In the neighborhood

blogimg_9115It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Not in my neighborhood though. Instead, we visited a fictional one represented by a traveling exhibit at our city’s Children’s Museum.  Earlier this month,  we spent a day taking our Little One to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: A Grr-ific Exhibit before it moved on to the next city.

Little One is enthralled with Daniel Tiger. If you’re not familiar with him, he is an animated character on his own television show on PBS. Both Daniel and his friends are based on the characters created by the late Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood fame.

By far, the “grr-ific” (one of Daniel Tiger’s favorite expressions) exhibit captured Little One’s attention according to the smiles and busy activity she demonstrated there although she did enjoy other areas of the museum too, especially the water floor, where she got to play all she wanted with running water in various ways.

Thinking of neighborhoods, wouldn’t it be nice if all neighborhoods were ones of good will, kindness, and sensible values like the ones in Daniel Tiger’s? But that’s not real life, is it?

Singing that iconic Mr. Rogers’ song lyric ‘won’t you be my neighbor?’ at our house led me to think about neighbors, particularly about next-door neighbors.

I recently heard about an app you can download entitled Nextdoor, that calls itself “the private social network for your neighborhood.”

The website I referenced said this: “Nextdoor is the best way to stay in the know about what’s going on in your neighborhood—whether it’s finding a last-minute babysitter, learning about an upcoming block party, or hearing about a rash of car break-ins. There are so many ways our neighbors can help us, we just need an easier way to connect with them.”

Really? So we have to depend on an app to communicate with our neighbors? What ever happened to just leaving your house (and preferably your cell phone also) and walking across the street to actually talk face to face with a neighbor?

Over the years, our family has been pretty blessed with good next-door neighbors for the most part. When I was a kid, we knew all of our neighbors and their children were my best friends.  Neighbors talked to one another back then in person, face to face.

When Papa and I were a young married couple living in an apartment complex, we didn’t really know any of our neighbors because people moved in and out regularly as we lived in fairly transient town outside an Army post.

But later while residing in quarters on that same base, we had great next door neighbors who became very good friends. Even though our ways parted over 30 years ago and we live in different states, we still keep in touch. But back then we talked to one another, face to face, and spent time together.

After leaving military life and purchasing our first home in a suburb of Kansas City, we had wonderful neighbors. We looked out for each other, watched each other’s homes, and again became good friends. 

Since Papa and I lived several hundred miles from our closest family at the time and we were expecting our second child, one of our neighbors took care of our oldest while I was in labor and giving birth at the hospital. We exchanged child care often and to this day, she is a dear friend even though we live in completely different areas of the country. But back then, we talked to one another, face to face, and spent time together.

When we moved into a new housing neighborhood, our neighbors welcomed us and we became a part of a community group that enjoyed socializing together – having progressive dinners and parties often. We talked to one another, face to face, and spent time together.

Then Papa’s job promotion took us to the Pacific Northwest where once again we moved into a new developing neighborhood. Neighbors there were friendly, our children all played together, and the entire subdivision would celebrate Independence Day with a huge block party. We talked to one another, face to face, and spent time together.

Neighbors doing the neighborly thing. We helped one another, we looked out for each other and our children, often we celebrated holidays together, and we sat out on the front porch stoop enjoying lots of conversations.

It was life in the suburbs but the best aspect of it was having good neighbors who were blessings.And even if, as neighbors, we didn’t become the best of friends, we still knew each other and treated each other with kindness and concern. They were folks you could talk to, face to face.

Papa and I have lived in our home here for 17 years.  Right here on this 2.25 acre farmer’s field where we built our house. Rural land. Out in the country. Far enough away from the hustle and bustle of a city and even from the ‘burbs.

But we still have neighbors within walking distance.  And you would think that living in the country, neighbors would be…well…downright neighborly. Not so.

The other homes near us are all occupied yet I rarely see any of the people who live in them. I wouldn’t recognize any of them, except for one young couple who we knew before they moved into our neighborhood, if my path crossed theirs at Wal-Mart or the grocery store or even taking a walk down our country road.

We do have one fellow – our next door neighbor guy – who we know by name.  He’s a nice person who ventures across the tall grass right-a-way between our homes to chew the fat with Papa often – face to face.  He’s even helped my hubby fix our lawn tractor. We keep tabs on each other’s homes and have shared our gardens’ bounty with each other.

One neighborly neighbor.

I fear this is not unusual in this day and age no matter where you live.  Is it because people just don’t want to be neighborly or friendly let alone hospitable or helpful?  I don’t know. I experienced that unfriendliness here one day when I tried to be helpful to a neighbor and was treated with extreme coldness, practically having a door slammed in my face.

And that brings me sadness because the people in my neighborhood aren’t anything like Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood. Maybe that’s why children gravitate to this TV show.  It exudes kindness, consideration, and genuine caring for the people who live in your neighborhood.

Perhaps we all need to tune into a PBS television station and take a lesson from Daniel Tiger.

“The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.” ~Hubert H. Humphrey

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Still being merry

blogimg_9214-2I know. Be merry?

The date on the calendar reads January 24th.  And the Christmas holiday is long over.  So why am I posting about Christmas when the month of February is looming right around the next corner?

Our family has been making merry for almost two months now. We are one of those families that start decorating for the holiday the day after Thanksgiving. Out come all of the Christmas totes and boxes of decorations, the tree goes up, and Christmas carols and songs ring through the house.

This year, Papa, middle daughter, and I outdid ourselves with lights and décor because Little One (our almost 2-year-old granddaughter) delighted in it all. Each morning upon awakening, the first thing she asked us to do was plug in all (and I do mean all) of the Christmas lights.

We celebrated Christmas with her and our daughter (her mommy) a few days before the actual holiday because of daughter’s job and other circumstances beyond our control. 

Christmas Eve found Papa and Mama at our church late night candlelight service and on Christmas Day, we celebrated yet again with my sister and brother-in-law at their home.

Then just a few days later, we hosted another Christmas celebration and dinner in our own home with our oldest daughter and son-in-law and their sweet, newly married Australian friends who had traveled to the United States for their honeymoon.

And the season of giving just kept on giving.

Just recently, we celebrated Christmas yet again at our son and daughter-in-law’s home in one of the states next door.  Because granddaughter number two (who will be known henceforth in this blog as Little Two) was making her arrival just a few days before the holiday, we had already planned to delay our family gathering until the new parents and baby could get a bit adjusted to their exhausting new lives.

So a weekend celebration in January was planned for all of us to converge on their home and provide all of the meals and fun and exchange Christmas gifts to celebrate not only the birth of our Savior but the dear new little life that has joined our family.

What better reason than that to be merry? Whether it be in December, January, or all year long, Christmas should stay in our hearts.

“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” ~ Dale Evans

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Brighten your corner

blogimg_8942-2As I write this, it’s the second week of January. In a brand new year. One I haven’t yet become accustomed to as I still automatically write 2016, not 2017.

Just yesterday it seems we were all up in arms and worried about the year passing from one century into another one – you know, a new millennial, Y2K– the year 2000. Fear and apprehension over that coming year ran rampant. The result? The year 2000 chimed in with barely a blip on that worry radar.

In the year 2000, our oldest graduated from high school and we sent her off to college that fall with excitement and trepidation. Even though our other two were still in high school and middle school, that was the beginning of what would eventually become this empty nest of mine.

In the year 2000, Papa, employed as a sales rep for a national company, endured a lot of overnight travel with his job while I held down the fort and kept the home fires burning.

In the year 2000, my father was still alive and at age 80 keeping himself busy after my mom’s passing the year before by learning a new skill. He bought himself a computer and was figuring out how to use it and amazing us at his new found hobby.

In the year 2000, our family moved into our brand new house built right here on this farmer’s field putting down roots like we never had before since previously the longest we ever lived in any of our homes was six years.

In the year 2000, this Mama ventured back into the work field initiating and developing a program for a non-profit local ministry where I devoted my time and passion and energy for 13 years. 

So here we are seventeen years later. 2017!

Seventeen years into a century I couldn’t even imagine when I was just a kid because it seemed so distant into the future. And there are new concerns and alarms spreading out there in the big, bad world worse than Y2K, but I refuse to listen to or embrace them.

As a person born in the 1950’s, my generation has had our fair share of worrisome events and downright fear promoted in this world and hanging over our heads.

From the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and air raid drills in school to the assassinations of public figures including President John F. Kennedy to worrying about family members serving in the Vietnam War to race riots to the Kent State protest shootings in the turbulent 1960’s, we experienced fright.

From blackouts and gasoline shortages to the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island to hostages held in Iran in the 1970’s, we experienced panics.

From Mount Saint Helens volcanic eruption to the space shuttle Challenger explosion to a myriad of natural disasters like earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes to the Iraq war and threats of others in the 1980’s, we experienced trepidation.

From the Oklahoma City bombing to mass shootings to economic crises to numerous plane crashes in the 1990’s, we experienced qualms.

And to the most horrific day of them all, September 11, 2001, we’ve experienced terror of the highest magnitude at the hands of terrorists.

All of these frightening events have crossed my fear awareness screen and are permanently etched in my memory.  

And it’s safe to say, there will be more to come. But I cannot worry about what may happen in the future because as we take the good that happens (and there have been just as many amazing events that have occurred in my lifetime too), we must also take the bad. 

I can’t join in with all of those who say our world is going to ‘hell in a hand basket” because really, hasn’t it always been so? Since the beginning of time? If you don’t think so, open up a factual history book and take a gander.

Or better yet, open up God’s Word – the Bible – and see that mankind has been heading that way ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden.

Terrible events will always happen. It’s a given. It’s life. But how we respond to those events is what matters most.

In just three short years, we will reach the year 2020. What will the world be like at this milestone? Will we humans be any wiser? Any safer? Any more peaceful? Or will we still allow fear, misery, and anxiety to rule over us?

Just as this brand new year lies ahead of each one of us, so does a choice we each must make. We either choose to focus on the negative aspects of living or we take the higher road.

We can dwell on the ills of this world and allow them to frighten us into inaction or wring our hands as we hibernate from the world or we can choose to be bold enough to speak out against evil and make a difference by striving to be a light of peace, joy, kindness, and helpfulness even amidst the darkness – right there in your own little corner of the world.

“Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.” ~ Ina D. Ogden

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

What is Christmas

blogimg_8931

It’s Christmas Eve.

Not a creature is stirring not even a mouse.

Those stockings are hung on the fireplace.

The brightly-lit and adorned Christmas tree waits quietly and patiently for gaily wrapped packages to appear beneath its boughs.

Freshly baked cookies perch on a special plate while a mug of milk sits nearby for Santa’s visit and, not to be forgotten, a carrot for Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.

It’s Christmas Eve.

The house is ablaze with lights and Christmas finery everywhere.

A basket of happy Christmas tidings in the form of greeting cards from family and friends rests on an end table right next to the snowman decoration.

The sweet music of Christmas carols rings through the house as all gather back home.

And after a sumptuous dinner, Mama in her kerchief and Papa in his cap settle down for a well-deserved winter’s nap.

The house becomes silent while visions of sugarplums and fluffy white snow dance in grand-baby’s head.

It’s Christmas Eve.

But all of these things are not what Christmas truly means.

What is Christmas if we don’t remember the reason why we celebrate it?

What is Christmas? The answer is found wrapped in a manger.  (Click on the following link.)

This is Christmas

 

It’s Christmas Eve.  

And at midnight, we welcome in the day named after our Savior.

THIS is Christmas.

“Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel and reindeer, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas.”  ~Ronald Reagan 

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

We wait

blogimg_6827-2This week’s WordPress photo challenge, “anticipation,” is appropriate for the week leading up to Christmas.

Anticipation.  Something we look forward to. Something we wait for.

Anticipation. We wait. 

When you’re a child and your family follows the custom of jolly old St. Nick visiting your house via the chimney on Christmas Eve to fill your stockings and load up the floor beneath the tree with gifts, this photo definitely personifies ‘anticipation,’ especially when that plate is loaded with homemade cookies and that mug is filled with milk.

Anticipation. We wait.

It’s what we believers in Christ do as we celebrate the Advent Season leading up to Christmas Day. We wait. We anticipate that holy day to celebrate the most miraculous gift of all to all. A Savior born into this world named Jesus Christ.

Anticipation. We wait.

And even though our Savior came to earth as a wee babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a lowly manger long ago, we still wait.

With anticipation. We wait. Why? Because someday He’s coming back to this earth in all His glory. That will be a day worth waiting for. 

“Anticipation is a gift. Perhaps there is none greater. Anticipation is born of hope. Indeed it is hope’s finest expression.” ~ Steven L. Peck

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Our family Christmas present

blogimg_8922Just the other day Papa and I received a most wonderful early Christmas gift – one all wrapped up with love. 

We’ve actually been expecting this present for several months and knew the arrival of the gift would be sometime before Christmas.

The givers were also the receivers. And while they gave this lovely present to us, they in turn received the same miraculous gift from a gracious and loving God.

What was this wonderful present for both receivers and givers?

Our second grandbaby is that most precious gift.

When son and daughter-in-love texted us from the hospital to say our newest granddaughter was arriving into this world that evening, exhilaration and joy overflowed in this empty nest.

Since they live several hours away from us, we had to experience this exciting news and the impending arrival via cell phone texts and photos.

A lot of text messages flew rapidly through cyberspace between the hospital in the state next door, a state down south, and our home right here. Aunties and uncle were anxiously awaiting the news as well.

Technology is something to be very thankful for in situations like this! We could see that mommy and baby made it through the birth process well and that son is one proud daddy.

This new fresh from God baby girl is beautiful.  She has been given a beautiful name to match.  And her parents are over the moon with love for her. 

And so is this Nana even though I haven’t yet held her in my arms to whisper in her ear how very much she is loved.

Years ago shortly after the birth of our son, a friend gave us a picture to hang on his nursery wall which included a quote by poet Carl Sandburg. I’ve never forgotten that inscription and you can read that line Sandburg wrote below.

It’s just as poignant to me today on the occasion of our granddaughter’s birth as it was when her daddy became a baby blessing to us in this thing we call life.   

Our family’s Christmas blessing arrived just in time to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.

Welcome, little one!  And thank you, Lord, for this blessing of life.

“A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on.” ~ Carl Sandburg

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com