A gift on purpose

blogDSCN9175 (2)I turn the pages and read the words written on tattered, yellowed paper – words written so long ago.  Turning the leaves of the notebook, my attention turns to recent words written on crisp, white paper.

As a lover of words, I’ve maintained a quotes notebook from my college days.  When I discover a line that appeals to me or just want to remember, I jot it down in this book. And I notice many of the lines written – whether old or new – describe friendship.

“We need to have people who mean something to us, people to whom we can turn knowing that being with them is like coming home.” ~ unknown

During the first 20 years of marriage, we roamed far from home to wherever my husband’s career took us.   God faithfully and graciously provided amazing and supportive friends every time.  I still cherish those far-away friends, even though many miles separate us, and stay connected through emails, social networking, and even this blog.

I consider myself so very blessed with some faithful and loyal relationships which have endured the long haul.   Three of those friends are named Mae, Annie, and Leigh (not their real names but they will recognize who they are).

My friendship journey with Mae commenced when we were five years old, just two little whippersnappers enjoying play time together.  We attended the same schools and church and our lives have always been entwined. Annie and I met as school chums in first grade, stayed friends all through our school years, and even attended the same college.   Leigh became my close friend when her parents built a home next door to my parents when we were kids; she was maid of honor at my wedding all those years ago.

My friendship with each of these women has stood the test of time.  We never lost contact with each other as adults, through marriages and raising families, even though I moved away and they stayed in the region surrounding our hometown.  For well over 50 years, we’ve remained friends on purpose.

These gals know me.  I know them.   They are women I turn to for a listening ear, women who give me good counsel, women with whom I have rejoiced, and women with whom I have wept.  They have seen me at my best and witnessed me at my worst, and yet they still like me!  Friendship on purpose.

Since Annie and I don’t live near each other, we try to meet for lunch from time to time at a halfway point between her house and mine.  Often, we have over six months of life to catch up with since we last met. Our lunch ‘hours’ seem too short because we discuss everything and still have more to say.  She encourages me, supports me, yet isn’t timid about giving me food for thought when I need a change in attitude.   That’s why she is one of my most trusted confidantes. We not only share a lifetime of memories, we share our faith in God as well.

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” ~ unknown

Perfect words to describe my on purpose friend Annie.

Mae does live nearby and one afternoon, she stopped by my house for a visit. She couldn’t have picked a better time.  I was feeling low, physically unwell to boot, and her visit lifted me right up out of my fretting pit, causing me to forget my physical maladies and eased my troubled mind as well.  Spending time with a dear old friend proved to be a magic elixir that day.  She knows my history and I know hers.  We’ve grieved together as we’ve lost loved ones, and our friendship is like a comforting shawl we can wrap ourselves in to protect us from the cold reality of this world.

“A person is only complete when she has a true friend to understand her, to share all her passions and sorrows with, and to stand by her throughout her life.” ~ unknown

Perfect words to describe my on purpose friend Mae.

Leigh lives the farthest away.  We don’t see each other nearly as often as we’d like but we chat regularly by cell phone with conversations that can easily last over three hours.  Talking with this friend really is like coming home.  As next-door neighbors growing up, she and I practically lived at each other’s houses.  With Leigh, I can share my innermost thoughts – be they good or bad.  We share the same outlook on life and no matter what happens, we know we’ve got each other’s backs.  Just like we did when we were kids.

“When we are grown, we’ll smile and say we had no cares in childhood’s day, but we’ll be wrong.  ‘Twill not be true, I’ve this much care…I care for you.” ~ unknown

Perfect words to describe my on purpose friend Leigh.

Just when I need them, my on purpose friends are there for me.  I count that as the most amazing gift.

I only hope they view me as a gift as well – one of those rare gifts, the kind you never want to exchange for another, or re-gift to someone else, because you treasure it for yourself.  A gift of friendship on purpose given by the Gift Giver.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

Linking up today using the theme Friendship – On Purpose with (in)courage.

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Give me a T!

Wonderful Team Member Award

Wonderful Team Member Award

You know that old acronym – TEAM?

Together Everyone Achieves More.  It’s true.  It not only applies to the business world but to volunteer organizations as well. 

When we work together as a team, accomplishments happen.  Ideas and dreams become realities.  Working in tandem with others also lightens the load. 

And I think all of that definitely applies here in the blogging world.

Yes, you can be a solo blogger in your own little world.  You may be the type of writer who bleeds out your fears, thoughts, life trials, and sometimes your innermost thoughts and you do it just for yourself.  You don’t want interaction with other bloggers and you don’t care if you have readers or not.

But I suspect most of us are really TEAM bloggers.  Yes, we often write transparently and put our thoughts ‘out there’ in the wide internet world for all to see.  But we cherish our readers and those who take the time to leave a comment whether it’s just a simple “I like this” or a paragraph or two of encouragement.  And that floats our boats and makes us feel like we’re all in this together.

We are a team.  We form communities of writing friends because something strikes a chord in us when we interact with them.  We feel a part of something bigger than ourselves.  It reminds me of a quote by A.A. Milne who wrote the Winnie the Pooh books:  “You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”  

And when you ‘go’ to other bloggers, you find your place on a team making you feel like you’re one of the vital elements of the squad.   Call it a team, a crew, a group, a club, a posse…whatever you call it, you’re a part of it!

Quite a while ago, one of my blogging friends – yes, my teammate – bestowed the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award upon Mama’s Empty Nest.  And in all the busyness that has been going on, I almost neglected to acknowledge this honor.

I’m tickled to have Dor at Virginia Views on my crew.  Not only does her witty writing in her blog delight me  with funny stories, observations, and her photographs, but she also sends me the most encouraging comments.  She’s like the enthusiastic cheerleader that you definitely want on your squad rooting for you!  So I thank her, first for being my wonderful friend, and secondly for the award.

This award is simple.  You don’t have to answer questions.  You don’t even have to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time!  All you have to do is acknowledge your team – fellow bloggers who you truly appreciate.

Here are the rules:

  1. The Nominee shall display the logo on his/her blog.
  2. The Nominee shall nominate 14 readers they appreciate over a period of 7 days, all at once or little by little.
  3. The Nominee shall name his/her Wonderful Team Member Readership Award nominees on a post or on posts during 7 days.

Now some of my favorite bloggers aren’t into these awards, so as their teammate, I’m not expecting or pressuring them to participate.  I simply want them to know how very much I do value their friendships.

So here goes.  Give me a P! Because I am proud, privileged, and pleased to pass the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award to these people:

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  ~ Helen Keller

Give me a T!  E!  A!  M!  What’s it spell? TEAM!  Go Team!

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Orange you glad you’re family?

wordpress-family-award-1Welcome to my orange.

“If the family were a fruit, it would be an orange, a circle of sections, held together but separable – each segment distinct.”  ~Letty Cottin Pogrebin

I always assumed my family was a little fruity, so the quote above gives credence to that. 

If you are a regular reader of Mama’s Empty Nest, you will notice that I write often about family – my circle of orange sections – and how much it means to me. 

I really have two families.  First is my actual family – my husband, adult children and their spouses, and sisters and their respective families.  Then there is my church family which includes folks who have known me my entire life.

I just recently realized that I have another family though.  My WordPress Family.  Oh, they’re spread out all over the country and I’ve only met them through blogging, but they feel like family to me because we have a connection with each other.  We share ideas, encouragement, comments, pictures, and thoughts.  And isn’t that what a family does?

“Cherish your human connections – your relationships with friends and family.” ~ Barbara Bush

One of my blogging family connections is Dor from Virginia Views.  That gal is witty and she makes me laugh – out loud!  She and I have been swapping stories and commonalities for quite some time now and even though we’ve never met in person, I consider her an important segment in my orange writing and reading circle.

Not too long ago, Dor bestowed a blogging award honor on me and my humble little blog.  Maybe it’s just the title that struck a chord with me or maybe it’s the description of the award, but this one seems most special.

It’s called the WordPress Family Award and here’s how Dor depicted it: “The WordPress Family Award is reserved for folks in Cyberspace who are unceasingly kind, sympathetic, encouraging, and open to laughter – and who keep each other going by sharing, commenting, and making personal connections even though they may actually be virtual strangers.”

This world is chock full of strangers and albeit, some of them are very strange.  I find it somehow comforting to find like-minded writers out there who share some kind of bond with me even though we’ve not met.

“The family is a haven in a heartless world.”  ~Attributed to Christopher Lasch

To me, this world is a very heartless place sometimes, which is why I do believe one’s family is a haven.  And that’s why I enjoy my blogging family as well.  They provide a safe harbor for me while I float out there in the wide world of words.

I gratefully accept this award and thank Dor so much for naming me. 

The WordPress Family Award Rules:

  1. Display the award logo on your blog.
  2. Link back to the person who nominated you.  (My blogging buddy Dor is a vital member of my orange  blogging family!  You can visit her at Virginia Views.)
  3. Nominate 10 others you see as having an impact on your WordPress experience and family. (The following 10 bloggers have been like family to me.  Most of them do not participate in these awards, and some of them do not post as often as they used to, but they’ve been my writing family from early on in my blogging world.  They’ve encouraged me through their friendships,  comments and even emails and they’re all very special to me.  But my family is growing and there are so many other blogs I enjoy reading and I’m getting to know some of those writers as well.  So please don’t feel like the black sheep of the family if you are not included in this list! )
  1. Let your 10 WordPress Family members know you have awarded them.

And now, on this best day of the year, I have this sudden hankering for a nice juicy orange and I’m pretty certain I’ll savor each segment. 

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

The Easter egg legacy

blogIMG_0481Happy Easter!  Yes, I know.  Easter is over.   I haven’t forgotten.

I might be a tad forgetful from time to time, but I do manage to remember the important stuff. 

And for me, Easter is important.  But just because the actual day is over, doesn’t mean I can’t continue to celebrate it.

“May you never forget what is worth remembering, nor ever remember what is best forgotten.” ~ an Irish blessing

One of the ways I celebrate this holy holiday is to continue remembering.  I remember the amazing gift my Savior provided for me on the cross.  I remember  He arose from the tomb defeating death and because of that, my real home isn’t here on this temporal earth, it’s somewhere eternal.

And this Easter, I remembered Easters in the past.  Maybe it’s true what Mark Twain said about life when he made this comment:  “What is human life?  The first third, a good time; the rest, remembering about it.”

I find myself spending quite a chunk of time now days remembering.  Maybe it’s that empty nest syndrome.  Maybe it’s because holidays are so different now than they were when I was a kid or when my children weren’t all grown up, married, and off on their own.

Or maybe it’s just my age.  Regardless, I remember.  Papa and I spent this Easter weekend with middle daughter and son-in-law in the state to the south of us.  And while it was a different Easter, it was wonderful and we enjoyed being with them for the weekend.

But I found myself remembering these things:  Easter when I was a little girl with white gloves and an Easter bonnet.   The smell of Easter lilies and hyacinths. 

 My own little girls decked out in frilly dresses, fancy socks, and brand new Easter shoes and son in Easter finery, little boy style. Easter baskets, laden with goodies and always a white chocolate cross, and egg hunts. 

Back then, we celebrated the Resurrection at Sunrise services and in worship.   Easter was a busy day full of good times, special services, and big home cooked meals.  Often because we lived several hours and many miles from our families, we celebrated the day with good friends.

When we lived in the Midwest, our church family became our family and we were very close to them.  One family in particular became our best friends.  We loved them and their three teenage daughters who became our children’s baby-sitters.  We spent much time at each other’s homes enjoying good company, good friendship, and good food and celebrated some Easters together.

During our eight years living in Kansas City, I remember receiving special delivery packages sent to us from my husband’s parents back in our home state.  The box was filled with candy Easter eggs, lovingly handmade with delicious creamy centers, dipped in chocolate, and wrapped in different colors of foil to connote each flavor – butter cream, coconut, peanut butter, chocolate, cherry, and mint.

The tasty concoctions were made by my in-laws’ church and sold as a fund-raiser for many years.  My children’s grandparents actively helped make thousands and thousands of these eggs which made the treats even more special. 

The recipes for the creamy egg centers were a closely guarded secret, but my mother-in-law received permission to share them with me, so I could give them to our Midwest church ladies fellowship group.  Our intent was to make eggs as our own fundraiser for special mission projects.

But before I could get involved in the egg-making fundraiser, my husband received a job transfer and our family was on our way to the Pacific Northwest to live.  There would be no candy egg making for me. 

Furthermore, there would be no more of those special candy Easter eggs for our family. Shortly after we moved to our new home on the West Coast, my father-in-law passed away and my mother-in-law moved to a new community to be closer to family.  She attended a different church there, so the special Easter egg deliveries to our home stopped.

But I’ve always remembered those specially made Easter eggs. That’s why the box I found in my mailbox just a few days before Easter was such an amazing surprise. 

It was postmarked from our old Kansas City suburb and the return address showed the package was from our dear friends there.  When I opened the box, I laughed out loud with delight!

An egg carton, filled with one dozen chocolate covered Easter eggs, lovingly made by hand by the Ladies Fellowship in the little Kansas City area church we so loved,  nestled inside that box.  

Yummy Easter eggs with butter cream, coconut, peanut butter, chocolate, cherry, and mint fillings!

As I cut open one and savored a bite of the creamy coconut filling, I paused to remember.  I remembered with love my wonderful mother-in-law, who left this earth 15 years ago.  And I remembered her gracious sharing of this Easter egg legacy with not just us, her family, but with our church half a country away from her. 

As I took another bite, I remembered with love and thanksgiving the enduring friendship we’ve sustained with our Midwestern friends.  Those friends have continued the Easter egg legacy there at our former church for 21 years, if I figured the math correctly.

On this best day of the year, I’m enjoying my satisfying Easter remembrances.  I fondly reminisce about beloved family and cherished friends while I taste a little chocolate covered egg, and a scripture comes to my mind.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” ~  Philippians 1:3

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Walking on sunshine

blogDSCN7841You may not know this if you don’t know me personally.  Yep, I have an addiction.   I’m dependent on sunshine.

Every winter, even though I do relish the cold weather and I’m crazy enough to say I enjoy snow, I start getting restless, weary, and downright grumpy come February.

I owe this moodiness to lack of sunlight. Winter’s short days coupled with dreary, overcast skies that usually accompany a good portion of the season here in my homeland seem to affect me negatively.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) because I don’t require medication or even light therapy, but the lack of light – in particular sunshine – and even a lack of brilliant colors definitely makes me a Grumpy Gerta.  Writing this post while seated at my kitchen table perusing a mostly brown, gray, and black landscape outside my window reminds me of this malady.

So every February, I anxiously await longer days, more sunshine, and whine at winter’s longevity, saying,  “Bring on the color, will ya??”  I first noticed my temperament became gloomy when we lived in the Pacific Northwest where the sunshine is minimal and the rainy skies continue for a good part of the year.

A wise advice giver told us to purchase a house with abundant windows, a home not located in a nest of those huge Douglas Fir trees that seemed everywhere.  We moved there from the Midwest plains where sunshine abounded and trees weren’t as high as skyscrapers.

During our first winter (if you could call a season without any frost winter), I noticed the ever constant overcast skies and lack of sunlight affected my demeanor.  When the sun came out, my world became rosy.  I was a most happy camper as my mood lightened, my steps became more springy, and my general outlook brighter.

Six years later, we moved back to our home state and my hometown.  Imagine my dismay to find out my neck of the woods (where winter definitely arrives) is also noted for lack of sunshine.  In 49 years of weather records, our nearest city supposedly averaged  sunny days only 45% of the year.   Some experts claim October is one of our sunniest months, which explains why I love fall weather.  And I LOVE sunshine!  When the sun beams, I beam.  It’s that simple.

So this week, it’s been rainy and dismal and drab and gray.   Need I go on?  Blah.  The sun appeared to be AWOL and that made me tired, apathetic, and lethargic.  Really, I just wanted to crawl back into bed yesterday because it was so bleak outside.  And I didn’t even feel like blogging!  Yes, it’s that serious!

But this morning gifted me little glimpses of sunshine literally and figuratively.  Every so often, rays of light peeked out from behind the clouds and streams of sunlight flooded through my windows.  Hurray!  I started feeling more perky.  I opened up my laptop, logged into WordPress and another little glimpse of sunshine poured into my day.  Dor over at  Technicolor Day Dreams  blessed me with a comment announcing that she nominated my blog for an award — get ready — the Sunshine Award!

Sunshine??  I’ll take it!!!  Gladly!!  What a sweet thing to be nominated for an award that is given to “bloggers who are inspirational, and who have impacted your blogging or your life.”

Here’s what Dor wrote to explain why she nominated Mama’s Empty Nest for this award:  “because she is “Mama” to everyone and writes luminous posts full of sunshine and hope – the perfect candidate for this award.”

Dor doesn’t know me personally; she doesn’t know that I LOVE sunshine.  She doesn’t know that my goal is to spread some sunshine and hope into this dark world.  But she sees that in my posts which sends rays of sunshine into my soul.  Thank you, Dor! I awakened this morning thinking I had nothing to write about today but just one or two rays of light provided inspiration.

I’m happy to comply with the rules of the Sunshine Award.  Heck, when the sun shines, I’m just happy to comply –  period.   So here goes:

Sunshine Award Rules:

  • Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog.  Check.  See the logo, it even looks happy, doesn’t it?
  • Answer 10 questions about yourself. Check. Q & A  below!
  • Nominate 10-12 other fabulous bloggers.  Check. The difficult part is narrowing down the nominations because a myriad of fabulous bloggers exist out there.  My faves listed below.
  • Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated. Check.  That’s the fun part!
  • Share the love and link the person who nominated you.  Check.  Dor, you’re incredibly kind and sweet!

Ten Sunshine Award Questions (and answers):

Favorite color:  Yellow!  Of course, the color of sunshine!

Favorite animal:  Cat, namely one beautiful calico kitty named Callie

Favorite number:  Eight (it’s a recurring theme in my life)

Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Tea, hot or iced,  hands down.  I also like….you guessed it….sun tea.

Prefer Facebook or Twitter?  I’m not on Twitter (probably because I’m too wordy!!), so I’ll have to say Facebook (although it aggravates me sometimes.  But that post I’ll save for another day.)

My passion:   #1 – God (He created the sun and gave us His Son!)  #2 –  my husband and family.   #3 –  writing, it does give me joy.

Prefer getting or giving presents:  Receiving gifts is not high on my love language list, but I so enjoy giving joy to others with a meaningful gift.

Favorite pattern:  Beams of sunshine slicing their way through the clouds (like in my photo!)

Favorite day of the week:  Friday (it’s usually a day off, my catch-up day, my do whatever I feel like day!)

Favorite flower:  So hard to choose!!!  I vacillate between lily of the valley, lilac, and hyacinth.  Bet you thought I’d say daffodils or buttercups because they are yellow! I like them too, but I love lily of the valley for their tiny, delicate blooms, lilac and hyacinth for their lovely fragrance.

And now it’s time to pass the torch of sunshine to my fellow, inspirational bloggers listed in no particular order but as they came to mind.  Thank you all for sending a little light and sunshine into my blogging world.

I must apologize for two things though. First, I’ve mentioned several of these bloggers before (I can’t help it, they are my favorites!!) and I haven’t had much free time to seek out a lot of new blogs to read.  Second, if you’ve already received this award, I’m sorry, but you are my sunshine and you deserve to be recognized again!

  1. Grace For My Mess  I always find rays of sunshine at Jana’s blog as she writes about her faith and family, spreading the light of our Savior to all who read her posts.
  2. Homestead Ramblings  HR was one of my very first contacts in the blogging world and she has become one of my dearest friends.  Her insights inspire me and are illuminating as well.
  3. Georgette Sullins Blog  Another blogger that I’ve come to think of as a dear friend.  Her life stories never fail to intrigue me and make me smile.  Smiling is sunshine for the soul.
  4. My Wife Doesn’t Think I’m Funny  His wife may not think this guy is funny, but I think he’s hysterical.  His posts always make me laugh and not being much of a humor writer myself, I admire that about him.
  5. Coming East  Simply put, Susan’s posts are interesting and well-written.
  6. Seeing Beauty  I recently stumbled upon this young writer and immediately sensed a beautiful soul, one who serves others in a far-off land.
  7. Stories About My Life, 92% True  Jimmy keeps me updated on what happened in the 80’s (the ‘lost’ decade I can’t remember because I was too busy giving birth and raising three kids!) as he writes nostalgic stories for his family but manages to amuse the rest of his readers, me included.
  8. Big Happy Nothing  Amiable, Amiable just exudes fun and just like we need sunshine, we all need a little fun in our lives too!
  9. Minding My Nest  With that common theme of nests in mind, I enjoy reading Kelly’s journey coping with her “not so empty nest.”  She fills her nest and blog with great pictures, awesome recipes, and creative craft ideas.
  10. These Days of Mine   A day without Dianna’s blog is like a day without sunshine.
  11. Inspired Visions  I’m always inspired by this blogger’s visions which are her wonderful photographs.
  12. Montana Outdoors  Even when this talented photographer posts pictures of snow and ice, it warms my heart.  He’s a down to earth, homespun kind of guy, one you’d be happy to call your friend.

Today in my Opportunity book, I feel like I’ve been transported to sunny California.   The sun is shining outside and in my heart of joy, I’m walking on sunshine.

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

You! Yes, you!

If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times.

That sounds like something my mother would have said to me when I was doing something wrong or not accomplishing what she asked of me.

“If I said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, go pick up your room,”  I can imagine her saying.  Matter of fact, I’m sure she did say it a thousand times.  And I’m pretty certain I’ve used the same saying a thousand times on my own children too.

But today, that saying doesn’t refer to something negative.  Today in my Opportunity book, that sentence gives me joy.   Why?  Because if I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times – I’ve ‘met’ some truly wonderful people through blogging.

While reading what other bloggers write, I’ve learned much about their characters and their lives while their stories humor, inspire and bless me.   When a blogging buddy regularly reads my posts and offers interesting and uplifting comments, that blesses me too!

Recently, two blogging friends conferred more honor upon my little blogging world.  Kate at kateschannel  presented the Liebster Blog Award to Mama’s Empty Nest and Dianna at These Days of Mine gifted me with the All Around Wonderful Blog Award.

First, let me tell you about these two talented people before I divulge info about the awards.  I first ‘met’ Kate when she commented on my blog and I was interested in getting to know who she was.  That’s what I do.  Leave a comment, I’ll visit your blog, see what you write about, peek in on your “about me” page.

Here’s what I’ve learned about my new friend, Kate.  She has much experience in the communications field, so when she compliments my writing,  I appreciate that.  Kate is a die-hard Detroit sports fan and a work at home mom.  I can tell she’s passionate about her family and her life in Michigan.  And I like that about her!

I can’t remember exactly when my path crossed with Dianna’s, but I never miss reading this gracious lady’s blog because it brightens my day.   Occasionally, her clever kitty, Sundae, may offer a guest post making me chuckle.  Dianna and I share some commonalities: we’re around the same age, we are owned by beautiful but spoiled calico cats, we enjoy photography, and our families mean the world to us.

Now that I’ve introduced you to these two friends, here’s the scoop on the awards.  The Liebster Blog Award is sweet because the German word means dearest, beloved or favorite.   You can’t get any better than being someone’s favorite or beloved, so it warms my heart that Kate lists my blog in that category!

Like other blog awards, the Liebster rules require the honoree to pass the torch to five favorite blogs who have less than 200 followers.   I’m not a fan of following the masses, so many of my favorite bloggers fit this requirement, so that wasn’t a challenge.  Among my beloved blogs are writers who have already accepted this award, so I’m bestowing it upon those who haven’t received it yet to my knowledge.

I proudly pass the Liebster Blog Award to five of my favorites:

1)    Homestead Ramblings HR is my go-to person.  She and I have become very good friends since our early blogging days and I love both her blog and her!  Her blog is always surprising as she writes about a myriad of subjects.  Her faith and love for nature (and Alaska) shine through her posts.

2)    Montucky  Montucky’s spectacular photography mesmerizes me and I love clicking onto his blog to see his latest shot.

3)    Watkins Every Flavor Beans  This writer is my oldest daughter’s friend.   A stay at home young mother of three handsome little fellows, she chronicles her family life while living in Scotland.  Her creativity astounds me.

4)    Dividing By Zero This guy can be incredibly funny or deep.  He’s my personal friend  from a long time ago, and I witnessed his humor daily when we were co-workers.  I enjoy reading his talented writing because he always has thought-provoking things to say.

5)    Laura’s Blog Another personal friend, Laura is one witty gal.   She can wrap a rhyme around words in a flash and her humor is pointedly funny.  She writes often about her faith and that’s one of the reasons I love her.

All Around Wonderful Blog Award –  what an honor to be named “all around wonderful!”  I gratefully accepted this award and the charming award badge that accompanies it.

The rules for accepting this award are “be a follower of this blog,  pass the award on to 3 other blogs,  and lastly, link the award back to this blog.”

Simple, right?  But narrowing down my blogroll list to only three blogs for this honor proved difficult for me.  I wanted to wrap it up like an unexpected present in cheerful, colorful paper tied with an exquisite, shiny ribbon and bestow it upon every single one of my blogging buddies.

But I am a rule follower so I’ll obey because I can hear my dear mom’s voice in my head saying, “If I told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times…”

So my choices for the All Around Wonderful Blog Award are:

1)    Saturday Evening Porch  When you go sit on my sweet Southern friend’s front porch, you’ll find yourself chuckling out loud.  She has a clever knack of taking ordinary things and turning them into amusing stories because she’s such a wonderful story-teller.

2)    Big Happy Nothing  Amiable Amiable, lovingly known as AA, literally cracks me up.  She’s funny, witty, yet can throw some poignancy into the mix so easily.   She also is an all around wonderful story-teller.

3)    Believe Anyway I’ve just recently become acquainted with this writer who created the Candle Lighter Award, but her enthusiasm for life and her faith is contagious.  She is the eternal optimist and I think we need more wonderful people like her to brighten up this world.

I once read a quote by psychologist and philosopher William James that said, “What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise – although the philosophers generally call it ‘recognition’!”

So true.  Every person does yearn for praise.  To have the words and thoughts which I chronicle in this blog considered to be worthy of recognition truly provides me great joy.   Today, I’m kind of like actress Sally Field as she accepted an Academy Award, “You like me, you really like me!”

Thank you, Kate and Dianna, for liking me!  Thank you, fellow writers, for delighting me each day in our blogging community.  You are such treasures!  And finally, thank you to all those readers who click on my blogspace and light up my world.

“There are amazingly wonderful people in all walks of life; some familiar to us and others not. Stretch yourself and really get to know people. People are in many ways one of our greatest treasures.”  ~ Bryant H. McGill

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

‘Tis a gift to be simple

blogDSCN8052When I was a kid, Sundays were special in a simple way.

Sunday was a day of worship first, then rest, with maybe a smattering of visiting friends and relatives on the side.

Businesses were closed except for a few restaurants where you could enjoy Sunday dinner.  If you needed milk, you better have run to the store Saturday because you wouldn’t be able to purchase groceries on Sunday.

My family always attended church Sunday mornings and commenced the day by worshiping God, the Creator of our days.  After church, my mother either cooked a big dinner, or if it was just Mom, Dad and me, we’d venture to a restaurant for our Sunday meal.

If we stayed home that afternoon, often times my mother would take a well-needed nap and my dad might watch a little television or listen to the baseball game on the radio.  I usually curled up somewhere cozy with a book to read.  It truly was a day of rest in preparation for the week of busyness to come.

Often times after lunch, visitors would stop by our house.  Sometimes they were relatives, sometimes friends and –gasp! –the adults would just sit around the living room talking to one another.  The television stayed turned off; there were no electronic gadgets to distract from the conversation.  They talked.  They shared memories.  They caught up with one another’s  lives and activities.  They remembered and shared funny stories or sad ones.  And they truly enjoyed each other’s company.

If we didn’t go visiting, Dad might take us for a Sunday afternoon drive.  We would ramble here and there taking in sights, enjoying the sunshine, the fall leaves, the snow glistening on the trees, whatever scenery unfolded in front of us.  Our car wasn’t equipped with CD or DVD players, no one had an ipod attached to their ears or a cell phone demanding answers to texts and calls.  We either listened to soothing music on the radio, we talked, or we just rode in silence absorbed in our own thoughts.

Often we stopped by someone’s house for a Sunday afternoon visit.  The same thing that happened at our house occurred at our friends’ or relatives’ homes as well – the adults chatted the afternoon away while the children played or joined in the conversation.

From all those simple Sundays, I learned many things.  I learned that worshiping God came first.  I learned that it’s important to spend uninterrupted time with loved ones.  I learned that children can acquire a lot of knowledge from their elders.  I learned to savor quiet time and rest one day a week.  And I learned to be patient.

I miss those days.  My husband and I were just discussing this recently.  We grow weary during the week and we look forward to simple Sundays.  Neither of us works in a profession that requires us to work on that day, so we can do whatever we like.

For us, Sunday morning worship comes first.  Then we may rest here in the empty nest.  Hubby reads the paper, watches a football game on television, or reads.  You can usually find me lounging in my easy chair reading or working a crossword puzzle.  Occasionally, we might go for a drive in the surrounding countryside.

This past Sunday we did just that.   After church, we ate lunch at a local restaurant followed by a leisurely Sunday drive to a nearby community where some Amish folks live.  The day proved lovely with warm sunshine, colors of fall leaves greeting us, and not just a change of scenery, but a change of pace.  As we drove along, Amish buggies pulled by trotting horses shared the road with us.

Observing them reminded me of their simple lifestyle and what their Sundays must be like.  For the Amish, the Sabbath is a day to worship  God and rest, and no doubt, visit friends and neighbors afterwards.

blogDSCN8053I imagine those buggies full of families tucked inside were on their way to either church or social gatherings. 

We noticed children playing in the cornfields while I suspect their elders enjoyed conversations or some well-deserved rest inside their farmhouses.

In that respect I envy them.

It makes me sad that no one stops by our house for a Sunday visit.  I suspect if we dropped in at friends’ places, they wouldn’t be home because we all seem to scurry about shopping or finding somewhere to run on Sundays.  Plus in today’s world, we may feel as if we’re imposing by stopping at someone’s house uninvited or unannounced.

We find it disheartening that the only Sunday visits we seem to have are the chats with people we run into during a quick trip to the grocery store or Wal-Mart.  Visiting in the store aisle just isn’t the same as those warm conversations in a homey, comfortable living room.

I’m sorry to say that the only time we have a bountiful home-cooked Sunday dinner is when our birds come home to roost for a day or so.  But distractions worm their way into our Sunday afternoons with the family.  Televisions blare, cell phones beep with text messages or blasting ring tones, laptops fire up and are constant companions (I’m just as guilty as my kids on that one!), or people dash in and out with places to go and things to do.  We don’t just sit and enjoy one another’s  company.  It seems Sundays aren’t either simple or special any more.

I’m pondering this question on Page 25, Chapter 10, of my book called Opportunity:  what would happen if we just simply visited with each other one day a week – on Sundays?  What would we miss?  We might miss the Steelers football game.   Or the latest status update on Facebook.  Or downloading that favorite song.  Or a text message from someone who wants to run to the shopping mall.  Or spending the afternoon gathering groceries.  But those things could wait.

What would we gain? Time spent together, truly conversing, sharing our stories and our lives with one another.  And that would be priceless.

“A world without a Sunday would be like a man without a smile, like a summer without flowers, and like a homestead without a garden.  It is the joyous day of the whole week.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Fall surprises

Surprise!  That’s the nice way I started my morning today in my book of Opportunity, Page 23 in Chapter 9.

A blogging buddy of mine Georgette Sullins bestowed the Versatile Blogger Award on me.  Thank you for thinking of me!  Georgette and I became friends way back in April when she commented on my Freshly Pressed post, When Nature Shows No Mercy .   I find Georgette’s blog always fascinating as she chronicles endearing stories to be saved and cherished for her family.

Since this is the first time I’ve been honored with the Versatile Blogger Award, I researched it to find there are rules to follow.   So here goes:

Rule #1 – Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.   (As the kids would say, Georgette, you rock!)

Rule #2 – Tell your readers seven (7) things about yourself.  (Prepare yourself, dear readers, these are very random!)

  1. I launched this blog on a whim, partly because of the weird funk I found myself in after my last child graduated from college, snagged a job, and moved to the state next door, and I also I thought I’d work through the empty nest syndrome by writing about it.  But this blog has morphed into more than just an empty nest activity.  Writing again has given me great joy and I’ve met some delightful friends through blogging.
  2. Hubby and I come from families with ‘three of a kind’ (I’m one of three sisters; he’s one of three brothers).  But we were dealt a ‘pair and a spare.’   After our two daughters, our third child was a boy.  We were so certain we were having another girl, we didn’t even have a boy’s name chosen!  Sonograms weren’t very definitive back then.
  3. When I was a young girl, I dreamed of being famous.  (What little girl doesn’t?)  At first, I thought I’d be a legendary actress, but later I decided I’d be a renowned writer.  Hmmm…so far, my only claim to ‘fame’ might be my one-time freshly pressed experience.
  4. I’ve experimented with a few different careers – teacher, newspaper reporter/editor, technical editor, and in the last 10 years, working part-time for a non-profit.  But my absolute favorite occupation (and my most important one) has been motherhood. I was blessed to be a stay at home mom for 19 years!
  5. My new found interest is photography – both taking pictures and looking at others’ beautiful shots.  I used to just click my camera to document special occasions, vacations, or my kids’ events.  Now, I grab it when I see something interesting or I just want to experiment.  I’m not very good at it, but I find it fun.
  6. My perspective on life totally changed when I was diagnosed with early stage and very treatable cancer 6 years ago.  The whirlwind of diagnosis, surgery, and treatment left me dazed, but later so profoundly grateful for life and much more aware of the precious moments in it.
  7. I don’t like seafood or coffee.  My husband loves both.

Rule #3 – Give this award to up to fifteen (15) recently discovered bloggers.

I’m veering from the rule here because my first award goes to a blog I’ve been reading for over a year now, so she’s not recently discovered, she’s one of my “must-reads” –  Homestead Rambling’s Blog.  We became instant and life-long friends when she found my blog and started commenting.  We’ve realized we are kindred spirits with so much in common, including our faith.  She truly is a versatile blogger because her posts may be informative, humorous, encouraging, or inspiring.  Right now, she’s writing about her recent journey to Alaska, a land that seems to be calling to her, and from her pictures, I can sure see why.

Crossing the Line  also deserves this award.  This blogging buddy has been one of my cheerleaders for some time.  Her comments always make me feel valued and appreciated as a writer.  I relish reading her posts on her relatively new blogging adventure.  As she honestly writes about the aspects of life that invite her to ‘cross the line’ and move forward on her personal growth journey, she reminds us all about our human frailties and how we can choose to take a different path.  She’s on my ‘must-read’ list too.

Rule #4 – Contact those bloggers and let them in on the exciting news.  (Boom, done, finished.  Emails complete.)

For now, I’m signing off.  My favorite season of fall arrives with some of my favorite people – the pair and the spare all will fly back to the nest this weekend!  We’ll have a full house with a family day Sunday.  That’s a gift that’s even better than a blogger award!

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

How to celebrate a blogiversary – chocolate’s on me!

blogDSCN7796One of my favorite things is chocolate and another is writing this blog.

Obviously, I can’t share my to die for chocolate candy (pictured)  with you.   But I can share my thoughts with my friends and readers in written form here at Mama’s Empty Nest.

July is my “blogiversary” month.    I use the term month because I’m not sure which July date actually commemorates my blog’s anniversary.

Six years ago on July 9, 2005 on a whim and a dare from oldest daughter, I started writing a blog via a different site.  Recuperating from cancer surgery and not physically able to accomplish my usual summer to-do list, I needed something to occupy my time and mind.

Oldest daughter convinced me to create a blog on the same site she then used and I started putting my thoughts into written words again.  My writing topics ranged from silly thoughts to serious ones, everyday life to the change in thinking that a cancer (albeit a curable kind) diagnosis brings.  Once I recovered and returned back to “real life,” I only posted occasionally, when I encountered a little free time, until fall 2007.

And then… nada…zilch…nothing.  My blogging life ended.  Life got in my way.  Hubby and I still had kids in the nest, two sets of college tuition to pay, a calendar full of events to attend, jobs,  a home to maintain, and all of those dominated my waking hours.

With our youngest child’s college graduation last year and all of our children’s subsequent moves away from home, my world and waking hours changed.  I tried social networking for a while; fun at first reconnecting with old friends, but after the novelty wore off, I found myself sitting at the computer playing endless rounds of Reversi and Bubble Town.

Way to let the brain atrophy!  In between popping bubbles and knocking off Reversi opponents, I began reading a far-away friend’s new blog on WordPress.   One day, I realized how much I missed writing myself.   Why not take my love for stringing words together in written form down from the shelf, dust off my skills, and rekindle my blog?   So I moved my old posts from the previous site over to WordPress, started cranking out new posts on July 19, 2010, and my new blog, Mama’s Empty Nest,  was  hatched.

What happened next I compare to coming out of a coma.  Suddenly, my mind leaped into over-drive and so did my senses.  It felt like I had awakened from a very long winter’s nap.  Once I commenced writing, words just kept gushing out of me, words that were obviously bottled up inside for decades.  Ideas would spring into my mind when I gazed at a picture or often when a sight unfolded in front of my eyes, while driving,  and even while sleeping.

My senses seemed heightened – eyes wide open, observing things I couldn’t wait to write about, ears hearing sounds I previously must have taken for granted.  Every day occurrences in my world suddenly needed crafted and sculpted into paragraphs of written language, and I was constantly grabbing the nearest scrap of paper to jot down my thoughts before they melted away.

An old composition notebook became my new best friend in which I scribbled ideas, thoughts, and topics when they surged into my brain.   And then something truly amazing happened.  I realized I wasn’t just writing for myself and my closest family anymore.  Somewhere out there in cyber-land, people  – friends and strangers – started reading my blog and commenting!

A whole new world opened up for me [cue the theme song from Disney’s Aladdin]  as I gained new readers, blogging buddies, and very good friends.   I recently reviewed my posts from five years ago and marveled at the change I see in my writing and even in myself.

Where I once blogged as a way to fill up empty time, now I blog because it brings me joy.  Where I previously wrote whatever came to mind, now my posts have meaning and depth…and I believe, purpose.  I’m thrilled that a fellow blogger recently invited me to join the High Calling Blog Network where I only hope I can rise to the challenge of writing well about work, life, and God like the other talented writers there.

Today, on this 26th page of Chapter 7 in my Opportunity book of life – not exactly my blogiversary date – I  am astonished at how far I’ve come, but I’m more grateful to those who’ve traveled with me on this journey:

  • to my family who always encourages me to write (special thanks to hubby who patiently listens to each of my posts while I read them aloud to catch any errors);
  • to the friends who personally know me and read my work, spurring me on with kind words of support (you are great cheerleaders!);
  • to my new friends, my faithful readers, and fellow bloggers (your comments and your blogs inspire me and I appreciate them so very much);
  • to my Lord Jesus Christ who graciously gave me a gift which I must use for His glory and for allowing me to “see” through His eyes as I write.

So Happy Blogiversary to all of us! If I could, I’d share my chocolates with every one of you for the entire month of July!

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Charms in the bracelet of life

blogDSCN7544Almost a year ago, this lonely Mama, sitting forlornly in her empty nest, bemoaned the fact that her friendships seemed to be waning.

Both hubby and I experienced disconnects in various aspects of our lives and our social activity was one of those areas.

I chalk up a majority of those feelings to the empty nest syndrome, although in one very important part of our lives, there truly was a serious disconnect.

But in the case of feeling friendless and lonely, the shock of empty nest reality definitely contributed to those impressions.   When you spend well over 25 years raising children, your life revolves around them and even many of your friendships and activities exist because of the season of parenting in which you’re ensconced.

One of the reasons I began writing my blog stemmed from those sensations of ambivalence and loneliness I encountered as I faced the empty nest.  I needed an activity, a new hobby…something in which to devote time and attention.

I also realized I wanted something besides my job to feel passionate about.  The timing seemed perfect to reconnect with my knack for writing, an art I used to engage in often but couldn’t afford spending time and energy doing during my child-raising days.

C.S. Lewis wrote: “When we lose one blessing, another is often, most unexpectedly, given in its place.”

For me, that quote rings so true.  When my last child, my son, graduated from college last spring, landed a promising full-time job in his field of study, and moved to another state to launch a new career and a new life, I grieved.  Shortly before that, middle daughter, who lived at home after college to save money but drove a considerable commute to work, also moved into her own apartment in the city.

Combined that felt like a double whammy, and the full brunt of two of my children moving out coming less than a year after my father passed away slammed into me like a head-on collision.   This overwhelming sense of bereavement definitely felt like losing a huge blessing.

But just as Lewis advised, I believe I’ve been granted other blessings, definitely most unexpectedly, in place of that loss.   Writing this blog has been such a blessing for me.  Stringing together emotions, thoughts, and ideas into words and pictures gives me much joy.  Actually receiving feedback in the form of comments and encouragement from those who read my words adds to my pleasure.

My readers bless me immensely, even those who have not let me know they read my blog.  I see their attention in my site stats on WordPress each day and I marvel to myself, “Wow, someone read my blog today!”

Some of my faithful readers reside in my neck of the woods and they encourage me just by simply telling me how much they enjoy reading this blog.  One of my girlhood friends keeps urging me to write a book; another has suggested I write a devotional.

Other faithful readers are my Facebook friends – still people I personally know – some near, and some far away, some friends from days gone by  – who also bless me with their uplifting comments and messages.

blogDSCN7569The experience reminds me of a charm bracelet.  When I was a teenager, that jingly, jangly jewelry   was all the rage and I wholeheartedly jumped on this fad bandwagon.

I added tiny symbolic mementos to my bracelet from places I visited or events that occurred in my life.

Family members and friends gifted charms to me;  each one meant something special and that treasured bracelet loaded with jingling ornaments now rests in my jewelry box.  I can still recall who gave each tiny trinket to me and what each one of them  signifies.  There’s a life story right there hanging on my silver bracelet.

Through my blog, I’ve gained new readers and ‘met’ fellow writers who have become friends as well.   One fellow blogger in particular has become a cherished friend.  We share a lot of commonalities, a similar outlook on life, and even more importantly, we share the same deep faith in God, which has given us a very real connection as friends.

If you had told me a year ago that I would find a precious friendship via the internet, I would have loudly proclaimed, “Hogwash!”  (I don’t really use that word, but that’s what I would have said.)   I’ve always been leery of cyberspace and my own children can regale you with tales of my consternation and admonishment to them to be careful online especially when making any personal contacts with people you don’t know.   So here I am, eating my own words.

When I related the ways this new friend and I have connected, my oldest daughter replied with a chuckling twinge in her voice, “Mom, God gave you a new friend through the internet.”  (Heavy emphasis on the word internet!)  She didn’t say, “I told you so!” but I could hear it in her tone.   And she was right.  And I marvel in my belief that God surely does work in mysterious ways.

Recently, my new, sweet friend blessed my socks off.   A package arrived at my country home and the return address was my friend’s.   Oldest daughter watched me open the parcel and remarked, “Wow, Mom, your new friend is incredibly sweet.”  She’s right….again.

There have been many bumps in the road of life lately here at Mama’s Empty Nest.  Some detours.  Some unexpected pitfalls.   Some moments of insecurity.   Moments when hubby and I are leaning heavily on our faith in the God who provides our needs.    During this time, my new friend has been lifting me up in prayer.  I know it even when she doesn’t tell me because I can feel it.

Her secret surprise package mailed to me made me feel special and loved with each beautiful item I lifted from the box.    She told me when she saw these gifts, they screamed my name – Mama’s Empty Nest!  She was right.  They do!

I want to share with you the joy this friend (not just her gifts) brings me.  The above photo shows the delightful adornments as they gracefully nestle among the other assorted items on my kitchen desk, thanks to my special friend.

Each time my eyes catch a glimpse of them, I think of her and our friendship and I thank God for that gift.  Today in my book of Opportunity, Page 20, Chapter 5, I count it an abundant blessing to have been given wonderfully dear friends, some old, some very new.  All of them are like silver keepsakes attached to my bracelet of life.

“When I count my blessings I count you twice.” ~ Irish Blessing

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com