‘Tis the Season

Normally, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is spent decorating my parents’ home for Christmas. I’ve had the pleasure of doing this for the past 13 years, since my mother’s disability prevents her from doing it herself. I say pleasure lightly. Her old artifical tree (a massive, unlit 7.5″ limb-by-limb construction) used to push me to cursing. There was nothing joyous about unboxing that beast. Three years ago, we gifted that tree to a friend — hey, she knew I loathed it but decided to take it anyway — and I purchased a 6.5′ prelit tree. I can’t say that I regret getting rid of the giant, mean tree… but I also can’t say I’m pleased with the new one. Although prelit trees come in three sections, and are so much easier to assemble, this particular one is not as full. Okay, it isn’t full at all. So I have to fill it with one million ornaments, three dozen candy canes, and an undisclosed number of red bows. It tries my patience to decorate, but it is a gorgeous tree when I’m finished. This year, I decorated for my parents and myself today. It’s a week later… but you’ll soon see why I couldn’t do it all after Thanksgiving.

Mom likes the feel of a traditional (or old-timey, as she would say) Christmas tree. Her tree is topped with an angel that she purchased from a general store just outside Asheville, NC. I found artificial popcorn strands and wooden cranberry strands for garland. The ornaments are primarily hand-painted, wooden ones… although there are some paper, salt dough, and glass ones. The candy canes are edible, and the red bows were hand-tied by my mom, grandma, and myself a loooooong time ago. ๐Ÿ™‚

Remember the skinny trees, popular circa 2006. I think that was the only year they seemed to be used. Well, I still use mine. haha It works well in my apartment. It’s 6′ tall, and prelit with white lights. It has been the only tree that I’ve used for years, so typically there are more ornaments on it. Most of the ornaments that I have were gifted to me. I love to collect ornaments for any occasion! This year, I decided to use a blue ribbon as garland, and only placed a limited amount of ornaments on the tree. I also added small pine cone ornaments. I topped the tree with a Moravian beeswax candle that I received at last year’s Lovefeast. Weird, I know… but I needed a topper since I had plans for the star that usually adorns this tree.

I have wanted a white tree for a couple of years now. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a full-size tree yet, so I found this 3.5′ prelit for $17. I did a terrible job of fluffing it because I put it up so quickly. I took some of the ornaments off of my skinny tree (all of the polymer ones) and used them on this one. I also used red ribbon and topped the tree with a tiny Santa hat. The tree was still missing a little something, so I purchased the green bows at Dollar Tree. This tree makes my office at the hospital perfectly festive, and quite the talk of the hall. ๐Ÿ™‚

When I went to buy my white tree, I fell in love with this beautiful blue one too. Made of a aqua colored tinsel, it is 3.5′ prelit with blue lights. I knew immediately that I wanted it to be my beach tree. I normally use the starfish and hang my beach ornaments on my main tree (the skinny one) but I love the beach so much, I decided these things deserved their own spotlight. I had the beaded garland from a few years ago, and felt like the white “pearls” and gold “sand” were a great addition to the tree. Since I don’t have enough beach ornaments to fill the tree, I took some shells from my collection and displayed them on a few branches. I finished the tree off by using a beach towel as a tree skirt.

As I was taking Christmas decorations out of storage, I found a tree underneath some boxes. To my surprise, it was the old tabletop tree that my grandma had given me years ago. It is such a full, pretty tree that I knew I had to use it too. My goal was to decorate it for little-to-no cost. The tree isn’t prelit, and I didn’t have any lights in my decorations stash, so I knew I could use the tree anywhere. I first considered putting the tree outside and decorating it with food for birds. (Pine cones with peanut butter and birdseed, dried fruit, popcorn…) However, I didn’t want the tree to be damaged, and I knew other animals would be attracted to it too. That’s when it hit me โ€“ I would use the tree in my kitchen, and decorate it with cookie cutters! So I did. I had gingham ribbon that I tied at the top of the tree. Then I used snowflakes (that were also purchased at Dollar Tree), measuring spoons, and “brown bag” ornaments from Second Harvest Food Bank to help fill out the tree. I used a colorful kitchen towel as a table skirt.

And with that, my Christmas decorations are complete. haha And a friend has already called me the ‘Crazy Christmas Lady’. I guess that title isn’t too far fetched. ๐Ÿ™‚ Now I should probably focus on buying presents. I have all of these trees and nothing to go under them!!!

Mission Statement

It seems as though I have had some struggles lately… pondering my life’s purpose. I was on a mission to determine how I could make the most of my years and figure out just why God has lead me down the path that He has.

I woke up one day – figuratively – when I realized that graphic design wasn’t satisfying my desire to help people. My solution was a job in the medical field. Certainly that service-oriented career would appease me. After going back to school and receiving certifications in Medical Office Administration, Medical Billing & Coding, and Nurse Aide, I quickly realized how badly I missed the creative release found in my previous art positions. Still trying to find my niche, but forgetting often to pray for guidance, I spent the course of 5+ years becoming more involved in community groups and national nonprofits.

Each year I donated more and more of myself, from designs to cash to time. I spent hours folding tshirts, selling ads, and raising money. I fell in love with the idea of turning this new-found hobby into a career, and started to apply for area organizations. With my marketing experience and my years of volunteering, I was called in for some interviews but all-in-all was unable to secure a position. This made me start to question my involvement… was I donating myself for the right reasons? …were the nonprofits I helped close to my heart? …did the money I raised or donated truly go towards the purpose I had intended?

After establishing my freelance business, I felt like I should start focusing more on faith-based or small local organizations, especially start up nonprofits. I was disappointed with the way larger nonprofits lost their focus and were filled with too much drama. I wanted to help on a smaller scale, in hopes of making a larger impact.

Jump ahead a few months. After making a VERY difficult decision to walk away from my most comfortable nonprofit (and the group of folks who I felt had become an extension of my family) I began praying that I would be introduced to whatever it was that was meant for me to serve God the best. I knew only He could provide me with the organization that would pull all of my strengths and fulfill my passion to help others. I was tired of trying to make things work on my own. I was bored with the limitations. I was annoyed with the drama. I was ready for a change. I was ready to make a significant difference!

Today I received a phone call from a friend. A friend, whom I have actually never met… and was only introduced to six short months ago. He (JW) was calling on behalf of his sister Ginny, whom I have also never met and have known for even a shorter amount of time. It’s one of those cases where I feel like I’ve known them longer than I have, and I just never stop to question it.

Ginny lives in Haiti. She is an RN from Ohio who has put a halt on a comfortable life here in the States to serve in a third-world countryย  devastated by earthquakes in Jan 2010 โ€“ the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Ginny spent most of her time in Haiti working as a Missionary Nurse for a nonprofit based out of the midwest USA. During that time, she was introduced to and later granted guardianship of her daughter, Odessa. The first time I heard her story, I actually was a bit jealous. A nurse, living on an island, helping people – AND the adoptive mom of one of the cutest kids I’ve ever seen. I joked that she was living the life that I thought would best fit mine!

However, the more I learned by reading her blog, the more I realized how strong Ginny is and how weak & unprepared I am to take on such roles. My biggest set back was that I never finished nursing school due to financial reasons. I didn’t feel that I had anything to contribute, even for a short-term mission. However, I couldn’t help but feel like she and I had been introduced for a reason.

The phone call today was brief, but covered a lot and can probably be considered life changing. Ginny has decided to start her own mission in Haiti. She wants to offer microloans and vocational training to Haitians as a way to build their trade skills and boost the economy. Initially I was asked to design the logo and assist with social media marketing. Before I could jump at the chance to scream YES! the conversation went a little further. I couldn’t believe what JW was asking. He said that Ginny wanted me to sit on the mission’s Board of Directors, if I would be interested. He said that if I agreed, Ginny encouraged me to start planning a trip to Haiti within the next year and explained that her mission would be built around the principal that everyone has something to contribute to the country. Having lived in Haiti for the past 3 years, Ginny has seen first hand the need for more than just medical and construction missionaries. In this 10 minute phone call, everything practically fell into place. God not only puts people in your life for a reason, but He uses them to answer our prayers.

I am so excited to see where this adventure takes us all. I hope that it will provide a chance for me to meet these friends, to gain new friends, to travel, to advocate, to help make a difference in Haiti, and most importantly to serve God!

Our first step is to actually name the mission, and establish the board members so that we can request nonprofit status and a 501c3. I’m sure I will be posting regular updates as this thing unfolds. Please keep Ginny & Odessa in your prayers, as she is the heart of this mission & the only one on the board living in Haiti, and pray for our mission.

Spotlight: Tweetheart TV

To paraphrase Wikipedia; creativity is the phenomenon where a person brings about something new, and that new thing holds a significant value.

My friend, Stephanie Wonderlin, has done just that!

On January 4, 2011, Stephanie Wonderlin, creator and host, unveiled cutting-edge creativity when she launched the first interactive social media show on her channel, Tweetheart TV. What once provided social media information in the form of exceptional, well-edited videos, Tweetheart TV has broken the creative barrier to now offer its viewers the choice of which segment they would like to watch! At the end of each segment, the viewer can choose to return to the main menu to choose another available segment. Episodes of Tweetheart TV promise to be packed with social media tools, interesting sites and gear, social media tips and tricks, and a little bit about the host, herself. Since this unique style of show is brand new to the industry, it can currently only be viewed on a computer and not on a mobile device. I feel certain it is only a matter of time before the creatives at Tweetheart TV resolve this minor exception.

Take a moment to enjoy this NEW interactive show below. If you enjoy it, please share my blog with others… and don’t forget to subscribe to Tweetheart TV!

Stephanie is a significant voice in the social media world. She is a great mentor with a wealth of knowledge and fabulous personality. If you aren’t already, consider following Stephanie on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.ย  Stephanie also works as Director of Social Media for Digital Street, and was chosen as one of only twenty women bloggers to participate in the Nike Make Yourself Movement.