Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween Memories Through the Years

I have always loved holidays. Although my favorite is Christmas, Halloween is filled with many happy memories for me too.

In this photo, I spent hours creating my own Halloween bag, designed like a Coors beer can to complete my bum costume.

My younger siblings were wearing the best of Halloween costumes from back in the day, including Nancy in the gorilla costume we all wore that featured a moving mouth for easier eating of Halloween candy.

The only bad Halloween memory I have is the year my brother Mike was sick. My youngest brother Pat and I carried three bags with us to bring home candy for Mike. Instead, we were jumped by a group of boys and young men, who took our candy and our pride, leaving the clown costume my Mom had made for me that year dotted with my blood from a minor wound suffered when I didn't want to give up the candy.

The fun didn't end when I grew up. One of the best things about being a parent is reliving your childhood as you share in your kids' fun.

I always dressed up when the kids were younger and still do most of the time.

Whether handing out candy, helping with parties in their classes or trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, I was usually spotted in a witch's costume with some sort of spooky mask.

Jenny the clown was carrying a Care Bear I made for her in this photo, taken when I was a mother with only one child.

Carving pumpkins was part of the fun when the kids were younger too.

Before the days of pumpkin patches and corn mazes, pumpkins were carved at home. Usually we carved pumpkins a day or two before Halloween.

I made a lot of the kids' costumes when they were little, including Jack's first clown costume, which he wore trick-or-treating when he was just two weeks old.

We decorated our yard each year, a tradition that continues to this day.

Although my yard decor isn't quite as elaborate as it was when the kids were young, it's still fun to put out all of the Halloween decorations.

As a grandparent, it's been fun to have the grandkids help me decorate the yard for Halloween.

We usually have a Halloween party with lots of fun and spooky foods for all.

Trick-or-treat was the best part of Halloween for me when I was a kid.

Going from house to house and begging for candy - what could be better than that?!?!

When we lived at Ft. Leavenworth, there were a couple of houses where we had to do tricks to get our treats.

Cartwheels were always my trick of choice when I was called upon to perform for my candy.

Boys are different from girls when it comes to Halloween costumes.

My daughters usually wanted cute costumes with princesses, unicorns and other fun characters, although some years there were witch and ghoul costumes too.

My son and his friends always chose spooky costumes. At Sandusky Elementary School, one of the best parts of Halloween was the costume parade on the middle school track.

I've enjoyed reliving Halloween memories as I've enjoyed trick-or-treating and Halloween parties with my grandchildren through the years too.

Halloween is a great time to make family memories. Make some memories with your family this year for Halloween.

Until the next memory is made, I'll take what I can get when I can get it and do the best I can to face each day with a smile on my face, a prayer on my lips and a song in my heart.

Blogging Grandma Sandy, signing off for now.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Live Like You Are Dying

American country music singer Tim McCraw released the song, "Live Like You Were Dying" in June 2004. The song rose rapidly to the top spot on the country music charts.

The song tells the story of a man who is in his early 40s when his father is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

As the reality of the situation sinks in, the son takes away the message to live his life like he was dying, doing all of the things he wants to do like skydiving and mountain climbing.

Like the man in the song, McCraw's dad was given a short time to live after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Tug McCraw died in January 2004, after being diagnosed in March 2003.

Not many of us live our lives like we are dying. Instead, we slog through our daily lives, marking the passing minutes, hours, days and years as we wait for moments in time including: the weekend, vacation, the holidays, the kids getting married, the house being paid off and retirement.

I tell people that I was blessed to grow up in a family where nobody died. I wasn't exposed to death much during my childhood.

My grandparents all lived long lives. I don't remember anyone on either of my parents' sides of the family dying until I was an adult.

As an adult, I've struggled with the concept of death, especially sudden death. Although I truly believe that eternal life with God awaits those who die, death is so final and cruel.

I've lost numerous friends and relatives to death as an adult. The pain of each loss was different, but each of the deaths left behind family members and friends struggling with their loss.

Over the past decade, several friends of my children have died, including best friends of my son and my younger daughter.

My son's best friend died instantly in a car accident in March 2007. My younger daughter's best friend died in January 2009, just a few months after being diagnosed with cancer.

Since then, we have known several other young people who have died unexpectedly. This week, a wonderful, kind, talented and loving young man we've known for years died suddenly, leaving grieving family and friends to struggle with his loss.

The grief that accompanies death is always difficult, but somehow it seems worse when the person who dies is young.

Nearly all of the young people I've known who have died enjoyed many great experiences in their short lives. However, the unfairness of death still looms larger than life.

Parents aren't supposed to outlive their children. It goes against the unwritten rules of the universe and against our view of how life should operate.

Sometimes the death of a young person leaves family members and friends angry with a God who they feel cheated them out of a future with their loved one.

When a young person dies with much of their life left unlived, their goals unaccomplished, and their dreams unfulfilled, it seems unfair to most of us.

Maybe some of the unfairness we feel is based on our own unfulfilled dreams, goals we haven't accomplished, relationships that haven't worked out in our own lives.

The closing hymn at the memorial service Saturday was one of my favorites, a hymn I chose years ago to be used at my own funeral: "On Eagles Wings."

"And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His hand." 

Like the lyrics of "Live Like You Were Dying," the lyrics of "On Eagles Wings" imparts a message about death. Although the messages are different, they are still similar.

One of the reasons I love this hymn is that it seems to be about triumph over death. But isn't living your life like you are dying also a triumph over death?

Mark Twain wrote, "The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time."

Maybe the answer to putting the fear of death behind is simple: to live like you are dying. Instead of marking time, embrace life and make memories along the journey.

Until the next memory is made, I'll take what I can get when I can get it and do the best I can to face each day with a smile on my face, a prayer on my lips and a song in my heart.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Writers and Runners: Because It's What We Do

On a dreary, rainy Saturday morning in Central Virginia, there are runners out doing what they do best.

Although it was sunny and clear for this year's Virginia 10 Miler, that's not always the case.

Runners run because it's what they do. Whether it's sunny or stormy, they lace up their running shoes and hit the road or trail.

Long runs mark their days off and rising with the roosters to get in an early morning run before work is the norm.

Writers are a lot like runners. Writers write because they have a story to tell, information to share and something to say. In short, we write because it's what we do.

Most of us follow the news closely and keep up with local activities and events.

Many of us work in cluttered areas with little scraps of paper floating around on the table and ideas for the next article floating around in our heads.

We are an inquisitive bunch, always asking questions about new things.

Most writers I know love to learn about stuff. Maybe that's one of the reasons they became writers.

I caught the writing bug in high school, thanks to a wonderful teacher who was known to us by her nickname, Pic.

Pic taught creative writing and challenged us to write every day. Although I got away from writing on a daily basis as an adult, I retained the writer's spirit.

Little did I know then that writing would become my hobby again later in life. Putting feelings and words down on paper is an honor.

This is a shout-out to all of the writers out there: the well-known and those whose writing is known only to themselves.

Keep up the writing and challenge yourself to succeed in your goals, just as runners do every day.

Blogging Grandma Sandy, signing off for now.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Field Tripping with the Next Generation

When my kids were growing up, one of the benefits of working night shift was my ability to participate in many school activities.

Among my favorites were school field trips. From the time my oldest child was in preschool until my youngest child graduated from high school, I was happy to serve as a chaperone for many field trips.

This past week, I was delighted when my schedule worked perfectly to accompany my daughter and my youngest grandchild on a preschool field trip to Johnson's Orchards.

Also known as "the apple porchard" by my granddaughter, Johnson's Orchards is a favorite school field trip destination.

On the day we went to Johnson's, there were quite a few field trip groups also touring the grounds.

Not much has changed about school field trips in a generation. The parents and grandparents are still more interested in what the guides have to say than the kids.

It's still impossible to get a group of kids to all smile or even all look the same direction at the same time for a group photo.

The kids still find excitement in things that aren't part of the field trip. At Johnson's Orchards, the little train next to the Johnny Appleseed statue was the first thing that drew the kids' attention.

Kids still hear what some, but not all, of what is said during the talking portions of the field trip. A comment about painting with apples is what drew my granddaughter's attention the most during part of the field trip.

She asked numerous questions about painting with apples in a very excited voice as the tour guide tried to get kids to talk about what you could do with apples.

Like her mom before her, my granddaughter loved the farm animals. Some day, she may report that the animals were the best part of the trip to the apple orchard.

There's nothing like being a grandparent to take you back in time to the days when your kids were younger. I could almost hear the excited chatter of my own kids in the background as I listened to the group of preschoolers.

Field tripping with the next generation may even be more fun. Unlike some school field trips in my past, I wasn't assigned to the unruly group.

Fun memories are always waiting to be made in the land of grandparenting. The joy of being a grandparent is an adventure I don't want to miss.

Until the next memory is made, I'll take what I can get when I can get it and do the best I can to face each day with a smile on my face, a prayer on my lips and a song in my heart.

Blogging Grandma Sandy, signing off for now.