Birds plummeted through the sky like they were being shot out of a slingshot or a rocket.
Last evening after dinner, hubby went outside to finish mowing our two-plus acre yard. I plunked down on the front porch swing, enjoying the cool evening air and engrossed in a book.
I didn’t pay much attention to hubby’s mowing job, but the steady roar of our trusty John Deere lawn tractor sounded in my ears, as well as a car or truck passing by. An occasional car horn toot to sound hello greetings from a friend driving past caused me to raise my head from my book and wave.
Suddenly the droning stopped and I heard my husband yell for me. I stood up, turned around because he was in the side yard behind me, wondering what was wrong. He was just sitting on the tractor with a goofy grin on his face and I couldn’t figure out why he wanted my attention. And then I saw them. Birds!
The birds were going crazy! A flock of birds were swooping, dive-bombing and coming awfully close to my husband’s head! They circled around him; they flew straight up into the air and then made a beeline for the ground. They quickly darted through the air, floating and turning, soaring and swerving.
Hubby laughed, “Look at the bird acrobatic show!” I watched as they catapulted through the air, lunging and plunging, flying and diving each time. I felt certain they were attacking him because they flew extremely close to him.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “Why are they angry at you? Is there a nest nearby or what?”
“No,” he replied. “This happens every time I mow. I think I’m stirring up all the bugs in the ground and the birds are flocking in to eat them.”
A feeding frenzy. Not angry birds, hungry birds foraging for a tasty treat, thanks to the human on the noisy mower.
Hubby shrugged, started up the tractor, and proceeded with his lawn manicure job. And the birds kept up their acrobatic performance. I imagine there were some satisfied songbirds with full tummies.
I sat back down on the porch swing, picked up my book, listened to the tractor’s constant hum, inhaled the scent of freshly cut grass, and a big satisfied sigh escaped from me. Ah, life in the country…. no annoying noise, no loud neighbors, no steady stream of traffic, no distractions, no addicting games like Angry Birds.
Just a simple evening enjoying the simple things in life, including a few hungry birds. In my Opportunity book, Chapter 8, Page 26, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The other morning, I awakened and took a nice deep breath while I lazily stretched in bed. And that’s when I caught a whiff of the air circulating in and out of our bedroom via the open windows. It smelled like school.
I can’t really describe it with words, but there’s a distinct smell in the early morning air this time of year. The days are still warmed by the sunshine, but the nights commence their descent into cooler temperatures. I’m certain there must be a scientific reason for what transpires but I don’t know what it is. All I know is that fragrance in the air reminds me of going back to school.
Even though it’s been decades since I jumped on a school bus or packed up my belongings for dorm life, that smell transports me back in time to the first few days of a new school year. I can vividly recall standing outside my house, shivering a bit in the cool, morning air, excited and yet a little nervous, waiting for the school bus to arrive on the first day back to school. Yep, the scent in the air reminds me of crisp recently purchased school clothes, clean white tennis shoes, freshly sharpened pencils, and pristine notebooks with no doodles defacing them.
This time of year, stores tout their back-to-school sales and the aisles overflow with everything you ever wanted to start a new school year with and more. At the discount store, I maneuver past mothers with children in tow loading up their shopping carts with packs of crayons, glue, rulers, markers, and backpacks. College aged students heap all those dorm necessities into their carts. A walk in the mall reveals families purchasing school clothes and the shoe stores swarm with children trying on shoes. I notice school buses timing their practice runs.
My nose is right. It’s time to go back to school. Gone are the days when my children and I piled in the car, school supply lists in hand, to begin the annual ritual of back to school shopping. The arrival of a new school year generated excitement with transitions from elementary to middle to high school to college, another season of sports practices and games, different schedules to learn, and new teachers to meet.
After a summer of leisure and relaxation, the smell of fall in the air meant the hustle and bustle of a new school year was about to descend and we had to get ready! But now at Mama’s Empty Nest, the scent of school in the air just ushers in a new season. I can sit on my front porch swing in the warmth of the afternoon, watch the school buses drive by, hear the chatter of students on the bus, and reminisce about those days of putting my own children on the big yellow bus for another year of learning.
It’s my second year of not sending someone back to school, and in Chapter 8, Page 22, of my book of Opportunity, I can honestly say I’ve made peace with that. No marathon shopping excursions, no frantic run to Wal-Mart in college town because we forgot this, that, or the other thing. I find extending summer relaxation into this back to school season enjoyable, but the best part of all is my check book is a lot healthier too!
© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
His real name was Arnold, but he answered to other names. Some people called him Jim, some named him Skis, but I never knew why. He was different, a little odd – definitely marched to the beat of a different drummer than most folks.
As far as I know, he never drove a car. For certain, he didn’t own one. Instead he walked everywhere he went or hitched a ride with someone. He never married. He stayed with relatives and for only a short time had a place of his own.
I don’t know what jobs he ever held, if any. I suspect he just took odd jobs here and there whenever someone offered him some honest way to make a little cash. He never had much money, which was evident.
He didn’t have many words to say either. Every once in a while, he’d mutter something that you’d have to really strain to hear. You couldn’t tell what he was thinking or feeling because for the most part he guarded his thoughts and words, probably because he had been ridiculed on one too many occasions.
He was a mystery to me. Part of me was a tiny bit afraid of him, yet part of me wanted to get to know this strange man. He was my uncle, my father’s older brother.
By the time I was born, he was middle-aged, but I always thought of him as an old man. Many years ago, he passed away, but for some reason, this eccentric relative crosses my mind lately.
My husband and I lived in another state when my parents called to tell me that this uncle had died. I don’t imagine many people – other than a few relatives – attended the viewing or funeral. My uncle didn’t appear to have friends. Living so far away, I couldn’t attend either, and after the phone call announcing Uncle’s death, I felt like weeping.
Weeping for a man who no one, including me, really knew…or understood…or took the time to know or understand. And that made me incredibly sad.
My family alluded to his being a little “off,” maybe a mental illness or a nervous breakdown, but I never knew the real story. He often just showed up at our house unannounced, never strayed beyond the kitchen, never accepted the invitation to sit on the good furniture in the living room.
He’d only sit in a kitchen chair a few minutes, then jump up, pace back and forth, jingle coins in his pants pocket, look out the kitchen door, and then mumble, “See you” and he’d depart. My mother, who treated him kindly but found him exasperating sometimes, would shake her head after he left, say “That man’s too nervous,” and continue whatever she was doing.
Sometimes he appeared at the kitchen door holding out in silent offering a honey comb from the bees that he kept. I know he had discussions with my father, his younger brother, but for the life of me, I can’t remember one thing they ever talked about around our kitchen table.
A few vivid memories of Uncle from my childhood linger in my mind. A tiny trickle of water ran through a marshy area on our property with weeds, cat tails, and reeds growing around it then into a culvert under the road. In the spring, the little stream rushed with extra water from melting snows and rain.
I loved launching little plastic toy boats into the upper part of the steam and watching them sail under the road into our neighbor’s yard. One day, shod in my rubber boots, I trampled through the weeds to find the perfect spot to set a boat adrift. Uncle showed up, asked me what I was doing and growled, “You better watch out for copperheads.”
Snakes? The thought had never occurred to me, let alone poisonous ones. I gingerly picked up my boat, recoiled from the swampy area, and marched back inside, a little angry that he had spoiled my fun. My 10-year-old mind was divided about his warning. Part of me wanted to call him a silly old fool, but part of me believed him and thought he was looking out for my safety.
Another memory I harbor is of Uncle watching my father take pictures with his movie camera. One spring the huge lilac bush in our back yard was lush with fragrant blooms. Dad grabbed the camera to take pictures and told me to get in the shot too.
As soon as I moved to the bush, Uncle bent a branch down low and near to me so blossoming flowers would be in the picture with me. But he didn’t want my father to take his picture, just like the reclusive uncle not wanting to be noticed. And I realize today that I have only one picture of this uncle when he was a young man.
My parents and I lived in what once was my paternal grandparents’ house. When I was growing up, Uncle lived much of the time with his oldest brother, another of my uncles, whose home had a perfect view of ours. Uncle seemed drawn back to his childhood abode – our house – but never visited us for very long.
I often wonder if Uncle just couldn’t bring himself to stay long in our house because all the memories of childhood and particularly his deceased family overwhelmed him. As a toddler, he lost a brother to leukemia. His father, my grandfather, died when Uncle was eight. His only sister succumbed to cancer. Uncle lived with my grandmother until she passed away, and then middle-aged Uncle was basically left alone.
I know he didn’t deal well with death because I witnessed that first-hand. Uncle stayed with his elderly aunt and uncle from time to time, who lost their home to a fire. A few years later, his aunt – my great-aunt – passed away. It was summer and I was home from college at the time. My uncle showed up at our house, plopped down at the kitchen table, and did something he rarely did.
He looked straight at me and asked a question, “Are you going to town today?”
I looked back at him, noticed his weepy-looking eyes and answered hesitantly, “Noooo…I wasn’t planning on it.”
“Okay,” he answered, jumping up and starting for the kitchen door.
“Wait a minute,” I stopped him. “Do you need something?” I felt really sorry for him for some reason.
“I just wondered if you’d get me a new white shirt to wear to the funeral home,” he replied. “But never mind.”
I was actually impressed that he wanted to look presentable to go to Great Aunt’s viewing, so I told him I would run his errand for him. Did he want to go along? A brief look of panic crossed his face as he pressed some money into my hand, muttered his shirt size, and darted out the door.
That evening, looking uncomfortable in his stiff, new white shirt and tie, Uncle sat alone in a corner of a far room at the funeral home. No one really seemed to notice him; no one seemed to care to speak with him.
I quietly sat down beside him, noticed he looked upset, and asked if he was all right. He nodded his head yes, then hung his head and that’s when I noticed huge, quiet tears streaming down his face. It occurred to me that when Great Aunt died, he again lost one of the few people who probably were ever kind to him, one of the people he loved.
Because of his odd ways, people tended to shun him. And I was just as guilty as they were. But that evening was a turning point for me because that’s when I began to view this strange uncle as a real person with real hurts, fears, and the capacity to love. And I wept there with him, not so much for Great Aunt but for him. Years later, I again wept when Uncle left this world alone.
Even now, 30 plus years after his death, tears well up in my eyes as I think of this misunderstood uncle, lost in the world’s shuffle, that few people may even remember. Today I wish I had taken the time to really explore his life, ask him questions, and try to understand him.
Opportunities present themselves to us every day, often we just aren’t wise enough to embrace them at the time. When we realize we missed the chance to touch someone’s life in a positive way, it’s too late to make amends.
On this beautiful day, Page 18, Chapter 8, in my life’s book of Opportunity, I remember you, Uncle, but you’ll always be a mystery to me.
© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
Copyright © 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
“Scientists have found the gene for shyness. They would have found it years ago, but it was hiding behind a couple of other genes.” ~ Jonathan Katz
A little girl with stick-like legs hides behind her mother when someone talks to her. In school, she never raises her hand to respond to her teacher’s questions because she’s afraid her answer may be wrong.
In everyday life, she won’t answer the phone or even make calls to people she doesn’t know. In the bigger scheme of life, she’s not fond of trying something new or taking a risk.
She’s shy. Her mother tells her she’s afraid of her own shadow, but that’s not true. Other people’s shadows or things that go bump in the night frighten her because she’s afraid of the dark and unfamiliar things.
That little girl used to be me. My shyness lasted all the way up to my senior year of high school. If you asked my former teachers about me, they would say I was a quiet student, if they remember me at all. But something happened during my senior year that brought me out of my shell. I took a drama class.
My teacher, who also directed all the school plays, required all drama students to participate in some fashion in school productions. I’m not certain how I summoned up the courage to audition for an acting role, but I did. I vaguely remember my friends shoving me into the school auditorium for try-outs. Once I was onstage reading the script, I forgot to be scared. The result was I landed a leading role in the play.
At school the Monday after our weekend performances, one of my teachers stopped me in the hall, his mouth widened into a perfect O, and he said, “Wow, that WAS you!” Yep, a scared little butterfly emerged from its cocoon.
Once I became mother to our three children, I was determined, genes or no genes, not to pass along the trait of shyness to them. Together, hubby and I attempted to provide challenges and new, exciting experiences for them so they would embrace adventures and unfamiliar territory easily without fear and hesitation.
For much of their growing up years, my husband’s job transported us to different areas of the country. We endeavored to make each move a grand adventure for our kids. We traveled as much as we could to investigate unfamiliar areas, learn new information, and experience various events.
Our oldest daughter attended a different school every two years, which could be detrimental, but instead became an asset for her. She learned quickly to adapt, make new friends, and gain a sense of independence. I think acquiring those skills molded her into the adventuresome woman she is today – one who traveled by herself for a trip of a lifetime to Africa, served others on mission trips to Honduras, and moved to a state far from home without family or friends.
Middle daughter overcame insecurities and displayed confidence early in elementary school and on the soccer playing fields. She’s faced uncertainties with courage and bravado even when she felt like yielding. Her perseverance enabled her to become a strong and assertive nurse who has used her compassion for others in the mission field from poverty-stricken areas of Mexico to hurricane-ravaged Mississippi. She loves to travel, appreciates historical and scenic sights, and records it all with her ever-present camera.
To me, youngest son seems fearless. He welcomes new experiences like a parched man gulping a long draught of water. He’s always eager to taste diverse foods, attempt different sports, engage in activities he’s never tried before. Go on a mission trip to Belize? Why not? Try sailing? Sure. How about a little surfing? Go for it. White water rafting? You bet. He’s traveled westward across the country and Pacific to Hawaii and eastward across the Atlantic to Germany and Italy.
This weekend, all three of my adult children reunited for a sibling get-together. Son traveled from the state next door, met middle daughter in the city, and together they drove all night to oldest daughter’s home down south.
The three of them planned a big adventure for themselves to knock an item off their bucket lists. They are all going sky-diving together!
Has that once shy, fearful little girl succeeded to instill a sense of daring exploration in her children? Did they escape the shyness gene?
I’m happy (and a little bit proud) to say yes in my book called Opportunity, Chapter 8, Page 12. And I can’t wait to hear all about their exciting escapade after I go pray for their safety!
© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
You awaken to sunshine streaming in your window accompanied by wafts of fresh, clean air gently blowing through the screen.
You realize it was so cool during the night, you pulled the quilt up over yourself and you’re snuggling inside it because it feels a little chilly.
No harsh buzzing of the alarm clock rings in your ears because it’s your day off work, but you do catch the lilting melody of song birds coming from outside.
You leave your place of slumber and glance out the open window to see the most glorious baby blue sky decorated with bits of cottony fluff here and there. A dazzling sun gleams from the east causing the yard to look resplendent in verdant trees and grass.
The temperature hovers around the upper 60’s with an expected high in the mid 70’s. Throwing open the patio door and kitchen windows invites a cooling breeze into the house refreshing enough to compel you to linger at the kitchen table with your soothing hot cup of tea. You observe a tiny sparrow hopping along the deck railing and notice butterflies chasing each other, flitting hither and yon.
There’s a faint rustle of leaves as the cooling wind blows through the trees. You hear cicadas chirping, morning song birds, and occasionally a car driving by. But that is all. It’s peaceful and serene. It’s beautiful and picturesque. It’s life here at Mama’s Empty Nest.
And that’s my idea of a picture perfect morning.
That’s what it’s been like here the last few days and I can’t express how much I enjoy mornings like these. Quote anthologist Terri Guillemets wrote this: “I used to love night best but the older I get the more treasures and hope and joy I find in mornings.” I couldn’t agree with her more, especially on mornings like these.
Yesterday all day I found myself singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical Oklahoma. I’ve actually lived in that state and while I’m sure native Okies believe their mornings are the most spectacular, I beg to differ. Rising to incredibly hot temperatures isn’t my idea of a beautiful morning, and that’s what I remember most about summertime there. I’d much rather sing about mornings right here in my home state.
Treated to a repeat performance of my picture perfect morning today, my mind’s card catalog of songs brought up “It’s a Beautiful Morning” by The Rascals.
“It’s a beautiful mornin’ ahhh
I think I’ll go outside a while an jus’ smile
Just take in some clean fresh air boy
Ain’t no sense in stayin’ inside
If the weather’s fine an’ you got the time
It’s your chance to wake up and plan another brand new day
It’s a beautiful mornin’ ahhh”
Morning songs just keep playing in my head on this magnificent Page 11, Chapter 8, in my book of Opportunity. Cat Stevens’ “Morning Has Broken” comes to mind. As soon as I run through that song, a Herman’s Hermits tune, “I’m Into Something Good,” follows with “Woke up this morning, feelin’ fine, there’s something special on my mind.”
When I dig a little deeper in my song file, I find myself singing “Good Mornin” from that marvelous old movie, Singing in the Rain. That tune reminds me of crooning my version to our awakening children when they were young: “Good mornin’, Good mornin’, You slept the whole night through, Good mornin’, Good mornin’ to you!”
And lastly, I find myself humming an old English folk song called “Early One Morning.” I don’t recall when I first heard that song because it seems like it’s always been in my memory. “Early one morning, just as the sun was rising, I heard a young maid singing in the valley below. Oh, don’t deceive me, Oh never leave me. How could you use a poor maiden so?”
What about you? What morning song are you singing on this fine day?
© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
This morning, I witnessed a battle scene.
The scene was so striking, it grabbed my attention and I could not take my eyes from it. A dramatically painted picture etched itself into my mind and didn’t leave my thoughts all day.
Summer time delivers many bright, sunny days of hot weather here at Mama’s Empty Nest. In the last couple of days, some blessed rain blew in, shoving the high humidity out, resulting in more delightful temperatures and a sweet, refreshing breeze.
On my trek to work today, I couldn’t stop staring at the sky. As I buzzed down the highway, I noticed the fast-moving hedge of dark rain clouds streaking across the vista. I continued watching them because they were speeding along like a freight train.
And that’s when I noticed that in one direction bits of fluffiness in the form of cottony clouds dotted blue sky and sunlight streamed through that part of the atmosphere. But the sinister looking freight train was rolling through rapidly from the other direction! The dark clouds, in their faster than a speeding bullet mode, collided and clashed with the bright side of the sky swiftly overtaking it – simply annihilating it in the battle.
Those ominous clouds actually devoured the fleecy ones. Darkness swallowed up the sunlight right before my eyes. That scene unfolding in front of me reminded me about the stark reality of the world we live in. Evil – the dark side, if you want to quote Star Wars – spreads its foul fingers wherever it goes trying to consume and ultimately destroy goodness or light. And that happens each and every day here in our world, not just in movieland.
As a believer in Christ, I tend to view life in spiritual ways, especially when God paints such a vivid picture in my surroundings as He did this morning. Witnessing those rain clouds slamming into sunshine reminded me that we need to be on guard, ever watchful for evil which can so easily overtake us. But even more than that, we must be vigilant in prayer.
1 Peter 5:7-9 ~ “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
Just yesterday, I was gifted with an opportunity to enjoy a short chat with a lovely fellow Christian who I haven’t seen for some time. She’s enduring a difficult trial right now, yet amid her own heavy load, she inquired about my family and shared that she had been praying for us. Her face lit up with a smile and praise when I revealed how her prayers had been answered.
Conviction washed over me as I realized that I have not been as diligent in prayer for this dear one as she has been for me. She disclosed to me that during this storm she feels such a strong sense of peace which she’s certain is from God. Then she stated something that didn’t surprise me at all. Several well-meaning people in her circle of friends told her she wasn’t being positive enough because she has accepted the difficulty laid before her and is meeting it with complete faith and trust in the God who has saved her.
People don’t get that, she told me. They think she’s not “thinking positive” when she tells them she will meet whatever outcome God has in store for her and they don’t understand or like what she says. As a realist myself, I totally get it.
There are certain events we encounter in life that just happen. You can try to use the ‘power of positive thinking’ until the cows come home, but it might not change your circumstances. That doesn’t mean you must stop asking God for intervention, or healing, or a miracle, or whatever may help the situation. But you also should beseech Him for the strength to endure, the ability to completely trust His will for you, and the peace that passes all understanding.
The power of positive thinking alone can’t move the rain clouds away or stop them from coming just as it can’t protect me from evil touching my life. The power of prayer to the God who is in control of the universe is a different story. And the power of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, is the real source of the peace and strength needed to endure life as it comes.
This morning as I began my 9th page in Chapter 8 in my life’s book entitled Opportunity, I’m certain my heavenly Father demonstrated these thoughts for me as I watched that war of clouds in the morning sky.
© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com