Lost Memories of Mama

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Never Forgotten

My mother would have celebrated her 91st birthday on Saturday, October 17th.  Sadly, she celebrated her last birthday on October 17, 1967.  Two months later, following a lengthy illness, she passed away at the young age of forty-four.  Even though its been almost forty-eight years since her death, my mourning continues.

Onetha Burks

Lost Memories

In 1967, I walked away from my mother’s burial site and never returned.   The years passed, memories faded and I forgot the:

  • exact date of her death,
  • church where her funeral was held, and
  • cemetery where she was buried.

My memories of these things were deeply buried and forgotten.  Approximately thirty years after my mother’s death, one returned when I attended my maternal aunt’s funeral.  Sitting next to my husband, I remarked, “This is my first time in the new church.”  He reminded me that my mother’s funeral had been held there.

Searching for Lost Memories

On Monday, October 19, I began the search to recapture the lost memories of Mama’s death.

First, I went to the county’s online genealogy records where you can get access to records, by last name, of people who died in the county more than twenty years ago.  While I couldn’t find mama’s name, my father’s death was listed as June 30, 1978.  In the next week or so, I plan to followup with the county and found out why her name is not showing up in their genealogy records.

Having hit a brick wall, I telephoned the church and told my story to the woman who answered the phone:

“My mama died in 1967 and I was so traumatized by her death that I blocked everything from my memory.  I am now looking for closure and trying to find out the date of her death and where she was buried.”

She said the church didn’t start keeping records until the 1970s.  However, this kind woman gave me the name of three cemeteries that likely would have handled a burial from the church during the 1960s.

I telephoned the first cemetery and repeated my story to the woman who answered the phone.  She listened and, in an understanding and caring voice, said, “give me a few minutes to check.”  Within five minutes she came back on the line saying:

“Your mother was buried on December 23, 1967.  She is buried in Section K, Lot #4 and Grave #10.

When I asked if a headstone was on the grave, she didn’t know.  But, offered to have a groundskeeper check and said she would get back to me before the end of the day.

Late afternoon, she called and reported that there was no headstone.  I asked if she could recommend where one could be purchased.  She said, “right here at the cemetery and I can email you the information.”

The Search is Over

To honor and remember my mother, in death, I plan to:

  • get a copy of my her death certificate;
  • make sure her name is properly listed on the county’s death records;
  • buy a headstone and have it placed on her grave by year’s end;
  • visit her grave in July 2016 when I am in the Chicago area;
  • order flowers for mama’s grave on her birthday, Mother’s Day and Christmas.
  • send letters, expressing gratitude and thankfulness, to the two women who were so understanding and helpful in this search.

For the remaining days of my life, I choose to share memories of mama, through my voice and written words, so that my children, grandchildren and future generations know from “whence they came.” (James Baldwin)

I lost memories of my mama’s death, but I cherished and retained the memories of our life together.

 

Family Memories: Miss Mattie and George

I want to create an identity for those family members that came before me.  For my family history has been lost, misplaced and forgotten.  I will begin by searching for information, asking questions, and recalling memories.

When information is found, I will write.  When I recall memories, I will write.  When I get answers, I will write.

I want to leave written words for my children, grandchildren, and future generations so that they, “know from whence they came.” 

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So, I begin this journey with fond memories of my maternal great-grandparents.

George and Miss Mattie

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George and Miss Mattie – Wedding Photo

During my childhood, I assumed George and Miss Mattie were only good friends.  After all, they worked on the same plantation and lived in close proximity to each other.

As the plantation owner’s family cook, Miss Mattie, lived in the big house with the plantation owner’s family. I recall a large white house surrounded by huge shrubs, sitting on lush green lawns, with peacocks walking around spreading their colorful wings.

George worked as the driver  who supervised the sharecroppers working in the plantation fields.  Therefore, his house was a bit larger, painted a bright red and better maintained than the sharecropper homes on the plantation.  Sitting directly behind the big house, it shared the big house’s lush green lawns, huge shrubs and the peacocks even wandered by George’s front porch spreading their colorful wings.

Growing up, I knew George was the driver on the plantation.  Unlike the drivers described during slavery, the sharecroppers on the plantation respected and trusted George.

Even though slavery ended in 1865, its remnants remained in the south and its replacement was sharecropping.  

I am not sure when George or Miss Mattie began working on this plantation located in the rural Mississippi Delta.  For certain, George worked as the driver throughout my mother’s childhood as well as mine.

Miss Mattie and George married sometime around the mid-1950s and were together until George passed away in 1971. Miss Mattie died several years later.

Though. I refer to George and Miss Mattie as great-grandparents, we shared no bloodline.

George the Single Parent

My mother rarely talked about her past. But, she did tell me how George became my great-grandfather  He married my great-grandmother, Minerva, around the late 1930s. She was raising four grandchildren after the death of her daughter and only child, Minnie.

Several years later, when Minerva, died four of her sisters offered to take one child each.  George rejected their offer.  He did not want to see them separated.

George was very protective of the children.  He stressed getting an education and their moving up north for a better life.  When other children on the plantation went to work in the fields, my mother and her siblings went to school.  When the two girls were ready for high school, he sent them both off to boarding schools.  I remember mama saying, “We wanted to go to the field with the other children, but George wouldn’t allow it.”

The two boys were with him until they enlisted in the Navy during World War II and the two girls left when they married.  All eventually moved north as George wanted.

I have many, many memories to share of times spent with this compassionate, loving, and generous man as I continue down this path of discovering “from whence I came.”

 

 

Little Known Family History

When one of my two remaining maternal cousins visited in August, during our conversation, we realized how little we knew about the family’s history.

Later, this led to the three of us planning a first-time reunion of the Outlaw Family Clan for Thanksgiving 2016.

As the remaining three elders, we plan to piece together what we can by:

  • reviewing information recorded in the family bible;
  • identifying photos in the family album; and
  • sharing memories and old photos.

Our goal is to capture and preserve as much family history as possible to pass down to future generations.

On a personal level, the eldest of the elders on both my paternal and maternal sides, I will continue to share my life experiences, via this blog.  Perhaps, one day, future generations will use what I write to piece together information for their family reunion.

 

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Hi, I’m Back

My last blog post was July 31.  The main reason I have been absent from the blogosphere world is that my laptop crashed the second week in August.  It happened during my Annual Mother-Daughter Vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.  It was the first time in six years of vacationing in the Vineyards that I took my laptop.  My plan was to blog about my daily experiences and activities as well as share photos during the vacation.

I took a lot of photos.  Actually, over the seven-day vacation in the Vineyards, I took a ridiculous number of photos.  When I downloaded them to my laptop, the count was 787.  The computer crashed and I feared my photos were lost.  Thanks to ICloud, I didn’t lose one photo.  Computer-challenged, I am not sure how, but grateful that through this technology all 11,000+ photos taken and/or retrieved from other sources over the past five years were successfully downloaded to my new laptop.

Taking photos as I meander through daily life is a new passion that brings so much happiness, peace and joy to my life.  Daily, capturing photos during my early morning bonding walks with the two daughters was the highlight of my Mother-Daughter Vacation this year.

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Many more photos to share, over the coming weeks, as I recall and share memories of the many things that occurred during my, almost two month, absence from blogosphere.

Glad, I am back and looking forward to reconnecting with my blogging friends

 

 

 

 

Freedom Friday – Mindfulness and Meditation Practice

Getting better, but MY INTENTIONS do not always get MY ATTENTION.

Three weeks ago, I committed to writing a weekly post for Freedom Friday, hosted by imaniking, to document my 8-Week journey toward managing and controlling a long-term chronic pain condition through Mindfulness and Meditation Practices.

I successfully completed and posted for Week 1.  Even though, I did the reading and meditation/mindfulness practices for Week 2; I will do a repeat and write a post about this experience on Friday, July 17.

Instead of Mindfulness and Meditation Practices, I gave full ATTENTION to family and friends during my mini-vacation to Wisconsin for five days.  Everyday, I met face-to-face with friends and family that I, usually, communicate with via E-Mail, Facebook, or telephone.

While I love my new life, as a retiree in Florida, I miss the personal connection with the special people in my life.  I enjoyed being with them to:

  1. see their smile,
  2. watch their body language, and
  3. listen quietly while looking into their eyes.

But, the highlight of the vacation was being in the presence of family and friends at our Annual Summer Family/Friend Gathering.

(Photography Credits to Friends, Jane and Cebby)

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Cupcake said, “Let’s Get This Party Started.”
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Three-Legged Race
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Water Balloon Toss
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The Golfers said, “Let’s Get A Little Putting In.”
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The Young Men said, “Let’s Shoot a Couple of Hoops.”
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Avi said, “Look At My Moves.”
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Cupcake, Kertagje and George said, “We Got This Dance Down.”
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Avi said, “I Won A Medal.”
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Lyric said, “Forget the Bouncie House, Watch My Somersault.”
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SeasonedSistah2 said, “Talking with Family and Loving It.”
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Hubby (White Shirt) said, “Having a Great Time with Family and Friends.”
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Damien said, “I Had Fun, But It’s Time to End This Party.”
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CJ said, “I Am Tired and Damien is Right, It’ Time to Rest Up for the Fireworks Tonight.”

 

Honoring My Favorite Fathers

Today is Fathers Day and I use this blog to honor two great fathers. Both have been in my life for more than fifty years. Neither is my father, but the way they father has shown me what a true father is.

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The #1 Father in my life is the father of my three children.  I honor, respect and truly love this man who was only an 18-year-old, high school dropout, when our first child was born.

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Pregnant and 17-years old when we married, I believed and trusted him when he said, “I will do all I can to improve my life to give you and our child a better life.”  He lived up to this commitment by:

  • Enlisting in the Armed Forces to make sure there was income and health services for me and our unborn child;
  • Earning a GED (High School Diploma) to open up better job opportunities after military service; and
  • Returning to school, after working for five years in the private sector, to earn a Bachelors and Masters Degree at a Top Ten University;

He did these things to ensure our three children were financially secure and their lives were open to better opportunities.  But, just as important, he was the hands-on father who:

  • washed diapers,
  • ironed school uniforms,
  • hemmed skirts,
  • sewed on buttons
  • cooked meals,
  • read stories,
  • attended school conferences, concerts, recitals, games, …
  • shared dreams,
  • encouraged goals.

Our children are now middle-aged and have their own families, but they know Dad is there for them, today, as he has been throughout their lives.

The #2 Father in my life is our only son.  A middle-child, the only boy, born on Halloween; I, jokingly, said for many years, “I am not sure if he is my trick or treat.”  Today, I say without hesitation, “He is my treat,” and “I shout from the highest height that I am proud to call him my son.”

This Father Day, and everyday, I honor this man who is 53-years-old and the single-parent to my 6-year-old granddaughter.  By the way, brag time, she graduated from Kindergarten this month:

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Parenting is challenging even when there are two people sharing the responsibility.  And, I had concerns whether my son could handle single-parenting. Especially, given he had lived most of his life as a bachelor.

I recall the saying, “He’s a chip of the old block” and, like his father he has stepped into the parenting role with ease and confidence.

Teachers, family, friends, professional colleagues, as well as his parents, comment on his hands-on fathering skills.  How could we have expected anything else? After all, he has seen hands-on fathering, by his father, throughout  his life.

Happy Fathers Day to My Hubby and Son!!!

Part 3: My Blogging Break – Hubby’s Hospitalization

(Links to Part 1 and Part 2 of this three-part series.)

During my blogging break, Hubby and I were blessed to spend quality time with our two granddaughters who were visiting from Wisconsin.  They were the distraction we needed to release some of our tension and anxiety as we awaited Hubby’s surgery scheduling date.

Hubby’s Medical Condition

More than seven years ago, Hubby was diagnosed with, Trigeminal Neuralgia, a very serious chronic pain  condition.  Despite different health care interventions and prescribed medications, his pain levels elevated to the point where they were no longer tolerable.

Hubby felt his only remaining option was the Microvascular Decompression Procedure, “an invasive brain surgery offered to patients who are in reasonably good health and are not to advanced in age.”

Hospitalization and Surgery

Hubby had the surgery on Monday, May 18.

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Pre-Operative

My stress level lessened during the surgery once I made the choice to wait outside on one of the hospital terraces, rather than the dark and poorly lit surgery waiting area.  I even took a few photos:

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Nature’s beauty brought peace and harmony into my space; and, thankfully my cousin, who was visiting from Mississippi, was at my side to support me.

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Cousin, Sharon

The afternoon Florida heat forced us to look for another tranquil space, preferably one with air conditioning.  We found just that in the Walt Disney Room leading to the children’s wing of the hospital.

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For years, I have used distraction as a self-management tool to control my chronic pain condition.  And, it was a blessing to have this skill-set in my tool chest as I went through Hubby’s first-time hospitalization and surgery.

The surgery was successful and four days later, Hubby was discharged from the hospital

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Last Meal Before Discharge

Expressing Gratitude and Thankfulness

Hubby’s recovery is going well and he is scheduled for his first physical therapy session next week; and,

  • I am Thankful to all those who sent uplifting messages and prayers during this trying time in my life.
  • I am grateful, beyond words, for the healing hands of the neurosurgeon who performed Hubby’s surgery.
  • I am thankful and grateful to God for answering my prayers to relieve Hubby of his excruciating and debilitating pain.

 

 

My Blogging Break – Part Two: Lady C’s Visit

A Blogging Break in April and May freed up time for me to spend quality time with visiting family members.

Last week, in Part 1 of this three-part series, I shared a few of the fun and memorable experiences with our two granddaughters who visited us for seven days over their spring break.

Several weeks after leaving our eldest granddaughter, Lady C returned.  She re-arranged her schedule after learning that Hubby was on the wait list for surgery when an available slot became available on the neurosurgeon’s schedule.

Rather than sitting around and waiting for the hospital to call with an admission date, Hubby encouraged us to use this time to do some fun things together.  He reminded me that, as the post-surgery caregiver, I would be housebound for weeks following his discharge from the hospital.

So in Part 2 of this series, I share some of the special moments spent with my eldest granddaughter, Lady C.

Pottery Painting

One of the things Lady C wanted to do was pick up the pottery pieces we painted during her last visit.  We had left them at the pottery gallery to go through the last firing process.

Both of us felt the pottery pieces looked beautiful after the firing.

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Cupcake’s Painted and Pottery Fired Cat
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Lady C’s Painted and Pottery Fired Vase
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SeasonedSistahs2s Painted and Pottery Fired Vase

Pecan Resin Xmas Figurine Painting

Inspired by how well the pottery pieces turned out, we wanted to do more painting.

I telephoned my son and asked him to dig out a couple of the unpainted Xmas holiday pecan resin figurines stored in the basement of our home in Wisconsin.  I had purchased them in North Carolina at a flea market more than twenty years ago.  He sent seven figurines and these are the two that Lady C and I decided to paint.

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SeasonedSistah2 – Pecan Resin Santa Claus Painting Project
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Lady C – Pecan Resin Xmas Tree Painting Project

We had fun painting on the lanai — the soft breezes, birds singing, rustling of trees and sharing memories of past times together.  Especially, the two-year period that I lived in North Carolina and provided child care for her while my eldest daughter completed her medical residency and fellowship training.

Lady C, even as a 3-years-old, loved to watch me paint.  She would tell me what colors to use and whether it was pretty or not.  When she felt I had painted long enough, she would say, “No more ‘bellishments” rather than embellishments.

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Lady C and Her Painting Project

This was Lady C’s first-ever attempt and my first attempt, after a 20+ year absent, at painting pecan resin figurines.  It will take us some time to finish our projects, but the goal is to have them on display when our family gathers in Florida for Christmas. Of course, I will share photos on this blog during the holidays.

Mustard and Turnip Greens

It has been a long tradition in our family to have mustard and turnip greens on the dinner table for special occasions; and, definitely every Christmas and Thanksgiving.

I picked, washed and cooked them until Xmas 2013 when the two daughters asked me to show them how.

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My Two Daughters Washing and Preparing Mustard and Turnip Greens Xmas 2013

On the day Lady C and I went to the Farmers Market, we came across a vendor selling locally grown mustard and turnip greens. And, she said, “I want you to show me how to cook greens, NanNan.”  We purchased enough for both Sunday’s dinner and to freeze for future meals.

Beautiful and memorable times are possible when we do the simplest things in the presence of our loved ones.  I connected and bonded with Lady C on an even higher level as she went through this new learning experience.

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Lady C Preparing Mustard and Turnip Greens to Cook

Dreadlocks Hair Styling Day

For more than two years, I have gone to this amazing Jamaican barber to cut my hair.  During most visits, I am entertained as I watch an awe a stylist in the shop who specializes in natural hair.  I am always amazed by the unique, complex and diverse art she creates on the heads of her clients.

I asked Lady C, who sports dreadlocks, if she wanted me to schedule her an appointment with the natural hair stylist.

She said, “Yes,” and off to the Jamaican hair shop we went.  While my haircut took 20-30 minutes, Lady C’s dreadlocks were under the care of this amazing natural hair stylist lasted for more than three hours.

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Lady C’s – Dreadlocks Hair Styling Day

Mother’s Day – Harry P. Leu Botanical Gardens

I received the gift of spending Mothers Day with the eldest child of my eldest child in one of my favorite places, The Leu Botanical Gardens.

This is the grandchild who shares my name and birthdate.

This is the grandchild, who despite our almost fifty year age difference, I am able to connect and relate to on many levels  — mindfulness, yoga, nutrition, meditations, inner peace, self-love, etc.

With encouragement and tips from Lady C, I, confidently, shot photo after photo with my Nikon 5200 digital camera of towering trees, blooming flowers, green foliage, and tropical plants.

Using my Canon point and shoot camera, Lady C took these photos.

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Photo by Lady C
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Photo by Lady C
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Photo by Lady C
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Lady C’s Photo

(Next Week – Part 3:  Hubby’s Surgery and Cousin’s Visit)

My Blogging Break: Part One Granddaughters’ Visit

Other than a few photo challenges and several Writers’ Quote Wednesday 2015 posts, I was on a Blogging Break during April and May.  Sometimes, stepping away from that which we enjoy opens our space up to receive even greater joy and happiness.

This is exactly what happened with me during April and May when gifted with the opportunity to spend quality time with my visiting granddaughters as well as a cousin that I had not seen for more than eight years.

I needed a series of three posts to record most of what happened during this blogging break.

Part 1:  Granddaughters Visit

Lady C, 23-years-old, and Cupcake, 6-years-old, visited us during their spring break, in April.  It was a busy week filled with planned and unplanned activities.

We started off with a day at Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom where Hubby and I both agreed that walking around in this huge theme park was not an option.  We rented scooters.

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Hubby

Even with scooters it was difficult to keep up with the granddaughters as we moved from attraction to attraction maneuvering our way through huge crowds.

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SeasonedSistah2 – Waiting in Line to Get on Tea Cup Ride

Lady C has visited Magic Kingdom, almost yearly, since she was 3-years-old.  This was only the fourth visit for Cupcake; and, she still gets over stimulated when she enters Disney’s  world of fantasy.

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Cupcake
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Cupcake and Lady C

Our second outing was to the Wet N’ Wild Water Park.  Walking or scooting through the water park observing our precious granddaughters climb up to high towers and plunge down into a body of water, was more stress than Hubby and I could handle.  We chose to relax in a rented Cabana.

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Hubby Relaxing

As the Florida heat rose, we sought relief and closed off the cabana to the hot sun rays but left the back panels open for a nice breeze.  It made for a serene and relaxing day.

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Throughout the day, the granddaughters returned to the cabana to raid the small refrigerator we had filled up with our own special snacks and drinks.

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Lady C and Cupcake

After a full-day at the water park, we were all exhausted.  The next day was a relaxation day at home with a quick trip to the nail shop for a mani/pedi.

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Lady C

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Cupcake, always the creative one, chose to have every nail and toe painted a different color; and, Lady C went for a very subtle apple green color.

The granddaughters and I, on our last outing spent a quiet Sunday afternoon painting at a local pottery gallery.

Lady C and I painted vases.

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Lady C

There were an unbelievable number of pottery pieces and it took Cupcake a while to decide.  But, she finally picked one of her favorite pets — a cat — like the one at her Grandma Cebby’s house.

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Cupcake

Here’s a look at our masterpieces.

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Lady C’s Two Color Vase; SeasonedSistah2s Single Color Vase; and, Cupcake’s Cat

I am grateful that this blog opened my space up to record my life experiences.  For, if my memory fades and/or when I leave this world there is a record of those things that brought both happiness and sadness into my space.

Finally, our children and grandchildren live thousands of miles away; and, I am especially blessed in their presence.

(Part 2 and 3 of This Series Coming Soon)

 

Weekly Photo Challenge – May 22, 2015

Broken

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I painted this Santa Claus pecan resin figurine more than twenty years ago.  During the Xmas holiday seasons, my eldest daughter displays the figurines that I painted those many years ago.  And, every year, she carefully packs them away.

In fact, I took this photo when I stayed in her home this past Thanksgiving.

Several days ago, I was showing photos of my Santa paintings to a friend.  And, for the first time I noticed the missing head on the little girl.

I checked with my daughter who did not realize it had broken.  She said,

“Things that we cherish break, but I choose to keep the broken as a cherished memory.”