Tuesday, 8 December 2009


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.

This 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 has been since October. Annette is my “way older” sister—twelve years older than I. She suffered a major stroke—her third—last January 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.

These past months have been a series of ups and downs, and her being 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 this past 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 look at them all lined up in their cardboard box stable, I think 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 thank her in my heart for still fighting, for still trying. For being my hero.


Zequeatta Jaques said...

What a heart wrenching story, Cheryl. The closeness between you and your sister is to be treasured.

Cheryl said...

Hi Zequeatta,

It is amazing how God works in our lives, isn't it? Because of the age difference between us, we were never that close in my growing up years. I was six when Annette went off to college! We have a sister that's 2 years younger than Annette, so they grew up together, and I was alone from the time I was 8. Now, I'm given the chance to help Annette, when there is literally no one else to do it. Our other sister lives in Durant, and Annette's daughter is still in New York. I'm so thankful and so glad that we have been given this time to share and bond like we never have before. I reall do treasure it, as you say, Zequeatta. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

Danielle Thorne said...

That is awesome and so sweet. Thanks for sharing and for the craft idea, too. Believe it or not, I have been scrambling to come up with something for two days for cub scouts and have been unable to decide.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks for sharing this, Cheryl. I am so sorry for your loss and your very turbulent year. This is a very special, heart-felt post.

Thinking of you and yours. I never had a sister but your post gives me some idea of how wonderful it can be.

Cheryl said...

Hi Dani!

YES those little Cub Scouts will love doing that! There's another kit you can buy (which we use to have to buy separate, too) where you make reindeer out of the old-timey clothespins--a bit more elaborate--maybe next year would be better. This candy cane reindeer idea is wonderfully easy and they boys can make these for gifts, or just for ornaments.

Yes, ask Cheryl, Danielle. After 3 years of Girl Scouts, I am the craft queen, and believe it or not, I even learned to make "buddy burners" out of metal coffee cans so we could all have the wonder of cooking our scrambled eggs and bacon on the bottom of the can while we camped. LOL I'm a wealth of information now. LOL


Cheryl said...

Thank you, Lindsay. It has been a rough year, for sure, and I'm hoping that next year will be better. Thanks for all your support. It can be wonderful to have a sister, but I have "one of each"-- the good one and the bad one. LOL I'm just so thankful that God put her in a position to be close to me so that I can take care of her at this time. Thanks for the opportunity to share this post. It means a lot.

Savanna Kougar said...

Cheryl, beautiful, heart-felt post. I'm never sure what to say. Having had my own terrible losses, I fully empathize and I'm glad you and and your sister are bonding in such a wonderful way. That is priceless.

Sarah Simas said...

Hi Cheryl and Lindsay,

Lovely post, Cheryl. Sorry for your rough year. I'll be hoping 2010 is full of good things for you. :0)

Cheryl said...


Thank you so much. You don't have to say another thing. My heart goes out to you, too. I guess everyone has suffered losses of one kind or another, and the older we get the more they happen. I'm sorry for your losses, too. That's the wonderful thing about our writers' loops/blogs--we are able to reach out to one another without ever having met. It's awesome, isn't it? Thanks so much for commenting. I appreciate you.

Cheryl said...


Thank you. I know 2010 will be better. I am always hoping for the best and for more good things to come. Thanks for coming over and commenting.


Linda Acaster said...

Oh Cheryl, you are a joy, and make my lack of patience with my mother (dementia)seem so ridiculous. We reap what we sow, and you are blessed.


Cheryl said...

What a wonderful, sweet thing for you to say! No, your "lack of patience" is NOT ridiculous. I think a lot of it is that we ourselves are frightened of seeing our parent become the child. I went through that with my mother, so I know what you are dealing with. It is sooooo hard. I often think of that old saying, "Lord, give me patience, and I want it RIGHT NOW!" LOL I truly am blessed--I have a wealth of wonderful friends here and on some of the other loops and blogs that I have never met in person, but I feel very very close to. Any time you want to talk--feel free to e-mail me, Linda. I have been through what you are dealing with concerning your mother. My heart goes out to you. It is really really hard.

Thanks for commenting. You are a dear person!

LK Hunsaker said...

Cheryl, how beautiful.

Cheryl said...

Thank you, Loraine. This is a situation I never saw myself in, but I'm glad that it happened this way and I can be here for her.

Chelle Cordero said...

Cheryl, so glad that you had this to share with your sister and that you can bring joy to each other. May the holiday season being you many more joys.

Cheryl said...

Thanks, Chelle. I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!! I have not gotten to decorate much this year, and my tree is not even finished. (Unheard of, for me!) But that day is one I won't forget, and I'm so glad we had it. I hope you have a wonderful holiday, too.

Thanks for commenting!