Give Thanks

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I hope you have a great Thanksgiving! Stop and give thanks for your many blessings. Thank you for following along on this journey with me!

xoxo,

Megan

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The Meaning of Memorial Day

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Many people are spending today relaxing by the pool, eating BBQ, or soaking in some sun at the beach. However, there is one thing not to be missed: the real reason for the holiday.

Today isn’t about the fireworks, opening of pools, or ringing in the summer season. It’s about remembering the military members who gave the ultimate price for our country’s freedom.

Let us not forget to remember our fallen soldiers today and everyday. Add a new tradition to your backyard BBQ this year with a few of the ideas below.

1: Raise your American flag outside your home.

2: Visit a veteran’s home and capture their story.

3: Share a picture of a beloved fallen military member on social media.

4: Write thank you notes to our troops serving throughout the world.

5: Watch or listen to the National Memorial Day Concert.

xoxo,

Megan

The Perfect Checklist for Any Party

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Planning parties and making checklists—two of my favorite things! No matter how many times I plan an event, there are things I forget. Did the invitations get out at the appropriate time? Did I order the cake and other refreshments ahead of time? To make sure a party can go as smoothly as possible, it is helpful to use a party checklist. Below is a handy list for all types of festivities, which can be personalized to meet your needs.

SIX WEEKS BEFORE

  • Create your budget.
  • Choose a theme.
  • Determine the guest list.
  • Reserve your party venue, caterer, and entertainer, if needed.
  • Write down all the necessary equipment, including chairs and tables, and contact rentals.
  • Finalize the details, such as date, time, location, RSVP date, and menu.

FOUR WEEKS BEFORE 

  • Prepare your invitations and envelopes.
  • For a children’s party, ask for an updated class list from their teacher, if you are inviting their classmates.
  • Decide on games, activities, and menu to match your theme.
  • Think about items for party favors.
  • Make a shopping list of food, paper goods, and decorations.
  • If ordering food or cake, place order.

THREE WEEKS BEFORE

  • Mail invitations.
  • Purchase party supplies, at the store or online.
  • Arrange for extra help for a children’s party.

ONE TO TWO WEEKS BEFORE

  • Create a party schedule.
  • Confirm times for when extra help is arriving.
  • Purchase last-minute party supplies.
  • Design a music playlist.
  • Call those invited who haven’t responded to the invitations.

THREE DAYS BEFORE 

  • Buy food and drinks.
  • Charge necessary cameras and electronic devices.
  • Call party venue, caterer, and entertainer to confirm details.
  • Assemble activities and party favors.
  • Clean inside and outside of your home.
  • Designate areas for food, beverages, and gifts/

ONE TO TWO DAYS BEFORE 

  • Bake cake, prepare make-ahead food or pick up ordered items.
  • Decorate party venue.

PARTY DAY 

  • Finalize last-minute details.
  • Turn on the music, lighting, etc.
  • Inflate the balloons.
  • Chill beverages.
  • Assemble remaining food and set out.
  • Double-check that bathrooms are stocked with extra toilet paper and there are enough silverware, napkins, plates, and cups on the tables.

ONE WEEK AFTER

  • Send thank-you notes.
  • Post pictures to social media and send to attendees.

ALWAYS REMEMBER

  • Specify an area for boots, umbrellas, and coats.
  • Napkins (2 per person).
  • Don’t forget ice, ice bucket, tongs or scoop.
  • Paper towels.
  • Extra toilet paper.
  • Plates of all sizes (appetizer, salad, dinner, and dessert).
  • Glasses of all sizes (water, wine, mixed drink, beer, soda, and coffee).
  • If grilling, check the tank, charcoal, and lighter fluid.
  • For an outside party, remember bug spray and citronella candles.
  • Extra batteries.
  • Wine and bottle opener.
  • Garbage bags.
  • Dishwashing soap.
  • To have fun! Enjoy the food, games, activities, and mingle with your guests!

xoxo,

Megan

Article published in Forsyth Family Magazine 

Hello, Winter!

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Happy Winter! Today is the first day of a new season and is the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. December 21st is known as winter solstice and happens due to the tilt of the sun towards the Earth.

Celebrate the day with your family and friends. This simple craft will have your home smelling good all season long and makes a great Christmas decoration!

Clove Oranges

Materials:

  • An orange
  • Thin colored ribbon
  • Cloves

Directions: 

  1. Wrap the ribbon around the orange, twisting at the base, dividing the orange into quarters.
  2. Feed the ends under the piece of ribbon at the top of the orange.
  3. Tie a overhand knot at one end of the orange to keep the ribbon in place.
  4. Press cloves into the orange. Create any pattern you would like and be creative.
  5. Display your oranges in a bowl and hang onto your Christmas tree with extra ribbon for hanging.

xoxo,

Megan

 

 

Anxiety, Let Me Introduce You to the Holidays

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Can I be honest and say that December has been an uphill battle for me? Every day, I want to break into tears and my anxiety and depression have been all over the place, like it is every year when the holiday season rolls around.

The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year with all the events, decorations, and music. However, the holidays are hard for people with mental illnesses. It is difficult to always pretend to be happy when you really aren’t. With the loss of my dog and this year’s other challenges, I’m drained of the Christmas spirit. Add in the anxiety of being overwhelmed by the season makes me just… sad. I keep thinking about the song “Where Are You Christmas” from The Grinch. Where is Christmas? Have I changed so much to where the magic of the holiday is gone?

To help ease my worries, I have been cooking, reading, exercising, and taking time for myself. Sometimes, those practices don’t always make me happy and feel better. Yet, there are still the moments of laughter and love with my family and friends that make the holidays all worth it.

Remember that for some people Christmas is hard. Spread kindness and love and understand that the holidays are still meaningful to them, but also a little somber. Keep in mind mental illnesses don’t take a holiday break and will be with the person during the special moments. Make them feel loved and supported. Give them space and let them know they don’t have to do everything that’s involved with the season. There is nothing worse than being pushed to take part in an event, when you are hurting inside.

xoxo,

Megan

Helping the California Wildfire Victims

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I’m in North Carolina and as I sit writing this post, snow is melting outside. Snow? In the south? On December 10th? Yes, a majority of the south was covered with blankets of the white fluff over the weekend. However, the western part of the nation is fighting something a little hotter than snow.

Southern California is currently battling six fires, spanning over 175,000 and 212,000 residents have evacuated from their homes. In addition, almost 8,500 firefighters have been working around the clock, trying to put out the blazes. Every day, more and more people are leaving their homes; animals and nature are becoming innocent victims.

If you are like me, you can’t imagine leaving your home at Christmas and not knowing when you might be able to come back. The holiday season is a season of giving. Below are some ways for you to help the victims of the California wildfires. I encourage you to donate whatever you can.

Give back to those affected by the California wildfires this holiday season!

xoxo,

Megan

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving is a beautiful time. We are given a designated day to express gratitude and reflect upon the many blessings we have been given. I am grateful for my family, friends, and of course, my dedicated readers! Be sure to stop and give thanks today for what you have in life and celebrate being with those around you.

From my family to yours, a very happy Thanksgiving! And eat everything you want, because after all, this day only comes once a year.

xoxo,

Megan

I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Part II)

The conclusion to I’ll Be Home for Christmas….

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Over the next couple of days, my family lived precariously, waiting impatiently to hear any news about Russell.

One night, as we were decorating the Christmas tree, I couldn’t take it anymore. This was always a tradition my family did together and without Russell, I wanted nothing to do with it. “Why can’t we find anything out about Russell?” Are you sure you contacted everyone you could think of for information?” I exclaimed, out of anger. “Lizzy, your mother and I are doing everything we can. The least you can do is be supportive and keep up hope,” stated my father. “It’s hard to keep up hope. It’s easier to have doubt. I’m going up to my room and the two of you can keep decorating,” I said, disappointed with his response. “Lizzy, please don’t,” my mother began to say, but a knock on the front door interrupted her.

“Who do you think it could be, Bill?” my mother weakly asked. All of our hearts were pounding out of our chests, wondering who stood on the other side of the door. One by one, with my father in the lead, we walked to the door and slowly opened it. “Are you Mr. Dillard?” a man in an Army uniform asked. “Yes, yes I am,” my father replied, nervously. “Here, I have an important letter for you. I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas,” he said as he passed the letter to my family. As quickly as he came, the uniformed man went. Not knowing what to do, my family stood there like statues in a museum. “Open it Bill! Don’t just look at it!” shouted my mother.

Very slowly the letter was torn open. As he began reading, my father’s eyes grew ten times bigger. “It’s…it’s from Russell!” Jumping with enthusiasm, my mother grabbed the letter and shouted “Safe! He is safe! Russell is safe!” Hearing the news was the best thing I could ask for. “What else does the letter say, Mom?” I asked. “It says he is safe and an Italian family has taken him and a few other soldiers into their home, after their plane was shot down. They are keeping them in hiding, otherwise they would be taken as prisoners of war. All that matters is that he is safe,” my mother said as she squealed with excitement.

After hearing the happy news, my family gained a little bit more Christmas spirit and together, we finished decorating the tree. From then on, my family kept receiving letters from Russell; however, we couldn’t write back, because it was too risky. Between letters, I kept reading the old ones over and over again until I could recite them from memory. All I wanted for Christmas was for him to be home, but I knew that was impossible.

Within no time, Christmas Eve was here. As always, my family went to the Christmas Eve Candlelight service at our church. Right as we were pulling out of the driveway, it began to snow. “There’s nothing like a white Christmas, don’t you think?” said my mother. There was something different about the evening, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. “Oh well,” I thought, “tonight is Christmas Eve and I’m not going to let anything bother me.”

 

I loved everything about the Christmas Eve Candlelight service. From singing “Morning Star” to lighting the candles, the service officially signaled to me that Christmas had begun. By the time we left church, the snow had picked up and the ground was covered in a blanket of white. “Almost two inches deep and more is going to fall by morning,” my father said as he observed the sky. Sometimes I believed my father could tell the weather better than anyone.

Once we got home, we built a fire, and opened the traditional only one present on Christmas Eve. Still, there was something strange about the night, but I still couldn’t figure it out. Once the Christmas Eve traditions were done, there was one more thing to do. “Does everyone want hot chocolate? Bill, make sure the fire is going strong and Lizzy, make sure the lights are turned down,” my mother said from the kitchen. The Dillard family always watched the snow fall from the living room window and drank hot chocolate by the light of the Christmas tree before going to bed.

We had only watched the snow fall for about 10 minutes when a jeep pulled into our driveway. Oddly, it was Russell’s jeep. Thoughts began to run through my head, but I quickly pushed them aside, thinking there was no way he could have gotten home. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see the person walking up to the front door. Instead of knocking, the mysterious person began to sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Glancing between the window and my parents, I realized the jeep actually was Russell’s and he was the mysterious person. “Run and open the door,” exclaimed my mother as her and my father stood there, smiling with joy. As excited as I could be, I opened the door and saw Russell, standing there in his Army uniform, singing the last note of the song as loud as he could.

“Russell! Russell! You are home!” I said as I jumped into his arms, knocking him down. “What? How?” I exclaimed as a million questions began to surface. “Lizzy! Lizzy! Let me come inside and tell you,” Russell replied to my incomplete thoughts. “It’s good to see you!” both of my parents said as they greeted their son. “Tell me how! Tell me how!” I blurted out, breaking up their reunion.

Before Russell began, my parents showed me a letter they had kept hidden from me. “You knew he was coming home and you didn’t tell me?” “Lizzy,” my parents said, “we wanted this to be a Christmas surprise for you.” In his letter, Russell said he was coming home for Christmas, but in order to leave, he had to pretend he wasn’t an US citizen until he got back to base. Getting back to base wasn’t easy, but Russell was able to make it there safely.

“But how did you get your jeep?” I asked. “While you were at church, a neighbor drove me home from the train station and I got it then. Mom and Dad helped me plan the whole welcome home surprise, once I got back to base. ‘Operation Lizzy’s Christmas Present’ was what we called it. Keeping it a surprise from you wasn’t so easy,” answered Russell.

As I raced towards my brother, I began to list all of the old traditions we still needed to do. “Ok, ok. We’ll do them,” he said, “but where to begin?” I thought about this for a moment, then pulled Russell out the door and to his jeep. “It’s time to go caroling,” I said. With our parents waving from the door, Russell and I started our annual caroling trip through town.

When we pulled up to the front house, Russell looked over at me and said “Told you in my letters I would be home for Christmas.”

The Christmas of 1944 became a Christmas I never forgot.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Part I)

Every year around this time, I post the story I’ll Be Home for Christmas. I wrote this story a few years back and love sharing it.  As a lover of history and World War II, there is a personal connection to the story for me–part of my grandfather’s own World War II experience is mixed into the plot.

Enjoy one of my favorite tales this Christmas season- I’ll Be Home for Christmas. 

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Story Picture

It was December 1944 and the United States was immersed in World War II. My family, the Dillards, included my father Bill, my mother Samantha, my brother Russell, and me, Lizzy, a freckled-faced, red, curly-haired 13-year old. Russell, a 20-year old, private in the US Army, was stationed in Europe, fighting behind enemy lines. As for the rest of us, we fought the war at home.

Two weeks before Christmas and the town of Smithfield, Illinois, was full of holiday spirit. Along with preparing for December 25th, my town was preparing gift packages to send to soldiers overseas. Many of my friends had siblings in the Army, just like I did.

My mother was the president of Operation Victory, a committee that sent gift packages to soldiers throughout the year. This was just one of the ways my mother helped fight the war. As the sibling of a soldier, I constantly wrote letters to Russell, telling him about home and the latest news. I also sent cards to him and his friends. Quickly, I became a professional at drawing Christmas trees.

This was the second Christmas Russell was going to miss. He entered the US Army shortly after Pearl Harbor. In February 1942, he was sent to Europe and has only been home twice since then.

My father was always reassuring my mother that Russell was safe. “Samantha,” he would say, “Russell is doing his patriotic duty, fighting for his country, and he will come home soon.” As for me, Christmas was the hardest part of the year. Russell and I had always been close, despite our age difference. Throughout the years, we had created our own traditions, in addition to our family’s. Together, these traditions made Christmas just a little bit more special.

One of my favorite traditions that Russell and I shared was two days before Christmas Eve. We would ride through town in his jeep and deliver cookies to all of our neighbors and friends. At each house, we sang “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” At the end of the second song, Russell would always hold out the very last note until everyone started laughing.

In all of the letters we wrote to each other, during the holiday season, we always talked about our traditions. In one of his letters from November, he mentioned there was a slight chance he might receive leave and be able to come home for Christmas. Since then, I hung onto this statement, hoping it would eventually come true.

“Lizzy! Lizzy! Are you coming sledding with us or not?” asked my friend Jill. Her voice snapped me back into reality. Looking around, I realized my friends, Jill and Jane, were waiting on me to go sledding. “Sure, I’m ready. Let’s go!” I replied. We spent the rest of the day sledding at Black’s Hill.

By the time I got home, my father was already home from work. As I entered the house, I expected on hearing the usual “Do you realize how late you are on a school night and you haven’t started your homework yet” speech, but instead I received different news.

My mother was sitting in the living room, crying. I noticed her eyes were fixed on an opened letter on the coffee table. “Lizzy, your mother and I need to talk to you,” my father said as he met me at the living room door. Little did I know, the news my parents were about to tell me would change my world. “We just received a letter, saying Russell’s plane was shot down over Italy. We don’t know where exactly he is and the Army has declared him missing in action.” my father told me as tears started running down my face.

After talking with my parents for a while, I went upstairs to my bedroom. Not knowing what to think or do, I looked outside my window and glanced towards the driveway. There I saw Russell’s jeep and I wished, more than anything, for him to be home.

“Where is Russell?” I thought to myself. Quickly, I began to write him a letter, which I planned on mailing to his base. Something inside of me told me he was in a safe place and would be home soon. I hoped this feeling was right, but as scared as I was, I doubted it.

Part II continued tomorrow.