Surround Yourself….

My nephew Zack, who as many people know is one of the lights of my life, told me during Christmas that he was going to send me an inspirational text every day…. just because.  (Yeah, I know, pretty special and imagine, that is coming from a 20-year-old.)

After reminding him the first couple of days, he has made each day since without any prompting.

I told him today’s text was my favorite….. so far……

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A thoughtful nephew who looks for ways to brighten the day of his Uncle….  another thing to add to my Gratitude Jar

2013 Challenge & Support

2012 ~ A Year of Lessons

New year 2013The ball has dropped, the champagne popped and kisses delivered, 2012 is officially history.  Before we put the year away forever, I wanted to reflect on some of the lessons learned over the past 365.

With any year, there are ups and downs, 2012 was no different  but what was different were the lessons I learned this past year.

I don’t know if it because I am getting older, wiser or sappier, whatever the case the lessons learned in 2012 will serve me well moving forward.

From the people of God’s Country, I learned about heritage and taking care of our neighbors.  When daddy became ill, the people of my hometown stepped up, they reaffirmed their love for my family and held us up when our days seemed grim.

As he has every year of my life, my father taught me lessons again this year.  His lesson for 2012 was to never give up.  In all truth my father’s illness was very grave, it could have easily ended much differently.  All my life my father has taught me that quitting is not an option, this year he reinforced that with his daily struggle to live.

Through difficult circumstances I was reminded that having a big brother is one of God’s greatest gifts.

Young Denali Botolino taught me about dignity as he suffered until his last breath with childhood pancreatic cancer.  Denali’s battle was fought with dignity and grace, not only by him but his family as well.

Over 7,000 strangers taught me about compassion through a Facebook group designed as a prayer page for a child suffering from an unfair diagnosis.

My wonderful niece Chelsea reminded me that our best futures are ahead of us.  This year her college graduation provided reason for celebration, an excitement for the future and renewed anticipation for what can happen if we set our sites on achieving our goals.

Watching the Olympics helped me to remember that crying with pride is ok, success is a good thing, but making the attempt is what is most important.

My bosses have taught me how to be a better boss, how to honor employees and help them find their excellence.

My nephew Zack continues to teach me to live bold and proud of who I am, his example makes me a better man.

I was reminded over and over again just how ugly politics can be, on a national, state and local level.  I have found that the ones who have the greatest concerns for what others are doing often have the deepest cracks in their own glass houses.

Sitting with friends on a summer Sunday, laughing, telling stories and acting like pubescent misfits is good for the soul and keeps you young at heart.

In 2012, I learned about absolute fear with a Friday afternoon phone call.  A favorite 20-somethings fought for his life in April and won.  The fear that I felt with my Florida family was inconsolable, I have never been a parent but standing in the kitchen for an entire weekend pacing and waiting for any bit of news took me to a place that I don’t want to return to ever again.

I realized change is often a good thing and sometimes needed to grow.

I am renewed to find that while new friends are awesome, the rich bonds of youth and years of history make for the best partnerships moving through life.

While 2012 had its problems, it’s setbacks and it’s pitfalls, all in all it was a good year.

The lessons I learned weren’t really learned at all, they have always been with me and in my heart.  2012, just reminded me that it is the people in our lives who make this all worthwhile.

It is friends and family, sharing the good, the bad and the mundane.   Our friends and families are there to pick us up when we fall, provide a shoulder when we shed a tear and bring us the greatest joys of life.  The lessons of 2012 are about life, they will be with me in 2013 and beyond, and I hope they will be with you as well.

Bring it on 2013, let’s see what lessons we are in store for next!

2013 Challenge & Support

 

 

Christmas Isn’t What It Used to Be

424878_10200164151810827_1186564770_nToday, as I packed away the decorations from Christmas, I was swept up with emotion, as I reflected on the memories of the past month.

SImple moments of laughter, tears and love that had woven together to form the tapestry of Christmas 2012.  I couldn’t help but think back to what my mother used to tell me, “it’s not about the presents, it’s about the memories.”

This year, the simple memories of Christmas touched my heart in a more profound way than ever.  It’s true, the memories of Christmas are so much more important than the presents, I realized this year that Christmas isn’t what it used to be.

Growing up, my mother made sure that Christmas was a special time of year for all of us.  Even after Tom died, every nook was decorated and every gift presented with love.

Mama was at her best during the Christmas season and she worked diligently to make sure that we all felt the beauty of the season.  In our house we learned that Christmas wasn’t only about the gifts we received under the tree, but more importantly it was about the gift received in a stable centuries before.

This year I was especially touched by the small moments of Christmas that will engulf my memories for years to come.

I have watched the neighborhood children grow up from newborns filled with the excitement of Santa,  to pre-teens doubting the magic of Christmas.  This year I caught myself saying “as long as you believe in Santa Clause he will still come,” on multiple occasions.  This reassuring phrase delivered to me by my parents was now being passed along, memories of Christmas past seeping into today’s celebration.

This year as in year’s past our work team gathers together for a breakfast and secret Santa exchange.  It is nice to let down the walls of our busy workday and celebrate the season with a work family that makes me better on a daily basis.

I open the mailbox with daily anticipation to see the photo cards of families I have known since I was a child.  Watching these families grow and expand has been a joy for me that has enhanced memories of a lifetime.

Opening the ornament boxes of my grandmother and being overcome with the memories of my families history puts a perspective on the holiday.  The memories sewn into each ball and figurine have been enhanced through the decades of use.

Some of my favorite memories of Christmas 2012, are reflectant of the smallest moments.  A two-hour car ride with my niece who has grown into a young woman of substance and promise.  Her future is bright, but her perspective on what is important is fine tuned with the sense of purpose for someone much older than her 22 years.

My yearly lunch with a dear friend who moved away from Florida several years ago.  This year she was forging through her first Christmas without her mother, fresh off the memories of my own loss just a few years prior, I hope I was able to help her see the joys of memory and the promise of a new kind of Christmas.

Gathering as a family at mama and daddy’s house as we have done our entire lives for Christmas Eve dinner always fills me with memories that keep me warm through the year.  We laugh and joke through the night, we feast on BBQ and we open gifts, it is a tradition that has been transcendent through my lifetime and I hope will continue for generations to come.

For year’s after Tom died, mama and daddy would place a poinsettia on his grave on Christmas Eve and remove it on Christmas morning.  This year, as I have over the past three Christmases, I have joined daddy in this morning ritual.  We now place two poinsettia, one for mama and one for Tom, this gesture provides a time of reflection that I appreciate now more than ever.

After daddy’s health scare of the Fall, my greatest joy was us being together this Christmas.  Just the simple act of joining hands around the table or riding through God’s Country was enhanced ten-fold in appreciation for him coming through his illness.

While many moments touched me, the greatest was a simple tradition we have held in our family for over 20 years.  When Chelsea was born, mama bought a pop-up book of the Christmas story.

Each year after Christmas Eve dinner, our family has gathered around the tree for the reading of the story prior to gifts being unwrapped.  When Chelsea learned to read, the book was passed on to her.

After Zack was born and learned to read he was tasked with sharing the story of the babies birth with our family.  For over 20 years, this pop up book has been a focal point in our tradition.

This year, when it was time to read the story of the Baby Jesus birth, we took our seats and Zack began to read.

As I listened to the words of the story, I was warmed by memories of Christmas’s past, I could feel the presence of my mother as I gazed at her photo just over Zack’s shoulder.  As my eyes filled with tears, I couldn’t help but think back to the words that have been engrained in me my entire life….  “it’s not about the presents, it’s about the memories.”

This year more than ever before I got it, I truly got the meaning of Christmas, it’s not about presents, it’s not about the build up, the pressures to be perfect or the anticipation of the day……it’s about love, memories and legacy.

Christmas isn’t what it used to be….. it’s better!

Life’s Playlist…. I’m Going Home by Daughtry

Life’s Playlist….  I’m Going Home by Chris Daughtry

For my wonderful Spring Break Guests Zachary Rumsey; Haley Moseley and Hayden Hayden Taylor…. Come back anytime!