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Nobska Point Lighthouse | Our Prairie Nest
Vacation Memories

Until last week, it’d been anywhere from 4 to 10 years since I last saw family. That was because I ended up in Korea and then England, and then in Nebraska, none of which are anywhere near my family. The closest family when we returned to the U.S. was my sister, brother-in-law, nephews, and nieces, so we did enjoy some brief visits after we got back to the states. But there were so many other family members and friends I hadn’t seen for a long time prior to that.

Fortunately, my sister provided the perfect opportunity for a visit by renewing her vows with my brother-in-law, so off we went to Massachusetts! 

We drove, which was exhausting, to say the least. And we camped, which doesn’t exactly offer restful sleep, but my husband and kids had never gone camping. My daughter was too keyed up to sleep, so we got to listen to her sleeping bag rustling all night long. Yay. But at least my husband made the most delicious campfire dinner and breakfast!

Once we arrived in Berlin, New York, the fun really started. First, we stayed with my grandfather’s first cousin. The one and only time I saw her, I was maybe six or so, and I certainly don’t remember meeting her. So seeing her now that I’m in my 40s and she’s in her 90s was really a treat. It was such a privilege to meet her and her husband, to sit and talk, and get to know them. They are lovely people and were such gracious hosts. 

My kids loved meeting them, too, and exploring the land their home is situated on. We got to see plenty of fun wildlife on the mountain where they live, and the sugar house where they make their own syrup! 

Vacation Memories | Our Prairie Nest

Meanwhile, driving through New York allowed us to see the Great Annual Traffic Barrel Migration. We also encountered this phenomenon in Indiana. Those little guys sure do get around!

Getting on the Mass Pike made me happy and I started pointing out various towns to my husband, telling him all about them as I drove. I was in for a strangely rude awakening when I realized toll booths were gone! I spent so much time building up the transition from the Mass Pike to 495, that I felt a little cheated out of the massive line of toll booths that used to be there.

Once we crossed the Bourne Bridge, though, it didn’t bother me so much anymore. Because I got to see my paternal aunt and uncle, whom I hadn’t seen in far too long. Once again, it was a wonderful visit, my concerns for my aunt’s health notwithstanding. My uncle was very generous with fun Cape Cod souvenirs for the kids.

I’m so glad I got to see them. Even though it’s clear my aunt has dementia-related memory loss, as my grandmother/her mother did, I’m still happy we made the visit. My aunt and uncle were always a fixture in our lives, often visiting for Christmas or summer break with my three cousins. I have fond memories and am grateful we remain in touch, even if it’s via Facebook these days. It would have been even nicer to see my cousins, but this is the year we’re all ending up in Massachusetts at various times of the summer. 

The next morning, I brought my husband to see Nobska Point Lighthouse at Wood’s Hole. As far as he was concerned, it wasn’t a proper Cape Cod visit without seeing a lighthouse. He’d never been to New England before, so I was more than happy to oblige him.

We enjoyed a walk along the beach in Falmouth and picked up a few shells, something my daughter couldn’t wait to do. Of course, I took plenty of photos and pointed out various sights to my husband. This also brought up our ongoing debate about where we want to spend the rest of our lives (he says Cancun, which I complain is too hot; I say Martha’s Vineyard, which he complains is too cold… and expensive).

Our action-packed week wasn’t anywhere near done, because then it was off to my sister and brother-in-law’s house to prepare for their vow renewal. I had the honor of officiating, while my daughter served as flower girl. My mother, aunt, and Nana were all there, as well, making it yet another reunion. There were other folks there I was happy to see, of course, like my best friend from high school and my sister’s best friend since they were in elementary school together. We had a great time, my daughter enjoyed wearing a fancy dress, and it was wonderful to see my sister and brother-in-law get the party they deserved. Their love story is pretty darn epic. <3

The next day, all of us managed to get up bright and and early, and visit the stables where my sister, brother-in-law, and niece all ride. They own a lovely horse, so we met him and then my daughter got a pony ride. After that, I saddled up and it was great. I get on horses whenever I can, something I’ve done since childhood. Even my husband was convinced to get on and try a walk!

Vacation Memories | Our Prairie Nest

Back in my sister’s neighborhood, we visited their private beach. My husband, daughter, and niece spent their time catching fiddler and hermit crabs. Being the old ladies we are, my sister and I had more fun watching a loon swimming, diving, and catching something to eat.

We were out of there the very next day, since we gave ourselves 2 1/2 days of driving each way. Oh yes, just not long enough to really spend time with people, but we had our moments. I asked my husband what he thought about Massachusetts and he summed up his impression of it in one word: traffic.

Where we live in Nebraska, there’s very little traffic. For example, a “highway” bisects our neighborhood from the town where the kids’ school district is. We could come to the intersection and sit there, waiting for 5 cars to pass, while my husband complains about “traffic.” Time and again, I told him, “Oh honey, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Well, he’s seen it now! And the worst of it was the Bourne Bridge. We didn’t even go anywhere near Boston. But from Wood’s Hole to Lee, Massachusetts, it was definitely wall to wall traffic. That’s just the nature of things where I grew up.

The first night traveling back home, we camped just outside of Erie, Pennsylvania. It would have been a less eventful night overall, than our first one camping, if not for the tornado that hit our town back home! 

It started with an email showing I’d been tagged on Facebook. Since I don’t have Facebook on my phone (and refuse to use it, thank you very much!), I didn’t really get any context. The friend who tagged me also texted to ask if I was okay. Of course I was okay – I was in Pennsylvania! So I responded and asked about her concerns. She explained that there was a tornado hitting our little town. I told my husband and we waited a long, nail-biting hour to hear from our pet/house sitter after communicating with her about it. Thank goodness she was able to tell us everything was okay after the storm hit!

Well, that freaked us out so much that we decided to head straight home the next day, instead of stopping in Iowa for another night of camping. So there we were, weary, beyond exhausted, and pushing onward to Nebraska from Erie, Pennsylvania. We did about 15 hours of driving in a single day. It was worth it to get home, though, and it came with a priceless realization.

As much as I love Massachusetts, the state where I was born and raised, and where all my little quirks (like saying “wicked”) comes from, I’m absolutely in love with Nebraska’s wide open spaces, endless skies, amber waves of grain, and rolling prairies. Will I go back to visit Massachusetts any time soon? The answer is that it depends on my time, money, and energy.

But I’m not pining for it the way I once did. Massachusetts is in my heart, but I’m in Nebraska to stay.

Thoughts on Deity | Our Prairie Nest
Thoughts on Deity or My Ism

Monotheism, Polytheism, Pantheism, Panentheism… These words can confuse and befuddle even educated people. There appears to be a fine line between some of these things, none at all between some, and a rift of immeasurable proportions between others. As a Pagan and witch, I’ve spent far too much time pondering what these mean to me.

It’s daunting enough for some people within the Pagan community to be told that “Gardnerian Wicca is the only way to practice Wicca,” because this immediately brings about the realization that there is not simply one, unified Wiccan religion. Likewise, being Wiccan makes one Pagan, however being Pagan, does not make one Wiccan.  So you’ve got that lovely bit to keep in mind.

But regardless of whether one is Pagan or Wiccan or a witch, these “isms” tend to be at the root of how one believes in deity (if at all). Yes, you can be a monotheistic or atheist Pagan. But, to be clear, here’s what those isms mean:


The belief in only one deity. One God, one name, end of story. Monotheism is fairly rare among Pagans and world religions, in general. The best example of Monotheism is, in my opinion, Islam, which worships God as Allah, with no other aspects.


The belief in a plurality of deities. And for my friends who constantly snap at me for using ‘big words’, plurality is “more than one.” Polytheists encompass Pagans, Native Americans, Hindus, Christians, and a large number of world religions.

The majority of religions today have a belief in more than one God or a belief in a God with many aspects. That is, they may see God as one being, but with different faces and personalities. For example, Christianity and Wicca both share the idea of a triple aspect of their deity. The Christian God is seen as “the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (or Ghost), whereas the Wiccan Goddess is seen as “Maiden, Mother and Crone.”

To some people this idea is still monotheism, because God is but one entity, from whom these particularly beings emanate.

However, my personal view of this is that it is polytheistic because these entities take on very distinct and separate energies, as well as different names (i.e. Jehovah or Yahweh for the Father, Jesus for the Son, and Sofia for the Holy Spirit; or Artemis for the Maiden, Selene for the Mother, and Hecate for the Crone). I’m polytheistic, in that I believe there is a universal energy with various aspects and that the names we give it help “humanize” it for our limited comprehension.

Once a person makes up their mind to decide whether or not they believe in one deity or many (if any at all), next comes the question, where does deity reside in relation to you?


This places God/dess on the same plane of existence as the rest of us.


This places God/dess apart from us.

In coming to my personal monistic belief, I find that “Thou art God,” the statement of divine immanence we utilize sometimes in ritual, is what touches me. This concept stems from Heinlen’s Stranger in a Strange Land (a novel which characterized much of the 70’s American Neo-Paganism).

In terms of modern-day Paganism, it has come to represent the idea that we can share knowledge and so much more with God/dess, that divinity is immanent in all of nature, including ourselves.

Garden 2018

The time has come. The garden is planted.

We have the usual suspects this year:

  • Zucchini
  • Butternut squash
  • Green beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Cantalope
  • Cauliflower
  • Tomatoes
  • Chili peppers
  • Green pepers
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Watermelon

In containers on the back porch, we have cilantro, basil, and some shallots. The raspberries and strawberries are already working their way back.

Every year we plant our garden and we’re always glad we did. It took some work to get it to this point. It wasn’t quite as large the first year or decorative the second year. But after expanding it to 20×20, we added the path and archway. Clematis grows up the archway and we also have lavender on either side. Soon, we’ll add marigolds to the garden in a few empty areas.

This was the one year we didn’t make any major changes to the garden. I would, however, like to build cold frames. I’m not sure if they will happen this year, because home renovation has been our main priority. We spent the last two years building a workshop on our property. I’m really glad we’ve turned our attention to the house, now, so further garden improvements might be on hold for the time being.

It’s strange to think this garden will be completely green in a month or so. Every year, we rotate where we plant the veggies. Never the same area two years in a row! Mind you, I’m not doing this scientifically. That is, I’m not saying, “Okay, since the corn was there last year, I need to follow-up with beans in the same spot this time.” I really just swap sides and ends of the garden for the plants, so they get rotated in a circle of sorts. The peas aren’t even going in the garden this year. We think they don’t like so much direct sunlight, so they’re closer to the house, where there’s partial shade.

The nice thing about living in the same place for five years is you learn what works and what doesn’t.

My Lifelong Research Project

In 2016 when I attended the Nebraska State Genealogical Society Conference, featured speaker Joshua Taylor made mention of those ancestors who become our lifelong research projects. Mine is my great-great grandmother, Emma Anna Murphy.

I wrote about Emma constantly in the previous iteration of my genealogy blog, known simply as “New England Genealogy,” but she bears readdressing here, since I’m starting fresh.

Like many mysterious ancestors, Emma has kept me up at night. I’ve even dreamed about her, despite not knowing what she looks like. Then I’ve woken up, hoping there would be answers waiting. Of course, there haven’t been…

My dear great-great grandmother passed away in 1945 after what seemed like a fairly normal, occasionally eventful, life.  If you consult any vital or census records pertaining to her, they’ll let you know she was born in Maine. Or Massachusetts. Or, perhaps, Nova Scotia. So there’s that.

She seemed to be feisty, considering the family story that she’d walk a mile and a half to give her son a piece of her mind. And then there’s the newspaper article about how she ended up in court on charges of assault in 1910.

Sometime during the 1890s, she ran a little “dining room” and “variety store” out of the home she and her husband, my great-great grandfather Erastus Bartlett Shaw, had in Middleborough, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. Prior to that, she married Erastus in Middleborough in 1888.

And prior to that? Nothing. We have nothing but odd clues to go on – various places of birth reported – her age (born maybe about 1861), and her previous married name (Reagan or any variation thereof), but not her first husband’s name.

In future posts, I’ll share more about the steps I’ve taken to work through this particular genealogical problem, as well as how access to a wider range of records and DNA has changed my approach to Emma.