Thanks Giving: for pen pals

blogpic5Our paths crossed in fifth grade and even though we had not met in person we became friends. 

She lived in the Midwest; I lived in the Northeast.  We ‘met’ via a Sunday School take home paper which featured a column where children could write in requesting a pen pal. I saw her request one Sunday afternoon reading my paper at home after church and decided to write her a letter.  I was so very excited when she wrote back as I’ve always loved getting mail.

That connection commenced a 50-year-long friendship in hand-written letters.

My pen pal and I wrote about life in the eyes of a tween age girl: school, family, grades, television shows, pets, likes and dislikes.  By the time we became teenagers, we added topics of boys, who we liked, who we wanted to date, clothes, fads, music, and what movie or recording stars we had crushes on in our letters to one another.

We were the same age and our birthdays were just a few days apart so we always sent each other birthday greetings.  When we graduated from high school, we sent each other cards with a graduation charm taped inside to add to our charm bracelets which were all the rage at the time.  I still have my circle of silver and can show you exactly which charm came from my pen pal friend.

Both of us headed off to college yet we still managed to write to one another.  She left school early to get married and her military husband took her to places she probably never dreamed of living when she was a young girl growing up outside of a small town.  I married after college and the same life ensued for me.  Still with all the changes and moves across the country, we never lost track of one another and continued to communicate by mail.

We celebrated the birth of our children, sending each other baby gifts.  In between writing snippets of our lives, we traded baby photos, then school photos as our children grew up.  I cheered her on when she went back to college to finish her degree. We always told each other that someday we would meet in person.  By the time my family moved to the Midwest, within driving distance of where my pen pal came from, she lived on the West Coast.  By the time we moved to the West Coast, she again lived in the Midwest.

On one occasion we thought our paths would cross in person and we would finally get to meet but the stars didn’t align properly that time.   After all of these years, she again lives in the Midwest and I am back where I started from – my hometown.

Yet we still keep in touch.  Once a year we write each other newsy letters and tuck them into our Christmas greetings to each other.  And even though we’ve never seen each other in person, I consider my pen pal my friend.

Writing letters has become passé it seems.  Emails and texting have taken their place and that does sadden me.  But this age of technology has provided me with more pen pals in a way.  I have been blessed to ‘meet’ and develop some of the dearest friendships through writing ‘letters’ yet again – right here in Mama’s Empty Nest.

So as part of my 30 days of thanks giving, I’m so very grateful for my ‘pen pals.’  “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…”  ~ Philippians 1:3-4

And even though we haven’t met in person (yet), these friends bless me with their friendship through comments and personal letters that just don’t come in my real mailbox but in my virtual one.   I am thankful for each one of them. 

“Friends are like bracelet charms.  If you truly love and enjoy your friends, they are part of the golden circlet that makes life good.” ~ Unknown

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A gift on purpose

blogDSCN9175 (2)I turn the pages and read the words written on tattered, yellowed paper – words written so long ago.  Turning the leaves of the notebook, my attention turns to recent words written on crisp, white paper.

As a lover of words, I’ve maintained a quotes notebook from my college days.  When I discover a line that appeals to me or just want to remember, I jot it down in this book. And I notice many of the lines written – whether old or new – describe friendship.

“We need to have people who mean something to us, people to whom we can turn knowing that being with them is like coming home.” ~ unknown

During the first 20 years of marriage, we roamed far from home to wherever my husband’s career took us.   God faithfully and graciously provided amazing and supportive friends every time.  I still cherish those far-away friends, even though many miles separate us, and stay connected through emails, social networking, and even this blog.

I consider myself so very blessed with some faithful and loyal relationships which have endured the long haul.   Three of those friends are named Mae, Annie, and Leigh (not their real names but they will recognize who they are).

My friendship journey with Mae commenced when we were five years old, just two little whippersnappers enjoying play time together.  We attended the same schools and church and our lives have always been entwined. Annie and I met as school chums in first grade, stayed friends all through our school years, and even attended the same college.   Leigh became my close friend when her parents built a home next door to my parents when we were kids; she was maid of honor at my wedding all those years ago.

My friendship with each of these women has stood the test of time.  We never lost contact with each other as adults, through marriages and raising families, even though I moved away and they stayed in the region surrounding our hometown.  For well over 50 years, we’ve remained friends on purpose.

These gals know me.  I know them.   They are women I turn to for a listening ear, women who give me good counsel, women with whom I have rejoiced, and women with whom I have wept.  They have seen me at my best and witnessed me at my worst, and yet they still like me!  Friendship on purpose.

Since Annie and I don’t live near each other, we try to meet for lunch from time to time at a halfway point between her house and mine.  Often, we have over six months of life to catch up with since we last met. Our lunch ‘hours’ seem too short because we discuss everything and still have more to say.  She encourages me, supports me, yet isn’t timid about giving me food for thought when I need a change in attitude.   That’s why she is one of my most trusted confidantes. We not only share a lifetime of memories, we share our faith in God as well.

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” ~ unknown

Perfect words to describe my on purpose friend Annie.

Mae does live nearby and one afternoon, she stopped by my house for a visit. She couldn’t have picked a better time.  I was feeling low, physically unwell to boot, and her visit lifted me right up out of my fretting pit, causing me to forget my physical maladies and eased my troubled mind as well.  Spending time with a dear old friend proved to be a magic elixir that day.  She knows my history and I know hers.  We’ve grieved together as we’ve lost loved ones, and our friendship is like a comforting shawl we can wrap ourselves in to protect us from the cold reality of this world.

“A person is only complete when she has a true friend to understand her, to share all her passions and sorrows with, and to stand by her throughout her life.” ~ unknown

Perfect words to describe my on purpose friend Mae.

Leigh lives the farthest away.  We don’t see each other nearly as often as we’d like but we chat regularly by cell phone with conversations that can easily last over three hours.  Talking with this friend really is like coming home.  As next-door neighbors growing up, she and I practically lived at each other’s houses.  With Leigh, I can share my innermost thoughts – be they good or bad.  We share the same outlook on life and no matter what happens, we know we’ve got each other’s backs.  Just like we did when we were kids.

“When we are grown, we’ll smile and say we had no cares in childhood’s day, but we’ll be wrong.  ‘Twill not be true, I’ve this much care…I care for you.” ~ unknown

Perfect words to describe my on purpose friend Leigh.

Just when I need them, my on purpose friends are there for me.  I count that as the most amazing gift.

I only hope they view me as a gift as well – one of those rare gifts, the kind you never want to exchange for another, or re-gift to someone else, because you treasure it for yourself.  A gift of friendship on purpose given by the Gift Giver.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

Linking up today using the theme Friendship - On Purpose with (in)courage.

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

The Easter egg legacy

blogIMG_0481Happy Easter!  Yes, I know.  Easter is over.   I haven’t forgotten.

I might be a tad forgetful from time to time, but I do manage to remember the important stuff. 

And for me, Easter is important.  But just because the actual day is over, doesn’t mean I can’t continue to celebrate it.

“May you never forget what is worth remembering, nor ever remember what is best forgotten.” ~ an Irish blessing

One of the ways I celebrate this holy holiday is to continue remembering.  I remember the amazing gift my Savior provided for me on the cross.  I remember  He arose from the tomb defeating death and because of that, my real home isn’t here on this temporal earth, it’s somewhere eternal.

And this Easter, I remembered Easters in the past.  Maybe it’s true what Mark Twain said about life when he made this comment:  “What is human life?  The first third, a good time; the rest, remembering about it.”

I find myself spending quite a chunk of time now days remembering.  Maybe it’s that empty nest syndrome.  Maybe it’s because holidays are so different now than they were when I was a kid or when my children weren’t all grown up, married, and off on their own.

Or maybe it’s just my age.  Regardless, I remember.  Papa and I spent this Easter weekend with middle daughter and son-in-law in the state to the south of us.  And while it was a different Easter, it was wonderful and we enjoyed being with them for the weekend.

But I found myself remembering these things:  Easter when I was a little girl with white gloves and an Easter bonnet.   The smell of Easter lilies and hyacinths. 

 My own little girls decked out in frilly dresses, fancy socks, and brand new Easter shoes and son in Easter finery, little boy style. Easter baskets, laden with goodies and always a white chocolate cross, and egg hunts. 

Back then, we celebrated the Resurrection at Sunrise services and in worship.   Easter was a busy day full of good times, special services, and big home cooked meals.  Often because we lived several hours and many miles from our families, we celebrated the day with good friends.

When we lived in the Midwest, our church family became our family and we were very close to them.  One family in particular became our best friends.  We loved them and their three teenage daughters who became our children’s baby-sitters.  We spent much time at each other’s homes enjoying good company, good friendship, and good food and celebrated some Easters together.

During our eight years living in Kansas City, I remember receiving special delivery packages sent to us from my husband’s parents back in our home state.  The box was filled with candy Easter eggs, lovingly handmade with delicious creamy centers, dipped in chocolate, and wrapped in different colors of foil to connote each flavor – butter cream, coconut, peanut butter, chocolate, cherry, and mint.

The tasty concoctions were made by my in-laws’ church and sold as a fund-raiser for many years.  My children’s grandparents actively helped make thousands and thousands of these eggs which made the treats even more special. 

The recipes for the creamy egg centers were a closely guarded secret, but my mother-in-law received permission to share them with me, so I could give them to our Midwest church ladies fellowship group.  Our intent was to make eggs as our own fundraiser for special mission projects.

But before I could get involved in the egg-making fundraiser, my husband received a job transfer and our family was on our way to the Pacific Northwest to live.  There would be no candy egg making for me. 

Furthermore, there would be no more of those special candy Easter eggs for our family. Shortly after we moved to our new home on the West Coast, my father-in-law passed away and my mother-in-law moved to a new community to be closer to family.  She attended a different church there, so the special Easter egg deliveries to our home stopped.

But I’ve always remembered those specially made Easter eggs. That’s why the box I found in my mailbox just a few days before Easter was such an amazing surprise. 

It was postmarked from our old Kansas City suburb and the return address showed the package was from our dear friends there.  When I opened the box, I laughed out loud with delight!

An egg carton, filled with one dozen chocolate covered Easter eggs, lovingly made by hand by the Ladies Fellowship in the little Kansas City area church we so loved,  nestled inside that box.  

Yummy Easter eggs with butter cream, coconut, peanut butter, chocolate, cherry, and mint fillings!

As I cut open one and savored a bite of the creamy coconut filling, I paused to remember.  I remembered with love my wonderful mother-in-law, who left this earth 15 years ago.  And I remembered her gracious sharing of this Easter egg legacy with not just us, her family, but with our church half a country away from her. 

As I took another bite, I remembered with love and thanksgiving the enduring friendship we’ve sustained with our Midwestern friends.  Those friends have continued the Easter egg legacy there at our former church for 21 years, if I figured the math correctly.

On this best day of the year, I’m enjoying my satisfying Easter remembrances.  I fondly reminisce about beloved family and cherished friends while I taste a little chocolate covered egg, and a scripture comes to my mind.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” ~  Philippians 1:3

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Danke, my liebster

When you take a hiatus from blogging, you worry a bit.

You worry that your readers will forget about your blog.  You worry that you disappoint those faithful readers that do remain in your blogging circle when there’s nothing new for them to read.

And you worry that when you do return to the blogging world, no one will want to read what you write.

Being overwhelmed by the wedding world these last few months, I’ve taken a few breaks from blogging.  It was necessary to try to retain my sanity while preparing for all three of my adult children’s weddings.

But each time I returned, there you were – my faithful readers, my friends who proved they weren’t just fair-weather friends.  And you, my dear ones, are liebster.

Liebster (pronounced: leeb-stir) is a German word meaning sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome.

How do I know this?  I learned it straight from my blogging buddy Dor at Virginia Views.  She recently was awarded The Liebster Blog Award and most graciously passed the torch to Mama’s Empty Nest.  Dor is definitely liebster.

According to Dor, this award “recognizes up and coming bloggers and winners are asked to ‘pay it back and forward.’  The award is given to those bloggers who have less than 200 followers.”

The Rules for the Liebster Award are as follows: 

  • Link back to the blogger who gave you this award.
  • Post the award to your blog.
  • Post 11 things about yourself.
  • Answer the questions asked of you, plus create 11 new questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Nominate 11 people you think deserve the award and link them to your post.
  • Go to their pages and tell them they have been chosen.

Linking back to my friend Dor’s blog is easy to do and I’m pleased to recommend her blog to all my friends and readers.   Posting the award on my blog – also easy.  There it is, positioned in this post, and taking up a little space on my awards page.

Now comes the not so easy thing.

Post 11 things about yourself.   Well, here goes!

1)     Unless you know me personally, this may come as a surprise to you because since I began blogging, I’ve kept anonymous.   To some, I’m only known as Mama or MEN (Mama’s Empty Nest).  But my real name is Cindy.

2)    I’ve been married to the most wonderful but sometimes wacky man for 35 years.  And unless I was a child bride, which I wasn’t, that tells you I am definitely middle-aged, or as I like to call it, on the down slide to 60.

3)    I’m not crazy about dogs.  The feeling is not mutual, however.  They appear to love me.

4)    I am fanatical about ice cubes.  I must have ice in any cold drink, whether it is sweet tea, unsweetened tea, soda (or as we call it here – pop), or just plain water.  Must. Have. Ice.

5)    I love sleeping in a cold bedroom.  In the dead of winter when it’s freezing outside, snow on the ground, cold wind blowing, you may drive past my house at night and you’ll notice that my bedroom window is open a tad.  This habit evolved because of those dratted menopausal symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats years ago, but now both hubby and I prefer a cold bedroom since we sleep better at cooler temperatures.  Brrr…in a good way!

6)    I drive an all-wheel drive vehicle for one purpose – to make it out of my uphill driveway every winter.  When it snows here at Mama’s Empty Nest, it blows and drifts and makes my driveway a challenge.  Plus, I love my Freddy Forester (the name I dubbed my trusty SUV).

7)    This is the seventh item in my list of things about me, so it seems fitting to relate that this is my seventh year of living cancer-free, for which I am so very thankful.

8)    I like the number 8.  I don’t really know why, I just do.  If I were an ice skater, I’d skate figure eights a lot.

9)    I just don’t understand why everyone wants to read on Kindle.  Really, reading on a screen is not nearly as relaxing as cozying up with a real, honest-to-goodness paper and binding book, turning real pages that I can feel in my hands, and locating a real bookmark to keep my place.  And browsing libraries and book stores is soothing to me.  Firing up a hand-held electronic device just doesn’t create the same feeling, virtually.  Call me a dinosaur.  I can take it.

10)  This item seems like a dichotomy, but it’s true.  I like lots of open space in a house; closed-in spaces make me feel claustrophobic.  But wide open spaces like the prairie in the central part of our country almost frighten me.  Go figure.

11) I’m happy and relieved to report that I survived this year – our “Year of the Weddings” in which all three of our adult children married.  It was stressful and most joyful all at the same time and I believe I’m still someone sane from the experience.  I know I am thrilled beyond measure to add three more wonderful people to our family!  For those of you who want to see photos from the last wedding held just a couple of weeks ago, hang on.  They’re coming soon, I promise.

Here are the 11 questions Dor chose for us lucky award recipients:

1)    If you could go anywhere in the world and stay for a month, where would you choose to go? My first thought was a nice, warm, sunny beach somewhere, but then I thought, “Nah….I’d get weary of just lounging on a beach for an entire month.”  So where would I spend a month anywhere in the whole wide world?  I think I’d go to the country of my ancestors – merry old England.  And even though it probably wouldn’t be warm or sunny, I’d explore the old country as much as I possibly could and imagine my ancestors living there.

2)    What is your hobby?  Besides blogging, I love to take photographs, but I’m really such an amateur.  I’m an avid crossword puzzle solver.  I’m a reader when I have time and I used to enjoy crafts.

3)  What was your childhood dream?  Don’t laugh.  My fondest childhood dream was an aspiration to be famous.  I decided early on in my life that I was either going to be a famous actress or a famous writer.  Unfortunately, I am neither.

4)    What was the best gift you ever received? Just recently, I received a gift that left me speechless.  But I’m going to leave you in suspense over that one because I plan to write a post about it very soon.  Stay tuned!

5)    What is your favorite movie?  That is hard to narrow down because I like a lot of movies.  Many of my favorite movies are old ones like It’s a Wonderful Life and The Thin Man.

6)    Who is the person who inspired you the most?  I’d have to say there were two people – my parents.  My mom battled cancer for less than a year before she succumbed.  She battled bravely without complaining, without regrets, without feeling sorry for herself.  Instead she chose to be grateful for the life she had been given and the blessings that surrounded her.  I hope I am half the person she is.  My dad also inspired me as he was the most kind, gracious, well-liked and respected man.  He also never said anything harsh or unpleasant about anyone.  I’d like to follow in his footsteps and be a chip off the old block, but I have to keep working on that.

7)    What is your favorite dessert?  Anything chocolate, except when eaten after 7 p.m. when the caffeine in the chocolate keeps me up all night.

8)    What is your favorite quote? Oh, that’s difficult because I am an ardent collector of quotes.  I love quotes and keep them in a notebook.  I could choose a poignant quote, a philosophical one, even a scripture from God’s Word could qualify as a favorite.  But I may surprise a few people with this quote that I think says it all:   “Just keep swimming.” ~ Dory in Finding Nemo

9)    What do you do for relaxation? I sit.  Honestly, that’s what I do to relax.  I sit and I’m quiet and I de-stress.

10) What is your favorite remembered scent/smell from childhood?  The clean, fresh scent of soap.  It reminds me of my mother.

11) If you could be a character in a book, who would you choose to be?  Hands down, Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  No matter how many times I read that book, I always find myself admiring this character.

Now it’s my turn to pass the Liebster on to my list of 11 must-read bloggers, although I don’t know if my honorees have less than 200 followers or not.  I only know that I follow them and they are dear friends of mine.

They are my go-to list, but I want to tell my new followers that I just haven’t had time to check out your blogs yet.  I have a lengthy list of new folks to read about and I’m hoping to do just that soon after the holidays are over and the long winter sets in.

  1. Homestead Ramblings
  2. These Days of Mine
  3. Georgette Sullins Blog
  4. Living in Graceland 
  5. Montana Outdoors
  6. Big Happy Nothing  
  7. Writing For Daisies 
  8. Believe Anyway
  9. Nikole Hahn’s Journal
  10. Saturday Evening Porch 
  11. Laura’s Blog

Some of my faves don’t really get into these awards that much, and that’s just fine.  Whatever floats my boat may sink yours, so I won’t be offended if you choose not to respond to the Liebster Award and its rules.

But if you are feeling whimsical and want to answer my 11 questions, here they are:

1)    If you made a bucket list, what would be the number one item on that list?

2)    What is your favorite holiday?

3)    How did you decide on the name of your blog?

4)    What is one of your most beloved family traditions?

5)    What is your all-time favorite thing in the world to eat?

6)    Where have you traveled that is the farthest away from your home?

7)    Which is better – television, movies, or book?

8)    If you celebrate Christmas, when do you open gifts, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

9)    If you own a Kindle, why do you like it? If you don’t, why not?

10)  It’s almost Thanksgiving, for what are you most thankful?

11)  Have you ever met one of your blogging buddies in person?  What was the experience like?

I’m grateful for my readers and my blogging buddies, for my oldest and dearest friends and my new, endearing ones, for the opportunity to be honored and the chance to honor someone else.

Danke schön, mein liebster lesern.

(Thank you very much, my dearest readers.  Not sure I got that German correct, but I tried!)

©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

ABC…not quite as easy as 1,2,3

The Jackson Five sang it…. “ABC, it’s easy as 1, 2, 3…”

Uh-huh.  Sometimes blogging is as easy as ABC. An idea pops into your head, you sit at the computer, and the words just flow out of you like a prolific fountain.

But at other times, chalk it up to writer’s block or just being plain old unmotivated, nothing’s coming forth.  As easy as one, two, three though, there’s an entire world of bloggers to turn to for encouragement.

That why I enjoy my little blogging community.  I’ve made some amazing friends and they never cease to inspire and also encourage me with their comments and appreciative thoughts.  When one of them remarks how awesome a post is or that it is beautifully written, it just makes my heart glad enough to do a little happy dance.

One of those sweet writer/friends is Dianna at These Days of Mine.  Recently, she received a well-deserved  honor,  the ABC (Awesome Blog Content) Award.  She graciously presented this accolade to my blog as well and I couldn’t be more grateful for this lovely tribute.

It’s easy to accept a complimentary tribute…easy as ABC.  The acceptance requirement, listing 26 things about yourself in alphabetical order, proved to be a little more difficult,  but after a few …er… many days of mulling this over, I finally thought of descriptive phrases from A to Z to describe little ol’ me.

I am:

A – an American alto but I sing our national anthem in soprano.

B – a blogger trying to balance posts that bring stories to life via words against photos that bring words to life.  Hopefully, that didn’t boggle your mind!

C – a cat owner of one chubby calico named Callie.

D – a dabbler who finds delight in photography and details, not drama.

E –  efficient and effective, an empty nester wishing for more energy.

F – a person of faith, fond of family, friends, and fellowship.

Ggenuine and genial and gossip makes me groan.

Hheadstrong but helpful and hopeful.

I – an ice cube fanatic as well as an ice water and iced tea drinker.

J – a former journalist who jots down joy.

Kkeen on keepsakes but not knick-knacks.

L – a logical list maker and lover of life.

M – the mother of three marrying kids.

N – a nice but not noisy neighbor.

O – an ocean observer who oooos over office products.

P  – a Pennsylvanian with ancestors who were peers of William Penn.

Q –interested in quilts, quotes, quaint places, and quirky people.

R – a reader, a rememberer, and a rejoicer.

Ssaved by the grace of a sovereign Savior.

T –  someone who treasures tranquility and travel.

U – an undeniably grateful uterine cancer survivor.

V – a vertically challenged (short) person who values vacations and the scent of vanilla.

Wwarm and welcoming with a bit of a wacky side.

X – eXtra fond of my family and Xmas.

Y – the youngest of three sisters who loves the color yellow.

Z – someone who zooms and zips when she should stick to the speed zone, but only zapped once by the policeman’s radar gun.  Zounds! That was an expensive lesson.

And now for the easy as one, two, three part of the award.  I must name 10 other worthy bloggers for the ABC Award tribute. My favorite 10 are:

“ABC..

ABC, it’s easy,

Easy as 1, 2, 3

It’s like counting up to three

Or simple as Do, re, mi

Sing a simple melody,

That’s how easy [blogging] love can be!”

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

You! Yes, you!

If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times.

That sounds like something my mother would have said to me when I was doing something wrong or not accomplishing what she asked of me.

“If I said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, go pick up your room,”  I can imagine her saying.  Matter of fact, I’m sure she did say it a thousand times.  And I’m pretty certain I’ve used the same saying a thousand times on my own children too.

But today, that saying doesn’t refer to something negative.  Today in my Opportunity book, that sentence gives me joy.   Why?  Because if I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times – I’ve ‘met’ some truly wonderful people through blogging.

While reading what other bloggers write, I’ve learned much about their characters and their lives while their stories humor, inspire and bless me.   When a blogging buddy regularly reads my posts and offers interesting and uplifting comments, that blesses me too!

Recently, two blogging friends conferred more honor upon my little blogging world.  Kate at kateschannel  presented the Liebster Blog Award to Mama’s Empty Nest and Dianna at These Days of Mine gifted me with the All Around Wonderful Blog Award.

First, let me tell you about these two talented people before I divulge info about the awards.  I first ‘met’ Kate when she commented on my blog and I was interested in getting to know who she was.  That’s what I do.  Leave a comment, I’ll visit your blog, see what you write about, peek in on your “about me” page.

Here’s what I’ve learned about my new friend, Kate.  She has much experience in the communications field, so when she compliments my writing,  I appreciate that.  Kate is a die-hard Detroit sports fan and a work at home mom.  I can tell she’s passionate about her family and her life in Michigan.  And I like that about her!

I can’t remember exactly when my path crossed with Dianna’s, but I never miss reading this gracious lady’s blog because it brightens my day.   Occasionally, her clever kitty, Sundae, may offer a guest post making me chuckle.  Dianna and I share some commonalities: we’re around the same age, we are owned by beautiful but spoiled calico cats, we enjoy photography, and our families mean the world to us.

Now that I’ve introduced you to these two friends, here’s the scoop on the awards.  The Liebster Blog Award is sweet because the German word means dearest, beloved or favorite.   You can’t get any better than being someone’s favorite or beloved, so it warms my heart that Kate lists my blog in that category!

Like other blog awards, the Liebster rules require the honoree to pass the torch to five favorite blogs who have less than 200 followers.   I’m not a fan of following the masses, so many of my favorite bloggers fit this requirement, so that wasn’t a challenge.  Among my beloved blogs are writers who have already accepted this award, so I’m bestowing it upon those who haven’t received it yet to my knowledge.

I proudly pass the Liebster Blog Award to five of my favorites:

1)    Homestead Ramblings HR is my go-to person.  She and I have become very good friends since our early blogging days and I love both her blog and her!  Her blog is always surprising as she writes about a myriad of subjects.  Her faith and love for nature (and Alaska) shine through her posts.

2)    Montucky  Montucky’s spectacular photography mesmerizes me and I love clicking onto his blog to see his latest shot.

3)    Watkins Every Flavor Beans  This writer is my oldest daughter’s friend.   A stay at home young mother of three handsome little fellows, she chronicles her family life while living in Scotland.  Her creativity astounds me.

4)    Dividing By Zero This guy can be incredibly funny or deep.  He’s my personal friend  from a long time ago, and I witnessed his humor daily when we were co-workers.  I enjoy reading his talented writing because he always has thought-provoking things to say.

5)    Laura’s Blog Another personal friend, Laura is one witty gal.   She can wrap a rhyme around words in a flash and her humor is pointedly funny.  She writes often about her faith and that’s one of the reasons I love her.

All Around Wonderful Blog Award -  what an honor to be named “all around wonderful!”  I gratefully accepted this award and the charming award badge that accompanies it.

The rules for accepting this award are “be a follower of this blog,  pass the award on to 3 other blogs,  and lastly, link the award back to this blog.”

Simple, right?  But narrowing down my blogroll list to only three blogs for this honor proved difficult for me.  I wanted to wrap it up like an unexpected present in cheerful, colorful paper tied with an exquisite, shiny ribbon and bestow it upon every single one of my blogging buddies.

But I am a rule follower so I’ll obey because I can hear my dear mom’s voice in my head saying, “If I told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times…”

So my choices for the All Around Wonderful Blog Award are:

1)    Saturday Evening Porch  When you go sit on my sweet Southern friend’s front porch, you’ll find yourself chuckling out loud.  She has a clever knack of taking ordinary things and turning them into amusing stories because she’s such a wonderful story-teller.

2)    Big Happy Nothing  Amiable Amiable, lovingly known as AA, literally cracks me up.  She’s funny, witty, yet can throw some poignancy into the mix so easily.   She also is an all around wonderful story-teller.

3)    Believe Anyway I’ve just recently become acquainted with this writer who created the Candle Lighter Award, but her enthusiasm for life and her faith is contagious.  She is the eternal optimist and I think we need more wonderful people like her to brighten up this world.

I once read a quote by psychologist and philosopher William James that said, “What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise – although the philosophers generally call it ‘recognition’!”

So true.  Every person does yearn for praise.  To have the words and thoughts which I chronicle in this blog considered to be worthy of recognition truly provides me great joy.   Today, I’m kind of like actress Sally Field as she accepted an Academy Award, “You like me, you really like me!”

Thank you, Kate and Dianna, for liking me!  Thank you, fellow writers, for delighting me each day in our blogging community.  You are such treasures!  And finally, thank you to all those readers who click on my blogspace and light up my world.

“There are amazingly wonderful people in all walks of life; some familiar to us and others not. Stretch yourself and really get to know people. People are in many ways one of our greatest treasures.”  ~ Bryant H. McGill

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

As friendship blossomed

blogengagementIt all began in an impoverished third world country over three years ago.

She was on a short-term mission trip there, ministering to the needy.   Her earlier trip to Africa ignited a growing desire within her to help those who had so much less than she did.

So when an opportunity arose at her church to travel on this trip, she was determined to go.  Once there, she boarded a school bus with her companions en route to an area of need.   In her own words, she sat beside a young man already on the bus because he “was cute.”

That meeting between the young man and young lady turned into a friendship and they kept in touch even though they lived in different states.  The next year, they both journeyed again to this foreign land for another short-term mission and their friendship continued to blossom.

Somewhere along the line, long after their first meeting, friendship developed into a dating relationship.  Eventually, their admiration for one another evolved into a deeper, richer emotion…love.  Someone once said, “Love is a friendship caught on fire.”  That statement could aptly illustrate this couple’s relationship.

The young lady waited a long time for her true love to come along.  She’s learned a lot about herself in the meantime, and she’s experienced her share of heart break in the past.   Because of that, I imagine she probably protected herself a bit in the beginning of this relationship, not wanting to rush into anything blindly.

But this young man didn’t give up; he persevered.  He just kept being her friend, encouraging her, making her laugh, treating her with kindness and respect, and hoping and praying that someday she would feel for him what he felt for her.

A passage from the Bible found in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, is often quoted when people write about love.    “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.   It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.   Love never fails.”

I believe you could insert both of these young people’s names in place of the word love in this passage and it would be an accurate description of their relationship.  How do I know this?  The young lady is my oldest daughter and the young man is her newly betrothed.

I’ve watched from afar as he patiently waited for their friendship to blossom into a romantic relationship.  My husband and I have witnessed firsthand how this man cares for my daughter, how he honors her and wants to be certain she is safe and protected.  Her father and I believe this young fellow, who shares a deep faith with our daughter, will cherish her as his wife.  That is one of the reasons we gave our blessing to him when he asked us for her hand in marriage.

Yes, there is another engagement in our family!  On New Year’s Eve, oldest daughter’s best beau proposed to her in a clever, sweet way and she said yes!  We are blessed beyond measure because all three of the children who grew up here in the empty nest are soon to be married!

On the first day of this brand new year of life, I wrote about the word I’m pursuing in my book of Opportunity -  joy!  Talk about joy!  It overflows from my heart, my smile, my words!

It will be an incredibly busy year with not just one wedding, as we planned, but three!  I’m sure my stress level will increase, but you know what?  So will my joy level!  Actually, it will triple as we gain another family member in our circle of love.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

And one of those beautiful things felt with the heart is joy.

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Kreativ blogging

One of the most difficult aspects about entering the Empty Nest stage of life is feeling left behind.

As my children somehow metamorphosed right in front of my eyes into adults and moved out of our home, I struggled with so many emotions.  Coming on the heels of losing my last living parent, the empty nest found me wallowing in a knee-high bog of grief.

The kids grew up and moved on to new lives of independence (read “Mom felt not needed anymore” here).   My Dad went on to his eternal reward in Heaven joining my Mom and my in-laws there (read “Those days of needing to check up on and take care of Dad were gone” here).   That’s why I felt like I was left behind holding a bagful of tears.

I turned to blogging as a way of working through my feelings and rediscovering my love of writing.  Blogging opened up a fresh, newfound world for me in ways I never dreamed would happen.

Somehow my words sent out into cyberspace found their way into other people’s worlds.  My quiet life with its lack of connections  suddenly came alive with lots of electronic firings.  It seemed as though an unused circuit board sparkled to life with all the lights, bells, and whistles.  I had imagined my life like a switchboard with no phone calls, but as my blogging world expanded, that switchboard was flooded with calls, totally transformed.

I found an entire new set of friends, something I never expected.   My belief is that God made the connections and brought some amazing people into my life through blogging.

“How rare and wonderful is that flash of a moment when we realize we have discovered a friend.” ~ William E. Rothschild.

Recently, I made a new friend, Dianna, in this world of connectivity.   She shares lovely photos and sweet narratives on her blog, These Days of Mine.   Visiting her blog is like welcoming a ray of sunshine into a dreary day.    She blessed me the other day with the Kreativ Blog Award and I thank her for thinking so highly of me and my words.

As with other blog awards, one of the rules in accepting it is to share snippets about yourself that you haven’t already blabbed about shared with readers.  I might have to dig deeply here, since I’m often like an open book.    Hmmm….thinking….thinking…??

Okay here goes:

  1. I was born on a Wednesday, and as everyone knows from the old nursery rhyme – “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.”  Not true!!  I beg to differ.  I’m not full of woe, no matter what day I was born upon.  If I could have chosen,  I would have entered this world on Tuesday (full of grace) or Friday (loving and giving).
  2. I have never owned a dog, and I really don’t ever want to own a dog. (Sorry, canine lovers, will you still be my friend?)
  3. I’ve had a pen pal since I was in 4th grade, but we’ve never met in person…yet.  We began our friendship writing letters to each other as children and continued through high school, college, marriage, and having children.  We still communicate with newsy letters at Christmas time after all those years. Someday, I hope we have an opportunity to meet face to face.
  4. When I was a kid, I had a cat named Susie.  Once she brought a baby rabbit (still alive) into our house and laid it in a box with her newborn kittens and another time she brought a snake (also alive) in! I’m not sure why that tidbit of info just popped in my head; let me go check the cat and make sure she hasn’t brought any wildlife into the house!
  5. I’d like to say I have visited all 50 states in the USA, but I’ve only been to 32. I need to do some traveling.

Now comes the fun part – passing the Kreativ Blog Award to someone else.  There are so many creative and fascinating blogs that I visit, it’s difficult to narrow down the field.

One blogger I’ve recently discovered truly is creative.  She’s a mom with young children and right there is a recipe for creativity.  Her blog is fun,  she’s always full of great ideas, and I think her kids must be very blessed to have such an awesome mom!  Check out her blog at Play 101.

I’m also passing this award on to Montana Outdoors .   If you want to see amazingly beautiful photographs of nature taken in Big Sky Country, this is one blog you shouldn’t miss.  I am continually awe-struck at the beauty Montucky captures with a camera.  I know it takes a creative eye to snap such stunning pictures.

During this month when our thoughts turn to thanksgiving, I find myself grateful on this 21st page of Chapter 11 in my book called Opportunity.  I’m grateful for friends, old and new.  I’m thankful for a blogging community with such creative and encouraging writers.  And I’m thankful for you, my readers.  May you have a wonderfully blessed Thanksgiving Day.

 ©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

This monkey is not my imaginary friend

We’ve all heard of the proverbial “monkey on your back,” but have you ever heard of a monkey that has your back?  Maybe one who is like the primate in this commercial from a couple of years ago:

From time to time, I think every one of us humans feels like we have a  monkey on our backs, something that just seems to be a constant burden.  Sometimes we just can’t figure out how to get away from that problem that weighs us down.  Some of us can’t cope with an affliction that is just too difficult a load to carry by ourselves.

That’s where the monkey that has your back can help.

blogDSCN7994A few weekends ago, I attended a Women of Faith Imagine conference with one of my best friends, my life-long gal pal, Annie.  I’ve written about her often and if you’re a regular follower of my blog, you’ve read about her before here.

Annie asked me a couple of months ago to attend the uplifting weekend of worship and encouragement with her and since I’ve never attended Women of Faith before, but always heard awesome things about it, I jumped at the opportunity to go.

My friend doesn’t live close to me, so we decided to stay overnight in a fancy, schmancy hotel near the arena where the conference was to be held instead of driving back and forth from the city.  It promised to be a lot of fun, two old friends having a pajama party, just like all those nights we stayed at each other’s houses in our youth.  We both were eager and excited when Annie swung by my house early Friday morning to pick me up for our drive into the city.

Friday morning’s sessions didn’t disappoint us.  The first speaker was Sheila Walsh, a beautiful person with a beautiful voice and message.   My pen flew across my notebook as I jotted down key points I wanted to remember.  Listening to her sing “How Great Thou Art” was simply like hearing an angel – really, she gave me goosebumps.

Next up on the agenda, psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud asked us to imagine a place where we’d find happiness.   Again my pen scurried across the open pages of my notebook.  I nodded in complete agreement when he stated, “Only 10% of your happiness comes from circumstances.”

He imparted much truth to us from God’s Word and the wisdom God has granted him about letting go of the past, making necessary endings to reach our tomorrows, and about pruning areas of our lives.  All of it was great stuff, so insightful and meaningful.

He declared that happy people are connected.  Whoa, that hit home.  I find myself writing a good deal about connections here in my blog and thinking about connections even more.  I realized a long time ago that connections do bring me happiness, especially my real connection, my relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ.

Dr. Cloud also relayed a story that will stick with me for a very long time.  The monkey story(“Aha, there’s the connection!” you’re probably thinking.)

It seems that if you put a single monkey in a cage and bombard it with loud, annoying noises that startle the animal repeatedly and unexpectedly and shake its cage violently, you could frighten a monkey to death.  I imagine the poor thing’s heart rate would rapidly accelerate, blood pressure would rise, and a sense of panic and alarm would overwhelm the creature.

Sounds like everyday life to some of us humans!  But, according to Cloud, research reveals that if you put another monkey in the cage with the first one, continue the noises and frightening occurrences, both monkeys will survive and not be as greatly affected by the disturbances.  Two monkeys will help one another cope, protect one another, support each other.

We need one another, just like those monkeys did, to get through our trials and burdens of life.  So,  Cloud instructed an arena of 8,000 women to  “Go find yourself a  monkey!”

blogIMG_3517If we were at the event with a good friend, he told us to look at her and say, “You’re my monkey!”  Well, that initiated Annie’s and my theme for the weekend.  I glanced at her,  she turned to me, and we both laughed out loud and exclaimed, “You’re my monkey!”  And you guessed it, all weekend we called each other “my monkey.”

The rest of the weekend was great – amazing music by Natalie Grant, Mary, Mary, and WOF worship team.  We heard heartwarming talks from Lisa Harper, Nicole Johnson, Angie Smith, and Luci Swindoll.   So much good food for thought crammed into two days.

But the thing I’m going to remember?  Saturday afternoon, two older ladies we’d never seen before entered the arena after the break and sat down in our row.   Both Annie and I noticed them, looked at each other, and stifled giggles.  These two ladies each had a monkey hanging on them!

They proudly wore those long-armed, long-legged stuffed monkeys, the kind with the Velcro tabs in their hands, wrapped around their necks.  One lady had a bright pink monkey, the other gal had a lavender one.  We overheard them tell someone they had purchased their monkeys in their hotel gift shop.

I have never in my life tried so hard not to just break down in hysterical laughter.  And what made it even funnier?  My dearest friend, Annie, friend of my childhood, teenage years, and adulthood, turned to me and said, “I am NOT wearing a monkey around my neck for you!”

And that doesn’t matter because through thick and thin, youth and middle age, good times and bad, I know she has my back and I have hers.  And that’s something significant that contributes to our happiness – a true friend, one who sticks with you no matter what, is your confidante, and also your accountability partner for life.

And those friends, our “monkeys,” are gifts from God.   He sends us those people to come beside us and help us on our journey through this life.   Many of you fulfill that role for me, and I hope and pray I am one of those gifts for you.  I’m reminded on this 21st page of Chapter 10 in my yearly book of Opportunity that God’s Word tells us two are better than one.

“There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother.  There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.  ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’  This too is meaningless—a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4:8-10

My prayer is that we all would have those people in our lives – those dear ones who listen when we struggle, offer encouragement to us in godly ways, and pray for us and with us as we endure the hardships of life.

Who is your monkey?

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com