Holiday Cheer 2016

Holiday Cheer 2016

Four years ago I had a mommy breakdown. I know shocker! But something different happened this time, instead of just stifling it and pushing it inward, I reached out for help. Picking up the phone, I dialed a college friend and she picked up. I laid out the mommy drama that had dropped me to my knees and she listened.

Two weeks later a package was on my doorstep. It was the “we can do hard things” sign I had wanted for some time. It was from her.

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This gift made a huge impact. For the next few days each time I saw that sign my urge to pay that kindness forward grew and grew. It only took me a bit to come up with an idea.

See we are inundated with crime, drama, strife, and pain. It is all over our media print and otherwise. What I wasn’t seeing, even person to person, was the type of positivity that had happened to me. Being a young mom you are out on an island and you don’t ge much encouragement. Tons of advice, but very few pats on the back. I had this idea that we needed to reach out and life people up.

Cheer Day 25

So Holiday Cheer was born. I wanted to nominate 25 people in the community and from December 1st to December 25th deliver gifts to people to let them know that there was a community behind them. The point was to just life someone’s spirits.

I decided to put the idea out there and sure enough I turned into we quickly with people sending in nominations and helping purchase gifts for 25 recipients.

Each year this little fundraiser has grown and grown. Last year we raised close to $3,000 in gift cards, cash donations, and gifts. It was amazing to say the least. This is year four and it has been relatively quiet. This year, is the first year I am a bit afraid that I may not be able to pull this off. I really do need lots of help this year.

We have completed one online party and now have lots of thirty-one bags to wrap gifts in, but we only have a handful of nominees. So if you know anyone that could use some Holiday Cheer then email me at mlmurnin@yahoo.com with your nomination and a little about them and get them on this list. There is plenty of room.

This Sunday is the big kick off for donations. I am having a LulaRoe party at the house. The proceeds from this party will go to several of the nominees on the list. They will get buttery, soft leggings and cute little dresses and for those of you that live close by you can swing by and do some shopping for yourself or drop off your donation. If you can’t make it don’t worry; I will post an online link for that party as well. We will also have hand made scarves for purchase.

In addition, there will be Stella and Dot displays and an online party link for shopping. And last but not least my sweet friend Christy who is super crafty will be selling her hand-made signs. There will be a couple on display and you can leave orders with me for her. She is making five for our nominees currently. I have included some photos below.

Aren’t these gorgeous?! I know. Christy is wicked talented and super sweet. I can’t wait to see the signs that will be given to our nominees.

So what do we still need?

We need nominations of course, but also…

  • Gift cards: Starbucks, Peet’s, Target, Toys R Us, Safeway, Chevron, Barnes & Noble, TJ Maxx, Day Spa, Ice Cream, Disney
  • Activity Books for a 12-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl
  • 8 x 10 frames
  • Good smelling candles
  • Cute inspirational signs – Hobby Lobby has some right now for 50% off.
  • Fun board games for 4-6 year old boys
  • Anything you think might be helpful – donations are always welcome

If you want to do some holiday shopping or purchase something for one of our nominees you can shop online with Stella and Dot here.

I am so excited to make a difference again this fourth year! Let’s make it happen. Let’s do good and life one another up.

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I thank you in advance for helping make a difference,

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Prelude to Holiday Cheer

Prelude to Holiday Cheer

Each year I do a fundraiser and then deliver gifts to 25 people (1 each day in December) to people who need a little extra cheer. These people usually have touched, inspired, or changed someone’s life in our community (or far away – we have delivered to Denver, Utah, and well all over actually) and they are nominated to receive one of the gifts.

I recently received an email about one of our recipients from last year. I didn’t write about her last December because tragedy struck her family just after she was nominated. I waited. I wanted her to have some space to heal and even now I am going to call her Kate to protect her identity.

Kate and her husband, like many couples, had to do extra work to become parents. They have miscarried several times and decided to take one final attempt last year. Kate and her husband were thrilled because she was expecting twins. She was put on bed rest in the second trimester. At the beginning of December tragedy struck when she lost her babies; twin girls.

The person that nominated her still wanted to deliver something, but the basket that had been prepared for an expectant mother on bed rest would no longer do at all. So I found a small business on Etsy where the woman creates angel necklaces for women who have miscarried. The name of the shop is Blue Room Gems (you can check it out by clicking here). Creating a necklace for her seemed perfect. So a new basket was crafted with this handmade jewelry and a hand-made throw. My dear friend ensured that this was delivered at just the right time to Kate.

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Necklace from Blue Room Gems.

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Well, Kate was so touched by the basket and the gift that she took our idea and continued it. She began to turn her grief into energy to help others, as grieving mothers tend to do.

She began creating and delivering baskets of her own to women in hospitals who were on journeys similar to her own. She wanted to gift them hope and love; just as she felt she had been gifted.

The blessings continued and Kate’s story evolved and grew and the hope she felt led her to try again for a baby. Kate is expecting and everything is going smoothly as of now. Continue to pray for her and her family and I promise to keep you updated.

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A display at “Kate’s” house with the framed phrase we included with her gift.

Kate inspired me to keep Holiday Cheer going and this year I want to help as many people as we can. I am shooting for 31 nominations so that we can gift a nominee every day in December. I know we can make it a success this year, too. This is such a wonderful way to give back; because like Kate so many of the recipients pay it forward. This sparks so many to keep giving and hope continues to grow. Our world needs hope and so here we go again with our  3rd annual fundraiser – 31 Days of Holiday Cheer!

It is easy – YOU dear readers, nominate a person you think is worthy and YOU my dear readers can donate, make, or just share this with others so that we can make this the most successful Holiday Cheer EVER!

So how does this work:

To nominate someone: It can be anyone, adult or child, male or female. The person nominated just needs to be someone who could use some cheer or just needs some hope breathed into their life. To nominate someone is easy – just email me a short paragraph about the person, with their name and why you think they should be a recipient. Then include something you think they might need this holiday season. Email me at mlmurnin@yahoo.com.

To donate: I will have several “parties” that will allow you to purchase gifts for the holidays or just for yourself or you can purchase for one of our nominees. Then I use the proceeds of these parties to purchase gifts for our nominees. There will be an online Stella  and Dot party and a Thirty-one party online. I will host a LulaRoe pop-up for those close by. And last but not least the things that worked best last year anyone can donate gift cards, cash, or even sponsor a recipient by purchasing something directly for them. Again, email me at mlmurnin@yahoo.com to arrange for donations to be collected and Like my facebook page for details about the parties.

Get others involved: Share this post with your friends, family, friends of friends, and community. I know if we have enough involvement we can raise more donations and help people even more than we did last year.

What do we need to beat? Last year we collected over $2000 in cash and gift card donations. Last year we purchased nearly $2000 in gifts and other goods. All together with hand made donations and other purchased items we topped over $5000 in gifts for the recipients.

Can we go bigger this year? Can we do 31 days of Holiday Cheer? YES WE CAN! 

I can’t wait to see what happens this year,

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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 13

Cheer Day 13

Cheer Day 13

 

“The best kind of people are the ones that come into your life and make you see sun where you once saw clouds. The people that believe in you so much, you start to believe in you too. The people that love your simply for being you. The once in a lifetime kind of people.” – Unknown

Katrina is a wife, mother of three, second grade teacher, church youth group leader, friend, and an extraordinary person. When Dorothy nominated Katrina I was 100% on board because Katrina is so deserving of holiday cheer. She truly is a once in a lifetime kind of person.

I have known Katrina for almost a decade and never once have I seen her unhappy or depressed. She is always looking at the glass half full. Katrina has run the Nike Half Marathon several times all to raise money for the Leukemia in honor of one of her former students who lost his fight with the disease. She has traveled with her church to build homes for others. She is actively involved in her community and church. And best of all she is a great wife, mother, and friend.

One of the things that I find extraordinary about Katrina is that she is the mom of a mostly non-verbal, 5 year-old autistic boy. With her overflowing plate Katrina still does everything she can to provide the best resources for him.

Last year her son was part of the Everyone Plays photo shoot that is put on by Infantino and Step 2. Kelle Hampton from the blog Enjoying the Small Things wrote about the experience in her blog here.

The two photos below are a couple of my favorites from the photo shoot and they are originally seen on Kelly Hampton’s blog so if you click them it will take you to that original source.

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Sending the message that we are all the same underneath is a beautiful one – that no matter what may make us unique or individual we all play the same. Wonderful and breath-taking and it is so fitting that Katrina was a part of something so important. She takes initiative to make the world a better place and makes you better just for having known her.

Katrina also posted this TED talk on her Facebook Page and it gives some insight to the autistic mind, but also reminds us that “normal” is not a compliment. And furthermore that striving to be “normal” is really something we should avoid. Instead we should celebrate our uniqueness. If you have 6 minutes it is worth viewing:


Thank you, Dorothy for nominating Katrina. Thank you, Katrina for just being you. You make the world brighter just by being in it.

Warm wishes and lots of cheer to last you the whole year through,

The Cheer Squad.

Cheer Day 10

Cheer Day 10Cheer Day 10 belongs to Katie. Katie is a teacher for autistic children. She was nominated by one of her close friends, Debbie. Debbie wrote to tell me why she nominated Katie and I can’t think of anything better than using Debbie’s words to describe Katie:

“Katie is a true friend, a loving wife and mom, and a preschool teacher of children with autism. I am in awe of every teacher who opens her heart to other people’s children. That my friend Katie does so for the littlest of our school-age buddies who are also living with autism just makes me that much more thankful for her generous heart. She’s a teacher, not just to her preschoolers, but to their families as well. In our educational bureaucracy, this lady is a voice for what’s best for kids. She is there for parents who are just starting to live with the knowledge that autism will be a part of their life from here on out. It’s a tough job to be sure; some days it can be easy to feel defeated. Your holiday cheer today made one more person feel appreciated, respected, loved, and INSPIRED to go out tomorrow and do it all again.”

On the Mark Pendant

I am in awe of Katie and every teacher like her who make such a difference in this world. In a job where it would be easy to burn out because of how demanding and difficult it is they continue to work their magic day in and day out.

Katie you are a hero. Thank you for all you do.

With love,

The Cheer Squad

Cheer Day 9

Cheer Day 9

Cheer Day 9

Cheer Day 9 is dedicated to Lisa. Lisa is a wife, mother, and daughter of a police officer that lost his life in the line of duty. Her friend that nominated her said that Lisa has had a rough year and wasn’t feeling her best.

Lisa was nominated because she is always putting other people first and greets each day with a positive attitude.

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One example of Lisa’s giving nature happened just last week. There was a child at the school where Lisa worked and this child’s mother was going through chemotherapy treatment. Lisa knew that the child was already going through a lot and that he didn’t have a way to get to school so she didn’t mark him absent for the three days in a row so that he wouldn’t lose his spot in the classroom. Her selflessness lost her, her employment. In spite of this, Lisa would do the same thing over again if it meant helping this family or any other family that is struggling or has extreme difficulty.

I am so glad that Lisa was nominated so she could be recognized for how amazing she is. Lisa you are a hero and I applaud you for trying to help make things better for someone else.

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Wishing you much happiness and a joyous holiday season,

The Cheer Squad

Cheer Day 5 2014

 

A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.
― Steve Maraboli

Cheer Day 5

Holiday Cheer Day 5 brought some much-needed cheer to Michelle. Michelle was nominated by Bettina. Bettina took a moment to put into her own words why she felt Michelle should be a recipient:

“Michelle is a single mom who loves her kids so much. Being separated recently, she took all the ups and downs in life with grace and I am so proud of her for holding her head high and sticking to her gut when it came to life decisions. Going through a separation is hard, but she also lost her father and brother to cancer in less than a year. She has been through so much pain in the past year and I wish her lots of happiness for the future.”

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There was a good luck penny inside this cute little Stella & Dot tech wallet.

 

Wrap Bracelet Cheer Day 5
Wrap Bracelet – my photo doesn’t do it justice

 

 

Click to see it on the Stella & Dot website
Click to see it on the Stella & Dot website

Today I am so grateful that these two friends had a moment to share how they inspire one another. I know that they spent Thanksgiving together and really are family to one another.

Letting those that nominated this year deliver the gifts has been so rewarding. Bettina wrote me last night and I just have to share:

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And now my friends, I will call all of you who have helped put this together the “Cheer Squad”. I can not tell you how grateful I am to all of you.

But, I think Michelle described it best in her Facebook post last night:

FB Post Cheer Day 5

Wishing you a year full of happiness to keep your cup running over, Michelle!

Sincerely,

Michelle and the “Cheer Squad”

 

Cheer Day 1 2014

So it begins Holiday Cheer Year 2

Yesterday was the very first day of holiday cheer. This is the second annual 25 Days of Holiday Cheer and I am just as excited as the first. The theme for this year is:

All the Best Heroes are Ordinary People who make themselves Extraordinary.

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This we have 30 nominees so it will be extended by 5 extra days because I wanted to recognize everyone! The more we can do the better and it all came together this year because of all the fabulous people who supported my crazy Holiday Cheer idea.

Alyssa Wagner, our Stella & Dot consultant and my dear friend made sure that she donated enough commissions to pay for the sales tax on all of our gift orders.

Tina Ramirez from thirty-one and Mama Luvs donated several of her Mama Luvs products to all the people who purchased thirty-one bags this year.

The Krafty B, otherwise known as Bettina Kraft, donated one of her beautiful scarves as one of our gifts this year.

Finally, I cannot begin to thank all those who donated money, frames, time, and support to help make this all a reality this year. Thank you all so much for helping to spread a little extra cheer this holiday season. Each of our recipients will be so grateful.

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Our first nominee was nominated by Kathleen from Utah. She wanted to nominate her cousin Mary Ellen because, “she is so dedicated, has so much love and patience while giving her mom the best of care. She is one of my heroes and I admire her for being such a wonderful caregiver.”

Mary Ellen cares for her mom and is a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada. She also spends time helping in the community. Recently she helped two council members run food drives for local food cupboards. This is a cause near and dear to her heart.

Mary Ellen is a life long Girl Scout and worked with youth leadership in the Las Vegas Community for several years.

This gift came at a great time as the last couple of weeks have been especially trying with her mom as she has had many sleepless nights.

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Glad we could help deliver some extra holiday cheer.

Happy December and Happy 25 (30) Days of Holiday Cheer –

Michelle and a circle of women who care

 

Cheer Day 6

“some girls are just born with glitter in their veins”

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Yesterday’s gift was by far and a way the most difficult yet. Libby was nominated by a mother from her mom’s group to receive one of our Holiday Cheer gifts. Libby is the mother of four beautiful children. Her oldest daughter was recently diagnosed with DIPGs. DIPG is “Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) … a type of brain tumor found in the pons, part of the brainstem on the lower back of the brain, near the top of the spinal cord. DIPG primarily affects children, with most diagnoses occurring between 5 and 7 years of age. DIPG makes up 10-15% of all brain tumors in children, with about 100-150 new diagnoses per year in the United States and about 300 per year in all of North America and Europe. Unlike many other pediatric cancers, there has been little progress in improving treatments and cure rates for DIPG over the last few decades. Unfortunately, fewer than 10% of children with DIPG survive two years from diagnosis.” (http://www.dipgregistry.org/patients-families/basic-facts/)

Libby has been keeping a blog of her thoughts and feelings through their journey and I highly recommend that you read her blog (Love4JLK.org) because her words are the only words that can tell Jennifer’s story accurately; her words are the only words that really let you in so that you can see what this family is going through. I just can’t even attempt to put words to their story.

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So yesterday I have to be honest I was filled with dread at delivering this gift, but was feeling a bit better knowing that most likely the family would not be home. So after dance practice with my little one, we traveled to Libby’s house. As we drove up there were people leaving and again I was just hoping that maybe there were people taking shifts watching her other children and I would not have to actually meet with Libby face to face. It just felt awkward to meet this stranger, dealing with the unimaginable and hand her a gift.

But we rang the bell and to my surprise, Libby herself answered the door with 3 of her four beautiful children in tow. It felt like the wind got knocked out of me. Looking at her with her kids made me feel as if I had just knocked on my own door. There house seemed much like ours, loud and busy and filled with love. Her children clinging to her and hiding behind the door made me feel so much like I was looking at a mirror. Jennifer met my baby girl and we said hi to the kids. I explained who I was and why I was there; and the emptiness that filled me when I mentioned that she had been nominated was overwhelming. I literally got sick to my stomach. Her face was not one of thankfulness, but one of dread; one that said I wish I would never have been nominated – I wish I could undo this. We quickly left and the whole way home I held back my tears. After walking into our home; I hid away from my kids and sobbed. I sobbed so hard I couldn’t even speak.

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Delivering that gift felt so small and insignificant. Libby is fighting to save her daughter, looking at a future that  is my absolute worst nightmare.

What would I have thought?

How would I have felt?

I am still not sure if delivering that gift was a good or helpful idea. It definitely made me question this whole 25 Days of Holiday Cheer Idea. My love and prayers go out to the Kranz family – I have helped collect money, bought pins and will buy T-shirts tomorrow. I want to help them as much as I can, but still it just doesn’t see like enough. Handing her that gift yesterday was like tossing a grain of sand into the ocean and hoping it would make a difference.

Cheer Day 4

Hi again,

Happy Cheer Day 4. Today we delivered another bit of cheer to a wonderfully amazing nominee. Arlene was the recipient of our Holiday Cheer. At 9:00 AM she was surprised at the door with her gift. I was so excited today because the person that nominated her got to deliver the gift; and I was elated that someone else could experience what I was getting to experience these past few days.

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Let me tell you a little isty bit about Arlene. She is a mother of two small children, one in preschool and one in Pre-K, who lost her eyesight 18 months ago. She has just recently started to venture out into the world again and is still learning how to manage her visual impairment. It turned out that today was a pretty rough day for her and getting our little bit of cheer couldn’t have come at a better time.

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I combined two charms for her; faith and soar. These two charms just seemed so appropriate for her story. The Faith card reads: “Faith doesn’t make things easy – it makes them possible.” The soar charm represents dreams taking flight. I can’t even begin to imagine what she must be going through, but I am so thankful that we were able to let her know she wasn’t alone and that there is a whole group of women that will be cheering her on and praying for her so that she can feel like with every step she takes there are people there taking it with her.

Arlene did talk to the person that nominated and delivered her gift today, after the initial shock of being surprised wore off; she said thank you and that she loved it. She also said she really needed that gift today; that today was a really hard day.

I mentioned in a previous post that all of these gifts have been given in random order and the magical thing about all this is that each recipient has told me or their gift-er that the cheer couldn’t have come at a better time, or that they really needed that on that specific day. It is really truly something special you all helped make happen. Thank you from the bottom of my heart…this experience definitely changed my life.

One last thing I wanted to share with you was a thank you I received in the mail today:

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The above note was from our Cheer Day 2 recipient and she also happened to take part in the fundraisers for these gifts. The cool thing is that at the fundraiser she purchased things that she gifted to women that she thought could use some Holiday Cheer. How totally cool is that?!

When I was little I believed that I could change the world; that I was actually capable of changing the world. As I got older, I got a bit jaded and I thought maybe not, maybe changing the world was just a bit too complicated for one person. But you know what, I can change the world – and what one person does ripples across all the people that they touch. I am watching these ripples…I am changing the world, WE ARE CHANGING THE WORLD. Thank you for making me a believer again.

Hugs,

M