Against the wind

blogIMG_0484When I awakened that morning, darkness still enveloped us. Papa had already jaunted off to his part-time job that he’s enjoying in his semi-retirement. Little One had spent the night with us as her nurse Mommy was working an early shift at her hospital.

It is January and it is winter. So it was no surprise when I opened our bedroom blinds after the sun arose to find snow lightly covering the ground.

Cold? Yes, but not as frigid in temperature as it can be here during the winter season. Windy? Terribly so. And the wind chill factor made it so much colder than the outside thermometer revealed.

As Little One and I ate our breakfast, I could actually hear the wind howling around our house. I’ve always joked (well, kind of) that we live in a wind tunnel here. Our home is situated in a bit of a valley and the wind comes tearing up the alley-way we live in.

Just ask me how many times shingles have blown off our roof (we’ve since replaced it and so far, so good.). Twenty years ago this month when we moved into our brand new, just built home, shingles went flying hither and yon that season as Ol’ Man Winter blew mightily through our area.

To say it’s windy here, especially in winter, is like saying the Pope is Catholic. It’s a given.

But back to my story. After breakfast and an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, I helped Little One get dressed and fixed her hair for preschool. We bundled up against the blustery weather, climbed in our fairly warm car because we have an attached garage, and drove the 15 minutes or so to her class. 

We live in rural area and there are many farms, some dairy, situated around us and on our drive to Little One’s nursery school. Fortunately, the roads were clear of snow, but I suspect most of the feathery stuff was blown off by the wind.

I happened to glance at a nearby field as I was driving and saw them – those black and white dairy cows. Usually, they are meandering around, chomping on some grass or just standing around or they are in the barn getting milked.

But not that day. They were actually huddled by the side of the barn, leaning against it. I believe it was their effort to get out of the fierce wind, to feel a bit of warmth, to brace themselves, be protected.

Prior to seeing those cows, I had noticed a horse who had sidled up to a huge, round bale of hay in his field. He seemed to have his head burrowed in the hay and didn’t appear to be eating, just resting there, no doubt to stay warm in the gusty air.

When Little One and I exited our vehicle and walked through the parking lot to the preschool building, we just about got blown away by the fierce wind, the kind that just seems to seep right through to your bones.

On my drive home, I noticed the animals again sheltering themselves from the cold air and suddenly, my cell phone blared that emergency warning it does when inclement weather is approaching.

Sure enough, I received a winter warning about a snow squall heading my way with white-out conditions and wind gusts.

How grateful I was to get back to my nice, warm (and safely roofed) house once more. How thankful I was that my granddaughter was also in a cozy, safe environment at her school protected by the cold and wind.

And then it hit me. How privileged we are to have our home with heat, electricity, and clean, hot water, a stove to sit a teakettle on to make a warming cup of tea, a vehicle with a heater (and even heated seats) to get us from one warm place to another, winter clothes adequate enough to protect us from the chilling snow and wind.

How blessed we truly are! And chances are, if you’re reading this, you are blessed with adequate housing and your basic needs are met even if you don’t live in a climate like I do with four distinct seasons.

I don’t have to search for a place to harbor myself out of the cold and wind. I don’t have to wonder where my next hot meal is coming from. I don’t have to shiver without adequate winter clothing.

Yet are we grateful for these things we just take for granted? And do we remember those who are so very less fortunate than we are? The homeless, the indigent, the impoverished who don’t have enough food to eat let alone enough resources for paying the heating bill.

As I sat in my heated home, warmed by a hot cup of tea, and gazing out at that snow squall that surely did appear while writing this post (see above photo), I resolved to make a better difference in the lives of others this new year. Not just remembering that other human beings are trying to stay warm and protected just like those animals I saw that blustery morning, but to do something about it.

The prevailing winds of society in our world push us into being self-focused, self-indulgent, self-centered. If you don’t believe me, take a look at social media. But I want to push back, against the wind.

In closets and drawers in this empty nest, winter coats, gloves, hats, socks, and warm sweaters that no one wears any longer linger. They are still in very good condition, so I will gather them up and donate them to a worthy cause that will ensure those in need receive them.

At the grocery store, I will purchase extra staples and canned goods and donate them to food pantries so they can be distributed to those who need food.

I can donate a little extra money, which will go into an energy fund to help people without heat or light, each month to my monthly natural gas payment.

I will continue to give to organizations we support that provide necessary basics to those less fortunate than I am.

There is something each one of us who is blessed with adequate housing, jobs, and material goods can do to bless others. And it’s not just a privilege to do so but a responsibility. And going against the wind to do so gives us purpose.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ~ Charles Dickens

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Words for Wednesday: the mountain

blogP1030429

Camp on the trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro

When a mountain towers over us, some of us find ourselves immovable. Others are motivated to climb that mountain to the very top and shout, “I did it!”

Some of us are challenged by what seems a daunting task. Others dig down deep, find inspiration and motivation to keep moving onward and upward.

“Mountains know secrets we need to learn. That it might take time, it might be hard, but if you just hold on long enough, you will find the strength to rise up.”  ~ Tyler Knott

If you didn’t get a chance to read my oldest daughter’s story about developing perseverance while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro five years ago, please click here.

blogP1030492

Getting a little closer

Today I’m sharing some of her photos from that amazing journey she took – the one which not only challenged her physically but mentally as well. I’m proud to say she tackled that mountain both ways and found inner strength while doing so.

blogP1030524

Nearing the summit at daybreak

I hope you also can face whatever challenge before you, tackle your own mountains, and reach the rewarding summit.

blogP1030538

The summit

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”~ Barry Finlay

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Facing that mountain

blogP1030537

Taken by my daughter while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” ~ Edmund Hillary

Today’s post features a guest writer for Mama’s Empty Nest, although this guest is no stranger to me. Let me introduce you to my oldest daughter, a self-proclaimed “science nerd,” adventurous traveler, and an excellent writer. Out of those three attributes, she only actively pursues two, but her mama thinks she should step into the writing arena because she has so much to say and is very adept at saying it.

Five years ago, my “the world is so big and I want to see it all” firstborn traveled to Africa with her husband and one of her best friends for a specific purpose: to take a week-long trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa (in Tanzania) and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world at 19,341 feet.

It was quite a physical feat to accomplish trekking through five distinct climate zones as they climbed the mountain, but what my daughter learned about character and perseverance is of even more importance. Please read what she so beautifully wrote about facing mountains before us (and we all have them in one form or another), enjoy her photos from that trip, and be encouraged by her story:

Someone recently asked me what the proudest moment of my life has been so far. My mind immediately went to Mount Kilimanjaro – but reaching the summit was only part of it. More specifically, my proudest moment happened on day three of our seven day hike, when I felt like I had reached my breaking point.

I was exhausted – I had barely slept in the week leading up to the climb because I was incredibly anxious about it, not to mention it was impossible to sleep well while actually on the mountain. I felt sick – the altitude made me nauseated, gave me a persistent headache, and made me completely lose my appetite.

I was frustrated with myself – we had somehow started hiking that particular section with the “fast” members of our group and I was having a hard time keeping that pace, so I felt like I was slowing everyone down.

And I was out of shape and in pain – I had badly sprained my back months prior, which had derailed my training for the climb, so my fitness level was not where I wanted it to be, AND my back was still hurting.

At that point, I felt like there was no way I could do it. It was too hard. I had way too much working against me. I stopped to sit down on a rock and burst into tears.

I did NOT want to keep going. I wanted to turn around and walk down off the mountain and crawl into my bed back at the inn… and it would have been so easy for me to do that.

But after I was done with my little crying fit, I remembered the vow I had made to my husband, my friend, and myself that I was going to stand on that summit no matter what. Kilimanjaro had become a dream of mine, and I was not going to give up so close to achieving it.

So I made the decision to get up off that rock and keep going in the direction I had been heading. Just one step at a time.

“I will persist until I succeed. Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult. I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking.” ~ Og Mandino

blogP1030513

Notice how small the climbers are in comparison to the mountain

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. On summit night, the altitude affected us so much that we were literally taking one step every two to three seconds. We passed people who were on their hands and knees, vomiting. We saw groups turn around with less than 45 minutes left to go until the summit.

But we did not turn around. Our whole group made it to the summit. We hugged each other in celebration and posed for pictures and I cried – this time for a much different reason.

I used to have this tendency to think that strength and bravery are demonstrated by doing big, scary, adventurous things, and I think that’s why I like to do those types of things – to prove to myself that I’m stronger and braver than I usually think I am.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro WAS one of those big, scary things, and I’m so proud of making it to the summit, but more than anything I am proud of that moment, on a random rock near Lava Tower, where I decided that I was going to keep going.

blogP1030516I’ve come to learn that true inner strength is proven in the small moments where you want to give up, but you don’t let yourself. Maybe for you it’s when you decide that instead of hitting the snooze button, you’re going to wake up early in order to stick to your workout plan.

Or when you decide that instead of letting your marriage unravel, you’re going to go ahead and schedule that first counseling session.

Or when you have a bad day, but get up the next morning to do it all over again.

Continuing to talk to God, even when you’re angry with Him. A class that you’re struggling through. A dream career that’s taking years to obtain. Loving someone when it’s hard.

Whatever you’re going through, whatever is too hard for you right now, you’ve got this. Don’t give up on your dream, or the promises you made. If I can get up off that rock and keep walking, so can you.

“Perseverance is a positive, active characteristic. It is not idly, passively waiting and hoping for some good thing to happen. It gives us hope by helping us realize that the righteous suffer no failure except in giving up and no longer trying. We must never give up, regardless of temptations, frustrations, disappointments, or discouragements.” ~ Joseph P. Wirthlin

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

The one we hardly knew

blogScan_knickersWe received the call one day last week. And even though we knew eventually it would come, we still were a bit surprised.

Papa’s oldest brother had passed away. The brother who was so much older than Papa by about 17 years. The brother who joined the navy as soon as he was old enough and was pretty much absent for most of his baby brother’s life.

The brother who, after facing disappointments and difficult circumstances, removed himself from the family for years with little to no contact.

The brother who finally reunited with his elderly parents and his two younger brothers. The brother who attended Papa’s and my wedding and not long afterwards found his own bride.

The brother who with his new wife had a child just a few months before Papa and I had our first little one.

The brother who would take time to see us when we came back to our home state from living far away to visit family, but who never had much to say.

The brother who never talked about his past or about things of importance with us.

The brother, who along with his new family, joined us for funerals when both his and Papa’s parents died. But afterwards, we didn’t have much contact other than annual Christmas cards sent by his wife.

The brother, who, after over a decade of not seeing one another, agreed to meet us for lunch a couple of years ago as we were passing through the area where he lived.

This brother, this man who shared the same parents as Papa, was very different than my husband and even his other brother. And even though they were never close as brothers and didn’t really share the same life experiences, Papa still cared about his oldest brother.

A few short months ago, we learned this brother, who we never really knew very well, was diagnosed with stage four metastatic cancer. Too far advanced for any treatment, this brother spent his last months in a nursing home.

There, after a several hours drive, we visited him a couple of times. We asked him if he needed anything. His answer was no. We asked what we could do for him. His answer was nothing.

We attempted to cheer him with stories. We brought old photographs of him with his parents to help him recall fond memories he might have had with them. He simply looked at them without a word and set them aside.

We hugged him. We told him how much we cared. And we asked him if we could pray for him. He silently nodded, bowed his head, folded his hands, and waited for his younger brother to say the words. To ask God for strength and comfort and peace, for God’s will to be done.

Just before Christmas, we sent this brother a greeting card and told him we would come again to visit him after the holiday was over. But we didn’t make it. He passed away before we arranged to make another trip eastward.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.” ~ Anthony Brandt

Even though I certainly did not know this brother of my husband’s very well at all, I do know this.  He was a veteran, proud of having served his country. He was a hard worker who provided for his wife and child. He also served his community for many years as a volunteer fireman and rescue worker. And he lived for over 80 years.

Those are the aspects I know about my brother-in-law.  I don’t know if he loved us, but he seemed to like us at least. I don’t know if he had regrets in life or what made him happy because he never shared those stories or the experiences he had that seemed to cause him emotional pain. I don’t know for certain if he had faith in the same Savior we do.

But I know this – my heart is sad. My heart is sad because I don’t know the answer to that last statement, but I know God does.

My heart is sad for my husband because he had this brother that he really didn’t have a bond or connection with. I am very close to my two older sisters and have always been. So it’s foreign to me to have a sibling that you don’t really know.

And it saddens me that my husband didn’t experience a close relationship with this brother and never really had that opportunity as his brother seemed to close off deep, personal relationships.

What does this sorrowful experience tell me? It tells me to hold your loved ones close to you. Talk with them, share your life with them. Don’t ever let circumstances or difficult experiences keep you from reaching out to your family.

We only have one life to live on this earth. Choose to be present with those who care about you. Choose to open your heart to others. Choose to love and be loved in return.

“Think of your family today and every day thereafter, don’t let the busy world of today keep you from showing how much you love and appreciate your family.” ~ Josiah

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: morning has broken

blogIMG_1336That tune, that old tune from back in the day, always comes to my mind when I see a sunrise.

I don’t always get to view the sun rise in the east. The way our home is situated on our plot of ground, sunrise is hidden from us by a hill.

So, even if I’m awake and up, I don’t necessarily see those beautiful hues of color painted across the morning sky as this side of the world awakens because by the time the sun crests that hill, some of the colors and beauty have dissipated.

Sunsets are a different story. We are privy to some pretty spectacular ones right off our backyard deck, but that’s another story. This one is about the rising of the sun when Morning Has Broken comes to my mind.

When my eyes do partake of a sunrise, I am always enthralled by its beauty. By the way the sun’s rays shine down through the clouds onto earth. By the palette of color presented before us.

And my mind starts to sing, “Morning has broken, like the first morning…” The version I know so well and remember playing on the piano as a teenager was made well-known by recording artist Cat Stevens in the early 1970’s.

But long before his rendition became popular, Morning Has Broken was published in 1931 as a Christian hymn. The words were written by an English author named Eleanor Farjeon and set to Scottish Gaelic music titled Bunessan, facts I never knew until recently.

Several mornings while walking with one of my best friends, we are treated to a sunrise. And those words, “morning has broken” arise in my memory as the sun shows its glory in the eastern sky.

But sunrises give way to even more words in my mind than simply morning has broken. Words I want to share with you on this Words for Wednesday here at Mama’s Empty Nest.

“Next time a sunrise steals your breath or a meadow of flowers leave you speechless, remain that way. Say nothing, and listen as Heaven whispers, do you like it? I did it just for you.” ~ Max Lucado

Each time I experience a sunrise, no matter where I am, my thoughts turn to God, the Creator of those magnificent occurrences. The following quotes portray my thoughts in words more aptly that I possibly can:

“If you want to be reminded of the love of the Lord, just watch the sunrise.” ~ Jeannette Walls in Half Broke Horses

 After a long, dark night, perhaps one of those sleepless nights that seem to be endless as you toss and turn or worry over a situation or problem, sunrise serves as a balm to your soul – a reason for hope as you embrace a new day.

“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” ~ Bernard Williams

And sunrises are perfect inspiration for those who have a creative bent – photographers, writers, painters, and poets.

“After God perfected the sunrise, he created photographers, artists, and poets to ensure his feat remained immortal.” ~ Terri Guillemets

Sunrises are spectacular. They are worth awakening early in the morning just to watch the sun rise on those days when it’s visible. I can’t think of a better way to embrace a new year before us than by witnessing a beautiful sunrise.

“Sunrise looks spectacular in nature; sunrise looks spectacular in the photos; sunrise looks spectacular in our dreams; sunrise looks spectacular in the paintings, because it really is spectacular!” ~ Mehmet Murat ildan

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

A blank canvas

tim-arterbury-VkwRmha1_tI-unsplash

Photo by Tim Arterbury on Unsplash

The calendar spaces are blank. It’s January, the first month of a new year. And most of us have opened up a pristine yearly calendar for this brand new year.

Blank calendar blocks face us. Months, weeks, and days with nothing written on them…yet.

But soon those empty spaces will be full. They will overflow with appointments: dentists, physicians, optometrists, car maintenance, and hair salons. Work schedules, meetings, school schedules and programs. Church events. Special occasions. Family and friends’ birthdays and anniversaries.

Before you know it, that blank calendar is not blank any longer. Each day brings a necessary item to remember or something which must be accomplished.

But what about all the time in between those appointments and the rush to go here and there?

Recently, I read a quote that truly resonated with me. It was written by Dave Ramsey, financial guru, and I’m sure he meant it in relation to one’s financial future, but I took it one step further and applied it to the less physical.

How should be plan our mental, emotional, and spiritual futures with purpose to make them outstanding?

We are already a few days into 2020, another year of life we’ve been granted. An entire year lays before us like a blank art canvas or an empty journal of bare pages. We possess the means to make what we will out of this New Year.

We have the paints to create our own masterpiece and the brushes to begin our first strokes on our blank canvas of life. There’s ink in our pens to write, a keyboard in front of us to type in our empty journal of living.

We have everything we need to fashion a year to remember.

But we must find inspiration to do so. How do we form worthwhile plans for each new day? How do we make each day count as if it were our last? How do we savor the time we’ve been given without filling it full of things that don’t matter?

How do we plan each day so that it has purpose? A day unlike any other? How do we make life more meaningful? How do we live our lives in such a way that each day brings us fulfillment either mentally, emotionally, or spiritually?

These are just some of the aspects of life I’m pondering as this New Year unfolds. What about you? What do you hope to accomplish this year beyond the physical realm of life – beyond dieting, exercising, finally quitting a bad habit?

How will you paint your clean 2020 canvas? Leave a comment to share your thoughts with me. 

“Love a New Year. A clean canvas to paint your future on. Get the brushes and paint and make it awesome.” ~ Dave Ramsey

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

As I say farewell

accuracy afternoon alarm clock analogue

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Tonight’s December thirty-first,
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.
Hark, it’s midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year!”

~ Ogden Nash

New Year’s Eve. Time to say farewell to another year past – one relegated to our memory banks for better or worse.

And we hail a new year being ushered in tomorrow. A brand new 365 days, Lord willing, to live life. A clean slate. An unblemished beginning.

But before I welcome 2020 in, I want to ruminate over and savor 2019. For this empty nest Mama, it was a very good year and I’m most grateful for it.

Each month of the year past brought something noteworthy to remember, to pigeonhole into my cherished memories file somewhere in that cluttered brain of mine. I’m a list-maker so please bear with me as I chronicle all my blessings for the year now ending.

blogIMG_6290

Their new home!

January: Mild winter weather enabled us to take a trip to the state next door to visit our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild and help them accomplish projects around their new home. We also experienced happiness and excitement with our middle daughter and other grandchild as we helped them move into their new home and a new life for them.

February: We celebrated with a birthday bash for our first grandchild with family and a houseful of friends. What joy this child brings to our lives! And I am blessed to spend so many days with her as her care-giver while her Mama is working.

blogIMG_7017

Started Bible studies in my home

March: I stepped out in faith, stopped talking about doing something, and actually commenced it! I began leading a Bible study for women in my home. Our topic was learning how to be content in life and I’m not certain who learned more, the lovely ladies in the group or me.

April: Spring arrived with lovely weather and we journeyed to visit our son’s family once more on our way to spend a glorious Easter with our oldest daughter and son-in-law in their home down south.

blogIMG_7808

Another grandchild blessing

May: A beautiful blessing arrived! Our third grandchild was born and once again, we traveled to the state next door to meet our newest family member and cuddle with our beautiful baby granddaughter.

June: Vacation month! Papa and I vacillated for weeks prior to our scheduled June vacation over where to go. We finally settled on a trip to various spots in Maryland, a state we’ve been in and through many, many times. But oh, what fun we had exploring new places and enjoying surprises.

July: A day trip to Erie, Pennsylvania where once again we explored places we haven’t visited before was the highlight as well as a lovely day for our church picnic in a nearby state park. Good fellowship with our fellow believers is always welcomed and a day to remember.

blogIMG_8685

Day trip to Lake Erie

August: We simply relaxed, spent time with our oldest granddaughter, and enjoyed a fairly mild (temperature-wise) summer. I also worked diligently reading resource books and my Bible preparing another women’s Bible study for fall. And I was blessed to spend time at lunch with a dear friend and another outing to a festival with one of my life-long buddies.

September: I began another women’s Bible study on prayer in my home and I can’t express how much the ladies in this group mean to me. I took photographs at a bridal shower for one of my best friend’s daughter which were received with grateful thanks from the bride.  We took a trip east to attend Papa’s family reunion and utilized free tickets to enjoy an evening in the city watching the Pittsburgh Pirates lose yet another baseball game. But hey, we had fun! Watching our little one play soccer every Saturday morning also reminded us of days gone by when we watched her mama and uncle play that sport. 

blogIMG_9036

Always fun when the kids are home

October: Papa and I celebrated another year of marriage (42!) and a nice weekend together with all of our grown kids and grandchildren when they all came “home.”  Afterwards, Papa and I headed out for another week’s vacation to Michigan, where we relished every single place we visited, including lighthouses for me to photograph and gorgeous fall foliage.

November: The month of Thanksgiving started with a beautiful wedding (aforementioned bride) in Old Alexandria, Virginia. Then the icing on the cake was (finally!) meeting in person with my long-time blogging friend, Dianna (These Days of Mine) and her husband JR. After a delicious lunch at Hanover Tavern, we couldn’t stop talking! What a blessing it was to get more acquainted with them. We’ve already made plans to meet again in 2020. A lovely Thanksgiving holiday with some of our family concluded the month.

Blogging friends Nov 2019 (2)

Such a blessing to meet a blogging friend in person!

December: Two family members’ birthdays, including our sweet second grandchild’s,  a wonderful family Christmas with everyone home, making our empty nest full of love and laughter.  An evening with good friends playing games and then a lunch with three of my former co-workers and dear friends rounded out the month.

blogIMG_0452

Our three little blessings

To say 2019 was a blessed year is definitely an understatement. Of course, not every day was perfect. There were challenges and problems as in any life we encounter on this earth. But our good and gracious God continues to be our Provider, our Peace, our Sustainer, and our Shepherd.

What will unfold in this New Year arriving in just a matter of hours? We have no way of knowing but as always, even if difficult circumstances arise and they will, I will give God glory and thanks with my life verse from God’s Word: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As our year comes to a close, I say farewell, 2019. I shall remember you with fondness. And as I welcome in 2020, I look forward to this New Year with anticipation for what it may bring.   

“Celebrate endings—for they precede new beginnings.” ~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Christmas tree tea

blogIMG_0128O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree, how lovely is your…hodgepodge.

Some folks have beautifully decorated themed Christmas trees. This tree is all decked in white and is covered in angels. Or that tree sports multi-colored lights with all Santa ornaments on it. Or whatever floats your boat – it could be even a nautical or beach themed tree.

But not here at Mama’s Empty Nest. Nope, our tree doesn’t have a theme unless you consider it an eclectic one, a mishmash that doesn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason. 

Our tree is adorned with ornaments from years ago, from places we’ve visited over our 40-some years of marriage, from gifts we’ve been given, to ornaments just because I liked the look of them.

It’s a miscellaneous assortment of this and that. But I like it because, for the most part, each ornament hanging on our evergreen holds a memory.

Preparing for our family Christmas this year when the nest will be full, I took a moment to stop my frantic pace of decorating and completing my mile-long list of things to do before Christmas to sit and admire our hodgepodge tree. While doing so, I caught a glimpse of an ornament that reminded me of one Christmas season many years ago.

Back in the day when this empty nest mama was a busy mama of school-aged children, I devoted a lot of time volunteering at their public schools. I was room mother (we planned the class parties) for all three of my kids.

I volunteered in their classrooms every week helping students with reading or catching up on their work.  I slaved away at numerous school fundraisers. And I served a few years as PTA (Parent Teacher Association) President and Vice-President.

After my last stint as PTA President, I decided to take a break from all of that activity. Since we worked so closely together, the other PTA mom officers became some very good friends. They didn’t believe me when I said I was hanging up my PTA hat and asked me what I would do with my time instead. I promptly answered, “I’ll have tea parties!”

And so I did. That Christmas, I held a tea party for those same friends in my home. The menu included tiny quiches, petite tea sandwiches, an assortment of small cookies, and oranges cut in half, scooped out, and filled with a berry fruit salad.

I brewed holiday flavors of hot tea – candy cane lane and sugar plum spice – and served them in Christmas tea pots.

Prior to the party, I decorated our dining room table with a red tablecloth, a plaid red and green table runner down the center, and a beautiful live greenery centerpiece with candles. 

At each place setting, I used my Christmas china plates and tea cups along with red and green plaid cloth napkins, bedecked with lacy napkin rings I had fashioned with tiny pine cones and ribbon.

I bought tiny clay pots, spray painted the outside of them gold, tied plaid ribbons around them,  filled them with red and green M&M candies, and placed a chocolate molded candy Christmas tree on a lollipop stick in each of them so they looked like Victorian topiaries. Those were the favors and they added a nice touch to the décor.

I was pleased with the results of my plans and I wish I had thought to take a photo of my Christmas tea party, but alas, no such picture exists. And there was no such thing as Pinterest back then to give me ideas.

All of this came back to my mind from that memory bank in my brain when I noticed the adorable little ornament resembling a tea bag with two little mice enjoying a cup of tea. One of my friends, a guest at my Christmas tea party that day so long ago, gifted me that little treasure. 

When I gaze at it, I remember that lovely time with wonderful friends. It truly makes a delightful Christmas memory. Who would have thought my tree would remind me of a long ago tea party?

That’s why I like my hodgepodge Christmas tree.

“Recipe for a tea party: one cup of love, two pots of tea, and a handful of friends to make the moments sweet.” ~ unknown

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Joy for the cost of a stamp

blogIMG_0112 (2)Perhaps folks just don’t continue this Christmas tradition anymore.

Because we have so many other ways of sending our thoughts and well wishes to others in today’s world thanks to email, text messaging, and social media, I wonder how many people still send Christmas greeting cards.

You know, the good old fashioned cards that you purchase in a box of 20 or 25 complete with a holiday photo on the front and a Merry Christmas greeting inside. Envelopes are furnished along with the cards, but you must sign them personally or have them imprinted.

If you’re anything like I am, some of the folks on your list are far-away friends so I also write a newsy Christmas letter to include with the card.

And then you either hand-address the envelopes or run off address labels on your home printer, seal the envelopes, stick adhesive postage stamps on the front, and deliver them to a nearby mailbox for a postal worker to send them on their merry way.

It sounds like a lot of work, but when you consider the fact that you may be gladdening some one’s heart when they see your card in their home mailbox or that they smile and think of you when they notice your signature, that makes all the work totally worth the time and effort.

And I don’t know about you but I not only love to send Christmas greetings but receive them as well. It’s one of those things that just makes my heart happy.

Every year, I accomplish this task right after Thanksgiving. I usually purchase my cards at a discount the year before, so they are stashed away ready for use.

Then I pull out my well-used, worn and torn, little hard back book (entitled My Christmas List) I’ve kept since the early days of Papa’s and my marriage to keep track of people we send cards to and those we receive from as well. 

But before I do that, I hand write on a separate piece of paper a list of folks to send cards to that year. And I’ve noticed in the last few years that my card list keeps getting shorter.

Because we’ve lived in different areas of the country over our married life, we’ve managed to keep in contact with lots of friends, old neighbors, and church friends from all of those places.

At one time, our Christmas card list numbered almost to 100. But things have changed. Life goes on and then it doesn’t. What do I mean by that? Every year it seems, I must shorten my list not because I want to but because someone on the list is now deceased.

It saddens me to see the number of people who are no longer here on this earth to celebrate Christmas, for us to communicate with at this special time of year. And it makes me sadder still to cross out their names in my little red and white book with Santa’s picture on the front.

And that got me to thinking about folks even older than I am. Their lists are getting shorter every year as well because their family members and long-time friends are now gone. And you know what that means? They are probably not receiving very many greeting cards either.

And chances are they don’t email, text, or use social media.

I think about the loneliness they might be experiencing, especially if their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren don’t live near them. How alone they must feel if most of their loved ones and friends are among the dearly departed.

And then I think how much it would lift their spirits and instill a little joy in their hearts to receive a Christmas greeting in the mail. A real honest-to-goodness card with a cheerful note and a personal signature. How they may smile to know that someone somewhere is thinking about them and cares.

But why stop there? What about our members of the military stationed far away from their families during this holiday season? Or the folks in nursing homes or hospitals? Or even the cranky old fellow who lives alone across the street?

Every one of those human beings is worth so much more than just the cost of a card and a stamp.

Okay, I know I sound like a Hallmark commercial, but honestly, perhaps I need to re-think my card list and add some more names to it. Perhaps you too need to re-think sending Christmas cards this year.

A Christmas card and a postage stamp could make a big difference in the life of someone.

“Sending Christmas cards is a good way to let your friends and family know that you think they’re worth the price of a stamp.” ~ Melanie White

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Red flag warning?

red-led-traffic-cone-2743739

Photo by Redrecords on Pexels

A short while ago I witnessed something that I just can’t erase from my mind. What I saw bothered me when it occurred and it resurfaces from time to time to make me wonder if I gauged a situation correctly or not. 

Let me tell you the story and then you tell me what you think.

After running some errands, Papa and I decided to grab lunch at a fast-food restaurant. I know what you’re thinking – not the healthiest choice. But it was quick and we had other things to accomplish that day.

And actually, the setting of this scene really had no significance.

Seated behind Papa was a young mother with three little children – the littlest a baby, the oldest around five or six years old. I had a clear view of her as she cleaned up their refuse from eating and walked over to the nearby exit where a stroller was parked.

As she was getting the baby strapped into the stroller and corralling her other two little ones, a man (I’d guess in his late 20’s) suddenly walked past our table to the young mother and offered her a ride home. She seemed a little startled by his offer and I could tell she did not know him, that he was a stranger to her.

She politely said, “No, thank you. We ride the bus.”

The man hesitated, offered yet again, to which she replied once more,  “No, thank you.” Then he walked back to a table behind me, reluctantly it seemed.

Papa looked at me (I think I had a puzzled look on my face) and remarked, “That was nice of him.” I shrugged my shoulders, but just couldn’t agree. Something caused me to be dubious of that man.

A red flag kind of flared up in my thoughts.

Within seconds, the man returned to the young woman offering her a ride yet again and being a little more insistent.

“I just hate to see you have to ride the bus with your kids,” he said. “We – my wife is over there –  have lots of room because we have a van. We’ll take you home.”

Call me distrustful. Call me too guarded. Call me whatever, but my red flag started waving crazily and warning bells started ringing in my ears.

“Danger, Will Robinson, danger!” Like the robot in Lost in Space.

I was relieved to hear the mother rebuff his offer once more,  “No, really, I’m fine. Thank you, but no.” Finally, he walked back to his table and that young mom gathered up her belongings and left with her children to catch the bus.

Why did I feel like we should keep our eye on her to make sure she got to the bus stop and boarded safely?

I expressed my fears to Papa and he seemed a little surprised that I had been so suspicious of the man’s intentions. 

Since he had a direct view of the man, I asked Papa to keep his eye on him after the mom and children left. He told me when the man first entered the restaurant, there was an older couple, a younger woman, and a baby with him. But the older couple sat down with another man and woman already there. 

When all of this occurred, we were finishing up our lunch. As we were leaving, we walked by the man’s table where only he and a baby sat with no food. And there was no one in line at the counter. I looked.

Maybe his wife was in the restroom. Maybe the older couple was with him, although they didn’t appear to be still in the restaurant,  or maybe they just happened to walk in at the same time as the man.

Maybe he just had good intentions of aiding that young woman. Maybe the man really was trying to perform a good deed, give a helping hand, but his insistence is what made me so suspicious of him – especially the last time he offered when he had been refused twice already. 

When we got in our car, I told Papa that if, indeed, three adults and a toddler were with this man, how did they have room for another adult and three more children in their vehicle? Outside in the parking lot, the only van we saw was a minivan, hardly capable of holding that many adults and children safely.

It’s sad when perhaps a charitable act has to be eyed suspiciously. But with all the reports of sex trafficking and crazy, perverted people abducting young women and children,  one should be cautious, especially a young, attractive woman alone with adorable children.

Obviously, the entire ordeal has bothered me for some time. My reaction also troubled me. Did I overreact? I usually have pretty good intuition about people, but perhaps I was dead wrong. What would you have thought? I’m honestly interested in hearing your opinion.

“To be suspicious is not a fault. To be suspicious all the time without coming to a conclusion is the defect.” ~ Lu Xun

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com