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

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)

 

 

Dark Spirits, Baptism & Jesus

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My little 4 year-old feet were racing down the hall as fast as they could carry me. Hurdling the baby gate that kept my toddling sister out of my room, I bounded to the bed and hid myself in the covers.

I was so tired of that demon chasing me to bed. 

It popped into my life from out of nowhere. One day no demon, the next day demon. He seemed to like chasing me down the hall and scaring the ever loving wits out of me.

Since moving to Spokane, I had quickly learned that it was filled with negative energy. At least our little neighborhood was. But I grew weary of that little barreling demon pretty quickly.

Just shy of a year of his entrance into my life I learned we were moving. I was excited to leave that awful beast behind. It didn’t take long to discover; however that it could occasionally pop back into my life hundreds of miles away in Colorado. 

One night while my grandparents were watching me, I asked my grandma about scary things other people can’t see. I told her I kept feeling like I was being chased. She told me that whenever I prayed to God and asked for him to remove a spirit he could do that. She assured me that God would keep me safe.

To my little 5 year old brain this was nothing short of a miracle and God became my most favorite bodyguard. God came to my rescue and that demon left my life. 

 
Roughly fourteen years later on a river rafting trip, I found that there are scarier things than that demon. By this time I had become accustomed to spirit being a daily part of my life. Most spirits that I came in contact with were harmless. None the less I still had not forgotten that evil lurked among us.

During this trip I was visited by several spirits who had been murdered. A serial killer had hunted in this very terrain. It didn’t take long before I was visited by the dark spirit himself. Angry and sinister because of the crimes he committed; he tried everything he knew to scare and haunt my life. Praying this ghost away wasn’t as easy. He would always return no matter how many times he was asked to leave.

But after a few months and lots of prayer I regained the upper hand and he was forced to the very far periphery of my life. 

But it was during this time that I feared I would need greater protection. I reached out to the local Catholic Church and decided I would take the needed classes to become Catholic and was Baptized during an Easter Mass.

Of course this brought solace during my spirit encounters. I found that I had a strong faith in God and a deeper connection to him. Despite that I was easily reminded of how well organized religion and myself cease to agree. Within a couple of years I was no longer a practicing Catholic, but that did not deter my faith in God. It was then that I learned, that even though I was no longer a practicing Catholic God had not forsaken me. Knowing He thinks I am worth each and every breath I take and each ounce of space I occupy is all I needed to know. 

It is with a deep faith in my gift and the knowledge that God loves me no matter what that I tell you this next fact. In a recent reading, Jesus himself came to discuss the matters at hand. Suicide was weighing heavily on the heart of the person who had scheduled the reading. Bitterness and fury had engulfed this young man’s soul and turned his life to pain.

What Jesus had to offer was profound. He told this young man that his life was to be treated as a gift. Jesus shared that our purpose in this world is simply to be ourselves. We are a unique gift and what each of us has to offer is our purpose. He reminded this young man that we are never alone; that we are unconditionally loved and profoundly understood by him. Even in our darkest moments, He is with us. 

 

I know, I just passed the border of crazy town for some of you. It’s okay; I am good with you thinking that. I know it may be blasphemus for me to say I delivered a message from Jesus to this troubled soul, but I know some of you that know me; know that this must somehow have been possible. 

The reason I share this with you is we need hope. Our country needs hope. We need to know we are not forgotten. We are not alone. Yes, some choose to embrace the darkness, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Horrible, unthinkable tragedies befall the best most innocent souls, but that doesn’t mean all is lost.

When I flip on the news, I see anger and chaos. When I listen to my neighbors, I sense fear and loss. Ecspecially in our little community, we have lost so many young lives.  So I share this with you; there is something greater than us. This force or being is guiding us toward the best version of ourselves. He will carry the anger and chaos; we do not need to lose hope. We have the power to bring good into this world; even in our deepest pain we can choose to deliver goodness because that is our gift. It is within each and every one of us.

I choose hope,

Michelle

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 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

Cheer Day 18

Cheer Day 18
click for original source
click for original source

The one thing I know from witnessing and living through loss is that “there are certain sorrows that never fade away.” We carry our loved ones with us and the grief in our hearts until we ourselves pass on to the next life.

Cheer Day 18

A teacher friend from mine, Shirley, wrote to me to nominate a dear friend of hers from her church, Jenny Nguyen. Jenny is a mama of four beautiful little girls whose ages range between 3rd grade and preschool. This past year her husband passed away and this will be their first holiday without him. She is having to live and survive through the unthinkable.

Amor pendant

Shirley wrote that Jenny is, “a wonderful soul”.

Jenny as you move one foot in front of the other taking each day as it comes; know that you are surrounded with prayers.

May God keep you in the palm of his hand,

The Cheer Squad

Cheer Day 17

Cheer Day 17

Love

As I finish wrapping presents and prepare for Christmas I am humbled by today’s nominee. Lisa is a mother to three children 10, 8 and 6. She has terminal cancer. As I write this she is struggling to survive today, to love her kids just one more day and be with her family. The strength that must take to endure is mind-boggling to me.

Cheer Day 17

There are no words just helplessness as I write this.

She was nominated by her child’s teacher second grade teacher, Mrs. Watters. This teacher has taught both of the older children and will most likely have the youngest next year. Mrs. Watters wrote of how Lisa’s tenacity and strength leave her in awe. Lisa updates family and friends through a Caring Bridge website and Mrs. Watters says even on Lisa’s worst days that she writes with optimism.

Thank you, Krafty B for your donation of this gift
Thank you, Krafty B for your donation of this gift

When the first light of sun-
Bless you.
When the long day is done-
Bless you.
In your smiles and your tears-
Bless you.
Through each day of your years-
Bless you

-Irish Blessing

Lisa our prayers and well wishes go out to you and your family,

The Cheer Squad

Cheer Day 16

Cheer Day 16

Cheer Day 16

Cheer Day 16 belongs to Susan G. She is a kindergarten teacher who is actively involved in her school and local teacher’s association. She is also a single mom. Susan’s life was upturned by tragedy this past May when her 24-year-old son took his own life. As a mother myself I cannot possibly imagine what Susan is going through. I hope that the holiday cheer she was given lets her know that she is not alone; that there are people praying for her and trying to help her carry some of the pain.

With our deepest sympathy,

A circle of women who care

Cheer Day 15

Cheer Day 15

“There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”
— Mother Teresa

Cheer Day 15

Today I have the honor of sharing Madelyn with all of you. Madelyn may just be an almost six year old, but she is extraordinary.

At four years old she was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis. Juvenile Arthritis is not just a pint sized version of adult arthritis. Roughly 300,000 children under the age of 16 have Juvenile Arthritis. These children experience fevers, joint pain, stiffness and swelling. Symptoms can be as severe as, “muscle and soft tissue tightening, bone erosion, joint misalignment and changes in growth patterns.” [Kidsgetarthritistoo.org] The children that suffer from Juvenile Arthritis are incredibly strong and Madelyn is no exception. While she currently shows no symptoms of JA it is never really gone and flare ups can happen throughout her life. 

Madelyn is not only is a hero because of her strength and positive attitude as she received treatment and endured symptoms; she also participated in the 2014 Walk to Cure Arthritis to help raise money for a cure for herself and others. This photo of her from the walk is one of my favorites that her mom shared on her Facebook Page.

Heroes come in all sizes
Heroes come in all sizes

I had the honor of meeting Madelyn this week as I delivered her gift. She was gracious, kind, and full of energy. It was a pure delight to be able to bring her some holiday cheer and get the chance to spend a few minutes with her. She loves pink, Disney Princess, and liked showing my kids her Elf on the Shelf. While the kids played, Madelyn’s mom talked about how in awe she was of her daughter’s strength.

Cheer Day 15

Maddie the world is a better place with you in it and you do so much for such a little girl. You are definitely one of my heroes.

Wishing you continued good health sweet Madelyn and a very Merry Christmas,

The Cheer Squad

If you want to learn more about JA you can visit the sites listed below and even donate to the 2015 Walk to Cure Arthritis.

Information about upcoming events – participation and donating: http://www.arthritis.org/california/?gclid=CNH8hanjzsICFeURMwodPB0A_w

More information about Juvenile Arthritis: http://www.kidsgetarthritistoo.org/

 

Cheer Day 14

Cheer Day 14

Cheer Day 14

One of the first nominees I received was Trista. Trista is a mom of four. She also has a set of twins and just speaking from experience twin mamas are pretty tough.

Trista was nominated by Laura. Laura told me how Trista’s first grader underwent massive surgery last spring and recently one of her twins was diagnosed with autism. Trista is actively involved in Unravel (the organization dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric cancer and also to help get adequate funding for pediatric cancer research) the community and her church.

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Click here to visit unravel and find out more about how you can help find a cure.

 

It was an honor to be present when Trista received her gift. Trista sent a thank you to Laura and I that let us know the gift came at the perfect time.

I started Holiday Cheer so that we could have the opportunity to take a moment and let someone know how much of a difference they make just by being themselves and showing up every day doing the best they can. Trista is such a wonderful person who is handling everything life throws at her with grace, humor, and strength. It was such an honor to be able to give Trista a little something to let her know how much she means to those around her and remind her what a great job she is doing. Trista you are an inspiration to all those around you.

Thank you, Laura for nominating Trista. Thank you, Trista for sharing who you are and your goodness with so many. The world is lucky to have you, I am honored to know you, and I wish you so much joy.

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.