1/12/2015

Stay the Course - Not Just Midway but All the Way




Jim and I are adamant about supporting the Midcourse Correction Challenge Camp in Michigan.  Many that follow my blog or know me personally are aware that I did a great deal of research into their organization.  I wanted to try to determine which program in Michigan my step-son Dan would see as the most reflective of  what he would have wanted for himself and others to help  make it ‘through the rain’, the trials in his life. 

This organization was a clear stand out. Talking to Richard Wood, the Executive Director only put an exclamation point to the decision.  Never have we looked back.  Thus, though little funds have been garnished, to date, for the fund we started in Jim’s son’s name, we are steadfast in our commitment in doing what we can do support and promote this Camp. 

To that end, I want to share a few recent stories to come out of Midcourse I learned of recently, since my last writing on the Camp.  In addition to their Challenge Camps they also have a much more intense Honor Company program attendees can return to.  This is far better explained by visiting their site, listed below. 

This Honor Company program shows just 
how much progress can be made with 
teens after attending the first camp. 
This is not a spa treatment facility.   To willingly come back for a more intense version is a clear indication that these young people recognize it has real value in their life.  It may be a boot camp, but motivation and insight is accomplished.

At a recent Camp, one young man spoke to the Director about how he had been released from drug use finally.  Life begins anew for this young man now, free from the bondage of drug use and put on a new course to live with goals in place.  How can this be accomplished in a weekend camp?  Ask yourself if the cost is too much to pay?  Would you want to help someone live drug free for a small token of change?

Another attendee had returned a few weeks ago and proudly showed how his failing grades from his attendance at the first camp were now all B’s.  He had come, that first time, literally kicking and screaming in a car, restrained.  Now, this same young man is like many others that attend and leave this fine program, forever changed. Attending the Honor Company, he was seen hugging his parents, asking for forgiveness and committed to knowing his steps now are the path to a good direction.   A life is saved, he came screaming at one time and is leaving smiled and invigorated.  In my book, that is a miracle. 

Many know that the leader of the organization, Richard Wood,  has a heart of gold.  His staff is full of good people on a mission. He not only believes in the program, he genuinely cares about the parents and the teens. We feel blessed to know our donations are guided by his hands, by his heart.  We know Dan’s name is saving spirits that might otherwise be diminished like his shortened life was. 

As a couple, we are not financially well off, by any stretch, but with the little we have; we find something to give to this fund several times a year, Dan Bronold Memorial Scholarship Fund.  We quit asking others to give nearly as much because we saw such a lack of response.  If you don’t give to this program, we understand but please find another one you will support. These young misguided teens, if not straightened out, can become tomorrow’s criminals on the street, full of hate.  That anger can be turned inward or outward. They need help, they need direction, and they need a place like Midcourse to put them on the right course. 

And we also pray that when they are misguided they are not put in a jail cell in isolation and left there with nothing to help them sort their thoughts out.  This Camp believes they can prevent those unhappy endings. We believe it too, infact, we are hearing about it often.  Amen.

  For more information, visit their site:  http://www.midcoursecorrection.org/




1/01/2015

Winds Blowing

Through the best and the worst of times we experience the myriad of what we call life.  No one gets the choice of siphoning out which parts we can alone experience.  Thus, our history, past present and future comprises a mish-mash of both.  2014 was, to many, a time of challenges, personal growth, joyful memories and personal loss.

This past year, the world scene underwent some very negative news stories that upset homes, governments and families everywhere. It was easy to see how these tensions could carry over to personal lives as well.  However, with media attention towards controversial topics there creates dialogue.   Hopefully, eventually with this communication, solutions will ensue. Compromise, though, does not seem to come easily anymore.  Even within our American soil, there is a pervasiveness to be right rather than resolve issues.

The success stories of what has gone right in the world, in our country and in our communities is not as newsworthy to networks as the negativity for some reason.  I suppose it doesn't make as good of a headline, eye-catching.  But these stories, moments of happiness, of mountains conquered also were compiled through-out 2014.  Even with a government that many want to hate and condemn for not getting enough done, has still maintained our democracy.  Many Americans are holding down jobs, are home owners, have the freedom to carry arms retaining their liberties and freedom of speech and are able to move at will. Be critical of the US Government and president if you will but note also many other nations treat people like second rate citizens in their own land.  So another year went by, 2014, and with all the terrorism going on, we remained free, a blessing not to be taken ever for granted. It gives us continued hope for more positive change.

When I review my life this past year I have seen some wonderful things come into my life.  I had not returned to a special camp for cancer survivors in many years called Camp Bluebird.  This past spring 2014 I returned.  It opened my eyes and my life to a new circle of friends that I had met before here. 

This time, going to this three day camp by myself, it took those relationships to a whole new deeper level. There is no turning back, even if I wanted to.  The commitment to continued growth and the bond we share from fighting cancer, some still fighting that battle is an unspoken thread of love that ties us together.   It allows for unconditional regard and a surrogate family that is responsive to each other’s needs and prayers in an eye-opening kind of way that perhaps was remiss in my life.  I can say 2014 brought the miracle of Camp Bluebird into my life.  As one of the leaders says in part, you can’t hurt me too bad, “I am a Bluebird damn it!”

Debbie Thomas of the American Cancer Society and I have spent a great deal of time together this past year.  With her encouragement and my passion towards finding better cures and treatment for breast cancer, I increased my involvement in a big way towards the annual event to raise funding for Strides against Breast Cancer in Nashville, Tennessee. Having worked in the past as the Director of Corporate Development for the American Cancer Society, I know how critical the success of this event is to the programs for breast cancer and expanding research in this field.  Many do not realize too, that the research expands well beyond simply breast cancer, thus other forms of cancer benefit from these dollars. 

Thus, I helped in several areas for the event this year with my primary role being working with not only Debbie but a special lady out of Memphis, Sarah Byrum, on social media.   Twitter and Facebook were intended to increase the awareness of Strides. The end goal was to increase team numbers, dollars and involvement. It helped considerably but we found it can be improved on even more in 2015.  I am proud of the foundation that was built this past year.   Yes, pink passion in social media for Nashville hit its mark!  So many carried the torch and ran with it.

It has always been important to me to not only continue my education learning from others but to impart what I have learned. Not being employed anymore outside the home poses more challenges to this and yet I have so much more to give.  Thanks to the wonders of marketing and social media, I have been engaged much more heavily this year on Twitter.  This forum has provided me the opportunity to meet so many diverse individuals.  I have learned from many others of varying degrees of expertise and also imparted my knowledge base gathered from working and personal experiences.   It has been rewarding to feel as if I have helped others have some insight and growth moments in their life. Helping others is what I feel we are called to do.




Friends are priceless commodities.  This year reinforced this fact more than ever.  It was a time to reevaluate which ones are the stand-outs.  Who is there with you for the long-haul?  Who has your backside? As you get older, friends begin feeling more like family.  No longer are you bound because of your children playing sports together because your children are grown, flown the coup. Your friends choose to be around you.  They actually like you, respect you, and care about your opinions even if you are on opposite sides of an issue. 


My husband and I realized we have a closer relationship with a few of ours in particular.   Whether we see them often or not, they and we are a phone call away.  If needed, that is all it takes for one of us to be there for each other.   This year showed us that one of God’s blessings is giving us friends like this and recognizing the value of them. 


My relationship with my husband has deepened tremendously this year.   Our years together have put us through uphill climbing and some fun rides down hills laughing through twists and turns.   There were years when the heart-ache threatened to break us but the bonds of matrimony have gotten stronger and shown us our love is unique.  What we have we are unwilling to ever walk away from, we are willing to fight for and die for.   We have held each other in tears, in anger and in laughter finding that, through it all, we can survive all kinds of weather.  How many times we have found new ways to define our life as circumstances have changed and necessitated that we do so.  We push each other to get off the pot, and move forward.   This year was no exception.  2014 reiterated again we believe in each other and support each other 100%.  We can be happy as long as we have each other. 

Oh boy, 2014 taught me that I wasted 14 years!  Too much time in my marriage was spent not fostering a better relationship with my sister-in-law.  She began calling me once a week when she retired and it was a joy. I think, in the beginning, I started wondering what the motive was, if something was wrong.   Once my guard was down and I just enjoyed the calls, the relationship began to develop.  I had regrets that it took so long for us to get close.  But, things happen for a reason so perhaps this was the year this was supposed to occur so I am thankful it did, she called and I answered!   I look forward to what we do and learn in the years to come!

 Christmas was spent in NYC with Jim’s niece and all that side of the family.  Wow, what a wonderful time!  What were we thinking not getting up there sooner? Why speculate.  We need to quit wasting time and bite the bullet, find the money and spend more time with my husband’s side of the family.  We have hardly spent any time up there during our 14 years of marriage and truly it was one of our best Christmas’s together.   We were surrounded with laughter, love and a feeling of love, acceptance and giving.  Jim’s family is full of laughter, craziness, activities, openness, acceptance and all the good things Jim and I are about and want in our life.  We value these qualities. 2014 reminded us we have family we have neglected that wants us to be an active part of their live and we have let them down by not making time for them.


This past year there have been some very special memories with my grand-daughter Ava, and grandsons Ty and Jake.  As they get older, the memories are different and in some respects, easier to remember because they are more interactive.  Having said that, any memories with them are special.   Having Ava for a few days over the summer was a very special time for both Jim and I.  She still continues to make us smile with her innocence and her desire to make everyone around her happy. As both boys continue to surprise everyone with their progress from their therapy for autism we beam with pride and pray for continued improvement.

Little did I know at the time that my visit with my grandson Kaleb in Feb. would be the last time I would see him.  Thus, 2014 visiting with my grandson was special indeed and I will treasure that time. His silly faces he makes and his teasing me with his silliness.   That is something grandmas don’t easily forget.   I wish his Grandpa Jim had had a chance to say good bye in 2014 but somehow I know God will make certain Kaleb knows in his heart his grandpa never stopped loving him.  Kids somehow know these things.  That week with him will always be a special time for me in 2014! I feel blessed I had it, amen!

My husband and I made more of a commitment to have fun in life and do more things for us.  And we did.  We are limited as to what we can do, but within our means, we did find things we could afford to do and we did those and had a blast!  Renting a cabin with my sister and her friend for the weekend was heaven.  I finally got to see my nephew play on his high school varsity football team out of town and he was great!  We went and visited a close high school friend overnight I hadn't seen in ages.  We went to see a Broadway show together.  We went to an amusement park and even one time took our granddaughter to one! The list goes on, and from the smallest on the list it is all good. Life truly is what you make it.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for tomorrow to come.   


2014 had its low moments, for sure but it had some incredible moments too I wouldn't trade for the world.   It showed us we can forge ahead and change directions no matter what gets thrown at us.  It is kind-of like playing dodge ball.  After you get hit, do you just stand there or do you move towards a new horizon?





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!