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



Favorite #110: Summer Camp

Experiencing colonial life at summer camp.

Experiencing colonial life at summer camp.

Having Fun While Learning

Traditionally, summer camp is a time to learn a new skill in a safe and structured environment. The variety of activities offered is as varied as the imagination, including camping, hiking, swimming, crafts and organized sports.

Elementary and middle school students in Salisbury, North Carolina have the opportunity to learn about colonial and Civil War days through history camps at the Rowan Museum. Each summer four weeks of camp are scheduled with two for elementary and two for middle school students. Education Coordinator, Tricia Creel is the perfect person to lead and direct the camps having found a love for history when a student at Catawba College. To fulfill part of the requirements for graduation, she became an intern at the museum her senior year, loving it so much she never left.

The day I stopped by the museum, students were learning about life in colonial days. After observing, I finally sat down beside a student who was weaving on a small loom. Amazed at the process, I asked if I could try.

One lesson I soon learned was it didn’t pay to be in a hurry because shortcuts only produce mistakes. I suppose the over-all lesson was that life during colonial days moved a little slower than today.

By mid-morning groups of children were on the floor and at tables playing games such as pick up sticks, dominoes and marbles. Not having played pick-up sticks in a while, I forgot just how much fun it could be. It’s amazing how a few sticks thrown on a table can provide fun even in this day of technology and electronics such as video games, cell phones and computers.

After about a half-hour of games, Tricia said it was time for crafts. Some of those were making bricks, homemade paper, a necklace and soap. I couldn’t pick a favorite because I liked them all. Enjoying the experience of making something useful from scratch, I felt deep down in my DNA there must be a pioneer spirit, and yet comfortable with modern appliances and gizmos, it would be hard for me to “rough it.”

Learning other activities later in the week were gardening, making marble paper with a painting technique, tombstone rubbings in the Old English Cemetery and a tour of the historical Utzman Chambers House, I hope next year to attend more than just one day.

If interested in learning more about history camp at the Rowan Museum, click here.

What summer camps in your area inspire children to think outside the box and maybe try something new?  Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.





Favorite #109: Writing Workshops

             Freelance Writer: Jodi Helmer

Jodi, relaxing with her rescue dogs.

Jodi, relaxing with her rescue dogs.

Where do writers go when they want to refuel or learn something new to improve their craft? Well, possibly college, a class online, a conference or maybe a workshop. This summer I took a workshop with freelance writer, Jodi Helmer as clinician.

Sponsored by the Writers’ Workshop in Asheville, NC, her topic was writing for magazines. Packed full of information, it was both interesting and understandable, giving participants a chance to ask questions and exchange ideas.

Jodi is constantly searching for new ideas and through her thirst for a story, has turned some of them into articles that have graced the pages of national magazines such as Family Circle, Parents, AARP and National Geographic Traveler.

During the six-hour workshop in August, Jodi explained the procedures of how to submit, write bylines, approach editors, network and transform the art of writing into a business. The one thing that surprised me most was the sequence of the process. Jodi explained once a writer has an idea, he/she should query or pitch that idea before writing the story. She said even though an idea may be great, the magazine may reject it because it’s too long or too short. When that happens, a writer has wasted precious time that could have been spent on something totally different.

Jodi not only explained step by step the process, but also included resources for possible ideas such as what’s trending. At the end of the day, everyone left with a wealth of knowledge, inspired to get started with their own journey of writing for magazines.

If interested in learning more about Jodi, check out her website. To learn more about the Writers’ Workshop in Asheville, click here.

What workshops have you found helpful in your pursuit of writing? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com






Favorite #108: Teachers

Educators, making a difference for the future.

Educators, making a difference for the future.

         Making a Difference

Teachers touch the future and generally go into the profession because they want to make a difference. As a retired music teacher, I understand the pressures they face, even more so now than when I retired eight years ago. Testing, accountability, constant curriculum changes, low pay and long hours only begin to scratch the surface. Yet, in order to be a good teacher, one must be determined not to let those things distract from the ultimate goal.

With most schools starting this week, I wondered what advice veteran teachers might have for new teachers. Having the opportunity to talk with China Grove Middle School teachers, Teri and Adrian Mills, I  wasn’t surprised their advice was to always communicate and make sure to care.

Teri elaborated, “Yours may be the only positive words a child hears in a day or a week. That doesn’t mean not to hold a student accountable, it just means to care in a way they know you care. I became a middle school teacher because I was one of those kids who needed a hug and was lucky I had a great teacher who helped me find myself. Now I want to do that for my students.”

Asking what the biggest change they’ve seen over the last ten years, Adrian said, “Attitude.” Then, pausing for a minute, he added, “It’s hard to put into words, but as a P.E. teacher, having students all three years, I know what they looked like in 6th gr. and what they look like in 8th. Some students look so different there’s no doubt in my mind something happened to change them. It’s as if the light leaves their eyes. Feeling like no one cares about them, they have a hard time caring about school or grades”

Agreeing, Teri said, “We see that more and more and for whatever reason it seems to be especially true with girls. Sometimes it’s because they have no one to parent them and no stability. Other times it’s because a tragic event happened in their lives. It’s really sad, but I find when I take the time to get to know them, building a relationship, they feel I care and will try harder.”

Even good teachers get burned out from time to time and that almost happened to Teri this past year. A difficult year on so many levels, she admits her light almost went out, but after rest, encouragement and inspiring workshops this summer, a faint flicker began to ignite, gradually bringing that light back full and bright.

Another contributing factor to that renewed spirit was seeing a past student from twelve years ago. Amazed the student still recognized her, Teri was touched when the student, smiling, said,  “I always remember my good teachers.

While it’s true students need to know someone cares, it’s also true teachers do as well. This year, if you have children or grandchildren in school, go out of your way to show appreciation for their teachers. Sometimes just a note stuck in a bookbag to say, “thanks,” can boost their spirit, lifting a heavy load just a little. No matter how many times we say thank-you, it will never be enough, but it’s a start.

To read more about Teri and Adrian’s journey as teachers, check out their story in the Salisbury Post here.

Who was your favorite teacher? How did they make a difference in your life? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook, twitter or email dicysm@yahoo.com.