Holiday Cheer Day 5:Selfless

IMG_3242 (1)Our nominee for day five is Karin. Karin has recently become the primary caregiver for her mother who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She has selflessly opened up her home to both her mother and father while her mother battles this disease.

Despite what Karin is going through on a personal level, she always remains positive and upbeat. If you didn’t know about her personal life and were just meeting her, you would never know what she was going through. She never complains and is always ready to listen to others and help where she can.

Karin, also opens up her home to other members of her family as they need it. This past summer her niece was living with her. It is just second nature to Karin to help others when they are in need.

Our Holiday Cheer Elves were able to get her a little de-stress gift basket with relaxing lotions, beauty supplies, candles, a spa gift card, wine and a homemade scarf. We hope that she can take a little time to herself and know that she is an everyday hero.

Sincerely.

Michelle and the Holiday Cheer Elves

Day 4: Holiday Blessings

Day 4: Holiday Blessings

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Today is the first day I cried tears of joy for what you were all able to accomplish. A single father of two, who coaches multiple sports and works multiple jobs to make ends meet was our recipient.

2015-12-04_2231

I will never forget the first time I met Rick. Our sons happened to be in the same class together. I was attending Back to School Night and as we were walking out of the classroom his son held the door open for me and waited for me to exit the classroom. I was in awe of the eight-year-old gentleman that held the door open for me. It was Rick’s son. When I complimented Rick on his son he was incredibly humble.

Being a dad is what makes Rick the most proud and he puts everything he has into being a good father and provider for his family. His kids are truly an example of what a great father he is. They are hard workers, dedicated athletes, and bright scholars.

This past year has been a bit tougher and two of his friends wanted to help ease the stress for him. They were able to do that tonight when they delivered our goodies; donations you helped provide. When I talked to one of them after the delivery tonight and heard how touched Rick was I teared up. Knowing that our gift made such a big difference for someone and will make their holiday easier is such a blessing.

Rick, you are a man of value. Everything you do, you do with the best intentions and honor. We wish you and your family a very, happy holiday.

Peace and Love,

Michelle and the Holiday Cheer Elves

Holiday Cheer Day 3:Best Friends to Infinity and Beyond

Holiday Cheer Day 3:Best Friends to Infinity and Beyond

IMG_3250Do you remember the day you met your best friend? Which friend of yours has been through your life the whole way through? Now could you imagine that after only knowing them for a few short years you would have to go through losing them. Now take even another moment to think about what it would be like to bear that loss at 6 years old.

Our recipient for day 3 doesn’t have to think about that she lives it. Jaeda lost her BFF when she was 6 years old. For the last two years she has had to learn what life is like here while her BFF is in heaven.

Her mom. Amy, has shared her thoughts via FB and I thought I would share them here as well:

Jaeda“We love and miss her so much. Lately Jaeda has been noticing that the songs they used to dance to are now old songs. She wonders if they’d still be having dance parties to the new songs. Jaeda will forever miss this friendship, a young friendship that taught them how to be a friend.”

 

jlk & Jaeda“One of my favorite pictures of these sweet girls! …These girls had so many first things together. First sleep over, first concerts (gilroy gardens concerts were so fun with these dancers), first time riding in cars together, sharing clothes, sharing exciting news (Jaeda told Jennifer on the phone when she found out about Ava ), swimming together, learning how to bribe moms for dinner dates and the talent of a princess show! This year without her friendship, her spunk and sparkle has been so very hard. I’m thankful for all the time we shared with this amazing princess…but so very angry that she is forever 6.”

jaeda unravelJaeda is one of the most mature and well mannered young ladies I have ever met. Whether she is Fluttering or manning a bake sale, she is incredibly involved with raising awareness and funds for Unravel, an organization that raising money for pediatric cancer research and treatment. She is committed to putting an end to the disease that robbed her of her best friend. Beyond her passion to put an end to pediatric cancer, Jaeda has been recognized both at church and school for her character.

IMG_3252Delivering Jaeda’s gift was such a wonderful experience. She was so excited. The homemade pillowcases she loved because she loves pillowcases and has one from a recent sleepover where all her friends signed it, which she excitedly showed me.

She was excited about the Descendants DVD, but flipped out when she saw the Justice and Claire’s gift cards. She couldn’t believe we guessed her favorite stores.

jlk & jaeda 2At 8, Jaeda is poised, polite, and carries a compassion that is greater than people four times her age. Thank you all for making this sweet girl’s day a little brighter and helping to let her know we are all supporting her.

Peace and love,

Michelle and the Holiday Cheer Elves

 

Day 2 of 2015: She is love

Day 2 of 2015: She is love

IMG_3232Today’s recipient was Miss Karen, or at least that is how many in our community know her. Miss Karen is a local preschool teacher and retired fire fighter. She is a mother, friend, wife, sister and beloved daughter.

karen

Karen loves her students and treats each of them as if they were her own child. She is a treasured friend. I hardly ever see her without a friend by her side and if you know her, you know why. She has the most beautiful light that shines right out of her soul. She is always smiling, always optimistic and puts others first.

Karen recently dropped everything and stepped outside of her life for 8 weeks to care for her mother. Unfortunately those weeks ended with the loss of her mother.

What amazes me about Karen is that even though she is coping and learning to live with loss she still maintains her optimistic outlook. She is still radiating with a warm and glowing light that draws you right in.

beautiful people

Thank you, Miss Karen for just being you and bringing light and goodness into the world. All those that know you or have come into contact with you leave changed for the better.

Bless you this holiday season,

Michelle and the Holiday Cheer Elves

Look at this cool box of goodness filled with lots of beautifying gifts…

An artistic start to Holiday Cheer 2015

An artistic start to Holiday Cheer 2015

Noelle is anything but ordinary. At just 13 years old, Noelle is an accomplished singer and a budding artist. But that is not all, she is wise and humble for her age as well as exceptionally bright and well rounded. Her gracious heart and shy smile make her an easy person to get to know. You immediately feel at ease around her. She is involved in the community and participates in several charitable causes. Her father is a fire fighter and their family is deeply involved in the community and giving back is just a way of life for her.

But what strikes me the most about Noelle is the tenacity with which she chases her dreams. It is palpable. Her drive and success gives hope to others who are pursuing their dreams as well.

Unfortunately, tragedy is no stranger to Noelle and her family. Her sister was in a fatal car accident earlier this year. But, Noelle’s maturity guides her through her darkest days and somehow she continues to spread light and hope to others through her music and art.

On November 1st, her mother shared a Día de los Muertos free hand drawing that Noelle drew in honor of her sister.

Noelle's freehand

It touched me so deeply that it was in that moment I knew that our Holiday Cheer needed to reach her in the same way that she was reaching out to others through her art.

Noelle’s artistic ability is also demonstrated through her vocals in the local band, Head Strong, which has performances throughout the community. (Click here to read more about her band). Noelle is even performing at the Tree Lighting Ceremony in downtown Gilroy this Saturday, December 5th. She will be on the main stage at 6:30.

santa gilroyIf you can’t make it to see her live she does have a You Tube Channel that you can subscribe to. This is a recent video she recorded:

It was such an honor and treat to get to meet with her and her parents earlier this evening to deliver the very first gift of 2015’s Holiday Cheer. Noelle was humble and poised as I gushed about her amazing attributes and ability to spread hope despite what she is going through at her young age.

Our group put together a basket of art supplies, a gift card to purchase more art supplies, the letter N in lights because her name should always be in lights, and a few little beauty items.

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It was a small token to just let her know she is making her mark in the world and her imprint is vast. She is touching so many lives with her beautiful soul.

Thank you Holiday Cheer Elves for your donations and your contribution to making a little something special for sweet, Noelle.

Sincerely,

Michelle & A Circle of People Who Care (otherwise known as the Holiday Cheer Elves)

 

 

Let’s get this party started – Holiday Cheer 2015 Y’all!

Let’s get this party started – Holiday Cheer 2015 Y’all!

So, I was starting to think I wasn’t going to be able to pull off Holiday Cheer this year and I was worried because I kept getting so many messages and little reminders from people who let me know we needed to do.

For one I got this text message I shared on FB a while back.

we make a difference

This was also shared on my wall not that long ago and this is from our Holiday Cheer 2 years ago.

We can do Hard Things

I have also become friends with a nominee from 2 years ago and our We Can Do Hard Things sign hangs on her playroom wall.

So I knew that somehow I had to keep this going but how and what would our theme be that could apply to anyone?

Thank goodness for amazing and brilliant friends. Alyssa Wagner, whom many of you readers know, is the best ever and she sent me the brilliant idea of collecting donations and gift baskets from small business owners and then conducting a silent auction and using the $$$$ to buy the holiday cheer gifts! Alyssa, I adore you – this is exactly how we will fund Holiday Cheer this year!

Thank you!

So if you are a small business owner, or you have something that you make or sell and you would be willing to donate let me know. You can email me at mlmurnin@yahoo.com and let me know what you would like to give. I will donate an individual reading and a group reading package! We can do this – together we can do this and pull this off.

Now remember Holiday Cheer is about letting those people in our lives know we think they are amazing. In the past we have sent gifts to single moms, young kids fighting huge challenges, special education teachers, and those that were struggling with life circumstances and doing it with a positive attitude just to name a few examples. It can really be anyone as long as you have a compelling case to share about their extreme AWESOMENESS!

I have always thought it was important to let others know that they are AWESOME just by being who they are. To take a moment and make sure that ordinary, every day people who do extraordinary things day in and day out know that they are appreciated and recognized.

So this year our theme comes from a quote from my favorite book:

“Real courage is when you know you are licked before you begin, but you begin any way and see it through no matter what.” – To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.

From the Start Where You Are Journal by Meera Lee Palel
From the Start Where You Are Journal by Meera Lee Palel

So many people I have met this past year are facing each day with challenges that would knock the best of us to our knees and yet they not only stand, but continue to put one foot in front of the other and execute each day with the best and most positive attitude they can muster. They live any way, love any way, give any way. So real courage is seeing something through no matter what – like a boss!

I know you know people like this too. I can’t wait to hear about your nominees and I know everyone else that is going to take part in Holiday Cheer this year – those that are willing to donate – they can’t wait to hear about them either. So if you have a nominee; man, woman or child let me know. You can email me the nominee and why you think they should be nominated and what some of their interests are or some type of gift you think they might like.

Once I receive the nominees, I will let you know if they will be chosen for this year (we haven’t turned anyone down yet). Then I will get the gifts together. Usually something nice and I will make sure we include a framed print with the quote. Then on December 1st all the way through the 25th of December a gift is delivered each day to a nominee. If you are not local – no problem we have shipped gifts to Colorado, Southern California, and Utah. I can ship the gift anywhere.

I then share the nominee’s story and reason for being nominated on my blog so that we can all follow along with sending them cheer.

That is it; it is that simple.

I am looking forward to those that can donate and learning more about the nominees that you have in mind. Email me at mlmurnin@yahoo.com and let’s get this Holiday Cheer started for 2015!

Sincerely,

Me

Cheer Day 30

Cheer Day 30

Cheer Day 30

On November 2nd I received a note from Leighan. Leighan knows my aunt and our daughter’s have danced together over the past four years.

She wrote to me that she would like to nominate her mom, Linda, for Holiday Cheer this year. She wrote to tell me that her mother is “a selfless and amazing woman.” I couldn’t agree more.

Cheer Day 30 gift

Linda is the embodiment of kindness. When I met her at dance a few years back and realized she was Leighan’s mom, I told her how much I loved her family and she answered, “Me, too.” I instantly like her. She then immediately opened up and shared how proud she was of her daughter and grandkids. Linda is just a pure pleasure to be around.

When you meet Linda you would have no idea the kind of battles she has fought behind the scenes. She is always upbeat and optimistic. Her smile and kind heart are what you always notice first. However, 10 years ago she cared for her husband as he suffered and then passed away from cancer. Amazingly she found love again.

But over the last few years she has cared for her second husband who was suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Seven days after Leighan nominated Linda, hospice was called in to help Linda care for her second husband.

On November 16th, just 14 days after I received Leighan’s note, heaven welcomed Linda’s second husband with a glorious sunrise.

Leighan Sunrise

Linda, we know your world has forever changed. While our holiday cheer is small, we hope that it brings some comfort in knowing that there is a circle of people who care and are praying for your continued strength as your navigate your new normal. You are most loved.

Love,

The Cheer Squad

Cheer Day 29

Cheer Day 29

Cheer Day 29

On the 29th of December, Tiffany was able to deliver a gift of cheer to Melissa. Tiffany nominated Melissa because she knew Melissa could use a little extra cheer. Melissa had been diagnosed with breast cancer earlier in 2014 and was finishing up her last rounds of chemo in December.

Melissa is a mother of four and married to a police officer. When I first moved to Gilroy, Melissa was the first person to say hi. We instantly bonded over both being moms of four and would often share a sigh or smile over just making it to school on time in the morning with our younger kids in tow.

Melissa’s smile is the first thing you notice about her. It is the biggest, brightest ray of light. Over the last months of 2014 I never saw that smile fade, even when she was fighting this horrid disease. Her courage and strength inspire us all.

Melissa is actively involved in her children’s school. She volunteers in classrooms, for events, and is there daily to offer a helping hand. She also is actively involved in her children’s activities. Melissa continued to be involved throughout her treatment as much as she could be. The campaign around town in support of her fight was Melissa Strong and that is exactly what and who Melissa is, STRONG.

Cheer Day 29 Gift

Melissa you are an amazing mother and wife, a true friend, and a hero to all those that know you.

Love,

The Cheer Squad

Cheer Day 28

Cheer Day 28

Day 28

Having a baby is a joyous occasion, but for some littles life starts out with a fight and unfortunately can continue that way to the very end. For 7-year-old Johnathan this is the case. He was born fighting for his life and by age 3 he was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Disease type C. This disease is often called “Childhood Alzheimer’s” because it will eventually rob a child of everything.

Life is not fair

Johnathan’s mother, Rebecca was nominated by Tiffany. Tiffany wanted to nominate Rebecca because of her strength, optimism and courageous spirit. Rebecca and her family are fighting to find help find a cure for this awful disease. Johnathan is now in a trial at NIH in Maryland. He travels there once a month to have injections of Cyclodextrin into his spine.

To learn more about Johnathan and his story visit www.johnathanspencer.org or to give to Johnathan’s family visit www.gofundme.com/af73gk. Help this family bring awareness to their cause and help make a cure a reality.

There are no good words to say to someone whose child is suffering. In my experience this phrase works well:

this sucks 100%

 

We hope the trial is going well, Rebecca. We offer our prayers and support.

God bless you and your family,

The Cheer Squad

 

Cheer Day 27

Cheer Day 27

Day 27

On today, Day 27, our nominee is Tricia. Tricia is a mom of three littles and was nominated by Kim. Kim has known Tricia for over 10 years. Tricia’s middle child, a daughter, Lexi Faith was diagnosed with a brain tumor late this year. Lexi’s most recent MRI shows that the mass in her brain may not be a tumor at all, but another MRI and EEG will tell the doctors at Stanford and her family more.

 

Lexi was diagnosed with Panayiotopoulos Syndrome. To put it simply it is a type of epilepsy and its onset comes between 3 and 5 years of age. Someone afflicted with Panayiotopoulos Syndrome will have seizures. Two thirds of these seizures will most likely take place during sleep. Seizures are mostly infrequent and medicine is prescribed for treatment.

There is a FB page that chronicles Lexi Faith’s journey feel free to check it out: www.facebook.com/pages/Prayers-for-Lexi-Faith.

Day 27 gift

Kim wrote to tell me that she is in awe of Tricia’s strength, love and positive attitude. I am in awe of her deep faith. Our prayers go our to Lexi,Tricia and the whole family.

lexi faith

Love to you all,

The Cheer Squad

 

Cheer Day 25

Cheer Day 25

Merry Christmas

Good morning and Merry Christmas my sweet Cheer Squad and lovely readers.

Today’s recipient is the first person I thought of when I set out to do the 25 Days of Holiday Cheer this year. Her current situation is something my family has lived through first hand. Lori a mother of three grown children was just getting into the swing of the second half of her life with her husband, Sam when their plans changed dramatically. To understand Lori and Sam, you have to know their whole story.

 

Sam and Lori started dating when she was a freshman in high school. Sam a few years older than Lori chose BYU for college because it was the only college to offer housing for married couples despite being offered several scholarships from Division 1 schools.They were married as soon as she was eighteen and they moved to Utah.

Sam went to school and played football and Lori got a job at the local grocery store to support him. They went on to have a great first half of life raising three children. So as they began their second half of life as empty nesters they received devastating news; at the age of 56 the love of her life was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. The beauty in this story is how the love story continues.

True Love

She has taken care of him day and night. This past two years have been extremely hard on her because at times Sam gets aggressive and has no idea she’s his wife. Sam has progressed fast and can no longer dress himself or go to the bathroom on his own. Despite his rapid progression Lori continues to care for him in their home. Through it all Lori remains patient and loving. Lori continues to work outside the home as she has always done to help with finances.

Her daughter, Katie helped me honor her mom this year. Katie donated money and even purchased gifts during the fundraiser. Katie is a nurse and has seen good and bad care givers. She feels her mother is the role model of how every caregiver should be. Lately though, Katie notices her mother’s exhaustion and it breaks her heart.

All three of Sam and Lori’s children live close and take turns caring for their dad so that Lori can run errands or just have a few hours to regroup. They help cut Sam’s hair, take him out to eat, and just plain love him as much as they possibly can.

Sam and Lori’s love stories is one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever witnessed because true love is caring for someone you love through thick and thin, better for worse.

This isn’t the first time that Lori has cared for a loved one. Her son was diagnosed with bladder cancer at 23. Lori was there for him through it all. He is now  in remission.

My grandmother had early onset Alzheimer’s. My grandfather took care of her every day for twelve years. He fed her all her meals, kept her home with him as long as he could and only left her side for a few hours a day. I know what it is like to see this kind of love first hand and to watch someone you love lose who they are a little more each day. Heartbreaking is too kind a word.

Lori not only do your kids think you are a hero, but I do, too. You are an amazing woman living the unthinkable day in and day out with courage, strength, and grace. I think of your family every day and you all hold a special place in my heart.

Cheer Day 25

Know that we are praying with you and loving you with each step you take.

God bless your sweet soul,

The Cheer Squad

Cheer Day 24

Cheer Day 24

Enjoy Today

Today as we prepare for the nearing end of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season I find it fitting that our recipient today is a grandmother who has seen many a holiday season come to pass and greeted each one with love and a giant Christmas Spirit. My dear friend, Kim wanted to nominate her grandmother for her never-ending strength and faith. Kim’s handwritten letter of why her grandmother should be a recipient touched my heart. I share that with you today:

“Dear Michelle,

I would like to nominate my grandma. My entire life she has always been there for anyone and everyone. She was a second grandma to many many children. She was involved in the support and financial aid of our local teen challenge, and many other organizations. She has so many struggles throughout her life, yet she always stood tall and kept her faith strong. Even when her husband passed and two of her kids moved away eight months later she stayed positive and strong not only for herself, but for the entire family. I see her as my second mother, she is my hero, my rock…my angel. Always forgiving, non-judgmental, and forever loving and supportive she is my amazing grandma. I thank God for her everyday she is here with us. I could go on forever but then I would be a bigger bawling mess and this would end up a novel. 

Thank you,

Kim”

Cheer Day 24

Kim, I was crying right there with you and I know many of the readers will be teary eyed as well. Having a champion in your life is so crucial to our resilience and success as human beings. You are definitely blessed to have your “amazing grandma”, Kim. God bless her and you this holiday.

Merry Christmas Eve,

The Cheer Squad

Cheer Day 23

Cheer Day 23

Believe

I am so excited about this nominee. She was nominated by her daughter Christy. Christy and I have become friends recently and when she wrote to me to nominate her mom, I couldn’t help but add her to our list this year. Her mom, Gail is nothing short of incredible. I got to meet her this month at a local production of the nutcracker and she is sweet, humble, and just so down to earth. Christy’s nomination letter speaks volumes of her mom, and so I share it with you:

“Dear Michelle,

I would like to nominate my mom. Really both my parents should be nominated, but I know there is only room for one. Both her & my dad still work 2 jobs. They have my 102-year-old grandpa and my 82-year-old grandma living with them. My grandma has recently been in and out of the hospital the past couple months.

My parents had a trip planned to Tahoe for their 40th wedding anniversary, but were unable to go because they had to go when they needed tend to move my grandma home with them. In addition to having two parents living with them, they also care for my other grandma on a daily basis, taking her to doctor’s appointments, errands, fixing things around the house, etc. Her husband died last summer and they have been really taking care of her every need since then.

My mom has always given us everything that she could – she would sacrifice anything so that we could have extras when we were growing up. Always, always we came first and we still do. I don’t know how but she still finds the time to watch her grand babies when she has a chance. She knows how important it is to have time with your spouse. Goes to show, that she sacrifices the little alone time that she has for herself and gives it to us. Always selfless, always thinking of others first. She gives to everyone else before even thinking of herself.

She goes above and beyond to make special gifts for not only my brother and I, but for our kids as well …hand making special blankets for them and doing crafts with them when they spend the night at her house.

It’s hard to put into words how special she is to me (all of us really). Above all else we know that we are her life; she would do anything for any of us. We know that we are loved so deeply by her. I wish I could give her anything and everything she’s ever dreamed of. She’s that special.”

Cheer Day 23

Gail really is that special. She works in the Gilroy post office and last holiday season she played Santa. Every letter that was received to the Gilroy post office addressed to Santa, Gail responded to. She ordered special paper and stamps to make sure each letter had the magic of Santa. My four children received these letters last year and it made me believe in the magic of Christmas all over again.

Cheer Day 23 gift

I know that our simple gift is no match for Gail’s brilliance as a human being, but we hope that it will continually remind her that everything she does makes such a big difference to those that know her and even those who don’t.

Thank you Gail for making the spirit of Christmas live on every day.

Sincerely,

Christy and The Cheer Squad

Cheer Day 22

Cheer Day 22

Cheer Day 22

Today’s recipient was nominated by Melissa. She wrote to me to tell me about her dear friend, Zenedith.

Cheer Day 22 Gift

Zenedith was diagnosed with stage one triple negative breast cancer. This type of breast cancer is aggressive because it is missing three receptors known to fuel most cancers. Now while that may sound good it isn’t. Most treatments attack these three receptors and so with triple negative cancer the treatment options are less because of the lack of these receptors. It does seem to respond well to chemo therapy, which is the good news.

Borrowed this from Zen's FB page
Borrowed this from Zen’s FB page

Zen is a true warrior and mom to two beautiful little girls. She is fighting hard and we want you to know, Zen, that we are praying along side you. Life can really suck sometimes and it definitely isn’t fair. Keep on keep on warrior mama!

Hoping the holiday cheer lifts your spirits and lets you know there is a group of people who know you can beat this!

Sincerely,

The Cheer Squad

Cheer Day 21

Cheer Day 21

Cheer Day 21

Melissa is today’s recipient. Melissa is a wonderfully, refreshing person. You never have to wonder what she is thinking or where you stand with her; if it is on her mind she says it out loud. She is mom to two boys and is helpful in everything they do from karate, scouts, piano lessons, to both of their classrooms. She has made elaborate cakes for the annual boy scouts bake sale. If her boys ask for it she finds a way to make that exact cake.

Melissa's chocolate dipped marshmallow minion creation
Melissa’s chocolate dipped marshmallow minion creation

Melissa has had a rough couple of years. Due to allergies she has had several (to put it mildly) surgeries on her nose. Her most recent surgery left her with infections and uncomfortable for weeks. She also recently was diagnosed with Lupus. Her diet has changed radically and she is feeling much better. She is also in the midst divorce this holiday.

thirty-one beauty bag

Melissa is never quiet about what she is going through and I applaud her for that. We need to be open and share what life is really like. There are no masks with Melissa. I am so thankful to have her as a friend. No matter what might be on her plate she is always there with a helping hand for others.

Cheer day 21 gift

So glad to know you Melissa. Hope our holiday cheer let you know how much you are loved.

Sincerely,

The Cheer Squad