Our Neighborhood Thankful Tree

Three years ago my dear friend Stacy and her sweet little family started a Thankful Tree in their neighborhood. I thought this was the neatest idea and last year, with some helpful tips from her and the enthusiastic support of my husband, we decided to do one in our neighborhood.

Our first year was a little rough. Between icky weather, last minute planning and sick kids, we got a pretty late start in putting our tree out. I think we had everything in place maybe 10 days before Thanksgiving. Even with short notice and a Charlie Brown looking thankful tree, we still had a few neighbors who participated and enthusiastically applauded our efforts.

Here’s look at our tree from last year. (you can click on the pictures to get a better view!)


This year, armed with a little more experience and determination, we began talking about our tree in September and starting gathering supplies in early October.

Below is a pic of our last day with the tree up! We had a little under 20 Thankful Cards!! We did quite a few of our own but several families participated and it was just a thrill to walk by every few days and see a new card on our tree!

Last day with the tree up!

I’d love to share with you what we did to prepare this year for our Thankful Tree.  I know that there were at least 2 standing in the Plano area. I hope this will spread to other neighborhoods where I live and elsewhere. I challenge you to read what we did and consider doing something similar in your neighborhood next year!

First I made a sign. I took foam letter stickers and placed them on a spare board of plywood leftover from another project. Then I took some blue spray paint and went to town. Once it dried I peeled off the stickers and the words remained (thankfully!) I took my glue gun and attached a few fake leaves and an acorn and ta dah..we had a sign. (One thing I learned is that I should have sealed/treated the wood. It started warping after the first rain. It still looked good after a month of manic weather but I doubt it will be around for years and years of Thankful Trees).

My sign!

Although our neighborhood does not have a HOA we do have a Neighborhood Watch as well as a nifty Social Community where you can do everything from sell a bookshelf to ask for a referral for a plumber by posting on their site. Last year we sent out an email explaining our tree on the Social Site but that was it. This year we decided to increase our efforts and made these thankful bags. We filled them with candy and a laminated thankful tag (more on that in a minute). Then we attached a letter explaining our Thankful Tree and inviting them to add a note of thankfulness to our tree!

We made 30 Thankful Bags!

Then came the fun part. Putting up our Thankful Tree! The kids were a great help this year.

I love these cuties!

We learned from last year that level ground and the proper supplies are key in making sure our tree can survive the uncertainty of November’s weather. Last year our tree fell down a few times! Loaded with that knowledge, my husband identified a level area in our yard that still was close enough to the public sidewalk that neighbors would feel good about walking into our yard. He then leveled the ground even more with his shovel.

So thankful for a husband who not only supports my shenanigans but often times comes up with the idea himself.
Love how all my loves are captured in this pic
Our Tree pre-pretty-fied
Our Thankful Tree Post-pretty-fied

Basic supplies needed to make a thankful tree include a 5 gallon bucket, about 70 pounds of playground sand, and a tree branch. Total cost for these items was about $10. Not bad. I purchased some pretty burlap from Hobby Lobby last year with the tree in mind. I can’t remember how much it was but as frugal as I tend to be it couldn’t have been too much. And I had twine and scrapbook paper for the actual Thankful Cards on hand. Laminating the cards was $1.50. I already had brown paper bags and the price for the candy was minimal. So a very inexpensive creation!

Finished product!
Never miss a photo opp!
Dom, mommy and baby on the way

And now back to those thankful bags and laminated cards. First the thankful tags. Thanks to the wisdom of Stacy, we learned that it was a wise idea to laminate the cards so they could handle the weather. One night of rain and our paper thank you’s would have been ruined. So laminating them is a definite must unless you can keep your tree out of the elements or guarantee no snow or sleet or rain for the entire month of November.

Just a piece of scrapbook paper laminated, hole punched and twined
Just a piece of scrapbook paper laminated, hole punched and twined

Armed with our goody bags, red wagon and children, we set off to deliver our Thankful Bags to 30 of our closest neighbors.

Delivery Day
Drop off

Delivery day was the day AFTER Halloween which my son had participated in and fully understood for the first time this year so it was really neat to see the reverse concept taking place for him. Instead of knocking on doors and asking for something we were going up to our neighbors’ doors and leaving a gift for them.

Our Thankful Tree was up for 30 days and during that time, we saw thankful notes for freedom, the ability to vote, for babies on the way and friendships. It was such a neat neat experience. We are hopeful that our community of thankful cards will continue and that this will spread to other neighborhoods in the years to come!





My Iron Man’s Story

On Sunday,  my husband accomplished an incredible feat. He swam 1.2 miles and cycled 47 miles of a 56 mile bike ride before being pulled off the Austin Iron Man 70.3 race course.

Had you told him 7 years ago that he would even compete in an Iron Man 70.3, he would have laughed and asked the name of the video game to which you were referring.

Just a few months before we were married.
Just a few months before we were married.
Our Wedding Day
Our Wedding Day

At that time, my dear husband had lost a significant amount of weight but to many he still appeared to be a rather large guy. He was exercising regularly on an elliptical and a few months into our marriage had tried his hand at a spin class and really liked it.

Fast forward the clock a year and our move to Texas introduced us to an event called the MS 150. The then pastor of our now church was participating in this event. My husband commented how neat it would be to participate one day. A guy who had not been on a bicycle since his youth dreaming about riding over 100 miles in two days. And yet a year later, he did just that. He rode in the first of 5 MS Rides to date.

If a two day bike ride were not amazing enough, Marshall began dabbling in triathlon sprints. Swimming, biking and running. My husband who says he doesn’t run or swim was doing both and getting stronger by the mile on his bike.

First Triathlon Sprint
First Triathlon Sprint
Every race he got stronger
Every race he got stronger


His events became a family affair!
His events became a family affair!

So when he came to me with the idea of an Iron Man 70.3, I knew he could do it. Little did either of us know or truly comprehend the amount of hours it would take each week, swimming, cycling, and running to prepare for such an event. Every Saturday morning, Sunday afternoon. Every Wednesday and Thursday night devoted to training. Did I mention we have two small children and another on the way?

Lots of obstacles got in the way of training. Cranky kids, pregnant wife, demanding job,needs galore. And yet my husband braved it all. Trained his heart out and last weekend braved an event that many only daydream about.

Waiting for the start
Check in day!
Waiting for the start!
Waiting for the start!

He’ll be the first to tell you that the lake was not easy. He swallowed a lot of water, wondered often what he’d got himself into…but he finished. When he stepped onto the running path from the lake, I could not have been more proud.

As I watched him in the transition area, drying his body and suiting up in his cycling gear, I could tell that he was tired, that the less than friendly current of the lake had drained him significantly. But he was steadfast and determined to keep going. And so he rode out on his bike with nothing but determination on his face.

As I found out later, there were plenty of moments of vomiting lake water, and pushing through pain and exhaustion to keep going. And keep going he did. Until mile 47 as he rode into a rest stop to reload on fluids and was told what every athlete dreads. He was out of time. They were pulling him off the course. As he described it to me, there was both disappointment and relief that flooded his body. Disappointment that he could not finish but relief that he didn’t give up. He would have kept going.

Many people could describe this story with a sense of pity or ‘that’s too bad’, but I neither see a sad ending nor would I label my husband’s exploits as a DNF (did not finish).

My husband has been on a journey that spans deeper than our marriage of almost 7 years. It’s been a trek of weight loss, healthier eating habits, and the development of an inner strength and belief in one’s self. For that I just couldn’t be prouder to say: that’s my husband!!

The Austin Iron Man 70.3 for 2014 is over but my husband’s journey as an athlete is far from complete. He will continue to swim, bike and run and become a better husband and father as a result. And in my book, medal or not, he is an Iron Man.

My Iron Man
My Iron Man