Posted in Life, Spring

Words for Wednesday: flower memories

The month of May always brings thoughts of flowers to my mind.

Spring has finally arrived here at Mama’s Empty Nest now that it’s May. The old saying “April showers bring May flowers” has yet to prove true though. April brought showers of rain and snow, but May flowers are just beginning to awaken.

Just the other day, we noticed blooms bursting forth on our bleeding heart plant. The lily of the valley stalks pushed their way up through the soil, but those white, delicate bell-like flowers with a lovely aroma have yet to bloom.

Flowers truly are gorgeous, aren’t they? Their colors and aromas tantalize our senses,  bring smiles to our faces and joy to our hearts. For many, receiving flowers as a gift is most delightful.

And receiving flowers for the first time is always special.

Recently, our oldest granddaughter was the recipient of such a gift for the first time in her young life – a lovely wrist corsage for a special occasion. I snapped a photo of her, with such a look of joy on her little face, as she received those first flowers. I hope she remembers that moment for a long time to come.

Does anyone else remember the first time you received flowers? I’m not sure I do. I do recall, as a child, giving flowers when I picked little bouquets of wildflowers – sometimes just dandelions – and presented them to my mother. She would always smile and place them in a glass of water.

I suspect the first flowers I ever received were corsages at Easter and on Mother’s Day to wear to church. When I was a youngster, one wore a red or pink carnation pinned to your church dress if your mother was still living and a white one if your mother had passed away.

My father usually purchased those gifts of flowers for Mom, my sisters, and me. Mother’s Day also meant we gave flowers to Mom – sometimes a beautiful bouquet, other times flats of flowers to plant outside.

Two other May instances regarding flowers I received come to my mind, and both occurred when I was a junior high school student.

At the end of my ninth grade year, a dance was held where the girls wore a fancy dress (and by fancy, I mean a dress you’d wear to church but not school) and the boys wore suits and ties. Boys asked the girls to attend, and since I didn’t have a boyfriend, I didn’t expect to be asked.

One of my classmates, who happened to be the smartest boy in our class, was very shy. To my surprise, his friend asked me if I would go to the dance with shy guy. At first, I thought it was a joke, but the friend assured me shy guy was just too nervous and timid to do it himself.

After asking my parents if I could go, I accepted the invitation.  Shy guy was from a different culture than I was and because his parents were what we would now days call old-school, they frowned upon him socializing. Getting an education was more important and certainly taking a girl to a dance meant disapproval.  

Arrangements were made for me to meet shy guy at the school on the evening of the dance, which was perfectly acceptable for my parents as they provided my transportation to and from. (My dad was not keen on me going out with boys yet.)

What surprised me even more was when this boy met me on the school steps, he presented a beautiful corsage to me. He had saved up his money for not only the dance tickets but also the flowers and arranged for his friend to keep the corsage until dance time, apparently so he wouldn’t have to explain to his parents what they were for.

His shy demeanor continued at the dance and we didn’t talk much or even dance a lot. Mostly we sat at a table partaking of refreshments, and I’m ashamed to admit as a fickle teenage girl, I spent a good bit of time eyeing another boy I had a crush on. (That memory bothered me as an adult and I actually apologized to shy guy at a high school reunion many years later.)

Even though I considered my dance date just another classmate and had no romantic feelings for him, I kept the corsage of flowers he gave me for a very long time until it dried up and fell apart.

On another warm, spring day in May, my older sisters picked me up after school to take me home instead of my usual riding the school bus. The junior high school building was located just a few blocks from our hometown’s waterfront park along the river.

Driving home from town, we had to cross a bridge, but a red traffic signal before the bridge stopped us, so we sat alongside the park waiting for the light to turn green.

For one reason or another, I had had a crummy day. I don’t really recall why, but I do remember being down in the dumps, tired, probably just ready for school to end for the summer. I sat in my oldest sister’s vehicle in the front passenger seat with the window down, staring out at the park, no doubt with a forlorn look on my face.

Suddenly, a smiling young man (who I didn’t know) appeared at my window holding a small branch of fragrant blooms off the budding park trees, said, “These are for you,” and walked away. Despite being shocked and surprised, I had enough sense to take the offering and thank him.

I’ve never forgotten that gesture said with flowers. The young man probably was a college student from the university branch campus in our town and he obviously had been enjoying a walk in the park. How did he notice a young teenage girl who looked sad and despondent? I don’t know.

But he acted on an impulse when he gave me that gift of sweet-smelling blossoms. He changed my ordinary, humdrum, downtrodden day into a special occurrence I’ve never forgotten some 50-plus years later.

I’d like to think that the young man was a believer in God and that he listened as God whispered in his ear that a teenaged girl needed cheering up. Of course, I don’t know if that’s true. But I do know truth comes from God and His Word – the Bible – and those words last forever, unlike flowers.

Even though flowers eventually wither, die, and are forgotten, sometimes memories associated with those fragrant and beautiful “gifts” may also fade away.  But one thing I know for certain, God’s Word certainly never does.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” ~ Isaiah 40:8

© 2022

Posted in Life, photography, Spring

Words for Wednesday: finally spring

All I can say is…finally!

After April snowfalls, a roller coaster of fluctuating temperatures, frosty mornings and bone-chilling nights, I think it’s safe to say spring has finally arrived in my neck of the woods.

If you’ve been a long-time reader of Mama’s Empty Nest, you’ll know that I sign off my posts with a quotation. It’s my thing. I love quotes. I keep them. I write them down and stash them away in a notebook.

And now, my thing is Spring. And for those of you living in the northern hemisphere of this orb we call earth, I want to encourage and inspire you to embrace the renewal of life we see in the erupting season of Spring.

We’ve all had a long season of winter’s oppression. It’s time to rejoice and break free from its grip.

So here’s a list of some springtime quotes that I enjoy. May they put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. (See what I did there? 😊 )

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” ~ William Shakespeare

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” ~ John Muir

“Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.” ~ W. Earl Hall

“The point is that the pleasures of spring are available to everybody, and cost nothing.” ~ George Orwell

“Spring: the music of open windows.” ~ Terri Guillemets

 “The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” ~ Harriet Ann Jacobs

“Spring is painted in daffodil yellows, robin egg blues, new grass green and the brightness of hope for a better life.” ~ Toni Sorenson

“Spring will come and so will happiness. Hold on. Life will get warmer.” ~Anita Krizzan

“Life stands before me like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes.” ~ Carl Friedrich Gauss

“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” ~ Virgil A. Kraft

And finally, this last quote that I’m signing off with describes me perfectly right now. Perhaps you can identify with it as well.

“Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” ~ Gustav Mahler

© 2021

Posted in Life, Spring

Old becomes new

Out with old, in with new.

Sounds like I’m celebrating New Year’s, doesn’t it? Out with the old year, in with the new one. 

Well, no, I’m not behind the times. My calendar points out that it is April, not January. And whew, aren’t we all glad it is? Finally, spring is arriving.

With its arrival, our thoughts turn to new life, new growth, a reemergence of hope. We smile at the crocuses, daffodils, and tulips pushing their way up through the earth to burst forth into our drab world in an array of spring green and brilliantly vibrant colors.

Out with the old, in with the new. Out with Ol’ Man Winter, in with the new season of Spring.

But my thoughts take another turn as I consider that phrase – out with the old, in with the new.

And again, pictures truly are worth a thousand words as they inspire me with thoughts worth putting down in this blog.

One day last year, as Papa and I did so often during this you know what, we took a little driving jaunt with our oldest grandchild along. We ended up parked in an area watching an old building, once used for multiple purposes but now decrepit and unusable, being demolished. (pictured above)

Little One had never seen that kind of destruction ever before, so she was fascinated and asked several questions about the scene we watched. My memory bank took me back to an occasion that reminded me of her mama, our daughter, when she was a preschooler.

At that time, we lived in a suburb of a midwestern city where new housing developments were springing up hither and yon. For some reason, we drove through one of those areas where a new house was under construction.

Imagine our astonishment when our little daughter asked this question from her back seat booster: “Why is that house broken?”

Huh? It took a minute or so for us to realize that our little one had never seen a house in various stages of construction, so to her, the house looked like it was being dismantled rather than being assembled.

In her eyes, that edifice was broken not newly constructed; she categorized it as old and wrecked, not new and erect. Perspective matters, doesn’t it?

Just recently, a flurry of activity occurred on a parcel of land zoned commercial near us. For years, a vacant building existed there. The place wasn’t dilapidated, just empty, not used.

Wrecking crews and large machinery spent several weeks destroying the existing building and leveling the ground there. Out with the old.

But then, a different kind of activity began. Brand new construction commenced for a new business to be located there. In with the new.

A drastic change began taking place. Pondering this, I can compare it to our spiritual lives. We find ourselves set in old patterns of sinful behavior leaving us feeling broken. Sometimes our lives seem wrecked, even destroyed by the consequences of our own actions.

But something amazing happens when we invite a Savior named Jesus to enter our lives, our hearts, our very being. He heals the broken-hearted, He restores the wrecked, He erases destruction and, in its place, new construction arises.

A new identity. A new creation. A new life. That’s the promise and blessing of a Christ-centered choice to become a follower of Him.

Through Christ we have a new identity. We should not be speaking to our old man, the sinner, and giving him his identity back.” ~ Eric Samuel Timm

A verse in God’s Holy Word, the Bible, tells us what happens when we make that choice:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The onset of spring reminds me to leave old inclinations, old thoughts,  old ways, and old sins behind me and start fresh with new inspiration, new perceptions, new life.

Out with the old. In with the new. Sounds like the promise of spring, doesn’t it?

“You cannot move on to a new phase in life if you bring your old baggage with you, let the bad go, and move onto the new.” ~ Patrick Read Johnson

© 2021

Posted in Life, nature, Spring

Spring peeping

It’s a sound every country kid in the eastern United States can probably identify when spring finally is sprung.

The particular sound is as sure as the sights of spring flowers popping up from the soil in brilliant colors. It’s as unmistakable as the return of robins bobbing up and down while dining on earthworms in the yard and serenading us with their spring songs.

It’s a distinct and unique sound that reminds you of sleigh bells ringing through the air, even though Christmas is long past.  It’s the sound of hundreds of chirping frogs in wetlands and swampy areas.

It’s a chorus of spring peepers.

Recently, on an afternoon walk with Papa, both he and I heard that distinctive noise loud and clear. As we walked along a path towards a pond, we passed a marshy area. But we heard that recognizable sound before we noticed the marsh down over a hill.

Spring peepers sang loudly in a chorus of chirps over and over again. And that sound definitely marks the arrival of spring in my neck of the woods.

Just what are spring peepers and why do they peep? They are tiny frogs with big voices. They primarily live in marshes, ponds, streams, and swamps in wooded areas with low vegetation where they can find  feeding frenzies of small insects like beetles, ants, flies, spiders, and even butterfly larvae.

Their peeping is actually a very high-pitched sound resembling sleigh bells and they peep because it is their mating ritual when males call out to females. Apparently, that loud chirping is an attractive quality!

Depending on the temperatures, spring peeper breeding usually begins in late February or March and lasts well into May. The female lays her eggs in still water which is why peepers are found in wetland areas.

Most of the time, they are heard but not seen, but if you do catch a glimpse of one, they are usually gray, tan, or light brown and have a lighter colored belly, but they are tiny little critters not getting any larger than an inch and a half.  One distinguishing feature is a dark X on their backs. When they peep, a bubble, the peeper’s vocal sac, forms under the frog’s mouth.

Interestingly, spring peepers are not the only noisy frogs in North America but belong to a group of frogs called “chorus frogs” for obvious reasons.

Spring peepers are a welcome sign of spring around here, especially when we have spring fever! As soon as we heard the peepers’ serenade that afternoon, we stopped walking just to listen and I took a short video of the peepers peeping, but for the life of me, I couldn’t get it to work here so…instead listen to this video to hear this harbinger of spring and then magnify it by a hundred and you’ll understand what I captured on my own video.

Just one of the marvels of spring and God’s creation. Yet another reason why I love living in the country in a place where we experience four distinct seasons.

“We want to hear spring peepers and see the green haze spreading through the treetops, and we are weary of waiting. And if we seem to be captiously impatient, that is a hopeful sign. Such peevishness is an early but dependable symptom of spring fever.” ~Hal Borland

© 2021

Posted in photography, Spring, travel

Don’t be a sap

Just the other day, while Papa and I drove down that winding road that passes our country home, I noticed something that caused me to do a double take. Good thing I wasn’t driving!

Nearby neighbors are tapping a maple tree in their yard. And by tapping, I don’t mean they were knocking on the tree bark, or smacking it lightly with a tool. Instead, a maple syrup tap was attached to the tree in order for sap to flow from the inside of the tree to an attached container.

Of course, I knew about tapping maples in spring to gather sap for making pure maple syrup, but this is the first time I can remember actually seeing someone nearby performing this spring-time task.

Tapping trees for syrup usually begins in late February or early March when tap holes are drilled into the trees. By the way, doing so does not harm the tree in any way. After a metal or plastic spout is hammered into the hole, a covered bucket is hung to collect the sap, and plastic tubing is attached from the spout to the container.

So what exactly is maple sap and why must it be collected each day? Maple trees store a combination of water in their roots. During the summer time, the trees produce natural maple sugar. As winter wanes and the weather begins warming, water flows up from the tree roots, combining with the natural sugar, and a thin, clear sap is produced.

When the sap freezes at night, then thaws the next day, it is pushed out into the spout and drips into the bucket. But sap needs to be collected each day because until it is boiled, it is perishable, so it can be a time-consuming task, both in acquiring enough sap and actually boiling and bottling the syrup.

A few years ago, Papa and I embarked on an early summer vacation to New England with stops in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. One of our visits included a trip to a maple syrup/cheese making farm in the Green Mountain State.

We traveled back some country roads which eventually deposited us at our destination, Sugarbush Farm, a family-owned venture where they make delicious cheeses, wax coated by hand, and tap acres of maple trees to produce pure syrup.

The farm, owned and operated by the Luce family since 1945, is located off the beaten path near Woodstock, Vermont, but is so worthy of a visit.

Upon entering the farm’s work room, which is open to the public, we were greeted warmly and asked if we’d like to try some cheese samples. Not an easy decision when there were 15 different kinds of cheese all made right there on the farm.

After we sampled several cheeses and declared all delicious, we learned facts about the 100% natural maple syrup the farm produces each year. Beforehand, we never knew that there are actually four different grades of syrup based on the color and intensity of flavor: Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark. And we sampled each of the four.

Golden is described as having a “delicate taste,” not as much flavor and suggested for pouring over ice cream or yogurt. It is made early in the season. Amber is a bit darker (light amber in color) and has a “rich taste” or a more classic maple syrup flavor.

Dark definitely had a more pronounced maple flavor, described as a “robust taste,” and is, of course, darker in color. Apparently, when weather gets warmer as spring progresses and trees begin producing buds, the syrup tapped from the tree has a darker color and a stronger maple flavor.

And then there is Very Dark – whew, to say it has a “strong taste” is putting it mildly. Those who prefer a very strong maple flavor may like it on their pancakes, waffles, etc., but it is used more often in cooking for glazes, sauces, or in pies, and can actually be a substitute for granulated sugar. It was too strong for our likes. We preferred the Golden or Dark.

We took a self-guided tour of the syrup producing area of the farm, including the Sugarhouse, and came away with a new-found appreciation for pure maple syrup. And after visiting the gift shop, we brought several containers of Sugarbush Farm’s syrup and delicious cheese home with us.

Our enlightenment about maple syrup included learning how healthy it actually can be as opposed to the man-made artificial maple syrups so readily available in grocery stores and much cheaper to purchase. It’s true pure maple syrup is a tad expensive, but it is a 100% natural food since no preservatives, added sugars, or artificial coloring is added.

But who knew that pure maple syrup, especially the darker grade, also gives us quite a few health benefits? It contains minerals like zinc and manganese which help our immune systems and heart health. It also contains 24 polyphenol antioxidants that reduce inflammation in our bodies and can fight the effects of arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and heart concerns.

Research also indicates that maple syrup is a less harmful sugar because of its antioxidants and can protect our bodies’ cells from DNA damage and may have protective effects on brain cells as well. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to get all the help I can on protecting my brain cells!

All of this tells me one thing: don’t be a sap. Spend the money for pure maple syrup, a God-given gift to us, instead of the cheaper, fake versions.

Admittance to Sugarbush Farm is free and samples are also free. You can order their products online too. For more information on Sugarbush Farm, click here. (This post is also my own opinion about Sugarbush Farms; I received no incentive, monetary or otherwise, to write about this Vermont treasure.)

“Sugaring season is the season when you tap the trees for sugar that turns into maple syrup. I’ve married someone from Vermont, so it’s an expression I kept hearing, and I’m like, ‘What is that? That’s just so beautiful.’ I like the idea it’s the very, very first murmurings of spring.” ~ Beth Orton

© 2021

Posted in photography, Spring

Thankful Thursday: the color of beauty

blogIMG_7648An attitude of gratitude. It’s one of the many aspects of life we discuss when a group of ladies gather weekly at my home for Bible study. We’re learning how to be content with our lives, our roles, and our purposes.

We’re learning that happiness may be getting what you want but true contentment is wanting what you get.  Those gifts that God bestows upon us. And we’re taking the time to be grateful for life and all its nuances.

So today on this Thursday, I find a simple thing for which to give thanks.

blogIMG_7657The world outside my windows has exploded into bright bursts of color. Green grass.  Yellow dandelions. Dark pink bleeding heart flowers. Bright green and white striped hosta plants. Light purple and red blooms on the azaleas.  Blue sky.

Springtime. A glorious outburst of color and new life. Worthy of celebration.

And all of that beauty my eye beholds is more than worthy of thanksgiving.

“Beauty is the gift of God.” ~ Aristotle


Posted in photography, Spring

Words for Wednesday: May “flowers”

blogIMG_7831 (2)It’s true, that old saying – April showers bring May flowers. Just take a look at my front yard lawn.

It boasts an abundance of ‘flowers.’ Oh, I know. They’re really dandelions.

Weeds by definition. But to me, they’ve always been a cheery symbol of spring – those lemony yellow dots copiously spread out among the luscious expanse of green.

I’m enjoying my profusion of May “flowers.” They make me as happy as a sunshine-filled, balmy blue-skied day.

They speak life. And what could be better than that?

“Beautiful as a dandelion-blossom golden in the green grass, this life can be.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay