The Faraway Nana – 4 Ways To Make The Distance Easier

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As most of you know, all 7 of my grandchildren now live far away from me. It has been a difficult and emotional transition for me–one where I’ve shed many tears, and prayed often for God to help me see this new season from His perspective. And He has!

What I miss most as the Faraway Nana is being able to do fun things with them in my home–like baking, reading, picking flowers, going for walks around the block, watching their favorite movies while munching on hot, buttered popcorn, coloring pictures and playing Polly Pockets–to name just a few.

I was having one of those days when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself when God dropped an idea into my head.My four oldest grandchildren tell me often that they miss Nana’s House, which has always been like a jab to heart. But this time God gave me an idea, and a new tradition was born.

Nana’s House Newsletter

I told Bristol, Norah, Willow and Bradley that if they couldn’t come to Nana’s House, then Nana’s House would come to them. 🙂 I began publishing a monthly newsletter called Nana’s House. In it I put personal notes, little contests, crafts and something they can all enjoy from the 7 year olds down to the babies. When finished I stuff all the supplies needed for the crafts as well as candy treats into the Priority Mail Flat Rate small box and send it on its way. I take a picture of the receipt with the tracking number and text it to my daughters, so the kids can know when their little package will arrive.Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.25.58 AM

This has helped me more that I could have ever imagined. I still get to go to the craft store and pick out something special for them to do. I still get to highlight funny things they’ve said or done. I still get to hear their voices squeal with excitement when they see another newsletter is on its way. The only thing I haven’t figured out how to do is hug their little necks and do nosies with them. Which brings me to the next thing I’ve done to help with the distance…

Skyping

What fun we have had Skyping, and now using Google Hangouts (which works better when you are connecting three phones). We have colored Easter Eggs together, baked cookies and read books. I’m currently reading a series of books to the girls titled, The Doll People. They color while I read to them, and it has been wonderful. I  love how they have absorbed the story and beg me, “Nana, just one more chapter–pleeeaaassssee?” We’re currently on book two, The Meanest Doll In The World. After this there are two more, so I think we’ll be able to enjoy this adventure together for quite a while.

Facetime

StellaMy younger grandchildren love to talk with Nana on FaceTime because they can carry me with them to their room to see their new toys. I have had the best conversations with Stella (aged 2) all the while looking at the ceiling.

She takes the phone to her room, sets me on her kitchen set and fixes me the best cups of coffee. I’m always asking her to prop me up so I can see her face. 🙂 We are still working on that one, but I wouldn’t trade staring at her bedroom ceiling for anything. She’s precious.

Writing Letters

I love writing. I love penmanship. I’ve heard that public schools are no longer teaching handwriting, and it makes me sad to realize this is going away. I always loved learning to write my letters. I practiced over and over again, until I like how it looked.  This gave me an idea to start writing letters to my grandchildren once they learn to read. I print until they learn cursive writing. Once they do, I will write to them in cursive. The younger ones who can’t yet read, don’t like that the older ones get this special treat. But, I pray it will motivate them to learn to read for themselves. Cards are also a fun treat for the younger ones when it’s not their birthdays. Such an inexpensive way to show them how special they are to me. 

Final Thoughts

Being far away from those you love is not easy, especially since they grow up so fast. For a long time I resisted finding joy in the distance, but I’m beginning to see that there is much good that happens when miles separate you from those you love. In this day and age we can still connect in ways my grandmother would have never imagined possible. When she moved away from her family to Jenks, Oklahoma, she didn’t know if she would ever see their faces or hear their voices again. Their only means of communication was through snail mail–although back then, it was delivered by horse. We are blessed that no matter how faraway you are, you can connect in so many ways as often as you like. What a small world.

Are you separated from your little people? I hope my ideas will inspire you to embrace the distance and make it something special. 

Blessings!

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Did I Ever Tell You About The Time…

Think of the many stories you have bouncing around in your head that your family has told over and over. You know them so well, you most likely roll your eyes whenever it’s being told for umpteenth time. But do you realize these stories only last for two, maybe three generations? Then, they’re lost forever. Unless someone takes the time to write them down.

How could you preserve your family stories? Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Write them in a family Bible or journal made for this purpose.

2.  Video your family telling the story.

3.  Make a photo journal using Snapfish or the like including pictures of family gatherings where these stories were always told. Be sure to include the names of all present as well as the date.

It isn’t hard to do this, it just takes planning. What stories come to mind that are worth preserving in your family?

When A Blog Goes Silent…

…it doesn’t mean I’m not mulling over in my heart and mind what to post next. It just means life has gotten the best of me, which is a good thing.

A silent blog means:

  • I have a life outside of writing about it.
  • There are friends I need to call
  • There are funerals I must attend
  • There are church meetings to help grow my faith
  • There are floors to clean
  • There is laundry to wash
  • There are quiet times to enjoy
  • There are grandchildren to play with
  • There are vacations to plan
  • And walking routes to pursue
  • And most of all–a husband to spend time with

I love writing. It isn’t an effort to do so. But I can easily get caught up with my blogging life to the neglect of my highest priorities. And family is high on my list.

Since I last posted on May 21st this is what has happened:

  • My youngest daughter turned 27
  • We bought and renovated a cabin in Banner Elk, NC. See Barefoot Cabin.
  • We had our first family vacation there
  • Three dear friends passed from this life to their eternal home
  • One friend got married to the love of her life
  • Attended the baby shower for my niece who is expecting her third child, first boy.
  • Went with my daughter-in-love to her 4D sonogram appt. where I got to see my 6th grandchild’s little face for the first time. He is due in September.
  • Had appointments with our attorney to help with my late-mother’s property.

My list could go on and on, and I’m sure you have a similar one. Life is full. Life is good. And everyday stories are being written that would help others know us better if we could but record them somehow. This is my passion. I love hearing stories that teach a lesson. Do you have one you could share? Or maybe a story you want to make sure your children and grandchildren know? I would love to hear it! This is why I began the tab at the top titled, Share Your Story. Won’t you consider taking some time to write it out. Then once it’s published you can share the link with your family and friends who may not have heard it yet. I hope you’ll consider it.

My next post will be such a story inspired by the questionnaire found at the back of my book.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ve missed you.

♥ Debi

A Simple Way To Discover Your Passion

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As most of you know, I entered both of my blogs (The Romantic Vineyard) in the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I was crazy to think I could keep up with it, especially since we were away for two weeks smack in the middle of April. But I did manage 22 posts on this blog! 22!!! That’s quite a feat when you consider I’ve only had a total of 45 posts since August of last year. I’ve doubled in a month what has taken me 7 months to write previously. I also posted 26 on TRV for a total of 48 posts in one month. So I’m extremely happy. 🙂

But what I’m happiest about is those who have joined my author blog as a result. I feel as though I’ve received an Oscar and I have a list of thank you’s:

  • Thank you for stopping by.
  • Thank you for signing up to receive my posts via e-mail.
  • Thank you for buying and reading my book.
  • Thank you for caring to learn more about your own family history.
  • And thank you for helping me find my author blog voice and direction, a new experience for me.

Through it all I’ve discovered a new passion I didn’t realize had been born in my heart. It’s to help others discover the stories in their family history and to share what they’ve learned with me and their extended family.

I’ve heard it said that if you want to know what you’re passionate about, ask your children.

Would what they perceive match your answer? One dad I know said his children answered, “You’re cholesterol.” Ha! He didn’t realize how often he read the labels on everything he ate, and how much he talked about how high his levels were. I don’t think he would have ever said he was passionate about it, but he was. Anything that receives our daily attention is most likely an indicator of a passion. Simply put…we do the things we want to do and tend to put off the things we don’t.

This leads me to my next question for you to ask an older member of your family–or to answer and share with your own grandchildren.

Question #22

What are you most passionate about now? How about when you were younger? Has it changed? If so, why?

Whole Latta Fun

latta plantation

We spent the day today touring an old southern plantation in Charlotte, N.C. — The Latta Plantation, to be specific. It wasn’t all that impressive by today’s standards, but in the early 1800’s it was quite the spread. We saw an old covered wagon, a chicken coop, a few horses, a mule and donkey, a couple of pigs, the kitchen and well-house and of course, the main house. I loved walking through imagining what life was like for them then. Probably the worst part for me would have been wearing those long skirts and long-sleeves with no air-conditioning. Yeah, I’m spoiled.

So much of what they did on a farm was to sustain life. They had to grow their own food or they would die. They had to care for their animals or they wouldn’t have milk, eggs or fresh meat. It was a hard life without the many conveniences we take for granted. You would think with all the extra time we have that our quality of life would be so much better. But it isn’t. Somehow I think we are more distracted which prevents us from focusing on the things of most importance.

Question #12 – Do you know what your grandparent’s did for a living? Did they farm their own land? Or did they live in the city?

My grandfather was a citrus farmer. He had 32 acres of groves here in Florida, and they were still a part of our family until the freezes of the early 80’s wiped them out. That was a sad time in our family. My parents replanted one grove, but even that one only lasted a couple of decades. The land became too valuable to keep as farm land. My Mom sold it to a developer in the family. 😦 Sadly, there aren’t any groves left for us to go tour like we did today. I can’t take my grandchildren to the family homestead in order for them to see what life was like for their great-great-grandparents. All they can have is the stories I share, which is why knowing it and telling it often is so important.

How are you doing with the questions each day? Are you making the time to ask someone in your family? What things have you discovered? I would love to hear…

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This is post #13 in the challenge to post everyday in April.

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What Weddings, Funerals and Reunions Have In Common

Photo Credit: qcveterans.com

Photo Credit: qcveterans.com

A reader posted yesterday about how she discovered more about her family’s history at her uncle’s recent funeral than she ever had before. It’s sad in a way to think we don’t talk about such things until there’s a death. In fact, this is the opening scene of my book, Through The Eyes Of Grace. At my grandmother’s funeral I am given a beautifully wrapped gift. I want to put off opening it until later, but my Mom insists on me opening it now. Here’s a portion of it:

As I plopped into the black leather seat I felt something crunch underneath me.  It was the gift I had seen on the table!  This was all I needed to deal with now.  I tossed it aside no longer interested in the who or the why questions that had incensed me before the service.

Mama picked up the gift, “Gracelyn, this is for you.  Don’t you want to open it?”

“Um, no! Not now.”

“Why on earth not?”

“Oh, Mama! It’s just not right.”

“Gracelyn, I insist.  It may be the giver will be at the dinner.  You’ll want to be sure to thank them.  I really think it best to open it now.”

Mama usually had the last word, and this time was no exception.  I have learned it’s best to do what she says.  Picking up the gift I slowly rip the paper away revealing a stained wooden box that smelled much like the old church we had just left.  Lifting the lid I discovered the source of the scent – a worn out leather journal.

“What’s this?”  I asked casually hoping my excitement didn’t show.

“I’ve seen this before; why, it belonged to Mama.  See the engraving – Grace Stella Oswalt?”

As I opened the cover a note fell on the floor.  I picked it up only to discover it was in Big Mama’s handwriting.  The brief excitement drained from my fingertips as if the dead were calling my name.

“M-Mama, you read it.”

Dear Gracelyn,

I am an old woman now, and time is running out for me to share with you my story.  I’ve waited for you to ask, but now the waiting ends.  You are my youngest granddaughter, and one who reminds me so much of myself.  It is my prayer as you read this journal you will grow in your understanding of who you are and to whom you belong.  Your life is not your own to live as you want.  I learned this the hard way, and I pray this journal will help you after I am long gone.  Read it well and remember, although life is brief – love is forever.

Affectionately,

Big Mama

I sat there in disbelief as the limo came to a stop.  I wasn’t sure if I was happy to have this gift or angry she singled me out as needing special help.  Maybe it was a little of both, but as hard as it was to admit, I was comforted.

Older family members tend to talk more at reunions and weddings as well. So it’s not just during the saddest of times, it’s more at the pivotal times when family is elevated and given the prominence it deserves. Many young people roll their eyes when they think of going to a family gathering, especially if there’s going to be old people there who only remember them when they were knee high.
We had our first family reunion of distant cousins a few years ago here in Orlando. People traveled from all over the country, but the majority flew in from Oklahoma. My Mom had the time of her life. At 87 she was the oldest living family member there, and everyone had questions to ask her. We made a huge family tree on the wall of our meeting room and asked those attending to bring pictures in order to tape it next to their name. This helped us realize how far reaching our roots have spread in the past century. I also happened upon a conversation starter called Table Topics for Family Gatherings. This ended up being my favorite part of the entire weekend, because people told stories we had never heard before–and we laughed. We laughed until we thought our sides would split.
May I encourage you, if you have the privilege of being invited to a family reunion this year, instead of being the one to roll the eyes, why not look at it as a great adventure where you’re setting out to discover things you don’t know about your family. And then, come back  here and let us know what you’ve learned. A story become more permanently fixed in your mind when you’ve repeated it to someone else.
We all have a story, we just might not know it yet!

Questions #11 – Have you ever been to a family reunion? What was it like, who was there, and what stories did you learn?

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This is post #11 in the challenge to post everyday in April.

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Children Are A Gift From God

Photo Credit: Denise Janz Photography

Do you believe this truth from the Bible?

I certainly do. And I know my family has had a rich heritage of welcoming babies into this world. Some babies left this world way too soon dying from infant illnesses back in the early 1900’s. But many more lived long and fruitful lives.

This brings us to today’s Question #7:

How many brothers and sisters did your grandparents and/or parents have?

I have wonderful news! Our family is growing…we found out on Friday that our son and his wife, who are expecting in September, are having a son! Our son is having a son, and the Walter name will live on! We are doing the happy dance around here, and thank God for this unexpected gift. You see they have two beautiful daughters, and we expected a third for some reason. But after a sonogram where the little guy was showing off his stuff, there is no doubt that Bristol and Willow will soon have a baby brother to love and hold. 🙂

When was the last time you received an unexpected blessing?

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This is post #7 in the challenge to post everyday in April.

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Tell It To Your Children and Your Children’s Children

Photo Credit: Pam, The Nomad blog

Photo Credit: Pam, The Nomad blog

A hundred years ago, before radio or television was invented, families sat around after dinner telling stories from their experiences. My Mom knew much of her family history simply by listening to the stories over and over again as told by her parents and grandparents. What a great way to tell their children and grand-children about life and what they had learned along the way.

But families don’t do this so much anymore. Of course, there are those who are intentional and do this on a regular basis (click the picture above to hear about one family who is intentional). But to those who are more comfortable clicking the “on” button on the remote than you are waiting in the silence while someone thinks how to answer a question, please give this month’s challenge a try. You never know what treasures of history are waiting to be discovered and how it might affect you. And most likely you will laugh when you hear the stories told in a way that makes it unforgettable.

Why is it that when we look back to when we were younger the days seemed better and life seemed easier? But was it really? Or are we simply choosing to remember the parts we liked or the parts we can make sense of? One thing is certain, we can learn from our past as well as the past of those who have gone before us. Most are willing to talk about it because the time and distance has made the story easier to discuss. This brings us to our next question that I would like to hear how you would answer this question, as well as encourage you to ask someone in your family whom you don’t already know the answer they would give.

Question #5

What did you love most about where you grew up? 

 

“Generations pass like leaves fall from our family tree. Each season new life blossoms and grows benefiting from the strength and experience of those who went before.”

Author: Heidi Swapp

 

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I am taking part in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.
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What Makes A Family Heirloom Special?

Photo Credit: Star Shine Chic blog

Photo Credit: Star Shine Chic blog

I believe the answer to this question is simple–What makes a family heirloom special is the story that goes with it. Now some may say it’s the value of the piece, and that’s true, I suppose. But I’ve found that the items I’ve been given are much more meaningful to me if I know the story behind them.

Question #2

What is the oldest family heirloom you own, and what is the story behind it?

My Mom passed away in December, and we have spent most of this year cleaning out her home and sorting through her stuff. We found things we didn’t know she had, special things, beautiful things, but without a story behind them–they are just things. However, a few of her older items had little notes attached to them letting us know a bit of where it came from and to whom it belonged.

The oldest item also happens to be my favorite.

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It’s a little  porcelain tea cup that has a red stamp on the bottom stating it was made in Germany. I know it went through the fire at my grandparents home back in the early sixties because the outside is speckled as if the smoke was glazed into the cup. But what makes this cup so special is the information written on the label my Mom placed on the inside.

It says, ” Sarah Kirwin gave to daughter, Grace Oswalt, when 12 years old.”

Cup 1

That means this cup was made around 1900, which means it is the oldest thing I own. Grace Stella turned twelve in March of 1901. I found one like it on an Antique Appraisers website. They’re selling one without the smoke marks for only $7.50, but this tea cup is priceless to me!

“The measure of a woman’s character is not what she gets from her ancestors,

but what she leaves her descendants.”

filigreeblackdivider
We are taking part in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.
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30 Questions You May Not Know To Ask

Photo Credit: Sorayanulliah blog

Photo Credit: Sorayanulliah blog

Everyone who has ever lived has one.

It separates us from all others and can often make us stand out in a crowd. But sadly many don’t know their’s, or if it even matters. I’m talking about your family’s story. I was privileged to have a mom who loved researching our family’s story. I could ask her any question and if she didn’t know the answer, she would go to work trying to find it. I loved that about her.

But I didn’t always. There was a time when I found our family history quite boring. Didn’t we all? You may still think this subject boring, but please don’t click away from this post just yet. 

Here’s the plan. Starting on Monday, April 1st, I’m going to take part in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post one question each day for the entire month.

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It will be a probing question about your story. You may already know the answer to it, and if you do, I invite you to share it with me using the comment button. If you don’t know the answer to the day’s question, then ask someone in your family who may know it. Taking one question per day will make the process easy to do, even for the busiest among us.

I hope you’ll sign up for my blog, so every day you’ll get the daily question in your inbox. This will make the challenge easy for you to remember, and it will make me happy to have more followers–call me sentimental! 🙂

Finally, I want to share with you the following music video by Brandon Heath, titled Paul Brown Petty. Brandon is an excellent story teller whom I had the privilege of meeting and seeing live in concert last year in Gainesville, FL. This song is off of his latest album, Blue Mountain. Once you listen, I think you’ll understand why I chose to share it with you. Enjoy…