12/21/2014

Wishing Little Christmas Dreams Come True


 Christmas means many things to many people.  I think, as I have aged, it has changed meanings to me. The one constant meaning has been the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the birth of a baby that was to meant to teach the world about God.  I really wonder if, without the Gospel, some of us would have been able to really “get it.” I know, for me, I wouldn't have.  The other books of the Bible just don’t hold my interest in quite the same way. 

Christmas as a child is so different than as an adult.  The lights of the tree, the wonder of Santa and how he gets all those gifts all over the world is just magical.  It is like the belief that a knight can actually fight dragons. It is somewhat sad to find out he really doesn't exist. At the time you realize Santa is your parents is the time you are somewhat aware your parents really aren't your heroes at all, just a mom and a dad.  Dad doesn't have super powers and Mom’s cookies are not always as good as Hostess products or Little Debbie's. 


Then, as a teenager, Christmas highlight is no school, Christmas break.  And then comes the real fun of Christmas, gift exchanges with friends, hanging out at the Mall just to be seen with cool guys, popular girls and in new clothes.  And the gifts you want are so much more expensive.  No one forgets the lectures with “you want what” and “you are so much more spoiled than I was when I was your age.”  In your head, you are saying “yeah right” and hoping your face doesn't convey it.

Well, when adulthood comes, it is with the reality that Christmas, when you have children is once again about the children. Seeing the joy of a child’s face brings it all back, full circle.  As a grandmother, I see this once more.  And again, I am reminded not only of my children’s faces but once more of my own face all those years ago.  


I see much more though now at Christmas time as I have aged. I see the faces on TV, the faces on the news and faces of children on the
world that embrace Christmas.  It hits harder than it ever did before.  I pray for those children that get and have so little and ask for nothing.  Those that pray for a life, for parents, for safety, for a home and for water is heart-wrenching when so many have a material list a mile long. I believe, as children, they deserve that for Christmas.  I also believe, those being denied other things they want in their heart should have their wishes granted too.

Yes, these are not material things but neither was the girl’s wish on The Miracle on 34th Street but everyone that watched it over and over stayed glued to the story line. We all had a sixth sense her Christmas wish was basic, a child’s need for happiness. 

Many people come from broken homes in this world. Many have lost family along the way.  My husband has lost his son and his mother.  One Christmas we spent alone in Nashville with no family here and he
sat beside me Christmas Eve while I got a chemo infusion. We came home to an empty house. The next day, Christmas I was sick in bed and he was alone in our home for Christmas with nothing to do to spend the day but sit quietly with the blinds drawn and keep noise at a minimum.  Christmas is sometimes just a day to fight to be alive to someone with a life threatening disease.  To be a survivor, the miracle of Christmas is being alive. 

So let’s not forget, as you open your presents circled around your
family that some are not quite as lucky as you.  Take a few minutes on  Christmas to bow your head around your tree to give others a silent prayer for God to touch their life on the 25th with an added ray of hope, like the day Jesus was born.


 Many are born into a simple life, poor, less than desirable circumstances.  It could be as unfortunate as a barn, with only the hay to keep a baby warm and a North Star shining bright to light the sky and a manager as opposed to an incubator.  But prayers and the grace of God makes all things possible. With our prayers, we can turn simple child's dreams into reality and make Christmas wishes come true. 

12/12/2014

Christmas with Tammy

 

The idea of a Christmas party is more about a celebration of being together. It is about sharing in the joy of the upcoming celebration of the birth of Christ. But somehow, over the years, it has become so commercialized that it has become more about gift giving, eating well, and out shining each other with fancy Christmas wear.  

 

I am not saying any of that is all bad.  There is a place for having a frivolous party in the hectic pace of life, and some people in society need that.  There was a time in my life when I needed that.  In particular, when I was convinced I would live to a ripe age of 100.  Those were the days when I was young, carefree and death did not seem eminent.

 

The reality of my life today is focused more on the reason Jesus came to this world, on board so to speak.  Or is it, more to the point, why I came completely
on board never to ever want to look back?  Deepening my faith at a core level and truly understanding the purpose of what I am to do with his message has left an indelible footprint on my life.

 

Christmas is more than just a birth of a baby named Jesus in a manger.  His birth led to his death, at our hands and then to his resurrection for our saving grace.  

     Colossians 2:13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.

 

Attending a Christmas party with cancer survivors is unlike any other holiday party I have ever attended.  Please don’t think it was about cancer or that the disease was even discussed because it was never brought up. No one battling the disease that I consider a close friend defines their identity with the ‘c’ word. It is simply something they have, much as some folks have diabetes.  

 

A close friend of mine hosted this party at her home.  Her home was warm and
inviting and decorated beautifully.  It  had the wonderfully warm loving touch. I say this with added emphasis because many of the decorations were homemade, bought at Salvation Army places where others could profit from her hard earned dollars, or were items with a story behind them, from family, friends or those she had helped along the way.

 

Everyone in attendance is a survivor of some type of cancer.  Many do not realize that the word survivor denotes the individual has lived a day beyond 

the diagnosis. It does not mean the cancer is gone.  Thus, some of us are in remission, some present were not.   The commonality was everyone appreciates life and unlike so many in this world, all do not take things for granted nor carry hate and anger in their heart. It is indeed a loving group of Christian women to be circled around and love.  

 


This crowd is a different sort than most Christmas parties you will attend. No one was dressed in Christmas wear.  We all like it and love the spirit of having it but the money we have is more likely spent on giving gifts to family, friends, charities and others that are near and dear to us.  Our conversations   are not about materialistic things.  I have no idea what anyone wants for Christmas there, what the worst gift they ever got was, etc.  We focus more on the things that matter in life, our families, what is going on in our lives, because we never know for sure if we will be there for the next Christmas, the next day.   There are people present that have the disease growing; you cannot take your life for granted. I repeat, life is precious, grab those moments and use them wisely. We are not wasting what might be a last moment asking someone about something as insignificant as a gift.  We want to share laughter and hugs and build memories to last a lifetime with each other.

 

I say this not out of sorrow but to be honest, to be real.  Christmas is about honesty; Jesus came down to teach us about our Savior.  We needed to know this before we chose our path in life and die.  Our party participants know that death is surely going to happen just as surely as our birth.  We spend our time on the moments in life to treasure, thus our party is quiet loving moments, reflecting on what makes our lives special.  It is more of a purr in the room than shouting and yelling.  We prefer soft Christmas carols to loud boisterous bawdy Christmas music.  We laugh and we sigh with contentment over past memories.   We hug ourselves and each other over our good fortune to be together and the people in our lives to share our Christmas season with and feel blessed to be here another year.

 

I had committed to make a video of the pictures from our party. When I pulled the pictures together everyone had taken, I realized there was not a great deal of pictures to choose from.  I suppose that is understandable.  Our group is not about looking for a camera, not about posing, just about being together and the camaraderie. Hence, I pulled some images from some other Facebook friends pages to help complete the video. Hopefully you’ll enjoy those images also.  And those that are added will be flattered!  Click Here 4 Video


11/28/2014

Marriage Can Work With Work

Marriage is a tricky proposition. Most people don’t know what exactly they are getting into when they sign the contract. With two simple words, I do, they are signing up for a lifetime commitment of spending potentially 24/7, at times, with someone.  Who can stand that much of anyone that, over years, may drive you possibly insane with their oddities that are so different and unique to them as yours are to you?

Given that, when my son remarried years ago, I had concerns for both him and his fiancĂ©’s part that they their marriage would be able to withstand the pressures of life, time and whatever hardships would befall them.  They hadn't known each other long and had met in the service. Little did they know what was to come.

Over the years, this couple has had more mountains to climb than imaginable! There has been, to name a few, purchasing a business where the books had been inaccurate reflecting a much better financial image than was true, death of a dear grandfather, a mother diagnosed with cancer, a father dying of a cancer, a severe rift in the family and to top it all off, two children diagnosed with autism and a third child requiring some extra tutoring.   Along the way, the mother had to drop out of Nursing School where she was making straight A’s and using her GI Bill due to the children’s needs.

Watching this relationship develop has been fascinating! Gone is any sense of innocence of two young lovers and in its place is the growth and maturity of two very well equipped parents of special needs children.  These two actively provide and do whatever needs to be done to advance the health and the welfare of all three of their children. They also are certain the kids have opportunities to particulate in stimulating extra-curricular activities. The amazing progress of their children (aged, 7,5 &4), which shocks positively everyone that knows these kids, is reflective of the parenting and the push for the best therapy out there. The support at home reinforces it.

The success of my son’s business has flourished due to having developed a good stable home front and marriage most certainly coupled with hard knocks boss experience.  He makes a mistake one time, and never makes it again! This portion of their relationship has been imperative as this has allowed for the therapy for the children. Right alongside my son, his wife has been supportive in any way she can to help his business thrive, filling in when need be and being a sounding board at times.  However, she is so careful to enforce a boundary line between work and family.   Wise beyond her years in this area, it has allowed for a healthy home life and the stress of work to not affect the children in any way.

These two have had a great deal thrown at them but have stayed steadfast towards a goal.  They will make their relationship work, no matter how much garbage hits the fan!  I tried to teach my children putting achievable goals in your sights, taking steps towards it and jumping over hurdles, one at a time, is possible. No one will knock them down for you! Positive attitude gets you farther in life than a hand-out.  It is so rewarding to see my son and his wife play that theory out in reality.


My husband and I are proud of this marriage and feel it shows to those that know them what large hurdles can be. It exemplifies also how to approach them and overcome them.   Too much time in life is wasted waiting for a hand out that is never, for most folks going to come.   Don’t begrudge a system that doesn't work in your favor.  Find a way to make it work, dig in.   Complaining is counter-productive.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you and have your family be those that love you unconditionally, not people that judge you and put you down.   It is up to each of us to create our own plan in life and execute it.

God is on your side and gave you the tools to do it. Tap into your faith, your own reservoir and do so. Mike, my son and Rebekah, my daughter-in-law have taken what has been to many, reasons to crash and burn and used it to not just persevere but rise above.  It also has given them the insight to know life is about hard work.  Also the realization that relationships that take work sometimes are the ones that  you fight for, you work hard at and maintain the ties no matter what happens and are easily the most rewarding. 

Perhaps this is one of the strongest messages of Jesus’s journey. Leading a Christian life and making those kind of choices has its price. We must follow our gut, our intuition, what feels right, even if it offends and alienates others who are unwilling to accept and allow us to use our freewill.

This marriage has sustained because it is full of romance also, the commitment to each other no matter what befalls their life, be it work, their children, their friends, their outer family.  From the first time my son brought Rebekah to our home, there were smiles and laughter between these two. That quality remains.  I don’t know the dark side of the
relationship, the issues that every marriage has. I am the mom, do I need to know?  Nope, I am here for the loving support, the cheerleader!  I know what I see, what I feel, what I sense when I am there and hear in their voices.   They complete each other.  

I love my daughter-in-law and so does my husband. We consider her our family as much as our grandchildren and Mike.  She has been there for us in so many ways and just as her relationship with our son has grown, her relationship with us has as well.  

Dating time has never lost its place on the family calendar.   And it shows. They have always made trips, weekend getaways, movie-dinner dates, parties with friends, etc, minus children a part of their memories.  It is clear their devotion to each other first and foremost in order to provide the most loving home for the children.  Role models for a healthy marriage and a Christian home begins with the parents.   Their happiness filters to the children, thus these children are happen.    


 As you watch the video that follows you will see through the pictures the love and its enduring strength that molds and holds them together.   May it serve as a reminder to you that when faced with adversity, work through it with faith and determination and never let go of good love!  Infact, fight for it!  

11/16/2014

Give Your Paws a Voice



Thanksgiving isn’t here yet but I can feel it is coming. It is just like a train down the tracks a ways, long before you see it, there is a sense it is coming closer with slight movement of the ground, and the sound of the rumbling on the wheels.   You are close to the crossroads and can feel familiarity in your bones that the train is close before you see it.  That is exactly what is happening here.  See, it is not Thanksgiving that has me in a dizzy, no way, l love turkey, it is what comes afterwards!

See, the problem here is, not enough people take into account what the holidays look like to a dog.  And yes, I have dictated to my owners what I feel needs to be said.  This holiday stuff is really quite stressful to us four legged BFF’s of yours and you need to face facts and reward us for putting up with this holiday upheaval in our lives.

Who came up with the bright idea of putting something that belongs outside in the yard inside the house?   First, need I mention, from day one, my life in my home began by learning the difference between what is permissible indoors and outdoors.  How ironic that my dad tells me all the time peeing on a tree is a good thing.  Now all the sudden, because he gets lazy and decides to bring the tree in the house, he now changes the rules on me!

Oh yea, one other thing, if I bring stuff inside from the yard, like a tree branch, God forbid, I get yelled at and reprimanded.  What a set of  double-standards we have going on here.  The dog owner brings the whole tree in and not a word do I say. How many of you won’t let your dog bring in branches but bring in a doggone tree?  Seriously, think about the irony and what kind of mixed message you are sending to your pet. 

Why put the tree in a prominent place in our house, hello!  I am a guard dog, at least when I want to be, I am. The location my owners choose is right in the living room, the largest floor space but directly infront of the front window.  This is so wrong, on the most basic level.   That tree that is a thorn in my side, clearly blocks my view out the front yard.  I have no idea how I am supposed to do my job as diligently and greet everyone walking up and down the street with my friendly barking and my gorgeous studly face pressed up against the window pane. Oh, how lordy, does Mom have a cow when I sneak behind it and about knock the tree over with my 115 lbs of muscle!

My next observation is all those ridiculous things dangling on the tree.  Colored balls, get out of here.  What good is a ball you can’t play with?  And all the other silly knick knack Dad says we have too many of, the little Santas, figurines, colored lights, quite honestly, it all stresses me out. I am not sure why this tree seems to get more attention then me.  I sometimes feel it is getting watered more than I as well. If it didn’t hurt so bad to go up under it, I would drink from that center bucket Dad keeps dumping water in every night.
 
The beginning of December, box after box comes out and that is when I retreat to my man cave.   I am still waiting for Mom to clear her clothes out of there and her shoes. Some women just have no respect for males.  I love her but she still needs work. 

Anyways, this is a blues day for me.  I think it is for Dad too because he moans and complains a lot.  Occasionally I hear some nasty words come out and this time, they aren’t aimed at me but those darn things coming out of the boxes. I never understand why he doesn’t take a manly stand and just say “No more, no more junk is getting put up.” 

Well for hours, things around our house are put away, replaced by all this holiday stuff making our home look like a holiday themed home.  It does have its good points, true, but it is reminder to me that I am in for a long stay at the kennel over Christmas. I love the kennel but I miss my folks and I miss my home just being the usual way, uncomplicated.

One year I was so upset about the decorating process, I ran away. Dad was so busy going out in the garage I snuck out when the door was open. They never let me out in the yard on my own because they then have to spend an hour hunting me down because I never come back. I am just that way, call me curious and adventurous. 

Well, this time I did feel bad, it being the holidays and all. I couldn’t ruin Christmas for them. So I came back to the garage door. They were so busy decorating they never even opened the door!   I finally went around to the front door and after about a half hour; Mom opened the door and found me sitting there. I wonder if they even noticed I was gone.  But I will admit they sure loved on me a lot when she let me in. 

And please, for the love of God, do not put those dorky collars on me.  They have two
that Mom loves, Dad hates.  He thinks I look like stupid in them and tells her all the time I hate them. He has that right!   One is red with white fur like Santa and itches like poison ivy after a while.  The other one was specially made, but no, I do not feel special with it on.  It has colored Christmas lights and get this, bells!  How irritating is that when dogs have great hearing.  It literally reverberates in my ears every time I move. This sends me straight to the man cave!


I can’t mention those guys that wear the same clothes every day, some uniform that
never changes. I wonder if Santa should bring them a washing machine so they can change clothes!  They give me the creeps.  Well, maybe if something a box to the door with doggie treats in it, I would like them more.  But let me tell you, they drive up and down the street what seems like fifty times during this period, running up and down people’s driveways like they are training for a marathon! What a nuisance, knocking on doors, ringing door bells in the middle of my naps, delivering packages.  Don’t they have anything better to do than just hang out in our neighborhood?  By the time they leave at night, I am literally hoarse from barking and my throat is dry.  Yeah, I am out of water too, the dish is dry. All the watering went to that  blasted  tree in the living room window.
 
I do love when the grandkids come over because they seem to be so excited around the holidays. Plus there are always more yummy treats around. Those kids are just the right height for me too.  They are so use to me that they are not frightened and will share.  Their parents taught them that, I am to be respected and treated as a friend. I don’t think their folks know how good they really are about sharing.  I think some things parents should be kept in the dark about.  

The one thing that drives me nuts is the Christmas Train Mom insisted one year she just had to have.  She told Dad it was something she always wanted as a kid. I wanted to tell her, it is too late, you aren't a kid lady, but I God loves her and I do too.  So Dad went and bought her one. 

Jake, one of the grandchildren,  loves that train as much as her and when he comes over, anything he wants Mom and Dad will do.   I lost count a long time ago how many times he screams train repetitively. And then here we go again, with the noise, the music, the tooting, the yelling.  But I do have to say it is cute to hear his excitement. Each time it goes around to Jake, he reacts so excited as if he didn't expect it to reappear!  If he had his way, that train would play over and over again the entire time he was here. Grandma would make his bed there under the tree by the train, feed him his meals by the train and put a toilet out there or let him pee in the bucket to water it.  It would serve that darn tree right.  I would really get mad then. If they won't let me pee on the tree, Jake shouldn't be allowed to!

Anyways, eventually he gets told the battery is running low. I really don't think this is fibbing.  My now I am long gone, hiding somewhere as far from the living room as possible. I have learned to put my head under pillows to stifle sound.  Amen for this feat because when the Christmas train comes in town, it is needed. I don't want on board!

I guess I have been pretty harsh on the holidays and left off a few good things. I wouldn't want you to think I have no spirit.  I do have a sock hanging with my name on it over the fireplace.  Weird though, when I try to pull it down, I am not allowed to play with it but that’s okay.  Eventually, when I do get it, it is filled with doggie treats and that is very cool!  

 Mom and Dad spend more time sitting in that room this time of year gazing at that tree and petting me and that feels homey and reminds me how I am loved. It also makes me glad I am part of such a good family while I am here on earth. 

Our home is filled with wonderful music during this time of year too.  I do like that except when Mom starts singing. Don’t tell her I said this but her voice, well let’s just say, it needs work.  I don’t howl as long as the radio is on and she is singing with it.  I wish I could tell her don’t sing Acapulco, it hurts my ears something awful.  

But  the best part of the season is that  I can always feel the love and caring between Mom and Dad and that always make me feel warm inside and kinda fuzzy too.  Yes, during the season this year, never forget your pet in the hustle and bustle.  We are family too.

So, in closing:

It is not easy being a dog,
When the holidays draw near,
Because all the hubba,
Brings out my fear.

But I always know,
When Christmas arrives,
That the love in my family,
Is something that will never die.

11/15/2014

Let the Singing Commence Post Turkey!




Okay, I get it! Most folks don’t want to hear Christmas music before Thanksgiving.  Why should I be limited to only hearing them one month out of the year when there are some songs I just love?  So I don’t. Many of them are more about Christian faith and Jesus than old Saint Nick and do not even mention the word Christmas. I am not so if you come by my house on the weekend, you just might occasionally hear a few of my favorites from time to time. However, I agree, like so many other radio listeners I don’t want to hear Christmas music on the radio till Thanksgiving is over!

But when the turkey is carved and eaten, bring on the carols!  What doesn’t move you into the holiday spirit more than a lively old-fashioned holiday jingle or a captivating song about the birth of Jesus on the first Christmas?  And I love the fact that my favorite station in Nashville, Mix. 92.9 plays holiday music continuously from Thanksgiving to Christmas!  I can listen and not worry about buying tons of CD’s because they play them all.


How ironic that Friday I found myself at the radio station I love with a room full of lovers of Christmas music like me.  These avid listeners know, like me, that this channel does something unique. During the holiday season, to make the season bright, they intersperse various stories and clips from fans about their holiday’s special moments.  I have turned my radio up to hear these clips and asked everyone in the car to turn their volume down so I can catch them. The memories people have shared have been hilarious, heart-warming, enchanting and everything in between.  Truly, it adds to the magical spirit of Christmas. These stories are what Nashville is all about and what makes our city and the holidays special. 

This year, being at the studio with one of the groups being interviewed, I got the opportunity to hear a new group of folks live.  Take it from me,
you want to be invited to these folks homes for the holidays!  I am seriously thinking of calling the station and claiming someone from the group I was with Friday has bad credit and I need to contact one of them immediately!   Then I can find a way to finagle an invite.  Oh, their celebrations are as different and as entertaining as each of them are diverse! 

My friends that know me will not be surprised I could not leave my cell phone alone Friday. I wanted to take pictures but the lighting was horrendously bad in the offices. I apologize Anna Marie as I know, without our relationship, I would not have had the opportunity to be there, but dear, the lighting sucks.  Santa needs to brighten the rooms. Last time I was in a room like that someone had a massive hang-over! 

In the defense of radio, who needs lighting I supppose.  And if I sound bitchy, bear in mind, my cell phone does not take the greatest pictures.  It is not the latest greatest model. That one came out the day after I bought mine, naturally.

Several of us were squeezed into a room, the goal was to have the best representation as possible.  I had the fortune to sit back and watch Anna Marie and later Mike Lindsey at work doing what they do best, improvise!  And those of you that don’t know or haven’t met either of them, find the time.  Both are a delight, and what you hear on the air, that’s it folks, the real deal. We survivors call them types "lovers of life."
MIKE LINDSEY


As the dialogue began, one on one, I tried to capture a few things said on my cell phone.   What I could not capture was the best part, the heart.  Looking down at my phone, I would suddenly look up struck by something someone was saying.  Well actually, often times, it was by something in the voice, a hesitation of a tender moment, a uncontrollable laugh, a tear of a long lost moment that came spilling out or a childlike scream of joy over something long forgotten.  Looking up at that face of the speaker, I would see that bright twinkle in their eye, reminding me of the North Star, what we were talking about, why we were here, the true meaning of
ANNA MARIE
Christmas.   

Mix 92.9 goes through this exercise because they care about what we, the listeners care about, what Christmas means to us.   This is the heart of Christmas.  Not the gifts, but all the other emotions that go along with the trimmings.  To them, it is not commercialization at its finest hour.  It is a season of rejoicing and reflection.

I deleted all my notes later that day.  Gone are the words of the people that spoke them and the most important part I carry in my heart.  What I saw Friday was truly worth writing a blog about, just the raw emotion shared among a room full of strangers about one of the single most important emotional holidays of the year. We walked in the room as strangers and I walked out feeling blessed.  I could not do their stories justice if I tried, it is their stories; you have to listen to the radio to catch the snippets.

And just wait till you hear some of their favorite parts of the holidays!  The traditions, so many are centered around food, children, laughter, and neighbors.   The memories will make you tear up, laugh, cheer and smile.  There is not one of us that can’t help but relate to each others stories of the holidays in some small way and reminisce about our own.   And sitting there watching others tell their stories was simply delightful.  It reminded me of what it felt like one Christmas when I was alone with my husband, battling cancer and so lonely.  It was definitely not my favorite Christmas but I was grateful to be alive. There are others in Nashville and elsewhere that spend the season alone but needing someone. Invite them into your holiday festivities.  They may provide one of your best memories yet.

When you hear about an Angel Tree, be an angel for just one trip to Wallyworld or wherever you shop.  Treat one child or adult with a heartfelt gift.   Listen to the stories that are told on Mix 92.9 and you may find yourself jotting down ideas for new traditions or simply laughing with glee in between singing Christmas songs!


Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year are in close proximity but the season of living thankfully, merrily and always beginning each day anew should be a constant.  

Love and joy come to you and may all your season's wishes come true.