Favorite #120: Family Traditions

Building a gingerbread house at Aunty Kelly's.

Building a gingerbread house at Aunt Kelly’s.

          Making Gingerbread Houses

Christmas is a time for family, fun and making memories, with traditions that often include presents under the tree, cookies for Santa, Christmas caroling and programs at school or church.

Whatever your traditions, the ones that include children always seem to fill a room with laughter and wonderment. My four-year-old grandson, Carson, enjoys spending time at his Aunt Kelly’s because she always has something special for him to do. This past week they made a gingerbread house together.

Carson was amazed how icing could hold the walls together like glue and that different kinds of candy were the decorations. Kelly laughed when Carson asked if he could eat some. She in response, said, “Why, of course.” Those memories for both Carson and his Aunt Kelly will linger long after the gingerbread house disappears.

While traditions often include activities, events or beliefs that have been passed down through the years, it’s never to late for a family to start new ones. If you enjoy making gingerbread houses, perhaps next year you might want to participate in the National Gingerbread Contest held at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville. People from near and far bring their original designs to the event each year, hoping to win the highly acclaimed contest. This year the response was so great, with 156 entries, Grove Park Inn is partnering with local not-for-profit individuals and organizations, donating the houses where needed. These beautiful works of art will be on display at the Grove Park Inn through the holidays. To learn more, including design tips and recipes, click here.

What are some of your favorite Christmas holiday traditions? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com





Favorite #119: Author Event at the Mint

Author day at the Charlotte Mint Museum.

Author day at the Charlotte Mint Museum Uptown. Jason Mott is second from the right.

            Authors, Books and Fun

What a wonderful event for authors and their adoring fans during the second annual holiday author event at the Charlotte Mint Museum Uptown on December 4. Sponsored by the Charlotte Observer, there were approximately 25 authors in attendance, sharing knowledge and experiences with fans who stopped to chat, buy books and get autographs.

Best-selling authors, Kathy Reichs, Lisa Leake, Jason Mott and Charla Muller were invited during the day to participate in an Authors’ Chat forum with Observer’s book editor, Dannye Romine Powell as moderator. During the forum Dannye asked each author how they came up with ideas for their books. Jason Mott said the idea for his novel, The Returned, developed from a dream. This book later became the catalyst for the television series, Resurrection. Even though each author had different stories to tell, they agreed writing is an art that has to be developed through practice. Jason said it’s almost like being an apprentice. “No one expects a carpenter to make a beautiful cabinet his very first try. Writing is no different. It takes practice to string words together.”

In addition to giving shoppers the opportunity to buy books, this event also gave authors a chance to network. I especially enjoyed comparing notes with other children and YA authors such as Linda Vigen Phillips and Karon Luddy. Co-ordinator for the event, Observer Innovations Editor Jen Rothacker, proud of the success of the day, hopes even more authors will participate next year.

If you had the chance to ask a famous author like Jason Mott, Kathy Reichs, Lisa Leake or Charla Muller a question about writing, what would it be? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.












Favorite #118: Thanksgiving

               Attitude of Gratitude

Enjoying a great Thanksgiving meal with family.

Enjoying a Thanksgiving meal with family.

Every year excitement can be felt as Thanksgiving Day approaches, building until the day families get together for food, fun and fellowship, thankful to be together once more.This year our extended family met at my sister-in-law, Hope Cline’s house, with about sixteen in attendance.

Even though we had sixteen in attendance, we still felt a void because of loved ones who were no longer with us. Hope suggested lighting a candle for each family member who had passed away, including my husband, Michael. When it was my turn, daughters, Kristin and Kelly helped light the candle in memory of their dad.

Afterwards, Hope’s husband, Joey, said a prayer and then it was time for food and fellowship. The country home Hope and Joey restored in Davie County, NC was a perfect place for a Thanksgiving meal. As we ate turkey, stuffing, home made yeast rolls and a multiple of vegetables, it somehow seemed fitting to look out the window and see chickens and goats enjoying their own feast of feed and seed on property known as Miracle Farm. Later, the older kids and grandkids enjoyed an afternoon of roaming the fields and woods, probably like children did years ago at the first Thanksgiving feast.

While Thanksgiving Day is a time of reflection and expression of gratitude for blessings, a friend of mine, Garrett White shared how this past year he started writing down one thing he was thankful for each day in a journal. He said, “As I look back over the year and see the long list of things I’ve written down, it’s amazing how even when I struggled to find one blessing it was the seemingly small things that really added up to make a great life!”

With permission to share his thoughts, here are a few of his entries:

-A library full of books and the ability to read, learn and grow from them.

-The opportunity to learn from mistakes.

-Unanswered prayers and God’s perfect timing.

-A family full of women who are great cooks.

-Hugging dad after a successful turkey hunt.

-Friday lunches at What a Burger with mama and sis.

By keeping a gratitude journal this year, Garrett made an interesting discovery. He said, “Keeping a Thanksgiving Journal has taught me not only there is always something to be grateful for, but it has also served as a constant reminder circumstances don’t determine your attitude-you determine your attitude.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 … Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (King James Version)

Is Thanksgiving Day a once a year occurrence for you or do you have an attitude of gratitude everyday? In what ways do you show gratitude? Share your thoughts below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.





Favorite #117: GG’s Art, Frames and Gifts

Celebrate Small Business Weekend

A day of shopping and fun at GG's in Statesville, NC.

A day of shopping and fun at GG’s in Statesville, NC.

Although most people know about Black Friday, many have never heard of small business Saturday? Formed as a way to help businesses compete for dollars during the Christmas holidays, this idea is catching on across the country.

Recently, I had a chance to talk with Gloria Hager, owner of GG’s Art, Frames and Gifts in Statesville, NC. Gloria is thrilled small business owners are finally getting the attention they deserve. She says not only does this help local economies bring in shoppers, but it also encourages new businesses to open.

Gloria especially loves helping customers find the right gift for friends and family, bragging her shop is “a one- of-a-kind shop in a one-of-a-kind town.” Having many loyal customers, one way she shows gratitude is to throw a party. This year customers enjoyed finger food and drinks as they browsed, shopped and socialized. Favorite Christmas melodies could be heard in the background performed by soloist, Brenda Wallace, accompanied by instrumentalists J.P. Vanhoy and Shawn Ervin.

Browsing the aisles, I was amazed not only at the selection of items Gloria had available, but also how beautifully they were displayed. Gloria makes use of every nook and cranny, with items such as toiletries, fine art and kitchen accessories lining the walls as well as on tables. With Gloria’s expertise in framing, I learned she especially enjoys preserving memories through framing unique pieces for customers.

To learn more about GG’s Art, Frames and Gifts as well as Gloria’s journey as a small business owner, check out a recent article by Lauren Davidson in the Statesville Record and Landmark.

What about you? Are you a small business owner? If so, share info about your business in the comment section below. If you know a business that needs recognition for a job well done, leave a comment, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! And don’t forget to count your blessings!





Favorite #116: Operation Christmas Child

Packing a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child

Packing a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child

               Blessing a Child

This week is an exciting time for Operation Christmas Child. The week of November 17-24th has been designated by Samaritan’s Purse, the sponsoring organization for Operation Christmas Child as National Shoebox Collection Week. If you haven’t ever packed a shoebox for a needy child, it’s not too late.

It’s exciting not only to think about what to put in the shoeboxes, but exciting to know a child somewhere in the world will be blessed.

If not sure what to include in your shoebox, check out Samaritan’s Purse website or pinterest boards for creative ideas. Each box should be designated boy or girl, with appropriate items such as hard candy, pencils, pens, markers, hair bows, small puzzles or writing pads to be included. Once the box is packed, close it up and take to a convenient designated place for pick up.

Sometimes local schools or churches pack shoeboxes as a community project. Salem Lutheran Preschool in Salisbury, NC often does this, teaching the children it’s more blessed to give than receive. I’ve seen first-hand how much the children enjoy being a part of the process since my grandson attends preschool at Salem.

What better way to start the holidays than giving to others. Don Davis, a friend of mine volunteers regularly with Operation Christmas Child in Charlotte, NC and was so inspired by this ministry he wrote a fictional book titled, Anna’s Shoebox. This book gives insight into the love given and received on both sides of the process, following Anna’s shoebox from packing to the arms of a grateful child.

Have you ever packed a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child or volunteered in some other way? Maybe you were blessed by a shoebox. If so, leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.





Favorite 115: Rev. Billy Graham

Enjoyed a great day at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC.

Enjoyed a great day at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC.

               A Man for the Times

This past week the media reported that Evangelist Billy Graham celebrated his 96th birthday quietly at home with family and friends. I grew up during the ’60′s watching Billy Graham’s crusades on television, loving everything about them, including the music led by Cliff Barrows, the inspirational speakers and the message.

Before Billy Graham would bring his message each night, George Beverly Shea usually sang an old gospel favorite such as The Old Rugged Cross, A Child of the King, or It’s No Secret What God Can Do. After Bev Shea’s performance, Billy Graham with a smile on his face would walk to the platform, taking time to connect with the audience through some funny joke or experience. Once he had a laugh, he’d get serious explaining the topic for the evening, followed by scripture reading.

My husband, Michael, and our two daughters, Kristin and Kelly were fortunate enough to hear Rev. Graham in Charlotte, NC during one of the last crusades he held in this area in 1996. I had the privilege of singing in the choir during one Sunday afternoon service and proudly still have my shirt with the Billy Graham logo on it.

I recently made a trip to the Billy Graham Library, enjoying a nostalgic tour through time of Billy Graham’s journey as a man of faith. If you haven’t had a chance to visit the library located just off of the Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte, the holidays are a wonderful time. They even have carriage rides for the season.

Some people say Billy Graham’s message of God’s love and forgiveness is out of date. In reality, his message is current because God’s word is current. More than ever the world is starving for love and acceptance. Although Billy Graham is not able to lead the crusades as he did so many years ago, he’s still sharing the message through various media endeavors such as the recent one titled, Heaven. With the death of my husband in September, it touched my heart. I know it will yours, too.

Thank you Billy Graham for being a blessing to my family for three generations.

What ways have you been blessed by Billy Graham and his ministry? Leave a comment, message on Facebook, or email dicysm@yahoo.com.





Favorite #114: Painting Party


Kristin, creating a masterpiece at the painting party.

Kristin, creating a masterpiece at the painting party.

       Dealing with Grief    

Since my husband, Michael’s passing two months ago, friends, family and neighbors have been kind enough to call, drop by or suggest activities to distract me, if only for a little while.

Jeanette Nelson, a family friend, recently invited my oldest daughter, Kristin and I to a painting party at her home. Jeanette explained a painting party is where a group of people get together to have a good time and in the process create a masterpiece. She also explained not only would it be lots of fun, but we’d have a painting to take home afterwards.

The host of the party (in this case Jeanette) chooses the subject to paint such as an abstract tree, an owl or sunflowers, while the instructor brings the necessary supplies, including a canvas for everyone, easels, paints, brushes and tables. Even though each participant paints the same art work, no two look alike, displaying each person’s individuality.

After preparing materials, our art instructor, Lori Burroughs invited everyone to find a place at one of the tables. As we sat down wondering what to do next, nervous giggles could be heard. Lori said not to worry, patiently explaining where to start on our canvas, how to dip brushes and what colors to use. Having lots of experience as an elementary art teacher, she moved around the room giving advice as well as praise. As you can see in the above photo, our lesson was an abstract tree.

Once we let go and allowed our inner artist to emerge, our bodies, mind and spirit relaxed. By the time we were half-way across the canvas, nerves were long forgotten. Not only was it lots of fun, but it was great therapy because in the process of painting and conversation with friends, Kristin and I became distracted from our grief, if only for a little while

There’s no question the last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows, but having friends and family who care have helped make the lows easier. I especially have enjoyed reading all the notes of encouragement from cards and letters received. Some included hand-written Bible verses, such as the Twenty-Third Psalm and Psalm 91.

My sister-in-law, Hope Cline shared a simple message that was so profound, She said “Little by little life gets easier as you climb out of the valley. In other words, until the pain gets better, just keep on living.”

Although I’m thankful for everyone’s love and support, I’m especially thankful to my daughters, Kristin and Kelly and their husbands, Brian and Ben. Their willingness to help in anyway has been a blessing. In the process of dealing with their own grief, they too, have found ways to cope, including prayer, time alone, talking to friends, going back to work, reading inspirational books and keeping a normal daily routine.

As I’ve started the journey in this new phase of life the verse that keeps coming to mind is Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.

What about you? What ways have you found to deal with grief? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com





Favorite #113: Coach McCullough

Coach McCullough doing what he loved, coaching football.

Coach McCullough doing what he loved, coaching football.

Always Thinking of Others

Michael McCullough, the love of my life and my best friend passed away Monday Sept. 15th from a massive heart attack, leaving a big whole in my heart as well as the community. A lover of all things football, one of his favorite things to do was coach.

Michael was one of the founding members of the Rowan County Youth Football League (YFL) in Salisbury, NC. Proud of that accomplishment, he spent almost thirty years of his forty year career coaching boys and a few girls in that league, overseeing the West Rowan area in which we lived.

Although good enough to coach at the high school level, Michael saw the arena of the younger players as his calling, not only teaching young men about football, but also about life. His lessons instilled morals and values, encouraging hard work both off and on the field.

Although a “softie” at heart, he could be a disciplinarian when necessary, using the philosophy of tough love at home with our daughters growing up, as well as on the field with his players. If school work was incomplete, they often found themselves sitting out a game on a Saturday afternoon.

Pat Phifer, a past player who later coached with Michael summed up the sentiment best when he said, “The community has lost one of the most dedicated individuals that has ever spent time with our youth. Mike gave infinite amounts of his time to the kids and the game he loved. I was fortunate to help him coach a group of young men that later won three NC State Championships playing for West Rowan High School.

Mike always did things right like making sure everyone on his teams had good grades. He made that a priority. We as a community will surely miss him. He put his family first and for them there will always be a void. I hope and pray they can stand proud knowing their father and husband was such an asset to and caretaker of the kids’ lives he touched.

I have tears in my eyes while writing this and fond memories in my heart of a man for which I have so much respect. He gave his life tirelessly to help our youth when he had no children involved in the game. Mike rest in peace. Your family of hundreds of children and people you touched will miss you deeply.

Michael would be honored to know the West Rowan YFL teams, West Rowan Middle School and West Rowan High School are recognizing him in different ways this season. The West Rowan YFL teams are wearing stickers with his name on their helmets, while West Rowan Middle School is dedicating the season to him. West Rowan High presented the family with a game ball at the memorial service and ran several posts on the West Rowan Athletic Boosters Facebook page, with many adding personal comments.

Although Michael never looked for the praise of men, he would humbly enjoy this moment. Words cannot express how much the love and support of the community has meant to our family. Please feel free to leave comments below, Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.

Thanks to all and God bless.

Dicy McCullough

Kristin Saine (daughter)

Kelly Key (daughter)



Favorite #112: Tweetsie Railroad

A fun day at Tweetsie in Boone, NC.

A fun day at Tweetsie in Boone, NC.

Riding the Rails

Labor Day weekend my husband, Michael and I made a trip to Tweetsie Railroad in Boone, NC with our daughter, Kristin, her husband, Brian, and their two sons, Carson and Garrett. Both Michael and I grew up going to Tweetsie as children, so when our daughters were small it was only natural we share that experience with them, too.  Continuing that tradition, Kristin invited us along for a day of fun with our grandsons last month. Everyone was laughing while boarding the train, anticipating what was ahead. When the train began to move, we wondered if the good guys could save the day and the gold like years before.

Although I can’t remember the first time I went to Tweetsie, I do remember Fred Kirby greeting visitors as the singing cowboy. For those thirty-some-things and under, you’re probably thinking, “Who?” Fred Kirby became a celebrity in Charlotte during the 50′s as the star of his own television show on WBTV. Often singing and playing his guitar, he also featured local talent. During the summer months, he enjoyed entertaining at the park, always willing to sign autographs in-between singing cowboy songs.

Many years have passed since Fred Kirby sang at Tweetsie, but since then new attractions have been added, drawing in and captivating the next generation. Some of the attractions include a chair lift to the top of the mountain, rides for children and adults, magic shows, race cars, food and a petting zoo. Carson and Garrett especially loved petting the deer.

Some visitors enjoy the family-friendly atmosphere so much they get season passes. My sister-in-law, Hope Cline, is one of those, explaining young moms never tire of the theme park because it is family-friendly with lots to do. While it’s true there’s lots to do the favorite activity of most seems to be riding the train. Hope says the ride is even more fun when playing the part dressed in western attire.

Our September day at Tweetsie ended at the shops looking for just the right souvenir to take home. Although when we first arrived the whistle seemed a little loud to Carson and Garrett, just like all little boys, they couldn’t wait to ride again. If truth be known, neither could I. Maybe next year we’ll even get season passes.

This favorite memory is more special now because it was Michael’s last trip with the family. He passed away September 15th, 2014 from a massive heart attack. While he left a tremendous hole in our hearts as husband, father, grandfather, friend and coach, it’s comforting to know he’s in a better place.

I’d like to thank everyone for their kindness during this difficult time. Your thoughts, prayers and love have lifted our spirits, giving us strength for each day. If you’d like to message the family, leave a comment below, Facebook, or email dicysm@yahoo.com.

Thanks again and God bless.






Favorite #111: Music Teachers

Nancy playing the piano for a program.

Nancy playing the piano for a program.

     A Love for Music

September means not only the end of summer for many, but the beginning of an exciting new school year. As a retired music teacher, even though I may not be standing at the door on the first day of school, I still get butterflies knowing school’s about to start.

While much is changing in education, it’s comforting to know music still offers children a way to escape from the stresses of everyday life, if only for a few minutes each week. Helping not only with the emotional well-being of a child, research has shown music also benefits in other areas of learning, including language and math.

I didn’t have the good fortune of a music teacher as a child growing up in the sixties, but did have wonderful classroom teachers who would pull out music books at least once a week and sing with us. I also had experiences at church through choir, singing hymns and playing the piano. Developing a love for music at an early age played a role in my career choice, just as it did a friend of mine, Nancy Sloop.

Nancy grew up in Kannapolis, NC, also during the sixties, wanting to play the piano. Since both of her parents were employed at Cannon Mills, there was only enough money to pay the bills with very little left for unnecessary things like piano lessons. Realizing at about the age of eleven or twelve if she would ever have the opportunity to take piano lessons, she would have to help pay for a piano herself, she began babysitting for that purpose. With the help of her mother and grandmother, it didn’t take long until Nancy had enough money to buy a used one.

Getting a late start taking piano lessons, it took longer than expected to get her music degree, but not letting hardships or a lack of money stop her, after receiving teacher certification from UNC-Charlotte, Nancy began teaching at the age of 26. Never looking back, Nancy has loved every minute of it, passing not only a love for music on to her students, but also lessons of determination and perseverance.

Understanding and seeing first-hand the influence music teachers can have in a child’s life, Nancy offers advice for beginning music teachers. She says, “Offer your students a variety of learning opportunities as you teach them to sing and enjoy music. Even though children are bombarded with technology and all that goes with it, there’s nothing that can take the place of a child learning a song. They will remember not only the song, but the memories attached to it for the rest of their lives. There’s no doubt, one of the most important things a music teacher can do is facilitate a love of singing.”

It’s been a long journey for Nancy from growing up in the textile village of Cannon Mills as a little girl, to music teacher and performer. Now in retirement, but not retired, playing for various churches, groups and organizations, while Nancy’s early years of struggles seem so far away, they will forever be a part of who she is, stored within her memory bank to be retrieved when needed. Influenced by music teachers in her life, she in turn has been and will continue to be an inspiration to many with her determination and uplifting spirit.

To read more about Nancy’s story, check out the Salisbury Post article here.

Do you know someone who was inspired by a music teacher? Did that turn into a career? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com