Celebrate National Anthem Day!

“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming…”

On March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed into law “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the United States’ national anthem. In a concerted effort begun on April 15, 1929, by U.S. Rep. John Linthicum from Maryland, over 5 million signatures, countless letters of support, and twenty-five governors submitted their enthusiasm for the measure. Taking more than a year to make its way before the House Judiciary Committee, this emblematic song has an awe-inspiring history starting over a century prior to those seeking its patriotic expression.

The Key to Unlocking a Nation’s Patriotism

Written by Georgetown lawyer and dabbling poet Francis Scott Key on September 14, 1814, the lyrics originated as the poem, “Defence of Fort McHenry.” The verse was inspired when Key spotted the American flag still waving over the military stronghold the morning after the British Navy stormed the Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. Key’s lyrical poem was later set to the popular melody, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” composed by John Stafford Smith. Not long after, the song’s title was changed to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” named for the flag that was raised over FortMcHenry, and the song became an immediate sensation

Song Stanzas, High Notes, and Passage Through Congress

Even though it’s four stanzas at full-length, most perform only the first stanza when singing the anthem for military ceremonies and public events. Given the considerable range of the melody, Congress hesitated to adopt it as the national anthem due to the difficulty for the general public to reach the highest notes; however, more often than not, the song is sung by trained singers. Furthermore, some officials questioned Representative Linthicum’s motives, whether his House Bill was to promote the nation’s patriotism or his own district, which included part of Baltimore. Nevertheless, its passage prevailed and “The Star-Spangled Banner” replaced “My Country ’Tis of Thee” as America’s national anthem.

Patriotic Pride

Celebrate National Anthem Day by following the example set nearly two hundred years ago—hang your U. S. flag with pride and salute those who kept American patriotism alive and well. It’s a gesture that will inspire just as it did so long ago.



“WHAT TO WRITE…” Offering Words of Encouragement

encouragement2  2.25.13

Offering Words of Encouragement, Cheer, Support and Sympathy

There are those moments in life when we could all use a little encouragement, a kind word, a gentle wish, a hearfelt prayer. They’re the little things that inspire us to believe in ourselves or help us through a difficult time.

While words can’t actually change the circumstances that surround us, they can help us deal with our emotions and even feel more hopeful or confident, especially when the words are coming from someone who truly cares about us. In this sense, their support and encouragement tend to validate our feelings.

At the same time, the rewards are just as great when we are on the giving end…it feels just  as good to offer a helping hand, or a shoulder to lean on as it does to be on the receiving end of a caring gesture.

With that in mind, we’d like to offer some suggestions for letting others know how you feel and that you care. And although this series is meant to help you know “What to Write…” it may just as easily help you know “what to say…”

I’ll always be here for you.
You’re someone I care about…

You truly are a beautiful person…I hope you know that.
Don’t give up now…I know you can do this.
You’re special and you deserve the best.
I care about you more than words can say.
Believe in yourself. I know I believe in you.
I believe in you and your dreams.
I thought about you today…I care about you always.
You are in every thought and prayer that fills my heart today.
I can’t guarantee you an easy journey, but I promise
       I’ll be there with you every step of the way.
I’m here if you need me…that’s what friends are for.
If you need a kind word or warm wish, I have many to give.
Good times. Bad times. Anytime…
Just me…thinking of you…especially now.
Wishing you faith to light your way until all is well again.

For Sympathy Situations:

I’m here to listen, to hold your hand or to just be by your side…whatever you need. 
Grieving takes time and tears…and friends. I’m here for you.
Sincerest sympathy…from a friend who shares your sorrow.

Lighter/Whimsical directions:

Would a hug help?  or  Looks like someone could use a hug…
Wish I could wish your troubles away.
If you need me, just whistle…I’ll be there before you can unpucker!
Life takes some crazy turns…maybe I can help steer you through it all.
When the going gets tough, you can always come over and hide out with me!
Friendship therapy…no appointment necessary!
Chicken Soup? Hug? Teddy Bear? Chocolate? Just name it!
Sometimes life just sucks. Stay strong.

Please visit to see the above Encouragement ecard and a large selection of other Encouragement, Get Well and Sympathy cards to which you can add your own personal messages.





02132013_ash_wednesdayFollowing the big celebration of Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday services
gather believers together to: offer penitence, take the opportunity to reflect on personal transgressions and seek forgiveness. These services are held in numerous Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

The ashes come from the palm branches that were burned and stored from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. These palm ashes are then made into a simple paste by adding a little water or olive oil. People who attend these services are then marked with a cross on the forehead to commemorate the beginning of Lent.

photo credit:

photo credit: www.calvarydc. org

The ashes serve as a visible reminder of the victory of Jesus over death, but also as an admission of sorrow over those things believers seek forgiveness for or consider wrong. Generally, the Cross of Christ stays on the forehead until it wears away and serves as a witness to the person’s faith.

As Christians prepare for Ash Wednesday, Lent and Easter, they are reminded to pause and consider those things that bring them joy, those habits and ideas that no longer serve them well, and the things that remind them that they are always a forgiven child of God. In this way, they’ll be fully prepared for the glorious rising of the Son at Easter.

Blessings to all!




We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.

—Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Two Milestones

Founded in 1924 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson as Negro History and Literature Week before expanding to a month in 1926, Black History Month honors all of the contributions and achievements of African-Americans. Celebrated during the month of February to memorialize the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, this year holds special significance as it marks the anniversaries of two milestones with the 2013 theme: At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.

With the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect January 1, 1863, we commemorate his decree of freeing the slaves in the confederate states. Although it didn’t end slavery altogether, the proclamation signified a turning point in history. Long considered a major step toward bringing about change for equality, it distinguished Abraham Lincoln as a harbinger of freedom for African-Americans and set the tone for future events anchoring their message in this landmark document.

Freedom March 50th Anniversary

This also marks the 50th anniversary of the
Freedom March to the Lincoln Memorial inWashington,D.C., led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963, one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation. With over two-hundred thousand participants, King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the memorial and stirred the nation with his hope of a better world. His inspiring oration defined a new chapter in civil rights, paving the way for future generations as they continue to strive for equality.

Since then, Black History Month has seen its message receive the very esteem it sought so long ago. President Ford delivered the first official presidential address recognizing the importance of its observance. President      Reagan signed and recognized February as Black History Month, with each U.S.president thereafter delivering an official message and proclaiming that year’s theme.

With courageous acts worth emulating and uplifting messages that inspire, Black History Month is truly overflowing with a rich history to explore, honor, and celebrate.

Photo Credit: Bob Gomel, The Historic Washington Mall Freedom March, 1963


“WHAT TO WRITE…” Valentine Messages

Today, we’re beginning a new series of blogs that will appear monthly. The topic?

What to Write…

And this month’s subject is What to Write in a Valentine. But before we get to that specifically, we wanted to introduce some thoughts that will work for just about any occasion or life event…from the happiest, to the most formal, to even those that are touched by sadness.

Although there are many ways to express your thoughts and wishes, sending a personal note in your own words somehow means more–no matter what the occasion. But it’s not always easy knowing where to begin. That’s why we’re creating this blog…to help you send the perfect card that not only expresses your thoughts, but helps you stay connected to those important people in your life.

Getting Ready…

Take a few minutes to organize your thoughts and to clarify your intent. Do you want to…

  • Send a wish for a specific occasion?
  • Congratulate or compliment someone?
  • Say “thank you?”
  • Simply say, “You’re a great friend?”
Next, think of what you would like someone to say or write to you…
  • What would they say to make you feel better or happier?
  • To let you know they care?
  • To tell you they think you’re special?
Well, those are probably the very things they’d like to hear from you!

If you’re still not sure what to talk about, here are a few more ideas:

  • Think of something funny, serious, or cute that only the two of you
  • might know about.
  • Remember special memories you’ve shared together.
  • Write a short (or long!) list of words that describe this
    particular person or occasion or both!

How to Begin…

It’s usually helpful to jot down a few ideas first. Reading them over will sometimes spark a new idea or help you to consider other thoughts you may have forgotten.

  • Use simple, everyday language–write it just like you would say it
    and your message will sound warmer and more personal.
  • Be honest–it’s okay to admit that this is a difficult thing to do or that you’re having trouble finding the right words. After all, you’re taking the time to
    express yourself and that’s a sincere gesture anyone can appreciate.
  • Keep in mind, many of the ideas and phrases we’ll be featuring in the months ahead can be used for many different occasions or situations. They can also be used in many ways–in letters, greeting cards, ecards, or notes.
    Or simply add one above your signature or to an ecard for a quick personal touch!

And now to the main feature…

What to Write in a Valentine

Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to express 
your loving or romantic soul! Which means you don’t have to just have a significant other to shower with hearts and flowers. Think about all the people around you who bring joy to your life. This is the day to send a little extra love their way, too.

If your valentine is going to a sweetheart, spouse or partner, remind them that life wouldn’t be the same without them. Be real, be authentic, be sweet, be loving. Go for the big words…after all, this is the person who keeps your blood pumping!

  • You’re the best part of my life.
  • You fill my heart with everything wonderful.
  • There’ll never be another you!
  • I’d be lost with you.
  • Loving you just comes naturally.
  • Lucky me–having you to love!
  • You’ll always be first in my life and in my heart.
  • You’re the smile at the end of my day.
  • I love you more than life itself!
  • You make my world a better place to be.

If your valentine is going to a friend, a family member, or perhaps your kids, then try a compliment. Let them know they mean the world to you.

  • You’re the best!
  • You rock!
  • You make me smile.
  • You amaze me!
  • I love you a bunch!
  • I love the way you smile (or sing, laugh, cook, dance…)
  • Everyone needs a friend (or sister, special kid, mom…) like you!
  • Your friendship (or smile, happiness…) means the world to me.
  • You’ve touched my life in a special way.
  • You make my world a better place to be. (Some thoughts work for
    more than one situation!)

Be funny if your relationship is new or one where cracking jokes makes you both laugh.
Be sweet if it’s your mom or your little brother. And it’s okay to simply send a “Happy Valentine’s Day to Someone Special” wish. After all, what your gesture is really saying is how much you care about and value the person you’re sending your card to.

So now that you’re in the mood to write, check your thesaurus for more adoring, caring, sultry, sweet, or funny words about love and send them on to the people in your life today. It’s sure to bring on a smile or maybe even a hugfest. Happy Valentine’s Day!










Beating the Winter Blues

Whether you call it the Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it simply means we’re getting mid-way into winter and those gray skies aren’t bringing out the sunniest parts of our dispositions. Well, some of us anyway. But honestly, if you’re feeling a bit slower, a little melancholy at times and you have less energy, you’re not alone. Especially if you’re living in a part of the world that simply gets less sunshine at this time of year, which is basically most of North America, Europe and Asia! As much as we hate to say it, women between the ages of 20 and 40 are also twice as likely as men to have SAD.

Not fair you say? We agree, but there are ways to combat the Winter Blues without having to pack up and move to sunny Florida or Brazil or anywhere nearer the equator! Of course a trip to Rio would really be worth considering! Oh yes, back to the more realistic remedies…

Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

Get some sun or at least more light. When there’s a break in the temperature, try getting outdoors more often. Keep your drapes open and your shades up and sit closer to a window. If you’re in a windowless office, try your own version of light therapy…bring in a lamp and use “full spectrum” bulbs that mimic natural light. (It has the same effect as the real thing!)

Work on your new year’s resolutions. A CDC study states that there is a strong link between healthy behaviors and depression. Exercising, eating right, etc. all lead to a healthier you and a healthier you is a happier you.

Be good to yourself. We were only half joking about the trip to Rio. Beside the additional sunshine you’d be getting, treating yourself to something special is often a real pick-me-up. If Rio is out of the question, how about a spa date, a night at the theater, a sporting event or a great movie…anything that keeps you motivated and gives you something to look forward to.

Say “no” to stress. Even in the middle of a sunny summer season, stress is a downer. And while none of us can eliminate 100% of the stress in our lives, we can try to keep it manageable. Getting enough sleep is important, doing something relaxing is essential and, at times, doing nothing can be downright good for us.
You could always sign up for yoga or try a little meditation. Staying in bed with a good book sounds pretty good right now, too!

Say “yes” to winter. If you can’t get away from the cold or snow, why not find a way to enjoy it. There are lots of winter activities to enjoy…skiing, ice skating and sledding to name a few. Again, the more active you are, the less stress you’re likely to feel and the more energy you’ll have.

Stay connected. It’s really important to stay in touch with friends and family during these longer winter months. They offer a great support system and just a chat over coffee or a quick email can usually provide you with just the thing that can brighten your mood. It works the other way around, too. Providing someone else with a cheery word can do wonders for your own well-being!







In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Today celebrates the life and achievements of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., (January 15, 1929—April 4, 1968). This national holiday honors the civil rights leader and his non-violent movement to end racial segregation and his quest to right injustices in the United States.

After graduating from high school at the age of fifteen, King studied at Morehouse College where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class and was awarded his B.A. degreen in 1948 and his B.D. in 1951. He received his doctorate in 1955 from Boston University. It was in Boston where he met and married Coretta Scott and the couple went on to have four children–two sons and two daughters.

He served as co-pastor, alongside his father, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., from 1960 until his death in 1968. His grandfather had been pastor there as well from 1914 until 1931, when his father stepped into the position.

By 1954, King was a member of the executive committee of the NAACP and, in 1955, accepted the leadership of a bus boycott that was the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of its kind. It lasted 382 days until, in December 1956, the U.S. supreme Court declared segregation on buses illegal. Although it was a great victory, it came with many sacrifices. King was arrested, threatened, subjected to personal abuse and his home was bombed, but he emerged an even stronger leader.

His list of accomplishments are great including becoming not only a symbolic leader of the civil rights movement, but a world figure, as well. In addition to traveling over six million miles to spread his message of peace, he led many marches and wrote numerous books and speeches, one of which was his famous “I Have a Dream” address which he delivered to more than 250,000 marchers in Washington, D.C.

At the age of 35, he was the youngest man ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Sadly, on April 4, 1968, this great man was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of a hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee.





Top 10 Resolutions and How to Keep Them!

How to Stay True to a New Year’s You…

Get Fit

Two words to make this work: buddy system! Having a
friend share this goal can make all the difference. If you can find a diet and exercise partner at work or in your neighborhood, nothing beats mutual motivation when it comes to getting in shape and keeping fit.

Eat Healthy

Don’t take this to extremes, since old habits can die hard. The key to making it work is to mix it up and make it fun. Turn those vegetables from a chore into a score with a mouth-watering veggie smoothie! Keep a checklist of your achievements, and reward yourself with a little dessert made with fruit, just to help keep it healthy.

Broaden Your Horizons

The easiest way to maintain this resolution is to visit your local library. Besides the volumes of information right at your fingertips, ask a librarian if they know of any classes teaching the very thing you’ve been wanting to learn.

Get Debt Free

The best way? Budget yourself. Take an inventory of a month’s worth of income and spending and cut back to the bare essentials. You might be surprised how quickly you can dig yourself out of debt when you trim the fat and put that extra cash toward paying down credit cards and student loans.

Save Money

Now that you’ve dug yourself out of debt, it’s time to set some aside. Start out small with a “rainy day” account and make it a point not to touch it—even when it’s raining! Use the money you’ve saved from cutting back on expenses toward the account, too. Also, take advantage of any retirement savings programs you can through work. It’s these little things that can add up nicely!

Family Comes First

Home is where the heart is! Make it easy on yourself—pick up the phone to catch up, make time for a nice little meal together, or even a fun family game, indoors or outside. It’s also been shown that getting together with good friends has a positive impact on health, both emotionally and physically.

Time to Travel

You don’t have to have a passport to make this work. Get out a map and see how far a tank of gas will get you. Chances are, there’s a whole host of excursions just waiting to be discovered.

Decompress from Stress

Breathe. Breathe in the good,            
breathe out the bad, and repeat. Clear your mind of clutter. Release yourself from expectations and just go with the flow. Remember, relaxation techniques can help anyone cope with stress, especially if used along with other helpful activities like exercise, getting enough sleep and engaging in favorite hobbies.

Lend a Helping Hand

Start with the small stuff—read to a neighbor’s child if the parent is busy and could use a hand. Or, simply sit and visit. A friendly chat is a great way to brighten someone’s day. Have a skill and know someone who could use your help? Those golden opportunities are right around the corner, ready to help make this resolution stick!


Going green is easier than you think. Find out what eco-friendly programs are available in your city. Then, take a moment every day to separate recyclables from non-recyclables. The Earth will thank you!

Good luck with the resolutions you make and don’t be discouraged if you find that you’re not keeping the pace you want with the changes you’d like to make. Tomorrow is always another day…another chance to begin again.



Christmas Eve Traditions

It’s always special when you celebrate the Christmas season–and especially Christmas Eve–with your own mix of old and new traditions. These may vary from home to home, and culture to culture, but most have significant meanings that have survived through the ages. The traditional red and green colors of Christmas actually stem from the mythical properties of Christmas foliage.

Holly Wreaths

For instance, the holly bush was thought to be the one that was never consumed by fire as God talked to Moses on the top of Mt. Sinai. The holly wreath then is thought to invite God’s spirit–and especially the spirit of Baby Jesus–into our homes. That’s why it’s became so important in some cultures to hang a holly wreath on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Trees

Bringing a beautiful lush evergreen tree into the home, and with it, good fortune, was originally a German tradition. The custom eventually led to lighting the tree with candles on Christmas Eve. Adding a beautiful star to the top of the tree was a reminder of the star the wise men followed to bring gifts to the baby Jesus.

Yule Logs

The ancient Vikings taught us about the Christmas Eve yule log, which was thought to bring warmth and sustenance to the home all year, especially if the log was received from a neighbor or a friend. Today, that tradition has been updated to serving a Yule Log cake in the spirit of warmth and friendship. It is sometimes part of an elaborate Christmas Eve meal that families enjoy before going to traditional midnight services at church.


The lush reds of poinsettias were introduced through Mexico and have become increasingly popular over the years. The star-shaped blooms represent the ancient star that lit the way for shepherds and kings in their journey to Bethlehem.

New Traditions

Christmas Eve is a great time to start your own traditions as well. Perhaps you can combine versions of those from ancient cultures with your own. You can always create new ones like making a charitable donation or helping others in need, to making predictions for the coming year, to reading Christmas stories or watching a favorite Christmas movie before going to bed.

So whether your family opens gifts on Christmas Eve or you save them for “Santa” and Christmas morning, remember that the greatest gift of Christmas is the celebration of love. Gather your family and friends together, celebrate the traditions that are most important to you and share in all the joys of this happy and beautiful season.



Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar

If you’re looking for something new and different this year for your countdown to Christmas, we’ve found a truly wonderful Alpine Advent Calendar we think you’ll love! Stunning animations, seasonal stories or festive games are revealed daily, each one celebrating the magic of the holiday season. You even get your own cottage to decorate in the charming Alpine Village where all the activities take place. You can watch a demo of this modern twist on an old tradition, by visiting or you can find it and two other similar Advent calendars as well at

The London Advent Calendar and the Village Advent Calendar are both available for iPad and the latter has a Kindle Fire version as well. Check out our Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar.