Holiday Cheer Day 6: A guest post from Tiff

Holiday Cheer Day 6: A guest post from Tiff

YouAreLoved_Black_8x10_HappyHippoArts (1)For today’s nominee I would like to share the nomination letter that was submitted by Tiff about Stephanie. Tiff relays why Stephanie needed Holiday Cheer:

“This recipient is an extraordinary lady. She is an amazing mom, daughter, friend, wife, sister and all around phenomenally loving spirit. She manages to keep this incredible beaming kinetic energy, and awesome sense of humor, and joy for life even during the rockiest of times. She has dealt with an exceptionally tough year, with some financial and medical issues that would have knocked anyone of the Avengers to their knees, but she has weathered it with an open and loving heart. For this reason , I was very excited to be able to nominate her.

She is one of those people that spend her time making sure that she has taken care of all the people around her that she loves. She is always taking care of everyone else, sometimes to the exclusion of herself. Her kids are such great, bright, centered little guys, and it is because she gives them balance and strength, and a soft, safe place to land when times get rough. She is the kind of mom who lets them be themselves , and reminds them that they don’t need to let anyone else define them.

She has also directed that same sense of light and love toward her other family members and friends. She is that mom who you would go to for shelter, for help, or just if you needed to whine about something. My gratitude for this woman is huge. My respect for how she lives her life as a go-er, a do-er and a mama-bear extraordinaire is unending. She has talked me off many anxiety ledges and has been such a comfort; a true friend when I was feeling isolated and alone. 

Her effect on all the other people around her is deep and profound. I don’t think she realizes how much she truly does impact so many of us. I think this was a way to let her know how very much she is loved and appreciated. She has this gift of turning her burden into blessings on a daily basis and in doing so she is teaching her boys and all the rest of us an invaluable lesson: Cherish what you have right now…the rest of the story will play out in its own good time. Thanks for the lesson, my friend.”

Not only does this beautiful letter describe our recipient perfectly, more magic happened with this nomination when a local hair stylist, Patty Ann came forward asking to help out a whole family. She wanted to donate to a family because she had known hardship herself and had received kindness. She took this as an opportunity to pay it forward. Patty Ann (shown below) collected a grocery gift card, and herself bought a tree, Vans gift cards for the boys, a cut and color for Stephanie, and dinner and movie out. Patty Ann is also an extraordinary person and that these two selfless women were connected through Holiday Cheer is so very touching to me.

So cherish what you have,

Tiff & Patty Ann

 

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…

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 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 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 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 20

Cheer Day 20

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”
― Anne Lamott

Cheer Day 20

As we hustle and bustle through our daily lives we often think that we are just doing what everyone else does. But here is the thing, that isn’t necessarily true. If you watch the news, if you travel through life, if you pay attention to what is going on around you – not everyone is doing what needs to be done. Some are busy with blame, hatred, feat, ignorance, and neglect. Some add to the chaos and make life way more complicated.While others put one foot in front of the other each time with the intention to do good, to create good, and exude good because they care not only for themselves, but for their community, for others.

Many of the recipients of holiday cheer have said they don’t deserve to be honored for doing what they should be doing. Obviously I disagree. The world around us is wrapped up in giving media attention to blame, hatred, feat, ignorance, and neglect. Anger and bitterness are encroaching on too many hearts. However, I know if our focus shifts to good and our thoughts shift to good then so will our actions. There is no doubt in my mind that this is true. So this holiday cheer is my small contribution to helping the world be a more positive, kinder place.

Today’s recipient is the embodiment of what is right in the world. Jenny was also nominated by Shirley. I know two Jenny’s nominated by the same person – what are the odds?

Cheer Day 20 gift

Shirley wrote to me the following about Jenny:

“I’d like to nominate my pastor’s wife. She is a mama of four, one of which has Downs Syndrome. She’s also an international student mama of a girl from Japan. Jenny Fitzgerald is an amazing woman who always gives of herself, but rarely does anything for herself. She is there for all of us in our tiny congregation no matter the day or the time. She is a pure example of a giving soul.”

Jenny, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being you. For caring for others and opening your home and your heart to those who need it. The world truly is a better place because you are in it. Our simple gesture does not match what you do everyday, but hopefully it brings a smile to your face.

Happy Holiday Cheer to you,

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 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.

2014-12-17_2134
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.

infantino6_zpsea0f2cb1 print17_zps2d555776

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.

FullSizeRender (21)

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.

IMG_0521

 

Wishing you much happiness and a joyous holiday season,

The Cheer Squad