Be still…as time goes on

blogIMG_7808Over 30 years ago, I held my last born baby in my arms. That boy gave us such joy. And in the years to come, that joy increased and grew as surely as our son did.

And now, that baby is a grown-up man. Our son is husband to a lovely (inside and out) wife and father to two precious little girls, one just newly introduced into this world.

While I just was still on my blogging/writing sabbatical, Papa and I took the opportunity to travel to meet our newest granddaughter. Welcome hugs greeted Nana and Papa when the new baby’s big sister met us at the door and then…as my arms filled with that new little life, so perfect and beautiful, my eyes welled up with tears, my nose caught her sweet newborn baby aroma, and my heart exploded with love.

Over 30 years ago, a friend gave me a gift upon the birth of my last born baby – that boy become man who is now father to this new child.  The picture, a framed print with two little baby feet on it and a quote from Carl Sandburg, hung on the nursery room wall until that baby boy became a toddler. 

As our boy grew out of babyhood, the picture was relegated to the box of no longer used items, stored away, but those words not forgotten.

And as I held my newest grandchild and photographed her tiny, adorable toes (photo above), that quote came back to my mind.

“A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” —Carl Sandburg

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©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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This girl

blogAustralian travelerThis girl.

This girl I once carried in the hidden space inside my own body.

This girl made me a mother for the very first time, just a few minutes before Mother’s Day.

This girl, who seemed a shy, quiet child, possessed an adventurous spirit inside that reserved façade just waiting to soar.  

This girl discovered her wanderlust in high school on her first adventure to France.

This girl journeyed by herself to Africa, much to the worry of her parents.

This girl’s faith in God and her caring soul prodded her to minister to the unfortunate in Honduras more times than I can count.

This girl captured the heart of another adventurer and married him.

This girl, whose dream it has been to travel the world and see new sights, pursues that dream alongside her husband.

This girl experienced mountain top lifetime thrills at Mt. Kilimanjaro’s summit and at Peru’s Machu Picchu.

This girl has visited more countries on this earth than I can remember and has stepped foot on every continent except Asia and Antarctica.

This girl is my beloved oldest daughter.

This girl is celebrating a birthday.

And this girl amazes me.

“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.” ~ Lewis Carroll

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Not a good replacement

two dinner plates on square brown wooden bar table

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

So very much has been written about it. Even research studies launched about the effects of it.

You can use it to acquire all kinds of knowledge. You can use it for leisure activities. You can use it to conduct business, purchase items, save an image, learn the latest news, you name it. And we have convinced ourselves we can’t be without it.

Ever.

It must be clutched in our hands. And our eyes must be fixated on it. It’s the cell phone and it’s infiltrated our lives to the point where it truly has become an addiction, as gripping as the strongest drug out there, if you ask me.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-technology. Technology is amazing. It can be life-saving; it has opened up new frontiers in so many fields of study. And it is good when it is used appropriately.

But just like everything else in this world, it depends on how you use it. Use it for the betterment of mankind? Great. Abuse it and go down dark alleyways that harm our fellow man? Terrible.

So how, you may ask, does the simple use of a cellphone do harm? We hear and read a lot about the breakdown of the family in our society. We see articles about the lack of communication even though we have the easiest form of interaction literally at our fingertips with texting on our cells and you can reach anyone anywhere on the cell phone.

Of course, there are a myriad of reasons why we are in this predicament in our society. Why families are falling apart. Why families don’t feel connected to one another even though they may live in the same house. Why we don’t interact verbally with one another in meaningful ways any more….or at all.

I don’t have the answers to these problems, but one thing is as clear to me as those photographic images I can take with my smart phone.

Those smart phones have made us not-so-smart.

Last week, I enjoyed a shopping trip with my daughter and granddaughter. We stopped for lunch at one of our favorite spots which happens to have an indoor play area for children. Of course, Little One wanted to play for a bit with another little girl who was there.

So I stayed at our table and minded the purses and jackets and sipped my unsweetened iced tea while Daughter and Little One entered the play area. I started doing what I usually do when I’m seated alone in a public place….I people watched.

And I got an eye full (although not what you may think) and the idea for this blog post. The restaurant wasn’t overly crowded yet as it usually is at lunchtime because we had decided to grab an early lunch. So in the area where our table was located and where I could view comfortably without turning around, there were approximately 15 people of all ages, including children and a couple of teens.

All of these folks were eating their lunches. None of them had laptops or briefcases with them, so I’m assuming none of them were taking “working lunches” especially at 11 am.

Looking straight ahead, I spied a person on her cell phone. Behind her a woman and two teens on their cells. Next to them, two more people, both on cells. At the next table, a man with eyes glued to his phone and earbuds in his ears. Next to him, a gray-haired couple…you guessed it… scrolling through their phones.

All of them – people of different ages – were so engrossed in their phones that they couldn’t be aware of anything happening around them.

Beside me, a family of four – husband, wife, and two children. The little girl looked to be about six years old or so and the boy probably was around nine or ten. Dad was on his phone while chomping away at his food. Mom too was captivated by her own cell. The boy, earbuds stuck in his ears,  had his cell propped up on the table watching a video. Only the little girl had no phone and she was chatting away….to herself.  All as they ate their lunch.

I wanted to yell, “Put away your darn phones and talk to your family!”

I shook my head to myself and thought no wonder families are falling apart, they don’t even talk to one another at lunch. They don’t pay attention to their kids because they are mesmerized by technology instead of communicating verbally with the human beings right there with them.

I glanced into the play area, waved to our Little One who was having fun playing hide and seek with the other little girl. But then I noticed another disturbing sight. My own daughter was sitting there, entranced in her cell.

What have we become? Humans with eyes only for our cell phones?? Since when is social media, videos, email, texting, whatever entices you to keep that phone in your hand and your eyes glued to its screen become more important than the people around you? The ones you love. The ones you should be spending time with, connecting, sharing, just talking over your day, your thoughts, your ideas. Enjoying the company of family and friends.

Out of those 15 or so people in my view, I saw two people (not including me) without a cell phone attached to their hands. Two human beings – a young man and a young woman probably in their late 20’s – were actually having a conversation. A real, live, face-to-face discussion over lunch. With no cell phones in sight.

Maybe there’s hope for us yet.

“Give the people in your life the gift of your presence by putting down your mobile device.” ~ Kate Northrup

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Here we go again

 

action activity balls day

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

It was a bit of a déjà vu or, at the very least, that feeling of coming around full circle.

On a sunny but cool Saturday morning this past weekend, Papa and I were settled in our folding camp-style chairs on the sidelines cheering a youngster on the soccer field just like we’ve done countless times before in the past.

But this time, Mama and Papa were gray-haired and years older. This time, we weren’t cheering our own youngsters running up and down the length of the playing field.  This time we were encouraging our four-year-old granddaughter during her very first ever soccer game.

Incredulously, our Little One began her first soccer season this spring, learning the sport that her own mommy loved and played continuously through her school years and into college.

Incredulously, our Little One looked so big with her hair pulled back in a ponytail and clad in her YMCA soccer shirt, shorts, shin guards, knee-high socks, and cleats, carrying her water bottle.  Where did the time go???

Wasn’t it just yesterday, she was a newborn baby and those feet now sporting soccer cleats were tiny little barefoot ones? Wasn’t it just yesterday she was learning to say “ba, ba, ball” instead of kicking around a bright pink soccer ball of her own?

And wasn’t it just yesterday this Mama was the one hauling her own children to sports practices, games, and meets? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was a “soccer Mom”?  And a baseball Mom, a cross country Mom, a track Mom, a volleyball Mom, and a basketball Mom?

And now I’m a “soccer Nana”.  You blink and no longer are you parents of young athletes playing their favorite sports. Now you are doting grandparents reliving those days gone by as you watch the grands growing up.

Now in these empty nest years as grandparents, we’re smiling, cheering, clapping, and laughing while trying to capture moments with our cell phone cameras at the antics of four and five year olds as they attempt to maneuver the ball into the net. 

We have always jokingly called soccer at this level “bunch ball” as the players bunch around the ball trying to kick it. And bunch they did even if our Little One was a little hesitant to immerse herself into the fray.

She did make her mommy, Nana and PaPa proud as she managed to kick the ball (in the right direction too!) and jump back up without crying when she got knocked down.

As this empty nest Nana recalls sweet memories from years past of all of those activities of our own children when they were young, I’ll be eagerly making new ones with the grandchildren.

So for the next few weeks if you need me on a Saturday morning, you can find me on the sidelines of the soccer field. Here we go again!

“As I grew older I thought the best part of my life was over…then I was handed my first grandchild and realized the best part of my life had just begun.” ~ unknown

(Note: Neither my grandchild nor her teammates are depicted in the photo above. In order to protect their identities, I chose not to publish a photo of them, but use a stock photo from the WordPress free photo library instead.)

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Heading back instead of forward

blog103Sometimes the road before you takes you back instead of forward.

Last Saturday, Papa and I awakened early in our empty nest. We crawled out of bed at o-dark thirty (as my once-an-Army-man husband says) to shower, get dressed, and grab a quick breakfast.

Actually it was 5 am and we planned to leave our house around 6:30 because we had a three+ hour long trip to take to attend a morning gathering in a town over 175 miles away from ours.

One of the last surviving aunts on my husband’s mother’s side of the family passed away last week at the age of 87. We decided to attend her memorial service, not only to pay our respects for her and her family, but also because we knew it would be a family reunion of sorts.

We would have the opportunity to visit with my husband’s cousins who we haven’t seen in 20 years. Some of them live close by the town so far from ours, but some of them reside even farther away in other states, even on the West Coast. Papa’s older brother, a Texan now for over 30 years, was flying in for the service as well and we looked forward to seeing him.

We traveled by highway eastward as the sun arose and once we crossed the mountains, crystal blue skies and sunshine greeted us making our drive very pleasant.

Once we arrived at our destination, the air still nipped at us with a bite of chilliness but the greetings from family warmed us with smiles and hugs.

Reconnecting with cousins and my husband’s brother truly was a joy. We shared updates about grown children and cell phone photos of grandchildren.

We listened to stories of days gone by and memories of childhoods when that side of my husband’s family would all gather together at their “cottage” at a church campground and spend summer vacations together on the Jersey shore.

Quite some time ago, I tackled the plethora of old photos that had belonged to my in-laws. I managed my way through them all, deciding which ones we wanted to keep and placed them into photo albums.

But there were so many old photos of aunts and uncles and older cousins as youngsters that we decided should be given to those family members who were still alive.  Since Papa knew the family histories better than I did, he sorted those by families, bundled them up, and inserted them into large envelopes.

They traveled with us on our journey and as we all gathered at a lovely restaurant for lunch, Papa passed the envelopes out. Smiles spread on all those faces as they viewed those photos from yesteryear and passed them around for others to see.  Gracious thanks rained over us like blessings.

As the time ended and we all dispersed, Papa and I hugged everyone goodbye with promises of coming back in late summer for a family reunion. His brother had some time to kill before heading back to the airport, so we stayed and visited with him before we gave more hugs goodbye.

But before we left to travel back home, we meandered around this quaint town where so many of my husband’s relatives had lived. We drove past their former homes and Papa recalled many fond childhood memories.

We wandered down country roads and found the church campground where so much family history took place and marveled that the “cottage” the family once owned still stood.

The roads that led us to this wonderful time of family took us back – back to the days when families weren’t so spread apart by distance, back to a simpler time, back to childhood memories, and reminisces of those who are no longer among us.

Our day was a bit bittersweet. As we headed back westward to our home, I thought about the fact that we are now becoming the older generation of this family.

And how it saddens me to know that our children – all young adults and some reaching middle age now – will not have this experience of reconnecting with this side of the family. Yes, they are second or third cousins or however you classify the offspring of first cousins, but they don’t really know one another because distance separates us all.

Family stories and histories will probably become lost in time. Unless some of us try to preserve them. That’s what this day of traveling back showed me.

Sometimes we need to let the road before us take us back.

“So much of who we are is where we have been.” ~ William Langewiesche

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Peek-a-boo

blogIMG_7005Peek-a-boo, I see you.

Often I take a peek out our windows to check what fine feathered friends are noshing at our bird feeders. One feeder full of seeds hangs on a tree in view of our back yard deck; the other is a suet cake holder that swings back and forth on a front yard tree.

During these blustery winter days, our feeders are popular places for bird snacks. One day last week, I spied a red-headed woodpecker poking into the suet cake, but by the time I grabbed my camera, changed out the lens for a telephoto, and quietly opened my front door to try to capture him, he swooshed away in a flurry.

Disappointed, I checked the back yard where I noticed a bright red cardinal enjoying a free meal at the battered wooden feeder there. Worn by years of weather, wild winds, and just general usage, one of the perches has broken off.

Chowing down, Mr. Red sat upon the remaining perch which happened to be hidden on the back side of the feeder. I knew that if I opened the door and walked out onto the deck to try to capture his likeness, he too would fly away in a flash.

So I aimed my camera at the bird feeder and attempted to get a quick glimpse of him as his head or tail became visible. The result ended up being a peek-a-boo kind of photo, which you see above.

A few days later, my daughter, my grandchild, and I decided to go out for lunch and were traveling in daughter’s car. I kept hearing a little voice saying “Peek-a boo, peek-a boo” repeatedly from the back seat. I looked questioningly at my daughter who responded, “She’s playing peek-a boo with her baby doll.”

Our first born granddaughter turned four years old this past month and one of the things she dearly desired for her birthday was a baby doll. An honest-to-goodness soft dolly who looked more like a human baby than a cartoon character. One that she could pretend to feed, to dress in doll clothes, to bathe, to rock and sing to, just like a mama would do for her own child.

Baby dolls. Not easy to find anymore. Nana and Papa were determined to find just the right one for our little one, which actually proved to be a difficult task. I didn’t want to order one online because I wanted to see the doll in person, touch it, see if it’s eyes opened and shut, see if it felt…well…real.

The small section of baby dolls in the nearest Wal-Mart toy aisles proved to be fruitless. First of all, there weren’t many to choose from which was disheartening.  Out of the selections, one proved too small, one way too large, and a couple of others too cheaply made and not soft and cuddly.

We looked elsewhere with the same results, until finally I found one on the clearance rack at TJ Maxx – a baby with a tiny teddy bear and two changes of clothes. Who knew finding a baby doll would be so difficult?

And that commenced this old brain of mine to start to ponder. Is there not much of a market for baby dolls anymore? Have we truly become that kind of society where we discourage little girls from becoming mommies?

Do children no longer play house and pretend? Do they truly desire electronic gizmos and gadgets more than an old-fashioned toy like a baby doll?

It saddens me to think so. It saddens me to think that little girls don’t want to grow up to be a mother or that society or their parents are dissuading them from motherhood.  

Discouraging them to want to play peek-a-boo with their own baby someday. To hold a blessed miracle of life in their own arms.

It warms my heart to see my grandchild pretend to be a mommy with her new baby doll she wraps in a baby blanket. And it made me smile to hear her play peek-a-boo with her “Baby Annie” during a car ride.

My hope is that my precious grandchild grows up to be a wonderful mommy, loving and kind. Thoughtful, caring, and nurturing. And appreciative of the miracle of life – a baby. She’s learning that now.

“I am your mother, you are my child. I am your quiet place, you are my wild. I am your calm face, you are my giggle. I am your wait, you are my wiggle. I am your dinner, you are my chocolate cake. I am your bedtime, you are my wide awake. I am your lullaby, you are my peek-a-boo. I am your goodnight kiss, you are my I love you.” ~ Unknown

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Words for Wednesday: family birthdays

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blogIMG_6834.jpgFebruary is a special month because, here at Mama’s Empty Nest, we celebrate two of our family members’ birthdays. 

So Happy Birthday Month to my son, my last born,  and to my first born grandchild. You both are my February valentines.  And I’m so thankful for you both!

“Have you ever considered that your birthday is truly a day of celebration? A day to recognize the special gift we all received on the day you were born; the gift of you. You are appreciated, you are loved. As another year begins for you may you be filled with the thoughts of how special you are to all of us! Thank you for sharing your life with us.” Robert Rivers 

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A letter’s reminder

person holding handwritten letter

Photo by Bryan Schneider on Pexels.com

January has been clean up month.

Here at Mama’s Empty Nest, there has been much ado about everything. Since Middle Daughter and Little One moved into their own little cottage on New Year’s Day, this mama has accelerated into high gear.

Actually, both Papa’s and my engines have been running in high gear for about eight weeks helping our daughter refurbish her new home.  I understand now the work it takes to flip a house and I’m not being flippant about it.

But now, it’s my turn to get my own home ship-shape, squared away, and back in order. With daughter’s furniture and belongings moved out, our house is less crowded and to be honest, less messy. 

This newfound free space has inspired me to clean up, clean out, and purge. Two empty bedrooms needed attention and some furniture rearranged back into those rooms. Closets, cupboards, kitchen pantry all needed cleared out and re-organized.

I’m on a mission. Search and destroy. Search and relocate. Search and donate. Search and label for a spring/summer garage sale.

During one of my search operations, I tackled the closet in what used to be our son’s bedroom – now a guest room. We managed to dump deliver most of his belongings to him quite a while ago, but still some items remained – things he did not want or need at age 30. Stuff I should have taken care of long ago but put off until later.

Well, now is later. Time to sift through it all – everything from a microscope set he received one Christmas (used once) to a Star Wars model (never put together) to stories he’d written in elementary and high school, college notebooks, a box of trinkets, a box of stuffed animals including several versions of Taz (his once favorite cartoon character).

And as if that wasn’t enough, an assortment of his sisters’ Christmas formal and prom gowns hung in that closet as well.  I also realized that a scrapbook and assorted  accoutrements which I once planned using to chronicle our son’s school years accomplishments also sat dusty on one of the shelves. Since Son graduated from college nine years ago, it’s past time to get that project finished.

While sorting through all of this, I discovered something that made me stop, sit down, and take time to read. It was a letter. A hand-written letter that my son received upon his high school graduation.

The letter was from a young man, one any parent would approve of, who had been our oldest daughter’s high school boyfriend years before.  Respectful, polite, all-around wonderful young fellow of good character and an excellent student graduating as valedictorian of their high school class.  

Upon graduation, our daughter and this young man headed off to separate colleges and they amiably parted ways remaining friends. Actually, our entire family kept in touch with him and we cheered for his accomplishments when he graduated from college at the top of his class once again.

Suffice it to say, this young man had been an excellent role model and made a lasting impression on our son, who was just a 6th grader at the time our daughter dated that boyfriend. I remember Son telling me he wanted to be like this young man and graduate from high school at the top of his class too.

And he did so. Our son was also valedictorian of his class. He set out to accomplish that goal and followed in this friend’s footsteps.  That friend attended our son’s graduation ceremony and it seemed only right that we invite our son’s role model to his graduation party.

When our son wrote a thank you note to this friend for a graduation gift, Son received a handwritten letter back from the young man, now heading off to medical school.

That handwritten letter I found in the closet.

I decided what’s written should be shared because it’s a perfect example of how a handwritten letter can be such a treasure, even when read many years later.

“It really means a lot to me that I was able to have that type of influence on you. I always knew you had potential, and I’m glad to see you are putting it to good use. Although I’m probably not the best person to take advice from, I wanted to offer you a couple of tips heading into college. I was in a similar situation to yours entering college – graduating as valedictorian does put a little pressure on you to achieve at the next level. I certainly felt it. Since bulleted lists tend to get the point across, I’ll use those:

  • When I started at (his university), people told me no one graduates with all A’s, but R (a friend) and I did it and were co-valedictorians in college. So, don’t believe everything you hear.
  • Challenge yourself with classes outside your comfort areas. This is one thing I wish I would have done more of. I took an upper-level sociology class my junior year – worked hard as heck but it ended up being one of my favorite classes.
  • If you’ve studied all week for an exam and someone offers you the chance to go to a Penguins game the night before, go to the game.
  • Earn the respect of your professors – there are several I still e-mail and meet up with because we ended up being good friends.
  • Don’t try the chicken-fried pork.
  • Try to make it to at least one type of every sporting event.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no to beer if you end up at a party.
  • Get involved in a few clubs to make new friends.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to take hard classes, to try something new, to tell someone no, to make a big mistake. You learn from every experience.

So, there’s your nickel’s worth of free advice. I sincerely wish you the best of luck in school, in life, and in your future. Take care, buddy.”

I’m happy and proud to say that both of these young men – Son and Friend – have become mature, successful professionals – one a doctor, one a mechanical engineer. But I’m even more pleased and thankful that they both succeeded in personal life by becoming thoughtful, caring men of excellent character, loving husbands and fathers, good role models for others.

Finding that old letter reminded me how important role models are. I’m thankful that in addition to his father, our son also had a young man to admire and look up to. I wish every young male could have such excellent examples to steer them in the right direction, influencing them positively,  making a lasting difference.

It’s something I think our current day society truly lacks. My hope is that more men would realize that and strive to become good role models for young boys and other young men. It’s time to set positive examples.

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” ~Albert Einstein

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

When there’s pie in a blizzard

img_6583 (3)What day is it anyhow?

Did you ever awaken after a deep sleep and be just a little bewildered about what day it is? It happens to me every so often. I open my eyes and think, “Is today Wednesday or Thursday?” Or “What is today’s date, do I have somewhere I have to be today?”

Yesterday I crawled out of bed at my usual time – early morning before dawn – to go walking with my life-long friend. Upon awakening, I knew it was Wednesday and I needed to don my walking clothes.

But what I didn’t know until I glanced out the window was that it was snowing. We walk no matter what the weather brings unless there is a deluge of rain, so I bundled up and slipped on my hiking boots.

After returning from our morning jaunt, which was so peaceful with snow gently falling, I looked at the date on my calendar because even though I knew it was Wednesday, I didn’t remember the actual date.

Seeing that it was January 9th, I remembered that it was my maternal grandfather’s birthday. And just like that (snaps fingers), memories of Grandpa came back to me.

Grandpa died when I was nine, so my remembrances of him aren’t plentiful, but I do have some treasured and humorous memories of him, like when snow fell in huge, fluffy snowflakes, he would comment, “Look at those big cakes coming down!”

I also remember stories about him that my mother – his only child – told me. Stories that happened long before I was born.

My grandfather was born back in the 1870’s (yes, you read that correctly). Having a birthday in January as he did, chances are there would be a lot of snow on the ground and it would be blustery cold on his special day.

Yesterday’s snowfall on the ninth day of January in the year 2019, 143 years after my grandfather was born, reminded me of a sweet family story about Grandpa’s birthday one year.

My grandparents were married in 1900; my mother was born 19 years later. Since she remembered this birthday story about her father, I know it was sometime in the 20’s or early 30’s but I don’t know exactly when.  

Grandpa’s birthday was on a Sunday that year and my Grandmother, who was a queen of hospitality, invited many friends and family members to their home to celebrate Grandpa’s birthday after church. In that particular year, some fortunate folks owned automobiles, but some still traveled by horse and buggy or on foot.

The day of Grandpa’s birthday party, it snowed and snowed and snowed. Cars had a hard time traversing the country roads from church to my grandparents’ home for the party. So all of the invited guests walked through the snow and cold, some for miles, to get there.

And some of them carried pies on their journey. See, Grandpa wasn’t a big fan of cake but oh, he did love pie. So Grandma asked ladies to bring pies so she could cut a piece of pie from each one, arrange them on a big plate in a circular fashion to resemble one huge pie, and present it to Grandpa for his birthday treat.

His eyes lit up when he saw his birthday pie consisting of all of those different kinds of pies. And I suppose the “big cakes” of snow continued to fall as the party continued.

I wonder in amazement about several aspects of this story. First of all, the resilience of those who lived before us comes to my mind. Snowfall didn’t stop them from attending my grandfather’s party. They trudged through deep snow carrying pies and thought nothing of it, making the best of a bad situation. Now we seem to panic when the slightest bit of snow falls. 

They could have said let’s not go, it’s snowing too much, but they didn’t. They could have decided it just was too much trouble, but they didn’t. I wonder would we walk through deep snow and blustery weather just to go to a birthday party?

No doubt they meant what they said when they agreed to attend, no matter that the snow piled up high all around. They knew the meaning of the word commitment. Are we still as committed to following through with our promises today? I wonder.

Secondly, how generous they were to all bring pies, carrying them while trudging through snow,  to surprise my grandfather. Those folks were so willing to go out of their way to bring a slice of happiness to my grandpa.

Happiness that didn’t come in a wrapped, expensive gift but instead in a home-baked goody. Why do we place so much emphasis on monetary gifts we give or receive instead of just sheer thoughtfulness? Why do we think happiness comes with an expensive price tag?

And finally, this story reminds me that often times we encounter a “blizzard” of unforeseen circumstances in life. But we must trudge through the deep “snow” and make our way to where we need to be, no matter what.

And when we finally arrive, there is something worth achieving.

A piece of happiness. A slice of joy. A portion of gladness. A wedge of bliss.

Grandpa’s birthday story is enough to make me want to eat pie during a blizzard and be thankful for both the blizzard and the pie.

“You don’t really get Jesus saying very often there’ll be pie in the sky when you die. He’s really talking about now and today, and it’s supposed to be like that. You’re supposed to delight in what’s right in front of you.” ~ Greg Boyle

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Family connections

blogOld photoIf you can believe all the ads on TV and the internet, more and more folks are wondering just where they came from.

Those ads inform you where you can send your DNA to have it analyzed and receive a report indicating what part of the world you descended from. I can understand why that information would be intriguing if you don’t know much about your family history.

For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated about knowing my ancestry. Shortly after Papa and I married, we purchased a family tree print which we filled out as best as we could with the limited information we had. We framed it and it has graced our living room wall for all of our married life.

Since both of our sets of grandparents passed away either when we were young or before we were even born, our knowledge of great-grandparents and further back in the family lines was very limited.

My father did possess a treasure trove of family lineage on both sides of his family and he passed that information to my sisters and me. But pertaining to my mother’s lineage, we had very little to go on beyond our grandparents.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been even more determined to find out more family genealogy but am limited with time to do so. It’s quite a task, even if you join one of the online genealogy sites. There’s a lot of misinformation, dates in error, etc. that can lead you down the wrong path and I have felt frustration over some of that.

Enter my cousin. I have one living first cousin left; all the others are deceased. My cousin’s father and my father were brothers and our families were close when I was growing up. Recently, cousin and I have had more opportunities to see one another and talk about family remembrances. And he just so happens to have done a lot of research on our fathers’ family.

A couple of months ago, my cousin came for a visit and brought along his three-ring binder full of his research, which is more extensive that what I have. He showed me how he had collected all of the information and formatted it into a binder, not just on our shared family history but on this mother’s lineage as well.

I was impressed and expressed that to him. We shared stories and many remembrances of family members long gone. Hearing my cousin’s stories – many of which I never had heard – made me even more determined to seek out more of my family history (and my husband’s as well), get it put down in writing, and prepare a similar notebook to be passed down to my children if they are interested.

But time. Or the lack of it. That is my problem. It’s been a busy season of life for us here at Mama’s Empty Nest even though I basically am retired from working outside the home and Papa is semi-retired, only working at a part-time job. Taking care of our granddaughter while daughter works takes up a good bit of my time. And there are always church activities and other commitments that also claim my free hours as well as writing this blog.

Recently, my cousin visited me again. I never imagined he would arrive with a complete surprise in his hands. He prepared a family history binder for me as a gift. Not only did he include all of his research and photographs from our shared family lineage, but he had done significant exploration into my mother’s (his aunt by marriage) family.

What an amazing gift! My cousin gleaned through ancient census reports, vital life certificates, and other information to complete my mother’s family tree. Then he printed all of his collected findings, formatted the family lineage, and placed it all in sections by family name in a three-ring binder.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

To say I am thankful for what he did is an understatement. His gift touched my heart in so many ways. I’m beyond grateful for my cousin, for the ways we have felt connected in our family ties, for the stories he has shared, for the vast amount of time he spent compiling all of the information he acquired.

My cousin gave me a treasure. A treasure I can pass on to my children in hopes they can pass it on to my grandchildren. A treasure of family connection. The past with the present. And into the future.

Just one more thing to be grateful for in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.

 “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” ~ Henry Van Dyke

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