Always Loved

The older I get, the more I realize how fortunate I am to have always felt loved, not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day of my life.  I have been blessed with many things in my life, but by far, the greatest blessings I have received are the people God has put in my life.

My first valentine was my dad.  He always made the day special by getting me a box of Russel Stover candy – the one with the deep red cellophane on top. I remember it having dark chocolate, milk chocolate and one piece each of a pink and yellow chocolate. I loved each and every one and loved my dad for making the day special!  My brother later played a role and would give me stickers for my sticker collection or a small box of chocolates. I remember one year when I was in my 20s, I had just broken up with someone and my dad and brother sent me flowers at work.  I broke down in tears and still have the card they sent.  It meant so much and cheered me up right away!

In elementary school, my classmates were my valentines. We gave each other valentines to put in our decorated paper lunch bags. I fondly remember giving and receiving Scooby Doo valentines along with the The Flinstones, Barbie, Transformers and Strawberry Shortcake! Yes, I am dating myself!  I don’t have many memories of Valentine’s Day in middle school, other than one boy giving me a flower, but he was not my boyfriend. In high school, I only had a boyfriend my junior and senior years and remember getting pink and red carnations at lunch in the cafeteria. Such a romantic place to get a gift! HA!!

My mom was my valentine a few years as well. I remember one year, I was dating some yahoo who did not get me a gift for Valentine’s Day. She felt badly for me so she bought me a beautiful silver locket with a rose engraved on it. It meant so much to me and still does to this day.

For a few years, my students and niece and nephew were my valentines.  They would give me valentines and little boxes of chocolate. It was so sweet for the kids to think of me.  Even if I was feeling lonely, their heartfelt cards and gifts always warmed my heart and made me smile.

For over a decade, my girlfriends were my valentines since we were all single! There were a few years where one or two of us had dates, but for many years, it was just “the girls.” And that never stopped us from having a great time! We would go dinner or to our favorite martini bar or wherever we wanted.  I remember one year, we all met at one of our favorite bars and every single one of us wore red.  The bartender referred to us as “the girls in red” all night. Hey, it helped us get free drinks! One of the best times was the year we went to Atlantic City to celebrate.  Our usual night of drinking, dancing, and gambling made it one of the best times! So. Much. Fun!!

When I was 34, I met my ultimate valentine, my husband! Though I didn’t know it at the time, the day we met was the day my life would change forever. Since that date, almost 10 years ago, I met the man with whom I would spend the rest of my days.  I could not have imagined that one person could bring so much joy, happiness and love into my life. He is an amazing husband and person and  I love him with all my heart and soul!

Today is a day about love. But really, every day should be!  There is love all around us but sometimes, I think we forget how much we are loved by our parents, siblings, children, friends, and significant others. I hope each of you feels love today and every day and have a wonderful year filled with happiness, laughter and smiles!

 

American Hero, American Sniper

Tomorrow is a sad day for America.  Yes,  February 2nd is Groundhog’s Day.  But more importantly, it is the anniversary of the death of a true American hero, Chris Kyle.

I remember the day I heard about his killing on television.  I had just finished reading his book a few days earlier and asked my husband, “Did they just say Chris Kyle was killed? I just finished reading his book!”  I was in complete disbelief.  How could this highly skilled sniper, who survived four tours in Iraq be dead? And how the heck could he have been killed on American soil?

We later learned that Kyle’s death, along with his friend, Chad Littlefield, was a result of a mentally disturbed veteran Kyle was trying to help.

Chris Kyle was an amazing and extraordinary human being.  First, he was a US Navy SEAL. The best of the best. The most elite force we have in our military. He survived four tours in Iraq.  He was highly effective at his job as a sniper.  While he struggled between devoting his life to his country and his family, Chris Kyle was able to keep his marriage in tact.  He was able to form strong bonds with his children. He overcame PTSD after his return and he was able to pull himself and his family out of bankruptcy.  He was constantly helping fellow veterans and knew the healing power of the outdoors. These are all major accomplishments and are an inspiration to veterans and non-veterans.

In his book and in the movie based on the book, American Sniper, we are reminded that there is a war going on and that civilians must help and support our veterans. He asks us in his book to give back to our soldiers who give, and give up, so much to preserve our way of life. He only lost two men during his tours and wanted all of the proceeds from his book to go to their families.  While he saved thousands of men, the two he lost constantly tugged at his heart.

From what I have read and heard, Chris Kyle was an amazing human being.  While I never had the pleasure of meeting him personally, I have read and reread his book several times. I have seen how humble he was during interviews and how passionate he was about supporting his fellow veterans.  I read his Facebook posts, many of which are quite humorous! This was a man who devoted his entire life to helping and protecting others.  He was a true hero.

So, tomorrow, I am asking that you take a little time to say a prayer for Chris, his family and all of our veterans. They are still out there. They are still fighting and we cannot ever forget them.

Want to help honor Chris Kyle and all of our veterans?  Here are some ideas.

  1. Go sign up at a local United Services Organization (USO).
  2. Find out of there is a local veterans hospital in your area and see if you can visit.
  3.  Have your children or students make cards thanking soldiers for their service. Look for events honoring veterans and attend and participate in them.
  4. Fly your American flag high each and every day.
  5. Get a green light for your porch and shine it all the time.  A green light signals your support for our troops.     www.greenlightavet.com
  6. Write to your state senators and demand better treatment for our veterans at VA hospitals.

 

John 15:13  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Focus on the Good

This is what I have had to tell myself for the past few months.  It has nothing to do with my family or marriage or career. They are all already good, thank God. I am talking about my beloved country and what is happening all around us.

It is very easy to get depressed and disheartened with what has happened in America over the past year or so. I will not go into specifics, for that will feed into all the misery, angst and disappointment I have been feeling.  Instead, I am going to start to focus on the good because we cannot let other people’s poor choices, despicable actions and vile words steal our personal joy!  Life is too short to get wrapped up in the anger and negativity that is all around us.

We must focus on the good.

These are a few good things I am focusing on right now. I hope you can too!

  1. Family and friends – God has blessed me with some of the most wonderful people in my own family and in my husband’s family. I am thankful for them each and every day.
  2. The American flag – As I proudly hang my flag outside my door each day, it makes me think of all the heroes that have fought and sacrificed for our country.  When I say the Pledge of Allegiance, I do not take it lightly and mean every word. I am proud to be the granddaughter of two World War II veterans and the daughter of a Navy veteran.
  3. Flowers – Who does not enjoy looking at the vibrant colors of roses, poinsettias, daisies and daffodils? They inspire me to see the beauty in all things and make me thankful that I have been blessed with the gift of sight.
  4. Dogs – Some of the greatest creatures given to man!  They are great companions, loyal family members and provide hours of entertainment!
  5. Laughter – I especially love hearing the unabated laughter of children.  They laugh from their bellies; something more adults should do! I especially love the contagious laughs of my Aunt Jill and Uncle Frank.  They are hysterical and unique and I cannot help but join in!
  6. Music – It is medicine for the soul. It can fire you up during a workout, make you cry or laugh and inspire you to do great things. It can even make you ponder life and all that we go through.  I love music and cannot imagine life without it!
  7. Books – To me, they are the best way to escape reality and be transported to another time, setting, and situation. When I get wrapped up in a book, there are not distractions.
  8. Animals – While dogs are my personal favorite, I love to watch and listen to the birds and other wildlife.  We can learn a lot from animals.  There is a quote from Elvis Presley who said, “Animals don’t hate and we are supposed to be smarter than they are.” So true.
  9. The beach – The soft sand, the rolling waves, the salt in the air… it is definitely a place that makes me smile and realize the incredible power of nature.  I have nothing but good memories at the beach from being there with my family or friends to walking on the beach by myself in the early mornings.  It is paradise to me.
  10. God – I saved the best for last. God is good! Always and everywhere and in all things.  I truly do believe that God is on our side and that means there are good things for all of us. We just have to notice all the good around us and focus on them.  If we do this, it will bring a happiness to our hearts and peace to our minds.

Make your own list and see how you feel afterwards. I hope you feel as good as I do now.  Focus on the good!!

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Every morning, I read a devotional to help inspire me and guide me to be a better person.  I do not think today’s devotion was a coincidence since today is the day Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America.

“Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:17

Today and for the past few months, we have not seen “respect for everyone” because of the hatred for OUR new president. There used to be a respect for elders, teachers, police officers, the military and the President of the United States. That is gone and we should all be very alarmed by this.

These pathetic celebrities who are STILL protesting are not promoting peace. They are demonstrating hatred, intolerance and defiance; the very things they accuse Trump of being/doing.

Let’s not forget one very important thing. The world is watching. A divided country will not stand. Terrorists love to see discord in America. And for those who are hoping for Trump’s assassination, SHAME ON YOU the most! The assassination of a president or other leader makes the country look weak and with all of terrorist groups out there, we cannot afford that.

Finally, and most importantly, our children are watching. Kids today are already a handful because of our warped, entitled society and now they are seeing people refuse to accept this new president because they wanted someone else. That is the equivalent of an adult temper tantrum! Stop, already! Show your children how to act if you do not get what you want. Show your children that we should give people a chance and please teach them to “respect everyone.”

May God bless America today and every day!

New Year, New Idea

Happy New Year! Well, if you made a New Year’s resolution, you are almost one full week into keeping it! How are you doing?

I was not going to make a resolution this year. Usually, I vow to eat healthier, exercise more, blah, blah, blah. And every year, I do it for a few months and then tend to go back to my old habits. Can any of you relate? I did not want to set myself up for failure, as terrible as that sounds.  So this year, I did not make any resolutions…until I read a blog written by Missy Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

If you know anything about the show, you know they are a deeply religious family from Louisiana. It is really an amazing story and one that exemplifies the American Dream.  Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family, literally went from rags to riches based on an idea, hard work, and the grace of God.  The first two seasons were my favorite ones because they were less scripted but I still watch the show.

This family has had a profound impact on my life. In fact, I credit them for bringing me closer to God, but that’s for another post. Anyway, Missy is Phil’s daughter-in-law and has gone through struggles of her own with her daughter who was born with a cleft lip and palate. This family stands strong however, and does something I think is brilliant.  Instead of making a resolution to improve their appearance or to stop a bad habit, they choose a verse from the Bible as their resolution for the year. And they do it as a family. What a great idea! There are so many short and simple verses that tell us to lead a good life. Why not choose one of them to  focus on? We will not only improve ourselves, but the lives of those around us.

I started to examine myself and one of my biggest issues is worrying about things that may or may not happen.  I have gotten better about realizing that all things are in God’s hands and that worrying does absolutely NOTHING but rob me of peace, but I still tend to do it. Sometimes, I am good during the day and then when I go to sleep at night, the “what if’s?” start creeping in my brain and prevent me from sleeping.  My mind starts racing and a million different thoughts come into my mind.  I hate that!  I know many of you can relate. An alarming number of Americans (including a growing number of children) are on medication for anxiety and depression. While it may be human nature to worry, some of us take it to the extreme.  But the verse below tells us to live in the present and not think about what we cannot control in the future.

Matthew 6:34:

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)

And there it is! That’s the one. That will be my resolution for 2017. It will be a challenge, but that is what a resolution is supposed to be – a challenge to make you a better person. If you want to try this, you can simply google “Bible verses on…anxiety, depression, fear, love, etc.”

Whatever you resolve to do, I wish you the best of luck!  Hope you all have happy and healthy 2017!

 

This Year for Lent…

I am giving up Facebook. I don’t post much on Facebook, but I scroll and “like” things.

A lot.  Too much.

Why? Because I am nosy.  Yep. I hate to admit it, but it’s true.  While Facebook and other social media can be great outlets to bring awareness to causes and see friends and families on vacations and other positive things, it can also bring out the worst in people.

Or maybe it’s just me.

As I scroll along my feed,  I have noticed that seeing certain people’s pictures or reading “news” articles tend to bring out my judgmental side.  I don’t want to be judgmental and wonder if I have become more judgmental since I started on Facebook. I’m thinking yes. Also, I  get very angry reading articles on the awful things people do to each other and do not want to see pictures of abused animals or children on my feed.  I know evil exists and that God will take care of them, but when I see abuse, especially of a child or animal, I wish HORRIBLE things on the abusers, which is also not very Godly. Shame on me.

Finally, a lot of gossip stems from Facebook posts.  I do not want to be a part of gossip anymore.  I feel that while I have gotten better about it, I still have some work to do.  Every now and again, I still get sucked into “Did you see what she posted on Facebook?” “Wow. What was she wearing?” “Why would she post THAT?”  Who the heck am I to think these things? Shame on me again.

Since Facebook definitely causes me to be un-Godly at times and takes my time away from doing something productive, I am giving it up for Lent, along with my traditional pleasure food – chocolate.  I am also pledging to read and reflect on scripture every day.  That way, maybe I will have the strength and guidance to be a better person – on and off social media. Who knows? Maybe I will not be on Facebook at all anymore after this experience.  Time will tell…

What are you giving up for Lent this year?  What do you hope to get out of it?

Same Color, Different Dress

“Always a bridesmaid and never a bride” – was a phrase I heard and lived for many years.  After being in and attending over 20 weddings by the time I got married, I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted and what I did not want for my husband, myself, my girls, his guys and our guests.

I think our wedding was fabulous and I have never felt so much love from so many people in one room.  It was by far, the greatest day of my life, not only because I was marrying the man of my dreams who has exceeded every expectation I had for a spouse, but because all of the people I loved from my old friends and family to my new friends and family were all together.

I loved planning my wedding, but am certainly not a professional, but there are certain things that I think went extremely well.  Based on my many years as a wedding guest, bridesmaid, maid of honor and of course, bride, here are some thoughts:

1You and your husband should make the decisions.  While we greatly respected our parents’ opinions, what they wanted/suggested, was not always what we did. One of the issues we had early on when planning our wedding was deciding to invite children.  Many of our cousins and close friends had little ones and we had to decide whether or not we should invite them.  In the end, no kids under the age of 13 were in attendance other than our nieces and nephew who were in the wedding.  Our wedding, our choice. Done.

2. Choose a reception venue that lets you walk through their kitchen. I had never thought about this before, but the owner of Perona Farms, where we had our reception, invited us into the kitchen on a day when they were having a wedding.  In other words, it was cooking in action. It was not specially cleaned for our visit. The floors were not greasy, it was extremely clean and there were inspirational signs hanging above from the ceilings reminding the serves to smile and to treat their customers like they were family.   We were sold.

3. Let your bridesmaids choose the style of dress after you choose the color.   We’ve all been there as bridesmaids – feeling horrible uncomfortable in a dress that makes your butt look big or is totally not your style.  It makes for an uncomfortable day to say the least and it shows – in person and in all of the pictures you try and smile sweetly for.   I did not want that for my girls.  My girlfriends are incredible. They are from all different eras in my life and come from all different backgrounds.  My thought was – they are all different as people, so why couldn’t they be different as bridesmaids?  I chose a beautiful royal blue for my color and let the girls try on  different styles so they would be comfortable.  After all, I want them to have fun and feel good about themselves.  My only request was that their dresses were long and to the floor. The girls were very happy that they were able to choose the style and shape that fit their bodies. I also let them choose their shoes.  One of my girls does not ever wear heels and she was relieved when I told her that flats were fine, as long as they were silver.

4 Skip the bouquet and garter toss, especially if most of the crowd is older.  I will never forget my ex-sister-in-law telling me of a wedding she and my brother attended where a heavier, unattractive girl caught the bouquet and the DJ had to practically beg the single guys to come out and catch the garter.  I felt awful for her and I was not even there!  Once I heard that, it was out. No way someone was going to feel badly at my wedding.

5. Enjoy cocktail hour with your guests. My husband and I truly love and enjoy our family and friends and wanted to spend as much time as we could with them on our wedding day. We skipped the traditional cocktail hour with the bridal party and enjoyed it with our guests.  This also made it more comfortable for the dates of those in the bridal party who might not have known many other guests. We did get introduced before dinner which worked out great.

6.  Get the traditional dances out of the way first.   Right after you are announced, go right into the first dance and the dances with the father and mother.  It’s less painful for the guests and the dancing later on does not need to be interrupted.

7.  Play slow music when dinner is served.  There is nothing worse than when guests are asked to be seated for dinner and a great dance tune from the 80s gets played.  I am not going to lie, I have gotten right up from the table to go out and bust a move, much to the dismay of the waiters and waitresses who are trying to serve the food.  Make sure the DJ/band holds the best dance songs before or after the food is served.

8.  Dance! My husband and I enjoyed our wedding to the fullest. We were out dancing with everyone and did not go to the tables until towards the end of the night. Enjoy the party.  Dance to the songs you so meticulously chose! It’s your day!

9.  Step back a moment and take it all in.  This was a piece of advice given to me by several people before I got married and I am glad I took it! Take a minute and stop everything to look around at the people in the room. It is so amazing to see your guests smiling, laughing, dancing, drinking and enjoying themselves.  To know that they were all there for us made my heart swell.

10.  Know that something, inevitably, will not go as planned.  My florist forgot to put the three while calla lilies in my bouquet, there was a major screw up at my hairdresser and cocktail hour had to be held inside since the heat lamps were not working. Even the DJ played a song we specifically asked him not to play. Guess what?  Our day was still perfect for us and all of those little things were just that – little things.  They did not take away from or ruin our day by any means.  Do not let them ruin yours!