“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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Whoops!

Earlier today, I wrote a post about Lent.  In it, I described the three disciplines of Lent (fasting, prayer and almsgivig) and what I was going to do to fulfill them.  I am not sure why I felt the need to share what I was going to do, other than to possibly inspire others to participate more in the prayer and almsgiving and not just the fasting.  However, after doing more research on Lent and arguments for and against observing it, I came across this from the New Testament:

 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be            seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in              heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with  trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”             

                                                                                                            -Matthew 6:1-4

Whoops! After reflecting on this scripture, I decided to delete the earlier post since it pretty much went against this. Whatever we do or do not do in Lent and in life is between each of us and God.   I guess sometimes we just need a reminder. At least I do!

 

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.

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!

 

50 Years of Being Together!

50th Anniversary Picture

Last weekend, we threw a surprise 50th wedding anniversary party for my in-laws.  As I was planning for the centerpieces and decorations, I found that most craft and party stores had very little for a 50th anniversary party. There were a lot of things for a 25th, but not a 50th.

Fifty years is a long time to do anything, but especially to be with the same person every single day of your life.  Every marriage has ups and downs, but it seems that the key is going through life together.  Together, they endured hardships and pain.  Together, they shared the joys of raising two sons and working hard to make a good life for their family. Together, they created many happy memories with families and friends and together, they have remained.  For fifty years!

I got to thinking…how many people in my generation will get the chance to celebrate 50 years of marriage? Let’s face it. Once a couple marries, there are only two ways to not remain married – divorce or death.

As far as divorce goes, most people in our parents’ generation have stayed married (sometimes for the wrong reasons). The divorce rate is very high in our country and many of the people who are divorced are of my generation.  But I have hope.  I really believe that the fact that many people are getting married when they’re a little older may lead to more lasting marriages. People can get the partying and carousing out early and not want to do it once they are already married.

Getting married in my 30’s was right for me.  No way I was ready to settle down in my 20’s, and I don’t think my husband would have been either. I think you know yourself better as you get older and have a deeper sense of commitment and loyalty.  Many of my friends also got married in their 30’s and their marriages are also going strong.  That is not to say that if you marry young, it will not last, but with everything going on in today’s world, I think people really need to know themselves first and know what they truly want out of life before making a lifetime commitment to another person.

As for the “death” part – luckily, we are living longer and longer which also makes me think that celebrating 50 years is more feasible. With new medical technology and early detection, illnesses are being identified early and cures are more possible.

So, to all the craft and party stores that currently do not have supplies for 50th anniversaries – better get those shelves stocked!  A new generation of golden anniversaries will be coming in the next few decades!!  Get ready!

A Real Adult?

I think I have actually turned into a real adult. It’s true.

On Saturday night, my husband’s friend invited us to go hear him play in his newly formed punk band.  We always try to support our friends, so we decided to go.  Plus, we were curious as to what a 40+ punk band would sound like. As the day went on, I began to feel a sense of dread.  The band was going on at 9:30 and I realized that 9:30 is normally about a half hour before I go to bed.  How the heck was I going to go out to a bar at that time?  Then, I wanted to slap myself. What was I? Old?  How could that thought even enter my head???

As the time grew nearer, I tried to talk myself into how great it would be to go out and hear a band, maybe do a little dancing and have a few drinks.  Yeah! Just like old times! I then went into our room to get dressed and there, at the foot of the bed, were my very comfortable, soft, and warm pajamas.  It was almost as if they were calling to pick them up and put them on and forgo the bar and head straight for the bed.  I  fought the urge to put them on and quickly threw them into the drawer so they were out of my site. They would not win!!

After that little temptation, I went to apply my make up in the bathroom.  As I looked in the mirror (trying to  ignore the ever increasingly deep lines forming between my eyebrows), I felt a yawn coming on.  And then, with one eye adorned with my Ivy Green eyeliner, I yawned.  And my eyes got teary, as they do when you yawn.  I quickly blinked as fast as I could to prevent the eyeliner from running. What was going on? A few years ago, 9:30 would have been EARLY to go out and here I am wanting to put my pajamas on and yawning while I am putting my make up on! This is a disgrace!

And then I realized that I just might be a real adult.  Yes, I’m 40, but never really considered myself to be an actual grown up.  It’s true. After all, I still dance around the house, sing off-key (the only way I know how) and do silly things with or without kids around. Suddenly, my mind began racing at things I have heard myself say over the past few hours/weeks/months which have me learning towards this “real adult” theory brewing. They are as follows:

1.  ” The band goes on at 9:30? That’s almost my bedtime!”

2.   “No, I am wearing a sweater to the bar.  It’s cold out!”

3.   “How can that kid only be wearing a sweatshirt when it’s this cold out!”

4.   “The music today stinks.”

5.  “When I was a kid…(add whatever you used to hear your parents say here)”

6.  “How will that eyebrow piercing look when she’s 55?”

7.   “What time is The Late Show on?  That’s way too late for me.”

8.  “Wow, I remember that song like it was yesterday.” – (listening to a song from my high school years on the “classic rock” station)

9.  “Tell that kid to turn his music down!”

10.  “No, I can’t eat that. It will give me indigestion.”

It’s pretty scary, I will admit, but I am not totally convinced that I am a real adult.   I am still holding onto the fact that I did go out, I did have a drink, I sort of danced (it’s kind of tough to dance to punk unless you are moshing) and we stayed out all night.  Til the next day in fact. Well, technically it was the next day.   Okay, who am I kidding? We were home and in bed by 12:30, but when you think about it,  we were out all night.

Therefore, I must conclude that I am not totally a real adult.  But I’m getting there.  Slowly but surely…MAKE IT STOP!!