Your Story. Your Legacy.

Our stories, our words, our openings to others say a lot about our lives. It is interesting to begin a conversation with a complete stranger (grocery clerk, massage therapist, hair stylist, etc) and stories just seem to flow. People like to connect with one another. The trick is…what are you telling? What are you saying about your life? What message are you leaving with those you come in contact?

Another step further—What if you could not “say” anything.

img_0387img_3605We recently took a trip to Southern Utah and hiked among petroglyphs of the Anasazi people. It was fascinating to think about walking through handwriting of people thousands and thousands of years old. To see what was important to them—food, feet, animals, people with horn hats, stars, labyrinth patterns…fascinating! Again. No words, just symbols.

 

112246My cute daughter is doing a report on the Northwest Coast Indians and found out they were tribes of people with no specific written language and shared their history and stories through Totems. A Totem is kind of like a book you could read, but instead of using words it used symbols. Totem poles were used as a way of passing down stories.

I thought this was a very interesting idea that could bring up various feelings for people. Think about it!! If you were to create a “Totem” of your life, what would it look like? What would be the main images that you would include. What words (now that we have them) would you include? What message of your life? What symbols would you use?

I think this could be a very fun personal activity you could do to see what comes up from your soul. Think about it. Draw something out. If you like to carve wood–carve away! Maybe make a collage of visual images. Create something. I think a visual of your life’s journey may say something to you. Try it!!

MAKE YOUR OWN CREATIVE TOTEM.  Here are some ideas I came up with…

SONY DSCMaybe make a simple totem for your yard. Pick glass or ceramic beads and make a decorative story line that you know the meaning and symbolism behind.

 

img_0433This made me think of making a personal beaded bracelet that you could create that will symbolize different things within your life. Each bead represents something personal.

 

tumblr_o19gthtumm1v5h6m1o1_1280Maybe make a collage of highlights or things that remind you of your life. [example–pulled off google. Not sure of the source]

 

afb84d4942a1abb2bf4befed1785594dThis made me think of a crafty idea–if you know or enjoy quilting. Quilt symbols of your life and put them together.

 

2044Make symbols that mean something to you personally. Put them together to create a story.

 

 

d4239633957aced98ed266250f0942b1fd4adfbe71b055ee92pimgpsh_fullsize_distrIf you don’t feel too artistic you could always find various mandalas and color them to your own style and put meaning into them with specific colors meaning emotion, certain shapes to symbolize parts of your life, etc. Then you could stack and frame them or take a pic to always have close.   Mandala’s are a symbol, representing the search for completeness and self-unity.

 

Hope this post has given you some ideas to finding your deeper stories and unique ways to share them with yourself and those you love.

 

Happy creating!!  -H

 

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Christmas-Giving & Christmas-Living

heart-ornament-hanging-from-a-wire-fence-3840x2400-wide-wallpapers-netI recently read an essay by Henry Van Dyke that I wanted to share about the feeling of Christmas. It talks about the real meaning of “Christmas-Giving & Christmas-Living.” I am going to include the essay in this post, along with a beautiful song by Sara Bareilles, “Love is Christmas.” I am sorry I could not find her actually singing (besides moving live video, which can be annoying to watch), so I have included a lyrics video with her song. Please take the time to read the words and feel the meaning of the song. It is beautiful.

I think this song has especially touched me this season in particular because we had a job change & things this year are tougher financially than they ever have been. I think this song makes you feel that Christmas truly is about LOVE, not necessarily all the other stuff that is easy to get caught up in (the house being a mess, the chaos of stores, the gifts, the food, the expectations we put on ourselves, etc).

May this holiday season bring you the warm feelings of LOVE. And may you want this feeling to last throughout the year, not just a day. Merry Christmas. Love & Peace to you.

Here is the song & then I will attach the essay below.

 

And now the beautiful and meaningful essay by Henry Van Dyke. I took it from the lovely book, “It’s All About Christmas”

 

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Happy St. Nicholas Day

banner-largeI LOVE the story of ‘The Real Santa Claus’

Before the stores commercialized Christmas & it became all about the gifts, there was a man who truly did give gifts from the heart and brought Joy and Love to others, his name was Nicholas.

The real Santa lived a long time ago in a place called Asia Minor. It is now the country of Turkey. His name was Nicholas.

Nicholas’ parents died when he was just a teenager. His parents left him a lot of money which made him a rich young man. He went to live with his uncle who was a priest.

Nicholas heard about a man who had lost all his money. He had three daughters who were old enough to get married. But in those days young women had to have money in order to get married. This money was a “dowry” and it was used to help the new family get started. If you didn’t have dowry money, you didn’t get married.

This family was so poor they had nothing left to eat. The daughters were going to be sold as slaves because they couldn’t live at home any longer. They were very sad. They wouldn’t be able to have families of their own. And they would have to be slaves—no longer able to decide where they would live or what they would do.

The night before the oldest daughter was to be sold, she washed her stockings and put them in front of the fire to dry. Then all of them went to sleep—the father and the three daughters.

In the morning the daughter saw a lump in her stocking. Reaching in, she found a small, heavy bag. It had gold inside! Enough to provide food for the family and money for her dowry. Oh, how happy they were!

The next morning, another bag with gold was found. Imagine! Two of the daughters would now be saved. Such joy!

And the next night, the father planned to stay awake to find out who was helping his daughters. He dozed off, but heard a small “clink” as another bag landed in the room. Quickly he jumped up and ran out the door. Who did he catch ducking around the corner?

Nicholas, the young man who lived with his uncle. “Nicholas, it is you! Thank you for helping us—I hardly know what to say!” Nicholas said, “Please, do not thank me—thank God that your prayers have been answered. Do not tell others about me.”

Nicholas continued helping people. He always tried to help secretly. He didn’t want any attention or thanks. Years passed and he was chosen to be a bishop. Bishops look after their people as shepherds look after their sheep. And that is what Nicholas did. When there wasn’t any food, he found wheat; so no one went hungry. He always helped people in trouble. All his life Nicholas showed people how to love God and care for each other.

Everyone loved Nicholas. After he died, they told stories of the good and kind things Nicholas had done. Sailors took these stories about Nicholas everywhere they went. Some of the stories were about his special care for children—helping and protecting them when danger threatened. And so more and more people learned about good, kind Nicholas. They wanted to be like him. He is an example of how we should live. And that is why he became a saint.

This is the story of the real Santa Claus, St. Nicholas. To this day people say that St. Nicholas, or Santa, is the special friend of children.    [taken from StNicholasCenter.org]

I love that he was a man who liked to give, but had no need of attention for his giving. That is how giving should be.

Today, is December 6th and St. Nicholas is celebrated on this day. In celebration each year my small family  writes little love notes to one another on strips of paper and slips them into a special pair of wooden clogs throughout the day of December 6th. Then during dinner we take out the slips of paper and share the love with one another. Its a wonderful, loving, giving tradition.

This year I passed on the tradition to all my siblings in hopes that they will spend today writing kind things about one another and sharing their love around the dinner table.

In all we do, may there be love. Peace to you this day & every day.  -H

Tricks or Treats

With Halloween quickly approaching I thought it would be fun to put together some ideas to celebrate the many spirits of Halloween. Pick and choose what fits your personality. Enjoy!!

Are you more of a TRICK or TREAT person?

My husband I believe would be both!! He loves a great trick on someone & he loves the treats. I have to share a funny trick he played recently–He was camping out in high mountain country and before the camping trick we talked about pulling a great trick on the brother-in-laws that would be going on this trip. My husband and I talked and planned a very good (some would say MEAN) trick & it went really well. My husband took a small, portable speaker that had a remote that was controlled by his phone. On his phone he put an app that had a “Bear sound.” In the middle of the night, when everyone was in bed, my husband hit the button & the bear sound began. It sounded like a bear was snorting and moving in the woods behind them. First, our brother-in-law, Dan heard the sound & yelled, “Did you guys hear that?” One of our other brothers, Bud was quietly listening to his earphones & only heard Dan yell. Bud began to move around & listen for any noise. Then my husband hit the button again. He could not help lying in his tent laughing quietly to himself. Dan immediately yelled, “Did you hear that? We have something in the bushes.” Dan quickly moved to his tent for his bear spray. By this time my brother, Bud was lacing up his running shoes as fast as he could. My husband stepped out of his tent, waiting to see what was going to happen. My husband climbs out of his tent to find Dan reading the can of bear spray with his headlamp & Bud getting dressed as quickly as possible. My husband grinned to himself & hit the button again. Dan began looking with his light for any movement in the bushes, aiming his bear spray & ready for anything. Dan looked at my husband and Bud, “Do you see anything?” he asked. My husband calmly replied, “I see a speaker!!” Dan said, “What?” My husband busted out laughing & pointing at the speaker. They were all ready to kill him. An hour later, Dan yelled from his tent, “Well played!” My husband just laughed and laughed.

Another fun prank that is a classic is one of the kids favorite!! Down from our house is a guy that changes up his costume each year, but once you visit his house, he will chase you down the street. Gets the kids every time.

Another scary one that the kids continue to talk about was a kid dressed up in a black cloak (the kind that has a hood & long enough to touch the ground). This kid was walking through the forest near our home & scaring everyone in sight. It was probably even scarier because it was NOT Halloween. The kids in the family all still talk about “the creepy guy in the forest.”

A few other fun ideas: when you go to give your kids a Halloween goodnight kiss–throw in a pair of glow-in-the-dark fangs. Write something spooky with liquid dish soap on your kids bathroom mirror, so when they steam up the bathroom, the message will appear. Put red kool-aid in the shower head, so then the water comes out red.

 

Now for all you TREAT people out there–here are some yummy ideas you could create for Halloween.

pumpkin-punchPUMPKIN PUNCH BOWL: All you need to make a memorable party punchbowl is dry ice, a very large pumpkin and two large bowls that nest inside one another and are safe to handle dry ice. Hollow out the pumpkin, ensuring the opening is wide enough to hold the bowls. Place the larger of your two bowls in the pumpkin and use tongs to layer the bottom of the bowl with dry ice. Place the second bowl on top of the dry ice and fill the bowl with your punch. Carefully pour hot water into the bottom bowl to activate the dry ice vapors. Replenish the dry ice as needed throughout your party.

You can also do this same idea with a large witches cauldron.

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You can also use a pumpkin for a fun ice bucket idea.

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halloween26 – Place glow sticks in the bottom of an ice bucket or cooler at your Halloween party. Photo credit: Alison Sherwood asherwood@journalsentinel.com

GLOWING BEVERAGES: As the stream of trick-or-treaters slows, invite your neighbors over for a drink. Toss a glow stick or two in with the ice in your cooler so they’ll open up to an eerie gleam.

64-non-candy-halloween-snack-ideas-the-ultimate-list-of-healthier-halloween-treatsYUMMY DEVIL SPIDER EGGS : The usual with chopped olives for decor

halloween-treat-broom-sticksSWEET LITTLE BROOM: Recess peanut butter cups stuck in pretzel

817461fb0e4340ea9aeb0a9b8522a14bHEALTHY LITTLE RELISH TRAY with a cute pumpkin center piece full of dressing

Well, I hope these ideas get you started in planning a spooktacular Halloween!

Give because WE have been given much

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This time of year makes me truly reflect on the many things I am grateful for. I think my heart gets to a place of deeper meaning, of stepping more outside of myself and wanting to do more for others. I think we all begin to feel this sense of holiday spirit. We gather with our families, grateful to have family. We see fall colors and are grateful to be given the gift of seeing. We see the seasons change and are grateful for change within our own lives. We sit together and give thanks.

I know for me, I especially want to do more, to serve, to be an instrument in God’s hands, so I decided that I wanted to create a list of opportunities for all of us to GIVE, because WE have all been given much.  I hope you will look at this list and find an opportunity or two that your family can embrace together. I hope you will find a little more service this holiday season, so when you are sitting down with your family, your heart will be even more full of giving, of love and grateful for the abundance in your own lives.  Peace to all of you this beautiful holiday season.

Some fun ideas to share with your families:  Spread the LOVE. If there are some ideas you like—share them with your friends and family and make the chain of LOVE even bigger.

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Samaritan’s Purse: Operation Christmas Child.  I LOVED this idea because it is not hard to do, benefits children around the world and will bring smiles to all who open.  You literally fill a shoebox with small gifts for children and then send it. You can even pay a little extra $ to track it and discover the destination it is going. I think it would be a great project to do with your family just before Thanksgiving. The drop off dates are just before Thanksgiving Nov 16-23. Check out the link to this great project. http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/pack-a-shoe-box/

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Create No-Sew Fleece Blankets for groups like Project Linus, Wrap them in Love, Stitches from the Heart, Binky Patrol to name a few.

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Make cards to send some LOVE: make cards for kids in the hospital http://www.cardsforhospitalizedkids.com/make-cards.html  Write a letter to a woman with breast cancer at http://www.girlslovemail.com or fill out a letter online to servicemen at http://www.forgottensoldiers.org/write-a-soldier/

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Donate items for The Hugs Project: They are looking for a variety of items including handmade christmas ornaments and stockings, food items, socks, etc. They create care packages for troops http://www.thehugsproject.com   here is a link to the full item list of what they are looking for http://www.thehugsproject.com/care-package-items/

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SoleHope: Makes shoes out of jeans for Kids in Uganda. http://www.solehope.org/who-we-are/

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Make a dog treats for a local shelter: here is a recipe from the Humane Society http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/eating/recipes/animal_treats/bowser_biscuits.html

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Make place mats or decorate lunch bags for Meals on Wheels http://www.doinggoodtogether.org/bhf/blog/six-ways-to-help-meals-on-wheels  Make sure you contact your local area to find out their specific needs.

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Make something homemade to help: Here is a list of handmade items that are accepted by a variety of charities.  http://www.handcraftingwithlove.net/charity/hcharity.html

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Make a bird feeder to feed the birds in your backyard–that is giving too!  Here are some directions: http://www.marthastewart.com/270700/pinecone-bird-feeder

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Well, I hope these ideas get you started to giving of yourselves even more during the upcoming holiday seasons. Remember, it is easier to give with a grateful heart.

Peace to you. -H

Traditions to bring people together 2

For this post I am again going to take from some of the religious traditions that were shared on Oprah’s Belief series and then share some of my own ideas of how you could incorporate the ideas into your world. Enjoy.

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Zen Buddhist Lotus Flower: In one part of the series you were able to catch a glimpse into the life and traditions of Zen Monks. They shared a special lantern celebration.  I did a little bit of my own research and found The Lotus Lantern Festival that celebrates Buddha’s birthday. It is traditionally called the Yeondeunghoe (Lotus Lantern Festival) and was originally more of a religious and national event, not like a festival.  Here is a link to give you an idea of what it is like. It looks amazing–lanterns take the form of fruits, animals…it looks beautiful. People can even make their own lanterns.

In Buddhism the lotus is a symbol of the true nature of beings, which remains unstained by the mud of the world and is realized through enlightenment. Traditionally the lotus (“padma’’) is a very important symbol in India and for Buddhism. The lotus has been ascribed with special meaning since the time of ancient Indian mythology.
The lotus flower grows in muddy water and rises above the surface to bloom with remarkable beauty. The flower closes and sinks underwater at night, to rise and open again at dawn. Untouched by impurity, the lotus symbolizes the purity of heart and mind.*taken from buddhachannel.tv      

My idea:   Create your own lotus lanterns with your family & then hang them somewhere special–above the dinner table, outside in a tree, etc.  Here is a Youtube with an idea of how to make them 

    This may be a great idea for a New Year celebration. You could create lanterns & even write something on them–hopes for the new year, gratitude for things from this previous year, dreams, desires, etc.

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Bringing people together through music: In the series it explained how Israel is a place torn apart by religious separation, but luckily a music group was bringing together young people from different religions and having them work together to create something beautiful–music.      Music has a power all its own–it heals, it transcends, it liberates, it inspires, it brings people together. It is a heavenly gift that swells hearts here on earth.

My idea: Step out of your usual music comfort, listen to something completely new, maybe even foreign and see how you feel. Music can have positive and negative effects, so make sure you select genres that lift and inspire the soul. Also, step out of your music comfort by attending a local concert and experience the symphonic melodies first hand. Try it out and see how you feel.

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Trust yourself: This part of the series I can honestly say, I was yelling at the television. I could not believe this guy would free climb (no ropes or anything) to such incredible heights. It was somewhat terrifying. You would definitely have to have tremendous faith in your personal belief in what you could do. One slip–you would be gone.

My idea: Do something that you have never tried or something that scares you. When you are able to accomplish a personal hurdle, you definitely feel you have reached a higher point for yourself. When you continue to trust your instincts, feelings, gut, desires, etc. you will be in a better personal place.

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Pray: Prayer was a huge message throughout the series. Whether it was the woman with cancer and was surrounded in a prayer circle to people praying in a sacred place, prayer beads to traditional dances that went on for days…prayer was shared in every culture and religion. It was a beautiful sentiment.  Prayer I believe holds a very strong gift, whether you pray alone or in a group, there are answers to what you need.

My idea: Give thanks in all you do. Hold a prayer in your heart. If you have a big decision or struggle you are facing, do not be afraid to ask others to help pray for you and your situation. Have faith and know you are not alone. I just read a great story this morning that shares some great examples of prayers being heard. Check it out—http://www.faithit.com/the-refs-said-if-he-points-at-god-again-hes-done-thats-when-his-sister-slipped-him-a-note/

Well, I hope these ideas help you to have a beautiful day.  Peace to you. -H

Traditions to bring People Together

After watching Oprah’s BELIEF series I am filled with awe and wonder of the many different places, traditions, religions, beliefs, and the many ways people strive to connect. It was so interesting, fascinating and I walked away from the week more aware, inspired, awe struck and wanting to do more to connect with those around me.

SO, I thought I would put together a list of ideas that could bring families closer together with the upcoming holiday seasons ahead.

I am going to list out celebration ideas (primarily from Belief) and from around the world and then put my own twist on them and how you could do them with your families.

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Holi: *is a Spring festival in india, also knows as the festival of colors or the festival of love. The night before the celebrations there is a Holika bonfire where people gather, sing and dance. The next morning is a free-for-all carnival of colors, where participants play, chase and color each other with dry powder and colored water. This festival typically comes in March or February. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, the end of winter and a day to meet others, play, laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships *taken from wikpedia

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My ideas: For a winter fest you could invite friends and family over while it is light out, invite them to bring food and then have everyone share tubes of food coloring and color the snow around the yard or take it to the mountains. Have everyone write words, make hearts, just color the snow & then when everyone is done turn it into a big, colorful snow ball fight. Then make a big bonfire and have everyone warm up around the fire.

You could also do the same idea in the Spring, but use chalk dust and a picnic setting.

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Mandala: In the movie Belief there was a beautiful part of the series where a group of Monks created a gorgeous mandala out of sand. They took hours to perfect every detail and it was a beautiful work of art. But, to them the piece was not complete until it was swept into an urn and dumped into a river to complete its circle. *Both Navajo Indians and Tibetan monks create sand mandalas to demonstrate the impermanence of life.  The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself–a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds. Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community.*taken from mandalaproject

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My ideas: You could gather family or friends together and create a group mandala project—One year I had my family at a beach and we gathered up a huge number of rocks and made a giant heart on the beach. It was a very fun and unifying experience. I have also gathered family around and handed out coloring pages of various mandala drawings. We all sat for hours chatting and coloring like little children. It is very calming to the mind.  *Carl Jung said that a mandala symbolizes “a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness.”

You could also take fall or winter items (pine cones, leaves, needles, grasses, etc) and make your own natural pattern with the items from a forest floor.

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A Pilgrimage: In the movie Belief there were many different people from different religions who would do personal pilgrimages—some were to holy lands, others were 500 miles walks, while another was a personal 3 day quest of fast and faith.  I was moved by all the stories, but one stands out in my mind–the 65 year old man who did not love himself, was broken hearted and seeking peace on a 500 mile personal pilgrimage. I thought to myself, “could I do that? How could I do something like that closer to home?”

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My ideas: Maybe you pick a mountain near your home you could climb together as a family or alone to find some meaning. Maybe you find a walking trail that goes for miles and miles and commit to a distance that will bring you closer to…God, your family, yourself. I do think walking is one of the best types of meditation, so why not take a day, a week, a week end to get quiet, to go within or to experience with those closest to you.     I remember one of my only memories of going to the mountains with my family as a child, we arrived at the base of a small mountain. My Dad told all of us kids that we were going to climb to the top. As kids, we whined and looked at this mountain as the toughest challenge we had ever faced. We walked and walked and finally all made it up the mountain together. When we were at the top, we each found a special rock and we made our own family, rock monument. We were so proud that we made it to the top together. It will be a forever memory.

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History: There was an Aboriginal man in the Australian outback that was leaving his grandson with ancient songs and a trek that told stories about their ancestors. The stories and songs were part of the oldest religion in the world, so the grandfather felt a huge responsibility to pass these along to his grandson, so the stories will continue to live on.

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My ideas: We each have stories that we are told, lullabies that are sung, pieces that have been woven from years and years of history, people, family, places…In such a digital age, we have abundant resources to find stories from the past, to write our own stories down, to encourage our children to write their stories for those who follow.  For my daughter’s 12 year Thanksgiving gift, I have created pages for her to write her own story, to share her own feelings of where she is at, to share her future dreams, to connect with who she is and wants to become. I gave my daughter a journal when she was 8 filled with questions. I am giving my husband a journal to write down his story that is filled with prompts and questions so that his daughter and generations after will hear his stories.   I write a letter to my daughter every 6 months & will give them all to her when she is 18.  Every year at Thanksgiving I make a photo book and gift it to our daughter with a special letter and images from the previous year—Giving Thanks that she was part of our life.

Just last night my husbands mother had laid out a small shrine of items that were her fathers. She had them neatly organized with special belt buckles that were treasured, a tin of matches, old pictures, a soap dish, a coin purse, a shaving bowl, bolo tie…treasures that she had been keeping to pass on to her children. Items that reminded everyone of this man who had passed on, but seemed to bring up a treasured past of memories. My husband was like a little kid remembering his beloved grandpa. He slowly looked at each item being taken back to a different time. The things that live on are truly the memories, the stories, the songs, the little details.

Well, Stay tuned. I think I am going to continue this week with more traditions and ideas inspired from the movie, Belief. I have done previous posts on traditions, so check them out too.  I will do another post later this week with more ideas.

Have a beautiful day. -H