A year of firsts

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First birthday!

It’s the first day of March, so it seems appropriate to proclaim another kind of first. Actually here at Mama’s Empty Nest, it’s been a year of firsts.

Last month, we celebrated one of those firsts – our grandbaby’s first birthday. I know it sounds trite, but truly it is hard to believe a year has come and gone since that amazing day when Papa and I became grandparents (PaPa and Nana) to our very first grandchild.

And what a year of firsts it has been ever since!

First of all, I never realized how much unconditional love can swell up inside your heart until it feels like it might just explode when you lay eyes on that first grandchild of yours.  Friends who were already grandparents tried to explain it to me but I just didn’t get it…not until I held that little bundle of pure joy in my own arms.

And then there’s the firsts of watching that tiny baby becoming her own person. Every milestone a grandbaby achieves, every first from the first smile to the first step fills your heart with so much love, joy, delight, wonder, the list goes on…it’s pretty indescribable.

And being a special Nana to our little darling has exceeded my wildest expectations. When she reaches for me with her tiny little arms, I melt.

When she gives me that adorable toothy grin, I melt.

When she curls up in my lap to read a book together, I melt.

When she giggles and squeals, I melt.

When her eyes light up with excitement, I melt.

When she learns something new and we clap our hands right along with her to celebrate her achievement, I melt.

When she toddles all over the house with those cute little baby steps, I melt.

Often I just gaze at her in wonder…and I melt.  And sometimes tears come to my eyes when I realize how overwhelmed I am with love for this adorable little human being.

With so many firsts crammed into this first year of baby’s life, her mama just had to celebrate by holding a first birthday party for her. 

Family and friends gathered together for her ‘Winter One-derland’ celebration one Sunday afternoon in February, the month our little snowflake turned one year old.  Her aunties and uncles on her mama’s side traveled from miles away just to celebrate this first birthday with the baby niece (their first) who has captivated their hearts as well.   

And even though it was one frigidly cold winter day, our hearts were made warm watching baby girl dressed in her frilly pink, lavender, pale blue, and white tutu (made by her mama) enjoy her first big party in her honor.  

You might say this Nana’s heart was one big melted puddle. And that wasn’t the first time. 

“Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.” ~Welsh Proverb

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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A birthday letter for my daughter

blogIMG_5354My dear middle child,

Today is your birthday – a milestone birthday.  As I think back to the year of your birth, I remember those hot, humid days of August winding down and yet you were reluctant to leave your mama’s womb.  August turned into September and still we waited for your arrival.

Finally, nine days ‘late,’ you arrived in the middle of the afternoon on this day.  When the doctor announced you were a beautiful baby girl, I wasn’t surprised at all.  Your sweet little face captured everyone who met you, and your daddy, your big sister, and I fell instantly in love with you.

Her first birthday

Sweet on your first birthday

Your name means lively and that’s surely what you were.  And happy and sweet and oh, so very full of joy. 

Before I knew it, you were a toddler dancing through the house singing, always singing, and making a joyful noise even if it was in a language only you understood. 

You loved people, being with young and old alike, and telling long stories in your babbling private language.

You were always doing and you were fearless.  Climbing the ladder of the highest sliding board in the park, scaling kitchen counters, exploring outside, riding your bike down hill at breakneck speed, running, playing, laughing, dancing.  No doubt that’s why you wanted to be ‘on the go’ and loved playing soccer so much for so long. 

And all too soon, you were leaping onto the big yellow bus heading off to kindergarten, so proud and excited to be going to school where you could learn, and do, and make new friends.  Ever the social bee, you made friends easily and your elementary teachers always told us everyone wanted to be your friend.

Even at a young age, you showed compassion and caring for others.  When a combative little girl with Down’s syndrome was mainstreamed into your classroom, you befriended her when most of your fellow classmates stayed away from her.  That little girl loved you so much.  She listened to you and would stop hitting people when you calmly reasoned with her on the playground. She ran to hug you every time she saw you. I think she recognized the very sweet soul inside of you.

You were the peacemaker in friendships and between your older sister and younger brother, a position I know wasn’t always easy for you – that middle child thing.  When arguments arose, I distinctly can remember hearing you say, “Can’t we all just get along?”  And the time you talked to a friend who was ‘fighting’ with you by saying, “On the road to friendship, we’ve taken a wrong turn.”  Even though you were just a child, you still exhibited wisdom beyond your years.

I know the years of middle and high school weren’t the easiest for you because you left some very good friends, who shared the same beliefs and values as you, behind when we moved from the Pacific Northwest all the way across the country to my old hometown.  Your real, honest faith and sticking true to your convictions didn’t make you the most popular girl in school, but it made you the nicest and kindest.

And even though you were soft-hearted and sensitive, your fierce fearlessness showed up on the soccer field.  I will never, ever forget watching you as the only girl on that boys’ traveling team. You were their best goalkeeper and you astonished players and parents alike when you challenged a big, brawny opposing player trying to take a shot on you in the beginning minutes of one game. 

You charged forward, threw yourself on the ball, and he sailed over you landing hard on the ground.  Boys on the other team were incredulous and I could hear them saying, “that’s a GIRL!”  while your male teammates were proud to have you as their starting goalie that entire season.

You learned about adversity while competing for a playing spot on the boys’ high school soccer team when the girls’ team disbanded.  You learned life isn’t always fair either and that lesson would carry you through some difficult times ahead.

Before Dad and I could believe it, you were off to college.  Again and again you faced challenges and even some major disappointments.  But you never gave up even when you suffered a concussion serious enough to end your soccer playing days and threaten your nursing studies. 

Instead you persevered and showed great strength through each difficulty you endured but most of all, your faith and trust in God increased. And you used that inner resolve and perseverance to complete your bachelor of science in nursing and switch sports to the college cross country team.  

Your compassion for others and tender-hearted faith led you to take numerous mission trips from medical missions in Mexico to ministering to Native Americans in Arizona to rebuilding and clean-up after Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi.

And all of these experiences and challenges prepared you well for your work the last six years as a confident yet very caring hospital nurse.  Your patients are blessed by your competent hands, sincere heart, and your sweet spirit.

My darling daughter, you are amazing.  

As you reach this milestone birthday – your 30th – you have accomplished a lot but God has so much more in store for you. Because now, you have been given the most wonderful gift – a beautiful baby girl of your own.  You are the mother I always suspected you would be, a patient, loving, devoted mama and it comes naturally to you.  The fierceness you once displayed on the soccer field now shows in your determination to protect and take care of your child in the best way possible.

You are strong, smart,  and you are incredibly brave, even though you don’t think you are.  You have always been a loyal daughter, sister, wife, and friend, and now can add mama to the list.  And, oh yes, still the social bug who loves people and being surrounded by family and friends for fun times.  

Beautiful at 30

Beautiful mommy at 30

Right now, you may be facing the most difficult set-back in your life, yet you are doing so with great strength and even greater faith in God while you put your child first, which is exactly what a devoted mother does.  Your trust in God and reliance on Him does and will continue to sustain you no matter what comes your way.

I’m not only very proud of the woman you’ve become, I admire you so very much, not just for your strength and fearlessness, but for your loving and forgiving soul, extending that graciousness to others, even those who have hurt you.

Daughter, I see Jesus in you and what more could any believing parent ask for?

As we celebrate you this day, I recall the beautiful blessing you have been to us these last 30 years and I give thanks to God for you and for the joy and privilege of being your mother and now the grandmother to your adorable child.

Today as you turn 30, I hope you realize it is just another milestone in the journey of life.  There is so much more on your horizon and this is just the beginning. Our omnipotent God has awesome plans and great purpose for you and your life.  The best is yet to come, I believe that.

God’s Word tells us that the Lord had some astonishing plans for those who served him and they started accomplishing His will when they turned 30:

  • “Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt.” ~ Genesis 41:46
  • “David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.”~ 2 Samuel 5:4
  • “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.”  ~ Luke 3:23

Continue to put your faith and trust in the Lord; He loves you beyond measure and He will bless you, guide you, and make a way for you.

Believe His promises, especially Jeremiah 29:11:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I can’t wait to see what your future holds.  I think you will be astonished.  And Dad and I will always be supportive whatever the future brings.

Happy 30th Birthday, my beloved and beautiful daughter!

Love always,

Mom

“Promise me you’ll always remember:  You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ~A.A. Milne’s Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Birthday thoughts for every day

blogIMG_0675Yesterday was my birthday.

As far as birthdays go, the day started out pretty uneventful.  No balloons, no party, no cake and ice cream. 

Seeing as I am one year away from entering a new decade, I don’t make a big deal out of my birthday any more and I just don’t need that kind of birthday hoopla.  For me, it’s just another day in the life, turning one year older and hopefully, wiser.

Now a real day for celebratory mode happened last month when Mother’s Day rolled around on the calendar.  Mother’s Day is special to me because I am the mom of three grown children,  a mom-in-law to three more special people, and I remember with love and fondness my own mother and mother-in-law who are no longer with us.

This year, Mother’s Day proved a true celebration because all three of my offspring and their spouses traveled all those many miles that keep us apart to come home to our house for that weekend. This blessed me immeasurably because it was their idea to all converge on the home place.

Mama’s Empty Nest was a full house once again.  Full of those I love.  Full of happiness.  Full of laughter.  Full of conversations.  Full of noise!  Full of fun and good food and the joy of being together as a family.

As each couple arrived, my joy-meter soared and it continued that way through the entire Mother’s Day weekend.  Eloquently written, meaningful cards and a perky springtime bouquet of flowers were bestowed upon me and while, the gifts are lovely, the family time spent together means so much more.  

That weekend was just full of happy, happy, happy.  Chats on the couch, stories shared, and friendly competition while bonding over video games, which  previously laid unused and forgotten,  proved to be highlights of our weekend.  That and remote control helicopters flying around the family room!

Sunday brought a full pew end to end at church with all eight of us squeezed in together for worship.  We enjoyed a sumptuous brunch afterwards and one by one, each couple climbed back in their vehicles for their long drives back to their lives elsewhere. 

With that under my belt, you can understand why my birthday wasn’t a big deal.  My family had just been here a few weeks earlier.   So I expected a quiet, uneventful birthday and that’s what I received.

But oh,  there were still blessings poured into my quiet day.  My near-by sister treated me to lunch after church.  My far-away sister phoned me to sing Happy Birthday greetings.   

One my one, my children and spouses called to tell me they loved me and wish me a happy day.  My dear 96-year-old friend also telephoned me with birthday wishes. 

My personal Facebook page blew up with happy greetings and well wishes.  And hubby and I spent a nice peaceful day at home on a beautiful summer-like day just like I love – sunny but not hot with a cooling breeze wafting through.

So it really wasn’t uneventful after all because I felt loved and cared for, content and happy to spend a little time conversing with the ones I love and being remembered.  Isn’t that how every day should be spent?

And that made me think how many people exist that not only don’t get many birthday celebrations,  they don’t feel loved or that their lives even matter to anyone every day.   For whatever reason, their days are spent in loneliness or regret or illness or unhappiness.  And that reminded me how blessed I truly am and that I must do my part to bless and encourage others whose lives I might touch.

Today is June 3.  It’s one day after my birthday.  When I positioned myself at my desk this morning at work, I turned over the leaves on my daily desk calendar on which are printed many of the quotes and scriptures I love. 

As I did that, I stopped to read what was transcribed on the date of my birthday. This is the quotation I read from Stephen Grellet, Quaker missionary:  “I expect to pass through the world but once.  Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being, let me do it now.  Let me not defer not neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Those words written long ago transformed themselves into a message just for me, a message deemed to be an excellent way to commence the first day of another year of life.  I pray I remember the message each and every day.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

One of the best gifts

Sister with her bride doll way back then

Sister with her bride doll way back then

“You keep your past by having sisters.  As you get older, they’re the only ones who don’t get bored if you talk about your memories.”  ~Deborah Moggach

Today is my sister’s birthday.  She’s older than me, but not the oldest sibling.  We have another sister who is the oldest of the three of us. 

The birthday girl is in the middle.  When I was born, she was nine years old and our oldest sister was 12.

For most of my growing up years, this sister probably thought I was a pest.  My sisters and I all shared a bedroom, so it was difficult for my older siblings to escape from me.

I followed my sisters around, no doubt annoying them.  When they listened to music on our oldest sister’s record player, I wanted to listen too.  They just wanted me to go away.  I was way too curious about their stuff whether it was lipstick, jewelry, or what they kept in their purses.  They complained about me getting into their belongings.

When my middle sister started dating, I must have sensed it wasn’t a great idea that she date a particular beau.  I distinctly remember hiding the shoes she wanted to wear on date night.  In my five-year-old mind, if she couldn’t find her shoes, she couldn’t go.

Someone once wrote, “Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize.  Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks.  Borrow.  Break.  Monopolize the bathroom.  Are always underfoot…”

That probably would be a good definition of what my sister thought of me back then.  I think she did find me annoying, always underfoot, and generally a pain.  And then came the day when I basically ruined the one thing she cherished.

Sister received a bride doll at Christmas time one year.  It was the kind of doll you don’t play with, but instead lay on your bed as a sweet keepsake of childhood. 

She planned on keeping it pristine and beautiful, sealed away in its box, until the day my sister married her Prince Charming.  Then, the lovely bride doll would decorate her marriage bed (hey, this was the late 50’s, things were very different back then!).

That was her plan until I ‘played’ with her doll one day while sister wasn’t home.  Being so much younger than my sisters, I often wanted a playmate.  They weren’t willing to comply much of the time because music and boys captivated their interests.   

So that day, I wandered around the house looking for something different to play with.  When I opened the closet door in our bedroom, there she was – the bride doll in her box.

She was so beautiful in her white bridal gown and veil, but I decided to make her lovelier and play ‘beauty shop’ with her.  I took her veil off and proceeded to comb her dark curly hair. 

Ooops, Miss Bridal Beauty started losing a few strands of her hair in my comb!  The more I combed, the more her curls became non-existent and she ended up with a straight, wild array for a hairdo that was anything but becoming.

I moved on to her face.  She needed a better make-up job.  So I ‘borrowed’ my sister’s lipstick and smeared it on Bridal Beauty’s face.  Suddenly, I realized she didn’t really look better like I had envisioned she would.  I placed her back in the closet hoping sister wouldn’t notice.

As if!  Oh, the scorn of it all.  How dare I touch her treasured doll, let alone positively ruin it!  She huffed and puffed and cried and rightly so.  I really did feel terrible because of what I had done. 

I often thought my sister never forgave me for my naughty misdeed.  I know she never forgot because even as adults, she would occasionally mention the time ‘you ruined my bride doll.’

Years passed by.  My sister married and moved out of the house, just like my older sister had also done.  I grew up, married, and moved far away.   As adults, my sisters and I became very close even though we lived in different areas of the country. 

Through the years, we have always been there for one another in good times and bad.  The quote I cited above ends like this:  “…But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there.  Defending you against all comers.”  ~Pam Brown 

So true.  And that adequately describes the bond my sisters and I have today.

Almost 15 years ago, my family (hubby, my children, and I) moved back to our homeland.   A few months later, my father and I took my cancer-stricken mother shopping one day just for a little diversion.  Christmas would come soon and it would be the last holiday we would spend with our mother.

As Mom and I looked around in one shop  (window shopping as my mom would say), I saw it – a gorgeous doll, garbed in wedding white complete with a bridal veil. 

I picked it up and told my mom, “I know what I’m getting Sister for Christmas, this bride doll.  It’s not exactly like the one I ruined, but maybe she’ll treasure it like she did that one all those years ago.”

My mom smiled and agreed it was a great gift.

That Christmas, I could hardly contain my excitement.  It felt like being a kid again to see what my sister’s reaction would be when she opened her special gift.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I just hoped she’d be pleased and put that hurt I had caused her away for good.  I just wanted to make amends and the doll was my atonement.

The new bride doll in 1998

The new bride doll in 1998

Sister opened her brightly wrapped Christmas box and she was stunned.  She burst into tears at the sight of a beautiful bride doll and she immediately knew what this gift represented. 

Sisterly love.  The kind of love that sometimes hurts, but always still endures.  The kind of love that wants to make it all better.  The kind of love we sisters have for one another.

It was one of the best gifts I’ve ever given another person. 

And on this day, this best day of the year, I celebrate one of the best gifts I’ve ever received – my sister. 

Happy Birthday, dear sister!

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Beautiful June day

My dad playing ladder golf on his 90th birthday.

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is a gorgeous day here at Mama’s Empty Nest.

I’m sitting outside on my back yard deck in the cool low 70’s temperature of the afternoon.  The sun is shining and warms my face.

When I look up from my laptop, the view that greets me is baby blue sky dotted with the fluffiness of cottony clouds and different hues of green in the trees and expanse of yard behind our house.

Next door is a corn field, newly planted by the farmer, and sprouting stalks already.  I close my eyes and inhale the scent of blooming peonies and cut grass and I think about my father.

It is a beautiful June day and I am blessed.   Not only have I just celebrated our middle daughter’s wedding but I celebrated yet another year of life since my birthday was the day after the nuptials.

I spent those two days surrounded by family and friends making memories that will last a lifetime.  And for this birthday, I received a special gift – a son-in-law.

My father as a young man around 1940.

Today in my book called Opportunity, I whisper to the God I love, the One who sustains me, the Heavenly Father who provides, the Friend who never leaves and is always with me.

I tell Him how grateful I am for this beautiful day, this life He has given me, these treasures of family and friends and I thank Him.

But today is another special day, it is June 7 –  the anniversary of my own earthly father’s birth.  If he were still alive, my dad would be 93 on this day.

As I think of him today, I give thanks that God blessed me with such a fine example of a man to be my daddy.  He was kind, he was loving, he was generous, he was respected by all who knew him.  He was a man of integrity and fine character and he taught me so much.

Even though I miss him still, so much so that I cry, I see his influence all around me.  I see it in the good common sense he taught me that I put into practice; I think of him as I balance our check book, a skill he taught to me at an early age.

He comes to my mind when the fragrance of  freshly cut grass reaches my nose.  And I see him reflected in my son’s face, who I think resembles my dad when he was a young man.

And in my mind’s eye, I see my dad, sitting on the porch, straw hat in hand, resting a bit after mowing the four acres of his homestead and enjoying a beautiful June day just like today.

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Lessons Mom taught me

My mother as a young woman

Here at Mama’s Empty Nest we’re preparing for our middle daughter’s wedding next week.  I’m sure my readers may be growing tired of reading about it,  but with all three of our adult children saying “I Do’s” this year, weddings have consumed my life in this season.

And while in the throes of going bridal, there’s been a little empty spot in my heart and my bride-to-be daughter’s.

Both of her grandmas will be missing on daughter’s special day.   My mother-in-law passed away almost 14 years ago and we lost my mother to cancer six months after that.

Today would have been my mother’s 93rd birthday.   I’m re-posting a blog I wrote a year ago about my mom, my children’s beloved maternal grandmother, in honor of her birthday.

I imagine my mother was an ultimate surprise when she was born to my grandparents after 19 years of marriage and no children.   She surely was the apple of their eye as their only child.

She certainly was the apple of mine.  Washington Irving said it well when he wrote:

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”

I loved and admired my mother so much, it’s difficult to express in words.  I watched her with awe and respect, especially in her last year of life as she bravely and without complaint battled the cancer that was taking her body captive.

Mom was one of the strongest, most determined people I’ve ever met; she had a feisty spirit and she was fun (ask any of her grandchildren!). She loved God, her family, and her home.  She was happiest when she was whipping up goodies in the kitchen and watching her loved ones enjoy her home cooking.

Crafts, sewing projects, quilting, crocheting – all right up her alley.  Any ideas to enhance her home or anything she could make with her own hands to give as a gift caught her attention  – just one of the ways she demonstrated her love.  She especially enjoyed planting flowers in her garden and watching her six grandchildren flower as well.

When I was a squirrelly teenager, my mother suffered through menopause.  The combination wasn’t exactly compatible so we butted heads often.  Sometimes, she just made me so mad, I would stomp up the stairs to my room and cry my eyes out.  And I know I made her just as angry.  But not once, did we ever stop loving one another.

As an adult, I realized first-hand the stresses my mom endured.  And I sadly recall wounding my mom so badly one time during my teenage years.  After yet another ridiculous battle of words I waged with her, I had shouted, “You don’t love me and you never did!”

I’ve never forgotten the look of horror on her face as she recoiled from my venomous words.  She seemed to wilt as she slowly sat down and tears quietly streamed down her cheeks.

I don’t believe I have ever regretted words more than those ugly ones I flung at her that day.   The power to reduce my mother to tears did not give me satisfaction, instead it made me realize what a spoiled brat I was being and I never hurled hurtful words like that to my mother again!

But through those trying years, Mom never stopped encouraging me, giving me good advice when I needed it, and loving me.  She urged me to be the first person in our family to attend college.

Without admonition, she expected me to try my hardest at whatever I endeavored.  I remember many late summer nights, swaying gently back and forth side by side on the front porch swing, having conversations with Mom about boyfriends, what college life would be like, and dreaming about my future.

Later, I would make my mother cry again.  When I married my true love and we loaded our belongings into a U-Haul trailer to move half-way across the country, my mother wept.  And every time we visited my parents from our home away from home, she would once again cry each time we said goodbye.

My Mom was always my rock.  She was the one I turned to for help, to vent, to rail against the injustices of my world because I knew she was always on my side.  And she always knew what to say to pick me up, dust me off, and send me back on my way.

She provided the strong arms of comfort into which I collapsed with hysterical tears in an airport ladies room after sending my military husband off to a foreign land for a year’s tour of duty.   Pregnant with our first child and saying goodbye to my husband, who would miss the birth of that child, was the most heart-wrenching task I had ever endured.

And it was Mom, who held me tight, rocked me in her arms even while she cried with me, and whispered in my ear, “You’ve got to think about this new little life you’re carrying inside of you.  You’ve got to be strong for the baby.”

I didn’t want to be strong.   But I learned to be.  And that’s one of the lessons I learned from my mother who portrayed strength every day, even as she lay dying all those years later.

Today in my book of Opportunity, I miss my mother terribly. But I can almost hear her whisper, “You’ve got to think about your family, your children.   You’ve got to be strong for them now.” And so I muster up the fortitude to carry me through this exciting yet exhausting year of marrying off my offspring and to endure watching them totally fly out of this empty nest.

Thanks, Mom for teaching me about the commitment of motherhood and the love of family.  I hope I’ve instilled those same lessons in your granddaughters.

Happy Birthday, Mom.  Give Jesus a hug for me.

“I miss thee, my Mother!  Thy image is still

The deepest impressed on my heart.” ~Eliza Cook

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com