Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Catherine Ramsey





As Ms. Santa, I get wish lists and special requests from children all during the holiday season. Over the years, the requests have not all been about receiving toys at Christmas time. Children often share their hopes, dreams, and wishes for others and ask for reassurance that all will be right in the upcoming year.

As Ms. Santa, I am not just a giver of gifts but also an encourager-in-chief. Wishes and dreams shared with me are taken to heart.

Children are not the only ones who share their hopes, dreams and wishes with me; adults make wishes and special requests that are equally as charming and memorable. I have been asked to drop off presents to friends in the hospital, visit an elderly parent at a nursing home, and deliver a meal to a new mommy. The smiles (and sometimes looks of disbelief) on the faces of people I see elicit chuckles and roars of laughter from the folks who sent me. Everyone ends up with a Christmas memory to share over and over for years to come. This year, a small request from Catherine (Cathy) Ramsey created a memory that will stay with me long after the trees and lights have been put away.

Cathy and I are in a small book club together. Other members of the clubs are Diane, Jackie, Joyce, Pat, and Vernon. We began reading books over the summer and now meet once a month over dinner to discuss our views and opinions about our reading selections. Our books have taken us on journeys to the Jim Crow South, the backwoods of Virginia, the inner city of Baltimore, the Middle East, New York City, and Cuba. Our mutual distaste for drama and love of reading and traveling seem to be the common thread that runs among this group of diverse personalities.

At one meeting, Cathy shared a desire to share her love of reading with a group of girls. “It has always been a longing of mine to give girls books to encourage them to read. I want them to learn to love reading. I want to give them books without any strings attached. I want to share my story about how I learned to love reading”, Cathy said wishfully as she continued to talk about her long held dream. “Wouldn’t that be neat to do for Christmas?” she asked the group with determination.

I was not surprised that Cathy, a lifelong educator, wanted to help young girls to learn the joy of reading. Her passion was heard clearly through her soft tones. “This is something I have dreamed about for a long time,” she said as her voice trailed off while still smiling.

As the group dispersed to various corners of town after our book club meeting, Cathy’s smiling face stayed with me. Hearing her enduring wish that will have a profound effect on young readers for years to come left me agitated with excitement and anticipation.

By the time I made it home, Joyce had already texted suggestions for us to consider. Within a few days, a Girl Scouts Troop in the Edgehill area was chosen to receive the books. Naturally, I volunteered to wear my finest Ms. Santa suit. When Cathy asked if I would also read a few stories to the girls, I agreed without hesitation. For reading and Ms. Santa go together like gift wrap and bows.

The group agreed to keep everything sweet and simple. Cookies and cocoa would be served for refreshments. Vernonica, Diane, and Pat bought books, prizes for games, and Christmas décor to make our time with the girls festive. There was no committee meeting to determine who was going to do what. Everyone simply served with heart and soul.

On Wednesday, December 15, with my favorite Christmas stories and Santa figure in hand along with my freshly pressed suit, I met the rest of the book club members at the center.

Upon entering the room, there was ample proof that this party was being thrown by reading enthusiasts. Books for different ages were stacked front and center. The titles seemed to jump off the covers! The books reflected the personalities in the book club. Books about adventures and travel to other countries were plentiful. Books about instilling confidence in young girls were also in abundance along with timeless Christmas stories. And to my delight, one about bugs was included! These books were chosen to capture the imagination of girls.

At ten before five, Cathy gave us a signal that the girls were on their way. With a quick sweep of the room by club members and a few adjustments to my Christmas cape, everyone was ready. With a dramatic swing of the doors, in walked several Brownies and one tiny Daisy from Troop 5082. The girls were curious about the visitors at their troop meeting. As the girls were greeted by club members with hellos and smiles, Ms. Santa gave out hugs. Little faces filled with curiosity were replaced with oohs and ahs as they touched my red suit.

Our meeting was quickly brought to order when Cathy effortlessly put on her educator’s hat. She had dreamed of this day for a long time, and it was obvious she was ready. She walked to the front of the room and told the smiling faces that she wanted to give them books and had been anticipating meeting them. Cathy shared her love of reading and expressed her desire for them to learn to love reading. After we were introduced, Cathy asked each girl to share a personal tidbit. With some shyness, every girl gave her name and the name of the school she attended.

After the introductions, Cathy cued me to start reading. With all the drama of an overlooked Oscar nod, I gave my best reading performance to date. With animated hands and changes in voice to match the story characters, I read one of my favorite stories to the girls, “I’ve Seen Santa”. As I read, Cathy watched with twinkling eyes. With each turn of the pages of my book, the girls waited eagerly to hear what came next in the story. This was to Cathy’s delight who saw what she wished and expressed several weeks ago come to life.

When the story ended with thunderous applause and laughter from everyone, we could see that the seeds had been planted to enjoy reading. After story time, Cathy escorted the girls to the table to choose books that appealed to them. They looked over the titles carefully and excitingly picked books that fit their personalities. Some even started reading right away. With books in hand, they snacked and discussed their choices with each other. There was endless chatter about reading. However, no smile was bigger or brighter than Cathy’s.

As our time together came to a close, there was no way one could miss Cathy’s glowing face. It was very obvious that Cathy was having one of her very best Christmases. Her sweet and simple request helped create memories for everyone present. Cathy’s sharing her passion for reading was a spark that will ignite and burn brightly for years to come. The girls left with gifts that will not disappear after the tree and lights have been put away. Cathy also left with a gift—a wish fulfilled, and she thanked club members profusely.

As I drove off into the night to my part of town, I repeated several times, “Merry Christmas, Catharine Ramsey. Merry Christmas.”

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Tolk Family on Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes

Thank you for continuing to join Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes during the month of December. We are hearing amazing stories of faith that will "empower, inspire, and motivate you to live your best life". Hear powerful individuals with diverse backgrounds from around the country share how their faith have shaped their lives as well others.

Tune in as we hear how they have soared and taken others with them. We will also hear how they have overcome personal struggles that affected their leadership and personal lives. Living Your Best Life can be heard every Saturday on 760 AM in the Nashville-Middle Tennessee region and on worldwide on Ustream.TV from 9-10AM CST.

Join us on Christmas Eve for a very special show with the Tolk Family. Hear from Tennessee's Music Teach of the Year and Tolk family matriarch, Marilyn Tolk; her son, pianist, composer and legal eagle, David Tolk; and her son-in-law, renown painter, sculptor and children author, J. Kirk Richards. Hear each of them share about their deep faith and staying grounded while in the spotlight. Listen as they share about their individual lives and how they draw strength from each other. This show promises to empower, inspire, and motivate one to live a better life as we look forward to the upcoming New Year.

More About the Tolk Family:

David Tolk
A gentleman unafraid to admit his mother's influence in his life, David H. Tolk is a pianist and keyboardist highly esteemed by his peers. The son of a mother who is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and a father with a doctorate in Physics, Tolk was exposed to an academic environment that included piano instruction by his mother. Talented enough to be a musician for a living, he instead chooses to balance a dual career as lawyer and musician. He admits enjoying both. “I very much enjoy combining a career in music with a career as an attorney. These two fields have blended quite well to create a wonderful harmony in my life," Tolk says in an online interview. “People always ask when I will give up being an attorney to pursue music full time. My music is a reflection of my life, my travels, my family and my experiences. I will continue to seek to maintain a balance among all of those different areas."

Finding a harmonious balance between his careers and his family is an important part of his life's melody. Married to Lisa, David has two daughters and one son. Apparently he's successful in achieving the balance as artists he's worked with describe him as a classy guy. Independent recording artist Peter Breinholt says that Tolk has “unreal" musicianship, “but it's been his personality that has endeared the band (Big Parade) and the audience the most to him. He's a huge part of what we do now, and his wit and integrity are part of why he's been able to have success with his own albums, I think."“As a person," says Colors member Russ Dixon, “David is one of the most sincere individuals I know." Tolk plays piano, synthesizers and acoustic guitar in the band Big Parade, his studio work and on his own albums; but the piano is his first love. His mother's influence included intensive exposure to classical masters and his compositions reflect this as they are a blend of New Age and Contemporary Instrumental genres.

Davids' educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Brigham Young University, and a degree in law from the University of Utah. As of 2002, he and his family made their home in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, Utah.
www.davidtolk.com

J. Kirk Richards
Figurative artist J. Kirk Richards is becoming increasingly known for his accomplishments as a painter of Judeo-Christian themes. While not all of his paintings are overtly religious, the majority of his themes stem from spiritual ideas and narratives. He continues to work in a surprising variety of styles, but most of his paintings exhibit a love for the human figure, general use of symbolism and metaphor, and an emphasis on lyric composition.

Kirk is the fourth of eight musical children. He attributes much of his love for the arts to an early emphasis on musical training in the home. As a teen, his interests turned from music to visual arts. He took private lessons from artist Clayton Williams to supplement his public school studies. Upon graduation, Richards was accepted into the B.Y.U. art program where he studied with artists Bruce Smith, Hagen Haltern, Gary Barton, James Christensen, Wulf Barsch, Joe Ostraff, and others.

Kirk took a break from University studies to briefly apprentice with Swiss-born symbolist Patrick Devonas. Richards attributes his learning of classical realist skills to the instruction he received from Devonas in Princeton, New Jersey.
www.jkirkrichards.com

Marilyn Tolk
Marilyn Tolk, 2011 Tennessee Music Teachers Association's Music Teacher of the Year, was born in Canada and at age twenty-one moved to New York City to attend the Juilliard School of Music where she studied with Irwin Freundlich and Adele Marcus. She also received a degree in music education from Teachers College at Columbia University. She taught briefly at the New York Institute for the Blind in the Bronx, and then moved to Mendham, New Jersey where she performed and taught for sixteen years. In 1984, she moved to her current home in Nashville, TN.

Her students have received many superior ratings in local and state TMTA auditions, in addition to awards in Federation, Guild, and Clavierfest. She was one of the founders of the Nashville Piano Achievement Competition and served as its President for ten years. Several of her students have gone on to major in music. She has served as an adjudicator for Federation, NAMTA, Winterfest and Guild.

Marilyn is also a composer, arranger, organist and choral conductor. She has recently taken up the art of storytelling, which has become an inspirational vehicle for sharing her love of music and of life. Marilyn is celebrating her 50th Anniversary this year to Vanderbilt Physics Professor, Norm Tolk.
For more info about Marilyn Tolk click here and here

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Eliza Donahue Shares her Family's Adoption Journey on Living Your Best Life

Join Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes during the month of December as we hear stories of faith that will "empower, inspire, and motivate you to live your best life". Hear powerful individuals with diverse backgrounds from around the country share how their faith have shaped their lives as well others.

Tune in as we hear how they have soared and taken others with them. We will also hear how they have overcome personal struggles that affected their leadership and personal lives. Living Your Best Life can be heard every Saturday on 760 AM in the Nashville-Middle Tennessee region and on worldwide on Ustream.TV from 9-10AM CST.

On Saturday, December 17, 2011, we will hear eleven year old Eliza Donahue and her journey to help adopt a sibling from Haiti. Hear how she was spiritually impacted and her family lives altered by the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010. She will share how she helped family friends Mike and Missy Wilson who soon to be adopted daughter Tia was in an orphanage the day of the earthquake. Without being asked, Eliza counted all her money and gave it to the Wilsons to help them bring Tia home. Her decision to give her all to help the Wilsons put Eliza on the path to travel to Haiti herself. This powerful story from an eleven year old will leave you empowered, inspired, and motivated to look deeply within our hearts and beyond our borders to find a calling in life.

More about Eliza Donahue's Journey

The months following the earthquake, after Tia and her sister, Naika, were safely in the U.S., Eliza began asking to go to Haiti herself. She wanted to see Haiti in person and meet the children from the Creche run by Dr. Joseph Bernard and New Life Link. Because of the Wilson family, Eliza had grown to love the children of Haiti deeply even though she had not been to the orphanage. She persistently talked to her parents about going to Haiti. For Christmas, instead of asking for presents typical of tweens, Eliza asked to go to Haiti. At that point, her parents knew this was not a phase; their daughter was determined to go to Haiti.

Eliza received a certificate for Christmas giving her the opportunity to go to Haiti, but she would have to raise the funds. Without hesitation, Eliza began to raise funds through a letter writing campaign themed, "I have a Heart for Haiti". She raised the necessary funds through generous donations from friends and family. In July of 2011, Eliza and her mom, Laura, traveled to Haiti.

To say that the experience changed both of them would be a huge understatement. It was transforming; heart, mind and soul! Eliza was so touched by the children and people of Haiti that she was asking to adopt a sibling even before leaving Haiti.

Upon returning from Haiti, Eliza (and Mom) gathered the family and asked everyone to consider adopting from Haiti. Because of the family's experience with Mike and Missy Wilson, Haiti held a close place in each person's heart even though not everyone had traveled there. After a month of praying, discussing and praying some more, the family all agreed that the Lord was calling them to adopt.

Isaiah prophesied that "a little child will lead them"... and so Eliza has listened to the voice of the Lord and has led her family on the journey of adoption.

To read more about the family's journey and to help contribute to their adoption click Here


Eliza is the youngest of four. Her older siblings are Baker, 16, and 13 year old twins, Brennan and Cara.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Author and Speaker Regina Prude on Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes

Join Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes during the month of December as we hear stories of faith that will "empower, inspire, and motivate you to live your best life". Hear powerful individuals with diverse backgrounds from around the country share how their faith have shaped their lives as well others.

Tune in as we hear how they have soared and taken others with them. We will also hear how they have overcome personal struggles that affected their leadership and personal lives .Living Your Best Life can be heard every Saturday on 760AM in the Nashville-Middle Tennessee region and on worldwide on Ustream.TV from 9-10AM CST.


On Saturday, December 10, 2011, Genma will be joined by the speaker, author, syndicated columnist and business woman Regina M. Prude. Hear about her extraordinary life as a partner in the ministry with her husband, Dr, Floyd Prude Jr., and the challenges, spiritual and emotionally, that came with his unexpected passing in 2009. Her message of overcoming and fighting the good fight promises to leave you empowered, inspired and motivated.

About Regina Prude
For over thirty-six years, she served as First Lady of Emmanuel Baptist Church, of Beloit, Wisconsin, where her late husband, Dr. Floyd Prude, Jr., was Senior Pastor. She provided “behind the scenes” leadership and support, serving in ministries such as Christian Education, Stewardship and Evangelism. She was also founded and facilitated a prayer and support ministry, Titus II Women's Ministry.

She has been invited to speak at women’s events at many churches and faith-based organizations' events around the country and worldwide like Wisconsin General Baptist State Convention and the Sovereign Grace Bible Conference. In August 2010, she lectured in Mannheim, Germany, for the German Baptist Association. In January 2010, she delivered the King Convocation message at Beloit College (Wisconsin), a school often called the “Yale of the Midwest.”

As an inspirational writer, she has been a contributor to the devotional magazine, “Alive, Now!,” published by The United Methodist Publishing Board. Her weekly syndicated newspaper column, “Everyday Joy,” appears in several publications across the country, including The Madison Times and The Chronicle in Wisconsin, The Tennessee Tribune, and in Maryland and New York publications. While living in Wisconsin, she hosted a weekly inspirational radio program.

As an overcomer, she has relied upon the power of God, her personal faith and the power of prayer after being diagnosed in 2001 with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. The results has been a miraculous miracle of healing which she continues to proclaim! In Regina's upcoming book, Zero Fear, she will share about her victory over illness and her steadfast belief that healing scriptures and her joy in Christ (along with her doctors) helped her defeat the disease.

In addition to her speaking and writing, Regina is the founder, President and CEO of NEW DIRECTIONS Management Services, Incorporated, a small business she established in 1983. In that role, she has provided oversight for the diversity consulting and management training services offered to clients. She has managed contracts awarded by federal agencies, including the U. S Departments of Defense, Energy, Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. For the U. S. Department of the Army, she directed a Minority Student Internship Program, which placed over 50 students from Historically Black colleges and universities into Defense internships.

In August, 2010, she relocated from Wisconsin to Nashville, Tennessee.

Text INSPIRE to 99000 to win a copy of Dr. Floyd Prude Jr.'s Book Lessons From The Prophets: Elijah, Jeremiah & Elisha [Kindle Edition] Vol 1 : or to ask a question or share comments.

We will also be giving away copies of Belmont University Christmas CD

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Impact Church on Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes

Join Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes during the month of December as we hear stories of faith that will "empower, inspire, and motivate you to live your best life". Hear powerful individuals with diverse backgrounds from around the country share how their faith have shaped their lives as well others.

Tune in as we hear how they have soared and taken others with them. We will also hear how they have overcome personal struggles that affected their leadership.
Living Your Best Life can be heard every Saturday on 760AM in the Nashville-Middle Tennessee region and on worldwide on Ustream.TV from 9-10AM CST.

On Saturday, Dec 3, 2011, Living Your Best Life will kick off this exciting series on faith in the marketplace with Impact Church of Atlanta. Impact Church believes firmly in "Doing Church Differently".

Founded January 2007, Impact Church is a multicultural gathering of people who come together regularly with one common purpose--to share the love of Christ. Throughout their journey, they have impacted schools, community organizations, and the lives of countless individuals. They have been committed to making a global impact by sticking to the basics and taking the "churchiness" out of church.

Impact Church was recently featured on CNN for allowing members to text in church and having social media infused services. Hear how the church leaders have embraced technology and uses it throughout their ministry to grow their church and to connect with the “unchurch”.

Olu Brown is the founder and lead pastor of Impact Church. He is married to Farrah Brown and they are the proud parents of Daya Brown. A native of Texas, Olu graduated from The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta and was Associate Pastor at Cascade United Methodist Church for six years prior to starting Impact Church. Pastor Olu can be contacted at olubrown@impactdcd.org.

Sunday Worship Experiences are held in Brown Middle School, 765 Peeples Street SW, Atlanta, GA 30310. The church can be contacted by phone at 404-577-2826

Looking for a gift idea for the holidays? Impact Church has a wonderful Christmas CD and published book by Pastor Olu Brown titled “Zero to 80”. Living Your Best Life is giving away ten sets of the Book and CD. Text INSPIRE to 99000.