Be still…in sweet fellowship

blogIMG_7896 (2)All too soon it seemed, 12 weeks of Bible study in my home, with a dozen or so other ladies, ended during my sojourn of being still (taking a break from blogging).

We learned plenty about practicing contentment during our time together studying God’s Word, but we discovered a good bit about each other as well.  Some of the ladies I knew well, some fairly well, and one was a newcomer to our church.

I opened each session with what’s called an “icebreaker question.” Sometimes it was serious, sometimes not. Each participant took her turn at answering the question and many times, we found ourselves laughing heartily.

Other times, we shared things from the heart. Gratefulness swelled within me as I realized that each lady felt safe in sharing, trusting each other with some of the hard things we encounter in life, encouraging one another, and feeling welcome in the group.

Each week after the conclusion of our sessions, we lingered for a while in fellowship, chatting while partaking of tasty snacks – sometimes sweet, sometimes salty, sometimes healthy, sometimes not.

After our last session, we planned an ice cream sundae party. Two gals brought ice cream (some homemade) and the rest of us provided different toppings. And then these lovely ladies surprised me with a thank you gift and the fun cupcakes pictured above.

To say we grew closer to one another was the absolute truth. We formed a bond of friendship and sisterhood in Christ during those 12 weeks of study and sweet fellowship, and it seemed we were reluctant to end our time together.

And so, I’m working on a new study to commence in the fall. And I’m guessing that most, if not all, of those dear ladies will appear at my door once again ready to dive into God’s Word.  

My time of being still proved fruitful for my spiritual life and I’m so thankful for the fellowship of this dear group of women.

“The fellowship of true friends who can hear you out, share your joys, help carry your burdens, and correctly counsel you is priceless.” ~ Ezra Taft Benson

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Thanksgiving leftovers

blogIMG_2157I know, I know.  Thanksgiving is over.  If you gauged it by Christmas decorations already jazzing up the scene everywhere you looked shortly after Halloween and stores accelerating the push into Christmas shopping, you would have thought we never celebrated a Thanksgiving holiday.

No, I’m not going to rant about the over commercialization of Christmas or the neglect and relegation of Thanksgiving into a blip in the road to Christmas craziness.  Instead, I’m hanging on to Thanksgiving for just a little longer.

A few years ago our home really became an empty nest as youngest son graduated from college, secured a job, and moved to the state next door.  Since then, I’ve found myself not wanting to let go of Thanksgiving. 

As soon as the turkey and fixings become refrigerator leftovers and the door closes after the last to leave the family gathering, I tend to wax a little melancholy.  Or as my friend described it so well, I might suffer from a little ‘post-party-um depression.’

And that’s odd.  Because we are a family of traditions.  And the tradition at our house is as soon as Thanksgiving is ushered out, we begin decorating for Christmas. 

When the kids were growing up and even into their college years, our family tradition was to launch out to a tree farm in search of the perfect for us evergreen tree, chop it down ourselves, and drag it home to decorate.  Son and Papa would climb up into the attic and hand down box after box of decorations and we gleefully adorned every nook and cranny of the house with Christmas glitter and glitz.

Yes, the weekend after Thanksgiving is time to haul out the holly at our house!  It’s when Christmas songs fill the air as Papa blasts them from the stereo.  It’s when red and white lights string their way merrily across the house, garage, and shrubbery.  It’s when garlands festoon the front porch, fireplace mantle, and staircase.   

It’s when wreaths appear on the windows and doors and candles illuminate the front windows.  It’s when the evergreen tree captures it glittery spot in the living room with multi-colored lights and ornaments treasured over the years for the memories they evoke.  It’s when the Christmas village nestles under the tree with its lighted houses and tiny yesteryear people.  It’s when the appetizing aroma of fresh baked cookies tickles your nose as you step into our home.

It’s tradition, I tell ya!  And yet, somehow as each year goes by, I break tradition.  First to go was the real honest-to-goodness pine needle shedding tree.  An artificial one usurped that freshly cut tradition.  Next the Christmas village didn’t find its way out of its storage box.  Cookie baking became minimal.  And decorating became a chore instead of a joy.

So I sit here amidst a myriad of boxes with a partially decorated home (Papa did his part by putting up the exterior lights and décor and assembled the fake tree) and I wonder why.   Every day since Thanksgiving, I crank up holiday songs on my computer and attempt to finish decorating.   I chastise myself when it doesn’t get accomplished because I think by now – December 5 – my house should be properly bedecked and adorned with Christmas finery and some cookie baking should be on the agenda.

And it’s not.  I could blame the empty nest.  I could claim it’s because all of the chicks are married and out of the nest.  But that’s not it.  We will all be together in our home for a Christmas celebration for a couple of days so you would think that alone would give me motivation to kick some Christmas spirit into gear.

So what is the cause of this malaise?  I’m not ready!  I truly think we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving long enough or well enough or…something.  As the dynamics of our household have changed and Papa and I have…shall we say, matured, I want to spend more time thanking God for His provision.   I want to exhibit gratitude for oh so many aspects of my life.  Yes, I’ll say it – I want to spend more time counting my blessings.

I don’t want to rush into the mayhem of Christmas craziness that the holiday has become.  I want to take my time.  I want to slow down and savor the opportunity to give thanks and do so for more than just one day filled with cooking a feast. 

This Thanksgiving, we gathered together at our house.  Not all of our adult children were able to be here but oldest daughter and son-in-law journeyed home, and my nearby sister and brother-in-law and family consisting of my nephew, his wife, and two little ones all joined us for the bounty at our table.  We feasted, we played games, and we all took turns holding my two month old great niece.  I want to hang onto that feeling of family and friendship and fondness just a little longer.

And just as if I needed a reminder, I want to share with you what I found on the day after Thanksgiving -that day when, by tradition, we would rush right into the Christmas season by decking the halls.   That day after celebrating the one day we set aside to give thanks, we still had snow on the ground.  It covered our yard.  It covered our deck.  In an effort to keep beverages cold all day for our celebration, my nephew set the bottles of soda, sparkling cider, and sparking raspberry limeade out into the snow on our deck.

So on that day after, when everyone returned to their homes and Papa and I were left once again in the empty nest and the frenzy of the Christmas season loomed, I opened the French doors to the deck and saw this (the photo above).  Imprints left in the snow from the beverage bottles.

blogIMG_2155My Thanksgiving leftovers.  These imprints made me smile and they made me happy.  But even more, they reminded me to keep an attitude of gratitude and take one day at a time giving thanks – prolonging Thanksgiving – and taking it with me into Christmas.  

“Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart.” ~ Thomas Fuller

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Giving thanks in all things

blogIMG_2113Thanksgiving season is one of my favorite times of year.  It renders me  nostalgic and I enjoy spending time reflecting on all the blessings I’ve experienced, even when times were difficult. 

As a person of faith, Thanksgiving provides an opportunity for me to be retrospective, looking back over where I’ve been and how far I’ve come with God’s help. 

In humility and gratitude, I take time to pause and give thanks to God and yet again reflect on my favorite verses in the Bible:  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Recently, I looked back over the last several Thanksgiving holidays to once again count my many blessings and offer up my thanks.  Here’s an abbreviated version:

  • November 2005 – By Thanksgiving of that year, I was so thankful to be alive.  My cancer diagnosis that summer frightened me, brought me to my knees, and made me realize how much of my life I took for granted.  It also caused me to examine a bitterness that had taken root in my heart.  Through much prayer and atonement, not only did I praise God for His forgiveness, but I came to fully forgive others.  The chains of bitterness that encircled my heart were broken!
  • November 2006 – I was happy and grateful to have been given another year of life to witness our son’s senior year of high school, tearfully and proudly watch him graduate from high school as valedictorian of his class, and send him off to college.  I was also very thankful for the high quality medical care in our city for middle daughter’s concussion treatment, appreciative for oldest daughter living in the city nearby, and so fortunate to enjoy time spent with my elderly father.
  • November 2007 – Another year graciously given to me chock full of blessings.  Despite some set-backs, God was working in all three of our children’s lives while teaching lessons about careers, college life, and loving relationships.  Good medical results from cancer screenings for me provided more fodder for my grateful heart.  We celebrated the holiday at my middle sister’s home with a feast of her awesome good cooking – always something for which to be thankful!
  • November 2008 – Celebrating Thanksgiving that year, we had a full house – my father, my sister and her family, and all of my own family, especially wonderful since oldest daughter had moved to another state.  What a joy it was to sit at our bountiful table with some of the people I love the most, name and count our blessings, one by one.
  • November 2009 – That Thanksgiving was quiet and reflective.  Hubby was unemployed, and we had just lost my father the past summer. Grief was still fresh, especially on the first holiday without him.  But oh, there was so much for which to be thankful!  God supplied our needs; we were warm in our home and had plenty to eat.  Middle daughter had graduated from college and launched her nursing career.  Son had scholarship money to pay for his next semester of college.  Oldest daughter safely traveled home from the south for the holiday.  My father had lived a long, full, rewarding life of 90 years.  God took him home quickly before his suffering became too difficult and for that I was also thankful.
  • November 2010 – That fall marked the first time Papa and I were truly in the empty nest as the last of our grown children had graduated from college, initiated his career, and moved away from the nest to another state.   The nest was brimming full for Thanksgiving and we were thankful for jobs and our time together but when oldest daughter left to drive back to her home in Dixie, middle daughter headed back for her home in the city, and son said goodbye to travel back to the state next door, this Mama lost it.  Sadness, loneliness, and a feeling of emptiness filled my heart and not even the boxes of Christmas decorations waiting to adorn the house made this Mama’s heart happy. 
  • November 2011 – Celebrating Thanksgiving that year, we were grateful to have oldest daughter back living in the city with newly engaged middle daughter, and we looked forward to family times planning a wedding.  As we all gathered around the dining room table and counted our blessings, a realization suddenly dawned on me.  By the next Thanksgiving, our family would expand from five to six as middle daughter would be married to the young man we already loved as a son.  By the end of our celebration, we got an inkling that our family would expand even more!  
  • November 2012 – Last year, our hearts overflowed with love and gratitude as we spent the entire year celebrating THREE weddings and welcoming two sons-in-law and one daughter-in-law into our family.  Our Thanksgiving plans were different than usual though.  Papa and I traveled to the state next door to celebrate the holiday with newly married son and daughter-in-law.  Thanksgiving Day found us on Staten Island, helping Hurricane Sandy victims clean up after the disaster they had endured.  To witness how so many had lost so much grieved our hearts and instilled in us how very much we had to be thankful for.  Giving back to others, helping them in their need, and being a part of the body of Christ in ministering to the needy made that Thanksgiving one of the best ones we’ve ever celebrated.

And here we are, November 2013.  Another year of life.   Another year of joy and celebration but also loss and trials.   But the love of family and friends remains strong as does our faith in the One who provides and hears our prayers. 

Thanksgiving will be celebrated at Mama’s Empty Nest.  Not all of our children will be able to come home.  Middle daughter and son-in-law, both medical professionals, will be serving others as they minister to their patients in their respective hospitals.  Son and daughter-in-law are hosting her family at their home in the state next door.  But, weather permitting (snow is falling heavily as I write this), oldest daughter and son-in-law will travel here for a few days to join our feast.

So even though there will be beloved faces missing at the table, joy and the blessing of family time together will be celebrated with my sister and brother-in-law, my nephew, his wife and family joining us.  And for the first time, there will be little ones at our dining room table also – my great-nieces, one almost three and one just two months old.

So many life events, some wonderful beyond measure, some daunting and trying, have transpired during the last few years.   But through them all, the Lord has taught me lessons that needed learned, shown me grace, forgiveness, and His faithfulness in countless ways.   Blessings overflow like the goodness pouring out of a horn of plenty – a cornucopia of God’s love – and we have so very much for which to be thankful.

“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.”  ~ Gerald Good

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

We salute you

blogScan_20131110Have you hugged a vet today?  I have right here in my own home.  And I’m not talking about my local veterinarian.

Today, November 11, is an official holiday here in the United States – Veterans Day – when we honor those who have served in the armed forces, those we regard with so much gratitude.

We have about 23 million veterans in the US, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.  My husband is one of them and the photo I’ve posted here is of him as a young US Army Captain back in the day.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics says another 2.3 million people are currently serving in the military.

And today is the day set aside to commemorate  and thank them not just for their service to us and our country but for being courageous and sacrificing for each one of us.

Freedom isn’t free.  We wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we relish here in the United States if it weren’t for our veterans.  Many of them have paid a life-changing price for the freedom that you and I take for granted.

Today many businesses and restaurants are offering free services to our vets.  I applaud that effort to recognize those who are serving and have served in our armed forces.  But I say let’s go one step further.

Surely, each one of us knows at least one person in our circle of family and friends who is a veteran.  Make it a point today to thank them verbally or in writing for their sacrifices made on our behalf.

Let’s really reach out and take it even further.  If your path crosses with a veteran on any day, show him/her the respect deserved.  Let’s continue to be thankful for these brave men and women each and every day.  Let’s pray for their safety and for their families.  Let’s check out a local veteran’s center and see what their needs may be.  And let’s put our words into actions by helping whether it’s with donations or time to let our veterans know how much we truly appreciate their service.  After all, they did so much for us.

Thank you to every one of our vets including my husband, my brother-in-law,  and many of our friends strewn from coast to coast.  We can never repay you for what you did for us but we can salute you for your willingness to put your life on the line to protect us and our nation.

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” ~ Elmer Davis

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Because someday…

pexels-photo-233223.jpegI woke up feeling cranky that day.  I’m not sure why so I’ll chalk it up to a restless night’s sleep or strange dreams or something.

Later that morning when I began cleaning our master bathroom shower, the glass shower door came off the track. 

I fidgeted with it, fussing and fuming until finally I gave up because I still couldn’t get it seated properly.  And that caused me to be even grouchier.

Thinking a cup of hot tea would surely soothe the savage beast that seemed to rage inside me, I made my way to the kitchen.  Stepping into the dining room, I noticed the new curtains that I had just ironed the day before were wrinkly.  “Are you kidding me?”  I thought.  Grrr!

About that time, hubby came home from taking some of that ‘too much stuff’ from our basement hoard, which also makes me irritated, to the recycling center.  Not long after he stepped into the kitchen, I was growling about yet another issue.

“Wow, why are you so cranky?” he asked. “Get up on the wrong side of the bed?”

You know, when you’ve been married for 30 plus years, you should realize and remember what floats your spouse’s boat and also what just pushes his or her buttons.

And hubby was punching my buttons!  Or so it seemed to me.  The more he pushed, the more I griped and growled.

This unhappy sequence continued for most of the day.  And although he fixed the shower door and even finished cleaning the shower for me, and helped me hang the curtains, I still wanted to bite his head off.

Outside – with snow flurries in the middle of April for heaven’s sake!  – proved just as miserable and cold as it was inside. When hubby suggested we grab a burger for dinner, I balked.  I really didn’t want to go out on this very un-spring-like day and I’m certain I even complained about that.

But off we went anyway to a local fast food place.  On our way there, we argued in one of those ‘you misunderstood what  I meant’ kind of disagreements, and this time, hubby was the one who exhibited crabbiness.

Guess it became contagious. 

We ordered our burgers and sat in silence while we ate.  And that’s when I noticed them.

The two of them sat alone in a booth behind my husband.  I figured they were in their 80’s.  She sat directly beside him and talked softly to him as he slowly chewed his food.  She helped him lift his drink cup and maneuvered the straw in the direction of his mouth so he could sip his strawberry lemonade.

He was bothered by crumbs on his pants but couldn’t quite knock them off, so she did it for him.  She even wiped his runny nose.

And right there in the middle of that Wendy’s restaurant, I wanted to cry. 

I watched this married couple and the picture I witnessed was one of abiding love.  The gentleman obviously suffered from frail health; I’m guessing that he had endured a slight stroke.  He must have lost weight during his illness as well because he wore his wedding band, which matched his wife’s, on the middle finger of his left hand not his ring finger.

He answered slowly and quietly when his wife asked him something. And each time she came to his aid, he looked at her with gratitude.  In conjunction, she treated him with patience and kindness.

I don’t think anyone else in the restaurant noticed them except me.  As I sat there trying to swallow bites of hamburger around the huge lump in my throat and struggling not to let tears erupt, I knew I saw this couple for a reason.  On this very day.

Someday, ‘they’ might be ‘us.’  That’s what I thought.  And the image of a day that might come in the future moved me to conviction to be so very grateful for now.  This moment, this day.

All day I had been cantankerous with my husband.  My husband – the one I love – who is healthy and strong and good-hearted and willingly endures the likes of me.  And I knew deep in my heart and soul that he didn’t deserve the treatment I had just given him.

I’m certain that God revealed the scene that unfolded in front of my eyes to put a check in my spirit, to remind me to be grateful for my marriage partner, even if he does push my buttons.  And God reminded me that I need to season my words with grace and love and patience and kindness.

Because someday, we may be the old married couple sitting in a restaurant without our family along, tending to the other because one of us isn’t capable.   

When we arrived home, I tearfully asked my husband if he had seen them.   Yes, he had noticed them and he had one observation to make, “That’s what marriage is all about.”

On that best day of the year which started out so poorly, I was reminded why it’s important for me to remember love –  true honest to goodness love that lasts a lifetime for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part. 

And I thank God for the lesson I learned. Thank you for this day.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

  

Fall surprises

Surprise!  That’s the nice way I started my morning today in my book of Opportunity, Page 23 in Chapter 9.

A blogging buddy of mine Georgette Sullins bestowed the Versatile Blogger Award on me.  Thank you for thinking of me!  Georgette and I became friends way back in April when she commented on my Freshly Pressed post, When Nature Shows No Mercy .   I find Georgette’s blog always fascinating as she chronicles endearing stories to be saved and cherished for her family.

Since this is the first time I’ve been honored with the Versatile Blogger Award, I researched it to find there are rules to follow.   So here goes:

Rule #1 – Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.   (As the kids would say, Georgette, you rock!)

Rule #2 – Tell your readers seven (7) things about yourself.  (Prepare yourself, dear readers, these are very random!)

  1. I launched this blog on a whim, partly because of the weird funk I found myself in after my last child graduated from college, snagged a job, and moved to the state next door, and I also I thought I’d work through the empty nest syndrome by writing about it.  But this blog has morphed into more than just an empty nest activity.  Writing again has given me great joy and I’ve met some delightful friends through blogging.
  2. Hubby and I come from families with ‘three of a kind’ (I’m one of three sisters; he’s one of three brothers).  But we were dealt a ‘pair and a spare.’   After our two daughters, our third child was a boy.  We were so certain we were having another girl, we didn’t even have a boy’s name chosen!  Sonograms weren’t very definitive back then.
  3. When I was a young girl, I dreamed of being famous.  (What little girl doesn’t?)  At first, I thought I’d be a legendary actress, but later I decided I’d be a renowned writer.  Hmmm…so far, my only claim to ‘fame’ might be my one-time freshly pressed experience.
  4. I’ve experimented with a few different careers – teacher, newspaper reporter/editor, technical editor, and in the last 10 years, working part-time for a non-profit.  But my absolute favorite occupation (and my most important one) has been motherhood. I was blessed to be a stay at home mom for 19 years!
  5. My new found interest is photography – both taking pictures and looking at others’ beautiful shots.  I used to just click my camera to document special occasions, vacations, or my kids’ events.  Now, I grab it when I see something interesting or I just want to experiment.  I’m not very good at it, but I find it fun.
  6. My perspective on life totally changed when I was diagnosed with early stage and very treatable cancer 6 years ago.  The whirlwind of diagnosis, surgery, and treatment left me dazed, but later so profoundly grateful for life and much more aware of the precious moments in it.
  7. I don’t like seafood or coffee.  My husband loves both.

Rule #3 – Give this award to up to fifteen (15) recently discovered bloggers.

I’m veering from the rule here because my first award goes to a blog I’ve been reading for over a year now, so she’s not recently discovered, she’s one of my “must-reads” –  Homestead Rambling’s Blog.  We became instant and life-long friends when she found my blog and started commenting.  We’ve realized we are kindred spirits with so much in common, including our faith.  She truly is a versatile blogger because her posts may be informative, humorous, encouraging, or inspiring.  Right now, she’s writing about her recent journey to Alaska, a land that seems to be calling to her, and from her pictures, I can sure see why.

Crossing the Line  also deserves this award.  This blogging buddy has been one of my cheerleaders for some time.  Her comments always make me feel valued and appreciated as a writer.  I relish reading her posts on her relatively new blogging adventure.  As she honestly writes about the aspects of life that invite her to ‘cross the line’ and move forward on her personal growth journey, she reminds us all about our human frailties and how we can choose to take a different path.  She’s on my ‘must-read’ list too.

Rule #4 – Contact those bloggers and let them in on the exciting news.  (Boom, done, finished.  Emails complete.)

For now, I’m signing off.  My favorite season of fall arrives with some of my favorite people – the pair and the spare all will fly back to the nest this weekend!  We’ll have a full house with a family day Sunday.  That’s a gift that’s even better than a blogger award!

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Still Daddy’s little girl

blogscan93If you’re female and you’ve been blessed with an endearing relationship with your father, no matter how old you may be, you’re still Daddy’s little girl.

Our middle daughter recently called and wanted to speak to her father.   While he chatted with her, she surprised him with an invitation to spend a day out with her – just the two of them, her treat.

Hubby’s birthday falls in the same month as Father’s Day and daughter had promised him then she had a special gift in mind.  Between her job, wedding planning, and spending time with her fiancé, she doesn’t have many weekends free, but she set aside one Saturday just for her dad.

She planned ‘Daddy-Daughter’ day with an activity they both would appreciate.  These two share a love for historical places, so a trip to one of the local museums seemed perfect.  Unfortunately, this particular site closed early that day, so they took a detour to our city’s National Aviary and then a scrumptious dinner out afterward.

As always, our photography prone daughter snapped lots of pictures.  Anyone who views those photos easily could surmise that daughter and dad experienced a great day together.  I wonder how many twenty-something daughters care to spend a day with just dear ol’ Dad, and how many fathers really devote time to their daughters.  I think there are multitudes of daughters who desperately desire time with their fathers but are cheated of it, and that truly makes me sad.

My father was Dad to three daughters.  It’s safe to say, next to my mother, we three girls were the light of our Dad’s life.  He always treated us like his treasures. Even after we all became adults, he continued giving us gifts of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.    Dad loved spending time with all of his girls, and that included grand-daughters too.

Our father didn’t have a role model since our grandfather died when Dad was a baby, so our papa set his own fatherhood standards.  And they were exemplary.  My sisters and I never felt unwanted, unloved, or like our father didn’t have time for us.  Instead, we experienced the reassurance that we were taken care of,  protected, safe, and very, very loved.

And that is vastly important for a young girl as she grows up.  Research shows that fathers have just as much and often more influence on their daughters as mothers do.    One researcher (L. Nielsen) states a “father has the greater impact on the daughter’s ability to trust, enjoy and relate well to the males in her life…well-fathered daughters are usually more self-confident, more self-reliant, and more successful in school and in their careers than poorly-fathered daughters.”

All you Dads out there, it’s time to step up to the plate and tell your daughters how important they are to you.  Better yet, show them.  If you need some good pointers, I’d recommend this book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters:  10 Secrets Every Father Should Know, by Dr. Meg Meeker.

It’s never too late to let your daughter know she’s still Daddy’s little girl.  I know that I’m grateful my father made me feel secure in his love.  And today in Chapter 8, Page 5, in my yearly book called Opportunity, I’m also thankful my husband is that kind of father to our daughters.   Maybe that’s why the following Subaru commercial always makes me cry!

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Lest we forget the need

pexels-photo-271265.jpegAs I enjoyed a restful, relaxing Mother’s Day yesterday,  thousands of my fellow Americans exhausted themselves cleaning up from the aftermath of tornadoes in the deep South.

While I lathered myself up with soap in a hot shower, many of them have nowhere to wash their hands.

As I plugged in my hair dryer, hundreds and hundreds of Southerners are living without electricity.

While I turned on my faucet to fill my tea kettle with good, clean water for my morning cup of tea, scads of my fellow countrymen have no running water.

As I consumed a hot breakfast cooked over my own stove,  hundreds of tornado victims have neither stove nor hot food.

While I casually perused my closet to choose clothing for the day, their clothes have been destroyed or blown away.

As I rode in my own vehicle to attend church, many have been left without transportation and many have lost even their place of worship.

While I gaily chatted on the phone with each of my three grown children and felt blessed by their Mother’s Day wishes, hundreds of people still mourn the loss of their loved ones who were killed by the killer twister.

As I sat on my overstuffed, comfy chair with my feet propped up, my fellow human beings have no furniture to rest upon.

While I communicated on my blog, through email and Facebook with friends and strangers via my laptop, those who’ve lost everything feel cut off from the entire world.

As I lay in my warm, comfortable bed with a soft pillow for my head, plenty to eat and drink and a roof over my head,  countless of God’s beloved children have no place to rest and no place to call home.

There, but for the grace of God go I….and you….what are we going to do about it?

While I contemplate my blessings in my Opportunity book today on page 9 in Chapter 5, may I suggest you do the same?  Those of us who are blessed with much dare not forget about those who have lost everything in tornadoes and other disasters.

I urge you to consider donating monetary aid to the organizations helping our brothers and sisters in need.  Here are a few trustworthy organizations that can use your donations to directly help victims:

www.samaritanspurse.org

www.salvationarmyusa.org

www.redcross.org/

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

I smell a memory

blogDSCN0618 - CopyI’m a smeller.

Oh, I don’t mean I smell awful, although on a hot summer day I imagine I don’t exactly smell fresh!  I’m a smeller because I possess a pretty keen sense of smell.

If there’s an odor in the air, pleasant or malodorous, it seems to reach my nose before my husband’s.  Often I ask him, “What’s that smell?” and receive this reply, “What smell?”

The sense of smell, which apparently triggers memories in a powerful and instantaneous way, fascinates me.  Actually, my earliest memory is a smell – not a person, not a sight, not an event, but an odor.

When I was a just a toddler, my grandparents lived on a farm for a time.  I have no memory whatsoever of visiting them, but I’ve seen pictures of my little self there, petting kittens, posing with my older sisters.   So I know I’ve been to that farm, but I can’t recall what it looked like or any event that happened there.

As I grew up, whenever I smelled a particular smoky odor, for some reason it reminded me of my grandparents.  One day after puzzling over the connection, I asked my mother about it.  She informed me an old smoke-house (where meat was smoked) existed on the farm so that odor permeated throughout my grandparents’ home.

Aha.  My first memory – smoked meat – explains why I can’t turn down bacon, doesn’t it?

I’ve read that our sense of smell, more than any other sense, is vitally linked to the part of the human brain that processes emotion.  It’s no wonder then that every time I handle a handmade quilt crafted by my grandmother long before my birth,  I inhale the smell of it and it brings me to tears.  That quilt smells like my beloved Grandma, who I lost when I was nine.

Other odors – and not just onions – cause me to weep also.  If I catch a whiff of Chantilly perfume, I automatically recall my late dear mother-in-law; that scent, her favorite, reminds me how much I miss her.  Smelling freshly laundered and hung outside to dry clothes evoke sweet memories of my mother as does the clean aroma of soap.

Fragrances mesh firmly with my memories, nice or otherwise, which is also why the men’s after shave, Brut, brings my first boyfriend to mind, although I’d definitely rather forget him.  I don’t enjoy the scent of roses, although I love to partake of their beauty.  Just don’t make me smell them.  There must be some negative connection to their fragrance, but I haven’t figured out yet what it might be.

Researchers say children possess more acute senses of smell than older folks and that as we age, we start losing some of our smell-ability.  I lost my ‘smeller’ once when I had an atrocious case of bronchitis, sinus and double ear infections all at once.  It was Thanksgiving time and I couldn’t smell a darn thing.

No delicious aroma of roasting turkey or pumpkin pie registered with me, not even a hint.  To top it all off, I lost my sense of taste at the same time.  When I closed my eyes and chewed my food, I couldn’t distinguish mashed potatoes from peas – certainly not an enjoyable Thanksgiving feast!  So I hope to maintain my sense of smell as long as possible!

Not only can odors flood our thoughts with memories, they supposedly influence our moods and even affect work performance.  You could try to use that one as an excuse.  “Boss, I just can’t finish my work today because there’s this awful smell here.”  Just don’t blame it on the person in the next cubicle or your boss!

Yesterday I realized how grateful I am for the sense of smell.  As I arrived home, I inhaled a most aromatic odor – roasted chicken wrapped in bacon, baked to perfection by my hubby – which almost smelled as good to me as he does.     Nothing welcomes us like a house full of home-cooked aroma.

Helen Keller, who lost her sense of sight and hearing at an early age, once said, “Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.”

The aroma of fresh-cut grass transports me back to my childhood.  What about you? What smells conjure up pleasant memories for you?  Take a minute, reflect and share your thoughts on this 11th page, Chapter Three in my book called Opportunity.

“Don’t hurry.  Don’t worry.  You’re only here for a short visit.  So don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.” ~ Walter Hagen

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Making Monday less melancholy

pexels-photo-97558.jpegMy favorite team lost.  It’s the Monday after the Super Bowl game and as Mondays go, it’s a little sad and depressing.

I’m certain the city’s a little melancholy today and gloomy skies casting a pall over the area and depositing chilly rain over us doesn’t help much.

Football is only a game though and losing the championship is not the end of the world.  Life goes on as it will even for those disappointed players.  Our team just didn’t play well enough, and the Green Bay Packers executed an epic win to take the Lombardi trophy back to “Titletown.” Congrats to that team, city and ardent fans!

And even though we cheered and grumbled, we waved our terrible towels and then some of us hid our heads under the towels when things got bad, we rallied then saw hope evaporate into reality, real Steelers fans are gracious in loss, still think the world of their favorite team and still display black and gold proudly.

I really am not a fanatic football fan, but I can appreciate a comparison between the game of football and life.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  Sometimes you play your heart out, sometimes that’s just not enough to secure a win.  Sometimes you work hard enough to wear yourself out and still life doesn’t turn out the way you planned.  Sometimes you make connections, sometimes you overthrow.  Sometimes you jump for joy feeling like you just scored the winning touchdown; sometimes you hang your head because you missed the goal post.

But even when your body aches from over exertion and your emotions make you feel defeated, you summon up some inner resolve and you start all over.  After all, just like Scarlett O’Hara opined in Gone With the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Today on this seventh page of Chapter Two in my book of Opportunity, I can either let the dreariness of the weather, the loss of the Super Bowl or the fact that my nest is empty all over again get the best of me.  But that’s not what I’m going to do!

Instead I will be glad for the opportunity that we were given this weekend.  Oldest daughter flew home from Dixie for a few days.  She experienced an encouraging meeting that could lead her to a new route on her road of life.  And for that I am thankful and excited for her and the possibility that may develop.

Middle daughter didn’t have to work the nightshift the evening before the big game after all, so the four of us met for dinner and relished a Pittsburgh tradition – Primanti Brothers sandwiches – in a crowded restaurant where it seemed every single patron sported Steelers garb.  Hubby and I enjoyed the night out with our girls, chatting and catching up – a chance we cherished.

Afterwards, we came back to the empty nest homestead to watch “Despicable Me” together.  Fun, laughter and good times rang through Mama’s Empty Nest.   After church Sunday, hubby made a mean chicken white chili to share with fellow Steelers fans.  We ventured to the city to watch the big game at middle daughter’s apartment with a crowd of her twenty-something friends – such a spirit-lifter to be around boisterous young people again!

Gratefulness fills the empty nest today despite the grey skies, quietness of the house, loss for the Steelers and circumstances we still face.

Inspiration comes from this quote:  “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.” ~ Samuel Johnson

And love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only NFL football team with six Super Bowl wins under their belt.  That elusive seventh win is just going to take some perseverance.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com