Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

The first veterans memorial I remember seeing was a statue of Francis Marion on the lawn of the courthouse in Marion, South Carolina. His nickname was “the Swamp Fox”, which as a kid I thought was funny so the memory has always stuck with me. Marion fought in the American Revolution not the Civil War but I thought of the statue again when war memorials began being removed from public places in recent years. I asked my dad, who was born and raised in South Carolina in the 1940’s thru early 1960’s, what he thought of the removals. He said, “I suppose it depends whether you think a statue memorializes the event or the person.”

Since 1971, on the last Monday of May, we memorialize the men and women who died in service to their country as members of the U.S. military. We also honor and celebrate others we have lost in our lives, friends and family, but Memorial Day became a national holiday to honor fallen soldiers.

The remembrance and recognition of the holiday takes place largely in cemeteries but in many places the sacrifice of our military men and women is acknowledged every day. Which is the focus of my May 5K as part of my “Year of 5K’s to Raise Awareness”.

Veterans memorials in our part of the country likely don’t face the same controversy as in other places but are really meant to memorialize the people. Men and women who join the service do so knowing they may lose their lives as a result. The families left behind know that, too. But if that possibility became the sole focus of the decision, no one would sign up and their families wouldn’t let them go.

When you’re at the cemetery today, look for the American flags. Think of the people buried beneath them. And if you want to remember them after today, visit your local veterans memorial. To find them in South Dakota, go to vetaffairs.sd.gov.

Next month will be the halfway point in my 12 months of walks. Got an organization, event or cause you’d like me to highlight? Post a comment with your ideas and details.

Happy Memorial Day.

 

 

blog santa(Don’t be put off by the negative, gang – stick with it to the end, O.K.?)

On the first day of Christmas, I looked around to see: a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the second day of Christmas, I looked around to see: two massive earthquakes and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the third day of Christmas, I looked around to see: three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the fourth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the fifth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the sixth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the seventh day of Christmas, I looked around to see: seven crazy shooters, six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the eighth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: eight addicts using, seven crazy shooters, six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the ninth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: nine hackers hacking, eight addicts using, seven crazy shooters, six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the tenth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: ten terrorists bombing, nine hackers hacking, eight addicts using, seven crazy shooters, six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, I looked around to see: eleven crooked leaders, ten terrorists bombing, nine hackers hacking, eight addicts using, seven crazy shooters, six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: twelve sexual predators, eleven crooked leaders, ten terrorists bombing, nine hackers hacking, eight addicts using, seven crazy shooters, six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

It’s been hard to see past the negative in 2017. Which makes it even more important to look for the positive. What good things happened to you this year? Can you come up with a dozen, or half a dozen? Nothing coming to mind? How about this: the year is ending and you’re still here. Maybe better off than you were last Christmas, maybe worse but YOU’RE STILL HERE. It’s a positive place to start for 2018, isn’t it? Peace and hope to you and yours.

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And a new tradition begins…

I was never sure if the Christmas sweatshirts were meant as a joke or if my mom was just being festive. She had both a quirky sense of humor and a great love of the holidays so it could have gone either way.

Nearly 20 years ago, she bought herself, my sister and me Christmas sweatshirts on sale at Kmart. They’re exactly what you’re picturing: jaunty red, green and white sweatshirts with plaid appliques of Christmas ornaments or trees or presents. We wore them every Christmas morning through brunch and opening the presents and sometimes for the rest of the day if we didn’t have a need to change. She died 11 years ago this year but I still faithfully wear the sweatshirt every Christmas. Until this year.

This Thanksgiving, I’ll be sporting an ordinary gray t-shirt, plain except for a simple declaration across the chest: “Thankful for: REMISSION! 11/24/16”.  On Christmas Day, it’ll be joined by another declaration: “Blessings for…”.

Some people consciously search for something to be thankful for or someone to bless every day. I’m not one of those people. I’m thankful in the moment, seek blessings on the fly.  I’m not a prayerful person. I did eight years of Catholic school, went to Mass six days a week so I figured as an adult, maybe I was “prayed up” at least until my 50’s. But while my circumstances of the past three years haven’t made me a more religious person, I’ve become a more spiritual thinker.

So starting this year, my 50th on this crazy spinning sphere, each Thanksgiving and Christmas I’ll add a phrase to my new “holiday” shirt. Something I’m thankful for on Thanksgiving, someone I think needs an extra blessing for Christmas.

This year was a no-brainer for thankfulness but it won’t be so easy every year and I’m glad about that. Because it will challenge me to really look at how the year’s gone and give some serious thought about what I’m truly thankful for. And to look outside myself at the people and world around me, take clear note of the trials others are facing and ask the man upstairs to please give them a little help.

I’m interested to see how this project goes for the next 10 or 25 or 50 years. What will a 92-year-old Kelly be thankful for? Who will a 67-year-old me see struggling and in need of a hand?

And the fate of “Jolly Red, the Christmas Sweatshirt”? We’re not totally parting ways. I’m hanging it on my front door instead of a Christmas wreath this year so anyone stopping at our house or driving by will see it. If it makes you laugh or crack a smile, great. If it gives you an extra boost of holiday joy, awesome. I think that’s what my Mom intended all along.

Our mail gets delivered mid-morning, brought in and sorted at noon. Bills to the computer room, junk mail to the garbage and personal correspondence to the kitchen table where it waits, unopened, until after work. When I can relax and enjoy it like the special treat it is.  

I email and text, like everyone else. And I handwrite letters. Because cursive is a beautiful way to say what you want to say.

Whether it’s telling a secret…

slim letter 012316

sharing big news…

jay letter 012316

or just saying “You should be here!”

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The time we take to smooth down the paper, get the right pen, choose our words and physically form them on the page adds weight to our message and a personal touch to its delivery. In an age when a thought can be typed, sent, read and deleted in seconds, handwriting gives us the gift of a conversation that can be relived over and over again.

January 23, 2016 is National Handwriting Day.

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A tale of two houses at Christmas

The light and the dark side of the holidays

 

We’re not Grinches and they’re not the Griswolds. We’re just neighbors with vastly different electric bills for the month of December.

You’ve seen the viral video of the house festooned with thousands of Christmas lights, glowing reindeer grazing on the lawn, neon icicles dripping from the trees, all pulsing in time to Mannheim Steamroller’s “Carol of the Bells”. My neighbors live there. We live in the dark house next door.

When we moved into the neighborhood 20 years ago, we were all on the same level when it came to decking the halls. Icicle lights on the eaves, luminaries lining the walk, wreath on the front door. Every house was different but together we made a companionable display of holiday cheer.

Then about 2010 or so, giant snowflakes appeared on the front windows of the house to the north. In the years that followed, a herd of glistening deer gathered by the shrubs, a forest of spiral rope light trees sprang up in the front yard, and endless rows of twinkling lights crisscrossed the shingles and siding. Then a big electrical box with cords and cables snaking across the snow and finally, the electronic carolers.

As the neighbor’s house got brighter, the rest of the block went dim. It’s not like we couldn’t compete; the rest of us just didn’t try to. 

When their display went up Thanksgiving weekend, my husband asked what we were going to do this year.

“How ‘bout a sign that says Ditto with an arrow pointing to their house?” I asked.

He suggested that maybe they wouldn’t think that was as funny as I did. I figure if you’ve lived by me for 20 years and you’re still talking to me, you must have some sense of humor.

But since they’re not dicks about it – their timer shuts everything off about 11:00 p.m. which is good since our bedroom and guest room both face “Viva La Christmas” – I took the high road, too. Our front deck railing is now wrapped in white lights which cast a soft glow on the “Peace” sign perching on the little wooden bench.

Though the neighbors’ decorations shout and ours only whisper, our holiday spirit is no less heartfelt. After all, it’s Christmas…and it’s the thought that counts. And I’m thinking a little peace on earth is just what we all need this year.

 

Extraordinary stories of ordinary people

Extraordinary stories of ordinary people


“That’s Mary Ford,” I said, pointing to the faded image of the Army nurse on the man’s tee shirt.

He nodded.

“She was my sister. She’s in here, too,” he said, holding up a booklet.

“I know. I’m the one who put her in there.”

We shook hands and both started crying.

In September of 2006, South Dakota dedicated its Vietnam War Memorial with a three-day celebration. Today, the state observes its first “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day”, an official state holiday to honor those who served in Vietnam.

I was on the planning committee for the 2006 event, the third war memorial dedication in our state. I’d worked on the previous two as well, for the World War II Memorial in 2001 (literally days after 9/11) and the Korean War Memorial in 2004. My duties were to design, write and oversee the production of all the printed materials like invitations, signs, apparel, name badges, banners, concert tickets and so on. And the commemorative program booklet which for the Vietnam War Memorial Dedication included the pictures and stories of more than a dozen South Dakota veterans.

Thousands of veterans, along with friends and family members, submitted photos and stories for the dedication website and a book “The Vietnam War: South Dakota Remembers” that was published in conjunction with the event. I read and reviewed all of them.

I knew some of those people. Dennis Foell, Nick Roseland, Dale Christopherson, the Harford brothers (Warren, Jerry and Doug), Dale Bertsch, Francis Whitebird. Others I didn’t, like Mary Ford. But their memories and images were no less compelling or personal to me.

Some Vietnam veterans wouldn’t attend that weekend and given the reception they got when they first came home after the war, that’s to be expected. Sometimes a “Thank you and welcome home” 30 years later is too little, too late.

There are moments from that fall weekend in 2006 that I will always remember. The biker with the Vietnam Veteran patch who saw the “committee” designation on my shirt and asked if he could hug me. I said yes. The quiet man who handed me his “Find a Buddy” card to hang on the board and whose “buddy” turned out to be the older brother of one of my friends. A few quick phone calls later, they were reunited for the first time since shipping out together. And meeting Mary Ford’s brother who had brought his family to the dedication in her honor because she couldn’t attend herself. The smiling, compassionate woman who’d entered the service on Halloween 1967 and served two tours in Vietnam as an Army nurse died in 1998.

It’s March 30, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” in South Dakota. Who are you thanking today?

Today, It Takes All Kinds of Kinds

Why not every day, huh?