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Monday, December 25, 2017

What is your all time favorite Christmas Gift?

First of all, my parents gave one special gift each Christmas, and then clothes and such.  I loved getting new patent leather shoes just before Christmas.  I loved the smell of these new shoes and always slept with my shoes next to my pillow for a few nights. 

My first favorite gift was a marionette doll.  I was about 7 years old and it was all I dreamed about that year.  My doll was so cute.  I loved making him walk and, with time, became very good at it. The only problem I had was a younger sister, who didn’t see value in the doll because it wasn’t her wish, and she got the strings tangled all of the time.  I remember my father painstakingly unknotting the strings over and over.

My second favorite gift was in 5th grade when I got a chemistry set.  I wanted that so bad I just knew that my parents would think it was frivolous and why would I need or want it, but they got it for me because it was my one Christmas wish.  I got up Christmas morning and felt the wrapped gifts until I found the one that was in three parts with a clasp.  Yup, it was under the tree.  I had to wait patiently for that gift to be passed out.  We opened one gift at a time and then moved on to the next person and the gift they would open.  To be honest, this gift was the last one I received from both parents as my father died before the next Christmas.  This isn’t the reason it is on the list as it truly was one of my favorites but probably the reason I loved it and remember it so dearly.

My third favorite gift was the opal ring I got from my husband, Mike, the year we got married.  He knew I am not a patient person and I was known to cut the tape on gifts to see what was in them and then tape them exactly with new tape so no one would know.  We had a white Christmas tree with gold balls on it our first Christmas as seen in the picture with this blog, and he wrapped the small gift in gold paper and put it in the center of the tree.  I never found it!  He gave it to me Christmas morning and was delighted he was able to actually surprise me.

My fourth favorite gift was also from Mike.  I was pregnant and my grandmother had passed away in October and my Mom and 2 sisters were flying to Alaska to visit my older sister for Christmas.  My grandfather was going to Florida with my Aunt and Uncle so there wouldn’t be anyone home to have Christmas with that year.  Even Mike’s parents were going to his sister’s house in Minnesota.  We decided not to put up a tree since I was 8 months pregnant.  Mike worked at night at the newspaper and got home about 4 a.m.  When I got up in the morning he had purchased a new tree, got new ornaments (you guessed it – gold again) and got colored lights and had the tree all decorated in the living room when I walked out from our bedroom.  What a wonderful surprise.

I have one more really special Christmas gift that I received.  Mike was a hunter and every year he grew his beard out for the hunting season.  If you are from Michigan you have seen the signs around that say “Think SNOW” coming into deer season.  The men grew beards for “deer season.”  Even the newspaper we worked at had signs throughout saying “Think SNOW” as it was also full of hunters like Mike and his Dad. If you don’t know what this sign means, then you aren’t a hunter and not from a northern state.  The season was only two weeks long and the beard was to be shaven after December 1st.  It didn’t happen this particular year.  On Christmas morning I woke up to a baggie, tied with a red bow to match its contents – Mike’s red beard hair.  I think it is now my favorite Christmas gift memory even though I love his gray beard now as he is SANTA!

By the way, immediately after deer season the signs changed to “Think GREEN!” as we put up with snow every year in the winter but truly look forward to spring and the green grass and trees full of beautiful leaves.

We don’t need a lot of gifts, we need a lot of memories that last for years to come.  Family dinners and time with loved ones making yearly memories.   Did you receive tons of gifts or one great gift like I did as a kid?  What is your favorite Christmas gift memory?  I would love to hear my sister's favorite gifts, too.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I have a guest blogger for this husband, Michael Jaunese.  Please enjoy.



As we, once again, approach the anniversary of one of the most significant dates in our history; let me relate a story of a young lady, seventeen years of age, and the impact learning of it had on her.

As the thirty-fifth anniversary was approaching, a documentary aired on television. This young lady sat, transfixed, on the floor in front of the television. She would not turn her gaze from the television because her tears were streaming down her face and onto the floor where she was sitting.

After the documentary concluded, without saying a word, she went to the kitchen table, took out pen and paper, and began to write. Her thoughts became written words, and those written words mingled with the tears that stained the paper upon which they were written.

She said, I know that you told me what conditions were like at that time, but I simply could not believe that what you were saying could possibly be true.

When I had the opportunity to read her words, I, too, was moved to tears.

Here is what she wrote, and the simple title that prompts the readers to research for themselves what brought out such emotions.

 September 25, 1957©

 The words are dark,
Rapid, relentless.
They come from all around.
They stab; they gash.

They dissolve pride with the power of acid.
Simple words
Evil words
The speakers have no shame;
No remorse.

They belittle, torment, and damn.
They dont see the wrong.
Words alone have no physical repercussion.
Instead, they kill from the inside out.
Their ignorance is the padlock on their minds,
And they alone hold the key that can open it.

The wounded suffer in silence.
Instructed not to respond
and never to look back.

The tears come in private
Falling like endless summer rain;
Streaming down cheeks
And washing over their hearts
giving them the strength to face another day.

Another day of the same immeasurable hell
While all the while their heart and soul cries out, Why?
Why must it be this way?
Why cant they see me with their hearts and not their eyes?

They were pioneers.
They paid a price I will never truly be able to fathom
For a reward they have never truly received.

                                                                                                            Holly Jaunese

As the father of this remarkable young lady, I cannot be more proud of the importance that she has placed on our history, as a country, and how it has shaped and molded her into the woman she has become.
Her words honor the following nine individuals:

Ernest Green (b. 1941), Elizabeth Eckford (b. 1941), Jefferson Thomas (19422010), Terrence Roberts (b. 1941), Carlotta Walls LaNier (b. 1942), Minnijean Brown (b. 1941), Gloria Ray Karlmark (b. 1942), Thelma Mothershed (b. 1940), and Melba Pattillo Beals (b. 1941).

To learn more about the Little Rock Nine:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

All Children Are Special

Mike and I were at an awards ceremony last year where Mike was a nominee for an award because of all of the work he has done with his special needs student, Taylor.  There were 458 nominations, each working to make the students excel as much as possible.  The most forgotten people in this celebration were the parents.  We have several friends who have children with special needs, not just Taylor, and in EVERY case the parents are exceptional.  I read a story a few years ago, and it stuck with me, about parents of special needs children.  It used the analogy of planning a vacation to Italy.  You have invested time and effort getting ready for your trip and after you get on the plane, you are taken to Germany.  You are unprepared and it isn’t what you were planning.  When you deplane, you find you are in Germany and look around.  At first you may be disgruntled but then you begin to see the beauty of where you are.  The differences are many but they are also few.  God made both places for their beauty. 

When I see Janet, Taylor’s Mom, I see a woman who is unaware of any differences.  She is Taylor’s Mom and helps him to see himself the same as everyone else.  My favorite line from Taylor is “So handsome.”  He can’t pass a place where he can see his reflection (a mirror, a window, a toaster) without saying “So handsome.”  His Mom has instilled that in him.  The Special Needs Department at Gaither integrates all of the students together by having “Best Buddies.”  Mike tells me almost daily about stopping to take a picture of a young lady and Taylor together.  He always tells them “big smile” when he is asking for a picture with them.  Taylor LOVES Dr. Pepper and Mike tries to supply them for him when he has been really good.  Is Taylor a piece of cake?  No, he is challenging but you can’t help but love him. 

A year has now passed since Taylor walked across the stage to receive his diploma and moved on to a new center to learn more items that most of our children learned years ago.  Mike still is asked to occasionally pick Taylor up from his new center because his Mom will be late.  Mike looks forward to these days and always plans to take Taylor to Steak and Shake. They get a burger with French fries.  Taylor eats all of his fries and then eats all of Mike’s fries.  We love it when our grandson is visiting and he has the opportunity to join them.  Our daughters have both had the opportunity to meet and enjoy Janet and Taylor.  They are such special people.  One thing I never wonder about with Taylor – Taylor loves Jesus.  His Mother has taught him well.  He reminds Janet over and over how much Jesus loves all of us.  And I don’t mean in his smile – I mean he tells his Mom how much Jesus loves us. 

Each of our friends with special children have found the beauty in the child God blessed them with and has worked hard to help other parents find the beauty in their children with special needs and this is really the best part of children.  Psalms 127:3 says “Children are a heritage of the Lord, offspring a reward from him.”  God says “CHILDREN”.  All Children are special.  Yes, some have special needs but some have special talents.  Both Taylor and Dominique have talents beyond others in showing love, excitement, thankfulness, and much more.  Many parents have other children who are being taught the beauty in their brother and sister with special needs.  Another family friend has a beautiful daughter, Dominique, and two sons.  The boys are constantly putting little things on Facebook about how they are spending time with their “favorite girl”.  We have run into their family at dinner in a favorite restaurant.  She is loved and so special to her Mom, Dad and both brothers.  And we love it every time we have the opportunity to see her.  Dominique’s Mom shared what God had told her “On our journey with Dominique that in His eyes she is perfect and not lacking of anything. In fact He told me to see her through His eyes so that I would not miss out on the precious moments we can spend with her. I once was so focused on the things she should learn or improve on.” 

 Last year Mike had the opportunity to be with both Taylor and Dominique as Santa.  It is amazing that neither Dominique nor Taylor see Mike as anything less than Santa when they see him at Christmas; they never see him as their “Mr. Mike.”  Join with our family in seeing the wonder in EVERY child – they are all made by HIM.

My intent was to post pictures of both Taylor and Dominique but I am having trouble making it work.  I have done this so many times but after two weeks of trying, I am giving up and posting the blog without the pictures.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Give Thanks - Be Grateful!

My husband and I were having breakfast this morning.  We sat and talked about this weeks Thanksgiving dinner and how much we are going to miss our grandchildren.  Christmas is only a few weeks away but these next few weeks will be so busy.  When you are married to Santa, this holiday takes on a life of its own.  We try to ALWAYS keep in mind what Christmas is truly celebrating – the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. 

As we were enjoying our breakfast, someone else not far from us began sharing about their experience of giving to help someone else at Christmas.  They own a restaurant and feel that people are not truly grateful for the helping hand, they tend to EXPECT it.  She went on to tell about feeling like they wanted to take care of the gifts for a certain family yet when they took their gifts for the child that wanted something very expensive and very special, they were told “we already got him that, perhaps you can return it.”  Seriously, are people so ENTITLED any more that they don’t know how to be thankful that someone else has gone out of their way to bless them. 

Last spring I was talking to someone from a food bank.  People come to the food bank and they can take anything they want from the shelves to feed their family.  She related that people want to have “Organic” on the label and many have left without anything because they didn't have what they wanted.  "Can’t they have a gift card to Whole Foods," if sometimes asked?  I am serious when I say I am totally blown away by the way people behave anymore.  We needed to take advantage of food stamps for a short time when our girls were little.  Mike's brother asked him how he could "lower" himself to accepting food stamps.  I remember this as if it were yesterday.  Mike said "when all you  have left to feed your family is pride, you get help."  We were so grateful for the help.  We spent our food stamps on ground beef and turkey, which were the cheapest at the time. My brother-in-law filled our freezer with venison. Now people want to "shoot" a hunter who is providing food for his family table.  God provided incredible gifts to us.

I have watched the videos, like everyone else, about the two women lately in two different states that panhandle by the road with their sweet children playing beside them and then at the end of the day they get inside of the BMW and drive off to their gated condo.  What is with people today?  It makes my blood boil, as I am certain it does yours. 

I realize, however, I am not responsible for any of these ungrateful people.  That same savior that is the reason for celebrating this Christmas will sit at the right hand of his Father someday and will examine the heart of each of these people.  I will not be responsible for what their heart reveals.  I am only responsible for MY actions.  My prayer - Lord, may I always be grateful for everything you bring my way.  May I always remember – you are my source.  You are my provider.  If you provide through someone else, may I always remember to say thank you and realize that you have used them to bless me.  How do you feel about this?  Please post your comments.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Modesty - what we do impacts others

I had a conversation with the most wonderful Orthodox Jewish man from New York a while ago at an educational conference.     Aron is Glatt Kosher so he brings all of his own food to conferences.  He always wears a prayer shawl and the traditional covering for his head, a yarmulke,  plus he has a beard that is quite long (check Leviticus regarding beards).  He is a speech pathologist interested in swallowing in New York.  My daughter, Holly, and I came away from our meeting with him in awe of all that we learned.  One item really stood out in my mind and I would like to share it with you.  I had never really thought about this subject in this way before.

Aron, our new friend, told us about a meeting that the Jewish community is having at a stadium that coming summer.  The community is spending a large sum of money to build a wall in the middle of the stadium so the men can worship on one side and the women on the other side.  That fits the tradition of the Jewish church but not the way of the world today.  I never really understood this tradition so Aron went on to explain the tradition to me. He told us the obvious; that men and women are different physically, our thought processes are different and we are different in emotional states and psychology.  He said men are easily distracted by women.  Imagine that!  When he goes into prayer he said the last thing he needs is a beautiful woman distracting him from his time with God in prayer.  I had never thought about this. Prayer is our opportunity to be our true self.  An opportunity to talk to God without distraction; to have a relationship with God.   I was a teenager in the 60’s when the first mini skirts came around.  The ladies in the church I grew up in had fits when young girls were wearing such short skirts to church.  I never understood this and thought they should move into the times!  You may be thinking the same thing right now.  Does moving into the times run true to scripture.

Here we are many years later and clothing has gotten skimpier and women are showing off much more than a short skirt in church.  Not just teenagers but their Mothers too.   I have never been offended by people wearing more casual clothes to church, in fact I like it myself, but I never thought about how what someone wears might distract someone else from entering into God’s presence in worship.  As a mother to two daughters I can only speak about what I felt about the clothing of our girls.  At church, at school or out to a party, we believed our girls should be “modest” in their clothing.

Daddies sometimes don’t want to rock the boat when it comes to their girls and will allow them to pick out clothes that make them look far more grown up than they are.  Moms will do that too, but they add to it the fact that they want their daughters to be their “friend” – they don’t want their daughters to think of them as a MOM.  Of course God’s word teaches us that we are to be more like Him each day and be an example to our children.  You’ve read that, right?

Our oldest was a prime example of a Daddy letting his little girl pick out an outfit that she wanted and he didn’t want to say “no”.  The outfit came from the store UNITS, which had beautiful clothes but also had some that were more progressive, or what I would call barely there.  Daddy had taken her to the mall where she was going to buy an outfit with her own money.  She and I had talked about the “skimpy” side of the clothes at this store.  One of their pieces could be worn as a skirt or over your breasts.  You could even get two of these “bandeaus” together and make an outfit and that is just what she did.  When I got home she came out of her room and showed me her new outfit.  I was in a state of shock that my husband had let her spend money on this outfit.  She told me that her Daddy said she looked really cute in the outfit.  I was certain she had misunderstood so we agreed that I would stay out of sight when he got home so he couldn’t be influenced by me when he saw the new outfit on her at home.  We agreed there would be two questions asked.  The first was “Dad, how do you like this outfit on me?”  Just as expected, he said you look very cute.  She then asked the second question “Where may I wear it?”  His reply was startling for her when he answered “Not one step outside this house.”  Sometimes we are so busy trying to be our child’s friend, or trying not to rock the boat, that we miss teaching them a valuable lesson.  Mommy’s, do you remember how your hormones acted when you were a teenager?  How about Daddy’s hormones?  How were they?  What did the guys dwell on in their mind 24 hours a day?  Do we need to spell it out for each other?  I don’t think so.

Are you a Mommy that would cause someone else to be distracted in a worship service?  How low is the front of your dress cut?  How short is the skirt?  I know we are in the year 2014 but when you think about it, does the year have anything to do with what is “modest”?  We are so easily distracted from God’s word in 2014.  We have books, TV shows, movies, music and a myriad of other distractions on a daily basis.  When we are in church; when we are in our time of worship; when we are witnessing to others – what is the most important thing?  My answer would be the concentration on God, not what the person next to you or across the room is wearing.  Could what you are wearing be a distraction to someone around you?

God instructs us how to teach our children.  He expects us to be parents, not friends.  He is explicit in how frequently we are to talk to our children about God and his promises.  God’s promises come with a “if you do this I will do this for you.”  Our children need to know this about His word.  God says in Deuteronomy 11:18-19 that we are to “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”  Awesome responsibility!

Can we really dress the way we want to dress?  Absolutely!  Our days are filled with choices we make on our own.    Just keep in mind that I Corinthians 8:9 says “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”  Let’s take it one step further – is what you are wearing showing the light of God within you, or is it showing so much skin that your witness can’t be heard because ears are easily distracted by eyes?

Do I care what you wear?  Not at all.  I am another woman and not distracted by your clothes.  Can a guy be distracted by what you are wearing?  Absolutely!   Are there things you could, or should, change?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Give or Take? What you see in your home is your example! It doesn't come from a village!

Recently I was watching one of the weekend talk shows on the television.  The “talking heads” were talking about single moms who are taking the benefits provided by this country and continuing to have children so they can get more money from the government.  Many have several children by several fathers and many of the fathers are now in prison.  The talking heads acknowledged this; all of them, liberal and conservative.  They said we need a new way to incentivize the country to get the women to stop having babies.  They didn’t offer a way to accomplish this task but thinking back to my childhood, I think there is a way to do this easily.

When I was 11 years old my father died.  He had been 49 and my mother was 44, and 2 months pregnant with her fifth child.  My oldest sibling was 19 so Mom couldn’t get any survivor children’s benefits for the oldest (too old), and the youngest hadn’t been born.  That meant she would only get benefits for 3 of us until the new baby was born.  Mom had been a “stay-at-home” wife and mother so she was taken to $0 income with the last breath my Father breathed.  We were very fortunate that she had seven brothers that jumped in to help her.  After her fifth daughter was born Mom decided she needed to take every penny she had to go to school to get a degree.  Mom had a blood disease and had been taken out of school two weeks into the 10th grade and put in a hospital.  She wasn’t expected to live.  She spent a year and a half in the hospital and learned to walk again prior to her discharge.  She had to be taken, during the depression, back and forth across Michigan once a month for treatment at the hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  There were no highways at the time.  When she decided to go to school she needed to first take a GED to be able to attend.  She passed and for the next two years she was a college student and a single Mom who hadn’t planned for life to go this way.  Mom graduated at age 47 with a Junior Accounting Degree and went to work to better support her family.

The story of my mother is very important because as I listened to the talking heads last weekend I was amazed that it felt like they were saying women have extra children to stay on welfare rolls and avoid work.  Mom got social security for four children but there is a maximum benefit for children who are survivors of a deceased parent and this amount is still the same today.  The fund still equals what would be for two children.   It doesn’t matter how many children you have, the amount of your benefit is the same amount no matter if you have 2 children or 5 children.  It is a maximum benefit and they expect you to divide it by 4 if you have 4 children or 2 if you have 2 children.  When I turned 18 I could have taken my quarter of her check, until I was 22, and headed off to college but I chose to go to work and to support myself because Mom needed the money for my sisters. Perhaps this limit should be used with those receiving benefits just for having more children.  Why can’t there be limits on the amount of support that is given to women who just keep having babies to get more money?  I was told that each child a Mom produces equals more than $900 each month in welfare for housing, the WIC program, food stamps, and Medicaid, not to mention their Obama-phone.  Even if the amount were half of this amount, it is a lot to a household each month.  Do the math yourself and you’ll see how much this is per year yet a husband who breathes their last breath leaves only enough for two children, even if you have four or five.   Why should a parent who has their loving spouse (and father to their children) who was taken through death have a limit on their children’s support but not someone who wants to sit at home having more and more babies so they can get more and more money?  My husband taught in a state prison for many years.  He taught the 13-22 year old convicted felons who were tried as adults by the justice system for the crimes they committed.  Would you be surprised to learn that many young men had several children by several women all before they became an inmate?  One 19 year old had fathered 5 children. These are not fathers to their children, yet they thought that having children made them a man.  They sat in prison unable to have any input into their children’s lives; unable to give them any monetary support at all and yet proud they had “spread their seed”.   They depend on the “Village” that the talking heads said is so important.  It doesn’t take a village to raise a child, it takes a parent who loves their child, who has a child that they wanted, not for monetary gain but because they have a desire to nurture and love the child.  When my Mom became a single Mother,  it was not by choice.  It wasn’t to increase the money brought in to the home.  She had a heart for her girls.  She went to college to provide for her children.  Oh yes, one more thing.  When Mom retired she went back to school to get the one thing she hadn’t received in her younger years, a high school diploma.  She obtained that at age 67 by going to night school.

The talking heads spoke about incentives for single parents.  My mom’s example as a parent was the incentive I needed to live the life I have lived and to have my children with their wonderful father.  I am now in my 60s and can say that even though we had very little money while I was growing up, we always knew we had the best family ever and a mom who loved us more than life itself.  Mom lived to be 91 years old and died in 2008.  What will the children being raised by moms who have no incentives to work give to their children?  Will they be a great example for anything more than breeding more children who think having children is the way to get out of working for the rest of their lives?

I realize others will have their own opinion, and this is America so you are able to express them.  I can only tell you what my Mother’s example has meant to me.  She was amazing!