Posted in Life, life changes

Living the life

Phrases my mother often said come back to me regularly. One of those is living the life of Riley.

What does it mean? If you live the life of Riley, you possess an easy, pleasant life, footloose and fancy free.

When I researched that particular idiom, I learned that, most likely, the saying first originated in the early 1900’s but became a common catchphrase during World War I. Possibly, my mother learned it from her parents, who were married in 1900.

By the 1940’s when my parents married, the expression had become quite popular and actually, The Life of Riley was the title of a radio comedy show, then a film, and finally a television show during the years 1953-58.

Even though I was very young during those years, I do recollect that TV program and the main character, Chester Riley, always remarking, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

So why does my memory bank divulge this bit of trivia? Two things really. First is a photograph I recently captured of a cat named Bentley. He definitely lives the life of Riley as he’s an indoor cat doted on by his people, our daughter and grandchild.

He lounges around their house, has plenty of food to eat and water to drink, toys to entertain him, windows to watch birds and wildlife outside, comfy spots for napping, loving affection and attention, and opportunities for mischief to achieve. A pretty pleasant life, don’t you think?

And when Papa and I visit their home, he greets us at the door, headbutts us for attention, and then promptly sprawls out on the rug like the photo demonstrates. And he stays that way for a good while.

Just livin’ the life. And getting lazy and fat. Our grandchild’s nicknames for him are either “Fat Boy” or “Handsome Man.”

And that brings me to my second reason “living the life of Riley” came to my mind. Not many of us are living the life of Riley nowadays. Carefree days seem to have come and gone.

Recent events coupled with the virus pandemic and being in the throes of winter – we were socked in with ice yesterday – surely do not make us feel footloose and fancy free.

Some of us are watching what’s occurring around the world and especially in our own nation and thinking, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

Still, we must search for what’s good about life and embrace that, because even if we’re not living life exactly as we’d like, we still have a life to live.

It’s what we do with this life that matters. How shall we live? With purpose and meaning, persevering however we can to maintain the freedoms we have taken for granted so much in the past.

“Every day, it’s important to ask and answer these questions: ‘What’s good in my life?’ and ‘What needs to be done?’~ Nathaniel Branden

©2021 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in Life

Once upon a stranger

I could never imagine it was something I would find missing in my life.

But that was before we were hunkered down under restrictions spanning the globe because of a tiny, microscopic thing called a virus.

For most of my adult life, I’ve realized that I’m someone who is very “approachable.”  So approachable that I often found myself annoyed by that aspect and I confess that, more times than not, I’ve complained about discussed it with my husband as to the reasons why.

I don’t know if it’s because I don’t look threatening. Or if I just exude a niceness vibe. Or if I just seem helpful. Or if I have an invisible to me, but visible to others sign that hangs around my neck proclaiming, “Talk to me, I won’t be rude to you.”

Or perhaps it’s because I am a mother. When our kids were teenagers, one of their friends once described me accordingly: “Your mom is such a… mom.”  Many of my kids’ friends actually called me mom or Mama M. Honestly, that’s partially where my blog title evolved from – “Mama’s Empty Nest” – named thusly because, in addition to our own children, those throngs of teens and young adults that used to frequent our home grew up and it became extremely quiet around here.

Whatever the reason, I am often a target for complete strangers who find me approachable and available to talk to at length. I could be anywhere, simply minding my own business in a doctor’s waiting room or perusing grocery store aisles, and someone either asks me a question as a conversation starter or just begins chatting with me. Even my husband or someone else accompanies me, I am the one who attracts those folks. It’s like they’ve never heard the term, “stranger danger.”

I must state here that I have never felt threatened by those approaches or that the person attempting a conversation with me has a dastardly deed in mind. No, I simply acknowledge that those chatters must have needed someone to talk to at that particular time and place and there I was. Approachable me.

I can’t even recall all of the instances because there have been so many, but I do remember one occurrence very distinctly. Several years ago, our car needed service at a local dealership and since Papa was still a traveling sales rep at the time and out of town, the chore fell to me.

While sitting in the service department waiting room, an elderly man began chatting me up. I mean talking, talking, and talking. I’m not even sure he gave me opportunity to respond but if he did, I chose not to encourage him with answers and attempted several times to just end the chat, not engage, look away, but true to myself, not in a rude manner. You get my drift.

Finally, one of the garage mechanics stood in the doorway and asked me to step outside the waiting area saying he needed to discuss something about the car with me. Of course, I gladly complied. Once outside the door, the mechanic confessed that there really wasn’t anything to discuss with me, he was just “rescuing” me from the older gentleman.

The mechanic then explained that apparently, that man made it an ongoing routine to visit the garage every few days, without any car needing service, just to converse with customers, continuously. Rather than run him off, the garage employees merely endured him, but also managed to assist those cornered into long one-sided conversations with the fellow escape.

Oh, was I ever thankful for that ‘rescue’ yet as I was paying my bill, the chatter tried yakking to me once again. I simply had to hurriedly walk away to the sanctuary and silence of my car to get away from him, but I vividly remember shaking my head and asking myself, “Why me?”

Why do strangers feel compelled to initiate discussions with me? Why do they desire to tell me their life’s story? Why do they have no qualms about even approaching me let alone spilling their guts?

It’s a mystery I haven’t solved yet, but it’s also a mystery that I find myself missing and I never thought I would think that. Right now those encounters are elements of the past. Of course, we aren’t out and about among strangers very often. But even so, if we do happen to visit a public place, no one approaches me for anything.

This pandemic has made us fearful of other people. Masked up, we can’t see people’s facial expressions easily. We must keep a distance of at least six feet and most people take a wider berth than that around someone in the same aisle as them as though we fear one another greatly.  No one seems to even look at another, let alone stop to chat.

It’s as if we’ve all become robots, simply going about our tasks quickly and without any personal contact with another human being. We’ve quashed human interaction. This cursed virus has stolen that from us in the name of safety. And I wonder how much damage it is inflicting on our mental and emotional health.

I miss those days of seeing other people’s faces unmasked. Heck, I miss seeing people, period. I even miss those times when a complete stranger approaches me to commence a conversation or tell me a story or, like the bearded Amish fellow who once approached me in a grocery store aisle, ask me where the maraschino cherries might be located.

I’m approachable. And I only hope I stay that way because at least it provides interaction with other human beings. I don’t want to live a solitary life without any company. We need each other, now more than ever even if it’s just a chat in a store aisle.

“No man is an island, entire of itself.” ~John Donne

©2021 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in Life, photography

Cold hands, warm heart

This often-quoted line came to my mind yesterday morning: “From your mouth to God’s ears,” meaning may you be blessed with that for which you asked. 

What prompted that thought? Dazzling, eye-squinting sunshine! It’s what I’ve longed for to gladden my mood and provide impetus to pull myself out of my January doldrums during this dismal month after days upon days of overcast, bleak skies.

Unlike a lot of folks, I really don’t mind winter weather unless it’s lacking sunshine and snow cover. Frigid weather, accompanied by brilliant sunshine and snowflakes, invigorates me and you might compare me to Elsa from the Disney animated film, Frozen, which I’ve watched more times with my grandchild than I care to count.

“The cold never bothered me anyway.” ~Elsa

I’m one of those strange souls who still uses ice cubes in my daily glasses of water even during the winter season. And iced tea remains a staple in our refrigerator throughout the cold months of the year. I recently liked finding an ice “sculpture” which had formed on a mug of iced tea when it somehow got pushed to the very back of our fridge overnight.

So yes, I like cold weather, cold drinks, and the sensation of being cold instead of overwhelmed by heat and humidity. All of that may be a leftover from my menopausal days of yore when I felt like I would spontaneously combust into flames most of the time.

One morning this week, we awakened to a blanket of white covering the landscape and even though skies were drab, our Little One (who had a day off school) was excited about playing in the snow. Especially fun was breaking out the snow stompers Papa and I had recently purchased for our grandchildren to enjoy at our house during a snowy season.

The stompers attached to snow boots create tracks that look like either a dinosaur or a monster (depending on what she fancies at the time) and our grandchild had fun making tracks on our sidewalk and in the snow, which brought much needed laughter and smiles on my account. 

The next day, more snowfall made glistening by a beaming orb of light in an azure-colored sky greeted me when I opened the window blinds. Snow and sunshine. Makes me happy.

I just had to step out onto our front porch to capture the sun. Even though the air was chilly and snow covered the ground and shrubs, the sunshine warmed my face which in turn, warmed my heart. You know, “cold hands, warm heart.

Winter days like that help me get through the January blues, which for me are grays.

“You can’t get too much winter in the winter.” ~ Robert Frost

©2021 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in Life

A wonderful life

It was a much-needed reminder – a kind of writing on the wall, so to speak.

As much as I’ve tried to stay positive, encouraging, and upbeat during the majority of this past year, I have to confess I’ve experienced moments of discouragement, tinges of melancholy, and my heart has been heavy.

Even though January provides a fresh new start of another year of life on this spinning planet of ours, it’s often a difficult month to muddle through – at least for me. First of all, it’s often a bleak, colorless period of time since it’s winter and we don’t receive an abundance of sunshine. Secondly, it’s a long month – all 31 days long. And lastly, it’s always a bit of a let-down from joyfully celebrating holidays prior to it.

Toss in the isolation and restrictions of the pandemic, the depressing news, and sometimes…sometimes…it just gets the best of me. Especially since Papa and I couldn’t enjoy either Thanksgiving or Christmas with our entire family gathered around.

For me, faith is foremost in my life, then family. And without all of my family (most of whom we haven’t seen in person since last summer), the holidays just didn’t seem like the festive occasions they should be, even though my thoughts were on thankfulness for God’s blessings and for the greatest gift of all – His Son Jesus.

Even so, instead of feeling blue, I’ve been feeling gray. Drab, dreary, gloomy gray. Facetime and Zoom meetings are great and all, but they are not a fulfilling substitute for hugging your children and grandchildren. Text messages may serve a purpose but don’t take the place of sitting down with a friend face-to-face and conversing. Not being able to get-together with friends and extended family increases the downheartedness.

Because of circumstances beyond our control, my life-long friend (pals since age 6) and I have not continued our daily morning walks for exercise since before Christmas. Those walks not only benefitted me physically but mentally and emotionally as well because we spent our hour of walking conversing about all kinds of life aspects. And I miss that.

But in order to stay active and get outside in fresh (albeit it cold) air, Papa began accompanying me on morning walks. I love my husband, I truly do, but when you are confined to your home 24/7 with your spouse, you begin running out of things to discuss. So, our walks are mostly silent ones.

Finally, one day this month, I declared the need to “get out of town!” So, Papa and I decided a little road trip was in order. We are so thankful to live in a rural area where we can just drive around in our car without mingling with a lot of other people.

With a definite destination in mind, we left after lunch one rare sunny day and enjoyed a leisurely drive, spending the entire afternoon doing so. A change of scenery, even in the dead of winter, proved beneficial and improved my outlook on life.

As evening approached and darkness descended, I marveled at how many homes were still illuminated with Christmas lights and decorations. And then, as we motored through the main street of one town, I spotted something that caused me to shout, “Stop the car!”

Papa knows when I utter that, it means I want to take a photograph, so he safely guided us into a vacant parking spot, and I jumped out of the car with my camera.

On the side of a lovely, three-story brick office building, an illuminated sign of sorts blazed with a message – a message I believe I needed to give me pause to ponder.

“George lassos the moon.”

Stick with me on this one as I explain.

The town we traveled through just happens to be Indiana, Pennsylvania, the hometown/birthplace of famous actor Jimmy Stewart (1908-1997). He starred in 80 films spanning from 1935-1991, and many folks watch one of those films every Christmas season. Even Papa and I did so on Christmas Day as the two of us rattled around this empty nest sans family.

It’s a Wonderful Life, a 1946 movie starring Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore, wasn’t a hit when it premiered but has since become a holiday classic. The story revolves around the character, George Bailey, (played by Stewart) who has big dreams for his life but undergoes several disappointments and difficulties that make him consider it would have been better if he’d never been born.

As the story unfolds, when he is at his lowest possible point in life, George Bailey realizes, with the aid of an angel named Clarence showing him what the world would be like without him, how absolutely wonderful his life really is on Christmas Eve.

One of the lines from the movie is when George tells Mary (played by Donna Reed), “What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word, and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”

Four years later, when George calls on Mary at her mother’s home, Mary, who becomes his wife and mother of his children, displays a piece of artwork with these words “George lassos the moon.”

George lassos the moon – from the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life – illuminated at night on the side of a building in the film’s leading actor’s hometown, a town we just happened to be driving through on our way home.

George lassos the moon – words that prompted me, after a week of feeling sorry for myself, to recall a movie which encourages its viewers to place life’s circumstances in perspective.

Why should we do so? Because there is purpose for every life. No matter how gray life may seem, no matter how dire circumstances may be, no matter how discouraged we might feel, our lives matter.  Because just like the angel Clarence demonstrated to George, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. And when he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

When I viewed “George lassos the moon” lit up like a Christmas tree in proportions I couldn’t help but notice, it reminded me how important each one of us is to those around us – family, friends, acquaintances, and yes, even those we may not have met in ‘real life’.

That message affirms what I’ve always believed and must never forget – that it really IS a wonderful life, pandemic or no pandemic, life as usual and normal or not because we have been given this life to live as best we can. And we may not realize what positive impacts our lives have on others, but they do.  

My hope is those words encourage you as much as they did me. We must not surrender to despair. Instead, let’s lasso the moon.

“You see George, you really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?” ~ Clarence, the angel, in It’s a Wonderful Life

©2021 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in Life, photography

Snowbirds who stay

A silly little sign reading, “Winter is for the birds,” hangs on one of our kitchen windows.  I purposely placed it there because outside of that window, you can view our birdfeeder attached to our backyard deck.

So winter really is for the birds at our house. Usually, when someone uses this phrase, it means that winter is undesirable, and a lot of folks agree with that statement.

After all, the winter season, especially here in the northern and western hemisphere of the world, delivers cold temperatures, often frigid ones. Frost, ice, and snow along with wind chill factors are the norm, and it can become downright bleak outside.

Most of us think that before winter arrives, birds flock south from this northern clime where I live, but that’s not true for all bird species. Some actually hang around during the winter and don’t pack their bags for Florida like human “snowbirds” do.

Years ago, however, we didn’t see many birds in our yard during the winter season. Possibly, the fact that we owned a calico cat, who believed herself to be quite the hunter and stalker, prevented birds from visiting us.

Once we placed a bird feeder in a backyard tree, things changed somewhat. As we kept it filled with birdseed, we would catch glimpses of cardinals, blue jays, and a few smaller birds here and there, but not many.

Those hoggish black crows tried their darnedest to join the feast also but were too large to get their beaks into the feeder, thank goodness.

A few years later, our beloved Callie went to kitty heaven, and then we purchased a suet cake holder for a front yard tree and a second birdfeeder that could attach to our deck railing. We positioned it so we could view our fine-feathered friends from the windows by our kitchen table.

And fine-feathered friends began arriving in droves or I should say flocks, especially during the winter season.

Not only do we enjoy visits from several Mr. Reds, those bright red, male northern cardinals, but also from their mates, females of muted brown with small slashes of red.  They stand out so brilliantly against a snowy scene.

But we’ve also spied several different bird species, common to our area of the state, but not really noticed by us before we started tempting them into our yard with a smorgasbord of seeds.

So far, in addition to the flashy cardinals, these lovely birds are partakers of our free eats: tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee, white-throated sparrow, house finch, song sparrow, American goldfinch, cat bird, and black-eyed junko. But I haven’t managed yet to get photos of all of them.

Blue jays still try to chase the other birds off and perch unsuccessfully on the feeder to grab some tasty morsels, but they soon give up and fly away because they are just a mite too big to sit there comfortably munching away. Larger birds like mourning doves have also gravitated to our outdoor dining area but gather on the ground below the feeder to gobble up seeds that fall.

Often, it looks like a bird convention at that feeder, but when I try to move close enough to the window to capture a photo, they get spooked and fly off. Still, during these cold winter days when we’re socked into our home, not so much because of weather conditions as the continuing pandemic restrictions, birdwatching provides enjoyment for us.

That’s not the only reason we keep refilling the feeder though. As we supply a little nourishment for the birds, we also provide them a little shelter from the snow.

Watching our little visitors supplies a feeling of serenity and a bit of peace for us. Those moments cause us to be still and silent as we watch at the window, so we don’t frighten our fine feathered friends away.

Is winter really for the birds? Definitely, at least at our house.

“Feeding the birds is also a form of prayer.” ~ Pope Pius XII

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life

What’s in a year?

What’s in a year? It depends on your perspective, doesn’t it? The dawning of a new year of life, as fresh as a pristine layer of newly laid snow, has an even more profound impact on me now than it did when I was younger.

Back then, I didn’t actually ponder much about what a new year meant. Oh, it signified I would become one year older and when you’re young, that seems so very important.

This is the year I become a teenager. Or this is the year I can get a driver’s license. Or this is the year I graduate from high school and move on to something better.

Or this is the year…you can fill in the blanks with your own benchmarks you may have aspired to as a youngster.

Even back in my early adulthood, I didn’t give much thought to the onset of a newly arrived beginning except possibly to make New Year’s resolutions that I never kept.

I may have considered that certain aspects of life might transpire in a newly arrived year like getting married, acquiring a different job, giving birth to children, purchasing a new home, making a move, or reaching a milestone birthday, but as I reflect back on those years, my focus always seemed zeroed in on something tangible, something concrete or physical.

But now in my later years when more than half of my expected lifespan is past, my thoughts are completely different as I contemplate 2021 stretching out before me.

What’s in a year? A year can make a huge difference in a life. A year can bring joy or sorrow, health or illness, pleasure or pain, increase or decrease, growth or atrophy. We have no way of knowing what a year may deliver to us.

But I do know one thing – a brand new year provides opportunity if we choose to take it, a chance to embrace a change, or make a difference, or impact someone else’s life.  

I once read somewhere that the word year is used over 700 times in the Bible, God’s Holy Word. And I firmly believe it is God, Creator of all, who gives us not only our years but also opportunities to start over not just at the onset of a new year but at the dawn of each new day.

The question is what will I do with the time I am allotted? Will I focus on myself and my own little bubble of the world or will I reach beyond that? Will I strive to share only physical aspects of life or will I share something much deeper than that?

The most critical choice in my mind is something I believe is vital for people to know and understand – my faith in a Savior, a Redeemer, a Giver of eternal life.

Why? Because not all of us may have a year, or a day even, left on this earth. And what comes next means the difference between everlasting life and eternal death. Not all of us know or understand that there is a Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) that loves us beyond measure and He wants us to be saved from a destiny of damnation.

I searched my study Bible’s concordance for citations of the word year and found a verse that truly spoke to me located in the New Testament book of 2 Peter, Chapter 3, Verse 8: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (New International Version)

The Message, which is a modernized easy-to-read version of the Bible, puts that same verse this way: “Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.”

So He gives us a new year, another opportunity. Or maybe only a day. Time to change before it’s too late.

God’s timing is that a day to Him is a thousand years, but we humans don’t have a thousand years to share our faith in Christ with others. We have only 24-hours in a day and 365 days in a year, if God so ordains.  A short amount of time to tell others about the saving grace of a Savior, one who gives us a new soul.

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year but rather than we should have a new soul.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in gratitude, Life

Chasing mirages

Just when I start to feel sorry for myself, being isolated and so bone-weary of it, stuck at home with dismal, overcast, gray skies in the throes of winter, some thoughts cross my mind making me shake off my lethargic woe-is-me attitude and pause to be grateful.

It seems to be our human nature to always want what we can’t have. Some of us live our entire lives this way, always wanting more and more to fill up some vast void deep inside of us. We think that if we just had this magic cure-all, this latest do-thingy, this status-symbol invoking whatever, it will make us feel like we have a “good” life.

And really, all of those things we long for or thirst after are only just mirages. They never will make us feel whole and satisfied.

Dull, dreary surroundings get the best of me especially when sunshine is lacking. And I feel like I’m grasping for something that just isn’t there – that mirage image – instead of taking time to realize what I do have. 

Do I have sunshine every day? Nope, not when I live in a part of my home state which is notorious for having more overcast days than not.

Can I travel too far outside my home right now? Nope. That dratted virus is still causing fear and panic.

Can I visit friends and family near and far? Nope due to a repeat of the above issue.

Can I explore new indoor places/activities/volunteer opportunities/social gatherings? Nope. Same story.

But…I must stop chasing after mirages, even if they’re only in my thoughts, and focus on the real, tangible blessings in my life right now.

I am well, even after a little mishap that kept me from spending any time on electronics or my favorite pastimes of reading and working on crossword puzzles for a couple of days. And all of my family is well also.

I possess all the necessities of life: clean water to drink, nourishing food to eat (and my spouse, Papa, who is enjoying cooking right now), a comfortable home that we own, our own transportation, heat to warm these cold days, electricity, clothes to wear, and means of communicating with family and friends even if I can’t see them in person.

I have companionship with my best friend and husband of 40+ years, and I am loved by family and friends. Furthermore, I have a God who listens, understands, and answers in His perfect way and timing when I tell my troubles to Him in prayer.

And I am reminded that I wouldn’t truly appreciate and be thankful for all of those treasures if life was always sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. Sometimes it takes experiencing dark, difficult, and trying circumstances to consider the saving graces we do have and feel gratitude for them.

What brought all this to my mind? The following quote:

“All sunshine makes the desert.” ~ Arabian proverb

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, New Year, writing

In the beginning

The new year, 2021, has dawned.

As I write this post, I gaze out the window watching snow flurries mixed with raindrops steadily descending on our landscape which just recently became devoid of its snowy white blanket.

Winter really has just commenced here but it seems like that polar season has already occupied my mind and heart lately. I’ve been frozen in place, numb not just from pandemic restrictions and concerns but with a tinge of melancholy as Papa and I ramble around alone, for the most part, in this empty nest made even more so since we couldn’t see all of our family over the holiday season.

So I try to shake off those blue feelings by reminding myself it’s a brand new year. A fresh start for another year of life. January, this first month of the nascent year, is just the beginning of the minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months to come. And shouldn’t the onset of this dawning year be invigorating and one to anticipate with bursting enthusiasm and eagerness?

On New Year’s Day, I opened the window blinds upon awakening and noticed a breathtaking mural painted in the sky – dawn – as it was breaking over the hills. The radiant colors were magnificent and inspiring. Yet, soon afterwards as we dismantled the Christmas tree, my inspiration waned and fizzled just like those worn out twinkling lights lost their sparkle.

I remarked to Papa that I needed to busy myself readying blog posts for the month of January, but where to begin? Especially when that spark of creativity is absent? When new experiences just aren’t happening because we’re “sheltering in place” amidst warnings of another virus surge?  

I lamented to Papa and he sympathetically replied, “That’s right, you’re finished with your lighthouse series, aren’t you?”  I nodded, appreciating that he remembered even though he, not being a writer or given to sparks of creativity with words, doesn’t really understand the mire of doldrums I felt.

Being very uninspired and instead of writing, I wearily opted for cleaning out a pile of scribbled notes I’ve stuffed in my ol’ reliable notebook – the one chock full of quotes worth remembering. And as I sorted, copied the meaningful ones in the notebook, and trashed those hastily written slips, I stumbled across the following:

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”

~ Plato

Simple words of truth, aren’t they?

If you don’t begin, you’ll never accomplish your work. If you don’t begin, your best-made plans are for naught.

If you don’t begin, you are stuck in the same place, frozen by whatever hampers you from moving forward.

If you don’t begin, you can’t create. The God of the universe shows me that in Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

In the beginning…in the beginning…where I am now in the beginning of a new year.

The proverbial light bulb illuminated reminding me that beginning now, in this newly arrived, unexplored, untried, emergent dawn of a new year, I’ve been given the opportunity to embark anew on a writing journey and I must seize it.

Even though we may be restricted physically from traveling too far from home, experiencing new adventures, or even spending quality time with family and friends, no one (or thing) can restrict my thoughts and my urge to assemble words of hope and encouragement on this blog.

And so I embrace and am grateful for another new beginning each morning to share my thoughts or whatever words are given to me, wherever they may take me. I sincerely hope you travel along.  

“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” ~ Meister Eckhart (1260 – 1328), German theologian

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, year in review

Reflections at year’s end

Fast away the old year passes…for many it hasn’t gone by fast enough and we’re hopeful it takes its hardships and upheavals with it. We better not hold our breath waiting for that to take place, but we can’t surrender to gloom and despair either. Instead we pray for the strength to endure.

Hail the new, ye lads and lasses…at 12:01 we greet 2021, a brand new year, but we wonder with trepidation what it will bring. We must trust in God to provide and to always help us persevere, no matter what transpires.

On the cusp of a new year dawning, on this last day of 2020, I revisit this past year with all of its ups and downs. And I remind myself to be thankful, to express gratitude to my God, who holds this world and all within it in the palm of His strong, capable, and mighty hands.

Sing we joyous all together…for so many of my fellow human beings, it’s been difficult to find reasons to be joyful this past year. But we can find joy when we look for it. Often, photos say more than words, so please join me below in a slideshow as I revisit this old, tired year 2020 with joy and gratitude as it fades into my memory bank and I feel at peace. I encourage you to remember the instances that gave you joy this year.

Heedless of the wind and weather…we will get through this difficult time with God’s help regardless if the winds of change come and the ‘weather’ turns foul.

May 2021 bring us all reasons to rejoice, no matter what.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Posted in gratitude, Life

As the year winds down

You know those letters that are tucked into Christmas greeting cards? You either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Some folks find them boring, some folks call them boastful.

Personally, I truly appreciate getting those letters from friends and family at Christmas time because it gives me a little peek into what the year was like for them.  Plus, it seems more personal than just signing your name on a greeting card.

As a natural-born writer, I’m keen on writing Christmas missives and have been doing so for…well, as long as I’ve sent holiday greetings by mail (43 years of marriage). Back in the day, I hand wrote all of those letters – what a task! – but as we joined the home computer rage, it was easier and more efficient to type our greeting and print it out on Christmas themed paper.

This year – this crazy, abnormal as can be year when it seems like our world was topsy-turvy – I still managed to write my annual holiday letter.  Even though we spent a good majority of the year social distancing, sequestered in our home, etc., believe it or not, I still found worthwhile things to share.

How? By concentrating on thankfulness. Why? Because my desire was to encourage those who received our letter to do the same, to remember this year’s aspects that made them grateful.

And even though this Christmas is now relegated to our memories, I’m sharing my 2020 holiday letter with you, not to brag or boast, but instead to demonstrate how we chose to look at the challenges we faced, although I recognize many of you experienced more hardships than most.

As this year winds down, many of us review what transpired before we put the past year to rest, and that’s simply what I did in this letter. But more importantly, my hope is that you may find my words a source of encouragement to reflect on your own past year and find gratitude for something in it, no matter how small or insignificant it seems.

So here goes – our annual holiday letter for 2020:

We sincerely hope this greeting finds you and all your loved ones healthy and well in body, mind, and spirit. What can we say about this past year? Most of us will be happy to see it in our rear view mirrors.

Despite the challenging year it’s been, here’s our attempt to place a positive spin on 2020 because my favorite passage of Scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Notice God’s Word says give thanks in ALL circumstances, not just the pleasant ones.

Our year commenced as usual – providing child care for our oldest grandchild and sometimes driving her to preschool while our daughter worked. As the new year arrived in order to escape the winter doldrums, Papa and I ventured into Pittsburgh to tour the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History and on another occasion, we accompanied daughter and grandchild to the Children’s Museum. Little did we know, outings like those would become non-existent in the coming months…BUT we truly enjoyed those experiences.

Our family celebrated our grandchild’s 5th birthday and as March arrived, Papa and I prepared for an upcoming planned trip. Then news of the corona virus hit the air waves…BUT we already had flight tickets purchased, rental car and hotel accommodations booked so off we flew to Arizona.

After arriving in Phoenix, we drove to the Grand Canyon National Park, a place neither of us had ever visited. Drizzling rain and extremely foggy conditions met us there preventing us from catching a good view of this amazing natural wonder. We feared we would not actually see it…BUT the sun came out and the fog cleared to give us some spectacular sights.

From there, we got some kicks on Route 66 and eventually arrived at my sister and brother-in-law’s home for the rest of our trip. Pouring rain and some unheard of flash flooding (in the Arizona desert) greeted us on our first day there. Adding to that, my sister suffered some back pain issues which nixed all of the sightseeing she had planned…BUT we had already seen many sights on a previous trip there, the guys were able to go desert ATV riding, Papa and I enjoyed morning walks through their neighborhood each day, and we had a relaxing time just spending it with our loved ones.

By now, the pandemic panic increased and our kids frantically texted and called us imploring us to be careful and urging us to fly home sooner than planned…BUT since we were mostly staying put with only my sister and brother-in-law, we didn’t have to worry about being exposed to crowds.

As shut-downs occurred, concern for driving our rental car to Phoenix, staying the night in a hotel, and flying out of a crowded airport the next day or finding our flight cancelled loomed…BUT we managed to find an open drive-through place to get our dinner, a fairly empty hotel, and social distancing in place while waiting for our flight, disinfecting as we went, and because many people cancelled trips, we had a row of seats to ourselves on the plane.

We safely arrived back at our nearly deserted home airport, collected our bags, and were picked up outside by family members. Due to stay at home orders, our nearby city looked eerily like a ghost town…BUT with no traffic on the highway, we made it home in record time.

As you may recall, our middle daughter is a hospital nurse. She was extremely concerned about being Covid-19 exposed and thereby spreading it to her child and us as caregivers for that child, so she made the difficult, heart-breaking decision to separate herself from her child and us for the next 8 weeks…BUT Nana and Papa enjoyed every minute of being with our precious little one 24/7, playing games, make-believe, crafting, preschool learning at home, and thanks to nice weather, being outside.

During that time, our daughter actually was exposed to Covid-19 positive patients and endured a case of the virus herself AND a middle-of-the-night trip by ambulance to the ER while ill…BUT she recovered well, passed a painful kidney stone to boot (ER visit), and experienced so much love and concern from others with prayers, meals, gifts, and well wishes delivered to her mailbox and front porch.

Being apart from the rest of our family (our other grown children and grandchildren who live in other states), for special holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, our littlest grandchild’s first birthday party, and middle grandchild’s fourth birthday certainly wasn’t easy this year…BUT we were grateful for technology providing video conferencing and virtual parties.

As things seemed to calm down and cases subsided by the end of May, our entire family reunited at our son and daughter-in-love’s home in the state next door for a family gathering weekend where we still practiced tons of hand washing and sanitizing…BUT it was so good to see each other in person, spend quality time together in beautiful weather outside on their lovely patio, and watch our three grandchildren play and have fun.

Our family had long planned to take a 2020 beach vacation, renting a house big enough for all 10 of us in order to spend an entire week together. Before the pandemic, we had already booked a place for August. Since virus news continued, we bantered back and forth discussing with angst about what decision to make…BUT all of us decided to go anyway.  We stayed sequestered in our rental; brought food and ordered groceries online; cooked all our own meals; enjoyed the very unpopulated beach where it was easy to social distance every day; and spent time with our little ones in our private swimming pool while the adults enjoyed the private hot tub. We relished relaxing together as a family and it helped our sanity and outlook. Some of us may have cried when it came time to depart for home at week’s end.

This has been a year unlike any other we’ve experienced…BUT we are very grateful for so much:

  • Being retired and able to stay at home;
  • No one in our family lost jobs;
  • Attending church via online worship;
  • Both of our daughters were able to have necessary surgeries and recovered well;
  • Oldest grandchild started kindergarten this fall in school and loves it;
  • Middle grandchild gave her heart to Jesus at the tender age of almost 4;
  • Youngest grandchild learned who Nana and Papa are in person by spending a week with us all at the beach;
  • Because of other activity cancellations, we’ve finished home projects and have time to pursue our hobbies;
  • Taking day-long car trips to get out and about, no need for masks/social distancing when we’re in nature by ourselves and eating picnic lunches outdoors;
  • I managed to lead several women’s Bible study sessions via video conferencing, thanks to my son-in-love who provided tech instructions on how to do so;
  • And that so far, everyone in our family is staying healthy and managing as best we can to endure this time.

We hope and pray that, despite the hardships of this year, you find many reasons to be thankful and that you are blessed beyond measure with peace, love, joy, and mostly HOPE.  May your 2021 be a truly happy and healthy New Year.

My wish for you, my readers, is the same as the one above sent to our family and friends. It’s my daily prayer.

“It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.” ~ Germany Kent

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020