A Little Girl With A Big Dream

Charlotte, the little girl with a big dream!

I was honored to be friends with a phenomenal lady, Charlotte “Dianne”. She was a loving and generous woman. She was the daughter and granddaughter of Methodist preachers. Dianne spent her life caring for the needs of others. She passed away a few weeks before her daughter married. She was blessed to have witnessed the trickle of giving ministry through her daughter’s efforts in her church and community. She would have been so moved to see it extend to her grandchildren (my god children) as well. These children have been Christmas elves for the past few years, giving gifts and spreading cheer at their local nursing homes and homeless shelters.

Her granddaughter not only carries a portion of my friend’s name, Charlotte, but she has the same twinkle in her brown eyes. She has the same sweet smile and spunky spirit. This year Charlotte had a vision. She wanted all the children in her area to be able to have toys at Christmas. She told her mother she wanted to open a place where their parents could shop for free. Her mother spread the word to her friends and Charlotte’s First Annual Toy Drive was birthed. When parents come to the soup kitchen they will be able to select gifts for their children.

While the toys poured in locally and from other states, the number of shoppers to the drive doubled. Word has gotten around through FaceBook. Charlotte’s cause made her local newspaper and evening news. We have faith all these local children will receive toys this Christmas; we remember Jesus fed the multitudes with five small barley loaves and two small fish.

For more information Charlotte’s First Annual Toy Drive on Facebook

Spin Cycle: Memoriam

I can’t think of a more beautiful legacy for one to leave behind. I know Dianne is smiling.

A Merry Christmas And A Blessed Season To You!

Christmas Tree in Chicago

Whether your décor is elegant or effortless,

your celebration extravagant or simple,

I wish you a Merry Christmas

and a Holiday Season spent with the people you love.

I pray you enjoy every moment and create wonderful memories.

I hope you are graced with the joy of giving

while exercising the capacity to receive.

May you be the Christmas spirit to strangers

and the Christmas light to those who know you.

May you be both generous and sensible.

May you have the wisdom to know what really is important

and feel the joy in the tiniest of gestures.

May your blessings be abundant.

May your time be well spent.

May you have all you need.

May you experience the true grace of this season.

May you know that you are loved beyond measure.

May you know you are blessed a million times over.

Taking Back The Night In The Christmas Light(s)

Recently I posted about my fear of going out alone at night. I decided it was time to steal back the night. With Wylie in tow, I took in the Christmas decorations in the neighborhood. I found it is difficult to take pictures with a ninety pound dog pulling me in the opposite direction. Wylie led the way, one sniff at a time while I followed in the glow of colored Christmas lights.
We saw this dude in the red suit every where we went. Seriously, he was in almost every other yard! 
 
 
There were only a couple of manger scenes, but the lighted deer lit up the neighborhood.
 
This Santa was my favorite. I don’t think Wylie ever lifted her nose from the ground to even see Santa at all.
 
I guess this is the neighborhood blow up version of the polar express!
Santa, snowmen, penguins, lights, and candy canes…this house has Christmas going on! 

Santa's on the roof making an early delivery!

Ho, Ho, Ho!

I’m Zentamental For Frogs!

I have discovered that all of mans unhappiness derives from only one source, not being able to sit quietly in a room. ~Blaise Pascal

Christmas present from my youngest son.

 

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

 

Christmas Ornaments With Meaning

I enjoy buying Christmas ornaments for my family. Each year I like to find a perfect ornament that speaks to me about each of them and myself. Why yes, I do buy myself an ornament each year as well! I’ve established an eclectic collection of ornaments that tell a family history though most people just think they look cute on the tree.

This year I found the perfect ornaments at The Christmas Store in Smithfield. Because I added them to my family’s stockings, I can’t show them to you yet. However, I can show you one of them. My youngest will be out of state for Christmas so we celebrated Christmas with him the other day, and he opened his ornament. He loved it as much as I did. The store had two lacrosse player ornaments, but I was especially tickled with this one because it happened to be his team colors. See for yourself how well I did with this one! I was tempted to paint his number on the jersey.

Lacrosse was my favorite of all the team sports my sons played. I sure miss lacrosse. More than that I sure am going to miss having my baby home for Christmas this year. It is one of those years of accepting…yes, they do grow up and move on and move out…but life is good.

In Anticipation Of Christmas

I saw Santa and Mrs. Claus this weekend. He didn’t ask if I’ve been naughty or nice, but he did give me a candy cane…guess that means I’m on the good list.

Our tree shines through the window and into the night while inside we’re enjoying the ambiance of the Christmas season.

Our tree is decorated, and the presents are beginning to gather. Actually, though they are not under the tree in this picture, they have all been purchased and wrapped.

All the goodies have been baked. The baskets have been made and delivered.

All the stockings have been stuffed and hung…not on the mantle as we don’t have one but on the stair railing. (Sometimes in life we must improvise!)

This is the first time I started and finished prepping so early…now I can relax and fully enjoy the beauty of this Christmas season.

Christmas Blessings

Santa doesn’t come to our house anymore. Christmas still comes, but in much simpler ways.

I no longer have excited children wake me up at three am wanting to go downstairs to see if Santa came. (We have a dog who wakes us up at seven to go outside!)

No one rushes to see what was left under the tree. (The dog noses her stocking to get out her stuffed toys and the grown children sleep in!)

No one checks for evidence of reindeer hoof prints outside anymore. (The dog creates her own paw prints outside!)

No one leaves milk and cookies. (The dog wishes someone had left out milk and cookies!)

I am now told one’s simple wants or needs. I am not given a long extravagant list. They don’t ask for much and are easy to please. (The dog is even happy with a pat and a treat!)

I am able to look past the Christmas magic and delight in things I’d always taken for granted. I delight in the kindness shown to one another, shared laughter, hugs, (dog licks!) and a meal together. (The dog is delighted to be included in the family activities, especially if any food is accidentally dropped!)

Though Christmas is less rushed and exciting, the warmth is still here. (Especially if the dog happens to be lying across your lap!)

This Christmas I am thankful for God who has blessed me with a wonderful life and His special gift. I am thankful for my family and friends. Yes, and the dog…we can’t forget Wylie! I am thankful that I have a home to shield me from the elements, clothes on my back, and food to eat. And I am thankful for all of those material things that make life easier. But mostly, I am thankful for love…for without it, life would not be worth it. I am truly blessed Christmas and everyday, and I am thankful.

Are You On Sale?

Only when we give joyfully, without hesitation or thought of gain, can we truly know what love means. -Leo Buscaglia
 
We all come with a price tag. Whether we want to admit it or not. It occurs in politics, policies of organizations, churches, schools, corporations, families, and relationships. It comes in the form of bartering, bargaining, tit for tats, and you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. We compromise. We settle. We give, and we take. It’s a vicious cycle.
 
This time of year is considered a season of giving. Are you a selfish giver or a selfless giver? Do you give in order to receive or do you give from the goodness of your heart, not expecting anything in return?
 
So, what is your cost? Does it have to be monetary amount or are you willing to give yourself in time and talents? Will you sacrifice to help others? I mean will you forego that Starbucks latte and treat someone cold and hungry to a meal? Or must there be something in it for you?Giving feels good, not only to the receiver but to the giver. It feels so much better than receiving. Doesn’t it make  your heart feel good to know you’ve helped someone in need? A smile or sentiment of appreciation, or if the gift is anonymous, just knowing you’ve helped someone should lift your spirits. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a much needed and unexpected gift when times were hard, you know exactly how much your donation means.
 
 “Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.” -Blaise Pascal
Being kind to others cost you absolutely nothing at all. Not everyone has money to offer or material gifts to pass on, but everyone can lift others with a smile or gentle words. Manners go a long way. When I shop this time of year, I generally encounter two types of people. There are the rude ones who push others around with angry words and gestures, and there are the ones with smiles on their faces and pleasant greetings. You better believe the type I encounter definitely sets the mood that I’ll wear home. If you open a door for someone or let them go first, generally you’ll get a smile in return. Kindness is contagious! I often see people fighting over parking places. Personally, I don’t get into that kind of ruckus. I purposely park a bit farther back because I know I can use the exercise, and I’ve never found anyone fighting over those spaces!
  

“No vision and you perish; No Ideal, and you’re lost; Your heart must ever cherish Some faith at any cost. Some hope, some dream to cling to, Some rainbow in the sky, Some melody to sing to, Some service that is high.” – Harriet Du Autermont

I could not post about giving to others without telling you what my friend (the mother of my Godchildren), her husband, and their children, ages 4 and 2, are doing for the twenty-five days of Christmas. Every single day, they are giving of themselves, or making, buying, and delivery goods to the people in need in their community. I have to add that they have just moved to this town, and they have pushed themselves to get out in their community and make a difference. They started their first day off with the mom donating blood by her son’s request to his school’s blood drive. The children have twice bought and delivered dinner for a kind homeless man. They have bought hats, gloves, and food for a winter drive at school. They purchased and decorated small Christmas trees and delivered them to a nursing home. They delivered stockings of toothpaste, brushes, and hats to the Salvation Army. These are just a few of the things they have done. They have plans for each day, and sometimes (like dinner for the homeless man, or money being dropped into the kettle) little extras occur. I am so proud of my friends for teaching their children the love and joy of giving to others without question.

While I can’t claim to have done all these things myself this year,  I must say I am truly inspired to do more than I have. I used to do these types of things with my children when they were younger. We loved making Christmas boxes at church to send to children overseas. We did the Angel Tree gifts, and the senior gifts at the nursing homes. I admit I have not done any of those things this year or donated my time or services to any organizations. However, I usually do still make monetary donations. This year, I have an elderly friend that I want to make sure is not lonely or left out this season. And I plan to bake and deliver my usual array of goodies. Not much on the big scale of things, but I know it will bring a smile to some faces, and a certain friend’s heart will be warmed knowing she is loved and remembered this Christmas. 
 
Are you wearing a price tag this season or are you on special for the holidays?
 

 

Christmas Elves delivering trees to a nursing home.

A Man Of His Word

Big Daddy, my mother’s father was undoubtedly the kindest man I’ve ever known. He was a gentle soul with a sparkle in his eyes. He didn’t mind telling anyone what he thought, but he never raised his voice or his hand to anyone.

Big Daddy’s wife, the mother of his children, died and left him alone to raise six children. My mother was two and a half and her younger sister was eighteen months old. I think the oldest may have been twelve. His sister suggested that he turn them over to an orphanage and he replied that it would only happen over his dead body.

He loved his God and his family. He had promised his wife on her death bed that he would never bring a step mother in their home to raise their children. He was a man of his word and did not remarry until his children had grown up. While his mother was alive she helped him with the rearing of his children.

He did remarry after his children grew up and moved away and was very happy. He outlived this wife as well. When he passed he was buried between both wives as he had loved each of them.

Big Daddy loved baseball. He played on a community league. He passed his love of the game to his kids. His son played baseball as well, and all five girls played softball in school. He was a spectator long after his own kids had stopped playing. He regularly watched the pros on television.

Another of his passions was wrestling. He drove to the city to watch matches, and watched them every weekend on television. The only time I ever saw him get angry was when my mother would tease him by saying that she didn’t know why he watched it because it was fake. Now, he was not a man who cursed, but he would say, “Shucks, don’t you be saying that. It is no such thing as it being fake!” He’d wring his hands and pull on his fingers while you watched the fire burn in his face. She’d tell him that they weren’t really hitting each other. He’d shake his head no and turn away so he didn’t have to look at her. Then he’d clear his throat and tell her he didn’t want to hear it because he knew dang well it was real.

He used to tell us tales of how all the senior ladies were chasing him but he was too fast for any of them to catch him. He’d tell us how he’d have four or five of them ask him to dinner each week and he wouldn’t go. His explanation was that they offered to cook him hot dogs and he could cook those himself so he wasn’t going to waste his time on them.

We spent every Christmas at Big Daddy’s house. All of my mother’s sisters and their families would gather there as well. It was a huge event, tons of food, noise, and love. The entire family also got together for Big Daddy’s birthday each year as well. I don’t think he ever stopped smiling during either of these occasions. He always had time for hugs and simple conversation. He’d get the cutest little devilish grin on his face when he teased us.

During his later years, he came to dinner at our house most Sunday evenings. His shirt pocket was always stuffed with sweet n’ low and sugar packets. He’d offer them to my mother telling her that the restaurant where he eats lunch leaves them on the table for you to take all you want. She tried once to gently tell him that they were there to put in your drinks while you were dining there. He wouldn’t hear of that and continued to bring them each week. She’d tell him she didn’t need them, and sometimes he’d leave them on the counter and sometimes he’d take them home. He had quite a collection of them at his own house.

Once when I was on a date with Dirt Man we came behind a pokey and jerky car on the highway. He made a remark about old people needing to stay off the road, and as he pulled over to pass I realized it was Big Daddy.

One time in his later years, his car broke down on a major highway. He got out of the car and started working on it right there in the middle of the road. Everyone in the county knew and loved my grandfather. Someone stopped and tried to help him. He told him he could handle it. The man pleaded to let him push it to the side of the road so that he wouldn’t get creamed by a tractor trailer. Big Daddy calmly replied, “There’s a whole ‘nother lane right there they can use”, and he refused to budge. The gentleman called my aunt who had to leave work and convince him to let someone move the car to the shoulder to work on it.

Big Daddy instilled the importance of family and love to his people. The extended family gatherings at Christmas ended with his death. However, the family continued to get together at other times. Other family member have passed on as well. Time has become precious and distance a factor. The family remains close knit and tries to arrange a reunion every few years.

In Memory Of Steff

This is a difficult post for me to write. I am not quite sure what I want to say. I’ve had words tumbling around in my brain for a month, and haven’t been able to get a single coherent thought onto the page.

Twelve years ago today my friend, Stephanie, died. She lost a long hard three year battle with Sebaceous Cell Carcinoma, a rare form of cancer. She was only thirty-five.

Stephanie and I went to school together and became really good friends in our Junior year of high school. We took our Cosmetology state boards together and held our first jobs together. We were pregnant at the same time. We shared a lot through the years.

I was in her wedding. I caught her bouquet, and Dirt Man (who was not yet my husband) caught her garter. We got married eleven months later and moved a way.

There were times when we weren’t in touch for a while, but always seemed to find our way back to each other. Even with over two hundred miles between us.

When I first heard of her illness, I was afraid for her, but I really truly thought that a surgery would remove it and she’d be fine. I did not know that at that time there were, I think, only thirty cases of that type of cancer. I didn’t know it would prove to be fatal.

Her cancer started with a tumor on her left eyelid and worked its way across her face and down her neck. The surgeons would try to remove lymph nodes ahead of the cancer, but it always seemed to be one step ahead of them. Stephanie underwent several surgeries, three trials of chemotherapy, and radiation treatment. And through it all, she never complained.

Stephanie had a positive outlook on life. She always found the best in people. Even when she was really ill, she would ask that we pray for others in more need than her. And whenever I called her which was often during her illness, she never, no matter how bad she felt, turned down my call.

Stephanie’s steadfast faith was what kept her and everyone else going. She was an inspiration to all who knew her and even to those who didn’t. She had always been a physically beautiful woman, but those who didn’t know her didn’t know of the vast beauty and selflessness deep within her.

When I first became baptized in the Christian faith, Stephanie warned me. I don’t mean that as a bad thing. She knew I was a little naïve. She knew I was putting these people up there with angels. She had to remind me that they were human, to take off my rose colored glasses or I’d eventually be hurt. She gently told me about church politics, and how not to let those type of things get in the way of my relationship with God. Recently, I was reminded of this conversation. Funny how well she knew me and wanted to prevent me from the fall.

It was Christmas 1997 at the end of the battle. Her family put lights on a pine tree outside her window so she could enjoy the lights. People started showing up and hanging ornaments to let her know they were praying for her. I think there ended up being about two hundred ornaments, and well over half of them were angels. I think that says a lot about people’s perception of Stephanie.

The week before she died, she tried to have a conversation with me. One I wish I’d been more willing to participate in, but it was unsettling. It was one I didn’t want to have. She told me that she didn’t think that God had a miracle cure for her, but that she’d like me to write her obituary. Most importantly, she wanted me to tell her story. I’m not quite sure how she wanted me to tell it, and I think that I have failed her miserably. I don’t think she expected me to be an inspirational speaker or anything like that. We both knew I didn’t have that in me. After her death, I went on an Emmaus Walk, and I thought that was the time. I was sooo wrong…I had gotten my agenda confused with God’s agenda. I have since had the opportunity to comfort others with cancer, some who were cured, and some who lost the battle. Still, I don’t think that was where I was supposed to take her story either. I mean I have talked about her ordeal and her faith, but I don’t think I’ve accomplished what she wanted. I’ve mostly just managed to carry it around in my heart.

I went to visit her over that Christmas break and I knew then it was only a short matter of time. I think I had been back home for a day, when I got the call early that morning that she had died. But I already knew before the phone rang. I had a really strange thing happen. I was awakened by a cool breeze brushing across me, and what I want to call a vision of a pair of moccasins pattering above my head and across the room. I have no idea what the semblance of that was, but I remember it. I also wrote about it in my journal. I have NEVER faithfully kept a journal, but that was one of the few random things I did manage to write over the years.

I went back to the county the next day. And I did write her obituary and eulogy. But I did not have to deliver the eulogy alone. Three other friends and I did it together, supporting one another. I don’t think that my words gave her memory justice. She was so much more than could ever have been put into words.

I found some words that I didn’t share. This was in my notebook: I wanted to cradle her love in my arms and rock it like a small child, but my arms could not contain all that she had touched./I wanted to grind her pain into sand that we could draw in our girlish secrets and brush them away with a swipe of our hands./I wanted to paint our friendship, but the colors of eternity did not exist./I wanted to trap her disease and throw it away, but it ran too fast for me to catch./I wanted to cradle her and keep her forever./My arms feel so empty now, holding only memories.

A few weeks after she died, I had a dream. I have never been one to analyze dreams, so again, it may have just been a weird dream like many others I have had. Anyway, I dreamed that I was swimming in a river, and Stephanie came shooting up out of the water. It was like she was a mermaid. She kept popping up and she said one and only one thing to me, “It’s not what we thought it was.” It troubled me at first, and I tried to figure it out in my own mind. Then, I relented that it was probably my minds reaction to my many unanswered questions.

Stephanie was a Baptist. I’m sure you know that they are known for their “tell it” sermons. She had requested a call to the alter at her funeral. Some people she loved gave their lives to God at her funeral. Her mission had been completed. She had anticipated a miracle, not knowing that she had been the miracle.

All along Stephanie said that God was using her in some way, maybe she was to be cured miraculously or maybe someone would be touched through her illness. Or maybe later someone would be inspired by her story.  She didn’t profess to know His plan but had total comfort in Him. She was courageous and amazing. She taught me a lot about life and death and God. I am a better person for having had her as a part of my life.

Death and memories are strange bedfellows. Every once in a while, I still catch myself wanting to call her and share some snippet of my life with her.

 Today I want to take a step back and remember the wonderful friend that Steff was to me. I want to recall her compassion, her faith, her humor, her beauty, and her talents. I want to remember the many roles in life that she played to others – daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend, cousin, hairdresser, neighbor, and many others.  She played each of these roles with the greatest of love. I thank God for the many years that I was fortunalte to have been a part of her life. I am thankful for wonderful memories.

With love always to Steff…until we meet again.