Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pinterest Printables Project - Winter Survival Kit

 
I love Pinterest! I knew I had pinned quite a few ideas - recipes, gift ideas, cute fonts, inspirational messages and so much more but had never given thought to how many ideas I had pinned until today - over 4000! That's crazy, I know, but the good thing is that I always know where to find them. And there are some that I have actually done!
 
Loved this cute gift idea from Corissa Nelson Art

 
I had some mason jars left over from a Elle's that I filled with these things: Curel moisturizer, lip balms, colorful tissues, cute emory boards (found at Pier I) and some peppermints. I used some scrap fabrics for the topper and some twine to tie the tags! Just a fun little "happy" to share with a friend!
 
I like being creative but creativity is really made easy when you find something cute like this that has already been created for you. Pinterest has LOTS of printables - gift tags, organizers, planners, labels, d├ęcor, etc. to make it easier for you! Check out my Pinterest board for "Printables" to find something you can use!
 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Blessed Beyond Measure

 
Let the celebration begin! TEN years ago today, I had either just completed or was very soon to start my bone marrow transplant for the treatment of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow. I can't remember the exact time but I remember that a small bag of frozen stem cells were brought into my room, thawed and hung like an IV and, in approximately 45 minutes, it was empty and transplant done!! While there was a sense of relief, it was quite an uneventful day! Of course, the worst was yet to come. The details that followed are not important. What IS important is the love and support of people who were with us (and I do mean us!) through this most difficult time!
 
I have been asked repeatedly, "how did you do it?" My reply, "how could I not do it?" First of all I had a strong FAITH, the most supportive FAMILY and the best FRIENDS in the world! There is no way in the world to have made it to this milestone without these 3 things!
 
First of all, thanks be to the Lord for his grace and mercy - for giving me the chance to continue living my life. I held tightly to Jeremiah 29:11, shared with me by my sweet friend, Gina Paulette. One of the first things that Dr. Foran, at UAB told me was "Live your Life". I had just been told I had cancer and their was no cure - these were very encouraging words!
 



 
 
To my husband, Barry, thanks for being my rock! Thanks for being there for me every day that I was a UAB - while managing to work as well - and for being there for the girls at night! AND thanks for every word of encouragement before and since. It is the little things that get to him - but on this big thing, he never wavered!
 
To my daughters, Elle and Annie, thanks for going with the flow! You have no idea how much you inspired me every day. I loved those sweet words from Elle on the phone and hearing Annie's sweet laugh. This Mama had to get well to watch these two beautiful, sweet girls grow up! The sweet Care Bear that Elle gave me when I went to the hospital still sits on my nightstand and I am reminded daily of the sweet encouragement of a 2 year old and how much that impacted my recovery!
 
To my parents, Robert and Nell McLendon.... there are no words to describe the impact they made on this recovery. For 7 weeks straight, my sweet Mama stayed at my house - cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of the girls and so much more! During this time, we lost my dear Uncle Clinton but my Mama stayed in Tuscaloosa for me. My Daddy was back and forth, taking care of home and helping us out in Tuscaloosa. If there is one thing that I learned from my Daddy, it's dealing with what life gives you and doing it to the best of your ability. My Daddy's legacy will always be a part of my life. Oh, how I miss him saying that "everything will be alright."
 
To my Allen family......thanks to my mother and father in law, Keith and Sue Allen, Barry's aunt, Deborah Turner, Barry's sister, Suzanne Camp, and her family - thanks for always being wherever needed. Your love and support means more to me than you will every know.
 
To our Sunday School Class at Circlewood Baptist Church and our church family at Circlewood....Wow! I couldn't begin to list the things you all did for us. Just know that every quarter for the parking garage, every meal, every prayer, every Christmas carol, every EVERYTHING will always be near to our heart! What a most encouraging "Circle of Friends"!
 
To our precious friends, Jane and Jerry Eure, who are like another set of parents to us......thank YOU for everything you did. We could always count on you!!
 
To my Class of 1978 of Pike Liberal Arts.... the medical spending account you all created was always there when we needed it most! How amazing, after 26 years, you all came together to support my family in this way. If that's not encouragement, what is? There is a lot to be said for a small school with a graduating class of 36. Wouldn't trade it for anything in the world!
 
To my fellow DCH Employees.......Administration, Therapy Departments, Organizational Development and Education and others - the food, the cards, the flowers, the prayers, the PTO (PAID TIME OFF) and more will never be forgotten! Yes, friends at DCH shared enough of their personal leave for me to get paid for nearly 4 months when I had no PTO left. Absolutely amazing! I begged Human Resources to tell me who donated so that I could write thank you notes but they would not! SO...if you are reading this, please KNOW how very much I love you for doing this for me and helping to save my family from financial crisis! DCH will always have a special place in my heart and this is one big reason! A wealth of encouragement came from DCH!
 
To my Alpha Gamma Delta alumnae sisters..... the collegiate sorority experience is awesome but it is nothing compared to the love and support that I received from our local Tuscaloosa alumnae group. I will never forget coming home one day and our sitter saying to me "Girl, we almost didn't get all that stuff in your freezer" to which I replied "what stuff?" My Alpha Gam sisters had packed my deep freezer FULL of meals that we could just take out and heat! This is not all they did for us and I could never thank them enough. More encouragement!!
 
To my childhood friends and the best friends anyone could ever ask for.....I will never forget seeing the faces of my dear friends, Pam Lawson Thompson and Tami Caldwell Meeks in my hospital room not long after I received that dreaded diagnosis. They continue to inspire and encourage me to this day. To the entire Lawson family, whom I have written about before.... there are no better friends!! Your love and encouragement meant the world to me! To Hank and Maria Strother, thank you for your support from the bottom of my heart!
 
To my precious friend, Kim Marsh.....Kim organized meals to be delivered to my home every other night for 3-4 months. She organized  house cleaning, monetary donations, and a fabulous welcome home celebration as well. All because she cared! Most importantly, she was a communication line for prayer requests and updates. We didn't really do Facebook, Caring Bridge, Take Them a Meal that we all use now. She did it the good old fashioned way - phone calls - all while taking care of her own family and her physical therapy private practice. What an amazing, encouraging friend!
 
To my college friend, Phyllis McCaleb Brasfield...... the love and encouragement of you and your family was amazing. Thanks for taking me to lunch, sewing classes and helping me to "live my life"!
 
To every person that prepared a meal, sent a gift card.....you can never understand how much that support means until you have experienced it. It was so helpful to not have to worry about meals. I wish I could name each and every one of you but I would for sure miss someone. Please know that everything was much appreciated and encouraged our family!
 
To the MANY prayer warriors...... I lived for the mail to come every day... every single card, prayer gram, prayer list, gift, pink basket, CD, cute hat, etc. that was sent to me meant something - every word encouraged me!! I still have every card! I can't say enough about your love and support!
 
To the medical staff who diagnosed my cancer and took care of me through this process..... All I can say is "So thankful for you!" When Dr. David Hinton gave me my diagnosis in December of 2003, I told him he must be in the wrong room - that I had a 2 year old and a 7 month old with a trach at home and it couldn't be me. He said to me, "There is so much hope in your situation with all that is going on in multiple myeloma research right now". I took that as encouragement and thus the journey began. I can't begin to describe how thankful I am for Dr. Hinton and the incredibly caring staff of the DCH Cancer Center (now the Manderson Cancer Center) and for the UAB Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, especially Dr. James Foran, Dr. Donna Salzman and Dr. William Vaughn who provide outstanding medical care which led to a successful transplant.
 
If you have made it this far (there was no way to make this short!), I hope that you have seen just how much people living with cancer NEED your love and support. When I say "I couldn't have done it without you" I mean it! Whether you were mentioned by name in this blog or not, if you did anything - say a prayer, donate money, send a card, provide food, send a gift, encourage me or anyone in my family or anything else - know that you were a key to my success. Again, I am thankful to the Lord God Almighty for giving me new life on this day in 2005 and to you ALL for being the hands and feet of Christ!
 
 I am Blessed Beyond Measure!
Love and Blessings to you ALL!
Carla
 
In Remembrance......
 
On the day that I was diagnosed, our family met a sweet new friend, Debra Lightsey. Debra had previously had a bone marrow transplant and she was my "guiding light" - Her words of encouragement to Barry and to me were a huge inspiration to us in the early days of my journey. Unfortunately, Debra's course required a second transplant and she was later called home to be with the Lord. What a life well lived! Loved this sweet lady!
 
Some years after my transplant, I found out that one of my childhood friends and fellow P.L.A.S. classmates, Jim Drinkard, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. No one has ever fought a braver fight with such a disease and inspired so many people in the process! After a three year battle and multiple transplants, Jim was also called home to be with the Lord as well. I had no words to explain this! 
 
There are others that I have met who encouraged me and whom I have encouraged that have not survived this disease. I can't describe the feeling that I have in knowing that I survived when others did not. While my heart is exploding with JOY on this 10th year, it still hurts for these precious families! Blessings to the families of these dear friends!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Growing Spiritually in 2015

 
 
When I was a child, I remember watching a television show or movie about the "future" -  it was set in 2000 and that seemed SO far away.
 
 Now it's 2015! Unbelievable! Thankful! Exciting! New Beginnings!
 
Sometime last year, I ran across this article in the Tuscaloosa News and I clipped it for 2014 - as an inspiration for the new year ahead! Reading it now, I think I need to try again!
 
Great advice provided by Bryan Nash, minister at King Street Church of Christ in Beaufort, S.C.:
 
  • Not only should you read from the Holy Bible daily, you should be part of a Bible study for enrichment. 
  • You should learn how to communicate with God, knowing what to ask for and the process by which this should be done.
  • Taking time for worship - singing, praying and learning from God's word can set the pace for a well lived life.
  • Spend time in quiet meditation to help set the course for the day.
  • Spend time with others whose faith you share. This brings out goodness and love for each other. You should get strength and encouragement for living a good life.
  • Perform acts of kindness towards others. The willingness to help in situations of need shows the beauty of love for others.
Columnist Ervena Faulkner - The Island Packet - Hilton Head, S.C.
 
May this be your best year ever! Blessings to all in 2015!


 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Where was Instagram?

In Memory of
Willie Mae Pritchett Lawson
March 25, 1937 - November 19, 2014
 
When this precious lady and dear friend passed away in November, my heart was flooded with sweet memories of growing up as her neighbor in Brundidge. The Lawson's lived two doors up the street from my us. She often recalled the time we first met when Pam said, "Mama, that little red haired girl is coming over here". She will always be "Miss Willie Mae" to me - though she went by Mae or "Mae Mae" later in her life.  I wanted so badly to find photos that captured the spirit of this sweet lady and our awesome neighborhood but the truth is that we made relatively few pictures back then. Not to spark a debate over the use of social media, I'm just saying that one thing right about it is the documentation of precious memories. My teenage daughter documents everything in photos and she can always go back to those moments through pictures.
 
If we had Instagram  "back then", I am sure there would have been photos of the countless trips to the "store" (Piggly Wiggly, Dime Store, Dykes Drugs, etc.) that "Miss Willie Mae" took us on! I am sure there would be pics of our "toys" or "coke floats" or whatever she got for us - in the same way Elle takes photos on every trip to Starbucks.
 
If we had Instagram "back then", I am sure we would have countless pics of the many spend the night parties at the Lawson home. Their home was like my second home - always very welcoming.
 
If we had Instagram "back then", we would have no doubt made pictures when sweet Pennie was born of Pam and I getting to hold her. "Miss Willie Mae" told us we could hold her when she woke up. Not sure if we ever told her that we shook the bassinet a little to get her to wake up! She was true to her word and let us hold her.
 
If we had Instagram "back then", we would have had pics from the "6th Grade Graduation Swim Party" that my parents, the Lawsons and hosted for us at the Country Club. It even made the newspaper - The Brundidge Banner! Everything made the Brundidge Banner!
 
If we had Instagram "back then", I'm sure their would be photos from the many trips to P.L.A.S. to football games, band camp, 21 Club, play practice, etc. - you know, the kind everybody takes now driving in the car.
 
If we had Instagram "back then", I am sure that Greg, Rita and I would have taken a photo of the pot of peas we cooked with "Miss Willie Mae's" help. She was the "stay at home Mom" in the neighborhood and we would go to her for everything when our Moms were at work. One time, Rue (Greg and Rita's Mom) had asked the housekeeper to cook a pot of peas to have ready when she got home from work. The housekeeper didn't show so we took it on ourselves to call "Miss Willie Mae" for help. They turned out great! She was always just a phone call away.
 
If we had Instagram and I Phones "back then", my phone would surely have run out of memory! We had some good times in our little neighborhood and, for me, so many of them involved the Lawson girls, who were really like sisters to me. You could always count on my Mother and "Miss Willie Mae" to confer and see that our "stories" were straight! She was always kind, encouraging, warm, loving, giving, an example for all to follow!
 
At her funeral, her grandson Hunter recalled that their were 3 things he learned from her 1) Family first, 2) Keep traditions and 3)A pack of Lance Crackers and a Coke were always good for a meal! He talked about her strong faith - that was no surprise because of the way she lived her life.
 
The pastor told a story about a time when she was at an arts festival that  little boy was going from person to person, asking for money. Not until he asked "Miss Willie Mae" did anyone give him money. When they were leaving she saw him buying food. As the pastor related the story, he said that her philosophy was always that she would rather know that someone took advantage of her than to know that someone needed her help and she didn't help them. Yes, that's the precious lady I knew!
 
As we grew up and lived in different towns, I have always felt as close to this family as I ever was. Time did not change our relationship at all. I am so glad that this little red haired girl walked through "the weeds" (that's what we called the empty lot between our houses that was there when we first met) to play with the Lawson girls. We didn't see each other that often, but just like when we were growing up, I always knew she was there! We will miss her terribly and my heart goes out to Pam, Patti, Pennie and all of her wonderful family. I know that she has a special place in heaven right there with Mr. Charlie. See Pop's Legacy .These two left a special legacy that will be lived out in the lives of their precious daughters. To know this family is to love them and I love them very much!
 
 
 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top Ten Things To Know About a Child with Special Needs

11 years with Annie!

Today, I had the opportunity to speak to Early Intervention parents and professionals about "Having That First Conversation with Families" - families of children with special needs. Having been on both sides of the fence - a parent and a professional - I offered my perspective. In preparation for my presentation, I read about a training for a disability ministry in which the ministerial student approached the presenter and here is what he said, "I feel better prepared to talk to parents of children whose child has died than to talk to parents of a child with a disability. I simply have no idea how to have that first conversation." Wow! What a statement!
 
I have used this "Top Ten" list for several presentations to different groups so I thought I would share it here in hopes that it will give you the parent perspective of having a child with special needs.
 
Name on her bed at Children's Hospital of Alabama

 

1) A child with special needs has a name!..... Our daughter is officially Ann Olivia but to us she is "Annie". I shared the story in which Heather, our first NICU nurse at Children's Hospital, made this name tag for her bedside. I was so touched that it read "Annie" and not Ann or Ann Olivia or Baby Allen. It was a very personal approach to her care that we remember to this day! It means so much to us when people take the time to know her as "Annie" and not just the official name on her files.
Our tired artist at the Sprayberry Art Show
 
 
2) A child with special needs is busy!....Annie is not as "busy" as she used to be, thankfully! I am referring to the many doctor visits, therapy visits, case managers, early interventionists and more. It can be quite overwhelming at times.
 
Easter 2013
 
3) A child with special needs has a family with special needs!....I read the blogs of some parents of children with special needs and the found the following things to be pretty common in all of them - parents may be tired, scared, jealous, lonely/left out, stressed out, needing a break! We experience highs and lows. We are sometimes good at hiding things and sometimes not. We are stronger than you think and not as strong as you think. Of course, we don't experience all of these things all the time. The same goes for the rest of the family as well - like siblings. At the same time, we all experience joy!
One of my favorites of these sweet sisters!
 
4) A child with special needs also needs attention - just like other children.... It warms our hearts for people to talk to Annie, even though she can't talk back. At the same time, it is important that the child with special needs doesn't get all the attention. Elle is equally as important in our family!
5) A child with special needs is expensive....financial needs can be a "special need" all it's own. Thankfully, there are resources available to assist families in this area.
 
Papa and Granny
Nannie, Granddaddy, Madeline and Margaret
 
6) A child with special needs has resources.....in Early Intervention, listing a families resources is an important part of the Individual Family Service Plan. We have been fortunate to have great resources for Annie.
7) A child with special needs is a challenge..... what child isn't? I recently read about a conversation between a dad and daughter. The daughter was about to have her first child - she said to her Dad, "Dad, I think we're ready" to which he replied "No, you're not". Is anybody ever really ready? We take one day at a time, always learning along the way.
 
Friends and Family at Annie's 5th Birthday
 
8) A child with special needs takes a village..... Is it more than WE can handle? Sure, it is! That's why our "village" is so important. We handle it, first of all, because we have a great faith! God has placed some pretty special people in our life - grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, teachers, para educators, doctors, nurses, principals, therapists, early intervention staff, friends, church members and more! So thankful for EVERYONE who has played a part in Annie's life movie so far!
 
Sprayberry Night at Alabama Baseball 2013
 
9) A child with special needs can be happy.....if only the rest of the world would take a cue from Annie or my precious cousin, Wendell, who has cerebral palsy! Two of the happiest people I know!
 
Taking a stroll at Sprayberry!
 
10) A child with special needs is a blessing....we just can't imagine Annie any other way. Do we wish she could walk and talk like other children? Of course, we do! But we love her for who she is - she's feisty, determined, funny, strong, and very active. We are so proud of all that she has accomplished and so thankful to everyone on her team!
 
 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Best Chicken Salad EVER

 
 
When my friend, Kay Fields, posted this recipe on her Facebook page, I couldn't wait to try it! In fact, I didn't - not yet anyway - I know it's good!
Best chicken salad EVER is how she describes it!
 
Here is the recipe for Kay's Chicken Salad in her words: 1) I boil ONLY white large chicken breasts and using scissors trim off all fat and gristle, if any, and boil slowly so all that AWESOME FLAVOR gets in, for several hours (Yes, I Do This). 2) after chicken just falls apart, set aside to cool a bit, 3) Drain liquid off and use hands to toss and the chicken just shreds up so nicely, 4)Add all these ingredients as much or little as I want to (I never measure): Kraft Mayo, Pecans (I cut them up myself - don't like them chopped), Green or Purple Seedless Grapes (I slice in half), Dill Pickle Chips (I cut these up as I see fit as well) and then 5) I pour some of the dill pickle juice over mixture to moisten if it's a little dry. I may or may not add more Mayo. That's it and I serve anyway I want - on regular bread, white or wheat, croissants, alone or with assorted crackers! YUMMY!!!!!! Then we eat it all up! If I ever have left overs  - of course, cover and put back in fridge. Next day, I usually add either Mayo or pickle juice again because it may be a little bit dry. That's all!
 
 
Thanks, Kay, for sharing your recipe! If anyone else has fabulous recipes to share, send them to me with a photo and I would love to feature on this blog!
 
 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What's for Supper?

I have no idea! That is my usual response to the question "What's for Supper?" that I hear frequently. Unless I have done any amount of planning, I really don't know. It's not that there is not food in the freezer, it's just that I don't always plan ahead to have something thawed or ready to cook after work. Planning is the key! So...... I created this list to help me be prepared for the question next time!
 
 
 
I have to admit that I created this "list" a while back and I haven't really used it yet, but today's the day! Maybe you can use it, too! Use the link above to print your own copy. Maybe, when I get my own copy filled in, I can share some new recipes! Don't be surprised to see Chick Fil A, Walton's and others on still on my list, just hopefully not every night.... On my way to plan this week's dinner!