Heritage wall

blogIMG_9851 (3)My heritage runs deep here – this place outside of a small town in this particular state.

This place where both my parents were born and their parents and their parents…and so on…and so on.

This place where I can travel down the road about four miles or so and visit not only my parents’ grave site, but also those of some of my ancestors. 

We can trace my ancestry back to the 1600’s and 1700’s when my predecessors arrived in the “New World” and eventually settled here. I’m not an avid genealogist like some folks are, but I do enjoy knowing where and from whom I came. 

My father was the keeper of that sort of information and long before he passed away, he fashioned a notebook for each of his three daughters containing family history. Included were copies of old photos and a family tree for both sides of his and my mother’s families with birth and death dates.

What’s missing though are the family stories of those who came before me. Those I only know by name and vital statistics. Those who were my great-grandparents and ancestors even further back.  I know when they were born and when they left this earth, but I don’t know much else about them.

What kind of folks were they? What did they do for a living? How important was faith to them? What color were their hair, eyes, etc.? Did they have dreams for their children that were bigger than ones they had for themselves? Did they have any musical or artistic talent? What was their favorite food? Did they vote? And what interesting stories could be told about their lives?

This week’s photo challenge theme is heritage.

And I wish I knew more about mine. If only I had had the forethought to ask my parents more questions about our family heritage before they passed away, although what they knew was probably a little sparse since their grandparents were deceased when they were young.

Just like mine. All of my grandparents were gone by the time I passed my 10th birthday.

What was my grandma’s favorite color? I don’t know.  All I do know is a relatively small cache of memories I have of my mother’s parents since my grandfather died the same year as grandma. But I remember Grandma when I pull out her handmade quilt that still emits an aroma that reminds me of her and sometimes causes me to shed a few tears. 

My paternal grandmother died when I was an infant, so all I have are photos of her, no memories. My paternal grandfather passed when Dad was just a baby, so he had no memories of him either, just a couple of photos.

What exactly did grandpa do with his carpentry skills? I don’t know. But I do know his wooden tool box now gathers dust in my basement and I’ve contemplated what I should do with it.

Heritage is important to preserve, especially for our children and grandchildren. Perhaps one day, our grandchildren will reminisce and wonder more about their Nana and Papa.

Perhaps not.

But I still want to leave a heritage for them anyway. Not just one of the items we owned or one with special significance, but our life stories as well or the tale that accompanies a particular item that has been passed down from one generation to the next.   

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My children’s grandparents as newlyweds

Several years ago, Papa and I moved our family of five back here to the homeland when my mother was dying of cancer. Prior to our move and as a farewell gift, a sweet friend presented a book, entitled “A Grandparent’s Book,” to me. 

Questions written as if a grandchild were asking them fill the book with spaces for handwritten answers. I’m grateful now that I took the time to ask both my mother and father to complete it before they passed away, although I realized later that Dad didn’t finish it all.

Reading through it provides a little insight into my parents’ lives from young children through adulthood, but it still lacks the sweetness and poignancy of those family stories.

I too completed the blanks in a spiral bound book for my children called “A Parent’s Book,” but again, it lacks the in-depth picture you gain from listening to someone’s history in person, told in their own voice, from their own memories. 

I once read somewhere that when we die we become stories in the minds of other people, but what happens when those stories aren’t passed down?

Our heritages are lost when they aren’t recorded or at least written down. In some cases I suppose even the written accounts are lost when descendants find them unimportant and toss them in the trash bin.

So I think it’s vital to share the value of family history with our children and grandchildren.

Because someday, when they are mature in years and their forbears are long gone, they may wonder, “Did Nana ever write a blog and what on earth did she ever write about?”

 “How will our children know who they are if they do not know where they came from?” ~ Unknown

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Reflecting on the blessings

blogIMG_1006Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard once wrote:  “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Just yesterday morning, I visited for a short time with one of my dearest, long-time friends. The one who’s constantly in my prayers because of her serious health diagnosis about a year ago and her latest brush with a dire emergency that almost cost her life.

Since she was in the area for a short visit with her mother, we sat in my friend’s childhood home on the same living room couch where we spent many hours in the past chatting with one another as young girls, teenagers, and young adults. If the seat cushions of that couch could talk, they would divulge countless stories of our times together upon them.

Often when my friend and I converse, we spend much of the time reflecting. And yesterday was no exception.  In many ways, my visit reflected the past, the way life used to be.

And since I brought my Little One (granddaughter) along with me, we glanced at even more reflections of our childhoods past when my wee one played with some old toys that have called this place home for numerous years.

As we were leaving, we walked outside onto the front porch to say our farewells. And that’s when Little One spotted my friend’s mom’s bright green gazing ball resting on a pedestal in the yard. 

Little One was absolutely fascinated by it and laughed at her own reflection in the ball.  Over and over again. And then at our reflections as well, going round and round the shiny orb never taking her eyes off of those images she spied within it.

It’s ironic that this week’s photo challenge theme is reflecting when I’ve been ruminating over that word – one which evokes a couple of meanings in my mind.  Of course, there’s the obvious one of an image being mirrored.  And then there’s the one that connotes thinking or seriously considering.

Like thinking of and seriously considering the past. Similar to my little one circling that gazing ball, often my mind goes round and round those reflections of times gone by. Over and over again.

Reflections of the way we used to be.

And that phrase prompts the ongoing radio in my mind to play an old song by The Supremes:

Through the mirror of my mind
Time after time
I see reflections of you and me

Reflections of
The way life used to be
Reflections of
The love you took from me

And even though that song expresses a sad tale of lost love, happiness ripped away, and painful reflection, I find valuable reminders in those lyrics.

Through the mirror of my mind
Through these tears that I’m crying
Reflects a hurt I can’t control
‘Cause although you’re gone
I keep holding on
To the happy times
Oh, when you were mine

Isn’t that how we so often view yesteryear? We attempt to remember only the pleasant moments and the joyous occasions when we reflect on times past. We keep holding onto those memories and that helps us through the present.

And that’s how my friend and I recall our childhoods.  Contented times, hours of fun playing together as children, sharing secrets and dreams as teenage girls do. Easy times of no responsibilities, no earth-shattering worries or occurrences, an idyllic age really.

Through the hollow of my tears
I see a dream that’s lost

Reflecting back now as adults, many of our hopes and dream for the future did not come to fruition, but some did.  And we both have had a blessed life, but not one without struggles and difficulties. This last year, my friend’s life has been a complete upheaval. 

In you I put
All my faith and trust
Right before my eyes
My world has turned to dust

In one consultation with her doctor, my friend’s world seemed to turn to dust. And it just kept splintering into pieces, one experience after another sawing its way through her strength leaving mounds of accumulating sawdust. 

Procedures, medications, treatments, hospital stays, medical emergencies, more hospital stays, therapies, home health nurse visits. At one point, when I sat beside my lifelong friend in the hospital, she confided her weariness over not having a normal life.

But here’s where my friend and I differ vastly from the song lyrics. Because instead of putting our faith and trust in another person (because honestly, we humans do let one another down often), we put our faith and trust in God.  All of our faith. All of our trust.

Because He never forsakes us. Never lets us down. Never stops loving us. He is the Great Physician. The Healer. The Savior. The Lover of our souls and Listener to our prayers. The One who is granting my lifelong friend’s desire to start to feel “normal again.”

So instead of singing “reflections of the way life used to be,” I believe I will change the song lyrics to “reflections of the way life needs to be; reflections of the love God has for me.”  And for my cherished friend.

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ~ Charles Dickens

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Motherhood memories

Mother's Day collageRemember back in grade school when the teacher would give an assignment to create an acrostic?

You wracked your brain trying to compose a poem or some type of composition where you used the first letters of a name or word to form a line of other words describing the vertical word or name.

Like the one I composed above. Thoughts of MOTHERMemories Of The Happy times Easily Remembered.

Mother’s Day is slated on the calendar for this coming Sunday. And as usual, this holiday honoring our moms always brings forth a tidal wave of memories for me.

This month marks a very special page in my book, not just because of Mother’s Day but because three special women in my life were born during the merry month of May.

One was my own mother. Another was Papa’s (my husband’s) mother. And the third was my first child, who being born just 45 minutes before it actually became Mother’s Day, bestowed the title of mother upon me.

So once May rolls around on the yearly calendar, sweet memories always leisurely float their way to the surface of the ocean of my mind.

Memories like my mother fixing a tiny tea party for a childhood friend and myself when I was around four years of age and the scent of fresh, clean soap when my mother held me close.

Memories of my mother-in-law, who was more of a mother-in-love and herself the mom of three sons, confiding to me that she considered me her daughter and the surprising day she gifted a ring, given to her by my father-in-law and one she wore each day, to me.

Memories of holding my first sweet-smelling baby in the labor and delivery recovery room after giving birth and listening as my brand new daughter immediately stopped crying when the nurse placed her on my chest next to my wildly beating and excited heart.

Memories. Happy, joyous times but also bittersweet moments as well.

Memories like the one of my beloved mother lying in her hospital room succumbing to that dreaded disease – cancer – and me being the last one to leave her side one evening. As I leaned over and kissed the cheek of the one who had held and kissed me in comfort and love so many times before, she lovingly took my hand in hers and whispered in my ear, “Pray for me.”

Memories of one last long-distance phone call to my dear mother-in-law as she soon would breathe her last breath. And the question, which was most pressing on her wandering mind, for me:  “When are you coming home?”

Memories of bringing my little one into this world without my husband by my side while he was serving his country in a land on the other side of the globe.  And memories of that sweet, tiny baby growing up into the loveliest of daughters, setting off on life’s adventures far away from her home and her mama. 

Memories that make me smile. Memories that make me laugh. And yes, memories that make tears well up in my eyes and cause a catch in my throat. They all are memories of motherhood.

May memories.

“The best things you can give children, next to good habits, are good memories.” ~ Sydney J. Harris

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Warning, warning!

blogIMG_5956It lurks out there…everywhere.

It may be in the form of a blood-thirsty shark just cruising along the shoreline looking for its next victim. That is, if you believe the plot in the old movie, Jaws.

It may be in the dark.

Or in the woods.

Or maybe right next door.

It may be in the form of a horrific natural event like a tornado, a hurricane, a tsunami.

Or in climate change.

Or maybe just a snowstorm in your neighborhood, so run out quickly beforehand and grab up the milk, bread, and toilet paper.

It may be in the form of nuclear weapons aimed at your country.

Or in the politics of the land.

Or maybe in your own home.

It’s danger. And the world’s a dangerous place. Or so, some would have us believe. Every day it seems we’re bombarded with the message that it’s dangerous just to exist on this planet. I see and hear it on the television, on the radio, read it in print media and on the internet.

It’s dangerous, I tell you! Be afraid. Be fearful. Wring your hands and cry, “What is this world coming to?”

It’s this week’s photo challenge Danger! – and it reminds me of a science fiction TV show I used to watch as a kid called Lost in Space

In it, the Robinson family were space travelers whose spaceship was sabotaged causing them to land in a different universe where danger always lurked. And there was a trusty robot to alert them to peril at every turn by droning, “Warning, warning” and “Danger, danger!”   

Seems like the robots are still out there.  Warning, warning! Danger, danger!

To be certain, there are real and present dangers. That’s a part of life. But we can’t live this life constantly in fear. You know what President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in the midst of the Great Depression: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  

Fear is crippling and makes us indecisive. Realizing true danger should cause us to take action, not just freeze in fear. I know how that happens. Many years ago when Papa and I were newlyweds and living in rattlesnake country, we were walking on a wooded path when a snake slithered out in front of us. I totally froze to my spot in fear and literally could not move, could not run to safety, could not even think fast enough to react.

And you know what I needed? Help from another human being. I needed my husband to grab my arm and pull me to safety with him.

Whether great danger lurks ahead of me, I have no way of knowing. Whether all of the danger cited now days is real, I also have no way of knowing for certain. But I do know this: often times danger comes from ourselves, from our evil hearts and minds.

And I hope and pray that when and if threat comes our way, we spring into action to help one another through whatever we must face or endure.  

I hope our hearts are open and our actions unselfish because really, we are one big family. The family of humanity. And if we can’t help our fellow humans in perilous times or circumstances, we really are doomed to danger.

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” ~ Pope John Paul II

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

One May evening

blogDSCN0017Three years have passed since I snapped the photo above. The lighting was dim and I only had my small digital point and shoot camera with me, but I wanted to capture the moment for later.

I stored that photo in my desktop computer archives and a blog post idea away with it. And then as it always does, time has a way of passing by. And writing ideas have a way of being shoved back to the recesses of my brain where they may or may not be retrieved.

The calendar pages have flipped over to the month of May already and a brand new month found me without any good, solid concepts to write about. So I did what I normally do when I stare at a blank computer screen in an effort to produce a post, I open up my photo library and start viewing pictures I’ve captured but may have forgotten about.

And there it was. A photo of an elderly gentleman from our church showing my sister and me his handmade violin.  Three years ago this month.

Much has transpired in those three years as this kind, gentle, soft-spoken man, a farmer by trade but a talented musician and skilled woodworker passed away this year.

But let me take you back to the evening this photo was taken.

Every year, our church holds a mother-daughter banquet in May.  My sister and I usually attend and sometimes, if her daughter-in-law and grandgirls and my daughter and grandgirl can make it, they come along.

But three years ago, my daughter lived away from home and our grandgirl was just a whimsical thought, a gift waiting to be given to us a year later.

So my sister had a wonderful idea when it came time for the mother-daughter dinner. Since our own mother and mothers-in-law had passed away many years before and our girls couldn’t join us, it would just be the two of us attending the banquet.  

Sister’s thoughtful idea was to call a sweet, elderly lady in our church who had never married and, of course, had no children to join us for the banquet. This dear woman was in her 90’s then and relied on her brother (the fiddler) or other relatives to transport her places, so we arranged to pick her up at her family farmstead to ride with us to the church hall.

I remember when sister called Esther to invite her, she replied that she wasn’t a mother. Sis told her but she was a daughter and she could be our mother for the evening since ours was in heaven.  Esther agreed to come.

We traveled down the country lane to her home and helped her climb into my sister’s vehicle. At the banquet, Esther was all smiles, as she usually was, and I do believe she truly enjoyed herself. Afterwards, we drove her back home and she really wanted us to come into the house for a little visit.

We sat at her kitchen table and talked over days gone by, and relatives now long gone, and Esther told the story of how we were distantly related and how her mother and our grandmother were great friends. 

Her brother Paul sat with us and shared his stories too and we had a chuckle over the old tale of how he got his name when he was born. One of his older brothers, yet a child, had asked his mother to bestow our mother’s name, Pauline, upon the new arrival. Well, the new arrival was a boy so their mother agreed to name him Paul.

I shared how well I remembered this musical family playing their instruments at church when I was just a little girl.  Each one of their siblings had God-given musical talent. And that’s when Paul got up from his kitchen chair and left the room, returning with a weathered violin case.

He opened it and showed us a lovely violin, one of his own making. He even tuned it up a little and played a bit for us. I marveled at the fact that he had handmade the instrument and how nicely it sounded.

It was one of those sweet little moments in life you try not to forget. When you know in your heart that you’ve done the right thing just by taking the time to spend an evening conversing with two elderly, and possibly lonely, folks of the older generation.

Both Esther and Paul are gone now, but the memory lingers. And I’m so glad to have the photos to remind me of that warm, spring evening in May.

“The older the fiddler, the sweeter the tune.” ~ English Proverb

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Some have it, some don’t

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Train trip from Silverton to Durango, CO – 1979

Sometimes I wish I had a bit more wanderlust. As defined by my trusty bookshelf dictionary (yes, I’m a dinosaur; I actually use a real book consisting of paper pages), when you have wanderlust, you have a strong impulse to travel.

“The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.” ~ Agnes Repplier

This week’s photo challenge theme – wanderlust – invites me to share a photo that represents travel to me.  I do have many photos from Papa’s and my travels, so it was hard to choose just one.  

But the photo above from a trip we took together early in our marriage called to me. Papa is fond of trains, and we’ve been on quite a few, but this one winding through Colorado mountains was special.

Traveling is an adventure and encountering new sights and experiences is something I relish, but I wouldn’t describe myself as having wanderlust.

Ironically, this topic has been on my mind because just yesterday morning, I ran into my last living first cousin at the grocery store.  He’s a bit older than me and has had some heart health issues in the last few years.  Since he was the nearest cousin in age to me and our families were very close, he has always been my favorite.

Cousin’s grown children and grandchildren live far away from our hometown like some of mine do.  And we talked about traveling to see them and how cross country trips can be tiring as we age.

Then he proclaimed his own dinosaur status and admitted he just doesn’t like to journey far from home any longer.  He always assumed that when he retired, he and his wife would do a lot of traveling. But other than one trip to our ancestral home in England, he hasn’t traveled abroad or even ventured to other areas of our country very much.  And he has no desire to do so. 

Wanderlust? He doesn’t possess it. He’s more than content to stay right here in our little neck of the woods with a few trips here and there to visit his family.

Perhaps the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I recall that my cousin’s father (my uncle and my father’s brother) never liked to trek far from home at all.  Matter of fact, my cousin and I shared a good laugh over a story about Uncle when he took his family to Canada for a visit.  The border guard asked him how long they were going to stay in that country and my nonplussed uncle replied quite seriously, “About 15 minutes.”

After we chuckled, my cousin told me the reason why uncle was without wanderlust.  He had served in World War II, yet never wanted to share much about his time in service. He did tell his family that he promised himself that if he made it out of the war in one piece and back home, he never wanted to leave again.

No wanderlust for my uncle. My dad was unlike him in that respect because Dad liked to travel away from home. He poured over his well-thumbed road atlas and enjoyed planning routes and sights to see along the way.  Mom was more of a homebody, but he did manage to convince her to take several cross country excursions with him.

I wonder what gives a person that sense of wanderlust? I enjoy taking journeys, but I wouldn’t classify myself as someone who has a strong impulse to travel. Papa likes trip-taking as well, but again I wouldn’t say he was bitten by the travel bug.

Now our daughter and son-in-law are birds of a different feather from us.  Wanderlust perfectly defines who they are. They live (and work) to travel! Daughter’s desire for adventure began with a high school trip to France. Then a three-week trek to Africa after she graduated from college.  Followed by short-term mission trips to Honduras, where she met her future husband.

From a honeymoon in Honduras to anniversary trips to Costa Rica and this year to Peru, those two are always on the go.  I’ve lost track of the places and countries they have visited. From climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to their next desire of visiting every high point in the United States, their bucket list is loaded with travel plans around the world.

I haven’t really composed a bucket list but I would like to visit every one of our 50 American states. So far, I count 33 under my belt and soon Papa and I plan to add three more to that list, which will make 36, so 14 to go.  

As far as travels outside of my country, my only claim to fame for that one is a couple trips to Canada.  If I could go anywhere in the world though, I’d choose my dream trip to the British Isles, especially the home of my forefathers in England, and another jaunt to Australia, where we could visit friends. Papa agrees but would add some other European countries to the list as well. And — gasp! – he’d like to venture on a cruise (this traveler nixes that one).

Whether we ever take those excursions remains to be seen. But I can always enjoy journeys to other spots in the world vicariously through my daughter’s wanderlust.

Maybe it will rub off on me.

“The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only a page.” ~ Thomas Fielding, Selected Proverbs of All Nations

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Spring’s bubbling up all over

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“And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.”

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley (English poet, 1792-1822)

It’s finally here. My second favorite season. Spring.

I fling wide open the door and grass so green it personifies the Crayola crayon that bears its name greets me. Happy sunshine-faced yellow dandelions (I know, they’re weeds, but to me they are a welcome sign of spring) profusely dot our 2.25 acre yard.

It’s spring! Perennials push their way up to the surface preparing to explode into colorful blooms.  I step outside and breathe in deeply the welcoming aroma of freshly cut grass and clean, pure spring breezes. Before I know it, the tantalizing scent of blossoming peonies will permeate the air as well.

It’s spring! And I suddenly emerge from my self-induced cocoon of winter hibernation with a burst of energy like a newborn foal. Okay, maybe I’m not as limber and frisky as one, but I do experience a surge of get-up-and-go.

I believe when the Almighty created this world He knew we would need a season of rest and dormancy like winter and following it, a season of vitality and a fresh new start to life once more. And I’m so grateful for it.

Last weekend, my spring really kicked into high gear. Even though the temperature was still a mite chilly, armed with a kneeling pad, trowels, shovel, and rake, I eagerly donned a sweatshirt and some gardening gloves and jaunted outside to attack some chores that desperately needed attention. 

It turned out to be perfect weather for digging up the overgrown perennial flower bed, thinning out some plants, clipping away the old and hauling it to the compost pile in order to welcome in the new. 

The sun warmed my back as our daughter and Little One, our granddaughter, ventured out to help me accomplish my goal.

Spring! Little One can’t wait to play outside every day. And spring is ever joyful when sharing it with Little One.

Even though there is much on the outside to-do list and projects galore around the empty nest, as the days grow longer and the sunshine becomes more abundant, there’s plenty of time to channel my new-found energy into play time with her too.

To watch bubbles soar and float through the air as she blows them. To cheer her on as she races her ride-on toys up and down the sidewalk. To watch her let sand sift through her tiny fingers in the sandbox.

To listen to her squeal of delight over touching an earthworm Nana just found in the dirt. To help her pick the tiny wild violets, known to us as johnny-jump-ups, springing up amidst the blades of grass.

Each moment creates a fresh, new experience to remember and that bubbles over in my heart. Just like spring.

“I am so fresh in soul and spirit that life gushes and bubbles around me in a thousand springs.” ~ Robert Schumann

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com