Change of seasons

By Jeanne Reynolds

Our neighbors — catty-corner behind us to the left — are closing on the sale of their home this week.

But they are way more than just neighbors, and this is way more than just a real estate transaction. For almost the past quarter century, my husband and I “grew up” as a married couple with their generous, kind and loving example of what it means to be a family, a neighbor and a friend.

And we’re happy for them as they move full-time to their retirement dream home on the lake, near the mountains. (OK, let’s be honest, it’s not the geography but the grandkids singing the siren song.) But happy in a bittersweet kind of way.

I mean, we get it: We’ve also built our someday-retirement home, albeit in the opposite direction in the lowcountry as opposed to the upstate. But we’re still straddling both worlds — and we’re not ready for them to leave ours.

In fact, lately it feels like a stream of friends are moving on in their lives. Another set of neighbors on the same street moved earlier this year, and our financial planners who’ve also become wonderful friends are selling their Columbia house in favor of their mountain home. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. We’re all about the same age. And we’re all gradually moving to a new season in life.

Autumn Maple leaf transition

My new season became more of a reality when I semi-retired the middle of this year. It’s given me the flexibility to try some new writing ventures and to spend more time smelling salt air and pluff mud. I’m still figuring it out, but that’s part of the fun.

Another change involves this blog: This will be my last post, at least for now. It’s a little bit scary to give up something I’ve enjoyed so much for the past two years. Where else will I find the creative license to write about whatever pops in my head or feels closest to my heart at that moment?

But two things: One, like our neighbors moving to the lake, it’s the right time. And two, (which I also fervently hope is like our departing friends) it’s not an ending. It’s a change of seasons.

Thank you so much to those who’ve taken time to read my ramblings. I hope our paths will cross again someday. Meanwhile, I’ll tell you the same thing I plan to tell those neighbors:

May the road rise to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the rain fall softly on your fields.

And until we meet again, may God hold you gently in the palm of his hands.

 

New kind of holidays

By Lisa Baker

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

My family did not do our usual Thanksgiving together.  My parents are both doing well and are still in two different facilities.  As a family we have had so much change for us this year.  I feel that we are all still trying to deal with our changes.  Each of us in our own way.  Maybe I should have pushed for us to be all together but I too feel so out of sorts when I think of celebrating the holidays.  I saw my Mom Wednesday after work.

Change is what our lives seem to be all about!

I got a phone call on Monday the week of Thanksgiving.  It was from my Mom’s facility from a gentleman in charge.  He called to tell me that Mom has been and still is doing very well.  So much so that she no longer qualifies for hospice care.  Yes, that is good news.

But that means we have to move her out by the end of the month – yes, the end of November.  So, we are back to square one trying to find a facility geared to her current needs.  That part is kind of bad news.

If you have ever had to go through this you will understand.  It’s not as simple as picking a place and just moving her in.  There is a process.  Paperwork to fill out.  The facility will want to send someone to evaluate her to see if she indeed will qualify for their facility.  Then more paperwork.  If she is approved, you then have to get her packed and arrange for the move.  Find out if the new facility requires anything that needs to be purchased for her.  Then getting her settled.  We are checking to see if it is possible for her to be moved in with our Dad at his facility.  Right now, it’s looking like that may work for us.  I’ve got several meetings to attend concerning this but we are hopeful that it will work out.

It would be so much easier getting to see them both if they are at the same facility and would help us to settle on how we want to celebrate the holidays.

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We did get Mom in with Dad!  She moved in last Thursday.  It was a tearful reunion.  A staff member at Dad’s facility got flowers for him to give Mom.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.  They both seem to be doing very well. Happy to be together again.

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Christmas is only a few weeks away.  So what kinds of gifts are we getting Mom and Dad?

Shower or body wash and shampoo are always great items to gift.  As well as socks. A clock that also shows the correct day of the week as well as the time makes a great gift too.  Clothes are always welcomed but you will need to remember to mark their name inside the clothing items.  Wordsearch books and coloring books are great gifts too.

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Their favorite snacks or candy and even fruit can make great gifts.

Hope everyone enjoys the Christmas season.  Make time to be with all of your loved ones.  Don’t forget the ones that are in memory care facilities and nursing homes as well as Hospice.  Make beautiful memories that you can treasure for a lifetime.

Merry Christmas!

My Not So Great Christmas…

By Marianna Boyce

This blog post was initially going to be about delightful Christmas memories.  When I walked up the sidewalk at Salon on Main for my hair appointment before Thanksgiving, I knew I had to change direction.  Maybe I’ll reminisce about my childhood another year.

The statement on my salon’s marquee outside read, “Where God Guides He Provides.”  Of course, this sent my brain firing on all cylinders.  I could hardly wait to pen my thoughts onto paper.  Their messaging was great!  The memories it stirred?  Not so great!  Just stay with me a minute y’all.

My two adopted granddaughters, now ages 11 and 13 came to mind.  Their young lives have not always been merry and bright. Seven years ago, God saw fit to remove them from the hellish situation they were living.  Even though they now have all the love, care, and attention any child could ever hope for, they are both still haunted by their past.  Material gifts cannot give back the formative years that were lost at such tender ages.  My prayer is they both learn to depend on God in a mighty way and not allow their unfortunate past define who they become in the future.

My next thought reverted me to 2016…a year I will never forget!  This was the year I had a not so great Christmas!  Okay, it was really quite depressing, and to be totally honest, it was the most horrible holiday season I had ever experienced in my entire life!  All I remember was the excruciating joint pain riddled throughout my entire body.  All I could think of was myself!  (Selfish much)?  Indeed I was!  My exhausting experience was dreadful!  When heartache, pain, and sorrow come knocking at your door, nothing else really seems to matter.

During that time, not only did I begin shutting out family and friends, I also left out God.  Miraculously, God never left me!  It was just little ‘ole me…and a very big God.  He was still faithful to guide me through some of the darkest days of my life.  He strategically and sporadically placed those precious family members, friends, and even strangers in my life to push me over the numerous hurdles I so painfully endured.  Thankfully, I am much better now.

Maybe you haven’t yet crossed that threshold.  If not, just know that God cares for you too.  If you’re looking for Him, He’s not hard to find.  Just listen for that still, small voice.  He will never barge His way inside your heart and life.  He must be invited.  His timing is always perfect though.

quoteWhile many people are decking their halls, trimming their tree, gathering around a warm cozy fire, baking sweet treats, etc., there are also many that cannot merrily go about their business.  Maybe you are missing your military husband, wife, son or daughter halfway around the world.  Are you a single parent just trying to make ends meet?  Maybe you’re coping with the loss of a loved one or caring for elderly parents.  Does something just seem to be missing?  Do you just simply dread this time of year?  My prayer for you is to  find comfort, peace and joy this holiday season.

For those who can be someone’s Christmas cheer this year, you may very well be an answer to a simple prayer!  A smile and a kind word goes a long way!  If you can do more, feel free to do so!  Remembering the Reason for the Season and also, wherever God guides, He will indeed provide.

May God bless you and your family this holiday season!  Merry Christmas!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

By Janet Prince

Right now, we hear that everywhere we go….but the most wonderful time of the year brings added stress to most women.  We are so busy shopping, planning and wanting to make everything perfect for our loved ones that we forget about taking care of ourselves.  While we love giving to those in need through food drives, toy drives, and secret Santa’s, we also need to take time out for ourselves and enjoy this wonderful season.

Do you have a hobby or maybe have had your interest piqued in a hobby but just have not made time for it?  If you are like me, I feel selfish at times when I take time out for myself.  But in reality, no one in my family sees it that way.  By taking time out for myself, it gives me time to decompress and just think of what I am doing at the moment.  Taking time out for yourself can mean enjoying a great book, cross stitching, or shopping!  All things you can do on your own.  But taking a time out for yourself is so much more fun when you do it with your girlfriends!

daughtersRecently I discovered the wonderful new locally owned business in Lexington, AR Workshop.  I have taken several classes there with each one being different.  It is a great place to go with your friends and spend a few hours making something for yourself or as a gift and enjoying the fellowship of other women.  My latest project I attempted was making the big chunky blankets you see all over Facebook.  I went there recently with my two daughters, my best friend and her daughter and a friend of my oldest from grad school.  Needless to say, it was an afternoon of laughter and sharing and then walking away with a new blanket in our hands.  Now, I must be honest.  I was able to start my blanket, but had to have Ashley, the owner, and my youngest daughter finish it for me.  I am five months in to an 18-month recovery from back surgery and I just couldn’t hold out.  But I have to say my blanket turned out beautiful.

The making of blankets is now something both of my daughters have taken up and are making for Christmas gifts.  Don’t we all love a gift made by hand…which means it was made with love.

I encourage you to find a hobby that make you smile inside!  Then take that new-found passion and share it with others.

I hope you all enjoy the holidays surrounded by your families and loved ones from near and far.  As for my household, we are in the final countdown for my oldest daughters’ wedding right after the first of the year (can you say more stress!), but I have enjoyed every moment of helping her plan.  At the time of the wedding I will be exactly six months out from my back surgery and I am praying I will be able to walk up right and hold out for all of the celebration that night!

From my home to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year,

Janet

Countdown to Christmas (and Cookies!)

By Rhonda Woods

Hello Everyone!

The countdown to Christmas is officially on!  A lot to do, you know, like decorating my tree with new unbreakable ornaments, for the little ones.  Last year’s tree was thankfully assembled and decorated by my daughter-in-law and her mom.  I left the boxes in the middle of the den as my sweet husband’s health took that unforgettable turn.  He was admitted to the hospital the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Less than 3 weeks later, we would return home with the help of all our family, friends and hospice.  Countless prayers and tears.  Precious moments and memories were mixed with what none of us could be prepared for in the short time that followed.  So, with Christmas rapidly approaching, I need a giant umbrella for the imposing “rain”.

It was extremely important to me to have, what turned out to be, our last family photo with him.  I refused to take the tree down and was so sad to have missed the opportunity for the photo by Christmas Day.  As I was finishing preparing the traditional New Years Day lunch the phone rang.  It was my daughter saying she had arranged for a friend to come and take the photo I longed for.  The family arrived shortly afterwards, with the photographer friend in tow.  The boys helped my husband into a chair in front of the tree, and then the race was on to take the group picture and one with each family, as sitting up was becoming more difficult for him. Our last family photo is featured in this blog.  I know for some this would seem ridiculous and unnecessary, but not having that photo would have been a sad regret for all of us.

Family Photo

Cookies! Yep cookies!  My sweet husband loved all kinds of cookies.  He was the best taste tester of the tempting smells that wafted from my oven.  So, this is a great time to share some cookie recipes.  I believe baking can be therapeutic, and your house will smell wonderful without those cookie scented candles!  Bake and enjoy the smiles you will bring to people of all ages, especially during Christmas. Take time to make time for others.  You won’t regret it.

May God bless you and your family as He has continued to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Cookie Recipes

Blondies

Cheese Straws

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies-Std.

Cran-Cherry Cheese Bars

Lemon Bars

Magic Cookie Bars

Outrageous Brownies

Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites

Spiced Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Wedding Cookies

The Voice Behind our Christmas Commercial

So far, our 2018 Christmas commercial has received more than 44,000 views on social media. The spot features a beautiful voice singing a song called “You’ll See Christmas.” People keep asking us about the singer: Who is she?

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Courtesy: MandyHarvey.com

You may recognize her. Her name is Mandy Harvey. A Florida resident, the jazz and pop singer and songwriter took part in a season of the television show America’s Got Talent, finishing in 4th place.

Notably, Harvey is deaf. She gradually lost her hearing during childhood as a result of a connective tissue disorder, becoming completely deaf by age 18. Despite her disability, Harvey has performed regularly around the country, garnering accolades along the way. She uses “visual tuners” and muscle memory to help her find pitches.

Harvey caught the attention of Mark Shelley, vice president of Marketing and Communications at Lexington Medical Center, while competing on America’s Got Talent.

Shelley also learned Harvey had recorded several Christmas songs, including “You’ll See Christmas,” which has a message about the true meaning of the season.

“We all get caught up in what we think Christmas is about – gifts, presents and parties,” Shelley said. “But Christmas is really about love, kindness and bringing people together. The message of “You’ll See Christmas” fit perfectly with the story we wanted to tell in our commercial.”

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Mark Shelley (center) directing the Christmas commercial filming.

Shelley reached out to Harvey’s agent and arranged for her to sing a special arrangement of the song for the Lexington Medical Center Christmas commercial this year. We feel proud that she took part in this project with us.

Harvey embodies kindness in many ways. She’s an ambassador for an organization called “No Barriers” that helps people with disabilities overcome obstacles. She has also written a book called Sensing the Rhythm: Finding My Voice in a World Without Sound.

 

You can watch the 2018 Christmas commercial during your favorite holiday programming this season. Merry Christmas!

Remembering our Veterans at Christmas Time

By Tina M. Cameron

Recently a friend of mine Beryl posted something on Facebook that she had just signed up for as a volunteer. She shared the link and I opened it to see what it was about. It is called Wreaths Across America. It is an annual day to honor our veterans by laying a wreath on their grave. According to the Wreaths Across America website, Congress voted December 13th, 2008 as Wreaths Across America Day. On that day over 100,000 wreaths were laid by over 60,000 volunteers. This occurred in 300 locations and included cemeteries in every state as well as 24 overseas cemeteries and Puerto Rico.

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Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor or a volunteer can go to their website (which I will include at the end of my blog).  Arlington Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries that wreaths are laid at.  Wreath laying at military cemeteries began when the Worcester Wreath Company had a surplus of wreaths leftover and decided to honor Veterans. It began small and has now spread worldwide. This eventually led to the non-profit Wreaths Across America.

This opportunity to lay a wreath to honor our military is a great way to include your children in volunteering and to teach a valuable lesson to them on what it means to give back, to honor someone who fought for our country and to spend time together. When wreaths are laid at each grave site, you are to say the person’s name out loud to remember them and to let them and their families know they are not forgotten. I am looking forward to this on December 15th at Fort Jackson National Cemetery in Columbia, SC.

If you want to participate, simply go to the Wreaths Across America website and either choose volunteer, your location closest to you and sign up. If you are unable to volunteer to lay wreaths, you can choose to sponsor a wreath and donate money. I plan on making this a yearly experience and would love to eventually go participate at Arlington National Cemetery. My friend and I are trying to get a group together so if you are interested feel free to contact me via email and we can discuss meeting up on Saturday, December 15th.

To learn more: https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org

(On the right-hand side, use the drop- down box to choose volunteer and follow instructions from there)

Here is my email address if you want to join us at Fort Jackson National Cemetery: tmcameron@crimson.ua.edu