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Spark Tracker!

Monday, December 14, 2009

www.sparkpeople.com/myspark/stay-on-
track-calendar.asp


Many of you may know about this, but I just found it. I've been talking about it, wanting something like it, and I just discovered this has been here on SparkPeople while I've been dreaming about it.

It's the Stay-On-Track calendar and it gives you a birds eye view, month by month, of everything you have tracked on the Spark Planner, the food tracker, and your weigh-ins.

You can look back over any month and view a day when you ate exactly what you planned to eat, so you can give yourself an instant replay. The same goes for your calories burned, your exercise, etc. etc. It's a good way to find that favorite meal you had two months ago, but you can't remember what day it was.

I think it's a very handy, helpful tool and I wasn't even aware it was here. So I want to share it with all the teams I've joined in case others aren't aware of it either.

Karen

PS - In case you aren't familiar with the Spark Planner, the link is below. Map out your appointments and have it send you a reminder via email.

www.sparkpeople.com/myspark/planner.
asp


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sister

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FISHINGLADY66 12/15/2009 10:48PM

    I use the planner, but I have not seen the Stay-On-Track calendar. Thanks for the info. You are so talented.

Comment edited on: 12/15/2009 10:52:02 PM

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INKEDSHUTTERBUG 12/15/2009 2:10AM

  I just stumbled across this a few moments ago, very handy tool!

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SOPHIEMAE2007 12/14/2009 7:07PM

    I remember seeing this one time and never looked at it again until now. Thanks for the reminder!!

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PJSTIME 12/14/2009 4:31PM

    Thanks for sharing I didn't know either. It will be very useful. PJ

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JUSTJO66 12/14/2009 1:44PM

    This is just too cool. I knew about the planner but not about this feature.
Thanks

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NICKI2B 12/14/2009 9:48AM

    Thanks for the info! I had no clue this was on there! Cool feature!

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AUTUMNWINDZ 12/14/2009 9:37AM

    I found that the other day and was delighted. It is amazing how many wonderful tools SP has for us.

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ANGIE

Friday, December 11, 2009

ANGIE



Angie was my aunt. She was more than that, really. She was my Other Mother. Always there. Always patient. Always happy.

The love of her life never came home from WWII. She never married. Never had children. She became Mother to me and many of my cousins and all of us thought of her with the same love you have for your mother.

She fought to get her job at the telephone company during the war. They didn’t want to hire her because she had polio. She wore a heavy leg brace, ugly built up shoes and walked with a limp. No, it was much more than a limp. Her uneven legs and her weak side threw her into such a meandering gait that every eye turned her way whenever she moved. She convinced the phone company that as a telephone operator she’d be sitting down all day so it wouldn’t matter. They were worried about all the work she’d miss.

I’d love to have been in the room during her interview when she convinced them to hire her. She eventually received an award for 30 years PERFECT ATTENDANCE.

She worked a late shift at the phone company, most of the time, getting home after midnight. Still, she was there every morning, carving my pancakes into faces with grins and big square eyes. She was there when I got home from school, with my snack, and with dinner ready in the oven before she left for work, so my mother and my youngest aunt would have food when they got home at 6 PM.

She walked her walk beside me through countless school halls and stores and trips. Never bothered that my little girl legs ran circles around her wherever we went. And what a nurse! It was almost a delight to be a sickly little girl with asthma, bronchitis and bouts of pneumonia. I spent days in a sunny bedroom, with a kitten, a book, a doll, and Aunt Angie. She made me soup. She buttered my toast. She handed me anything I wanted. And me too little to ever think of her and her painful steps, or what it meant to watch her cut callouses off her uneven feet.

No one ever thought of her crippled state. And that was her glory.

For the most remarkable thing about Angie was that she was crippled, and no one ever remembered it.

What did she feel inside about never marrying or having children? About loving to dance and having a body that fought her? About not being able to run, to take long walks, to ride a bike? I was too young to ever wonder.

Her smile, her eyes, her deep, true kindness radiated from her and met you right up front; filled your senses with delight and joy, so that you were blind to any defect, any pain she had. A spinster who lived her life with other people’s kids, in someone else’s house. Dear Lord, if I can only live in such a way to be remembered with the sweetness and fondness and love that we all remember Aunt Angie, I will die happy.

This is a poem to Angie,
Not as my Aunt, but as a woman.
A woman who never knew
that she was beautiful,
Nor remembered she was crippled.
Who, though thoughtless, ignorant people
laughed at her,
Found a reason to laugh with all.
Who loved all God's creation so intensely,
That speaking of children and animals
and ordinary people,
Brought tears of joy to her eyes.
Who loved everyone so much,
It was difficult for her
to love one person exclusively.
Who was not religious,
But was God-like in her truly Universal love.
Who could laugh until her sides ached,
And defy the strongest of the unjust.
Who never, never quit,
Until the end,
When she could not place her burden
of old age upon those she loved.
This is a poem to Angie's beauty,
Which, after her crippled body faded to dust,
Lingers still.

Karen

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JENNY888 7/16/2010 5:43PM

    Thank you Karen for sharing this again. I didn't get to read it the original time. I'm glad I did now. Your other mother, Angie, will stay in my memory.

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GOALIEGRANDMA3 12/22/2009 10:17PM

    No wonder you are the woman you are!!! Look at the role model you had. Karen, this is lovely.

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JUSTJO66 12/14/2009 1:38PM

    Karen what a wonderful testament to your Aunt Angie. A beautiful poem and memories. I suspect you might be more like her than even you can image.

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DUMBELLE 12/12/2009 9:53AM

    She sounds wonderful. She certainly made a huge impact on your life and others as well.

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MOOKBALL 12/12/2009 12:37AM

    What a W-O_M_A_N!

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SCOTMAMA 12/12/2009 12:18AM

    What a blessing for you to have had an "Aunt Angie" in your life. I know one of the reasons you remember her in such a loving and beautiful way is because you see people as she did. you see in people the beauty and the kindness, not the temper, the disabilities and other things that are in most people. Your stories reflect a kindness in you that maybe you picked up from being around your aunt.

And she is lucky to have been remembered so graciously!
Thank you for the beautiful blog.

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SERENITYSEL 12/11/2009 8:34PM

    Karen, that was a beautiful story. It reminded me of my own mother, who was severely crippled with RA. I remember as a child asking her if her hands would ever be like mine, not all twisted up. She said "when I die". Well I was 48 when she died, and I was lucky enough to be with her. The minute she took her last breath, I remember looking at her hands. They were still twisted and crippled. I cried. Yes, at 48, I really thought they would straighten. I finally realized what she meant. When she got to heaven, she would not be in pain anymore, mentally and physically.

I remember beating kids and adults (when I got to be an adult) up for laughing at her and they called her "gimp" because she could hardly walk on her crippled legs. My mom loved to play Bingo, and I don't know how she did it, but I would take her and my grandmother, and sometimes go with them, and she would buy a lot of cards and she played them, I don't know how.

Thanks for the poem and for the memories. You were very fortunate to have someone like your aunt in your life. I believe having someone like these two ladies, helped us learn NEVER to make fun of others. Sharon

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GABY1948 12/11/2009 7:25PM

    Karen what a wonderful and loving memorial to Aunt Angie. Oh, that we could ALL be remembered so beautifully but ANYONE in our lives. That would be completeness to me. God Bless you and your sweet heart!
Gaye

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FISHINGLADY66 12/11/2009 6:08PM

    This is a beautiful blog. What fond memories you have of a Wonderful person. Thank you for helping me remember the beauty in people.

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INKEDSHUTTERBUG 12/11/2009 5:22PM

  Absolutely beautiful, you're a very good writer Karen. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about Angie, she sounds like a wonderful soul who left many lessons for us all.

I'm sure she would be proud to know you remember her so fondly.

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PJSTIME 12/11/2009 4:49PM

    What a beautiful poem and blog. You were blessed to have her in your life, but you already know that. I wish for myself and everyone a little bit of Aunt Angie resides in all of us. Her wonderful attitde and fortitude and kindness. The world would be a much better place with more Aunt Angies.

Thank you Karen. Have a wonderful afternoon. PJ emoticon

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KAYYVAUGHN 12/11/2009 4:45PM

    Karen,
Your aunt was your guardian angel. Your memories of her will carry you through many difficult times. She must have been an inspiration to many others. You were fortunate to have her as an important part of your life.
Thanks for sharing the story with us. emoticon

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The Duck Who Couldn't Swim

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Once upon a time, my husband and I and our two sons lived on ten acres overlooking Stillhouse Hollow Lake in Central Texas, near Salado. Our little plot of land bordered the Army Corps Of Engineers land that surrounded the lake.

Our house was high on a hill and the land dropped away behind it in shelf-like layers. On the second layer was the barn and workshop. On the third layer was a small field and a pond, which is Texas is often called a “tank”. The final layer was the lake itself.
tiny.cc/Hillside649

We had some mallard ducks, but they were slowly ravaged and eaten by the many critters that lived in the land. A few hardy, crafty hens and a drake survived. One hen layed a large clutch of eggs near the tank. But that didn’t last. Eaten by a fox or a raccoon or a opossum or one of any number of varmints that shared the land with us. So she layed another clutch of eggs on the next higher level of land, near the barn. Same ending.

The poor duck would not give up and finally she deposited her eggs in a nest she created right next to the chimney of our house, which was right outside our picture window. (Remember those?) Each day we could look out and see her sitting there, patient and confident that she was taking care of her eggs. It worked.

A few weeks later she hatched about 9 or 10 little ducklings! The cutest things you ever saw. Hours later she took them down to the pond. Can you even imagine how many tiny steps those little webbed feet took to get down there??

They swam in that pond for a very short time. The catfish we had stocked in the pond opened their wide mouths and swallowed them like bugs! I was horrified for a while, but this is MOTHER NATURE, folks. She’s never seen a Walt Disney movie. Only the strong or the very lucky survive.

Back at the house, the boys were looking at an egg that didn’t hatch. It was still in the nest, but had a little hole in it and you could see a tiny little beak moving and weakly chipping away at the egg shell. MOM, we have to help it! Wow. My husband was a Game Warden and had always told me there is a reason some eggs don’t hatch. The bird inside is weak or mal-formed and just won’t make it anyway. But two little boys didn’t want to hear that, so we gently helped that little duckling fight his way out of the egg, slowly, a little at a time, as natural as we could make it. Put him in a box and sat him on the dryer with a light above him to keep him warm. Fed him, got him to drink. Over the next days, he spent a lot of time in one little-boy-hand or the other, watching cartoons on tv, lol.

We named him, of course. Donald, of course. He grew up fine and healthy, except he walked with a little limp and one of his wings was so crooked it stuck out like an artificial limb not quite correctly attached, so he couldn't fly.

The only thing we forgot to do was put him in water and let him swim. So, he never did want to swim. Wouldn’t go near the water. I often took him out and turned over rocks so he could find crickets and other bugs to eat, lol. He was a very plucky ducky, lol.

In the summer, the boys took him down to swim in the tank with them. He wouldn’t have it. We made a boat from the lid of a styrofoam ice chest, and the boys put a rope handle on it and pulled Donald around the tank on that lid when they swam. He would settle down on that lid and seemed to enjoy the ride! He certainy NEVER jumped off, lol.

He lived a long and happy life, was a real pet, just a little funny looking and certainly the only duck we knew that couldn’t swim, lol.

Karen
(Inspired by JUSTJO66's blog, A Lesson from a Duck.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SERENITYSEL 12/6/2009 12:47PM

    Beautiful story!

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AMBUDMAN 12/6/2009 10:31AM

    What a great story. I will have to share with my grandchildren.

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BELTONWALKER67 12/6/2009 9:52AM

    What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing. These memories can be passed down to future generations for enjoyment! Love all your blogs and think you missed your calling and should have been an author! Have a super great day.

Linda

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FISHINGLADY66 12/5/2009 10:55PM

    Karen this was a heart touching story. I could almost see the whole picture the way you told it. You are an awesome writer. I really enjoy reading your memories. Keep them coming. Life is all about memories. You have some real good memories. Thanks for sharing them.

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JUSTJO66 12/5/2009 9:44PM

    Great story Karen. I'm with PJ..I've never seen a duck that couldn't swim either but I sure would have liked to have seen one on a styrofoam boat..:o) Sounds like your boys had/have tender hearts for the animals, too, like you and your husband. I think children born with animals to care for learn so many good things from them. Thanks for writing this.

Jo
emoticon

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EMMABE1 12/5/2009 6:57PM

    Wonderful story - and very good lessons for the children too - and maybe for the rest of us too!!

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MOOKBALL 12/5/2009 3:41PM

    Maybe nature has its way of letting animals know their limitations. I'm sure Donald didn't miss being eaten like his siblings!

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PEDAL-PUSHER 12/5/2009 1:54PM

    I agree, GREAT STORY! Your boys could probably remember many great stories about dear Donald, as everybody sees things differently.

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KAYYVAUGHN 12/5/2009 12:18PM

    Karen,
Thanks for the heart warming duck story. I feel for the little duck, but I'm glad that your boys took care of him. That duck knew that your family cared for him. Animals are smarter than we think. emoticon

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PJSTIME 12/5/2009 11:53AM

    What a wonderful memory. I bet you sons remember Donald too. You ought to ask them. I have never seen a duck that couldn't swim let alone one being pulled around on a styrofoam raft. I bet it was hilarious. PJ

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GABY1948 12/5/2009 10:49AM

    Oh, this is a MARVELOUS story, Karen! I love your stories. We do have the same heart for animals. My dh is alot like your dh...he has taught me so much. But my dh was not a game warden though he would love to have been or now wishes he had joined the DNR. He did work for government...just the drain commission.

Keep writing these awesome stories, please!
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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Childhood Christmas

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thank you all for reading my Christmas Story blog and for all the nice words you wrote me about it. That was a Christmas memory from my adult life.

I also have sweet memories of childhood Christmases.

Even though I was the only child of a single parent, I was very fortunate to live next door to my grandparents. My mother was the middle child of ten and most of her brothers and sisters lived nearby. So it was easy for all the holidays of the year to be celebrated next door at my grandparents’ house. This continued even after they passed on, because both the oldest and youngest children of the family weren’t married and continued to live in the family home.

My mother and I decorated a tree in our little house. Sometimes a few of my cousins helped. Then I got to join in decorating the tree next door, where all the family gathered on Christmas Eve. We all exchanged little gifts. Before we began, we stood in the dark, with only the lights of the tree glowing, and sang Silent Night.

Sometimes we went to Midnight Mass; sometimes we went early Christmas Day. We were all in our own homes on Christmas morning, awaiting the arrival of Santa Clause, of course!

We had a small, red, pot-bellied Santa light. Santa was holding a globe with a long clear glass tube coming out of the top of it. It had water in it and once the light heated up, the water would bubble. When I went to bed on Christmas Eve, the only lights in the house were from the tree and the Santa light, and the single tiny light over the nativity scene we always set up. I loved holding all the tiny figures of Mary, Joseph, the Baby, and all the animals. I have a nativity set just like it even now.

I always woke up in the night, and tip-toed into the living room to peek under the tree and see if Santa had come. He ALWAYS beat me there and I would see the gifts he left, but wouldn’t touch them. I’d crawl back into bed and wake up the next morning, ready to open my gifts. Anticipation!

But the most special part was those lights glowing in the dark, the bubbling Santa, and me peeking at the magical gifts, all alone in the quiet darkness.

So, it’s the Mystery of Christmas I remember most. Not the gifts.

Karen

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MKLUCILLE 12/12/2009 6:07PM

    That was a great blog love reading peoples memories of Christmas! emoticon

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GABY1948 12/4/2009 5:43PM

    What a wonderful and vivid memory of Christmas. I also remember the bubbling lights and Christmases that were not so commercial. Thank you for helping me remember simpler and wonderful memories that I have not thought of for a long time.
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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BELTONWALKER67 12/3/2009 1:47PM

    That is a wonderful memory of Christmas. We also had a large family and everyone in the family would gather at Grandma & Grandpa's house for Christmas Day Dinner with the opening of gifts and a special visit from Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus. We also had the bubbling lights on the tree. Our stockings were always filled with fruits & nuts! The memories of our childhood will always be with us!

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LADYNLI 12/3/2009 12:16PM

    What a wonderful memory. I agree the mystery of Christmas is something wonderful!!!!

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FISHINGLADY66 12/3/2009 10:19AM

    I love hearing about other peoples Christmas memories. I remember having bubbliing lights on our Christmas Tree. I really loved them. Things really change during the years. I miss my parents and my sisters at Christmas. We always had such a big family with lots of people and Lots and lots of food. I still have a wonderful Christmas with my daughter and my grand kids now.
I hope your Christmas is another memorable one.

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PJSTIME 12/3/2009 7:09AM

    Family gatherings and traditions been more than the gifts. I remember my grandparents tree had those bubble lights Oh how I loved to watch those lights. I wish they still had them, but I'm sure they are unsafe or filled with some kind of substance that can't be used. PJ

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READINGDOC 12/3/2009 6:42AM

    It is true that it is the mystery of Christmas that is so wonderful, especially the greatest Gift of all.
Lynda

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Christmas Story

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

One year, after my sons had gone to live and work on their own and Christmas was approaching, I was looking around trying to think of what to buy my husband for Christmas. After I while I realized I was really trying hard to dream up a gift for him. I knew he’d be having an even harder time thinking of what to give me.

This got me to thinking about the whole meaning of giving and of Christmas. I’ll try not to make this terribly long, but this is the idea that came to me and what we actually did for Christmas that year -

My husband was a Game Warden. He often confiscated game killed illegally. What happens to it? We tried giving it to facilities like orphanages, but too many government and health regulations kept that from happening. So he always had a list of people he found who were down on their luck and needed food for their families. Most were country boys who could come retrieve the game and dress it and prepare it for eating. This included venison, wild duck, goose, quail, doves, sometimes fish.

Many of these people in our rural area supported their families off the land, too. They hunted and trapped and sold hides. So Jim would also stop when he saw a hide-bearing animal on the roadside - hit by a car - retrieve it and give it to someone so they could sell the hide. This little extra money made a big difference to some families.

Christmas was close and Jim found a huge raccoon that had been killed so he took it to the house of a construction worker who had hurt his back and was out of work. He knew the man would get a nice sum of money for it, enough to buy a few groceries for his wife and 5 kids. The next week Jim stopped by the man’s house and the kids came running out to greet him. One little boy said, “Mr. Jim. Thanks so much for the raccoon. We haven’t had meat in a long time.”

When Jim told me this, we were both horrified. These people were not only eating something most of us wouldn’t, it was a road kill, intended for the hide sale only. But they hadn’t wasted any of it! I’ve eaten roasted raccoon and it’s ok, but not what I look forward to having for dinner, and certainly not when it’s picked up off the roadside.

So here is the plan I put forward to my husband: This year we will not exchange gifts. We will use the money we would have spent on each other and we’ll buy groceries for this man’s family. The important parts of this are:

1. We are not just giving food to a poor family at Christmas. We are doing this instead of giving to each other. You and I will NOT exchange gifts.

2. We will not tell anyone about this.
A part of the Bible that has always made a huge impression on me is Matthew, Chapter 6, Vs 1-7. To put it in the vernacular - Do your good works in secret, don’t blow your own horn. (You can read it here: tiny.cc/verse

There was a friend at our house when we were discussing this. He did not like the idea because this man was often arrested for one thing or another - misdemeanor crimes. Jim knew lots of people like this and helped them feed their families anyway. They knew if he caught them breaking the law, he’d take them to jail and then take some food to their families. We talked about it for a while and before he left, our friend added his own money to the contribution.

SO, on December 23rd, I left work early and went to the grocery store. I mentally prepared meals for that family of parents and 5 children - 7 days worth, and bought everything that would be needed to prepare them all. That included a turkey dinner for Christmas day and dessert and candy for the kids. I had more than one grocery cart filled. Christmas Eve morning Jim delivered the entire load, including cash we had collected from our friend. I didn’t go.

He came home crying. The gratitude of the entire family just overwhelmed him. It overwhelmed me, too. The father came to our house later to thank me himself and tell me how hard times had been and what this meant to his family. I can’t tell you the deep joy that filled me that Christmas. It was THE most wonderful Christmas I ever had. It became a tradition I repeated many times, but that first time was the most awesome.

So why am I telling you about this now? I want you, most of all, to hear the SEQUEL. The very next year, this man and his family were in better shape. He came to our house again, to let us know that he and his family were doing the same thing for someone they knew that was in bad shape! He was so thankful to us, not only for the gift of food and money, but for the gift of the GIFT. Of seeing the GIFT in action. I went on to hear, in subsequent years, how the GIFT was being passed on, throughout a community of working poor, and yes, people who were often in our jail for one thing or another. Still people with families to feed and needs to be met.

Even though we didn’t tell anyone what we did, the word spread around, mostly through a community of people that most good citizens ignored or wouldn’t associate with. I still hear about it now and then, 25 yrs later. I certainly still reap benefits un-imagined from it. The memory of that first time still gives me chills.

That’s my Christmas Story.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KAYYVAUGHN 12/14/2009 6:14AM

    Karen,
I agree with Martha. That was definitely a "Pay it Forward." It's so rewarding to do for others. You are a guardian angel.
Kay emoticon emoticon

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MKLUCILLE 12/12/2009 6:13PM

    That was an awesome story, what a great love of Man and God you & your Husband have. God Bless you Both! emoticon

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SCOTMAMA 12/4/2009 11:37AM

    A great story, Karen! And the best part is that it's about people that you know personally -- and it shows that the spirit of Christmas and giving can be passed along from person to person! A true story of giving and feeling good about it.

Hugs, Eve

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SOPHIEMAE2007 12/2/2009 6:22PM

    Wonderful story! Pay it forward!

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READINGDOC 12/2/2009 2:22PM

    Great story of giving. Thanks for sharing. Lynda

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JUSTJO66 12/2/2009 1:46PM

    A wonderful story and tradition. It blessed my heart to read this. Thank you for sharing with us.
Jo

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GOALIEGRANDMA3 12/1/2009 1:55PM

    You started a "pay it forward" long before it was even a saying.

We all knew you were a special person. emoticon

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--KREN 12/1/2009 12:20PM

    Jim left this world years ago, still living in my heart though. Thank you for all the kind words. Karen

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FISHINGLADY66 12/1/2009 12:16PM

    This is a wonderful story of how people give love and help. Your reward has already come. This is the best blog I have read in a long time. It joys my heart to know there are people like you and Jim in this world. May God Bless you this Christmas.
emoticon Irene

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NANCY- 12/1/2009 12:13PM

    Everyday is an opportunity to give.
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BELTONWALKER67 12/1/2009 11:18AM

    This is probably the best post I have read in my time with Sparkpeople. To me, this is the true meaning of Christmas, as well as everyday life, in sharing with one another. You & your husband started an amazing tradition in your own way that will continue for years to come.
Thank you & Merry Christmas.

Linda

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PJSTIME 12/1/2009 7:26AM

    What a wonderful story. I have never done anything quite that big, but I do try and pay it forward in smaller ways.

Thank you so much for starting my Tuesday with this story.

PJ emoticon

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DAYHIKER 12/1/2009 7:23AM

    That's a wonderful Christmas story and likely the best one I'll read this season. Thank you for posting it!



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BIRDLEGS29 12/1/2009 7:22AM

    What a lovely story! The idea of "pass it forward" is not new and you and your husband started quite a chain. Bless you!

Jean

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