Monday, December 22, 2014

AM~Erica Stood Crying in Costco's Parking Lot

So anyway...

Have you ever just gotten yourself into a situation that you just stood full-on teary-eyed while in awe of a situation while standing a parking lot? I have. As recently as yesterday.
(I say "recently" because I'm 94.783% sure I've stood crying in a parking lot before.)

Let me back up to a few days ago. Trust me, you need the backstory...

It was a Thursday morning, and the first actual snowfall of the season. The kiddos only had a couple days left of school before the holiday break, and the school district decided to close for the day. We were having a lazy morning at home while trying to work on some more Christmas finalization in continued prep. The lights on all of our trees were twinkling, and we were watching the news.

Hubby was getting coffee & doing some stuff in the kitchen with Lil Guy, and I sat at the dining room table signing Christmas cards for the church staff while watching the snow fall thru the window of the back door as it collected on the deck, the patio furniture and the grills. It was a beautiful Christmasy-type morning!

With our trees up, we moved our recently purchased furniture back to how we originally had our living room set up, which meant the TV could be seen from the dining room table again. As I sat there taking in the view of the snowfall & signing Christmas cards, something on the television caught my attention!

One of the morning news anchors, Mark Alford, was holding up what appeared to be a card with this image & scripture on it:

After seeing this, I just sat at the dining room table & began to sob. I couldn't believe it! A cardinal in the snow with this particular Psalm on it? I really believed it could only mean one thing.

If you remember, we LOST MY GRANDMOTHER in July. I've been talking about her a lot lately. I miss her greatly. We would have celebrated her birthday earlier this month, so HERE'S WHAT WE DID to celebrate this year.

It's also the time of year when cardinals are seen everywhere. They are beautiful in their contrast to snowy backdrops & evergreen trees. My grandmother loved her birds...especially cardinals. Boy, did she love her red birds! This year has been difficult seeing cardinals adorning all kinds of products of sorts around every corner. I knew I would need to brace myself this year, but it still doesn't make it easier.

My grandma also loved the Lord, our God. She always had her bible & at least one devotional close by her chair. It's how she would spend her mornings. And she prayed a lot. She always made sure we knew that she prayed for her family fervently. She was one of only a couple of people I know who actually was the family-oriented person they claimed to be. And she worried about us often. She just wanted us taken care of & safe, always.

Before I came across the above image that morning, I had a great feeling of anxiety take me over. I get those when I feel like something bad may have happened or might happen. With all of MY OWN ISSUES, I don't get the anxiety like that too often. But that day seemed to be overwhelming. I never remember having intense anxiety that seemed so out of the blue like that before. But I went on with my day...

So...I'm sitting at the dining room table, anxiety-ridden & sobbing. Of all things to come across our large television screen, it was a cardinal with a reassurance that her soul has been restored. She is very much OK in Gloryland. I believe that.

When my hubby was trying to figure out why I was overcome with emotion while signing a few Christmas cards, I backed up the story (thanks to modern technology) to show him what came into my view. When the close up of the card, I paused the TV and snapped a pic (the one above). My hubby was as shocked as I was. What a moment!

The close up of Mark holding the artwork was a preemptive tease for a segment coming up for Rhapsody Imaging. It's a husband & wife business that turns his photography of birds & some florals into her creative & beautiful pieces of art. The piece of artwork in the tease was actually a self-standing concave metal piece. And there were so many other things, and so many of the pieces had scriptures on it...
Whew! That was a hard segment to watch! But beautiful. My grandma used to get a subscription to "Birds & Blooms" magazine, so what a glorious moment as I felt like my grandmother had come for a brief moment.

Shorty after that, the weather came on. They love to show viewers photos of weather events when they happen...and someone had sent them a beautiful pic of a snow-covered tree by a snow-covered wooden fence. The fence had a birdhouse on the post, and then, if you looked closely, the tree was beautifully dotted by red spots of cardinals.


I decided to post the photo I took on Facebook to let folks know my grandmother had stopped by. I had tagged Mark in it, since it was him holding the artwork in my pic. He commented back letting me know touched he was that they could be a part of our lives in that moment. And he also talked up Rhapsody Imaging more as he tagged Pam (the artwork creator) in the comment.

After I'd pulled myself together, and since there was no school, we decided to give another go at trying to get the kiddos to see Santa (the first time was a fiasco on its own). As we stood in line at Bass Pro (like nearly everyone else anymore), I looked down at my phone to see there was a comment on a photo of mine from a name I didn't recognize...
I decided to check Facebook from my phone to see what that was about...
As I read the comment in confusion, and after reading it at least 2 more times, I realized the comment was from Pam at Rhapsody Imaging. It took a moment to sink in that she wanted me to message her my address so she could send me the very piece of artwork I took the picture of! She was so moved by the moment I had, she wanted me to have the concave metal image...

So...there I was crying while in line to see Santa. My older two were freaking out & wanting to know if everything was OK! My hubby wondered why I was crying AGAIN...and I showed him the comment. He was stunned, too. And then we had to explain to the kiddos why mommy is crying in the Bass Pro Santa line...


After I got home, I messaged Pam back in my overwhelmed state. As we had a few back-and-forth messages, we decided to save her some shipping cost, we could meet up since she's located in a neighboring town! This was awesome for me since I could tell her face-to-face what a blessing she was.

We decided to meet at the local Costco. (See where this is going?) Once we figured each other out...we embraced in a hug as our greeting! We stood there in the gray, drizzly weather talking about our losses & our blessings.

And I stood there, crying, in Costco's parking lot.

While I stood there crying with Pam, I told her I'd come to a realization that I saw the cardinal image with the Psalm on the first snowy morning of the season; it would have been a morning my grandmother would have been extra worried about us. However, she could not call us this year to check on she found other ways to make sure we knew she was looking out for us. I also fully believe I had been channeling her anxiety for us that day.

I brought home the beautiful artwork & decided to place it appropriately by the tree we put up in my grandmother's memory:

The beautiful artwork now displayed in our home.

The memory tree with grandma's costumed goose & the beautiful Rhapsody Imaging artwork.

The cardinal I got to put on the tree a couple of weeks ago.

I have a plan for displaying our new concave metal art after Christmas...but this is a fitting display for now.

I'm so emotional, yet happy, about that moment with my grandma on Thursday morning. I'm also so thankful that our favorite morning news team & Rhapsody Imaging were a part of it.

What an amazing & blessed Christmas miracle we got to witness.

I miss my grandma. This Christmas will be different. But it doesn't mean she's not with us. She still wants us to know she's watching out for us.

Even if it means leading to sobbing in the Bass Pro & parking lot of Costco.


*grabs a tissue*

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

** PS - check out the glorious work by Rhapsody Imaging HERE!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why AM~Erica is Not a Rockette

So anyway...

Every child has a dream of bigger things. It doesn't always work out later in life as we imagined it at the wise old age of 8-years-old, but we generally remember what our former aspirations were.

Many times, there's the passion there & those dreams are incorporated into our lives somehow later on, but generally the teaching astronaut ballerina is a bit over-specialized.

Growing up, I loved the thought of being a ballerina. I am not sure what made me think this around the age of 4-years-old, but I knew I wanted to do it. My folks signed me up for dance classes, and I took tap, ballet & that beginning acro where you try to somersault down a mat, and flail doing a broken cartwheel. We even got to wear costumes with sequins & fluff...and even got to put on makeup to get on front of people!! Whoa!


I decided I needed to keep going with this!

When I was growing up, it was a quintessential part of Thanksgiving to watch Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It still is. But there was one part I always looked forward to...
The giant character balloons? Nope.
The marching bands? Nuh-uh.
The floats with random musicians? Cool...but no.
Santa kicking off the official Christmas season? Not it, either.

The one thing I looked for every year, and still do, is the Radio City Rockettes!! *swoon*

The makeup, the costumes, the dancing, the chorus line kicks...

That part is what I aspired to as I grew up dancing: the kicks. I worked very hard to keep my legs limber & my kick ability high. And I did a good job! I was going to live in NYC & be a Rockette!! World famous, amm-i-rite?

Then they had a satellite group in Branson. I still wanted NYC...but I'd settle for Branson if it meant adding "Rockette" to my tiny resume'.

But before I got myself together, a few things happened. A few things happened that changed my childhood dream of being a Rockette...

1. I took tap for years. The year after I received the studio award for "Most Improved in Tap", I quit tap. It wasn't my schtick, yo. Even though I got a trophy that I earned for making strides in a style I wasn't fond of, that tall piece of bling wasn't enough to keep me going in it. Several years later, I was sad I gave up tap...especially when I found out/realized that the Rockette's do a whole lot of tapping. D'oh!

B. At one point, some of the Rockettes came to Kansas City. I remember reading an article including an interview from a journalist in the Kansas City Star about these visiting Rockettes. My envy set in that I was not one of those gals. The journalist printed about the costumes of the Rockettes, and how the waistlines of the costumes set differently on each of the visiting performers, but the waistbands matched up making an even line. Hmmmm....guess that helps with the very even kick line illusion! But then the article stated that the very few visiting Rockettes walked around exactly together, stepping down on their right foot at the same time, and even standing exactly the same...even sitting completely synchronized! Wha...WHA??? I then became very bothered by this. Somehow, they took these lovely women, who do look very differently on their own...and turned them into cookie cutter dancers. I mean...that's what professional & competing groups strive for...ON STAGE! But out in the real life?? Ummmm...I was deflated. I'm WAY too individual to be crammed into a cookie cutter!!

III. I'd found my soulmate (reminder HERE), and had kiddos...and just had a much different lifestyle. Plus, my hubby had gotten a calling to ministry (yes, I'M A PASTOR WIFE PERSON), and so many things changed. It would have been very difficult to move to NYC & be crammed into a cookie cutter lifestyle of sorts...

Thus was the end of my dream of being a Rockette. Thankfully! Can you imagine me blending in with a group of others?? That's insanity!

But, I still use my dancing for ministry now. See? You have dreams as a child, and many times it takes hold enough that you use it somehow later in life. But I get to do it as an individual, and I get to help teach others how to use their whole selves to tell a story. I don't always get the glitz anymore, but the shift to storytelling has been a beautiful thing. And I love including others of all levels for simple storytelling thru dance.

So I'm still a teaching ballerina...just haven't worked out that whole astronaut thing yet.

Polyvore image by ashes2beauty

And as for the Rockettes, I still love to watch them when they come across my television screen...and it makes me thankful that I'm not one of them from a cookie cutter. I can just be amazed from afar.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Friday, December 5, 2014

AM~Erica Finds a Different Way to Remember

So anyway...

It is that time of year, folks. A time of lights, trees, wrapping paper with lovely ribbons & bows, shiny ornaments, get togethers, mad-dash shopping, baking, cooking, photos, big guy in red, Nativity scenes...
Yep. It's Christmastime. Can you feel it?

As much as we love Christmas in our own house, we've been too stressed out & pulled too many directions to ever really enjoy it the last couple of years. We've had a couple of years where we just were having trouble feeling the season's spirit; having trouble finding the meaning.

Don't get me wrong. We KNOW what it's about! There's no mistaking it. We just couldn't get in tune with it. When things are too rushed, too filled, too much to just be able to breathe it in & focus. Then the time is gone...and we are even more disappointed that it's time to pack everything away & we didn't get

I'm not exactly sure what became different this year. It just seemed easier to move into this time of year. It's going to fast...but it felt right.

We changed some things. Our main tree set up is different.

That's right. We have a forest. This was actually a fun & awesome idea from my hubby! The big, main tree is actually a tree we've had for several years, it has been set up for the last 3 years (never taken down) downstairs, and now has it's chance to shine as the main tree! I love how it all turned out.
Oh...and our new North Pole-trained wrapping elves, Elof & Winka, have been hard at work so far!

I have also been wanting to do a Scandinavian-style tree since I started researching TO CELEBRATE LEIF ERICSSON DAY! The more I got looking into the Norse & Norwegian celebrations & customs, I was taken by the simplicity of the God Jul trees. So, I worked it where I could have that in my own home!

We had the old popcorn tins, so I set up a couple tiny trees to hold a few more ornaments. It's still a work in progress, but I'm loving how it's coming out!! Maybe more on this set up when it's all done...

Then, if you remember when my mom & daughter went with me to DECORATE A TREE FOR MARILLAC, I had some ornaments left over. Plus, I'd gotten some clearance ornaments for that tree, but couldn't find them when it came time to go decorate. Well...I found a bunch of what I'd gotten (figures), and so I thought I'd use them for the house. I used another tree we had stored to put downstairs. I began to place the browns & golds on & around the tree. I found a golden bird ornament that seemed to be featured. It has this great feather tail! As I finished up, I thought it needed a little remembered I had, at one time, purchased some brown, off white, and deep red feathers for some decorating! So I grabbed them & added them to the tree!

Even though some of the lights are out, I'm so happy with this adorable tree. With some of my mom's prompting, I've decided to call it "Fine Feathered Fantasy." It's quite elegant! The pictures don't do it justice.

We also started a tradition a couple of years ago. Each person in the household draws a number (around Thanksgiving-ish). This is the order each person will choose 2 things: a Christmas movie/special & a holiday treat to pair with it. Everyone joins in! No electronics during this time! We do this about once a week up to Christmas, as scheduling allows. This year, I was up first!

We got this really awesome chalkboard, and I was lost as to what to use it for during Christmastime. One side is our countdown...

...then I decided to use the other side to keep everyone apprised of the next family holiday movie/treat thingy.

For my night, I "made" gingerbread cookies & decorated them!

Then served 'em up with egg nog for night #1 2014 as we settled in to watch "Elf"!

I must tell you that I was not a fan of this movie the first time I saw it. However, the more I watch it, the more I love it! It's beginning to move it's way up the list as a favorite!

Oh! And I'm pretty much the only one who really likes gingerbread! But I found Nestle Tollhouse put out ready-made cookie dough sheets! Really...all you have to do is put your cookie cutters to 'em & bake! And? My family LOVED this version of gingerbread! BOOM! I was happy with how the season started off.

That's a way to get the holidays rolling, for sure! Next up will be Lil Guy's picks:

Looking forward to his turn!

As we prepare for that, there was something else that is different about this year. LOSING MY GRANDMOTHER. Man...all the Christmases in my life included her. Even if we had to shuffle a couple things around, we were always at her house to start the last run of Christmas events. This year...we won't. It won't be at her place, anyway.
Part of what made this time difficult was the fact that my grandmother was to turn 94...yesterday. *sigh*
The last few years, the family would gather to celebrate her birthday, and then as part of her gift, I would put up & decorate her Christmas tree.

My grandmother's tree I decorated, circa 2012

With her birthday being in December, and she loved her red birds (the actual bird, not the baseball team), and with her deep spiritual relationship, I came up with a grouping of decor that included "snow", cardinals (some nesting), and an angel topper for her fiberoptic tree. I called it "Heaven and Nature Sing." She loved looking at her red birds accented by the snow. She loved she could see them even if the lights on the tree weren't on.

This year, that didn't happen. And it won't happen. And it's sad.

In the faux forest of Christmas trees that hubby dreamed up, he thought maybe 4 trees. Ambitious, amm-i-rite? But the last one I saved. I decided that I would decorate it on December 4th. I wanted to add poinsettias to it since it's the flower readily associated with December. I also added 4 jingle bell snowman ornaments to this tree. My grandmother gave each of the kids one several years ago...each snowman has one of their names. And now they hang on the memory December tree in her memory. I will be finding at least one cardinal to place on the tree. I should have it soon...or it wouldn't be right.

Last year when we put up her tree, NBC was airing "Sound of Music Live!" We were watching some of it as we put up the tree, at the time we could gather for her birthday. My Lil Guy had trouble remembering that. Not in the fact of remembering...he was sad remembering it. Last year, we didn't know that would be the last time we would be doing that for her. He's still hurting from her loss, too. However, how fitting that NBC would be airing "Peter Pan Live!" on the night I would be decorating the tree in memory of my grandmother.

As I continue to grieve her absence & as we plan onward, we realize there's so much to do! We've got gatherings to attend, we have Christmas programs to put on. I'm even planning on channeling my grandmother as I attempt to make some candies & cookies this year.

We actually have lights up on our house, too! That hasn't happened for a couple of years, either! And...I've got another tree to put up in the kitchen. Be watching for that!

Ah...yes. That time of year is upon us. And this time, I feel merry & bright! Things will be different. But we are making the most of it! Looking forward to continuing on with our beautiful Advent season. My grandmother would want that happen...

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica