Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas Tree Walk Down Memory Lane

In the still of Christmas Eve morning, our Christmas tree brings light to the darkness. The tiny, brightly-colored lights twinkle and glow, symbolic of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

There's no unified color theme of red and gold, no movie theme with Disney princesses or Star War characters on our tree.

Each ornament on the Christmas tree holds a special meaning. Some celebrate the birth of a child or grandchild.

Some of the ornaments on our tree are reminders of trips taken to special destinations. Others are gifts from parents or siblings.

Among the most precious are those made with love by the little hands of our children or grandchildren.

There are many different ways to take a walk down Memory Lane. The scent of cookies baking, a few notes of a familiar melody or the taste of a longtime favorite meal all bring back memories of the past.

Each year, I enjoy a walk down Memory Lane while putting up and decorating our Christmas tree.

Theme trees are beautiful and a favorite among adults of all ages. But the child in me yearns for the joy found in
lingering over each of my favorite ornaments as I relive the memories they stir inside me.

Although I don't remember my first Christmas tree, the moment is forever captured in time -- courtesy of my Dad;s camera.

I slept through the excitement of that first Christmas morning. Since I was one of those screamy babies, that's probably a good thing.

Later Christmas mornings brought me baby dolls, stuffed dogs, a typewriter and my first camera.

They say you can never go back home and it's true in many ways -- especially for those of us raised in military families.

Home was many places, none of which is currently home to any of our family members.

The house I called home before I married and moved to Virginia 40 years ago is no longer home to the Atkins family since Mom's and Dad's deaths in June 2014.

The tall Christmas trees of my childhood were replaced with tabletop trees in recent years, and family Christmas celebrations moved from my parents' home to my younger brother's house as our family's numbers outgrew space at Mom and Dad's.

As I stood looking at my parents' Christmas tree on one of many post-Christmas visits back home, the sparkly glass ornaments took me back in time to the Christmas celebrations of my childhood.

Many of the same ornaments that hung on the Christmas trees of my youth adorned the small tabletop trees of Mom and Dad's later years.

In a similar way, the Christmas trees of my children's younger years -- filled with handcrafted paper ornaments -- have given way to Christmas trees with a mixture of memories from our kids and grandkids. Ornaments made with pride by our grandchildren hang side by side with baby's first Christmas balls from our grown children.

The first Christmas trees of our blended family years were filled with questions.

Should we have a real or artificial tree?

Which ornaments would make the cut and which would stay in the boxes?

How and when would we decorate the tree?

And who would decide where to hang which ornament? 

As the years passed, kids helped decorate the tree or not, as time permitted. Some years, they chose favorite ornaments other years, nearly all of the ornaments fit on the tree.

This year's Christmas tree brings back memories of ballerinas and soccer players, 
tiny babies and little toddlers, 'tweens and teens and excited grandchildren. 

The joy and wonder of Christmas is mixed with the sadness and sorrow 
of Christmas without our parents, now all together in Heaven.

Kid-friendly ornaments and Nativity scenes hang side-by-side on the Christmas tree. 
The reason for the season, the birth of our Savior.

Tomorrow morning, the excitement of Christmas will fill the air as our younger grandchildren open gifts here while our older grandson and his parents celebrate Christmas in Ohio.

Across the country, some of the Atkins siblings will gather together, 
celebrating the joy of Christmas past and the treasure of time with family. 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! May your Christmas be filled 
with joy, wonder and the gift of Jesus' presence in your life!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Reason, Season or Lifetime: 10 Friendships to Nurture

You may have read this timeless saying about friendship many times without giving it any thought:

"People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They may seem like a godsend and they are.They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.

Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and
force you to take a stand.

What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it, it is real... But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons, things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life."

--Author Unknown

But how do you know? When you meet someone and hit it off, how do you know if this friend is in your life for a reason, season or lifetime? 

It may seem like you've known someone you meet forever. You have so much in common and become fast friends. Fast forward a year or two and something happens. Maybe it's something you said or maybe you just drifted apart. 

You really don't know from the first meeting if a friendship will stand the test of time. So what should you do? Should you invest time and energy into every new friendship? Only nurture old friendships and hope for the best?  

Most people take the time to build and strengthen the relationship with a spouse or partner. Here are 10 additional friendships to nurture through thick and thin. You won't regret investing time in these friendships.

God. He created you in His image for a reason. He walks beside you in the best of times and carries you in the worst of times. Honor God in everything you say and do.

Yourself. It's impossible to love others if you don't first love yourself. Let the internal voice you speak to yourself be kind and nurturing.

Your Mom. Mitch Albom said, "Behind all your stories is always your mother's story, because hers is where yours begin." There's no love like a mother's love.

Your Dad. A dad is his son's first hero and his daughter's first love. A father's love is eternal and everlasting.

Your Siblings. Nobody truly understands you the way your siblings do. Let your shared memories create a future filled with laughter and love.

Your Children. Khalil Gibran wrote, "You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth." Love and support the children they are and the adults they become.

Your Pastor or Spiritual Adviser. In every life, there are challenges and struggles. Your pastor or spiritual adviser offers encouragement and guidance through life's trials.

Someone Who Understands. As you grow and change in life, reach out to others who have walked the same path. A friend who understands what you're going through is a treasure.

Your Mentor. A mentor is defined as "an experienced and trusted adviser." A mentor sees the your skills and weaknesses and helps you become the person you were meant to be. 

Your Best Friend. Henry Ford said, "My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me." A best friend laughs with you, cries with you and accepts you.

Make time in your busy life to build relationships. Share time with family and friends. Whether for a reason, season or lifetime, when you give your time, you give the best part of yourself. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Veterans Day Salute to My Hero

Daddy, you were the first man I knew
I learned so many things from you
How to swim and ride a bike alone
And the proper way to answer our phone.

When I was young, you went far away
To serve your country while we played
I didn't know then what it really meant
When to Vietnam you were sent.

From far away, you kept in touch with us all
While doing your duty and standing tall
Helping a people we never knew
As all of your children older grew.

You sent letters and cards to your girls and boys
With words of encouragement instead of toys
Telling us how to live and to grow
To learn the things we needed to know.

When you returned home, you took your spot
As head of the family, teaching us a lot
Taking us here and taking us there
Leading kids and Boy Scouts everywhere.

You answered whatever questions we asked of you
With things to remember that we knew were true
You showed us how to grow up strong and tall
To be men and women who helped one and all.

On this Veterans Day, I want you to know
I appreciate the ways you taught me to grow
Although I didn't always thank you back then
Now I know better and I thank you again.

You're no longer with us, yet you're still here
On this day and every day of the year
Watching and guiding with love in your heart
Until we're together again, nevermore to part.

Thanks for the gifts of your wisdom and words
Now we remember those things that we heard
Repeating them now that we are grown
Teaching the kids we now call our own.

Your 90 years passed so quickly
To us, it still seems like a blur
Your Scouts called you The Colonel
And your soldiers called you sir.

To us, you were Daddy, back then and still now
The man we looked up to, you showed us how
To live our lives in service to others
To respect and to love, especially our mother.

Thanks so much, I am so proud to call you Dad
The man I looked up to, even when I got mad
For those who you helped and those who you saved
For the lessons you taught and the words that you gave.

As we honor and remember veterans everywhere
I gaze toward Heaven and offer this prayer
Thank God for Daddy, my hero I'll never forget
A soldier among soldiers, a vet among vets.

-- Sandy Wallace, proud daughter of Colonel Robert A. Atkins, Sr. US Army Retired
Veterans Day 2015, adapted from my poem "On Ode to Dad: My Hero" written June 4, 2012

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Halloween Past and Present

Do you remember when Halloween was an evening of candy and fun for kids? 

Children of all ages dressed up in costumes and walked from house to house to get candy.

Your costume may have been a hand-me-down costume in a box, one worn by older siblings in previous years.

Maybe your mom made your costume or you may have pieced together your own creation, something unique like a bum with a beer can bag for candy.

Maybe your school had a costume parade where the kids all wore costumes or masks and walked the school halls or on the track so all the kids could see one another's costumes.

At school, you probably made a construction paper witch or ghost to bring home and hang in your room. Maybe your mom even hung it on the refrigerator for a day or two. 

You carved pumpkins, scooping out the guts with your hands. Who could forget that squishy feel of yuckiness on your hands or that toothy pumpkin grin.

Who could have imagined back then that one day there would be pumpkins that were already carved? No guts, no glory.

Or Pinterest pages filled with ideas of 10 perfect ways to carve a pumpkin or 30 unique costumes or 101 Halloween party foods.

Or stores filled top to bottom with Halloween decor and costumes -- mostly for adults to enjoy with maybe a tiny corner of costumes for little kids.

After dinner on Halloween, parents walked with little kids or older kids took their younger siblings through the neighborhood while mom and dad passed out candy at home.

You may have seen a scarecrow or two in someone's yard. There was always that one grown-up who made you do a trick like a cartwheel in the yard to get your treat.

There weren't any tricked-out yards filled with graveyard scenes or inflatable spooky things.

Maybe you had a little party at home with a few Halloween treats before you went out trick-or-treating if there was time.

You might have watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" before trick-or-treat on Halloween. Did you feel sorry for Charlie Brown when he kept getting rocks instead of candy?

Trick-or-treat was all about the candy -- and the little candy bars were the best of all. What was your favorite Halloween candy to find in your bucket?

Older kids sometimes bypassed the candy and helped others with Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, gathering money to send to kids far away instead of candy to eat.

You were supposed to wait until you got home to eat any of your candy, but who could resist one or two treats from your bucket while you walked from house to house.

What happened to Halloween? When did Halloween change from being about an evening of fun for little kids?

When did Halloween become a night of spookiness for adults instead? 

When did Halloween become all about huge inflatables and yard decor instead of walking from door to door collecting candy?

What would it be like if you could go back in time to the Halloweens of childhood? What was your favorite costume?

Maybe that's why truck or treat events have become so popular. Parents are trying to recreate the Halloweens of years gone by.

I don't know about you, but all of this over the top Halloween stuff makes me feel a little bit like Grumpy Cat. 

Halloween has changed a lot through the years. But for many of us who are young at heart, Halloween is still all about an evening of fun for kids of all ages.

Blogging Grandma Sandy, signing off for now with Happy Halloween wishes for one and all!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Is a Memory Yours Even if You Don't Remember It?

Is a memory still yours even if you don't remember it? I definitely don't remember being a tiny baby on my first Christmas, but here I am -- lying in a car bed with my parents' Nativity in the background.

My older siblings remember this family trip to Disneyland and claim that I cried the entire time, but I'm not crying in this picture. For the record, I don't remember anything about this trip!

I don't remember my second Christmas any better than my first Christmas, but it seems like I really enjoyed this toy!

Although I remember my Dad's 1957 Chevy station wagon, I don't remember posing for this picture while hanging out the window of the car.

I don't remember most of the houses we lived in while my Dad was in the Army, but my older siblings remember many details of the places we lived.

We were crossing the English Channel in this picture, but I don't remember the boat ride. Of course, I brought Black Nose Doggy with me because he went absolutely EVERYWHERE I went.

I totally remember snuggling with Black Nose Doggy -- and White Blankie -- but I don't remember the clothes I was wearing in this photo.

I always loved dogs, whether they were real dogs like my grandparents' dog Chet or stuffed dogs like this pink dog. You guessed it -- I don't remember receiving this dog for Christmas.

I remember my brother Pat being little. I don't remember him sitting in our family high chair, but we all did -- and so did many of our children.

I don't remember sitting on the stairs, don't know what we were doing or why, but I do remember always having a lot of fun with my brothers.

I remember a few trips to Wisconsin to visit our grandparents. We always played cards on Grandma and Grandpa's front porch, even though I don't remember posing for this photo.

 This series of photos of me with my two younger brothers was the idea behind this blog. I remember absolutely nothing about visiting the traveling Sinclair Dinosaur Exhibit in the late 1960s. I don't remember Dad buying us -- and my stuffed Rin-Tin-Tin -- these cute Sinclair jackets, don't know where we were when we visited this exhibit and only know about the Sinclair Dinosaur Exhibit because of the wonders of Google searches.

I don't remember this photo, but do remember hanging upside down from the clothesline pole in my parents' back yard. I wonder if my baby sister remembers laughing at me.

You'd think I'd remember 8th grade graduation, but I only have fuzzy memories most likely only remembered because there are photos of the event. I look dazed in this photo with my celebration cake. Maybe I'm wondering if I'll remember this date 40 plus years later.

Well, what do you think? Is a memory still yours even if you don't remember it? My answer is yes. The good, the bad, the memorable and the forgotten memories -- they are all a part of who I am.

Until the next time, 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.