A Day For Remembering

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In small towns all across America, people gathered today to remember those who served in the military and those who gave their lives serving in the military. Bands played, 21 gun salutes were given, speeches made and flags were flying.

As a kid I remember going to the cemetery and seeing the veterans in their uniforms. They made a huge impression as they stood rock still, at attention, guns smartly resting on their shoulders. There was precision in every move they made.

I remember the sound of the breeze through the trees, the slap of palms on the stocks of guns and the sharp report of the guns firing through the quiet of the cemetery. The smell of sulfur from spent shells is a vivid memory.

It was only in later years that I understood what all those little flags meant. It was only in later years that the heartbreak of lives ended too soon, in war, really hit me.

In my trip to Washington DC, last year, I had the opportunity to visit Arlington National Cemetery, as well as many memorials. There is a reverent hush in those places and it is fitting.

It is a hush that invites time for reflection on the lives lost, the sacrifices made and the hardships endured.  It is a hush fit for sacred ground.

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier- Arlington National Cemetery

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The Three Soldiers-Near Vietnam Wall

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Korean War Memorial

This is a day set aside to honor and remember. Let us not forget to honor those who have made the sacrifices necessary to protect us and others. Let us not forget to thank those who have served, the families of those who have served and also thank those who continue to serve in our nation’s military.

Today I say thank you to my three nephews who are serving at this time……… Sam (82nd Airborne), Kevin (Army), and Justin (Navy).

It is good for me to remember that there is a price to be paid for freedom. It is paid in sacrifice, tears, victories, defeats, despair, pain, sweat and blood. Those paying the price are our brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, dads, moms, children and friends.

It is good to have a day to remember these truths. To remind ourselves that freedom is our heritage . It is something to be protected, defended and not taken for granted. I am grateful to those who make the sacrifice to serve.

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May we never forget

 

AMERICANS CAME TO LIBERATE, NOT TO CONQUER,
TO RESTORE FREEDOM AND TO END TYRANNY
Coleville cemetery-Carentan, France

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13
New Living Translation

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Overcoming Darkness

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I had planned to use today to take up the quote challenge given to me by Whitney Ibe Blog. In light of events in the UK the best I can offer is a quote from a man of peace. A man who saw the problems of the world and offered the best solution.

He offered a message of love and hope in a world adrift in a sea of hate. He offered a way of peace to conquer the violence. He mirrored Christ when the world wanted to mirror hate. His message is timeless.

I know that I am supposed to nominate someone to take up this 6 day quote challenge. I am going to give this a twist instead. I would like to challenge all of us  to post our favorite quotes on kindness, love, conquering hate….basically your favorite quotes on love casting out fear and good conquering evil.

My prayers are with those grieving at this time. My prayers are with those who encourage this violence….may their hearts be opened to love, may their eyes be opened to the truth of life and may their lives be changed by goodness.

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Romans 12:21
New Living Translation

 

Leaving The Nest

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A few posts ago I shared a picture of very new baby robins in a nest that was in one of our white pine trees.  The trees grow at the edge of our backyard and always seem to attract birds. The other day I got curious about how much those babies had grown…… I was totally surprised!

Those babies had gotten so big; they were perched on the edge of the nest. I had no idea if there were still four of them or not as they were jam-packed in and on that nest. I did not dare get too close because I did not want to scare them into jumping out before they were ready to leave.

I was really grateful for my zoom lens with trying to get their picture. I did not have to get too close and disturb them to much.

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I could see Mama Robin sitting on my garden fence with her beak full of a bug. She was not happy that I was checking her nest and she kept a sharp eye on me. I turned to take her picture but she was not having any of that and took off.

Today I went back to take another look and discovered that the babies were gone. I am hoping they took off on their own and did not become a meal for the local predators. The raccoons and stray cats in our area are notorious for hunting the baby birds.

I am hoping to see those young robins hopping about the place waiting for mom and dad to come feed them. It always seems like they leave the protection of that nest a little too early to be safe. It make me wonder if they just outgrow the nest or if something else prompts them to leave.

This is the time of year that many kids are graduating from grade schools, high schools, and colleges. I often wonder if they feel ready to move on or if they are “pushed” to get out of the nest and on to that next level.

I know as parents we try equip our kids to be prepared for when they join the “real world” I am never very sure just what we, as parents, think the real world is. Maybe we should wonder if they are amply prepared to join a different world than the one they are leaving.

Usually by the time our children are ready to move on, they have developed an independent streak that tends to drive parents crazy.  It is always good to remember that it is that same streak that will carry them into and through that next phase of their lives.

My mom always told me to enjoy those days as they would go too fast….and she was right! Those days are a blessing and something to be cherished. It is good to see our children grow and become independent. It is good to see them venture out and make their own homes.

It is also good to see them come back and strengthen those ties to the places and people that were part of their growing up years. It is good to have them come back to visit the nest……

 

 

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children.
One of these is roots, the other, wings.

 

 

The Right Nesting Box

Screech Owl

My husband and I have been watching this nesting box the last while. We have watched the wood ducks pass it by in favor of an old tree with a hole in it. We have watched robins sit on top of it, but not go in. We have watched  flickers head on inside and check it out, only to fly right back out and not return.

Just the other day I thought I saw something in the opening. Whenever my husband looked there was nothing there. I think, he thought I was imagining things or hallucinating or something.

My husband looked over in that direction,  a few days ago, and ran for the binoculars. This time there was definitely a bird sitting in the opening! When we looked closer we discovered a screech owl sitting there, looking our way. My husband was really happy as he loves owls.

I quickly got my camera and tried to sneak in close to get a good picture of him or her (Who really knows?). It was kind of funny….the closer I got, I realized that the bird was watching me; watch him! When I got a little too close he hunkered down a little lower in the opening of the nesting box.

We were hoping the little owl would choose to use the box to raise a family. For two days, the screech owl used the box as a temporary home.  The third day he or she never showed up again. We were pretty disappointed to realize that the owl had not chosen to make the nesting box it’s final nesting choice for this season.

It does make me wonder what they do not like about that particular location. Isn’t it roomy enough? Is it too rustic? Do they want more than one bedroom? I guess I won’t ever know as they have never stopped to leave a note or tell me!

I wonder if we are like those birds? Are there places where God intends us to be but we just aren’t seeing the plan He has put before us? I have a feeling there are a lot of times my eyes are shut tightly to the place He has put before me.

What are our reasons? The place isn’t what we were searching for? We don’t think the time is right for that particular move? It could be any number of reasons or excuses to not make the step.

Or maybe, we are where He put us and we aren’t sure we really like this place. We find it hard to be content with the circumstances that make up our lives. I know I can fuss and fume when my plan seems to not be working according to the way I thought it should.

If I really stop and open my heart and eyes in those instances I realize I had made my plan and then asked God to bless it. And yes…..that is totally backwards!

Here’s to a new plan….ask God for His plan first! Who knows…..we just might find that the “nesting box” He places before us; is really a great fit. We might find that we really are content being where we are supposed to be, instead of always wishing to be somewhere else.

May you find contentment and have no qualms about enjoying the path you find yourself traveling. May you feel blessed to be wherever you are at his moment. May you be placed in the perfect “nesting box”….the one made just for you.

He is a wise man who does not grieve
for the things which he has not,
but rejoices for those which he has.
– Epictetus 

Sweet Weekends

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This past weekend started in typical Spring busy fashion. My husband was trying to beat the forecasted rain by getting his soybean fields disked and planted by noon on Saturday. The rain forecast was not the only reason for the deadline…..some was  due to kids coming home for the weekend…… He got the beans planted with time to spare….a little time.

Once the planting was done; there was time to visit with the kids, grill burgers for the noon meal, play legos with the grandson, set up tea parties for the granddaughter and get ready and out the door for a bride/groom shower for a nephew and his fiancée that evening. It was a busy day, but it was a great kind of busy!

Sunday was one of the sweetest I have known in a long time……I got to sit in church; next to my kids and my grandkids. There is not much sweeter in life than a wiggly grandchild sitting on your lap in church. True….it is hard to listen to the pastor….with all the shushing going on and the distractions…but it is sweet indeed.

I had decided I wanted to try get pictures of the grandkids after church, as it was a beautiful day. I had to convince my granddaughter that taking her picture was a grand idea. She was not convinced till I resorted to bribery……spoonfuls of chocolate frosting are a wonderful enticement for photo ops.

It didn’t take long and the rest of our children arrived for Sunday dinner. It was such a blessing to have them all around the table. The laughter, good-natured teasing, re-hashing of old memories, and good food was such a treat for this mom. There is not much I treasure more than sitting and watching my family enjoy being together.

We did have to venture outside after dinner as it became time for the “Big Reveal”. (I am learning that “reveals” are the new thing as a way to tell people what gender your child will be.) My youngest son had told me last week that they needed lots of space for the reveal they had planned.

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I knew my sons like to shoot clay pigeons so I had a feeling this reveal would involve shooting some type of target….I just wasn’t totally sure what. I found out soon that it would also involve a lot of noise!

My son had found the idea on the internet that you put either pink or blue chalk powder in a box with tannerite. When you shoot it…..it makes an incredible amount of noise and it sends up a huge cloud of the appropriately colored powder. It brings to mind 4th of July fireworks!

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I must admit….it was impressive and it was a lot of fun finding out we were going to have a new grandson come September.

The day was capped off with  finishing up the leftover cupcakes from the shower the night before. There was more laughter, more planning for future gatherings, more fun in just being together for a few more minutes, before they all had to get on the road and head for home.

My children have definitely learned the art of hospitality. They live in three different cities, but they remain close. They stay in touch and make sure they all stay part of each other’s lives.  It is a blessing and a gift to see the joy they have in being together. That joy makes for a very sweet weekend.

Like branches on a tree,
our lives may grow in different directions
yet our roots remain as one
Unknown

Preparing For Gathering

Cupcakes

Triple Chocolate Fudge & White Almond Raspberry Filled Cupcakes

Today was one of those days that seemed to be busy with a hodgepodge of “stuff”.  I spent time preparing for a bride/groom wedding shower that, as an aunt, I am helping host. This means, we are in charge of lunch, games and whatever else needs doing.

These showers started out being for couples on my husbands side of the family; due to being a small group. I am not sure how the guys feel about being included, but I think it adds a lot of fun to see the guys’ perspective on things.

One of the things I had to make was cupcakes. As of today, I can check them off my list of to-dos. They are some “canoey” work….but they are fun to decorate. We have some who cannot have gluten so I also made some of those. (It is really helpful to have a little  help from Betty Crocker for that!) I bought a yellow gluten free cake mix and turned them into lemon cupcakes with a recipe I found on Pinterest. (Lemon Cupcakes)

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I also got to prepare for my kids to come home, for a time, this weekend. The oldest son and his family will be spending a night here! I cannot wait to see them. It was time to sweep, dust, vacuum, and change bedding upstairs in anticipation of the weekend.

On Sunday the kids will all be here for Sunday dinner. We will celebrate Mother’s Day and we are also going to have a “grand reveal”  to find out what our newest grandchild will be. We will find out if we should purchase pink or blue items for this newest addition to the bunch.

I am not sure what my youngest son and his wife have planned for this big reveal….all I know is my son said they needed “lots of room”. Knowing how they love target  and clay pigeon shooting, I would not be surprised if it somehow involved shooting! I guess I will have to be patient and wait to find out.

Some of my preparations involved washing towels (you have to have clean towels when the kids come home) and hanging them outside to dry. After I got them hung on the clotheslines I wandered over to the garden.  Easter weekend my husband and I were able to get our potatoes planted. When I checked them today I was pretty excited to see they were starting to come up. Some places I could even see rows!

Potato Plant

Yukon Gold Potatoes

 

Now the busy work starts…..weeding, hoeing, watering and mulching those potatoes. I mowed the lawn today, but didn’t have time to bag the grass to be used for mulching…..maybe next time! Maybe next week will be a little slower pace….maybe. About the time I think that life will slow down; something else pops up and keeps us running.

It is a fun kind of busy….these last few days. It is a busy that is filled with anticipation of seeing family and getting together. It is the knowing that our time together will be too short; but it will be so full of laughter, stories and love. It will be a time of new memories being made and the re-telling old ones.

I hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day this weekend. May you be surrounded by your family. If they cannot come home make sure to give them a call and let them know you care! May you have time to make great new memories.

If you don’t have children….be the “cool” uncle, aunt or neighbor that all the kids want to hang out with. You have no idea what you mean to those kids! Everyone has a need to belong and know that someone cares about them.

May you be blessed this weekend and may you be a blessing to those around you.

 

“Our family is a circle of strength;
founded on faith,
joined in love,
kept by God,
together
forever.”
-Unknown

Cherish your human connections:
your relationships with friends and family.
Joseph Brodsky

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Signs of Spring

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“It is spring again.
The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

 

It feels like it is officially Spring now!  The apple trees are in full bloom and are absolutely beautiful. It is hard for me to imagine how one tree can be covered by so many blossoms at the same time.

I have to keep reminding myself that these blossoms should be enjoyed fully right now. Like so many things in life, they will not last. It won’t be long and a breeze will pluck them from the tree and they will float down in a soft rain of pink petals. They might be fleeting, but they are truly a wonderful gift while they last.

I decided to take advantage of the gift and took the time to wander through my backyard and see what other signs of spring I could find. It was kind of a mini scavenger hunt and it was a refreshment for the soul.

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The other day my husband discovered this robin’s nest in one of our White Pine evergreen trees. I thought, as the nest was not so far up the tree, I should attempt to capture a picture of them before they get to big.

Mama Robin was not really impressed with me getting close enough to photograph them. In fact I think I made her downright crabby! She kept a very watchful eye on me from her perch on my garden fence and the minute I backed away she went right back to the nest to make sure everything was okay.

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One of my favorite perennials around here is the bleeding heart bush I planted two years ago. It was a tiny slip of a plant when I put it in the ground. I remember putting a small fence around it to protect it from the rabbits and the chickens.  I babied that plant along with the hope that it would survive and someday bloom.

The rabbits probably would have eaten it if they had a chance and the chickens definitely would have scratched around the plant and totally destroyed it. (Things you learn living out here!) It is best not to leave tender seedlings exposed to rabbits and chickens.

I kind of think I love bleeding hearts because they are such an old fashioned flower. They are a plant I remember my Grandma having in her flower garden. It is also great it is a perennial…..I love the fact they come back year after year. There is something comforting about a plant that keeps coming back even after the harsh Iowa winters.

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When you look at a  field of dandelions you can either see a hundred weeds or a hundred wishes  – Unknown

 

There is one other “perennial” that we seem to have in abundance……the Dandelion. For many years I fought a battle with those bright yellow flowers. I tried spraying them, digging them out and mowing them off….constantly. Nothing stopped them from coming back.

Since those years I have come to a truce with the dandelion. I discovered one morning while pondering those dandelions that is was better to let them grow. I found that my lawn was filled with bright yellow gold finches. They were feasting on the dandelions that had gone to seed.

I decided at that time that I would never have a lawn that makes the front cover of a landscape magazine. I also decided that if I couldn’t have that kind of lawn I would have one that invited wildlife to come and have some lunch. To be very honest it was much more fun watching all those finches hopping around my yard than it would have been to see only green smooth grass.

I have also seen magazine articles about all the wonderful things you can do with a dandelion…..I have not tried any of them….yet. They say (I am not sure who “they” are) that you can eat the leaves in salads. I do wonder if they would taste good or if they would be kind of bitter?  I also have a friend who has made dandelion wine. (I do wonder how many blossoms she had to pick to make that gallon of wine.)

Those yellow blooms bring back great childhood memories of picking fistfuls to bring to my mom. The downside of that was that our hands were stained for days with the stuff that oozed out of those stems and onto our hands. Fortunately, as a kid, we were not too concerned with dirty stained hands.

It is a wonderful thing to be able to look at that bright yellow bloom and let your mind wander back to that time called childhood. What brings back those wonderful childhood memories for you? For me it is Spring with it’s yellow dandelions and the wonder of blue robin’s eggs hatching into baby birds.

 

The day the Lord created hope
was probably the same day he created Spring.
Bernard Williams

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