from a fellow writer was exceptionally meaningful and encouraging for me as I continued to write in this Mama’s Empty Nest blog.

This blog, this place where I try to put my thoughts into encouraging words. Where I share aspects of life that mean the most to me – my faith, my family, my friends, my view of the world around me, the aspects of life that amaze or astound me.

This spot where I frequently take inspirational insights given to me by my Heavenly Father and attempt to share them with the world.

This site where I regularly pour out my heart in hopes of striking a positive chord with my readers out there in this too often negative, discouraging atmosphere we call life.

Sometimes I’m pleased with the words I summon up in my mind and plunk down on that blank computer screen. Sometimes I agonize and struggle to unite my thoughts with words that truly encapsulate my message.  

Will my readers get my drift? Will they understand what I’m endeavoring to say?

Is my writing clear? Is it expressive? Does it reach the very hearts of my readers?

That’s what I strive to do. I don’t write my blog to garner accolades, although I do appreciate compliments and encouraging comments from my readers. Those mean the world to me.

I don’t write to become the next best-selling author, although that certainly would be exciting. I don’t write in hopes of becoming a social media sensation, go viral, or invite fame. 

I haven’t developed a writing platform or marketing strategy. I don’t even promote my writing much except on my personal Facebook page and my Mama’s Empty Nest Facebook fan page. 

I write because it’s what I do. It’s hard to describe to someone who isn’t a writer. It’s like this huge cache of words are bottled up inside your very self and you have to let them escape because they can keep you up at night if you don’t write them down.

And for me, without trying to sound too ethereal, writing is like a calling. In my case, the calling often comes from the Lord.

He prompts me to tell my stories, to share my joys and even sorrows, to point readers to His Word to give hope and inspiration, to connect with my readers in a way that positively resonates with them. To shed a bit of light in a dark world. To provide a spot where goodness and kindness beam forth.

And if I succeed, then I’ve fulfilled my purpose in writing.

But I must admit that sometimes I get discouraged.

Sometimes I wonder if taking time and effort to reflect over ideas, search God’s Word, and contemplate over just the precise words to convey my point is worth it.  Other than my few regular reader/fellow blogger friends and personal friends and family, does anyone out there in cyberspace actually read what I write?

I don’t have a clue who reads my writing unless those readers comment or click on the “like” button here on Mama’s Empty Nest or on my Facebook blog fan page. And it surprises me when suddenly a comment appears and a reader informs me he/she has been reading my blog for years and has never commented before. Feedback like that motivates me to continue; there just doesn’t seem to be much of it at times.

Oh, WordPress gives me a stats report to show how many readers clicked on my link each day but even though I supposedly have followers well over the thousand mark and seem to acquire new followers, the actual numbers on the stats bar graph are small, barely breaking the one-hundred line.

Every so often, I’m tempted to “throw in the towel.”  Ignore the computer keyboard. Just stop writing. Motivation wanes. Ideas with coherent paragraphs to link it all together just don’t come easily.

And I wonder if the words that I anguish over, pray over, delve up from the depths of my mind and soul… I wonder….do they even matter?

Just last week, another acquaintance informed me that she loves reading my “messages” but hadn’t been taking time to read my blog posts on a regular basis.  Oh, how I get that. Life gets in the way.  So many more important aspects demand utter priority in life than taking the time to read someone’s blabbering online.

I understand that full well and I realize she didn’t need to offer a bit of apology because honestly, it does not surprise me that folks don’t have or take time to read my blog every day.

But her next statement warmed my heart.  “I have been reading them again and you truly are gifted with writing abilities. Keep it up, you are inspiring me,” she wrote. 

Just to know that on that day one person read my blog, and it impacted her enough not only to disclose it but also inform me that my words inspire her….well, shucks, isn’t that what it’s all about?

My purpose in writing. My purpose is writing. My purpose may be for you.

Whether it inspires one person or one thousand or one million, it means the same to me.  Using my words, I connected with another human being in a positive manner. Using my words, I brought meaning to someone’s life that day and it was good.

So I will continue my calling. To write the words I’ve been given to say. To show you the world through my eyes and from my heart so just maybe it helps you, encourages you, inspires you.  

When traveling down the highway of life, there are so many signposts. It can be completely confusing. We search desperately for the signs that show us the right way to go.

My hope is that my writing is like a signpost offering a little guidance for us – you and me – to navigate our way through life. And that’s good enough for me.

“Good writers are in the business of leaving signposts saying, Tour my world, see and feel it through my eyes; I am your guide.” ~ Larry King

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Firing up inspiration

blogIMG_1825 (2).jpgSometimes my think tank runs dry. There’s just no fuel in there.

And when that happens, I find myself without the energy I need to get those creative juices flowing again. No topic springs to mind jump-starting my brain and causing an imaginative spark to ignite. Often times I’m just running on empty.

That’s one of the reasons why, for the last couple of years, I’ve enjoyed the weekly photo challenges Word Press published each week. Each weekly theme provided fodder for thought. And thought usually led to a photo I’ve taken either from my files or one I chose to capture just for the challenge. And viewing the actual picture prompted more creative fuel producing written blog posts to accompany the photo.

But the photo challenges have officially ended while the creative folks at Word Press move on in a different direction, and I’m going to miss them.  I know there are other picture challenges out there in cyber-land, but I’m just too lazy unmotivated to spend time searching for one that strikes my fancy.

So I must revert to igniting my own creative fires when it comes to writing this blog. Whoo-boy, that’s a more difficult challenge than simply opening up an email and saying, “Ah yes, a theme!” and tap, tap, tapping away at my computer keyboard.

When I first launched this blog, prior to engaging with the photo challenges, I summoned up my own creative ideas, studied my surroundings and God’s Word, and thoughtfully considered things I’d read, seen, or experienced as worthy writing fodder.

In my defense, my life was a bit simpler back when this empty nest blog became reality. My grown children were all off on their own and living far from home, and the Papa of this empty nest still toiled full-time long hours at his job.

And even though I worked at a part-time job myself, I still had a whole lot of free time on my hands. Time I didn’t know what to do with. So almost eight years ago, I started seriously blogging and Mama’s Empty Nest breathed life.

As time progressed though, I started relying more on the photo challenges and Wordless Wednesday for blog posts instead of my own creativity. It was easier and less time consuming and if I’m honest, also less tiring.

I could sit down at my desktop, peruse my photos, and start composing an accompanying blog post personifying the weekly theme. And I cranked one out just about every week. Wordless Wednesdays were even simpler – choose a photo, type in a title, and voila! A blog post.

In the last couple of years, I just haven’t possessed as much open, free, and uninterrupted time like I once did, so yes, I confess I grabbed the easy route like a white-water rafter tossed overboard grabs a well-placed tree branch in the river to save him.

Time with little or no distractions is still an issue since I watch my three-year-old grandchild while her mama works.  And other issues often prevent me from sitting down in front of my computer screen to get my thoughts down in writing.

Changes happen. It’s just the way life is. And stages of life come and go, reminding me of an old 1960’s Herman’s Hermits song, “years may come, years may go, some go fast, some go slow…”

With each new change that comes along, I must learn to adapt and go with the flow. So as one chapter ends – my use of weekly photo challenges (unless I find another interesting one) – another must begin. Because of this, I may not post as often until I get some creative inspiration flaring again, so I’m preparing you, my faithful readers.

Please don’t give up reading my blog because of that.  I’ll still be here. Just maybe not as often.  But then again, you never know. If creativity sparks a flame, I may post as regularly as before if not more.  Hope springs eternal, you know.

“Don’t fan the flames of despair. Ignite the spark of hope instead.” ~Doe Zantamata

And hopefully, something will light my fire every week and inspiration will come, even if I have to chase after it.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ~ Jack London

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Come grow with me

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She’ll grow into it.

Growth. Isn’t that a good word to focus upon for a brand new year?

Growth involves change. Growth generates transformation. And with a pristine new year lying ahead of us, maybe it’s time to embrace some growth and step outside that limiting box of life that has become your comfort zone.

“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” ― Roy T. Bennett

I’ve been contemplating direction for this blog since January 1 rolled around. Do I want to change it? Do I want to grow my readership? And must I head down a different path to do so?

Should I embrace that word growth?

For over a decade I worked for a Christian non-profit organization. At each year’s end, we gathered together – staff and volunteers – for a lovely Christmas luncheon.

Great food and even better fellowship were just a couple of aspects we looked forward to, but one activity we participated in at the party caused our hearts to soar.

Prior to the gathering, our executive director would spend much time in prayer asking God to give her ‘words’ for us for the upcoming new year. Words that would become our focus for the new year to come.

Sometimes the words were contemplative, sometimes the words seemed odd.  Every staff member and volunteer in attendance would pluck a folded up small piece of paper from a basket we passed around the room. Written on those notes were the words.

But before we chose the new ones, we shared aloud what our past year’s word had been and how we saw it manifest in our lives. Sometimes there were tears as we shared, sometimes laughter, often wonderment.

One year, I distinctly remember receiving the word growth, but I honestly cannot recall if that word displayed any special meaning to me that year.  Had I embraced the word? I guess not.

I must have grown in some fashion that year because I believe we continue to grow in certain aspects of our lives just as surely as we age one year after another. I must have faced challenges to bring about growth, but whatever they were, they’ve faded away into the inconsequential file.

I do recall other words that I received over the years when I was a part of that ministry because they were particularly meaningful to me, but some I don’t remember at all.

Choosing a new word to focus life upon for the new year has become a ‘thing’ in certain circles, but I no longer participate in that endeavor. For me, it’s kind of gone the way of making resolutions, a practice I abandoned many years ago.

I don’t or won’t keep those pledges anyway, so why bother? It’s the same with choosing a focus word. Nine times out of 10, I’ll forget about my focus word or just won’t incorporate it into my daily life.  

All of this comes to mind today because of a weekly photo challenge theme  – growth

Maybe I’m just more of a go with the flow kind of person than I ever thought. Or maybe I’m just not disciplined enough. Possibly I’m just a tad rebellious and the thought of sticking to one word for the year makes me want to just say no.

Perhaps that’s really growth. Realizing who you are and accepting it. Going your own way instead of following the crowd.

And for now, that’s what I intend to do with Mama’s Empty Nest. Go my own way. Grow in my writing and not worry about growing my followers list. Keep doing what I’ve been doing because it works for me and it seems to encourage my readers.

That’s why I write. To be an encourager. To share what works for me and hope it helps someone else. To make connections with those who read my blog.  To write what inspiration God places on my heart.

And in the meantime, I’m betting I will experience growth.

“Don’t go through life, grow through life.” ~ Eric Butterworth

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Looking backward to go forward

blogIMG_2507(2)I know. It’s a new year. 2018 dawned on us all yesterday. But today, on this brand new day in a brand new year, I’m looking backward.

Why? I believe you can’t move forward until you understand where you’ve been before. And that might entail relegating the past to where it belongs – the past.

There’s something motivating about turning over a new leaf. Or beginning a new beginning. And to do so, I need to examine yesterday before launching into today or tomorrow.

Supposedly Albert Einstein said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” I’ve searched for validation of that quote as being attributed to Einstein but it seems questionable he actually wrote or said this.

But it’s still good advice. And until I can decide what direction this blog will take for 2018, I’ve elected to look back over 2017. Maybe I can learn something from what I’ve written this past year.

I can remember joy from certain events I celebrated or learn a lesson from those things that caused me distress.

It’s worth an effort. So here’s a look back at my blogging in 2017 before I proceed with 2018.

I’m really not much of a mathematician (I have a degree in English after all), but I do like the orderly fashion of numbers and the pictures those figures present.

As I’ve said before, I’m a visual person so I kind of like statistics displayed on charts. Hence, in an accounting kind of procedure, I added up how many blog posts I published here last year.

134 posts. Out of 356 days of the year, I only blogged roughly 38% of the year. Hmm…that doesn’t sound so good, does it? I remember all too well that I definitely experienced some dry spells this past year in which writing inspiration just wasn’t firing up any connections.

Well, I rationalized to myself after figuring those numbers on my calculator, I choose to only post three times per week, not every day. So let’s amend that figure…3 times/week multiplied by 52 weeks/year.  That equals 156. So I posted 134 times out of 156 opportunities. Okay, a better figure comes from that – about 86%. Doesn’t that sound like I accomplished a lot?

Next, I calculated how many times I posted on particular topics because I truly wanted a good grasp on what this blog is about. The results were thought-provoking but not entirely unpredictable.

More than half the time I posted, I either shared a photograph I’d taken for Wordless Wednesday or I was stirred to write an accompanying post to a photo I believed embraced a photo challenge theme declared by Word Press each week.

So what does this tell me? I’m very inspired by pictures – both viewing them and taking them. And photographic images spark words to fly into my brain and land on the computer screen for me to share with my readers.  Yep, I’m visual that way.

The next most posted topic here at Mama’s Empty Nest for 2017 happened to be instances where I shared my faith in my Savior Jesus Christ or I blogged about miscellaneous topics ranging from thankfulness to experiences I encountered to life in general.

Again no surprises there. My faith is vital to me, so it naturally is a part of my life I want to share with others. For the other topics, well, I just love to tell a good story.

Falling into the third most written about category were posts about my family or my husband or our marriage.  Not unexpected. My family means the world to me and with many of them strewn from here to there, not living in close proximity to me, our times together are precious.

What topic closed out the year’s statistics? Friendship. I do often blog about the friendships I hold dear both in real life and in my blogging circles.

So where does all of this introspection of Mama’s Empty Nest leave me? Shall I continue the same pattern for this brand new year? Or do I shake it up a little, challenge myself, and take a leap into a different direction?

The verdict is still out on that one.

“New Year – a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story? Ultimately, we write it. The choice is ours.” ~ Alex Morritt

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

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Spectacular sunrise at my home…but still no inspiration.

Sometimes, here in the blogging world, those of us who weave our words together to create posts for our readers to enjoy just get stuck.

Speaking for myself when that happens, I fear perhaps that I’ve run out of things to say. Creative impulses seem stymied. The juice that I squeeze out of my thoughts which provides the ‘ink’ for my words showing up on your screen just doesn’t flow.

I sit idly staring at my own blank wall – the desktop computer monitor where I compose my blog posts – and no spark of inspiration ignites in my brain.  

You can call it writer’s block. You can call it no inspiration. You can call no light bulb moment.

You can call it a lot of names, but to a blogger, it’s discouraging especially when you’ve boasted in cyberspace that you will have a new post up so many days a week.

So what to do, what to do? I look through my list of ideas that I’ve jotted down in the past. Sometimes one of those ideas leaps off the page and smacks me in my cerebral cortex and words coagulate together to form some kind of cohesive expression.

Other times, I glean through my trusty notebook of quotes and someone else’s words will jumpstart my inspiration motor and I race to get the words in writing before they disappear round the bend.

Often a photograph I’ve taken visually provides blogging fodder and I manage to combine the written word with a visual picture to produce a meaningful blog post.

But occasionally, nothing works. That’s when I get by with a little help from my friends.

I run in a tight little circle. What I mean is I have a small circle of blogging friends that I follow.  I log into my WordPress account just about every day and I click on links to read blogs from my circle of writer/photographer friends.

And sometimes, something they’ve posted provides a little jolt of stimulus or plucks at a thought in my mind that could possibly be developed into a new blog post of my own. It’s what we bloggers do, we help each other even when we don’t realize we’re doing it.

I’ve been pretty wordy since the beginning of this month, this November Thanksgiving season, but I needed just a few more brainstorms to complete this month’s posts.  And the insights, the creativity, the vision of what to write just wasn’t coming to me.

Maybe because my plate is full with other things including preparing plates of Thanksgiving goodies for my family. Maybe because I just lack motivation because I’ve certainly been there before and have the T-shirt to prove it.

Whatever the reason, my friends helped me out, and that’s a good reason to be grateful. So I add my blogging friends to my thankfulness for Thanksgiving list and I want to share with you my friends who helped me get by.

First of all is my friend Beth Ann who writes at It’s Just Life.

Her posts are always entertaining and often showcase something I didn’t know or see before. On top of that, she generously donates to a different charity each month based on the number of comments she receives on her blog. How cool is that?

She and I share an affinity for teapots among other things. Recently, she too encountered an ‘hmmm…what shall I write about moment’ and the result was a list of ‘what am I’ statements which provided her readers a little peek into her life at the moment. I thought it was a fun thing to do, so I’m copying her following in her footsteps.

Her statements, my answers:

What I am reading: More than one book at a time including a few open on Kindle and my ongoing project of reading my way completely through the Bible in a year. But right now, I’m reading and intrigued, for personal reasons, by a newly published book, The Rose and the Serpent by Ron Shafer. I know Ron and have known him since I was a child. He’s a brilliant scholar, a fellow believer in Christ, well-versed in literature and the Bible, and a world traveler. He happened to be my college freshman year English professor and also my adviser. But more than that, I’ve known him to be my friend. And I’m excited that he’s launched a book series of his own. Ron’s debut novel can be purchased at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or on Westbow Press and also on Nook and Kindle. 

What I am listening to: I confess I don’t listen to much lately unless it’s the constant chatting of my sweet little granddaughter. Often, I just like silence. But if I’m in the mood for music, I may log in to Pandora and listen to some oldies. Yeah, I’m a throwback. And as soon as Thanksgiving is over, Christmas music will be in the air at my house.

What I am watching: Okay, confession time. Guilty pleasure is watching Dancing with the Stars on TV. Honestly, I don’t watch much else except this time of year, I do tune in regularly to all the Christmas shows on the Hallmark Channel. Groan if you want to.

What I am doing: Walking three times a week or so with one of my best friends — good for my body and my soul.

What I am looking forward to: The holidays. I can’t wait to celebrate my second grandchild’s first birthday soon, see her sweet little face, and cuddle with her. I’m also excited that all of my chicks and roosters will be back in the nest for Christmas this year. The perfect Christmas gift for me.

What I am writing: I’d like to say I’m writing my novel and a devotional book I started a couple of years ago, but both are on the back, back, way back burner. I’m lucky if I can churn out these blog posts right now.

What I am looking at: You know what they say – a picture is worth a thousand words. I’m looking at the photos I took this fall.

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Glorious autumn right in my own back yard

What I am excited about:  Papa cutting back some hours at work come January and the two of us traveling a bit next year.

And now, let me share how another friend inspired this blog post.  Robyn, who writes at Believe, is a young friend.

I can’t even remember how our paths crossed but I’m so blessed that they did. This teenaged girl faces her own adversity every day yet always inspires me as I read her words. And she is a very gifted writer for someone so young.

Recently, she honored me with a peer blog award. It’s one I’ve received before, so I could have just thanked her and moved on.

But because she has become such a sweet friend, I wanted to show how much I appreciate and respect her nominating me. The award is called the Liebster – a German word for favorite or beloved. It’s just a lovely thing to call a fellow blogger a liebster, so thank you, Robyn.

In receiving the award, the nominees are to answer questions provided by the nominator. So here goes, another peek into my life as I answer Robyn’s questions. And let me tell you, I had to seriously contemplate to answer a couple of these!

If you could write the soundtrack to your life, what would be the first three songs? (Click on the links below to hear the songs.)

Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows

Crazy Love 

Homeward Bound

What is the one book that has most inspired your life? Hands down, it has to be my Bible. No other book inspires me, guides me, touches my soul, and sometimes makes me cry more.

If you could live anywhere you please, without that pesky restraint called money, where would it be and why? As hokey and corny as it sounds, I’d live right here where I am but I’d make sure all my family and many of my far-away friends lived right here in my area too.

Where would you go on your dream vacation? I suppose many folks would choose some exotic, tropical, beachy place and while that would be fun and enjoyable, it wouldn’t be my dream vacation. No, send me off to often chilly, sometimes damp England, home of my forbears.

What’s your favorite thing about fall? EVERYTHING. Okay, seriously… just about everything. Cooler day temperatures. A chill in the air. Sunshine causing the changing trees to radiate with the colors gold, red, and orange. Lacy glimmering frost on the grass in early mornings. The crunch of dried fallen leaves and acorns under my feet. Nighttime bonfires. Pumpkin bread baking in the oven. Hay rides to the pumpkin patch. The smell of fall, yes there is a distinct aroma in the air. I love it all and it is my favorite season.

And my blogging friends are some of my favorite people. I do get by with a little help from my friends.

“Encourage, lift and strengthen one another. For the positive energy spread to one will be felt by us all. For we are connected, one and all.”  ~ Deborah Day

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday gratitude

blogblank page (2)Thowback Thursday. That’s what it’s called when you post a photo from the past on social media with that moniker on it: #Throwback Thursday.

Well, it’s Thursday. It’s also halfway through this Thanksgiving month of November. And I haven’t written a new blog post to share with my readers for today. So I’m heading for the throwback category.

With a click of the mouse, I traveled back seven years ago to the year 2010 when I first launched Mama’s Empty Nest on Word Press. I called up some of my old blog posts from the month of November that year, read through a couple of my entries then, and noticed that I was writing quite a bit about being grateful.

I still am…grateful, that is. But for some reason, words just aren’t flowing out of me right now. So I’m reposting (with a few tweaks here and there) one of my old November 2010 posts today:

Often friends encourage me without them even knowing they’ve done so, and sometimes they humble me as well.

Today a friend told me she keeps a gratitude list.  She’s been keeping it for four years.

I started a gratitude journal way back in 1998.  Want to guess how many pages I wrote in it?  Nine and a half. 

What’s odd is that I enjoy writing tremendously, so why couldn’t I fill all the pages of that journal full of words of thanksgiving and gratefulness and start another one?  

Actually, I should have an entire bookshelf of gratitude journals by now.  [And by this date, TWO bookshelves full.] But I don’t.

So I’m feeling humbled by this friend who has so much more faithfulness than me at being grateful and documenting her thankful thoughts.  It’s obviously something I need to improve upon or at least attempt.

I rummaged through my desk drawer and dug out my lovely 1998 gratitude journal, a gift from a good friend.  

On the front page, she wrote this:  “Take a moment each day and write down five things you are grateful for.  It could be a moment, event, or just something that brought a smile to you today.  Let me start by sharing how much I appreciate your support and friendship.  You are truly ‘a very best friend’!”

This friend and I became acquainted through our children’s elementary school when we both served as PTA officers.  I jokingly told her when we met that we would become “best friends” as we would work so closely together on school functions. 

We laughed about that a lot, but we really did become close friends and even now, so many years later, we still sign our Christmas cards “from your very best friend!”

I noted that her entry in my journal was dated April 5, 1998.  I wrote this three days later:  “I am so thankful for friends like K [she gave me the journal] who brighten my day; friends like KL who can give me godly and wise advice; that Mom is experiencing God’s power and peace while she’s dealing with her cancer diagnosis; that our gracious and loving Lord not only hears our prayers but answers them; for my children’s, husband’s, and my good health.”

I continued to write a paragraph or two from April through June.  And then the writing stopped.  Is it a mere coincidence that I discontinued writing the day after my family and I moved back to the homeland? 

I don’t know.  Life was extremely unsettled then and my mother was dying of cancer.  I spent a lot of time in prayer during that time, but maybe my feelings and emotions were just too raw to put into ink on paper.

Over the years, I’ve picked up this small bound book with the floral design on the front, read what I previously wrote, and closed the book again without writing one paragraph.  [And still haven’t written any more.]

I could excuse myself by saying I was too busy planning my new home, raising my children, running to sports events, getting involved in church and school volunteering, but I know I was thankful for many, many occurrences, large and small, in my life.  So why didn’t I take a moment to chronicle them?  It’s a puzzle to me.

Perhaps it is a lack of discipline on my part.  I failed to note over 10 [now almost 20] years of thankfulness in written form in that gratitude journal, but looking back over those years, I can recall much for which my heart is grateful. 

But the day-to-day items, the usual but not insignificant blessings I’ve experienced, those are tucked away in my mind’s memory bank like old, faded mementos buried in a dusty trunk in the attic and forgotten.

And there’s so much to be thankful for.

That was so true back in 2010 and still spot-on now in 2017. Even on Throwback Thursday.

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

©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

Jumping over the hurdle

blogimg_8574

View from a rock on a restful, pleasant  September Sunday afternoon

It was the time and the season.  For some reason, I don’t go dormant in the winter as some folks do, instead I become dull, listless, and inactive in the dog days of summer.

Summer’s heat and humidity always catch up with me, drag me down in a wilting, simpering heap, and toss me around like the wet dishrag that I feel like. My sweet Southern friends, I do NOT know how you stand it.

A muggy, oppressive July and August devoured my energy like a ravenous hot-breathed wolf scarfing down its prey. And apparently, it also consumed my words and thoughts because I just…could. not. write. And I didn’t want to spend the time it took nor the motivation.

I needed a respite. I needed a sojourn.  I needed a rest away from the computer, away from my blog, away from the feeling of letting readers (and myself) down with the scanty schedule of posting I was doing.

To put it succinctly, I was just plain tired. Tired of heat. Tired of humidity. Tired of hunkering down in my air-conditioned but stuffy house instead of breathing in clean, fresh air. Tired of being imprisoned inside instead of enjoying the summer day’s sunshine on the backyard deck, the front porch swing, or anywhere outside at all. Tired of staring at a computer screen and frantically trying to think of something….something…anything(!!) to write about.

This blog became my chore. And there weren’t enough cute stickers in the world to adhere to my chore chart to make me want to accomplish the task of writing. Frankly, I didn’t want to even be online at all. Social media just perturbed and annoyed me. My email inboxes filled up with stuff I had no desire to read, so I embarked on a delete and purge mission and called it quits except for reading emails from family and one beloved far away friend who totally understands me.

Hence, a few weeks ago, I informed those of you who still click on your email notifications when my blog posts are published or those who click on my Mama’s Empty Nest Facebook fan page or on my personal page links that I was taking a sojourn from writing.

And I did. I managed to rest physically when I could get a good night’s sleep and launched myself into a mental vacation by reading several books just for enjoyment and not taxing my brain with anything that required deep thinking. However, I didn’t necessarily rest emotionally because life and its situations don’t go on sabbaticals and challenges keep popping up in front of me like roadblocks causing detours for unsuspecting drivers.

As I ran around this track of life that I’m on, (sweltering and sweating like crazy), I just got too weary to vault over the hurdles and writing became one of those barriers.  So instead of attempting to sail over it, I knocked it down. I may have kicked it a few times too just for good measure to make sure it stayed down.

But then, a freshening gust of air blew in. September arrived and that meant one thing – fall’s coming. Autumn.  My favorite season of all. Warm but balmy days of sunshine and Crayola crayon shades of blue skies sandwiched in between evenings of falling temperatures and a bit of a nip in the air. Delightful weather that causes me to throw the windows open wide and inhale that freshness that I love and air out my stale house.

This coming season invigorates and revitalizes me. I don’t know why I relish it so much, but I welcome fall with arms stretched outward as far as I can spread. With the promise of autumn, my creative juices start to flow again, words swirl around my mind once more. It’s like I awaken from a heat-induced coma.

So I’m back. I’m not sure I’ll return to my regular posting schedule as before (T, W, Th) because I’m adjusting to some life changes which require much of my time, but I am feeling renewed enough to write again.

There may be days, however, when I just share some photos with you.  Earlier this summer, I wanted to take part in “Developing Your Eye,” a WordPress photography challenge, but I just didn’t have the energy to pursue it. So you know what they say, ‘better late than never.’

The themes for the 10-day challenge encouraged amateur photographers like me to think differently about how we capture what we see with the camera lens, and even though the challenge is long over, I may decide to share my interpretations with you.

Whatever transpires, I’m grateful that I had the good sense to take some time off and indulge in a sojourn from the blogging/internet world. And now that I’ve returned, I hope you come along with me as I continue this journey in Mama’s Empty Nest. No road map needed. I’ll just go where life and the good Lord take me.

“Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest.”  ― Mark Buchanan, The Holy Wild: Trusting in the Character of God

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Lumber in the attic

blogIMG_7809It happened.  My brain has turned to mush.

I don’t know how. I don’t know why.  All I know is I’m left with the result…mush brain. 

Maybe it was just too much time spent playing Trivia Crack – no, wait – shouldn’t being able to recall answers to all those tidbits of information sharpen my mind, not dull it?

Maybe my mind just went on vacation…and didn’t take the rest of my body?

Maybe perusing Facebook just sucked thoughts and coherent sentences right out of my head?  After all, some of the stupid stuff posted there does boggle my mind.

Maybe my diet is lacking in food that boosts brain function…things, according to WebMD, like blueberries, wild salmon, nuts and seeds, avocados, whole grains, beans, pomegranate juice, freshly brewed tea, and dark chocolate?

Nah,  I drink plenty of freshly brewed tea, eat enough blueberries, nuts and seeds, whole grains, beans, and – yes!!! – dark chocolate to keep my brain fully functioning, I think.

I could blame watching too much television…but I hardly ever watch it.

Perhaps stress, worry, and upset has something to do with it – I’ve certainly encountered enough of that to qualify for a reason.

But still. I don’t know why there’s a puddle of mush in my skull where my brain used to light up and fire away so much writing fodder for this blog that it kept me awake at night.

And I can’t really explain why my creative muses have packed up and vacated the premises.

All I know is I’m left with a mush brain.  A brain that can’t (or won’t) come up with one creative idea to morph into a blog post.

That explains my sporadic posts and downright absence from the blogosphere for the last few weeks for you, my readers. But not for me.

I just didn’t understand it until I ran across this quote, attributed to Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes stories.

“A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle

I actually do have a little “lumber room library” both on my computer and in a paper notebook where I jot down blogging ideas and even though I’ve accessed my library over and over again, I still haven’t been able to nail down an idea and hammer out a worthwhile post.

Digging a little deeper into that quote though, I found what Doyle actually wrote in his novel, A Study in Scarlet:  

“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that this little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it, there comes a time when for any addition of knowledge, you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”  

Aha! That’s it! There’s way too much lumber in my attic brain.

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com