Auld Lang Syne

As the light begins to fade on 2017, I wonder what you are most looking forward to in the new year? Are you making resolutions for 2018 or are you like me and simply setting some goals?

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The new year’s holiday gives us a chance to say goodbye to the old year and to welcome in the new one. 2017 was a good year in some respects…my latest book came out in April and we downsized to a new home…but not so good in others because I lost both a dear friend and a beloved uncle.

My goals for 2018 are pretty simple. Since I received a Fitbit for Christmas and am entertained and motivated by its fun reminder messages like “Time for a stroll” or “Go for it”, or “Let’s roll”, I’d like to be more active in 2018.

I’m working on two new books right now and hope to finish one or both in the new year. Fingers crossed.

My hope is to spend more time with old friends in the new year and get to know my new neighbors.

And finally, I’d like to see more of this little guy in 2018. It’s hard to be a grandmother and have your only grandchild live 1000 miles away. Yes, I need more time with little Graham Michael!

Whether you are saying a fond farewell to 2017, or happily slamming the door on this year, I wish you and your family much love and happiness in 2018!

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Written by Scottish poet and lyricist, Robert Burns in 1788, “Auld Lang Syne” is traditionally sung at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve in English-speaking countries to bid farewell to the old year. The words “Auld Lang Syne” are loosely translated as “old long since”, “days gone by”, or “old times”.

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Treasured Christmas Memories

For most of my adult life, my mailbox has been stuffed full of Christmas cards this time of year. It’s quite exciting to pull a stack of colorful envelopes out of the box and know that they contain messages from loved ones.

Whether it’s the cost of a first-class stamp, (49 cents), or the busyness of people’s lives, or simply the popularity of electronic greetings, people don’t send many Christmas cards these days. Mostly, it’s the Baby Boomers like me who can’t seem to give up this annual tradition.

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This week, I received a Christmas card from a dear aunt and uncle who live in my hometown of Elkhart, Indiana. On the front of the card, was a picture that reminded me of my youth in the Midwest. The picture is a snow-covered wood with a lane in the center of the scene. On the inside my aunt had written: “Front of card kind of looks like the lane at Pearl’s. Though you might also be missing the snow!”

As I sat holding the card in my hand, I felt a wave of homesickness wash over me. The picture on the front did indeed remind me of the lane at my Grandma Pearl’s farm…the same lane that inspired the name and theme of this blog. And yes, I do miss the snow.

When I was a girl, we spent every Christmas Eve at my Grandmother’s house. The entire family would be there…grandparents, children, grandchildren…and the occasional neighbor or friend who needed a place to be at Christmas.

Grandma made her salty Christmas ham that she baked in apple juice and sometimes a roasted turkey too. The rest of the family would bring the side dishes and desserts. And oh, the desserts…pies and cakes and cookies and always, always, homemade banana pudding. Every family has its own holiday food traditions and banana pudding was ours.

After dinner, the adults would visit and do any last-minute preparations for the gift exchange, and the kids would escape to the snowy world outside. There’s something magical about being a kid out in a winter wonderland on Christmas Eve night.

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I remember one particular Christmas Eve when I was around nine or ten years old. The air was crisp and cold and the dark sky was clear and full of more stars than it seemed a sky could hold. My cousins and I looked up in search of a Christmas Star like the one that led the shepherds and kings to the manger so long ago, and we also looked for any sign of Santa and his reindeer, even though we knew it was probably too early.

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We laughed as we ran and made paths in the newly fallen snow, and pulled one another down the snowy white lane on our wood and metal sleds. We built a jolly snowman in grandma’s front yard complete with skinny stick arms, coal eyes and mouth, and a carrot nose from grandma’s refrigerator. One of my cousins gave up his red scarf for our fine fellow and we all stood back to admire our handiwork. After that, we surrounded “Frosty” with snow angels to keep him company in Grandma’s front yard.

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Next, we headed to the barn to see if the animals truly did talk on Christmas Eve. While we stood in the quiet barn looking through the wood boards into the stalls, another cousin said that she had heard the animals only talked at midnight on Christmas Eve.

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As we tried to figure out how we could get back to the barn at midnight to hear the animals talk, we heard our moms calling us inside for the gift exchange.  We walked arm in arm back to the warm house and I remember thinking that I would remember the fun of this night forever and ever.

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We all have our treasured Christmas memories. Here’s hoping you and your family will experience many special and memorable moments this holiday season! I also hope you receive lots of Christmas cards!

Merry Christmas with love from my family to yours!

Pilots For Kids

Imagine if your child was in the hospital right now. While the rest of the world is decorating for the holidays, attending parties, shopping, baking, and wrapping presents, you are spending every minute in the hospital at the side of your sick child.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of being a part of a very special event at the Dallas Children’s Medical Center. Along with the Pilots for Kids Charitable Organization, I was able to sign and give my books as Christmas presents to children who are in the hospital.

While it was difficult to see sick children this time of year, it was heartwarming to see each of the children and their parents escorted personally by a pilot who helped them select several Christmas presents. I covered the lump in my throat with a smile and greeted each child as I told them about my books and let them choose one. The kids were very excited to be receiving gifts and the parents were so grateful for the outpouring of love toward their children.

If you haven’t heard of them, Pilots for Kids is an international, nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization that was founded in 1983 by airline crewmembers to address the needs of hospitalized children.

Every year, members visit thousands of children in hospitals, shelters, orphanages and other facilities where there are children in need. While the visits occur throughout the year, the majority of them are during the month of December when members will visit and pass out toys to hospitalized children.

With Paul Brown, treasurer for Pilots for Kids

Holiday toys and other needed items such as wheelchairs and special beds are purchased for children through fundraising. The Dallas Pilots for Kids members hold an annual golf scramble every summer to fundraise for their holiday hospital visits. 100% of all donations are spent on items for children.

All Pilots for Kids members are volunteers and their administrative costs are covered by the $15 annual membership dues. The good news, is that anyone can join and support this wonderful organization that is having a positive impact on the lives of so many.  I did…how about you?

Saint Nicholas To Santa Claus

So many of our holiday traditions were begun many years ago by people who had no idea that their actions would influence the behavior of future generations.  The last two days, I’ve spent Christmas shopping for my family and decorating our home for the holidays.

Today, as I found spots for our Santa Claus figurines, I remembered that December 6th is Saint Nicholas Day.  The official name is “Feast of Saint Nicholas Day” and this is an annual Christian celebration to honor the memory of Saint Nicholas on the anniversary of his death.

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We have affectionately nicknamed our modern-day Santa Claus “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” because he is based on the real Saint Nicholas who had a legendary habit of secret gift giving.  In pictures, he even looks like Santa Claus!

The real Saint Nicholas was born in Asia Minor which is now Lycia, Turkey, in the year 270 A.D.  His parents were wealthy and were devout Christians.  They died when Nicholas was very young and he used his entire inheritance to help the needy and the sick.

Saint Nicholas dedicated his life to serving God and to helping people.  He was named the Bishop of Myra as a young man and there were many miracles attributed to him.  Because Nicholas was well known for his generosity, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships, he is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, children, brewers and students.

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In European countries today, Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated by giving gifts and attending church services.  Just like our American Christmas Eve tradition, gifts are brought on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day and children put their shoes or boots in front of the fireplace or beside the front door for Saint Nicholas to fill with small presents.  Perhaps our tradition of hanging stockings evolved from the practice of putting shoes or boots out for Saint Nicholas?

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When I look at my Santa figurines now, I think of this man who lived so long ago and must have taken such delight in giving.  Sometimes the holidays can feel big and expensive and overwhelming. Hopefully, we will have joy in our hearts as we prepare to celebrate the miracle of His birth by giving to others.