Heritage wall

blogIMG_9851 (3)My heritage runs deep here – this place outside of a small town in this particular state.

This place where both my parents were born and their parents and their parents…and so on…and so on.

This place where I can travel down the road about four miles or so and visit not only my parents’ grave site, but also those of some of my ancestors. 

We can trace my ancestry back to the 1600’s and 1700’s when my predecessors arrived in the “New World” and eventually settled here. I’m not an avid genealogist like some folks are, but I do enjoy knowing where and from whom I came. 

My father was the keeper of that sort of information and long before he passed away, he fashioned a notebook for each of his three daughters containing family history. Included were copies of old photos and a family tree for both sides of his and my mother’s families with birth and death dates.

What’s missing though are the family stories of those who came before me. Those I only know by name and vital statistics. Those who were my great-grandparents and ancestors even further back.  I know when they were born and when they left this earth, but I don’t know much else about them.

What kind of folks were they? What did they do for a living? How important was faith to them? What color were their hair, eyes, etc.? Did they have dreams for their children that were bigger than ones they had for themselves? Did they have any musical or artistic talent? What was their favorite food? Did they vote? And what interesting stories could be told about their lives?

This week’s photo challenge theme is heritage.

And I wish I knew more about mine. If only I had had the forethought to ask my parents more questions about our family heritage before they passed away, although what they knew was probably a little sparse since their grandparents were deceased when they were young.

Just like mine. All of my grandparents were gone by the time I passed my 10th birthday.

What was my grandma’s favorite color? I don’t know.  All I do know is a relatively small cache of memories I have of my mother’s parents since my grandfather died the same year as grandma. But I remember Grandma when I pull out her handmade quilt that still emits an aroma that reminds me of her and sometimes causes me to shed a few tears. 

My paternal grandmother died when I was an infant, so all I have are photos of her, no memories. My paternal grandfather passed when Dad was just a baby, so he had no memories of him either, just a couple of photos.

What exactly did grandpa do with his carpentry skills? I don’t know. But I do know his wooden tool box now gathers dust in my basement and I’ve contemplated what I should do with it.

Heritage is important to preserve, especially for our children and grandchildren. Perhaps one day, our grandchildren will reminisce and wonder more about their Nana and Papa.

Perhaps not.

But I still want to leave a heritage for them anyway. Not just one of the items we owned or one with special significance, but our life stories as well or the tale that accompanies a particular item that has been passed down from one generation to the next.   

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My children’s grandparents as newlyweds

Several years ago, Papa and I moved our family of five back here to the homeland when my mother was dying of cancer. Prior to our move and as a farewell gift, a sweet friend presented a book, entitled “A Grandparent’s Book,” to me. 

Questions written as if a grandchild were asking them fill the book with spaces for handwritten answers. I’m grateful now that I took the time to ask both my mother and father to complete it before they passed away, although I realized later that Dad didn’t finish it all.

Reading through it provides a little insight into my parents’ lives from young children through adulthood, but it still lacks the sweetness and poignancy of those family stories.

I too completed the blanks in a spiral bound book for my children called “A Parent’s Book,” but again, it lacks the in-depth picture you gain from listening to someone’s history in person, told in their own voice, from their own memories. 

I once read somewhere that when we die we become stories in the minds of other people, but what happens when those stories aren’t passed down?

Our heritages are lost when they aren’t recorded or at least written down. In some cases I suppose even the written accounts are lost when descendants find them unimportant and toss them in the trash bin.

So I think it’s vital to share the value of family history with our children and grandchildren.

Because someday, when they are mature in years and their forbears are long gone, they may wonder, “Did Nana ever write a blog and what on earth did she ever write about?”

 “How will our children know who they are if they do not know where they came from?” ~ Unknown

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Solitude’s good for the soul

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“I’m not anti-social. I’m pro-solitude.” ~ unknown 

I’m killing two birds with one stone today.

You know, accomplishing two things at the same time because it’s convenient to do both.

It just so happens that the weekly photo challenge theme and also Day 6’s theme in Developing Your Eye photography workshop (that I’m determined to finish) was “solitude.”

Two birds exactly the same and I’m going to hurl my stone and put them both to rest.

But for a minute, I’m going to digress, and I’m hopeful it will bring me back around to this theme. The mental picture I get of hurling a stone at two birds causes me to remember a funny story. And maybe I can somehow relate it to solitude. 

Many years ago when I was just a teen, my mother was continually disgusted by a solitary skunk who frequented our yard. We lived in the country where pesky animals like rabbits and deer liked to use my mom’s garden as a one-stop salad bar.

But the skunk really didn’t fall into that category.  Mom just didn’t like the stinky thing in our yard and I believe she also worried that our tom cat would tangle with it and come back to the house smelling to high heaven one day.

So one summer evening, the skunk appeared in our yard yet again.  Since it was after dinner, Dad was home from work and the three of us were sitting on the side porch looking out at the majority of our expansive nearly four acre yard.

Mom spied the skunk and said to Dad, “Go get your shotgun and shoot that skunk. I don’t want him in the yard.”

Dad replied, “He’s not hurting anything. Actually, skunks eat the grubs in the grass, so he’s a good thing.”

Dad didn’t budge, so Mom decided to take matters in her own hands.  She grabbed a brick that was lying around in the garage, and with that in hand, walked towards the skunk while Dad and I watched.  

“She’s going to get sprayed,” Dad commented shaking his head.  I nodded agreement, yet watched fascinated as my mom exhibited enough courage to head towards a skunk with only a brick for a weapon.

She got within a few feet of that skunk, wound up her brick-toting arm and hurled that brick at the critter with all her might, hitting him smack dab on the head.  He fell right over, instantly dead, while Dad and I stood amazed and speechless.

From then on, my Dad teasingly called my mom “dead-eye.”

My mother was one of a kind. She was an only child, born to older parents, so I imagine she had her fair share of being alone in life. And that brings my thoughts back around to that theme of solitude – the state of being alone.

When her elderly parents both reached the point where they no longer could live unassisted, Mom didn’t have any siblings to rely on for help. So we moved into the larger house where my grandparents lived in order for Mom to take care of them. By herself.

When they both passed away the same year, even though she had my dad, my sisters and their husbands, and me as family, I know she felt that sense of solitude again. 

My mother enjoyed anything she could create with her hands and many of her hobbies involved moments of solitude like quilting, sewing, crocheting, even cooking and baking, which she liked to do by herself. She usually rejected any offers of help in the kitchen because I think she did enjoy her moments of being alone.

Often we think of solitude as a lonely way of life, but I don’t believe it is. Sometimes we need a period of being apart from others. Being alone. In solitude. To think. To pray. To mull things over. To heal.

A bit of solitude can do wonders for your soul. I’m pretty sure my mother knew that too.

“Solitude is not a way of running away from life … from our feelings. On the contrary. This is the time we sort them out, air them, get over them, and go on without the burden of yesterday.” ~Joan Chittister (The Gift of Years: Growing Old Gracefully

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A Day in My Life

This week’s Word Press Photo Challenge is to capture a day in your life with photos.  Every one of us has some days that are busy from dawn to dusk and chock full of exciting events.  Other days may seem hum-drum, mundane, the same old same old.

But that’s life.  Some days I awaken with a great sense of wanting to accomplish so much and I embrace the day like this quote from writer E.B.White:  “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

And often times I live my day just like the actor Cary Grant once said of his own life: “My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.”

But every day of life we’re given can be the best day of the year.  It’s all about the attitude we choose to have for each day as it comes.

So I’ve chosen to symbolize a typical day in the life of Mama’s Empty Nest – a work day with not much excitement.  Just an average, regular day.  But even average, regular days are days for which to be grateful.

P.S. Hover your mouse over each photo below to read the captions.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Going beyond

blog003Pictures speak to me.

They really do.   Often just gazing at a photograph prompts a blog post idea for me.   Catching a glimpse of something I’ve not noticed before also gives my imagination fodder.  I am a very visual person it seems.

That’s why I enjoy participating every so often in a Weekly Photo Challenge given by Word Press.  Each week in the Daily Post, a theme word photography challenge is offered to any bloggers wanting to participate.  

Our mission, should we decide to accept it, is to publish our photo attempts to personify that theme.

This week’s theme word is ‘beyond.’    Here’s the definition of beyond according to my trusty dictionary:  1. Farther away than; on the far side of.  2. After (a specified time). 3. Outside the limits, reach, or scope of.

Beyond.  That word makes my imagination soar…well…beyond and conjures up all kinds of ideas! Perusing  through my photo files, I  found several pictures that I thought fit this challenge.  The more I looked, the more I found, and that’s when I decided to incorporate the photo challenge into a written post, not just publish a picture.

One of my first thoughts when I read the word ‘beyond’ was musical –  songs with that word in them ran through my brain’s archives.  I’ve taken lots of pictures of sunsets from my own back yard.  So any of those shots could be used to symbolize the old hymn that comes to my mind, “Beyond the Sunset.”

blogDSCN8756Likewise, I have many shots of the Pacific Ocean coastline in Oregon in my stash of old photos.  So many of them portray the lyrics “somewhere beyond the sea” from the old song of the same name.

blog005But I’m not just stuck on song lyrics.  The line made famous by Buzz Lightyear in the movie, Toy Story, “to infinity and beyond!” comes to my mind whenever I view some of the pictures I’ve taken of clouds.

blog003And then there’s that saying about thinking outside the box or looking beyond the obvious.  I realized I needed to look beyond one day when I photographed a recent snow fall.  At first, I concentrated on the entire landscape around me, then I zoned in on how the snow clung to a tree limb.  When I focused on the snow draping the branches, I looked beyond and noticed pine trees sporting their snowy scarves, which provided a treasure trove of photos.

blogIMG_0337Of course, sometimes I can stretch a little too far — beyond my means.  A year ago, we were searching for oldest daughter’s wedding reception venue.  We visited a couple of places in our nearby city, but soon realized the sites, as beautiful as they were, were definitely beyond our means.  Here’s one of them.

blogDSCN8498I may have taken this photo challenge way beyond its intention, but our imaginations are like that or at least they should be.  They should soar beyond the everyday normal, even beyond our wildest expectations.  In 2012, way beyond my wildest expectations, all three of my adult children got married within six months of each other!  That was definitely going beyond the norm (at least for us)!

blogIMG_0726But I think the photo that best describes ‘beyond’ at this stage of my life is a picture that my middle daughter took of her dad and me one day.  We’re in the process of moving beyond

We’ve reached middle age and emptynesthood.  Our parents are gone.  Our children are grown and launched into their married lives.  Hubby and I have passed quite a few life stages; you might say we’ve moved beyond them.  We’ve been children, young adults, young marrieds, and parents of babies, children, teens, and now adults.  

A new stage of life is before us. Together, we walk hand and hand, just the two of us, to discover where this new stage takes us…into the future…into what lies beyond.

blogtaking a walk©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com