Friendship Friday – Happy Birthday Leslie


Today is Friendship Friday, and in honor of my niece Leslie’s 25th birthday, she is the person that I am writing about today! In my sister’s clan, I have honored Leslie’s Dad Jim, Mom Robin, and sister Stephanie, and now it’s Leslie’s turn! Don’t worry Brett, I’ll get to you too!

Leslie is the middle child of my brother-in-law Jim and his wife (my sister) Robin.  That has it’s share of benefits and pitfalls, but all in all, I think Leslie has been a great older sister to her baby sister Stephanie, and she’s tough enough to take (and dish out, too!) the nonsense that her big brother Brett tries to dish out (or used to in days gone by).

Leslie is, in many ways, similar to me in that it took me a while to really settle down and figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  It really wasn’t until I got the job down here in North Carolina that I felt like my career was going in a positive direction!

Leslie has always had an outdoor flair about her, and a love of animals that continues on to this day.  She has had cats, dogs, fish, horses, and boyfriends to fall under the category of “animals” (just kidding Leslie about the boyfriends!) and her compassion towards them really knows no bounds.

As part of her post high school years, Leslie actually did join the U.S. Army to be an MP, and made it through basic training, but she had an injury that she was unable to overcome, and as a result she has had a medical discharge.  However, that hasn’t stopped her, and she is working on getting a degree at school in some sort of law enforcement avenue — perhaps criminology or something along those lines?  I’m not 100% certain of that.  Her goal is to become a police officer, and while that can be a dangerous line of work, I take great pride in knowing that part of Leslie’s makeup is to help those that are less fortunate

Image courtesy and ©Joe Ellis

Image courtesy and ©Joe Ellis

During her teenage years, Leslie was fortunate to be able to own and take care of a horse.  This picture was from when Leslie was 15, and I remember all of the time she would spend with her horse taking care of it and making sure it was well looked after.  I expect that nurturing spirit is something she gets from both her Mom and Dad, and it is something that will serve her well later on as she settles down and gets married.

Throughout all of the years I’ve seen Jim and Robin’s family develop and grow up, the one thing that I’m left with is that, beyond the brother-sister-sister drama that kids like to heap on one another, there is a bond among all of them that will stand the test of time.  When Stephanie was married last November, who was there wishing them well with tears in her eyes and in her voice — Leslie.  And who was there crying like a baby when his baby sister was married — Brett.  The bravado and all of that gets in the way sometimes, but at the end, what it comes down to is this: Robin and Jim are blessed beyond measure — and if they ever doubt that, all they need to do look at their kids, grown ups now but still babies to them, and they can rest knowing that they have done their job, and done it well.

As you all know by now, I learned of Friendship Friday from my great friend Heidi from Heidi’s Head!  Please click on the image below and see who she is honoring today, and thanks for stopping by!

Friendship Friday – My Niece, Stephanie

My niece Stephanie and I, making goofy faces

My niece Stephanie and I, making goofy faces

Welcome to this week’s Friendship Friday post!  This week, I’m sharing my thoughts about my sister’s baby, Stephanie!  Stephanie has been with us on some incredible Disney trips, and I’ll touch on those, but that isn’t really what this post is all about.

Today I’m talking about Stephanie the person, the wonderful girl that always had time to sit in my lap when she was a toddler, who loved to rock in Robin’s chair with me, and who taught me the right and wrong way to deal with kids, thus making my journey into fatherhood better then it would have been had I not been blessed to have her (and Brett and Leslie, her brother and sister) in my life.

As I said, Stephanie is Robin’s youngest, and will be 23 next month.  Despite that, though, she is also the first of Robin’s kids to get married, having married her love Shane on November 3rd, 2012.

When the girls were young, Robin would make them identical dresses and other clothes to wear.  I’ve got many a snapshot of them in various clothes, sitting on the couch or other chairs, identically dressed.

My sister Robin with her baby Stephanie

My sister Robin with her baby Stephanie

As Stephanie grew up, it always seemed like she had a lot of patience for someone so young.  Robin may certainly dispute that, but from where I watched, it certainly seemed that way.  Stephanie always wanted to do her best in school, and that trait carries on to this day, where she is getting her Masters at Liberty University.  Stephanie graduated near the top of her class in high school, she graduated early for her undergraduate degree, and now she’s getting her Masters, and I’d be surprised if she isn’t excelling at that also!

Of course, Stephanie has also been with us on our Disney World trips — the first trip she took with us was in June, 2010, when we celebrated Sophie’s birthday by surprising her with Stephanie tagging along!  That was the trip when “We took Stephanie to Disney World.

Since that first trip, she has come with us on our trips in June 2011 with Otis, Nancy, Anna Jane, and Sherry, and again when we went to Disney World for the 40th Anniversary of the Magic Kingdom, and then, this past June, when Shane proposed to Stephanie in front of Cinderella Castle (Shane’s version here)!

Now that Stephanie and Shane are married, Steph’s trips with us to Disney are probably going to be a little fewer in number, but don’t worry — I expect that we’ll be seeing Shane and Stephanie, and all of the family, with us at Disney in the future!

Like Robin, Stephanie is a girl that knows her Lord, Jesus, and more importantly — Jesus knows her, too!  When Stephanie and Shane do decide that it is time to start a family, they will be wonderful parents, parents that will raise their children with the Lord in their hearts, just like their parents raised them — and the world is a better place because of them.

Thank you all for stopping by to visit today!  We’ve got a busy posting schedule today, make sure you stop by at 11AM for a post by Theresa with some great travel tips for travelling to Walt Disney World!  In the meantime, though, make sure you stop by my friend Heidi’s site and see who she is featuring on her Friendship Friday post!  Just click on the button below!

Friendship Friday: My sister, Robin

Robin's Family

The Cunningham Clan, from left -> Right: Brett, Stephanie, Leslie, Jim, and Robin.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the simple things in life.  Family, friends, I have have learned that some of the best moments in life happen when we are willing to let God take over, and just “be” in the moment.  Today’s Friendship Friday tribute is in honor of my sister Robin, both the little girl that annoyed the crap out of me, and now the woman that has a very dear place in my heart.

Robin is my only sister, and she is the oldest.  Born a couple of years before me, I don’t remember much about my sister until we all moved to Sterling when my parents bought their first house.  I have a lot of memories of my childhood, and almost all of them are good memories.

Robin was a tom-boy as a girl, always out and about getting into things outside.  Unfortunately for Robin, this came back to bite her on more then one occasion.  For example, Robin lost both of her two front top teeth in separate accidents.  She lost the first one by having a board come loose as she propped up the neighbors sandbox so I and other kids could look for salamanders.  Thinking back on that, it’s kind of amazing that she didn’t have a concussion too as the board slipped out of her hands and hit her square on the chin.  Ouch.

Like all little girls I expect, Robin was a Daddy’s Girl.  She loved it when Dad would come home from work.  If memory serves me correctly, Robin lost the second tooth by running down the hallway to welcome home Dad, and slipping on the tile floor.

Add to those two accidents the time she had to have a tetanus shot because she stepped on a rusty nail in the woods, the teeth she had to have pulled for her braces (I think), and the time she egged me on enough that I put my fist through our storm door glass insert (I’ve still got the scar from that on my thumb!) — and it truly shows that God had a plan for her simply because she made it through childhood in almost one piece!

Robin and Jim were married on May 25, 1985, with Robin being just 19 years old — two months to the day before she would turn 20.  Their first child, Brett, was born in June, 1986, just a month before Robin would celebrate her 21st birthday!  So Robin grew up in a hurry.

Really, it wasn’t until Robin moved out of the house that I began to appreciate her good qualities (yes, I’m a slow learner.)  Robin isn’t afraid to try anything once.  Proof positive is the fact that she has gone back to school, and is *thisclose* to finishing her work to becoming a full-fledged teacher!

The biggest compliment that I can give anyone is the one that I have for Robin.  She knows Jesus, and Jesus knows her.  Robin and Jim have had three children in their almost 28 years of marriage, Brett, Leslie, and Stephanie, and the surest evidence of the success of Jim and Robin lies in their kids.  Brett, Leslie, and Stephanie have been raised into adulthood by two loving parents, and are making their own mark on the world in which they live.  Their success is a direct result of the role that Robin and Jim have played on nurturing, mentoring, and leading them on the path they are meant for.

I hope that I have conveyed in my post what my sister Robin means to me.  It isn’t always easy writing about a loved one, and I wanted to capture as best I could the love I have for my sister.  In the end, I think the last thing I have to say is this:

I love you, Robin.


Friendship Friday: Happy Birthday Jim!

Kara Smith Photography

Image Courtesy and ©Kara Smith Photography

Welcome to a very special Friendship Friday.  Today is my brother-in-law Jim’s birthday!  Everyone wish him a happy birthday!  As you can see, just a few weeks ago he was receiving a kiss from his baby girl, my niece Stephanie, before she was married to Shane.  You can read his story here, but this isn’t about that day, this is about Jim, and all that he has meant to me over the 27 years that he has been married to my sister, Robin.

Jim has a big heart and a funny personality.  Not a day goes by when I see him when he isn’t cracking a joke about something, and that personality trait has been passed on to his kids as well.  In addition to that, though, Jim is mostly a soft-spoken person — although, let me tell you, he can make his point well-known when he needs to!

Some of my best memories from my later teenage years were from the time Robin and Jim were married.  In the blink of an eye, gone was the crabby older sister — and boy, do I mean OLDER — so Jim, if for nothing else, thank you for marrying my sister so she would move out! In fact, I’ve often said that Robin and I didn’t appreciate one another or become friends until she got married, so thank you Jim for that also!

When they first got married, Jim had the unfortunate circumstance of knowing that their first home, a townhouse, was about a block from our home.  After they got settled in, it became normal for all of us to spend some early evenings playing Monopoly, Spades, or other games after dinner.  I had fun during those times, I hope Jim did too!

Brett was born about a month after Robin and Jim celebrated their first wedding anniversary, Leslie two years later, and Stephanie, two years later after that!  It was around this time that Jim and Robin bought their house in Round Hill, and they were able to get away from my parents some!

I’ve known Jim for all of these years, and now that I’m a parent, I’ve learned a few things from Jim.  When Sophie was first born, she hated burping after eating (now, not so much — just kidding!)

I’ll never forget watching Jim hold Sophie — itty bitty little Sophie, for what felt like an hour at least, just gently massaging her back, when all of a sudden she burped!

I’ll also never forget the one and only time I ever babysat Brett as a baby — boy oh boy, what a mess did I make with Brett’s diaper! Jim was closer to home, so he came home and bailed me out.

Now that Sophie is getting older, she doesn’t seem to need us as much, and before I know it, the day will come when Sophie is kissing me on the cheek just like Stephanie kissed her Daddy.  Jim, when that day comes, count on me to come calling on you for advice!

Jim, I hope you have a great birthday!  Give all the kids a hug and kiss for us, and say hi to the newlyweds!

My friend Heidi is the inspiration behind the Friendship Friday series for me!  She even lets me link up with her site each week!  Click on the image below to see what friend she is highlighting today, and thanks for stopping by!