Carollei Elizabeth

baby girl

I was recently contacted by private message from a high school friend of Lauren’s.  Her name is Meghan and she is expecting a baby girl in September.  She wanted to know if it was alright with me if she used Lauren’s middle name for her daughter’s middle name.  She wanted to name her at least in part after her friend.  I was surprised and said what an honor that would be.

Meghan said “Lauren was one of the most beautiful people I have ever known.  I couldn’t see naming her without involving Lauren somehow…Baby girls name will be Carollei Elizabeth.”  I told her the first name was unique and beautiful.  Meghan said she combined two family names to make it.

She went on to say, “I think of her almost every day.  I don’t know if you have kept up with what’s gone on with me, if not I don’t blame you, but the same year we all lost Lauren, I also lost my son to a bad birth defect. The one thing that gave me comfort over the last seven years is knowing Eric is with Lauren laughing and smiling… Heck me and Camille, (another friend) came to the conclusion that Lauren liked him too much and kept him.”  I told her I had not known about Eric and how sorry I was that she too had lost a child.  She never got the chance to hold him and get to know him, like I did with Lauren, but the loss is still great.

She went on to say the other day she had found a picture of her and Lauren from the Renaissance Festival from years ago.  It was blurry but she put it up on her memory board because… “that was one of the best days ever….well for me it was, Lauren ended up getting really sick from eating shrimp at the food court.”  She said it was after they got back and late that night they called us to come get her.  I don’t remember this so it was probably her Dad who went after her.  Meghan said, “Sorry I just remember saying… bro I told you to eat turkey legs and sausage…you got brave and ate shrimp…you did this to yourself…lol“…. and then… Lauren replied something I can’t write.  I can just see and hear those two having that conversation in my head….sounds just like them…lol.   They are both funny and quick witted.

 Meghan went on to tell me some things she learned from Lauren; how to jump up and click her heels together, how to not take the bullcrap from other kids who were being jerks to her in school, how to be kind.  That Lauren had brought her out of her shell and she had taught her more than anyone else in her life.  I was humbled and blown away by her words and tears started falling.  I told her she always had those things in her that Lauren just helped her bring it to the surface.

She replied, “I know, but Lauren saw them in me and helped me realize how awesome I actually am.”

I told her that her words made me cry and she said she didn’t mean to do that.

I said “I know that but your words are so touching. You want your child to be good and kind to others. To know the impact she had on others makes me proud and that her life was worthwhile and she showed God’s love to others. She wasn’t perfect but she was a pretty good kid and I miss her terribly.”

She said that Lauren helped make her who she was and that Carollei was named after 3 strong, important women in her life.  Meghan said “that it would probably make her headstrong, opinionated and a little bit goofy” but she was coming to terms with the fact she would probably have a bull-headed child.

Hmmmm…sounds familiar…I will pray for her.  ; )  : )

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Cristina Williams ~ LHS 2017

Met Cristina Williams our recipient for Lufkin High School 2017.  We enjoyed getting to know Cristina during “picture time” before the awards ceremony.  She is a very quite, respectful young lady…matter of fact I think we scared her with how talkative and loud we can be…but she got used to us peppering her with questions and our laughter.   She is in the LHS band and plays the clarinet and is thinking of trying for the SFA Band.  She is already a CNA and has plans to work her summers and then concentrate on school during the semesters.  Her family has had some health issues and that has steered her toward her chosen path.  She is going to start the Pre-Med program and major in Biology from there she wants to go to Baylor and become an Anesthesiologist.  She then wants to come back to work in Lufkin and to also start a youth program to help keep kids on track to achieve their goals and dreams.

Here is part of her thank you note:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Alston,  

It is an honor to receive the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship.  Mr and Mrs Alston I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I understand how important this scholarship is and I promise that the name Lauren Alston will forever live with me, as I attend SFA, in this cruel yet beautiful world.  I am glad you gave me the chance to achieve my goals.  I thank you for lifting this financial burden that almost stopped me from pursuing my dreams.  I thank you for putting your faith in me.  It is good to know that there are good and kind people still left in the world. 

So once again I thank you, Cristina Williams

Precious baby hats & blankets

17820715_10208042508449951_1898368167_oLauren’s cousin, Jaymi Taylor, posted a message on facebook a few months back.  She wanted to crochet some tiny baby hats and blankets to give through a program, Carewear, at St. David’s Hospital in Austin, Texas.  She wanted to know if anyone wanted to join in.   She was making some herself already and she volunteered to crochet more for anyone who bought yarn.   I jumped at the chance to participate.   So we gave Jaymi a Love, Action, Faith scholarship to continue Lauren’s legacy of helping others.

Jaymi enjoys crocheting and it helps with her anxiety…it calms and centers her…giving her something to focus on.  I can certainly relate to anxiety issues.  A few years ago I had an anxiety/panic attack that sent me to the ER thinking I was having a heart attack…very scary to say the least.  Maybe I need to take up crocheting… again… for my anxiety.  My Grandmother, Mama Bea, tried to teach me years ago but she was left-handed and I was barely able to grasp a simple chain stitch…God love her she tried…I sure do miss that tiny, sweet woman.

As you can see Jaymi did a fantastic job and I love the striped hats, the texture on the blankets and all the different colors.  She lovingly attached tags that stated “In memory of Lauren Alston” and on the back is the Foundation website…so people can read about Lauren and what the foundation stands for.  Jaymi was able to make 48 hats and 8 blankets.  Lauren loved babies and I can just imagine how colorful the nursery is going to look with those precious babies in their new hats and blankets.  Thanks Jaymi…love you and your kind heart.

School Supplies in Guatemala

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Happy Students

In February we made a donation of school supplies to Long Way Home, a non-profit started by Matt/Mateo Paneitz.  Matt is a son of our friend Janet. She bought some school supplies locally, because they are better quality and more plentiful, and took them when she flew to attend the “ribbon cutting/dedication” celebration. Matt entered the Peace Corp in 2001, for 4 years,  and while in Guatemala saw a real need for a school.  He came back to the US and sold raffle tickets to the only thing he owned, a perfect condition vintage car, to raise money to start his non-profit.  I really encourage you to go to the website http://www.lwhome.org and read Matt’s story…but below is a portion of the information.

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Matt helping with the ribbon cutting.

Long Way Home began operations in the municipality of San Juan Comalapa, in the indigenous highlands of west-central Guatemala in 2004, with a grassroots community development strategy to bring local residents together to learn about eco-friendly living, appropriate sustainable technologies, and improved waste management solutions. Together with our neighbors, we built a community park, Parque Chimiyá, on five acres of rural land. The park features a tree nursery, terraced organic gardens, a regulation grass soccer field, a basketball court and a playground. Parque Chimiyá has a volunteer house for domestic and international volunteers and interns, a community kitchen and a pavilion for presentations, classes and other community events.  

At Parque Chimiyá, there is a small admission fee of US$0.25 for park users, but young children can bring recycled plastic bottles packed with inorganic trash in lieu of money. We use these “trash bottles” in our current construction projects. The youth response to the trash bottle program has been overwhelming. This campaign has already reduced municipal litter, introduced local families to a new waste management solution, and created a stream of building materials for Long Way Home’s construction projects. From 2008 through 2011, over 28,000 trash bottles were collected in lieu of park admission fees. In 2012, Long Way Home was pleased to return administration of the park to our local partner, Chuwi Tinamit, the organization that originally commissioned us to develop their property.

 In 2008, LWH purchased land in the village of Paxán, one half mile from Comalapa’s urban center, to build an elementary, middle and vocational school complex. Construction began in January of 2009 and will be finished in 2016. In 2012 Long Way Home welcomed its first 21 students in grades 2nd-5th. In 2013 we achieved official approval from the Guatemalan Ministry of Education and we have 118 students in grades K-8th in the 2016 academic year! Our teachers and Directora are all Comalapa natives.

 Environmental education will be a focus of the school’s enhanced curriculum. From organic gardening to environmentally friendly construction methods, local youth will be learning about the inextricable link between environmental health and physical well-being. In addition to the standard educational curriculum, the vocational school will offer coursework in carpentry, masonry, mechanics, electrical, welding and horticulture. The school will cultivate a new generation of entrepreneurs, uniquely skilled and equipped to lead their communities with innovative solutions for the future. Long Way Home’s role is to fund-raise for the project, construct the school, build school staff capacity, and oversee the new curriculum’s implementation.

As you can see they are teaching in more ways than a standard school classroom.  They are  impacting, reaching and teaching the whole community.  The school will soon go to the 12th grade.  They have completed 14 of the 18 building on campus.  Can you believe most of this was built with trash but it sure doesn’t look “trashy”…it is very artistic and beautiful.   Glass bottles as skylights, rammed earth and metal used tires as walls and steps, smashed aluminum cans as color and decor on the outside, trashed filled bottles line the roof and seams between tires and more.  Below are some of the pictures.

 

We are so glad to have helped in a small way.  I’m sure we will be supporting the school again sometime in the future.  I applaud Matt for the life changing impact he has made on the community and these children lives…job well done!

I haven’t forgotten

There are many things I haven’t forgotten…and that rings even more true with the 7 year anniversary of Lauren’s angel date approaching on March 7th.  As I have written before this time is hard for me…with our anniversary,  Taylor’s birthday and Lauren’s passing so close together.   But also what I haven’t forgotten is my blog.  I know it has been several months since I have written anything.  I have struggled with many things over the last few months…back issues for my son, anxiety and thyroid issues for myself, 6 months ago we moved and downsized again…and we hadn’t even dealt with all of our “stuff” from our first downsizing 6 years ago….all while in the midst of renovating, the “new to us” garden home, from top to bottom.  I have also struggled with no desire to write.  I haven’t forgotten her or you….and I do hope to get my “mojo” back soon.

I do want to tell you two things I’m going to write about very soon…two Love, Action, Faith scholarships we gave out recently.  And also one story now.  

On Christmas Eve I was sitting alone on the back patio, watching the sun sink in the sky and thinking about Lauren.  We now live one street over and almost behind a house we built about 20 years ago.  I was thinking about all of us in that home….decorating the kid’s rooms….our pets Bear and Max….the laughter and joy….Bryan building a jungle gym for the kids….Easter egg hunts…. Christmas trees and presents….lots of memories from our 7 years in that house.  I’m so close to that home I can see the roof through the trees and what I wouldn’t give to go back to that time in our lives…to see, love on and hug my young children…to have Lauren back.  Tears trickled down my face as the sun went down.  Bryan had been gone for hours, no doubt last-minute shopping as most men do, and I felt so alone….so sad to face another Christmas without Lauren….so forgotten….so not in the mood for this holiday.   When Bryan came home he had an envelope from our PO Box that we use for LAF mail.  It was the first time he had checked it in several weeks.  Inside the envelope was a card that read… “Just a little hello, sent with a lot of love.   Forever in our hearts, love y’all, Craig & Deann”.  My brother and sister-in-law had sent it a few weeks before but I got it on the day I needed it most.  The note was enough, it was a band-aid on my heart…she was not forgotten….neither was I.  It also had a bonus inside…a very generous donation to LAF.  When I called my brother to thank him I was crying so hard I could barely talk.  I know they don’t want recognition but I needed to tell the story of how deeply that touched my soul at the moment I needed it most…that’s what love will do for you.  Love you guys too.  

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My 35th HS Reunion

lufkin-panIt is hard to believe it has been 35 years since I graduated from Lufkin High School.  A lot has happened to me in those 35 years…mostly good things…married for 33 laughter filled years, 2 healthy children, lots of travel adventures, successful businesses, and more… but one terribly sad, hard, difficult thing…the loss of my daughter Lauren.

Her 10 year high school reunion was this year….and it brings up several memories.  I also graduated from Lufkin High School…in the Class of 1981.  Ten years ago for the celebration of our 25th graduation anniversary, the class decided to give out a college scholarship to a deserving LHS graduating senior.  Out of all those who applied, you guessed it, Lauren was picked as that student.  What a great honor for her and I was so proud for her to be chosen by my class…I was tickled pink about it…or should I say purple as that is one of our school colors.  I believe she lived up to that honor…she worked hard and graduated from SFA in the class of 2006, Cum Laude with a BS in Hospitality Management.   That is one of the proudest and most special memories I have of her.

Another memory is of a classmate of mine from the Class of 1981.  Her name was Jennifer Estes and she passed away in 1984, just 3 short years after our graduation.  She was a Business major at Sam Houston State University and had a car wreck on her way home one weekend.  At the time I remember thinking about how her life was cut short, how she would never get married and have children, how close she was to getting her degree, how her family must feel in dealing with the loss of their child and sister, the shockingly, unexpected, suddenness of her death…. and how do you go on with your life when you lose a child.  Jennifer was a Senior in college and just 21…so…was…Lauren.  I never imagined I would be in the same position as Jennifer’s Mom.

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We give out at least one $1000 scholarship each year through the Lufkin High School Alumni Association. You can look at pictures of past recipients under the heading of LAF Recipients: LHS.  We gave out the first scholarship just 2 months after Lauren’s passing and will continue for life.  We have a “To Donate Online” button in the headings of this site if you ever wish to help us continue that legacy.  Thank you… and Go Panthers.

 

 

Class Reunion

Lufkin High School Class of 2006

This year is the 10 year reunion for the Class of 2006…Lauren’s class.  I can’t help but wonder where she would be living…what she would be doing…would she go to the Reunion and see her classmates.  As friendly and outgoing as she was…I’m sure she would have gone to the reunion…to catch up with the classmates she lost touch with and see the friends she had stayed in contact with…to share the memories of the past and to hear of their future plans for life…  But… that is not to be.  Wonder if they will have a special table with pictures of those who have passed away since graduation?  Sadly, there will be 3 of those classmates, that I personally know them and/or their parents, who would be on that table….

Lauren Alston…Patrick Scott…Adam Culbertson

….gone but not forgotten… by many.  Not forgotten because these kids were outgoing, friendly, liked to laugh and joke around, “never met a stranger” kind of kids.  I’m sure the reunion will not be as much fun or as loud without them there…their laughter will not be ringing out in the crowd…their hugs will be missed.  I’m sure there will be a few tears…as some hear of their passing for the first time… tears as they share memories of those friends… but hopefully tears of joy, love and laughter as they remember the good times they had with their missing classmates.  I hope they will carry our kids in their hearts and try to live life to the fullest and spread love, joy, peace and laughter like our kids did.

I hope there aren’t more pictures on that table… but there probably is with such a large graduating class.  I pray for those families…for God to give them strength and grace to face their lives without their precious ones…to remember the fun, happy times with their child…to look at pictures of them and be able to smile…that for more days than not, the goodness and love of their child will outshine the sadness of their loss.  Prayers, Love and Hugs to you…from me.

** 9/29/2016*

 I was made aware of these students from the class of 2006.  Please pray for their families. Amanda Proctor,  Joy Wiseman,  Melissa Brown,  Megan Hairston,  JaCory Murphy,  Ben Bradford,  Jay Durham,  AJ Darks and  Martin Padierna.