Sun Lakes Writers’ Group

The Special Christmas Bows

Jacqueline m. Ruffino-Platt

What inspired me, 12 years ago, was to drive past a new shopping development in Northern Virginia one mile from my home. There in the midst of this new mall was an Arts and Crafts store which immediately caught my eye. What was my attraction and reason for searching out this particular store? Maybe my love of crafts, the ambiance in these stores, the variety of supplies ever imagined for any artistic craft you wanted to accomplish. This may have been my reasoning. A store within close proximity of my home.

This new store had all I needed to create some fine and interesting crafts. Bow Making in all colors and fabric. Floral and Wreath Designing. Center Pieces for tables, Decorating homes for the Holidays, Homemade gifts including Baking Goodies for Family and Friends and Much More. My creative interests and talents I inherited from my mom and to this day are still in my heart and wonderful memories.

As I entered this newly developed store I asked to speak with the manager. Overwhelmed and impressed with the new décor, the new smells, the packed shelves, I knew I had to work here. Just when my head was spinning around capturing all the goodies, the manager approached me and asked if he could be of assistance. Yes, yes, I answered. I would love to work here. Your sign in the window says, opening for “Floral Designer.” “Do you have any experience?” he asked. My heart was beating fast, my pulse racing, my anticipation of having a title of “The Floral Designer” in this brand new store was exciting. After filling out an application, the manager asked if I could wander up and down the aisles gathering supplies to make a Floral Centerpiece. One hour later, after my completion of this Floral Arrangement, he said, “you are hired.” “Start tomorrow at $10.00 an hour.” By this time, I had retired from the Federal Government and searched for a position where I could use my expertise, have fun, and use my creativity. The store became very popular and many customers enjoyed shopping here. My Floral Station, my haven, was in the middle of the store and customers always stopped by to watch me work. Aside from being the Floral Designer I taught classes in Bow Making and Photo Album Designing. New brides-to-be hired me to create Pew Bows, Floral Bouquets and Table Decorations for their up coming nuptials. Was busy all the time and loving the job. I was in my glory and happy working in this store, and getting paid besides. It couldn’t have been any better.

All was going well. Two years later, during the Christmas Holiday, on an ordinary day, the store manager asked to see me in his office and introduced two distinguished, mysterious gentlemen to me. These gentlemen were in the Secret Service. Sorry, I cannot divulge which office they secured at this time. This new store had gained quite a bit of notoriety, and great reviews in such a short time, since its opening.

The two gentlemen informed us the Pentagon’s restoration was near completion, after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. And requested, if at all possible to have someone in your store create two Red Velvet Bows for the top of two 12 foot Christmas Trees. Why I had been in this meeting? My manager had appointed me to the task. The trees were going to be erected and placed in the Pentagon and would like if we could make this happen. We assured them it would happen. Only two bows I asked?

I felt honored to accomplish such a task and accepted the challenge. However, they only asked for two bows, because each bow had to be six ft. long x three ft. wide. Oh my, a challenge for certain. I made two very beautiful Christmas Bows that were placed on the Christmas Trees located at the ends of two individual corridors in the Pentagon. Photographs were taken, and an article written in the local newspaper. The store, manager and I, received recognition for our contribution.

A beautiful Bitter Sweet remembrance added to another Chapter of my life stories.

The Swanlet Story

Ellie Clark

Here in Cottonwood we enjoy looking at Winston Lake and the lovely Swan family living there. When the Black Swans passed on we were blessed with a gift from a homeowner of a pair of White Swans. They spent much of their time floating and then preening on the shore, bringing a smile to the faces of those passing by.

As time went on we noticed that they tended to stay at the north end of the lake most of the time. Then we discovered why. Mama Swan was sitting on a nest. Folks would sit on the bench or watch from their cars or the lawn hoping to see that the big event had taken place. I’m glad she wasn’t an elephant because people were so looking forward to the big event.

Finally it happened, there was Mama Swan and three cygnets floating about the lake. Obviously people were delighted and many seemed uplifted by the birth of these babies. There was an air of pleasure in our community.

The cygnets grew as the weeks went by and then decided to “spread their wings” they wound up in the lake fronting on Howard and Chestnut. They went through various stages. People insisted on feeding them even though they were asked not to do so. The reason for the feeding restriction has to do with the adverse affect it could have on the swans. One baby disappeared and then reappeared. Apparently someone had decided it should live in another lake.

A neighbor on my block took up the cause for the safety of this family of swans and it was decided by management and homeowners that the safest place for the family was back on Winston Lake. Back they came and a fence was installed to keep them from traveling. During some of this process two of the cygnets died the third was ailing. I watched as it struggled on its feet like a little old Irishman who had had more than he needed to drink. In an effort to save this last baby management had it taken to a Veterinarian who treats exotic animals and birds. Unfortunately, treatment failed and it is gone.

Mom and Dad are floating about the lake with sad swan faces and are not preening as they had in the past, before the cygnets were born and then teaching them to do the same as they developed.

The sadness isn’t occurring merely around the lake, but those of us who had so welcomed the delightful sight of this family going about the lake are saddened too. Many of us looked on them as part of our Sun Lakes Family and we shall miss them.


Gail Thatcher

I have to admit that trying to come up with an interesting writing each week does tend to cause me a little stress. I hate to think that after just about seven years, my creative juices have dried up. I like to fantasize that I am an actual writer and I am just having a dry spell. Does a dry spell go for months? How does one know if it’s a dry spell or that the party’s over? I lean toward the latter.

I seem to work better under a little stress, like the push to meet a deadline. That’s often the nudge I need to get started on and complete a project. If I wait too long to begin, however, the finished product isn’t always a quality job, because I don’t allow myself enough time to “polish” it.

In a backhanded way, stress can be a motivator. Many people under stress are driven to keep busy, to finish something, to accomplish. They are pushed to begin or finish a project. Often it is a venture they have had a lot of trouble trying to get started. Suddenly things seem to fall into place and the project seems to proceed on its own. Often, expanding or completing the job helps to relieve some of the stress. But sometimes even with that, the stress remains.

Stress can be a deal breaker, depending on whom it is affecting. A singer who gives in to stress can be overcome with stage fright. If not corrected, it an end a career. One person going through a traumatic situation, like a divorce, might not be able to eat or sleep, while another person going through a similar situation might not be able to stop eating and want to sleep all the time.

The effects of stress can change a person’s personality. Someone who was once congenial and easy going can be transformed into a grumpy, irritable person who no one wants to be around. He may have a short fuse that ignites quickly. He isn’t aware of the change and what his effect is on those around him, so there’s little chance of any improvement, without help or by a miracle, the stress goes away. This is true of women, also. As we age, I think simple things, that we once were able to easily deal with, can now tend to stress us.

I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, in fact, I don’t really have any. I can only implore you to try to have patience and understanding when you encounter a Mrs. Grumpy Pants or a Grumpy Old Man. We don’t know what is going on in their lives. There is no way of seeing what stress they may be dealing with or why they can’t seem to overcome it. Some day that may be you or me.