Sharing My Heart…

Hi Friends,

Today I am raising my very quiet voice a little louder. It feels so important for me to share my heart with the world, as I shine light on ways that we can all help.  I hope you will read on…

Although I only write about it here once a year, please know that Alzheimer’s disease is a huge part of my story every day. When a loved one receives the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s (or another dementia), life dramatically changes. Our family received that heartbreaking news two years ago. We are walking along that journey together with someone that we all love so dearly.

My family is certainly not alone. The statistics are alarming!   (Source: ALZ.org)

  • Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.
  • Currently, 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.
  • There is no cure. No one has ever survived Alzheimer’s.
  • Over the past fifteen years, deaths from heart disease have decreased 11%, while deaths from Alzheimer’s  have increased 123%.

The statistics are particularly alarming for women!    (Source: ALZ.org/women)

  • Today women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s epidemic.
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
  • Women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as they are to develop breast cancer.
  • Women also make up more than 60% of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers in the United States ~ a role that often has a negative effect on their own health and finances.

Brain health is key… and a healthy brain begins with a healthy heart.

  • A study published in the January 2019 Journal of the American Medical Association reports that treating high blood pressure in older adults can help reduce the development of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). A person with MCI faces an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
  • If you are over 50, it’s very important to talk with your health care provider about your risk for Alzheimer’s  and ways to manage your blood pressure. Genetics also play a big role in heart and brain health. As we age, we can all take small steps every day toward a healthier lifestyle!

Knowledge is power!

My bookshelf at home is filling up with important resources…

Some very helpful books that have helped me grow. I refer back to them again and again along our journey.

 

I spoke to many experts in search of a book to share with my loved one to help explain what is happening to them. This helpful book explains what they are feeling and how things are changing in their life. Together, we have had many valuable conversations while reading this book. We read it often. A valuable resource!

 

A nice reminder about the importance of creating moments of JOY together with loved ones throughout this heartbreaking journey. I’ve been documenting all of the special things we do together to create a Memory Book filled with sweet, happy, moments of joy!

 

Over the past two years, I have been very intentional about attending frequent workshops and family support groups to learn more about Alzheimer’s. I have been able to share what I am learning with my family along the way. It is very frightening to learn about this journey that we are walking together. However, during times when we feel powerless in the face of this daunting disease, knowledge can feel empowering!

Very often, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can feel isolating. Days are busier than ever…  helping, encouraging, worrying, and learning, every step of the way. Life takes on a very different rhythm. Although time is more limited, connecting with supportive friends becomes more important than ever. Please reach out to someone you know who is also on this incredibly difficult journey with a loved one. You will brighten their day, renew their spirit, and give them strength to carry on!

The Alzheimer’s Association is a vital resource for those suffering with this heart-wrenching disease, their families, and their caregivers. They are leading the fight against this disease! They offer valuable seminars at public libraries throughout our area. The ALZ Help Line (800-272-3900) offers live support 24/7 from caring professionals to answer questions and concerns. Their helpful webinars present the latest research and extremely helpful information for caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association funds vital research and clinical trials in search of a cure. I am so grateful for the work of the Alzheimer’s Association and the difference they are making for so many families, like mine.

Today I am sharing my heart with you

and raising awareness

of an important way we can all help

in the fight against Alzheimer’s,

with great LOVE…

On “The Longest Day” (June 21st), people across the globe

will do what they LOVE,

or what their loved ones affected by this disease LOVE to do.

Together, we will raise funds and awareness

for the care and support of those affected,

while advancing ALZ research.

We are working toward the first survivor

of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

This is a link to donate to ALZ.org

 

I am truly looking forward to

“The Longest Day” 2019.

My husband will take the day off work on Friday

so that we can participate in this important day together.

We will spend the entire day doing things we LOVE

to honor our loved ones.

However, the most important thing we will do

on “The Longest Day”

is make our donation to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Update: June 21, 2019

Today a very generous donor is matching donations, in honor of “The Longest Day.” Your donation will work twice as hard in the fight against Alzheimer’s!💕

We can all make a difference by helping the Alzheimer’s Association in the fight to end this disease. Throughout the past few years, I have been quietly fundraising and making donations to the Alzheimer’s Association. Now it’s time to raise my voice… and ask for your help, too.

It feels very empowering to make donations to the fight against Alzheimer’s. It makes me very hopeful that one day, in my lifetime, we will find a cure and see the first person survive this disease.

The end of Alzheimer’s starts with me! ♥

The reason is LOVE.

 

With hope,

Dawn

 

 

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Twelve Miles

Hi Friends!

Twelve miles!

Twelve joyous, little miles!

I’m feeling so very blessed!

For the past twenty-five years, visits with my parents meant: a taxi ride, airport security lines, a 3.5 hour flight, and a Super Shuttle ride to their lovely desert home. We traveled 1,800 miles each way to visit them and they traveled 1,800 miles each way to visit us. There were always so many happy “Welcome” hugs… and so many teary-eyed “Take Good Care of Each Other” hugs…

Just two weeks ago, we helped our parents begin the next chapter

of their amazing love story!

Best of all, they are now living just twelve miles away!!

My parents chose a lovely apartment in a brand new Senior Living Community. This new, easier lifestyle offers three chef-prepared meals each day, lots of activities, housekeeping services, transportation, and a very kind, caring staff always willing to lend a hand.

Their new community offers convenience, with several dining rooms, a small library, fitness center, movie theater, hair salon, and several activity rooms. When the warm weather arrives, there are beautiful outdoor spaces to gather, as well.

As their needs change, my parents will be able to move through a full spectrum of care ~ Independent Living, Assisted Living, Transitional Memory Care, and Full Memory Care.

The entire community is filled with inviting gathering spaces that encourage neighbors to leave their apartments and make healthy, happy connections with one another. Everyone is brand new and making friends together! It’s so nice to hear new friends laughing, making connections, and networking with one another. 🙂

Thankfully, everything went smoothly on Moving Day. After the movers left, our family began slowly unpacking boxes together, meeting the new neighbors, and gradually learning our way around the community. This is a time of huge transition for our parents and all of the new residents.

I have been spending lots of time with my parents each day and have watched them slowly embrace their new lifestyle. The other day, as I looked around the dining room, I noticed daughters sitting with their parents at every table. 🙂 We are a ‘sisterhood’ of caregivers! It has been very nice getting to know the other daughters, too.

Change can be extremely hard!!

Throughout this challenging time of change,

over the past two years,

I have been very intentional about counting my blessings out loud.

My Self-Care Journal helped to document

this very difficult cross-country journey

month-by-month.

My monthly ‘Gratitude’ and ‘Reasons to Be Proud’ pages

are filled with the people and moments

that have become a special part of our family’s story.

So grateful for…

My husband’s love and support every step of the way!

My parents’ strength as they endured our very long, unbelievably cold and snowy winter. Their first Midwest winter in 25 years was extremely hard on them!

The special memories we made together during their stay at our home! We proved that love grows best in small houses. Life was really cozy here in our tiny bungalow!

Patience… as repeated construction and staffing delays postponed my parents’ move-in day from: the end of December, to early January, mid-January, early February, to mid-March!! We just kept looking forward to the promise of a new, easier lifestyle that I made to my parents when we left warm, sunny Arizona back in early December.

Hugs… lots of hugs!

 

So very grateful for…

Excellent medical care when my dad suffered a heart attack at our home in early February. The paramedics arrived in just two minutes. The doctors, nurses, and hospitalist that helped my dad during his hospital stay were amazing!

My mom’s bravery during this frightening emergency! My mom and I stayed at the hospital day and night with my dad throughout his stay. My brothers and my husband were there with us every day.

The kindness of a dear friend who came to the hospital with cozy blankets, pillows, slippers, and a curling iron 🙂 to make those many overnight stays easier for my mom and I.

The concern of friends and family who called, offered prayers, sent flowers, offered to bring us meals, and sent emails and cards during my dad’s lengthy recovery at home. Your kindness will always be cherished by our family!

My parents’ Arizona friends who called and sent cards of encouragement.

Hugs… so very healing!

 

So grateful for…

My parents’ positive attitude as we planned for our mid-March move-in day! Moving is always very stressful, but we all kept making plans and counting down the days together.

So much help from my brothers and my husband throughout Moving week! We each offered our strengths: muscle power, assembling furniture, technology support, and detailed planning. Teamwork made everything easier!

New friends and neighbors!

The friendly, helpful staff at my parents’ new Senior Living Community.

YOU, dear blog friends! Thank you so much for continuing to visit our little blog throughout the quiet months. It truly warmed my heart to see visitors, from near and far, reading older posts each day. What a joy to hear from you, too! Skype chats and FaceTime chats added delight to my days! Our friendships continue to grow stronger and deeper. My heart is full! ♥♥

New beginnings!  During April, I look forward to writing more often, visiting with friends again, time in the garden, and adding a bit more creative playtime to my days.

Look for the small joys

tucked into the corners

of each day!

 

Warmest hugs for stopping to visit today!

Dawn

 

 

 

 

Prickly Times…

Hello, sweet friends!

It feels so good to be back home again! We have lots of catching up to do here in our little gathering place of kindred spirits. I have really missed you all. Heartfelt thanks for stopping to visit today!

I have spent the past several months with my dear parents in Arizona. Well into their 80s now, Mom and Dad began needing a little extra help earlier this year. It has been my honor to spend extra time helping out and making plans with my parents. For health reasons, Dad and Mom decided that it was time to make a BIG move, back home to Illinois to be close to their children.

After twenty-four happy, healthy years of desert living, their Retirement dream was taking a most unexpected turn. My parents faced very difficult choices… and many months of ‘prickly’ times. There were so many hard decisions to be made. Working side-by-side, our days were extremely busy. We donated so many cherished items to charitable causes. Finding good homes for beloved antiques and collectibles proved to be a true ‘labor of love.’ So many avid collectors were grateful to become the new owners of my dad’s Lionel trains and antique telephones. My mom’s vintage irons, beautiful, old crocks, oil lamps, antique kitchen tools, and many pieces of Southwest art all went to new homes, one-by-one. ‘Prickly,’ but important, work…

Preparing to sell their lovely, desert home in the foothills of Red Mountain just made our hearts so sad. With the Tonto National Forest just a short walk away, it is a nature lover’s paradise. My parents built their home with breathtaking views of Red Mountain, the Superstition Mountains, and the Usery Mountains. Moving away from longtime friends and special places was the most ‘prickly’ time of all.

Packing boxes, boxes, and more boxes filled our days and weeks. My dad shipped his car back to Illinois. A great pair of movers loaded up a few special pieces of furniture and many boxes filled with family photos and mementos.

After the moving truck pulled away, we were all lost in our thoughts.

It was all feeling very real now…

We took our last long drive through the Tonto National Forest, admiring the mountains, the giant Saguaros, and the wildflowers in bloom. We reminisced about all of our favorite hiking places, remembered picnics at Saguaro Lake, and waved farewell to the beautiful ‘secret place’ in the desert where my husband proposed to me. We all hold so many heartwarming memories of special times in the desert over the years. My mom chose a few favorite rocks from her lovely, desert garden to bring along as special mementos.

Unforgettable, beautiful, heartbreaking, ‘prickly’ times for us all…

After special gatherings with dear friends and a few nights in a hotel, my parents and I flew back to the Midwest together just two weeks ago. Together we knew we were flying toward our next adventure ~ a brave, new chapter in all of our lives. We have been a great team through all the ‘prickly’ times. I have learned so many important lessons over the past months. My parents will always be my first and best teachers!

Throughout my life there have been several challenges,

but this has truly been the most difficult thing

I have experienced so far.

Tears have filled my eyes so often over the past months.

Throughout the ‘prickly’ times this year, I always looked for blossoms…

and counted my many blessings out loud.

It really helped!

Making time for walks in nature always soothed my tender heart.

Sunrise walks filled my soul with sunshine for the day ahead. Walking many miles each week was an important part of my self-care during this very stressful, ‘prickly’ time. Remembering my ‘why’ and tracking my foods on the WW app daily have helped me maintain my healthy weight goal. 🙂  Good health is such a wonderful blessing!

Early mornings spent pulling unfamiliar weeds (using pliers) from the dry, red earth in my mom’s garden reminded me of the gift of gardening Mom gave me thirty-one years ago. What a blessing! My life has been enriched in so many ways since I inherited Mom’s love of gardening.

Sunset walks were the perfect way to connect with my husband each evening. FaceTime allowed us to walk together, although we were 1,800 miles apart. Sharing the stories of our days made it easier for both of us.

My sweet husband has been my ‘rock’ and constantly helps in so many ways. Throughout the Summer months, each evening after work, he deadheaded my ‘He Loves Me’ daisies, so that they would be in full bloom each time I returned home for a brief visit. When the seasons changed, he took such good care of our little ‘igloo’ throughout the big November blizzard. Storm damage left our home without power for several days. So, he worked with a neighbor to prevent our water pipes from freezing in our dark, frigid home. He researched and helped arrange moving plans from across the miles. A great listener, he can always make me laugh. My dear husband is a truly great blessing in my life!

I’m so blessed by friends, both near and far. Quick texts, long emails, and encouraging WhatsApp messages were most welcome day brighteners while I was away from home for extended times. Beautiful cards and letters always warmed my heart. We are so grateful for the kindness of our friends! A perfectly-timed ride home from the airport in a friend’s toasty, warm SUV (complete with a cozy, lap blanket for my parents) was an extra-special ‘welcome home’ on a cold December day.  A friendly visit delivering hugs and homemade turkey noodle soup warmed our hearts and tummies. Heartfelt thanks, dear, sweet friends!

Each day, as I quickly checked our little blog, it was so heartwarming to know that friends were stopping to read stories from the blog archives. I could feel our connection and was both humbled and grateful for the powerful friendships that have grown here over the years. I’m looking forward to blogging often in the New Year… and finally making time to visit my blogging friends again!

We felt so blessed that my parents’ beautiful, desert home sold in just ONE day! We were very grateful when the buyers visited and promised to take extra good care of this special place. We were so fortunate that our moving plans and travel plans all went very smoothly. Such a big blessing for us all!

After a long, cross country trip, the movers delivered everything safely to a nearby storage unit. Family heirlooms were handled with extra care. We were so grateful to see the big, orange truck pull up last week! Local movers will help with the next stage of the move in January, when my parents’ beautiful, new apartment will be ready.

After spending time in the desert in the Springtime and experiencing this Summer’s Monsoon season, I was delighted to arrive home for a brilliant, instant blast of Autumn color. I was so blessed that the beautiful leaves waited for me!

We packed lots of Autumn walks into my two-week visit home! It was so refreshing after the long, hot Summer days in the desert. (This year, the Phoenix area had over 125 days of triple-digit heat! Whew!)

No matter where I roam, the Midwest always feels like home to me!

I embrace the change of seasons,

with the blessings each one brings.

 

In spite of the ‘prickly’ times, it has been a very special blessing to experience ALL of the seasons in the desert Southwest this year. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn so much about the desert plants over the past 24 years. Walking with my mom is always a wonderful gardening lesson! I have also learned to beware of the desert creatures. It’s still the ‘wild west’ with coyotes, scorpions, lizards, and rattlesnakes passing through! Over the years, I have learned so much about the Native American people. I will always hold the call of the drums at the Harvest Pow Wow on the Pima-Maricopa reservation close to my heart. It was a remarkable cultural experience.  I truly understand why the Arizona desert will always have a special place in my parents’ hearts!

My greatest blessings of all are my dear, sweet parents! ♥♥

I cherish every precious moment with them!

We have been enjoying old family memories

and look forward to sharing as much joy

as we can squeeze into the coming years!

 

Hugs and simple joys,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

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Quiet…

Hi Friends!

Our native plants are in full bloom here in the Prairie State. We are very fortunate to have several prairie areas nearby, just perfect for a walking meditation on a recent Summer morning.

The gentle, winding path took me past a quiet marsh area. Peaceful lilypads, slender grasses, sunny coneflowers, and delicate Queen Anne’s Lace inspired me to pause and reflect…

Native wildflowers have long roots that run so deep,

much like our family roots.

The Native plants support one another.

Growing together in the prairie ecosystem

allows the wildflowers to survive the difficult times and thrive.

As I walked, the silence was only broken

by the song of red wing blackbirds and crickets.

Then the stillness and quiet returned.

I wanted to let everyone know that, much like the quiet of the prairie, our blog will be quiet for a little while. I will be dedicating my time to helping my family and there just won’t be time to write and edit posts for a while. As soon as possible, I look forward to writing again. There is so much to share!

In the meantime, I hope you will peek into the blog archives to enjoy stories you may have missed during your busy times. Be sure to read through the comments, for these little conversations are always the highlights of every blog post here!

I will pop in to check our blog each day, so please do continue to leave your lovely comments on any post. Replying to your comments brings me such joy! You can always reach me, by email, through the ‘Say Hello’ page. I very much look forward to hearing from you!

Heartfelt thanks for always being here!

With love,

♡ Dawn

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Springtime Blessings!

Hi Friends!

Sunny Springtime greetings!

Today I’m counting my blessings out loud

as my very favorite season begins…

Bougainvillea in bloom in the Sonoran Desert, with the Superstition Mountains in the distance

I have been enjoying precious family time

in the Arizona desert.

Prickly Pear cacti in bloom

Admiring spectacular sunrises

and sunsets…

Saguaro silhouettes at sunset in the Sonoran desert

Sharing wonderful family memories with my parents,

as we talked about their childhood stories

and my childhood years.

Such delightful blessings to cherish!

Brittlebush in bloom fills the desert with sunshine in the Spring

Savoring long talks with my dad,

whose sage wisdom always guides me.

Strong, sturdy Saguaro cactus

Taking long walks with my mom,

a most charming gardener who teaches me so much

about living a sweet, joyful life.

It made my heart blossom as I helped them each day,

in the smallest of ways.

It is such a blessing to be able to help my parents now…

as we spend time together.

Helping to weed, deadhead, transplant, and water

in my mom’s desert garden

reminded me of how this charming gardener

taught me to garden,

thirty years ago,

when I bought a little house

with a large, mature garden of my very own.

Ocotillo cactus blossoms

My beloved husband took care of everything here at home,

so that I could spend time with my parents.

He is one of life’s sweetest blessings!

Purple Trailing Lantana spilling over the red rocks

Brilliant blue skies, gentle breezes, and temperatures in the mid 90s

made the last days of Winter fly by much too quickly.

Just as my favorite season began,

I returned home to

the Midwest.

Today I spent hours in my own garden

(wearing a winter jacket),

as I pruned the ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea,

cut back the remaining stems and seed heads

left standing for the birds,

and peeked at all of the new growth in my garden beds.

From across the yard, I suddenly spotted

patches of  brilliant purple!

These miniature Irises are always the first blossoms of Springtime in my garden!

What a wonderful blessing to discover

miniature Irises

and Crocuses in full bloom…

just in time for

the first days of Spring!

♥♥♥

Wishing you abundant Springtime blessings, too!

(Be sure to count them out loud!)

Choose joy!

♡ Dawn

     P.S.  Hope you will share something you are grateful for as Spring begins!

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Garden Dreams…

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Who helped to plant your love of gardening?

Hi Friends!

It seems like just yesterday!

Those golden summer afternoons spent in the garden

while I was growing up are such sweet memories.

⚙⚙⚙

My mom was as happy as a lark

tending her beautiful rose garden

and all of the old-fashioned perennial beds

that lined our backyard.

⚙⚙⚙

I was as happy as a lark, too,

… sunbathing!

Mom gardened all around me,

while all of my attention was focused on

the latest issue of Seventeen magazine.

While she worked with her pruners, trowel, garden gloves, and flower basket,

my ‘garden tools’ were a beach towel, radio, Coppertone sunscreen, and sunglasses!

(Mind you, I wasn’t a princess! My outdoor chores included mowing the lawn, edging, shoveling snow,…)

⚙⚙⚙

When our afternoon work was finished,

Mom and I would sit together in the shade

sipping iced tea and chatting.

⚙⚙⚙

Oh, my…

If only I had been paying attention,

learning the names of all the plants and their special needs,

borrowing her tools and lending a hand…

⚙⚙⚙

Yet during all of those summer afternoons so long ago,

I was learning something

important…

I saw the joy of gardening in my mom’s smiles

and the peaceful feelings found amongst her flowers!

{via}

Many years later,

after college, graduate school, and

teaching for several years,

 I finally saved enough money to buy

a home of my own.

It was a cozy little bungalow,

with a swing on the front porch,

and a large yard filled with garden beds.

(Oh no! Garden beds of my own?)

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The previous homeowner had planted lovely perennial beds and colorful annual beds.  My yard was filled with day lilies, still blooming almost thirty years later!

So, I happily watered everything in my garden each day!

My parents would come each weekend

helping to make my dreams come true.

My dad and I would work on restoration projects

and my mom and I would garden together.

Each weekend, Mom would point out the weeds and the flowers.

There was so much to learn!!

(If only I had been helping in her garden while I was growing up!)

Mom was so patient,

  each weekend teaching me how to plant, prune,

and deadhead the spent blossoms.

...

With Mom’s tender guidance, I grew more passionate about gardening with each passing year!

Over the winter months,

my parents helped my dreams grow

as we worked together

on indoor projects,

like stripping the paint to reveal the beautiful woodwork,

one room at a time.

My little bungalow was slowly,

very slowly,

returning to the original charm of its 1922 roots.

DSCN5366My dreams were coming true,

with the love and help of my incredible parents.

I planted new perennial beds ~ a Friendship Garden and Cutting Garden.

My dad and I worked together one summer long ago, to build my Herb & Tea Garden and an arbor.

Over the winter months,

I brought home armloads of gardening books

from the library,

and read and read…

and dreamed garden dreams.

I reread the same gardening books each winter

for several years…

 growing 

just like the plants in my garden!

⚙⚙⚙

When my parents retired,

it was time to make their new dreams come true,

in the Sonoran desert,

in Arizona!

Now my mom happily gardens with

cacti, succulents, and desert wildflowers.

When I visit her desert garden,

I love learning the names of her flowers,

 trees, and cacti.

...

When we hike in the desert or walk through the neighborhood, there is always so much to learn about the plants of the Southwest!

Each summer,

when my parents come back to visit us,

my mom always brings her

garden gloves.

She loves the lush green abundance

of the Midwest,

where she learned to garden

when I was very young.

So, my mom and I spend precious moments

working side by side,

in my garden together!

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Playing in the garden together last week!

I feel so very

blessed

that my mom has shared

her love of gardening

and her gardening knowledge

with me over so many years!

⚙⚙⚙

Heartfelt thanks, Mom, for helping my garden dreams come true!

You taught me how to bloom!

⚙⚙⚙

Is there someone special in your life

who shared their love of gardening with you?

⚙⚙⚙

Thanks so much for stopping by today! I always enjoy our visits!

Sending sunshine!

♡ Dawn

The ‘Heart’ of Christmas…

...

Let’s enjoy a cup of tea by the Christmas tree… and share stories! ♡

Hi Friends!

Trimming the tree has always been at the ‘heart’ of our Christmas season! Opening the boxes of carefully wrapped ornaments feels just like opening a scrapbook of cherished memories. For a long, long time, I had dreamed of a Christmas tree of my own, laden with precious memories…

One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories was visiting my aunt and uncle’s home on Christmas night, after all of the excitement of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning were just happy memories. Each year, as we approached their cozy home in the snowy woods, I looked forward to one of my favorite holiday moments…  seeing their ‘People’ tree, filled with unique ornaments from all of the special people in their lives. I would sit on the rug beside the tree, admiring each ornament as my aunt shared the stories with me.

I dreamed of one day having a special Christmas tree of my own…

filled with one-of-a-kind treasures of love and friendship!

..

During all of those Christmases past, my family must have noticed how important that special “People” tree was to me… and remembered. Many years later, when I grew up and moved into an apartment of my own, they all joined in to make my special Christmas dream come true!

My aunts quietly sent the invitations for a Tree Trimming Party at Dawn’s apartment to the whole family and a few close friends, carefully keeping the special Christmas ‘secret.’  Festive foods were prepared, Christmas music was ready, and Christmas ‘magic’ was in the air!

I received an invitation, too.

It simply asked me to choose the perfect tree and add the Christmas lights.

My dad created a wonderful Model A Ford Coupe from copper wire. Each time I admire this ornament, I remember all of those summer rides in my dad’s Model A. We just loved to climb into the rumble seat to ride to picnics and parades with his antique car club!

That evening, each guest arrived with two handmade ornaments ~ very special gifts of love! The ornaments were made of wire, sea shells, fabric, nuts and bolts, bread dough, and materials of all sorts. Most importantly, they were made with so much heart!

As the guests arrived, they signed tiny, paper flags attaching their names and date to each ornament, documenting this most special evening!  Together, my family and friends filled my very first Christmas tree with so much LOVE!

..

My mom stitched her ornaments with love, using fabric from a family quilt. Just seeing the delicate stitches reminds me of the hours she spent creating a beautiful sampler quilt. I’m certain that my love and appreciation of quilts began in my childhood, with my mom’s quilt!

My sweet aunt, whose ‘People’ tree inspired me so long ago, embroidered these beautiful ornaments for my first Christmas tree. Her colorful, wool Santa and Rocking Horse are just filled with love. They hold so many memories of fun times building puzzles, playing Scrabble, and wonderful Fourth of July picnics at her house in the woods!

Special friends brought this pretty, handmade dough wreath, made a few years earlier for their very first Christmas tree. Just seeing this simple wreath reminds me of that year, right after college, when we discovered that the best Christmas gifts don’t have to be expensive. We had so much fun that Christmas baking and painting all of the ornaments for their Christmas tree. A handmade Christmas, from the heart, is always a very special one!

..

Dear friends shared a handmade, golden origami crane ~ a treasured memento from their wedding day! Every year, I think of them, and our long friendship, as I carefully hang the little crane on our tree.  What a special gift!

As that magical Tree Trimming celebration ended, it was only the beginning of my dearest Christmas tradition! Each year, more special ornaments have been added to my Christmas tree. Each one a true gift of love and friendship

..

These tiny handmade angels always have a special place near the top of my tree, reminding me of the angels that touch our lives. The little gingerbread house is a sweet reminder of our family tradition of making gingerbread houses as we were growing up. Each year, my brothers spent a weekend with our wonderful aunt making the gingerbread dough and baking the pieces of gingerbread. What fun we had working together to assemble our houses and decorate them with candy! We share these happy memories again and again every Christmas!

So many ornaments were special gifts from my young students over the years… each one holding a precious story.

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I will always remember when the phone rang in my classroom, asking me to stay with one young student at the end of the day. His home had burned down while he was in school that day, just a few days before Christmas. His family never knew which ‘secret Santa’ delivered all of their gifts that year, but you can imagine how I felt when he brought me this ornament for a Christmas gift. So many years later, his special ornament still tugs at my heartstrings!

There are ornaments filled with warm memories of so many favorite places I have traveled over the years…

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A small, clay jug handpainted by a Native American artisan, in Arizona, is a special gift from my parents. A wooden ornament, that caught my eye in a a small shop in Prague, instantly brings back so many wonderful memories of adventures with a dear friend in that amazing city!

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A little, wooden pull-toy mouse, from my visit to the Christkindlmarkt in Germany with dear friends, has a place of honor on our tree. Its string has been carefully pulled by hundreds and hundreds of small hands in my classroom over the years, as we learned about Holiday Traditions from Around the World. Who knows how many future travel dreams this simple, little ornament has inspired?

This delicate, handmade, wax ornament made by a wonderful mother in Germany has been oh-so-carefully hung on my tree for the past twenty years. It holds so many memories of a special Christmas, celebrated with dear friends in Germany. Whenever I see this ornament, I remember the whole family holding hands around their Christmas tree, aglow with candles lit by the Christkindt Angel. Together we sang ‘Stille Nacht’ before blowing out the candles on the Christmas tree. My friends sang ‘Jingle Bells’ in English as a sweet surprise for me!

Our Christmas tree also holds treasured ornaments from my husband’s childhood. For years, we wondered what had happened to all of those vintage glass ornaments. The first Christmas we were married, his godmother gave us the very special gift of the ornaments he grew up with as a child. She had been saving them for so many years. Oh, the wonderful memories these shiny, glass ornaments hold!

Through the years, our family and friends have continued to add ornaments filled with love to our Christmas tree. Now each year, on the day after Thanksgiving, as we unwrap each cherished ornament to trim our tree, all of the stories they hold come flooding back… as if tied with heartstrings.

Smiles and tears of joy fill my heart as each ornament is carefully hung on the branches of our Christmas tree. The tiny paper flags, from that Tree Trimming party, for my very first Christmas in my own apartment, are still attached to the original ornaments. Yet, even without the tags, I will always know the the stories they hold. The people and places that I hold dear fill my Christmas tree… and my heart!

Like opening and closing a scrapbook, these cherished ornaments are the first part of our Christmas celebration every year, and the last decorations to be packed away. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without them! They are the ‘Heart’ of our Christmas… for they tell the stories of our lives!

May your Christmas be filled with warm memories and thankful hearts this year!

With joy!

♡ Dawn

P.S.   Which ornament on your tree is most dear?  Hope you will share a story or two with all of us!