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Each year, I like to record a special Christmas story for my nieces and nephews who are scattered across the country.  I recorded this reading of CHRISTMAS SPIRIT by Cynthia Holt Cummings (Holt Peterson Press, 1989) for my nieces and nephews in 2009, but all of us can believe in the spirit of Peter the Bear and the message he comes to share.

You can watch last year’s story here… you might need to turn up your speakers.

As Christmas is less than two weeks away, it’s time to record another story for Christmas 2010.  I have some wonderful books upstairs in my library, but my guess is that you have Christmas favorites too.  So send me a note or leave me a comment and who knows – perhaps YOUR favorite Christmas story will appear here on Christmas Eve when I will be sharing it with the children I care about and perhaps some that you treasure too.

 

Thanks for stopping by…and Merry Christmas

 

Joan Koerber-Walker

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The 4th of July is a time of celebration.  We celebrate shared values, a belief in freedom, the bravery of people who stood up for what they believed in, and a people who came together to form one of the greatest nations in the history of the  world.

Today with the challenges we face and the division that seems to fill the airwaves, perhaps this 4th of July it makes sense to take a minute to remember what the land of the free and the home of the brave is all about. 

When I was a young girl, the 4th of July often meant a family picnic on the peaceful rolling hills of the Valley Forge Encampment.   The Mom’s would lay out a picnic feast while we kids would climb up the hills to roll down again in the sweet summer grass, climb on revolutionary war cannon, and wander through cabins and stone houses that were once, for a time, the headquarters of Washington and Lafayette. 

It was not until I was a bit older and had studied my history that I understood the real meaning of Valley Forge, a Revolutionary War site that never saw battle but still cost the lives of 2,000 brave soldiers.  They did not fall to cannon fire or the bayonets of the Red Coats.  Instead they lost their lives to cold and  other hardships that many of us could not imagine today.  Yet they stayed there by choice, coming together as a fighting force and a country. They were fathers and sons, wives and mothers, children and old men, farmers and shop keepers, free men and slaves, descendents of the Mayflower and immigrants who barely spoke our language.  They shared a  dream of freedom and left their warm homes to await the next battle though a cold Pennsylvania winter. 

“To see the men without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lie upon, without shoes…without a house or hut to cover them until those could be built, and submitting without a murmur, is a proof of patience and obedience which, in my opinion, can scarcely be paralleled.”

George Washington at Valley Forge, April 21, 1778

Many of their hardships that winter were due to inexperience, a lack of provisions, poor sanitation, and the new government’s inability to properly provision the troops.  Yet, the troops persevered.  They did not do so quietly.  Many grumbled as they trained in the cold and wet winter.  At times the conditions were so bad that a mutiny was feared, but in they end they came together as a unit and many who weathered that harsh winter would ultimately stand on the field at Yorktown on the day the British surrendered and the the last battle had been fought.   

We did not win the war on the strength of our government but perhaps in spite of it.  Congress long ago was often as in effective as it is today.  As they squabbled and debated, the men shivered in the cold and held on.  They looked to their leaders for inspiration, to their comrades for support, and inside themselves for strength.  

The challenges we face today are different than those that were faced at Valley Forge, but the lessons they left us can still serve us well.  We live in a nation that was born of their thirst for freedom, their commitment to a goal, and their willingness to sacrifice and persevere to reach it. 

Last week, I traveled back to the Valley Forge area for some meetings and decided to detour through the park on my way back to the Philadelphia airport.  As I sat in my rental car looking out across the park, it was quiet in the early morning.  Turning off the engine and the radio, I took the time to remember and to listen.  It was almost as if the voices of the children we once were echoed in the breeze along with a faint whisper of voices from days long past.  This was a place of freedom, of friendships forged, and of challenges faced and overcome.   A place where leaders walked and brave men  and women perished so that we could have the opportunities we have today.  The 4th of July is not just about picnics and fireworks.  It’s about freedom and the people who believed in it.  It’s about innovators who envisioned a new nation and everyday people who believed in something and saw it through. 

They bravely committed to make our county a better place – perhaps this 4th of July, we might want to do the same. 

Thanks for stopping by for a little life story.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

They say that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.  Grandmas-100th-Christmas

I guess I get to make the claim – I’m at least 50%.  My Mom is ‘pure blooded’ as they say and comes from a long line of Kennys, Gleasons, Fagans and Carmichaels.  Mom married Daddy – he’s not Irish. (Koerber is German and Daddy’s a mix but we love him all the same and after 50 years of marriage to Mom ’tis sure he’s wearing green today.)  I guess I’m just a mutt.  But today, I’ve got my green on too.

Now Grandma Carmichael, SHE was IRISH all the way.  Including mass everyday – wearing of the green and Irish eyes that were always smiling.  Grandma passed away at the age of 99 in 2009, but you can bet she is dancing a jig with St. Pat today – he’d better get ready;  she was quite the dancer! 

There are always lots of stories written about the Irish this time of year.  We Yanks have made the holiday our own in our unique way.  (This article on St, Patrick’s Day Myths from the Omaha Herald has some interesting myths busted.)

Now according to the article – one of the broken myths is that St. Paddy did not drive the snakes from Ireland –  they did not have them in the first place – Oh – say it isn’t so!

I’d like to think that maybe he did after all. Perhaps, we are just being a bit too literal in our thinking.  You see not all snakes have scales… if you catch my drift.  You might find a minute to read the listing in Wikipedia on St. Pat.

For all the good people that are out there, there are the occasional snakes…and if that’s who he chased out of Ireland during his time as Bishop – I’d say he earned his place in history. 

After all, ‘snakes’ are out there and folks who use their life and talents to make life better for others and save us from the ‘snakes’  are needed every day of the year – not just on March 17th.

So – that’s a bit of St. Paddy’s day history and wisdom for this March 17th.  Beware the green beer – enjoy the parades, and to wrap it up, here’s a bit of an Irish blessing that you may not have heard before…

“May the roof above us never fall in, and may we friends gathered below never fall out.”

Thanks for stopping by for a little life story.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

PS. Here is Kimberly Ripley’s recipe for Corned Beef – mine’s in  the crock pot already.  And as with the true Irish fare – boiled potatoes – I DO NOT like cooked cabbage – there’s a story behind that too – but that is one for another day.

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My Mother-In-Law is a witch and my Father-In-Law is a cowboy – or at least that’s what they were one long past Halloween when they came to visit and took my then little boys trick or treating.

Sandy and I went to the craft store to get goodies for costumes.  Pulled out my old Sears sewing machine and like magic created matching cowboy outfits for Grandpa and Christopher.

A little more magic and the smell of cookies filled the house – orange pumpkins and grinning ghosts fell prey to little fingers while Dad fitted the cooler of wine and beer for the grown ups  and a box for the collected candy into the kids’ little red wagon.  (It’s also a great back up plan  when little legs can’t walk another step.)scan0133

And as the sun began to set, off they went – a witch, a set of cowboys – six shooters in had, and Superman in the stroller while Dad followed behind with a wagon-load of beer and wine for thirsty grown ups and the camera – of course.

And me, I stayed back at the ranch, sitting in the cul-de-sac with some of the other Moms, passing out treats to hoards of tricksters – princesses, cowboys, hobos, and kings, as they made their journey from door to door.

There are lots of different theories about the exact origin of Halloween.  Howard Bennett, in this Special to The Washington Post article from has some insights as to Halloween’s History.scan0134

But however it evolved, and where ever it came from, Halloween is a time for fun, for sharing with friends and neighbors, and for the creating of memories.

So Trick or Treat – here’s wishing you and yours a safe and Happy Halloween!

Thanks for stopping by for a little life story.

Stay Tuned….

Joan Koerber-Walker

It was a hot and humid Delaware August Night in 1975.  My parents were entertaining that evening and the house and yard were all spruced up.  Dinner was in the oven.  The table was festively set with flowers, china and silver, while the kids were all gathered in the basement play room.  

devonshire-signDad had gone into the kitchen to get something and heard some strange hissing and popping noises.  Of course, his first thought was his teenagers were messing with the stereo downstairs in the basement.   When he opened the door, he heard lots of noise, but not the hissing and popping.  So he moved on across the family room to the garage.    When he opened that door – the hissing and popping exploded into a ROAR.  The house was on FIRE.

Slamming the door, he ran back to the basement and yelled down the stairs –

The house is on fire – GET OUT!

My brother Rick and I grabbed our brother and sisters.  We all rushed up the basement steps and out the back door.   Dad continued through the kitchen and dining room to the living room and with Mom got the guests out the front. 

By the time we all gathered in the neighbor’s yard across the street, in just a matter of minutes, the fire had spread across the entire first floor and smoke was pouring out of the upstairs windows.  

Everyone was out and safe – but the house was aflame. 

Our community, back then, had a volunteer fire department and they were there in minutes.  The firemen worked tirelessly to get the fire out – and when it was safe – even went in and ‘rescued’ by brothers’ pet gerbil.  Our house was a two story colonial made of brick on the first floor and it was still standing after the blaze was put out.  A fireman told my Mom that when he got to the dining room, the silver pitcher that had been filled with ice was boiling on the table like a tea pot.

Neighbors banded together to take in all five of us kids, to find us clothes to wear and to give my parents what they needed most – friendship and support.  Over thirty years later, even though my parent later moved far away, those neighbors are still some of my parents closest friends.

The Fire Marshall later determined that the cause of the fire was spontaneous combustion of the freshly cut grass that had been bagged and put in the garage over night so that it was not sitting out on the curb when our company came for the party.

State Farm was my parents’ insurance company and the agent was wonderful.  He and his team worked closely with my parents to get them what they needed, helping with temporary relocation to a rental home and helping to put our own home back together again.  We moved back in just before Christmas, 1975.

WHY am I sharing this story today?

2009 Fire Prevention Week (FPW) PostersOctober is National Fire Safety Month and you need to know that it can happen to you and it can happen that fast.

Make sure that your family has a fire escape plan and that your kids know what to do if some day they hear – The house is on fire – GET OUT!

Visit the Home Safety Council Website and review the tips on home fire prevention.   You can find fun training tools for parents and teachers to use at the National Fire Protection Association.

Talk to your insurance agent and make sure that you have the right level of coverage for your family’s needs. 

Hopefully, you will never hear “The house is on fire – GET OUT!”  but it’s always good to be prepared. 

Thanks for stopping by for a little life story.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

 

As a girl, I loved Christmas, birthdays, and all of the special times when I got gifts.  But I dreaded what came next.  My Mom would make me sit down at the kitchen table, and in my ‘very best handwriting’, write my thank you notes.

“WHY” – I would whine.  “I want to play with my presents – NOT write dumb old letters!”

“Because” she’d always reply “when someone does something nice for you, you send a note to show that you appreciate it.  If you don’t – someday you may wake up and find that you don’t have to say thank you any more – because you won’t have anything to say thank you for!”

I have to admit, that today, as a ‘big girl’ my habit of sending thank you notes has gotten a bit sloppy, as has my handwriting.  But I really do try to say thank you when ever I can when people do something nice, deliver great service, share ideas, and help others.  (That’s right – you can even thank someone for doing something that was not for YOU.)

Sometimes it’s a phone call, or an email or a tweet.  I even have special note cards that are fun and creative that my friends Mike and Lisa at Affordable Image make up just for me every year.  Affordable Image’s tag line is “Old Fashioned Values with Today’s Technology”(TM) and you can tell that they mean it in the way they help their customers. 

I just wish my handwriting looked as good as their note cards.

But however you say it, what I have found is that when you thank someone for doing something little or doing something grand – it makes them feel good and YOU feel good too.  I remind my kids to say thank you – and I try to remind myself too.  You see,  you should never be too busy to say thank you.

It’s one thing that never goes out of style.

Thanks for stopping by for a little life story.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Author’s Note:  Some of the people I can not thank enough are the many leaders, sponsors, volunteers, and the hundreds of participants in the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conferences each year.  All of the conference proceeds go to support OTEF’s efforts in helping at-risk populations along the path to entrepreneurship.  It’s a great example of how a community can come together to help others and help themselves at the same time.  So if I have not said it recently – THANK YOU and I look forward to saying it again in person on November 12, 2009!

Joan Koerber-Walker
Chairman, The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation

I grew up as a Cosby kid to Fat Albert cartoons and watching Bill Cosby specials on T.V.  I even, in my later years would settle down, from time to time, and watch the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the Huxtable clan on The Bill Cosby show.  It was great when I saw a post from my friend Dr. Rus announcing that Bill Cosby would be awarded the Mark Twain Award for American Humor this October 26th.

But of all the things Dr. Cosby has ever created, for me, nothing tops the following piece telling the story of a Dad fixing breakfast for his kids.

 

Any Mom will tell you that there are times when you need a little help and you  are going to get it from your spouse – whether they like it or not!

Any Dad can tell you – that even when you do help – you may not get it right!

(Oh and by the way – switch around the Mom and the Dad in these two sentences – and they hold just as true!)

When our children are infants there are the late night feedings, teething, dirty diapers, and the constant need to pay attention attention.

As they get older there is the teamwork of balancing scheduled, teaching values, consistent discipline, and  the most dread chore of them all – HOMEWORK duty.

But through it all, the joy of parenting is in the doing and if you are lucky in doing it together.  There is no more important team than a Mom and a Dad. 

Because sooner than you know it, your little ones are grown and you are back on your own again.

Thanks for stopping by for a Little Life Story.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Teddy Bear Cake for Christopher's 2nd birthdayPart of the joy of parenting is birthdays.  And what birthday is complete without a birthday cake?

Growing up, my Mom always made special cakes for each of her five kids on their birthdays.  As we got older, sometimes we would have cupcake decorating parties where Mom would provide all the fixings and each little girl made her own ‘work of art’ but always the cakes were shared with fun and joyous celebration.

So when I became a Mom, I continued the tradition.  Making colorful, gooey concoctions.

As my boys got a little older, my Teddy Bear, Choo Choo  Train, and Dinosaurs were see as ‘for babies.’  So, at the kids request, I journeyed to Safeway to get Power Ranger or football cakes like the ones their friends had.   They did not taste the same, but I will admit – it made birthday party preparation a lot easier.

This year, for my husband’s 48th birthday – I asked him – Would you like a pie or cake? 

I’d like a Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake – just like my Mom used to make.

So I pulled out the family recipe book – and made him a cake.  It may not have been ‘exactly’ like Mom’s – Sandy is an artist when it comes to cakes – but he loved it just the same.

It just goes to show you.  You are never too old for birthday cake.

You see, no matter whether the cake comes from your kitchen or from the local bakery – what matters most is the joy that it brings – and that the spark that lights the candles is love.

Thanks for stopping by for a little life story.  Stay tuned.

Joan Koerber-Walker

Author’s note – If you want an easy recipe that’s really good and ‘children’ will request even when they are 48 – here it is…

Sandy Walker’s Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

In a large bowl – combine:

3 c. flour

1 1/2 c. sugar

1/3 c. Cocoa

2 1/4 t baking powder

1 1/2 t baking soda

Add:

1 1/2 c. Mayonnaise

1 1/2 c. water

1 1/2 t REAL vanilla

Blend well until smooth and fluffy.

Pour into pan – makes 2 9-inch rounds, 1 13×9 sheet

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Cool well before frosting.

Do you remember your first day of school.  Or maybe the day you got your child ready for that big, important day?

It was exciting but a little scary too.  There were so many unknowns.  What if my teacher is mean?  What if no one will like me? What if I get lost?  What if there are no cookies!

Take a few minutes share in a special first day of school as Kermit the Frog helps his friend Cookie Monster get over his trepidation on that most momentous day.

Yes it’s fun and a little bit silly, but there are also great lessons here.

Fear of the unknown can be put to rest or reduced when you have a friend to show you the ropes, answer your questions, and show you that you are not moving into unfamiliar territory all on your own.

In youth we often call these people ‘buddies’ while as grown up we call them mentors.

But one thing’s for sure… having one can make all the difference.

Thanks for stopping by for a little life story.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Chris Walker August 23, 1989

Twenty years ago today, my son Christopher was born.  At the time, both my Mom Betsy and Chris’ mom Sandy flew out to California tag team style to see the new baby – or so they said.

I think in the back of my Mom’s mind was the fear that I would follow through on my statement from my younger years that “If I had a kid, I would lock them in a closet and leave them there until they turned 18!”

Now, before you call Child Protective Services to report me, let me go on record – I never did lock my son in a closet.  Instead, I had the pleasure of watching my baby grow into a man any Mom could be proud of.

Are you listening Grandma?It’s amazing how fast things change.  As a newborn, everything in his world came from us.  It was up to us to feed him, change him, play with him, and protect him.

As he grew – his language come from being around us and our friends.  He learned to communicate, to play with others, and to be confident as he made his way in the world.

Flying across the ice at 2009 Nationals

As he grew older, this confidence allowed him to learn new skills and develop dreams of his own.  From the time he was twelve years old, he has loved to fly across the ice.  He was always big for his age, so they put him on defense.  And over the years his skills progressed so that even from D he’s gotten more than his fair share of goals.  We’ve cheered his triumphs and Teaching Ava to skateconsoled (when he’d let us) on the times when they lost.

He grew to become a leader, a captain, a team mate and a friend.  Not only refining his craft but always taking the time to help others learn to do the thing he loves.

Chris at the lake az 2009

Playtime with Mom and Dad, soon evolved to spending time with friends, getting a job so he had his own money and independence, living in other places – like last year’s hockey team in Powell River, BC and this year’s team in Wayne, NJ.

He does not rely on Mom and Dad for everything anymore.  He’s grown beyond that and can stand on his own two feet while seeking his own new horizons.

Look out world - here I comeLittle did I imagine, on that morning 20 years ago, how fast the time would fly.  The 21 inch infant I once held in my arms now towers over me at 6’3.

He’s pursuing his dreams, just like having him was one of mine come true.

I’m really glad I did not lock him away in that closet.

I would not have wanted to miss a minute of the last 20 years!

Always treasure your time with your little ones.  Before you know it,  they may be bigger than you are!”

Happy 20th Birthday Christopher!

Love Mom

P.S.  To my visitors and readers –

Thanks for stopping by for a little life story and sharing in this special day.   Stay tuned…

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Welcome to Little Life Stories


What happens to us.
What is said to us.
What we experience.
These are thing things that shape our lives.

Here at Little Life Stories, I will share some of mine with you.

Just the stories. You get to draw your own take aways.

Want a little more?
Visit the links section to find my other much longer blogs and posts.

Thank you for stopping by for a little story.

Joan Koerber-Walker

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