Words for Wednesday: Savor the moment

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“The present moment alone is ours. Today is a day which we never had before, which we shall never have again. It rose from the great ocean of eternity, and again sinks into its unfathomable depths.”

~ T. DeWitt Talmadge

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Humanity’s Orchestra

arc art bass bowed string instrument

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Back in the day, I put my English degree to good use and worked in journalism.

Originally, I was hired by a twice daily newspaper publishing company to edit a weekly supplement that was inserted into the Sunday paper. Eventually, my boss, the Arts and Entertainment Editor, realized I could write and he expanded my role, sending me out to cover various stories in that field,  write reviews of some of the cultural events in the city, and eventually making me his assistant editor as well.

Perks of that job were two complimentary tickets to community and touring theater productions, operas, ballets, art shows, and music concerts. With my husband by my side, I enjoyed many productions we could not have afforded to attend otherwise. 

Some of those occasions included concerts performed by the local philharmonic orchestra, which gave us an ongoing appreciation for classical music, one of the genres of music we still enjoy.  

Frequently, I listen to my Pandora classical music station and Papa and I occasionally watch our local PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) television station when orchestral productions are on the air.  

While viewing a show featuring Conductor André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra, my mind traveled back to those days long ago when we enjoyed philharmonic concerts in person. Orchestras are composed of instruments from different families: strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion, and a philharmonic orchestra is full-sized.

I particularly remember one philharmonic concert we attended which featured guest artists, duo pianists Ferrante and Teicher. I realize I’m dating myself because these two musicians are long dead now.  Trained at the Juilliard School of Music, they often played  popular and movie theme music on two grand pianos, giving those songs their own special flare. Click here to listen and watch one of their renditions.

I can’t recall what songs they performed with the philharmonic that night so long ago, but I do remember thoroughly enjoying the evening. As a pianist (and not a very good one), I always appreciate good piano music. We even purchased a couple of their albums to listen to on our stereo. (Young folks, that was when vinyl long-playing records were all the rage.)

All of this reminiscing prompted me to think about orchestras and how a variety of different musicians playing entirely different instruments can achieve such beautiful sounds when they play together in harmony and unity.

If orchestra members did not follow the music perfectly and in unison, the result would be cacophonous. We would hold our hands over our ears and shout, “Enough! I can’t bear to listen to this anymore!”

It just seems to me that the voices we are hearing in the world today are just like a discordant orchestra. No working together in a harmonious fashion. Each voice trying to out scream the others because they can’t or won’t sit down and discuss issues reasonably.

And there are far too many days when I do exclaim, “Enough! I can’t bear to listen to this anymore!”

Whatever happened to the idea that we can disagree without being violent? We can disagree without screaming obscenities at one another? We can agree to disagree?  And still live in peace, treating one another with dignity and respect.

I know God does not intend for us to tear each other apart simply because we don’t agree on certain issues. I certainly do not hate someone because I disagree with them and their views. 

My hope is that there are more folks like me than not. We just aren’t the loud ones. We do want our voices to be heard and we will stand up for what we believe is true, honorable, and just but we won’t use vitriol to express our views and beliefs. 

Instead we prefer to play in humanity’s orchestra creating harmonious beauty instead of discordant ugliness.

“The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony.” ~ Joseph B. Wirthlin

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Love abides

blogIMG_6959It’s Valentine’s Day. That one day a year where the world supposedly focuses on love.

Hearts and flowers. Chocolates and stuffed animals proclaiming “I Love You.” Sentimental greeting cards gushing with words of affection. The aisles in the stores are full of these items.

All to proclaim love for the one who receives the gift. For some, those gifts truly make their hearts sing. For the receivers. And for the givers. Those folks who claim giving gifts or receiving them as their love language are feeling mighty good about all of these Valentine goodies.

For me, those things don’t matter. If you give me a gift, I’ll be appreciative that you spent the time thinking of me and I will thank you profusely. But gifts don’t really float my boat. They’re nice. They’re lovely. They often are extremely thoughtful. But they don’t necessarily bring joy to my heart. 

Several years ago, I asked my husband to stop spending money on gifts for me, especially on Valentine’s Day. Flowers fade and die. My black thumb kills plants.

My expanding waistline doesn’t need chocolate candy. Greeting cards pile up and then what do you do with them? Throw them away.

Jewelry is lovely, but honestly, I have enough. Trinkets proclaiming love just clutter up the house and I certainly don’t need anything more to dust. I’m not a foodie, so even going out for a nice dinner doesn’t make my heart swell with appreciation.

So Valentine’s Day gifts just aren’t my thing. I’d rather my true love do one or both of these ways that show love – spend engaged time with me either at home or on an adventure or do some act of service for me. And after all of these years of marriage, the Papa of this empty nest, finally gets it.

Love, for me, is showing me you care with actions. Listening to me. Being there when I need you in good times and bad. Through thick and through thin. You know, that for better or for worse thing that so many of us married folks said in our wedding vows.

Years ago, before carpal tunnel and arthritic hands, I enjoyed doing cross stitch projects. The photo above is a piece of that kind of embroidery I completed a long time ago and is an insert on a wooden shelf that has hung on our entry hall wall ever since.

It simply says love abides. And isn’t that the truth? Real, honest to goodness love does abide. Love, no matter what day it is whether it’s Valentine’s Day or just any old Thursday, is what carries us through life.

My Valentine’s wish for you is that you find and keep that kind of love. And you share it with those around you.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers.

“Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at all times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery.” ~ Wendell Berry

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: family birthdays

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

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

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

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When thoughts turn to love

blogDSCN8695 (3)This week of February when we will celebrate Valentine’s Day brings thoughts of love to our minds.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Those profound words about the human emotion of love come straight from God’s Holy Word, the Bible, in the book of First Corinthians, Chapter 13, often called the love chapter.

Those words often come to my mind, not just during February when we celebrate Valentine’s Day, but all year long.

And if I want to consider whether I really am being loving, I insert my name in that passage in place of everywhere the word “love” is used like this:

Mama is patient, Mama is kind. Mama does not envy, Mama does not boast, Mama is not proud. Mama is not rude, Mama is not self-seeking, Mama is not easily angered, Mama keeps no record of wrongs.

Mama does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Mama always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails if Mama is adhering to these words.

“How sweet the words of truth breathed from the lips of love.” ~ James Beattie

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Everything old is new again

blogIMG_6791Remembering where you’ve been in life is a toss-up. Sometimes it brings pleasant memories to the forefront of your mind, but recalling the past can also conjure up those moments you’d rather forget.

Being the Pollyanna that I am, I’d much rather focus on the memories that bring a smile to my face instead of those that make me wince, although I know there is always a lesson to be learned with the not-so-great memories.

As I’ve been cleaning, re-arranging, and purging throughout our country home, memories have surfaced time and again, giving me pause to stop my frenzied crackdown on all of this accumulated stuff and just simply remember.

Probably the reason we are inundated with too many belongings is because we’ve haven’t moved in the last 19 years, topping our record for the amount of time we’ve actually lived in one house (prior to that it was six years).

When Papa’s career caused us to be more mobile and relocate every few years, we  eliminated the unnecessary more often because it was simpler than moving a boatload (or a truckload) of stuff around the country.

But now in addition to our own paraphernalia acquired by living in one place for this long, it seems we’ve become a storage unit for our grown children. And then there are those items from both sets of our parents that somehow found a new home with us after our folks passed away.

And it’s all cluttering up our basement, which I will descend upon once I get the rest of the house squared away.

I’m actually pretty good at tossing a lot of our non-essential stuff when I put my mind to it and during this latest bout of cleaning out, the donation and garage sale piles keep growing larger.

But those sentimental items that bring to mind such dear memories? Not so easy to part with.

Like the old printer’s type box (photo above) hanging on our wall and filled with tiny mementos from places we’ve visited or our children have ventured to over the last 40+ years.

When Papa and I were young newlyweds living the Army life in southwestern Oklahoma, we would travel to Dallas, Texas for weekend fun occasionally.

On one of those trips, we shopped at a unique place called Olla Podrida, a huge building not styled like a mall but filled with many eclectic shops featuring artisan’s works for sale – everything from pottery to paintings to stained glass to handcrafted jewelry to woodcraft to clocks and collectibles.

A place that doesn’t exist anymore in the real world but still lives on in my memories.

While there, we posed for one of those ‘old-time’ photographs and purchased several items including the printer’s type box – interesting to me because I worked at a daily newspaper at the time.  We also bought a couple of old type letters and some miniature trinkets to place in the box.

And ever since, that box has hung on a wall in all of our homes. Today it is filled to the brim with mementos. I’m not quite ready to part with it yet, but we must stop buying those little curios to place in the box because there is no more room.

So for now, it stays on the wall. But I am making lots of other changes. While cleaning out closets, I came across some items special to me and I decided they shouldn’t be hiding out beneath our summer clothes, but displayed somewhere in sight.

So the bedroom that used to be our son’s is now the family heirloom room centered around the 1940’s bedroom suite that belonged to my parents. My grandmother’s 1920’s era clock sits on the armoire. Old family photos decorate the room along with a little porcelain shoe that doubles as a pincushion which belonged to my Great Aunt Flora who gave it to me when I was a young teenager. 

Junk to some, but treasures to me.

My cleaning out days have yielded much. Much to discard. But much to delight in and in a way, it’s like a new beginning. Rearranging some of the rooms in our house, changing decorations, discarding some old items but replacing them with older vintage things, many which are family ‘treasures.’

It’s all new and just the change I needed to make.

New year. Old stuff. But new look. I think I like it.

“Old things are better than new things, because they’ve got stories in them.” ~ Kami Garcia, Beautiful Creatures

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A letter’s reminder

person holding handwritten letter

Photo by Bryan Schneider on Pexels.com

January has been clean up month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That handwritten letter I found in the closet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Words for Wednesday: winter won’t last

blogimg_6781The long month of January is finally coming to a close. And as the snow still flies outside my window and temperatures plummet to single digits and below, winter still clutches us in its grasp.

We still have the winter month of February to come and often we get record amounts of snow during those 28 or 29 (if it’s Leap Year) days. And we’ve even been graced with the white stuff throughout March in the past, so…who knows when winter will depart? Not even the groundhog knows for sure.

No doubt spring probably won’t arrive for quite some time yet.

But in the words of our Little One (our oldest grandchild who will soon turn four), “When is it going to be Spring? I miss the grass!”

She likes snow and enjoys playing in it, even begging Papa to let her help shovel the sidewalk, but like the rest of us, she still yearns for sunshine and warmth and color.

“No winter lasts forever. No spring skips its turn.” ~ unknown

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Throwback Thursday: you’ve got mail

blogDSCN0557My good blogging buddy, Dianna over at These Days of Mine posted yesterday about old-fashioned handwritten letters and notes and issued a challenge for readers to hand write a letter or note to someone each week.  Click here to read her thoughts.

In this age of smart phones, tablets, and laptops, I’m still a handwriting person. I hand write grocery lists. I hand write notes. I hand write recipes. I hand write my “to do” lists. And occasionally, I still hand write letters.

So accepting her challenge is right up my alley. It also prompted me to thinking about how much I love getting a handwritten letter in my own mail box and inspired me to share one of my old posts about finding mail (but not the bills!) in my actual mailbox.

So today is a “Throwback Thursday” post I wrote nine years ago back in 2010.

Mail delights me.

I’m not talking email, but good old fashioned letters sealed in envelopes, letter or business size; addressed to me; adorned with one of a myriad of stamp designs; and delivered to my mail box at the end of my driveway by my faithful mail delivery person.

As long as I can remember, getting mail has been a significant aspect of my day.  I have always been enchanted by receiving mail and Christmas time, when my mailbox gets stuffed with cards from friends near and far, sends me into sheer bliss.  I actually fight with my family over who gets to open the Christmas cards each day, and I’m a little ashamed to admit I want to be first!

Getting mail is a ritual of my day that I don’t like to miss, whether it’s stopping by my mailbox on my way home from the office or walking up my long, gravel driveway on my day off to retrieve the mail.  Want to make me giddy with glee?  Send me mail!

Where did this quirky facet of my personality come from?  How did receiving mail become such a priority in my life?   

I’m not certain, but I can remember as a very young child asking my parents every day if there was any mail for me.  Sadly, the answer was always no until one miraculous day.   I can honestly recall the very first time I ever received mail addressed only to my 4-year-old self.

That day was a day like no other; it was a day when the universe seemed to acknowledge that I existed.  It was such a monumental occasion that I still remember – even now –  the feeling I encountered when my mom uttered the magical words, “You’ve got mail!”

A captivating communiqué just for me! Charming correspondence addressed to me!  Exciting epistle delivered to me!  It was a phenomenal moment.

The envelope was large and my name and address were written on it in strong, sure handwriting that looked familiar – distinguished handwriting that I would discern and recognize as I got older. 

On the right hand corner of the envelope was a 3-cent stamp.   (Yep, it only cost three cents to send a letter back then.)  Inside that envelope was a comical greeting card with a crazy cartoon cat. The card was a Valentine and it was signed, “Love, Your Daddy.”

Yes, I had an amazing father, whom I loved and cherished, and he made me feel very special.  And that very first piece of mail he sent to me was, and still is, a treasure.  Over 50 (now 60!) years later, I still possess that piece of mail, envelope and all, preserved in my memento box.

What makes me disheartened today is that people don’t send mail like they did in the past.  Letters and cards don’t magically arrive in my mailbox on a daily basis.   Instead there are unwanted advertisements, unsolicited requests for monetary contributions for causes or political campaigns, bills (there’s always lots of those), an occasional catalog.

The crusade to perform all your communication electronically seems to have won the day for most people.  So tell me, what will a little girl save in her memory box? Will she really remember that one time her daddy sent her an email or text message?

As often happens, my mind turns to spiritual thoughts as I write this.  Wouldn’t it be amazing, I think, to get mail from God?

You open your mail box to discover a brilliantly luminous envelope addressed in your name written in exquisite gold filigree lettering.  Turning the envelope over, you get a whiff of the most fragrant sealing wax on the back, embossed with “I  AM.”

You carefully slit open the envelope to find the most beautifully textured, translucent piece of vellum your hands have ever touched.   Unfolding it, your eyes fall upon these words, “My Dearest Daughter (or Son) …”

You can’t wait to behold what this magnificent missive, this lustrous letter has to impart to you.   Eagerly you continue reading, “I have known you and loved you even before I created you.  Why do you think I have never ‘sent’ you anything before this letter?  I sent you my love and faithfulness (Psalm 57:3).  I sent you my one and only Son,  Jesus Christ, so you may have eternal life. (John 3:16)  I sent you the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to teach you all things and remind you of everything Jesus said. (John 14:26)  And I have sent you my living and holy Word to read for understanding and guidance.  Dear beloved one, I send you ‘mail’ every day.   All you have to do is have faith, believe in me, communicate with me in prayer, and look for my daily mail.   Love beyond measure, Your Eternal Father God.”

You’ve got mail.  All you have to do is open up your mailbox (your Bible) and accept it.

“All a good letter has to do is make you feel special.” ~ unknown 

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: January bare branches

blogimg_6997January always seems like such a long month especially since we are usually caught in the throes of blustery winter weather where I live.

Snow, ice, blasts of frigid temperatures, bleak and often dismal skies. That’s usually the norm here every January. And this first month of 2019 proves no different from years past.

I happened upon this poem one day while gleaning for thoughts on our coldest season of the year and it seemed to perfectly accompany a photo I took in the dead of a January winter a couple of years ago.  The poem’s ending also fits well with the ideas of light rolling around in my mind for over a week now.

January Morn

Bare branches of each tree
on this chilly January morn
look so cold so forlorn.
Gray skies dip ever so low
left from yesterday’s dusting of snow.
Yet in the heart of each tree
waiting for each who wait to see
new life as warm sun and breeze will blow,
like magic, unlock springs sap to flow,
buds, new leaves, then blooms will grow.

Like heart and soul in every man
who let their light grow ever dim
a spark still burns low within
longing to burst forth, to shine again.
Like bare branches on a January morn
don’t feel cold, don’t feel forlorn.
Our Heavenly Father like warm spring sun
like gentle warm wind when called upon
will make each light burn bright again. 

By Nelda Hartman

January won’t last forever and neither will winter weather. Soon spring will burst forth in all its glory and winter will be frozen into the past until next year.

What’s January like in the area where you live?

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com