Welcome or not

blogIMG_3784Have you ever met folks who seem friendly and welcoming at first meeting? But when you try to develop a friendship relationship with them, suddenly they are not so warm and full of hospitality at all?

We’ve all encountered people who are like that at some time or another. I once met a young, freshly-married girl who seemed a lot like me. She and her husband had just tied the knot that year and so had my spouse and I. We both were in our early 20’s, both far away from our families and home towns, both married to military officers.

You would think we would have a lot in common. And at first it appeared we did. But as I tried to get to know this woman a little better and cultivate a friendship with her, it was like she covered herself with armor – battlement gear. Prickly, spiky outer skin that definitely said, “Stay away. Don’t get too close.”

The ‘friendship’ ended, not because I hadn’t tried hard enough to be her friend but because she didn’t seem to want a friendship with me at all. Acquaintance status was okay, just don’t try to cultivate anything deeper than that.

Back then I was definitely a people pleaser, so I thought it was me. It was my fault that the friendship never stuck. Maybe she just didn’t like me even though I tried so hard to treat her with kindness and warmth. My husband and I invited her and her spouse to socialize with us and others. I invited her to join in with other friends for shopping trips or get-togethers. 

And while she accepted invitations, it seemed like she was never comfortable or completely engaged in friendship. I never tried so hard to be someone’s friend and have that fail.

I also had never been accused of being unfriendly in my life and most people probably would have said I was a very nice person and fun to be with. A true blue, loyal friend as well. So I just couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong.

Maybe I was too friendly? Maybe I was too outgoing for her? Maybe I just expected too much too soon? Maybe I wasn’t reserved and serious enough for her?

But after thinking it over, I came to the realization that I never crossed boundaries with her. I never pushed her to talk to me or to join in conversations. I never asked her questions that were too personal. I’m not an overly boisterous person anyway, so I didn’t think I was too outgoing. She just didn’t want to be my friend.

I think she had built a wall up that she wouldn’t tear down.  A wall that kept people from getting too close.  It was her choice to keep close friendships at bay. We parted ways when her husband was assigned to another military post and mine stayed put. And we never saw one another again or had any kind of contact thereafter.

Seems like the end of the story, doesn’t it? But I’ve never forgotten this woman. Every once in a while she comes to my mind and I still am perplexed over what transpired 40 years ago.

I do remember that she once shared one personal detail with me. Growing up, her parents moved around a lot from one area of the country to another. She was always the new girl in town. And I often wonder if that’s not what prompted her to build up her walls.

It’s so much easier to leave people behind if you don’t have close relationships with them. You don’t have to cry over being separated from a friend if you don’t become good friends in the first place. I’m no psychological analyst, but this makes sense to me. And it could explain what happened with this person I tried so hard to befriend.

Folks like her remind me of palm trees.

Before you think I’ve totally gone coconuts, let me explain. When Papa and I visited Arizona, we saw plenty of palm trees. There even were some in my sister’s back yard.  

One of the types of palms garnered my attention – the pineapple palm trees. They are not very tall and they are squat, so they truly resemble a pineapple. I thought they were really cute and took pictures of them because I do like the symbolism of pineapples.

In American colonial times, pineapples were actually a symbol of warmth and welcome. If you visit places like Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, you will notice pineapples used in many decorations, even carved on bed posts.  Apparently the pineapple became a symbol of hospitality because they were hard to get and it was considered an honor for guests if their hostess secured such a rarity and delicacy as a pineapple to display on her dinner table.

The pineapple became a tradition indicating hospitality and colonial innkeepers used it on their signs and advertisements to show you were welcome at their establishments. Even today, the pineapple remains a symbol of friendship and hospitality.

Those facts crossed my mind as I noticed pineapple palm trees planted in Arizona residents’ front yards. I wonder if they purposefully planted those trees as a welcome symbol or just because they liked the looks of them.

Never having lived in an area where we had palm trees, I learned something about them that I never knew before. The tree bark must be trimmed regularly. If not done, the bark becomes curled outward and razor sharp with saw-like teeth.

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Sharp bark – stay away!

Not very welcoming. Dangerous in fact because by accidentally getting too close to untrimmed bark, your skin can get sliced open.  My sister informed me of this when I was photographing the palms which needed trimmed in her back yard. 

As happens often while I peruse my photos, this one I shot of the razor sharp palm bark and another of the pineapple palm tree above sparked an idea for this blog post. 

And my mind instantly went back to the story of one who chose not to cultivate a friendship.

Welcome…but don’t get too close.

I learned much from that experience all those years ago with the girl who would not become my friend. I’ve learned not to take it personally if someone just doesn’t ‘click’ with me. I’ve learned that either you want to be my friend or not, that’s your choice, and that’s okay with me.

I’ve learned to treasure the existing friendships I do have and still always be open to new ones. And I’ve learned that even if I get shot down, I will continue to be warm, friendly, and hospitable to all.

Just call me a pineapple palm tree with all my bark trimmed.

“When life gives you lemons, sell them and buy a pineapple. How to better your life 101.” ― Davin Turney

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

Craft yourself a Merry Christmas

blogIMG_4543(Note from Mama’s Empty Nest: During this busy Christmas season, I’m reposting blogs from several years ago. If you missed why, please click on this link for my reasons. The following post is from December 2010.) 

It’s hard not to be crafty at Christmas. 

Oh, I don’t mean being crafty in the sense of the definition of the word: sly, shrewd, cunning or deceptive, although I suppose you could call many people crafty at Christmas time.

There’s the shrewd way some people act at the mall when they slide into a parking spot first while you were patiently waiting for the previous car to vacate the space. 

Some people are downright cunning as they push and shove their way through crowds to get the very last [insert newest, hottest selling toy here]. 

And often times, we are very deceptive as we hide the Christmas presents or even the Christmas cookies so they won’t all be eaten before Christmas arrives!

No, I don’t mean that kind of crafty.  I’m thinking more about those who are like Martha Stewart. Wait a minute, she did go to jail once….perhaps she was cunning or deceptive, huh? 

Well, let’s concentrate on her ability to take an ordinary branch off her juniper tree and turn it into the most amazing shimmery addition to a boring centerpiece that you ever have seen. That’s what I mean by crafty.

Some people can just take scraps of this, leftovers of that, add some ribbon and glitzy stuff and voila! A lovely Christmas ornament for your pine tree.

Or there are those people who actually make Christmas gifts for family and friends. I admire their creativity and tenacity!

And then there are the items that were lovingly handmade at school or in Sunday School class by your children when they were little. Crafts and Christmas just seem to go together.

I was thinking about that the other day when I finally finished decorating our Christmas tree. (Yep, I succumbed.  I just couldn’t leave a bare-naked tree in my living room!) There are a lot of crafty ornaments residing in my Christmas décor boxes. 

Here’s the round painted one oldest daughter made in second grade, if I remember correctly. It hung on the mayor’s Christmas tree at City Hall in the town we lived in then. 

Middle daughter made candy canes out of red and white pony beads and pipe cleaners one year with her fellow Girl Scouts. Son constructed a baby Jesus in half a walnut shell in Sunday School way back when.

Several handmade ornaments that I purchased at craft shows or holiday bazaars also congregate in my boxes, some of those I even managed to make myself. 

Others were gifts bestowed upon me like the clear glass ball with a sketch of Jesus inside from a friend or the half egg shell with a Christmas scene displayed inside of it, a gift from my mother many years ago.

Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at crafting other decorations as well, including a nutcracker wreath, a garland of felt stars with homemade buttons fashioned out of clay and baked in the oven, and who knows what else lurking in those boxes. 

When I unpack these items, it brings back a lot of delightful memories – some of my mother, some of my children as they were growing up, and some of friends, now far away.

When I was a little girl, my mother belonged to a “Home Extension Group,”  ladies who met monthly at each other’s homes for a demonstration of home arts and a lovely lunch. 

Most of these women were my mom’s age or older and I vividly remember being the only youngster at those meetings until I got older and trotted off to school. Even then, I would be excited to jump off the school bus and enter my home to see the ladies from home extension there and taste the yummy leftover dessert.

These women gathered to craft or learn something new in the fine art of homemaking.  Sometimes a representative from the state home extension office would visit and give a demonstration, perhaps on home canning or sewing.

I still remember the year they made large white candles shaped like snowballs for Christmas. Whatever they were making or eating, this group of friends always seemed to enjoy their time together.

Several years ago when my family lived in the Pacific Northwest, I told this story of Mom’s home extension group to some of my friends and we decided to resurrect the concept. A few weeks before Christmas, we met at a friend’s home, spent the morning crafting together and sipping hot coffee or tea, then shared a tasty and delicious lunch.

Once we designed nutcracker wreaths. We all convened at the craft store to choose scads of items to hot glue onto our wreaths of artificial greenery. Festive ribbons, little nutcrackers, Christmas birds, glittering balls, shiny strings of beads, twigs of fake holly…it looked like the Ghost of Christmas Present had thrown up all over the table!

But oh, the fun we had! We chatted and laughed as we crafted, enjoying each other’s company so much, giving advice about the placement of tinsel tidbits, which was beneficial because the more savvy decorators among us could give direction to those of us who were craft-deficient.  

Having relished our day together, we decided to continue the idea each week as we launched another Christmas craft. For the first time, I truly understood why my mother belonged to her “home extension group” for all those many years.

It wasn’t about the finished product, although that was nice. The real joy came from time well-spent with dear friends, savoring one another’s company with laughter and merriment yet sharing burdens and sorrows as well. It was about gathering for a lovingly home-cooked lunch together as neighbors who had more in common than just the neighborhood where they lived.

Yes, it was a simpler time when my mother and those sweet ladies, whose faces I can still recall even though every one of them has left this world, convened every month for camaraderie and cake. 

But those simple times can be recaptured – my friends and I did it that one special time at Christmas. We just have to want to live a simpler life, to take time to visit those we treasure, and make memorable moments happen.

It’s Christmas. It’s time to slow down. Spend time with your closest friends and family.

And while you’re at it, though you may not be “crafty,” make something special together – even if it’s just lovely memories.

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Friendship fruit

blogIMG_1563(2)I flung open the door in my exuberance, probably startling the company coming up the sidewalk to our front porch before they even had a chance to ring the doorbell. But I just couldn’t contain my excitement any longer.

Earlier, I sat patiently in my living room, waiting for that company to arrive and reflecting back seven years ago.

Back in the summer of 2010, I launched this blog on a whim. My writing skills may have been a bit rusty because I hadn’t written much of anything in many years, other than a few articles for a quarterly newsletter at my place of employment.

Oh, I had fiddled around in the blogging world once before writing some “fluff” (what we used to call the non-essential stories when I worked for a daily newspaper eons ago) on another blogging site.

My words weren’t serious with my first blog; I was just passing time while I recuperated from a health diagnosis and ensuing surgery/radiation treatments.  Once I recovered and returned to my job at a non-profit, blogging got relegated to the back burner – way back.

But the lonely empty nest stage of my life hit me hard emotionally a few years later, and once again, I turned to writing. And Mama’s Empty Nest breathed life.

This time, seriously. This time, really pouring out words from my soul and my heart. This time, writing became even more cathartic.

This time, putting my thoughts into words and sending them out into cyberspace for anyone to see although I sincerely doubted that anyone other than my own family would even bother to read what I’d written.

From time to time that first month of blogging, a family member or a friend would leave a comment on one of my posts and how that made me smile! Then one day, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Someone, some anonymous person out there in the internet world, someone I did not know, wrote a comment on one of my blog posts.

A few more instances happened when complete strangers commented, and eventually, I became a part of a little blogging circle community. It was fun and I enjoyed reading other bloggers’ posts and conversing with them by comments, and a few of them have become Facebook friends.

After about a month though, I received a notification that a comment had been left from a new reader. As with some of the other fellow bloggers, all we knew about each other were our screen names and the titles of our blogs.

It was the same with this new reader – only a screen name and a link to her blog – but somehow this one seemed different.  Her comments touched my heart and I often thought, “She really gets me.“

She often understood what I meant when other readers didn’t quite get my implications. And she was willing to let me know she was a fellow believer in Christ.

She read my blog. I read hers. She left comments. So did I. And what followed still kind of boggles my mind.

We became friends.  Real friends. The kind who, not only communicate on each other’s blogs and Facebook, but email, even occasionally talk by phone, and exchange real hand-written letters by mail. 

We became the kind of friends who share things of the heart. The kind of true and trustworthy friends who pray for each other and our families. 

My young adult children were incredulous and teased me because for several years I had issued dire warnings to them about being extremely careful and very wary of friendships made on the web.

After all, who knew what evil lurked in people’s minds and so many online personas could be totally fake. Yeah, they threw all of that right back at me when I told them of my online friendship with one of my blog readers.

The more this reader and I conversed with one another, the more we found we had in common. Like minds and like faiths. And so a budding friendship truly blossomed. We became soul sisters. Sisters in Christ.

Seven years have passed since our first online contact. Seven years in which we have gotten to know one another well, know all about each other’s families, and hopes and dreams and realities and disappointments.

But we had never actually met in person. Until last week. My friend, her husband, and daughter traveled from their Midwest home to visit family in a nearby state. She casually mentioned they would be traveling through our area. 

That’s when I experienced a light bulb moment! Wouldn’t it be the most amazing thing if we could meet somewhere to say hello in person and maybe have lunch?  Kind of an exciting thing to consider.  As we discussed the logistics of doing so, she shared that they could actually travel through my hometown on their way home.

Without hesitation, I extended an invitation to our home for lunch. We knew we wouldn’t have a long time to visit because they needed to continue on their journey homeward, but maybe a little stop at our house would be restful.

So last Friday, I waited for my friend I’ve never met in person to arrive on my doorstep. Homemade beef vegetable soup stewed in the crockpot for their arrival. Sandwiches and dessert were also ready and waiting. Papa didn’t have to work that day, so he noticed their vehicle coming down our driveway and shouted to me, “They’re here!”

And that’s when I flung wide open the door. I don’t even remember what I said to my friend as she stood there, arms laden with thoughtful gifts of freshly picked New York state apples and other goodies, with her husband and daughter.

All I know is that we greeted one another with warm hugs and huge smiles of joy.

We lunched, we talked, we hugged. We smiled as our husbands and daughters joined in conversations. And all too soon, it was time for them to leave.

What remains from our meeting in person that day? The warmest memories. The joys of a continuing friendship. My friend telling me coming to visit was like coming home.

And each time I pass by her delicious gift of apples sitting on my kitchen counter, their fragrant aroma reminds me of the blessing of that sunny October day.

The little Johnny Appleseed song I sang with my children when they were small comes to my mind: “Oh, the Lord’s been good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need – the sun and the rain and the apple seed, the Lord’s been good to me.”

And He has been good to me in giving me this gift of friendship (and others as well) by way of this blog. 

Seven years ago, I never would have dreamed that the seeds of a blogging friendship would produce such wonderful fruit.

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.” ~ Aristotle

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Just visiting a friend

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Mama’s Empty Nest is visiting today at my gracious Florida friend Debby’s blog.  I’m honored that she asked me to be a part of a friendship series she’s hosting at her site.

Please check out my post, A Friend For All Seasons, at Debby’s site. Click here to read it. 

I’ll be back here tomorrow for Wordless Wednesday.

“A friend is a gift you give yourself.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Howdy, pardner!

blogIMG_1405 (2)Whenever my photography cache gets low, I usually grab my camera and head outside my house or I pack it in its trusty case and venture out into my world – out here in ruralville America.

I live a few miles outside my tiny hometown and although we don’t live in a very secluded area, I’m surrounded by country roads of cement or macadam pavement, gravel, and even dirt, farmers’ fields, and plenty of woods.  A sight to capture with my trusty Canon Rebel T3i always presents itself somehow.

It’s me and my camera searching out interesting shots to take.  You might call us a partnership because I’d be lost without my camera and my camera couldn’t capture anything without me behind the lens.

That’s how I define partners.  Two working in tandem together to accomplish a goal whether it’s in relationship like marriage (my hubby is certainly my partner in life)  or found in business where two people put forth their best effort to create and maintain a lucrative company.

Partners are found in any community project where they plan and organize resources to achieve a successful event.  And the concept should be in our churches where we believers partner with God to bring the message of salvation to those who don’t know Him.

This week’s photo challenge theme is partners. I’ve stewed on the subject ever since I read the announcement last Friday. I’ve gleaned through my photos, contemplated over how to portray the theme in a photo opportunity not yet taken, and I kind of came up empty-handed.

Until I searched through some old photos again.

On one of those lazy summer days a couple of years ago, I happened to be driving down a nearby country road in my neck of the woods, my trusty camera by my side. Doing so, sometimes I find an awesome sight which prompts me to pull my car over to the side of the road, pull the Canon up to my eye, and click away. 

And often, I spy something that just kind of boggles my mind and I just have to capture it because…well, seeing is believing. I shared one of those times here

If you think that one is crazy, sometime I’ll have to post a photo of the life-sized black painted wooden thing resembling a monster that someone decided to erect right on the edge of one of our woodsy country roads. This thing scares the living daylights out of you when you first drive by it at dusk.  We’re talking “Oh, my gosh! Is that Bigfoot????”

Let’s hope Bigfoot doesn’t have any partners.

But back to the source of the photo today. While meandering around in search of subjects for another photo after I captured the “fowl play” I wrote about in my link above, I noticed two young llamas (or are they alpacas?) in a field. I don’t know if they were siblings but they stayed together as they moved about the area eating grass.  And it made a cute photo op and has been sitting in my photos file on my computer ever since.

The llamas appeared to be partners – at least partners in eating. Maybe they are just friends. But friends make great partners in just about any endeavor you attempt. 

Just like the old song says, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”   I have some great friends, both in person and here in the blogging world, and to me, you are all great partners too.

Together we try to make this world a better place, and I couldn’t ask for better partners to do so with. Thanks,”pardners!”

“Friendship is essentially a partnership.” ~Aristotle

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Opening our home and hearts

blogIMG_4799 (2)They ‘met’ over a decade ago on an online blogging circle but they really didn’t meet until recently.

My oldest daughter wrote her own blog on a now defunct site back all those years ago and she and another blogger became friends (sound familiar?).  My daughter lives here in the United States; the other young lady lives across the world. 

Over the years they transitioned from their blogs to becoming Facebook friends and kept up with each other’s lives through photos and comments.  And a very special friendship flourished.

Fast forward to 2014.  One of those lovely young women planned an adventure with her handsome boyfriend to visit the United States on a long holiday from their home in Australia.  And that’s when something took flight besides their lengthy trip via airplane.  The two toured several interesting cities here in the Northeast from New York City to Boston to Philadelphia to Washington, DC with a little side trip to Amish country in Lancaster, PA.

But they planned another special trip to a city many wouldn’t consider a tourist spot – Pittsburgh.  The reason?  To finally meet my daughter in person.  Months before, messages flew back and forth through the internet to make plans for the meeting.  Daughter and son-in-law would travel north from their home to spend an entire day with her friend and beau in our nearby city. 

They hit it off famously.  The two gentlemen had much in common, including a wacky sense of humor, and became instant friends.  The two young women cemented their friendship by conversing in person instead of via computer.

They relished an American breakfast at Pamela’s and a Pittsburgh style lunch at Primanti Brothers.  After a day-long sightseeing excursion, the four of them left the city lights behind and traveled to our country home.  Daughter wanted her new (yet old) friends to experience an evening in a typical American home and enjoy a home-cooked meal with us.

Papa and I are always happy to welcome new friends and we wanted to give the two travelers a taste of life outside of our country’s big cities and tourist spots.    Just an evening in an average American home with average everyday people like us.

Since this gathering took place the first weekend of December, we scurried to get the house Christmas ready with decorations and the tree dressed in its finery.   I planned a hearty American-style dinner with chicken and stuffing casserole, fresh green beans, baked yams with cinnamon butter, dinner rolls with a choice of our homemade strawberry or blueberry jam, and of course, apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to top it off.

blogIMG_4798From the minute the two Aussies stepped inside our house, we loved them!  Their warmth and sweet personalities won us over immediately and we thoroughly enjoyed sharing our hospitality with these delightful young adults.   We swapped stories and relished hearing about their homeland, their lives, their work, and their customs. 

They taught us some Australian words we hadn’t heard before and we even taught our new young friends some ‘Pittsburghese’ (words like yinz and redd up and slippy that many folks in our neck of the woods use).

They graciously brought us a basket of goodies from their homeland (including Tasmania where the young lady hails from) and later when we sampled all of the lollies (candy) they were oh, so tasty. While they were here we put on our brave faces and tried the vegemite (a staple in Australia which is a dark brown food paste made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spices). 

As we spread it on crackers, they couldn’t wait to see our reactions when we tasted it.  Some of us thought it was horrible.  I actually didn’t think it was that bad.  Papa thought it was too salty and tasted like soy sauce.  We had lots of fun later when we introduced the vegemite to the rest of our family during our early Christmas.  The faces were priceless.

We introduced Hershey’s peppermint kisses – they were a big hit – and Ghirardelli chocolates to our new friends and gave them a jar of my homemade strawberry jam.

Our time seemed short even though we stayed up to 2 a.m. enjoying our company.  When our guests departed to drive back to the city for the night, I snapped the photo above as the two girls hugged goodbye.  I suspect there will be a trip to Australia planned in the future for oldest daughter and son-in-law.

It was an evening we’ll never forget filled with the things that make sweet memories and that heartwarming feeling of sharing time and our home with new friends.

Ornament  from Tasmania

Ornament from Tasmania

There’s a new ornament hanging on our Christmas tree gifted to us from our Australian friends. It’s a carved wooden, three-dimensional tree made of Tasmanian Huon Pine, a creamy yellow wood with a very distinct aroma – to me it smells like wood smoke.

And each time I look at the Christmas tree or catch a whiff of that scent, I will remember Susannah and Mat and our time together and my heart will be full. 

“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.”   ~Washington Irving

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Thanks Giving: for pen pals

blogpic5Our paths crossed in fifth grade and even though we had not met in person we became friends. 

She lived in the Midwest; I lived in the Northeast.  We ‘met’ via a Sunday School take home paper which featured a column where children could write in requesting a pen pal. I saw her request one Sunday afternoon reading my paper at home after church and decided to write her a letter.  I was so very excited when she wrote back as I’ve always loved getting mail.

That connection commenced a 50-year-long friendship in hand-written letters.

My pen pal and I wrote about life in the eyes of a tween age girl: school, family, grades, television shows, pets, likes and dislikes.  By the time we became teenagers, we added topics of boys, who we liked, who we wanted to date, clothes, fads, music, and what movie or recording stars we had crushes on in our letters to one another.

We were the same age and our birthdays were just a few days apart so we always sent each other birthday greetings.  When we graduated from high school, we sent each other cards with a graduation charm taped inside to add to our charm bracelets which were all the rage at the time.  I still have my circle of silver and can show you exactly which charm came from my pen pal friend.

Both of us headed off to college yet we still managed to write to one another.  She left school early to get married and her military husband took her to places she probably never dreamed of living when she was a young girl growing up outside of a small town.  I married after college and the same life ensued for me.  Still with all the changes and moves across the country, we never lost track of one another and continued to communicate by mail.

We celebrated the birth of our children, sending each other baby gifts.  In between writing snippets of our lives, we traded baby photos, then school photos as our children grew up.  I cheered her on when she went back to college to finish her degree. We always told each other that someday we would meet in person.  By the time my family moved to the Midwest, within driving distance of where my pen pal came from, she lived on the West Coast.  By the time we moved to the West Coast, she again lived in the Midwest.

On one occasion we thought our paths would cross in person and we would finally get to meet but the stars didn’t align properly that time.   After all of these years, she again lives in the Midwest and I am back where I started from – my hometown.

Yet we still keep in touch.  Once a year we write each other newsy letters and tuck them into our Christmas greetings to each other.  And even though we’ve never seen each other in person, I consider my pen pal my friend.

Writing letters has become passé it seems.  Emails and texting have taken their place and that does sadden me.  But this age of technology has provided me with more pen pals in a way.  I have been blessed to ‘meet’ and develop some of the dearest friendships through writing ‘letters’ yet again – right here in Mama’s Empty Nest.

So as part of my 30 days of thanks giving, I’m so very grateful for my ‘pen pals.’  “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…”  ~ Philippians 1:3-4

And even though we haven’t met in person (yet), these friends bless me with their friendship through comments and personal letters that just don’t come in my real mailbox but in my virtual one.   I am thankful for each one of them. 

“Friends are like bracelet charms.  If you truly love and enjoy your friends, they are part of the golden circlet that makes life good.” ~ Unknown

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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

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

Danke, my liebster

When you take a hiatus from blogging, you worry a bit.

You worry that your readers will forget about your blog.  You worry that you disappoint those faithful readers that do remain in your blogging circle when there’s nothing new for them to read.

And you worry that when you do return to the blogging world, no one will want to read what you write.

Being overwhelmed by the wedding world these last few months, I’ve taken a few breaks from blogging.  It was necessary to try to retain my sanity while preparing for all three of my adult children’s weddings.

But each time I returned, there you were – my faithful readers, my friends who proved they weren’t just fair-weather friends.  And you, my dear ones, are liebster.

Liebster (pronounced: leeb-stir) is a German word meaning sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome.

How do I know this?  I learned it straight from my blogging buddy Dor at Virginia Views.  She recently was awarded The Liebster Blog Award and most graciously passed the torch to Mama’s Empty Nest.  Dor is definitely liebster.

According to Dor, this award “recognizes up and coming bloggers and winners are asked to ‘pay it back and forward.’  The award is given to those bloggers who have less than 200 followers.”

The Rules for the Liebster Award are as follows: 

  • Link back to the blogger who gave you this award.
  • Post the award to your blog.
  • Post 11 things about yourself.
  • Answer the questions asked of you, plus create 11 new questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Nominate 11 people you think deserve the award and link them to your post.
  • Go to their pages and tell them they have been chosen.

Linking back to my friend Dor’s blog is easy to do and I’m pleased to recommend her blog to all my friends and readers.   Posting the award on my blog – also easy.  There it is, positioned in this post, and taking up a little space on my awards page.

Now comes the not so easy thing.

Post 11 things about yourself.   Well, here goes!

1)     Unless you know me personally, this may come as a surprise to you because since I began blogging, I’ve kept anonymous.   To some, I’m only known as Mama or MEN (Mama’s Empty Nest).  But my real name is Cindy.

2)    I’ve been married to the most wonderful but sometimes wacky man for 35 years.  And unless I was a child bride, which I wasn’t, that tells you I am definitely middle-aged, or as I like to call it, on the down slide to 60.

3)    I’m not crazy about dogs.  The feeling is not mutual, however.  They appear to love me.

4)    I am fanatical about ice cubes.  I must have ice in any cold drink, whether it is sweet tea, unsweetened tea, soda (or as we call it here – pop), or just plain water.  Must. Have. Ice.

5)    I love sleeping in a cold bedroom.  In the dead of winter when it’s freezing outside, snow on the ground, cold wind blowing, you may drive past my house at night and you’ll notice that my bedroom window is open a tad.  This habit evolved because of those dratted menopausal symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats years ago, but now both hubby and I prefer a cold bedroom since we sleep better at cooler temperatures.  Brrr…in a good way!

6)    I drive an all-wheel drive vehicle for one purpose – to make it out of my uphill driveway every winter.  When it snows here at Mama’s Empty Nest, it blows and drifts and makes my driveway a challenge.  Plus, I love my Freddy Forester (the name I dubbed my trusty SUV).

7)    This is the seventh item in my list of things about me, so it seems fitting to relate that this is my seventh year of living cancer-free, for which I am so very thankful.

8)    I like the number 8.  I don’t really know why, I just do.  If I were an ice skater, I’d skate figure eights a lot.

9)    I just don’t understand why everyone wants to read on Kindle.  Really, reading on a screen is not nearly as relaxing as cozying up with a real, honest-to-goodness paper and binding book, turning real pages that I can feel in my hands, and locating a real bookmark to keep my place.  And browsing libraries and book stores is soothing to me.  Firing up a hand-held electronic device just doesn’t create the same feeling, virtually.  Call me a dinosaur.  I can take it.

10)  This item seems like a dichotomy, but it’s true.  I like lots of open space in a house; closed-in spaces make me feel claustrophobic.  But wide open spaces like the prairie in the central part of our country almost frighten me.  Go figure.

11) I’m happy and relieved to report that I survived this year – our “Year of the Weddings” in which all three of our adult children married.  It was stressful and most joyful all at the same time and I believe I’m still someone sane from the experience.  I know I am thrilled beyond measure to add three more wonderful people to our family!  For those of you who want to see photos from the last wedding held just a couple of weeks ago, hang on.  They’re coming soon, I promise.

Here are the 11 questions Dor chose for us lucky award recipients:

1)    If you could go anywhere in the world and stay for a month, where would you choose to go? My first thought was a nice, warm, sunny beach somewhere, but then I thought, “Nah….I’d get weary of just lounging on a beach for an entire month.”  So where would I spend a month anywhere in the whole wide world?  I think I’d go to the country of my ancestors – merry old England.  And even though it probably wouldn’t be warm or sunny, I’d explore the old country as much as I possibly could and imagine my ancestors living there.

2)    What is your hobby?  Besides blogging, I love to take photographs, but I’m really such an amateur.  I’m an avid crossword puzzle solver.  I’m a reader when I have time and I used to enjoy crafts.

3)  What was your childhood dream?  Don’t laugh.  My fondest childhood dream was an aspiration to be famous.  I decided early on in my life that I was either going to be a famous actress or a famous writer.  Unfortunately, I am neither.

4)    What was the best gift you ever received? Just recently, I received a gift that left me speechless.  But I’m going to leave you in suspense over that one because I plan to write a post about it very soon.  Stay tuned!

5)    What is your favorite movie?  That is hard to narrow down because I like a lot of movies.  Many of my favorite movies are old ones like It’s a Wonderful Life and The Thin Man.

6)    Who is the person who inspired you the most?  I’d have to say there were two people – my parents.  My mom battled cancer for less than a year before she succumbed.  She battled bravely without complaining, without regrets, without feeling sorry for herself.  Instead she chose to be grateful for the life she had been given and the blessings that surrounded her.  I hope I am half the person she is.  My dad also inspired me as he was the most kind, gracious, well-liked and respected man.  He also never said anything harsh or unpleasant about anyone.  I’d like to follow in his footsteps and be a chip off the old block, but I have to keep working on that.

7)    What is your favorite dessert?  Anything chocolate, except when eaten after 7 p.m. when the caffeine in the chocolate keeps me up all night.

8)    What is your favorite quote? Oh, that’s difficult because I am an ardent collector of quotes.  I love quotes and keep them in a notebook.  I could choose a poignant quote, a philosophical one, even a scripture from God’s Word could qualify as a favorite.  But I may surprise a few people with this quote that I think says it all:   “Just keep swimming.” ~ Dory in Finding Nemo

9)    What do you do for relaxation? I sit.  Honestly, that’s what I do to relax.  I sit and I’m quiet and I de-stress.

10) What is your favorite remembered scent/smell from childhood?  The clean, fresh scent of soap.  It reminds me of my mother.

11) If you could be a character in a book, who would you choose to be?  Hands down, Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  No matter how many times I read that book, I always find myself admiring this character.

Now it’s my turn to pass the Liebster on to my list of 11 must-read bloggers, although I don’t know if my honorees have less than 200 followers or not.  I only know that I follow them and they are dear friends of mine.

They are my go-to list, but I want to tell my new followers that I just haven’t had time to check out your blogs yet.  I have a lengthy list of new folks to read about and I’m hoping to do just that soon after the holidays are over and the long winter sets in.

  1. Homestead Ramblings
  2. These Days of Mine
  3. Georgette Sullins Blog
  4. Living in Graceland 
  5. Montana Outdoors
  6. Big Happy Nothing  
  7. Writing For Daisies 
  8. Believe Anyway
  9. Nikole Hahn’s Journal
  10. Saturday Evening Porch 
  11. Laura’s Blog

Some of my faves don’t really get into these awards that much, and that’s just fine.  Whatever floats my boat may sink yours, so I won’t be offended if you choose not to respond to the Liebster Award and its rules.

But if you are feeling whimsical and want to answer my 11 questions, here they are:

1)    If you made a bucket list, what would be the number one item on that list?

2)    What is your favorite holiday?

3)    How did you decide on the name of your blog?

4)    What is one of your most beloved family traditions?

5)    What is your all-time favorite thing in the world to eat?

6)    Where have you traveled that is the farthest away from your home?

7)    Which is better – television, movies, or book?

8)    If you celebrate Christmas, when do you open gifts, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

9)    If you own a Kindle, why do you like it? If you don’t, why not?

10)  It’s almost Thanksgiving, for what are you most thankful?

11)  Have you ever met one of your blogging buddies in person?  What was the experience like?

I’m grateful for my readers and my blogging buddies, for my oldest and dearest friends and my new, endearing ones, for the opportunity to be honored and the chance to honor someone else.

Danke schön, mein liebster lesern.

(Thank you very much, my dearest readers.  Not sure I got that German correct, but I tried!)

©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com