Thankful Thursday – A New School for Annie

Rolling out the red carpet for our students on the first day of school!
On Thursday, August 11, 2016, the doors opened at the Sprayberry Center at Lloyd Wood Education Center for the first time. Sprayberry has been Annie’s school since she turned 3 and transitioned from Early Intervention with Community Service Programs of West Alabama. While Sprayberry is technically a “center”, it is Annie’s school and always will be!
Sprayberry Regional Education Center opened it’s doors in 1974, under the direction of Dr. Charles Sprayberry, to serve the special needs population in  Tuscaloosa and surrounding counties. Through the years, the population of students has changed and the needs are different than they were in 1974. Both the changing student population and the age of the building contributed to the need for a new facility to serve Annie and her fellow students.
There has been talk of a new facility for several years. The PTO committed a quite a while ago to not spending money on anything we could not move if and when we should ever get a new facility. I am thankful today for the leadership who made our dreams become a reality.
First of all, the last two principals who have served our students are men who truly care about our Sprayberry Stars! This initiative began under the leadership of John Barnacastle and was completed under the leadership of Neal Guy. For these guys, education is really all about the children. I am thankful for their dedication to serving our school. Incidentally, both of these men served our school previously, left for a period of time and came back to serve our Sprayberry Stars. I think that says a lot about our special students!
Less than a month after Dr. Elizabeth Swinford starting her job as Superintendent, a group of Sprayberry Staff met her for the first time at Nick’s Kids Luncheon. We were all so anxious to move to a new facility (and we knew the former Lloyd Wood Middle School was available) that I was afraid we would bombard her with requests. Actually, it was Dr. Swinford who brought up the subject when she said, “I’m trying to get you guys moved to Lloyd Wood”. For the first time, I felt like their was really hope that it would happen. I am thankful that Dr. Swinford saw the need immediately and had the vision for the beautiful new facility that now houses our special needs students. She was so excited when the Tuscaloosa County Commission approved sales tax funds to be used for the renovation and she shared that enthusiasm with our families. I am thankful to Dr. Walter Davie for seeing this project through to completion.
I am thankful to the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education, past and present for deciding to invest in our students. I am personally thankful to Mark Nelson, past chairman of the board, for answering every phone call, every text and every email and answering questions in the grocery line at Publix or at La Gran Fiesta. He assured me it was going to happen and it did! I am especially thankful to the board for including the beautiful handicapped accessible playground in the construction cost, allowing us to spend PTO funds to equip our sensory-motor rooms and provide therapy equipment.

Sprayberry has never been about the building to me. It is the amazing people that take care of, train, and educate our children every day! Now we have the building to match and for that, I am most thankful! I was quite overwhelmed when I walked into the building for the first time – it’s bright, shiny, spacious, colorful,  and so much more than we dreamed! It will provide so many more opportunities for Annie and her friends! And I’m most thankful of all for the smiles on the faces of our staff and students, who really are what it’s all about! I do believe the best is yet to come!
So, here’s to the Sprayberry Center at Lloyd Wood Education Center – wishing you many blessings as you have so blessed the life of our Annie!

Pumpkin Season: Pumpkin Pie Crescents

If you are craving that awesome pumpkin pie flavor but you want to save the Pumpkin Pies for the holidays, here you go! A very quick and easy Pumpkin Pie Crescent!

Serve for breakfast, brunch, lunch or anytime treat with a cup of your favorite coffee!
By the way, if you like Pumpkin Spice coffee, New England Coffee makes it and it is a BOGO this week at Publix!

The Red Bandanna – Remembering 9/11/01

Where were you on this day 15 years ago? I remember well that I was co-leading New Employee Orientation at DCH Regional Medical Center when some came in and told us the news. While I didn’t have an active part in orientation at the time, I went back and forth to the PT department to keep up with the television reports and keep everyone posted. Disbelief and fear prevailed that this was happening in our country!
It will always be easy for me to remember how long ago this happened – it was the year my first child was born. She was almost 5 months old and all I could think about was what kind of country she was going to grow up in? I hurried home from work at the end of the day to hug her tightly and pray for our country – for her safety!
In 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the attack in New York City, Tom Renaldi of ESPN told this story of “The Man in The Red Bandanna”. I ran across it again today. It is a beautiful story of a true servant who put others before himself and saved the lives of 12 people – a young guy named Welles Crowther, former Boston College athlete who worked in the 2nd tower. Listen to his story and be inspired by the heart of this young man!
As my friend, Gina, reminded me, 15 years ago today,
God was our refuge and strength and today he still is!

My reminder that God answered my prayers for this precious child that day!
Elle is 15 and loves NYC!
In 2015, Barry, Elle and I were able to visit the 911 Memorial in New York City and able to see, up close and personal, the area affected and the names of everyone who perished that day. Wish I had known to look for Welles Crowther – “The Man in the Red Bandanna”
The video begins and ends with the question “What would you do if it were your last hour?” and “Who would remember you?” Questions to ponder….. so, I pulled out a red bandanna, put it in place in my kitchen where I would see it every day and be reminded to make it all to count for something. It may not be saving lives as Welles did, but we call all do more for others.
“If this country could pull together and have compassion that is has every year on 9/11, this country could truly be wonderful in every aspect.”…… Katie Toxey
Well said, my friend!

Friday Football Fare – Crimson White Cookies

It’s almost Game Day – you’re tailgating on campus, taking a road trip or watching games at home – here is a yummy cookie recipe for you to make. Typically, you see these cookies around Christmas but, who says we must wait for Christmas for these delicious soft batch cookies. They just so happen to include the colors of my team so I call them Crimson White Cookies. Everyone may not call them by that same name but everyone will call them good! See the link below for the recipe and listen when they say “do not over bake” – soft and chewy makes the best cookie! Enjoy!

from The Domestic Rebel

Pumpkin Season: Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Well, I gave myself until Labor Day to starting decorating for fall and bring out the pumpkins. I didn’t bring out the witches and ghosts but there is a lot of fall color around the house now. With the start of fall (I know it’s technically not fall and it’s still 100 degrees), it’s time for PUMPKIN!
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back at Starbucks!
Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts are back at Krispy Kreme!
Couldn’t wait for the cool weather (which I hope is coming soon) to make these Pumpkin Sugar Cookies! Just a basic sugar cookie with some pumpkin puree added….

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

1 ½ cups sugar +more for rolling

2 ½ cups all- purpose flour

½ t. baking powder

½ t. salt

½ t. cinnamon

14 T. Butter (1 ¾ stick) – room temperature

2 t. vanilla extract

1 egg yolk

 ½ C. pure pumpkin puree
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. Mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Mix in the egg yolk and vanilla. Add pumpkin and mix well. Gradually mix in the flour until well combined. Refrigerate the cookie dough for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes but watch closely and don’t overbake. Let cool on pan for a couple of minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
For a printable version of this recipe click Here! Thanks to Wine and Glue for the great recipe!
Just checked my Pinterest “stats” – I have 109 pumpkin recipes pinned – Look for more to follow in Pumpkin Season! Maybe the weather will cooperate soon!

Friday Football Fare – Ham and Cheese Party Rolls

So college football season begins and that means fun, family, friends, festivities and food! Whether you are planning to watch the game in person or at home, you’ve got to have some great game day recipes. This one is all over Pinterest and I’ve had it printed for a while, just waiting for the season. The season is here and these Ham and Cheese Party Rolls are just as good as they look. The best part is how quick and easy they are – less than 30 minutes from start to finish!
Kevin and Amanda sure know how to get the season started! Get the recipe Here
Good luck to your teams this season! Comment and tell me who you are cheering for!

Market to Menu – Peach or Blueberry?

Tuscaloosa River Market
 I just love going to the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings! From fruit to vegetables to meat to baked good to flowers – they have it all! My problem is that I want to buy something from everybody. First of all, they are all so nice but also I realize how hard they worked to give us a great product. How do I decide that one person’s blueberries are better than another? Tough decisions! Yesterday’s purchases included strawberries, blueberries, green peppers (so shiny that they didn’t look real), and pecans. Oh, and piece of Emily’s pound cake. I wonder why it didn’t make the picture? Yummy!!

I love the gladiolus – buy these from he same sweet lady every year. She reminds me of my grandmother and she always throws in an extra. I got the blueberries and strawberries for making breakfast for my Sunday School class. And the pecans – well, I didn’t need them but I couldn’t resist. The sweet older man reminded me of my Papa. My Papa used to pick up pecans, shell them and give them to me in bread bags because I liked to bake. My Daddy also cracked and shelled many bazillion pecans for me (and everybody else in town – he was the “pecan man”). Sweet memories! I asked the man if he shelled them himself – he said, “every single one”. How could I not buy them? Oh, well, I will use them!
So, I didn’t end up using the strawberries for my breakfast. I also had some peaches that I got at “Back Forty” in Demopolis this week so I made these two recipes. They were a big hit so thought I would share the recipes directly from these blogs.
So, blueberry or peach? Which is your favorite?

Let Me Tell You About Miss Beth

Beth, Debbie and Annie at Annie’s first Special Olympics in April 2012
Some time during my first few years in Tuscaloosa (mid 80s), I was blessed to meet the most precious little girl. Her name was Beth. Her Mom was a teacher at Oak Hill School where my roommate taught and where I provided Occupational Therapy services through a contract with DCH.
This is where a friendship began with this sweet family! Some time back, Beth’s Mom, Debbie, reminded me of the time that I took care of Beth when her Dad was injured very badly in a mining accident. Wow! Isn’t it amazing how God puts people in your life when he knows it’s just what you need. Now I am not talking about him putting me in their life to be able to take care of Beth. He put Beth and her parents in my life to show me how to take care of my Annie! I could not have known at the time the significance of that day for me, but I do now.
You see, Annie and Beth have some similarities – the most notable in how they communicate with you without the use of words. Sometimes, it’s just their smile that says it all! If the everyone could be as happy and content as these sweet girls, the world would be a better place!
To know Beth is to love her! You never see her without a smile…She enjoys life – love seeing her riding around the neighborhood on the golf cart….She has more friends than you can count….She loves her Crimson Tide…..She loves her fur babies…..She has an accomplished “career” as a Special Olympian (probably has more medals than you can count as well)……She is just simply one of the sweetest people you will ever meet!
Beautiful ladies – Miss Tuscaloosa, Caitlin Crowe, and Miss Beth at Sprayberry’s “Tailgating with the Stars” 2014
Let me ask you to pray for Miss Beth who, some time ago, was diagnosed with a meningioma brain tumor. It was determined that Beth was not a candidate for surgery. Most recently, Beth’s parents were told that the tumor is fast growing and she is now receiving hospice care to help control the pain. Please pray specifically for decreased headaches and seizures and most of all for a miracle for this sweet girl!
As a parent of a child with special needs, I always wonder if we are doing all we can do, if we are doing things right, what we would do when faced with certain situations – just so many questions! I only have to look down the street to see the BEST example of parenting a child with special needs! John and Debbie love Beth unconditionally, give her every opportunity available, provide her the best care, and they LIVE their life (the Anderson’s have fun!) while displaying a very strong faith in Christ!
Thanks, Miss Beth, for showing me how take care of my Annie! Thanks, Debbie and John for showing me how to be Annie’s Mom! Thanks to God for placing this family in my life way back when – before I even knew why!
John, Beth and Debbie Anderson
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

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Pinterest Printables Project – Winter Survival Kit

I love Pinterest! I knew I had pinned quite a few ideas – recipes, gift ideas, cute fonts, inspirational messages and so much more but had never given thought to how many ideas I had pinned until today – over 4000! That’s crazy, I know, but the good thing is that I always know where to find them. And there are some that I have actually done!
Loved this cute gift idea from Corissa Nelson Art

I had some mason jars left over from a Elle’s that I filled with these things: Curel moisturizer, lip balms, colorful tissues, cute emory boards (found at Pier I) and some peppermints. I used some scrap fabrics for the topper and some twine to tie the tags! Just a fun little “happy” to share with a friend!
I like being creative but creativity is really made easy when you find something cute like this that has already been created for you. Pinterest has LOTS of printables – gift tags, organizers, planners, labels, décor, etc. to make it easier for you! Check out my Pinterest board for “Printables” to find something you can use!

Blessed Beyond Measure

Let the celebration begin! TEN years ago today, I had either just completed or was very soon to start my bone marrow transplant for the treatment of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow. I can’t remember the exact time but I remember that a small bag of frozen stem cells were brought into my room, thawed and hung like an IV and, in approximately 45 minutes, it was empty and transplant done!! While there was a sense of relief, it was quite an uneventful day! Of course, the worst was yet to come. The details that followed are not important. What IS important is the love and support of people who were with us (and I do mean us!) through this most difficult time!
I have been asked repeatedly, “how did you do it?” My reply, “how could I not do it?” First of all I had a strong FAITH, the most supportive FAMILY and the best FRIENDS in the world! There is no way in the world to have made it to this milestone without these 3 things!
First of all, thanks be to the Lord for his grace and mercy – for giving me the chance to continue living my life. I held tightly to Jeremiah 29:11, shared with me by my sweet friend, Gina Paulette. One of the first things that Dr. Foran, at UAB told me was “Live your Life”. I had just been told I had cancer and their was no cure – these were very encouraging words!

To my husband, Barry, thanks for being my rock! Thanks for being there for me every day that I was a UAB – while managing to work as well – and for being there for the girls at night! AND thanks for every word of encouragement before and since. It is the little things that get to him – but on this big thing, he never wavered!
To my daughters, Elle and Annie, thanks for going with the flow! You have no idea how much you inspired me every day. I loved those sweet words from Elle on the phone and hearing Annie’s sweet laugh. This Mama had to get well to watch these two beautiful, sweet girls grow up! The sweet Care Bear that Elle gave me when I went to the hospital still sits on my nightstand and I am reminded daily of the sweet encouragement of a 2 year old and how much that impacted my recovery!
To my parents, Robert and Nell McLendon…. there are no words to describe the impact they made on this recovery. For 7 weeks straight, my sweet Mama stayed at my house – cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of the girls and so much more! During this time, we lost my dear Uncle Clinton but my Mama stayed in Tuscaloosa for me. My Daddy was back and forth, taking care of home and helping us out in Tuscaloosa. If there is one thing that I learned from my Daddy, it’s dealing with what life gives you and doing it to the best of your ability. My Daddy’s legacy will always be a part of my life. Oh, how I miss him saying that “everything will be alright.”
To my Allen family……thanks to my mother and father in law, Keith and Sue Allen, Barry’s aunt, Deborah Turner, Barry’s sister, Suzanne Camp, and her family – thanks for always being wherever needed. Your love and support means more to me than you will every know.
To our Sunday School Class at Circlewood Baptist Church and our church family at Circlewood….Wow! I couldn’t begin to list the things you all did for us. Just know that every quarter for the parking garage, every meal, every prayer, every Christmas carol, every EVERYTHING will always be near to our heart! What a most encouraging “Circle of Friends”!
To our precious friends, Jane and Jerry Eure, who are like another set of parents to us……thank YOU for everything you did. We could always count on you!!
To my Class of 1978 of Pike Liberal Arts…. the medical spending account you all created was always there when we needed it most! How amazing, after 26 years, you all came together to support my family in this way. If that’s not encouragement, what is? There is a lot to be said for a small school with a graduating class of 36. Wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!
To my fellow DCH Employees…….Administration, Therapy Departments, Organizational Development and Education and others – the food, the cards, the flowers, the prayers, the PTO (PAID TIME OFF) and more will never be forgotten! Yes, friends at DCH shared enough of their personal leave for me to get paid for nearly 4 months when I had no PTO left. Absolutely amazing! I begged Human Resources to tell me who donated so that I could write thank you notes but they would not! SO…if you are reading this, please KNOW how very much I love you for doing this for me and helping to save my family from financial crisis! DCH will always have a special place in my heart and this is one big reason! A wealth of encouragement came from DCH!
To my Alpha Gamma Delta alumnae sisters….. the collegiate sorority experience is awesome but it is nothing compared to the love and support that I received from our local Tuscaloosa alumnae group. I will never forget coming home one day and our sitter saying to me “Girl, we almost didn’t get all that stuff in your freezer” to which I replied “what stuff?” My Alpha Gam sisters had packed my deep freezer FULL of meals that we could just take out and heat! This is not all they did for us and I could never thank them enough. More encouragement!!
To my childhood friends and the best friends anyone could ever ask for…..I will never forget seeing the faces of my dear friends, Pam Lawson Thompson and Tami Caldwell Meeks in my hospital room not long after I received that dreaded diagnosis. They continue to inspire and encourage me to this day. To the entire Lawson family, whom I have written about before…. there are no better friends!! Your love and encouragement meant the world to me! To Hank and Maria Strother, thank you for your support from the bottom of my heart!
To my precious friend, Kim Marsh…..Kim organized meals to be delivered to my home every other night for 3-4 months. She organized  house cleaning, monetary donations, and a fabulous welcome home celebration as well. All because she cared! Most importantly, she was a communication line for prayer requests and updates. We didn’t really do Facebook, Caring Bridge, Take Them a Meal that we all use now. She did it the good old fashioned way – phone calls – all while taking care of her own family and her physical therapy private practice. What an amazing, encouraging friend!
To my college friend, Phyllis McCaleb Brasfield…… the love and encouragement of you and your family was amazing. Thanks for taking me to lunch, sewing classes and helping me to “live my life”!
To every person that prepared a meal, sent a gift card… can never understand how much that support means until you have experienced it. It was so helpful to not have to worry about meals. I wish I could name each and every one of you but I would for sure miss someone. Please know that everything was much appreciated and encouraged our family!
To the MANY prayer warriors…… I lived for the mail to come every day… every single card, prayer gram, prayer list, gift, pink basket, CD, cute hat, etc. that was sent to me meant something – every word encouraged me!! I still have every card! I can’t say enough about your love and support!
To the medical staff who diagnosed my cancer and took care of me through this process….. All I can say is “So thankful for you!” When Dr. David Hinton gave me my diagnosis in December of 2003, I told him he must be in the wrong room – that I had a 2 year old and a 7 month old with a trach at home and it couldn’t be me. He said to me, “There is so much hope in your situation with all that is going on in multiple myeloma research right now”. I took that as encouragement and thus the journey began. I can’t begin to describe how thankful I am for Dr. Hinton and the incredibly caring staff of the DCH Cancer Center (now the Manderson Cancer Center) and for the UAB Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, especially Dr. James Foran, Dr. Donna Salzman and Dr. William Vaughn who provide outstanding medical care which led to a successful transplant.
If you have made it this far (there was no way to make this short!), I hope that you have seen just how much people living with cancer NEED your love and support. When I say “I couldn’t have done it without you” I mean it! Whether you were mentioned by name in this blog or not, if you did anything – say a prayer, donate money, send a card, provide food, send a gift, encourage me or anyone in my family or anything else – know that you were a key to my success. Again, I am thankful to the Lord God Almighty for giving me new life on this day in 2005 and to you ALL for being the hands and feet of Christ!
 I am Blessed Beyond Measure!
Love and Blessings to you ALL!
In Remembrance……
On the day that I was diagnosed, our family met a sweet new friend, Debra Lightsey. Debra had previously had a bone marrow transplant and she was my “guiding light” – Her words of encouragement to Barry and to me were a huge inspiration to us in the early days of my journey. Unfortunately, Debra’s course required a second transplant and she was later called home to be with the Lord. What a life well lived! Loved this sweet lady!
Some years after my transplant, I found out that one of my childhood friends and fellow P.L.A.S. classmates, Jim Drinkard, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. No one has ever fought a braver fight with such a disease and inspired so many people in the process! After a three year battle and multiple transplants, Jim was also called home to be with the Lord as well. I had no words to explain this! 
There are others that I have met who encouraged me and whom I have encouraged that have not survived this disease. I can’t describe the feeling that I have in knowing that I survived when others did not. While my heart is exploding with JOY on this 10th year, it still hurts for these precious families! Blessings to the families of these dear friends!