Made By Hand

(In response to WordPress’ Daily Post from MANY weeks ago, By Hand)

What was the best gift you ever received that was handmade? Those of us who are parents probably have a ton of handmade pictures, bookmarks, keychains and jewelry that our children have made for us. But there are three special handmade gifts I will always treasure.

Over 20 years ago, my good friend in South Carolina made a simple storage mug for me. It is a plain black mug, with my name written on it with a gold paint marker. Let me interject that having an uncommon name, I am ALWAYS excited to see my name monogrammed on anything! But she also wrote around the mug adjectives she felt described me. That’s what made it personal.

When my son was 4, he made my first pre-school Mother’s Day gift, which was a handmade beaded keychain. He was so proud of it and I still have it on my keychain, faded letters and all. When my daughter was 4, she made the same keychain as her brother, and I promised I would keep both of them. However, her knot must not have been tight and I didn’t realize that over a period of a few days, I had slowly been losing beads from the keychain. But I still keep the green rope tied to my keys, as a reminder of my handmade gift. And my daughter appreciates the fact that I never threw away the green rope!

Something handmade should be cherished and appreciated – because someone took the time to CRAFT it just for you. Did you receive a handmade card or gift this Christmas? Leave a comment and share your gift with us!


The Art of…The Little Things

I was sitting outside and watched a little boy who was diligently following a pigeon around. When the bird stopped walking, the little boy stopped, crouched down and stared at the bird with the intensity of a National Geographic Explorer! His fascination with the bird fascinated me, as I pondered how the simplest things appeal to children. I am always amazed at the way children learn. As they are exposed to more of the world around them, they take in new experiences with such intensity and awe. I guess in some ways we do the same as adults, as we get excited about new technology and gadgets. Perhaps we are more impressed with the extravagant and extraordinary. But I contend that sometimes we need to go back to basics and remember to appreciate the little things in life.

In our relationships, we often expect grand gestures. But when was the last time something subtle and simple made you smile? I found that having children has had a great impact on my simpler view of things. The smallest expressions make the biggest difference. I get joy from the little things – like when my son gives me a hug, “just because.” Or when my daughter comes to me some mornings, wraps her arms around me, nestles her head in the crook of my neck and then softly says, “Mama.” These are the moments I appreciate the most.

When was the last time you took the time to appreciate the little things?

The Art of Understanding Personalities


personality (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

One of the many lessons I have learned over the years is that trying to understand the heart of individuals aids greatly in learning how to deal with them. If you get where they come from, you know where they’re going. Here’s an example: Perhaps someone you know socially is very bossy – I mean always wants to be in charge. Once you really get to know them, you may find that they have NO control at home, or on their job. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but understanding where they come from can keep you from taking things personally. Just as you should know your audience when teaching, writing or speaking, you should understand personalities when dealing with individuals.

This line of thinking starts at home, with our spouses and our children. One of the most exciting things to me about parenthood is  watching my children’s personality develop. This morning I was listening to my 5- and 7- year old have an intense discussion/mini-argument. Izzy (7) insisted that he was right because he was older. Yvette (5) declared it didn’t matter who was older. Earlier this year, it dawned on me that Izzy is the debating negotiator. The conversation never ends with this guy! Yvette will also stand her ground, and will go toe to toe with her big brother. The difference is, once she makes her point, she drops the mic and walks away. Understanding these personality traits help me deal with them on different levels.  Don’t get it twisted though – I do NOT negotiate with terrorists, and my child will NOT just walk away from me! I’m still the Momma! 🙂

The Long Way Home

A Long Road Home

A Long Road Home (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last weekend, I took the children to Toys ‘R Us to redeem gift cards. It was a surprisingly short trip, as we easily found the Power Rangers section. They then quickly spotted the toys they wanted. Easy peasy. We were in and out of the store in less than 20 minutes. We had gone to the closest TRU, which was only about 15 minutes from home and as we pulled away from the parking lot, I decided to take a longer way back home, just to spend a few more peaceful moments in the car with the kids. I immediately thought back to my childhood. My father worked at night, so during the summer, I was with him all day while my mother was at work. Daddy and I often did fun things like go to the movies, or bowling. Some days we would do some comparison shopping at stores like Two Guys, TSS, Alexander’s or Mays (what y’all know about THOSE stores?!).  And then some days, he would just run a quick errand. It was on those  days that I hoped he wouldn’t make the turn that signaled we were headed back home. I was silently wishing we would be going somewhere else before going home. I guess during our TRU errand last week, part of me wanted to satisfy that same unspoken desire of my children and take them on a little ride.

Back in 2005, during a Christmas visit with my parents in Florida, my father asked me to drive him to his doctors’ offices to deliver cookies to the staff. It was the day before I was to fly back home. What should have been a 30-minute errand turned into an all-day adventure! He had me driving all over the state of Florida…to the Cadillac dealership for an oil change, to the grocery store for some pigs’ feet he planned to cook for New Year’s, then to a new meat market some 1 ½ hours away! But during our excursion, we had such a wonderful conversation. What I remembered most about that day was the moment he suddenly said, “You know, you have become a beautiful woman and I’m very proud of you.” All ‘Daddy’s girls’ seek their father’s approval, and although I had felt his approval throughout the years, there was something special about what he said. It was then that I realized he had purposely stretched out our day to spend some extra time with me. Unfortunately the day tired him so that he was unable to drive with my mother and me to the airport the next day, and the last visual I have is of him sitting tiredly out in the living room, waiting to say goodbye.  I did not know that this would be my last time seeing him and on March 24, 2006, he passed away. I did not get to say goodbye to him, but I always have the memory of our last time taking the long road home.

Sometimes, it’s worth spending a few more miles with someone…think about it.

What’s in a Name?

written-names-15374519My parents named me Calandra Yvette Campbell. You can imagine the jokes I endured when I was growing up. I was called everything from Calendar to Campbell Soup. I was also a very sensitive child, so it really bothered me. The Campbell part wasn’t so bad…it was Calandra. Fortunately it isn’t too difficult to pronounce, but I was called Casandra quite often (and I still am!). The problem there is that my sister’s name happens to be Casandra. As I got older, I would turn the error into a joke and tell the person they were talking to my sister!

Growing up, my family and I spent many summers traveling by car down Interstate 95 to Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. I loved stopping by rest stops and truck stops to shop for souvenirs. Every summer, every stop had personalized keychains, but of course, I could never find my name. And I was crazy enough to keep looking, as if ONE day I would find a keychain, pen or T-shirt that actually came with my name on it. Certainly this name game was not über traumatic, nor life-changing, but for a long time, I did not embrace my given name. The other day, I was speaking with a co-worker who told me her favorite fragrance was an old scent called Calandré. She thought I had never heard of it. I laughed because my mind wandered back to age 7 or 8, when one of the older physicians at the clinic where my mother was working at the time told me there was a fragrance that was similar to my name – Calandré. That was the day I started embracing my name. As I got older, I realized that Calandra is an Italian surname – John D. Calandra was a famous New York State Senator from the Bronx. There is a school there named after him, and every time we passed that school, I smiled when I saw ‘my name’ on the building!

A few years later, I learned that my father had named me. My sister’s name is Casandra René. He merely changed the ‘s’ to an ‘l’ and Calandra was born, so to speak. I also learned that he had given my sister and I French middle names. I think it was either because he liked the language or because it was one of his favorite countries he visited while in the Service. Not only did I now embrace my name, but I learned it’s origin. Never again would I have anything negative to say or think about my name. Never again would I wish for a simpler name that everyone could say properly. In fact, once I went to college, my unusual name became a social asset, as I was often told it was a beautiful name 🙂 Over the years, I have become a strong advocate for giving a child a name with some meaning. Give your child a story to tell – even if it’s just that they were named after someone else in the family. We named our son Isidoa Branch, III – his story is that he is named after his father and grandfather, who was named after another relative. It is not of Jewish origin, as in Isidore, but it is a Native American name. Interestingly enough, Izzy is a little upset that he doesn’t have a middle name! When our daughter was born, we wanted to honor my father’s memory by giving her the names he had given my sister and me, so she is Yvette René.

I love names; they tell a story. They can paint a small portrait of your family’s history. Names can preserve a memory forever. Does your name have a story?

(31WriteNow Challenge Day 21)

Kids Gone Wild

Kids in Restaurant

When my sister and I were younger, my parents often took us to restaurants for dinner. We were taught to be on our best behavior and learned to select and place our own orders. At 5 and 7, my children know the same. In fact, on a recent trip to Friday’s, Yvette began circling her choices on the kids’ menu so she would remember what she wanted to order when the server returned! Many times, we are approached by other customers who compliment us on how well-behaved our children are. I say this not to be boastful, but to prove that young children can be expected to behave at a restaurant.

A child’s behavior in public places is predicated upon two things – how well parents teach their children to behave in these situations and how often the children are exposed to these public places. When we go to a restaurant and see children acting like they are at the playground, the first thing I do is look at their parents. Listen, we all know sometimes our children get out of hand. If I see parents at least making an attempt to calm their children down, then I send the sympathy vibe and pray the parents get a break! But more often than not, these parents are ignoring their children’s behavior, engaging in their own conversations and sometimes not even knowing that the children have left the table and are hanging out with someone else’s children! For this there is no excuse.

I read the following article the other day – local NYC restaurants are considering banning children from restaurants during peak hours. Some agree, some thinks it’s unfair punishment for those parents with well-behaved children. What are your thoughts?

Read “Growing Number of Restaurants Banning Children During Peak Hours

(31WriteNow Challenge Day 12)

That’s Not Cute!

I’m going to keep this quick – just jumping on my soapbox and then jumping back off. I love when people share their children’s cute photos and funny videos on social media. Vine has given many the opportunity to catch those cute 6-second scenarios on video.

‘Howsinever’…if I see one more video of some child, who just finished learning how to walk and still can’t even pronounce the word ‘Instagram,’ twerk, dutty wine, booty-pop, drop it like it’s hot, throw up gang signs, use the N-word or recite foul hip hop lyrics, I’m going to scream! When did this become acceptable behavior? These babies didn’t take these photos/videos themselves…their parent or someone else responsible for them did!  Sometimes I watch and then ask myself, “Little girl/boy, where is your mother?” Then I hear her off-camera laughing and cheering the child on. I’ve even seen one video where the father was in the shot, dancing right along with his daughter!

This is not cute, y’all. I’m not even talking about the social media aspect – that you have left this electronic footprint of your child for all the world to see. But even in the privacy of your own home, why would you think this is okay? Kids winding and grinding against each other; toddlers holding up Corona bottles like they’re sippy cups. Madness! As my mother would say, “When you see her swinging around a pole one day, don’t say nothin’!”

*Climbing off the soapbox now*