“Other” Families

Family means different things to different people. For me, family is everything. I grew up in a traditional family of four in the small town of Clinton, New Jersey.  My dad worked and my mom stayed home until my brother and I were in school full-time. She then worked only during school hours, so I had the luxury of seeing my mom before I went to school and when I got home.  We went on one or two family vacations each year, (usually to Wildwood Crest) and spent a lot of quality time together playing all kinds of games – both board games and imaginary ones. It was an amazing time in my life.

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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!!