Have you ever made candy cane reindeer?  The first time I ever got to do this fun project was when my daughter, Jessica, was young.

Having her Girl Scout troop dumped in my lap the night before our first meeting was an experience in itself.  I’d volunteered to be a co-leader.  The lady who was the leader suddenly decided she couldn’t commit, so it fell to me.  I knew nothing about Girl Scouts.  Thankfully, another very “Girl Scout savvy” mom stepped into help.

Scrambling for Christmas projects for the girls, this was one of the first ones we came up with.  Back “in the day,” we had to purchase all the needed items separately.  Now, they come in a kit—candy canes, red “Rudolph” puff-ball noses, google eyes, and green pipe cleaners.

Although this is a simple project, it is tons of fun, and the finished reindeer can be hung over the tree branches for decoration, given as party favors, or distributed as “tray favors” at local nursing homes.

Many years have passed since I put together my first candy cane reindeer.  Many changes have taken place in my life over the last fifteen years.

Last December, I found myself once again scrambling for an idea—this time for low-budget presents for my sister’s aides and nurses at the nursing home where she had been since October.  Annette is my “way older” sister—twelve years older than I.  She suffered a major stroke—her third—in January 2009 while she was in New York visiting her younger daughter for Christmas.  The very next month, in February, her older daughter died of breast cancer at age 39.  Annette was not able to see her or say good-bye as she would have liked to, since the stroke drastically affected her speech.

Those first months after her stroke were a series of ups and downs, the worst thing being that she was in New York with no way to get back to Oklahoma.  Flying was impossible with her medical conditions, so we raised money to bring her home via non-emergency medical transport.  Now with Christmas coming, we needed gifts—cheap gifts!

Oddly enough, those candy cane reindeer flew into my brain and wouldn’t leave me alone.  Annette only has the use of one hand, but she remains fiercely independent, as much as possible.  I remembered those Girl Scout days, and how the younger siblings of some of the girls wanted to “help” make the reindeer; the patience of the older girls as they guided little hands in gluing on the eyes and noses, twisting the pipe cleaner around the curved part of the candy cane to form the antlers. 

But that was truly no “gift”—better than nothing, but not quite the ticket.  Still, I bought one of the kits, and some “curly ribbon” and tiny ornaments to tie under the reindeers’ neck to embellish them a bit.  Then, I saw the answer to my dilemma in the Bath and Body Works ad!  Small, purse-size hand sanitizers in the most wonderful scents imaginable for $1 each!  I ordered 20 of them in a variety of scents.  Taping the candy cane reindeer to the small bottle of hand sanitizer would allow the reindeer to “stand.”  The tape could be easily removed, and the reindeer could serve as a tree ornament once it got to its new  “gift home.”

Annette was thrilled!  We spent two hours one Sunday making the reindeer together.  Once again, I found myself dabbing on the glue, holding the reindeer for other hands to put on the nose.  Then she held it while I put on the eyes, as they were hard for her to manage.  I tied the ornament and bow under the “neck” and twisted the pipe cleaner antlers on top.  We bent the antlers into all kinds of crazy shapes and laughed like we were kids.  Then I taped on the “legs”—the hand sanitizer—and the reindeer went to their “stall” to await being given away.

I couldn’t help but remember when I was little, how Annette was the one who had helped me do those kinds of crafts.  Now, everything is turned around, and I can enjoy this time together in a way that is far different than when I was a child.  I find myself in service to her, in a kind of odd role reversal. 

You wouldn’t think that candy cane reindeer could look much different from one another, but somehow, they do.  When I looked at them all lined up in their cardboard box stable, I thought of the fun we had making them, and the laughter we shared over simple things—a nose that wouldn’t stay on, crooked eyes, bent antlers.  I knew she had enjoyed it as much or more than I had by the look on her face, the way she kept straightening them up, re-bending the antlers on this one or that.  I watched her for a few seconds, and she turned to me with a smile—one of true happiness.  I hadn’t seen that for a long time. 

“I love you.”  She took my hand and held it for a moment.  “I love you,” she repeated; which means what she is saying, but was also her way of saying “thank you.” 

“I love you, too.”  Silently, I thanked her in my heart for still fighting, for still trying. For being my hero.

During this holiday time, I would love to hear about everyday heroes in your lives—people who wouldn’t think of themselves as anything special.  Maybe there’s someone you know who has given you a very precious gift that they don’t even realize or think of? Tell us about it! Everyday heroes are the very best!

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A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 40 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
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14 thoughts on “EVERYDAY HEROES”

  1. Okay, gotta get the tears out of my eyes first. What a moving post.

    Saw my first Candy Cane reindeer of the season last week. They ALWAYS bring back good memories and make me smile. I am going to steal the sanitizer idea for sure.

    The first heroine who popped into my mind is Miss Mary. She is an eighty-two year old volunteer at the Flower Shuttle, a flower recycling charity, we both participate in. She always makes me feel so special. She has had cancer, must sit as she arranges flowers for those in hospice or the hospital, but always has a kind word and insights for the rest of us.

    Blessings to all, Julie

  2. Hugs, Cheryl. What an experience for you and your sister. You’ve put flesh and blood and love on the true meaning of the holiday season.

    Everyday heroes . . . In years past, as we’ve driven to see parents and grandparents, I’ve thought of police and firemen working the holidays. Hospital workers, too. Bless them all for keeping us safe.

  3. Hi Julie,

    I got to thinking about how we all know special people who don’t consider themselves “special” at all. We just don’t know what we mean to others, and we may be that “special” person ourselves to one or many. Miss Mary sounds like a wonderful person. Some people just have a way of talking to you, listening to you, or even a “look” that can mean so much. Thanks for sharing your story about Miss Mary. She sounds like a rare jewel.

  4. Hi Vicki,

    I am like you–I think of all the hospital workers and firefighters and police officers that give up their holidays to keep the rest of us safe and well. My dad worked in the oil fields, and though his job wasn’t glamorous, it was hard work, and he was on call 24/7. He was my hero after I got older because I realized how hard he worked, in all weather conditions, and sometimes under a boss that was a very cruel man. It would be really tough to think of going to work every day and facing some of what he had to deal with. Thanks so much for your comments, Vicki. I appreciate the kind words, dearheart.


  5. Cheryl, what a beautiful post.
    I guess when I think of my hero I always go back to my husband.
    I was a stay-at-home mom for 27 years while he ran our dairy farm.
    He worked so hard all those years, just brutally hard. I could have gotten a job and made things easier for him. There are many times even now when I’m not sure I did the right thing leaving him to support us alone. But we wanted our lives this way. We discussed it and agreed the children needed a parent at home.

    He looks back on those years when we didn’t have much money with a jaundiced eye, I’m afraid, but I look back and see someone who just gave sacrificially to us.

    Now I’m earning money and he’s ranching. Still cattle but a much less labor intensive kind of cow and life is so much easier for him. (still hard enough)
    But our children are such wonderful young adults and we’re close to them in a way I don’t think we’d be if I hadn’t been there.

    The thing about being home with your children is, not only to you get to be there for all those tiny moments, but you get to give those moments to your husband, too, when he gets home. Guess what happened today, honey? You know what she learned to do today?

    Anyway, he’s my hero.

  6. You made me cry, Cheryl! Thanks for sharing.

    This week I’ve seen a dear friend in the light of an everyday hero. My friend has been a singer his entire life–a very good one. Unfortunately, the progression of a dibilitating disease is robbing him of his passion. He can no longer control his voice. But as I watched him, this week, bow to the inevitable with grace, it just made me admire him more.

  7. Cheryl, I write this with tears in my eyes. What a beautiful story. There are so many everyday heros or angels among us and all of our lives are enricheed because of them.

  8. Touching post, like others have said it brought tears to my eyes. As for everyday heros, my father spent several months in a nursing home before he passed away last August and there were so many lovely people who quietly went about their day doing small things to make the situation easier for both my father and mother.

  9. Hi Mary,

    Your thoughts of wondering about if you had done the right thing rang a bell with me, for sure. When my step kids lived with us, before we had our kids, I had no choice but to work. Gary and I were barely making ends meet. Through the years, we got to the point where we didn’t have to have my income–but I waited until that day before I thought of having a baby. He and I both wanted me to be able to stay home and raise the kids, and we knew the hardships of NOT being able to do that, with his kids from his first marriage. My husband is a hero to me, too. He has always worked so hard for us, and it means so much to me. As you say, I am so proud of the people my kids have become, and the closeness we share, and I truly do thank Gary for giving me the opportunity to be able to stay home with them. I keep hoping one of these days I am going to “write the big one”–LOL so keep your fingers crossed for me. Like you, I think it meant a lot to my husband to be able to share in those special “growing up” moments with the kids. He didn’t get that with his kids from his first marriage, so this was really important to him, too. After reading your comment, it made me think that I need to let him know more often how important these things have been — and how important HE has been– in my life and the way things came about.

  10. Oh, Tracy. That just touches my heart so much. I can only imagine how hard that must be for him to not be able to do something that is so ingrained in him. My mom was a wonderful singer, and sang from the time she was a child. She was the oldest in a family of 11 kids, and she taught her younger sisters how to harmonize–then as they got old enough, they performed for church meetings, fairs, etc. She didn’t pursue that avenue in her life becuase she and my dad got married, but she always was singing in the house, and taught me about a million songs. When my dad passed away on Dec. 23, 2007, my older sister and I were playing piano duets after the funeral to unwind a little–this is a tradition we do every Christmas, and of course, we hadn’t gotten to that year because of the situation. My mom, who suffered from Altzheimer’s, had gotten to the point in the progression of the disease where she didn’t speak –just rarely if at all. But while Karen and I were playing our duets, we played O, Holy Night, and would you believe, Mom began to hum the tune, even singing some of the words here and there throughout. Her voice was still beautiful, even though she was 85 years old and was in the final stages of Altzheimer’s. She died two weeks later, just three weeks after my Dad passed.

    Acceptance of the limitations we have as we get older, due to illness or age, is beautiful, as you say, and teaches the rest of us how to do so with grace when it is our time. Thanks so much for sharing your story about your friend. He is a true hero!

  11. Connie,
    I agree with you. There are so many everyday heroes that when we start to think of them individually, it kind of boggles our minds, doesn’t it? I think of so many people that I have come into contact with throughout my life–teachers, doctors, nurses, neighbors, policemen–even strangers, who are heroes in their own way. There’s a saying that I have taught my children from the time they were little ones: “To the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.” We just never know what one word or deed might mean to someone.
    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  12. Hi Winnie,
    I know exactly what you are talking about–my sister is in that situation right now. When she was stuck in NY and we were trying to raise the money to bring her home, we had to first find a place that would accept her. That was not an easy thing to do. But we found a wonderful place that really went the extra mile to help get her back home and they’ve made her feel so welcome since she’s been there. So many aides and nurses, and the hospice workers and even the people who come in to visit their relatives. There is so much good there, and so many kind people. That nursing home was truly the answer to a prayer. I’m so glad that you found a good place for your dad, too, that gave him not only good treatment, but kindness and caring.

  13. How wonderful that you can shaw a time like this with your sister. The circumstances are a shame, but being together and the love you share is what is important.
    We are retired military. A base community is something special. Neighbors become friends in a short period of time and there is a feeling of extended family and close community. Some bases are closer than others and we have been very lucky with where we have been. Every Christmas Eve, my husband would go jogging as usual, but he would strap on a length of sleigh bells before leaving the house. In the cold crisp air, the sound carried beautifully. We got calls for days afterwards once people found out who had done it. The children were sure it was Santa and his sleigh and it made Christmas Eve extra special for them. The next year, children remembered and were listening to see if they could hear the sleigh.
    When our girls were about 3 and 4, our neighbor across the street (same base as above) showed up dressed as Santa with a copy of THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS and sat on the sofa and read it to them. The pictures we have show two little girls in awe of this special person sitting next to them. He always checked with the parents first and had been going around at bedtime on Christmas Eve doing this for years.

    As a family, we have gone to pre-schools and nursing homes with my husband dressed as Santa and the children as elves (one of these days I’ll get my Mrs. Claus outfit sewn) and me acting as intermediary. It is nice to visit and bring a smile to everyone’s face.

    None of these things cost much more than a bit of our time. We have discovered over the years that is usually what means the most to people. It is also what gives us the greatest pleasure. Our children are grown, and we are happy to see them getting involved in their own way with their families.

    Anyone can throw money at a project, and money is necessary to make a lot of holiday projects work. However, it is the time of the people involved that really makes the difference.

    Hope you have a wonderful Holiday Season.

  14. Hi Patricia,
    You are sooooo right! Money is needed for sure, but time is so, so important, and so scarce. It’s a true gift of the heart when people take the TIME to really try to go to lengths to make someone know they have cared for them in that way. What a great story about the sleigh bells. And how thoughtful! I often think regretfully of the times that my mom would ask me to come and visit–it just seemed like so much to get the kids’ stuff gathered up and drive down for the day, then drive home in the late afternoon with all the evening stuff looming–dinner, baths, etc. Now, I wish I had done that more–that time spent together more often would have meant so much to my mom and I think, to the kids. Thanks for the reminder that time can be the most valuable gift of all. Your whole family are everyday heroes, Patricia! Going into the nursing homes and preschools and such is time consuming, but what joy it must have brought to those you visited!

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