One family shares their own special way of celebrating the holiday season
By Sue Siens
Christmas traditions and holiday celebrations are as diverse as our American culture. For singles and single parents, enjoying the holidays may mean creating new ways to celebrate.
Mount Juliet resident Shari Arnold leads a busy life as Lifestyles Director for Del Webb Lake Providence, but her most important job is being a single mom to two beautiful children, Maggie and Jack Ryman.
Shari learned her joy and appreciation for the holidays from “the most loving and selfless parents,” Bill and Susan Arnold of Lebanon, TN. But Shari and family have also learned in the past few years that Christmas gifts can come in all shapes and sizes, and new traditions can be embraced.
About five years ago, at a time when Shari and her children were adjusting to their new lives in a single parent home, they welcomed a foreign exchange student to live with them just before the holidays. A delightful and lovely young woman, Dila Uenal from Germany introduced their family to her language and her culture.
“Dila entered our world at the most perfect time, and was the best distraction for the kids and I, especially with the holidays quickly approaching,” says Shari. “Isn’t it funny that when one door closes, another opens?”
At the time, Dila spoke no English. Shari, Maggie, and Jack Ryman gave Dila the true American experience. They shared their Christmas traditions of Christmas Eve candlelight church service followed by hot cocoa, caroling, holiday meals, naps, Santa, gifts and more. Shari says, “I was given the gift of another daughter.” Shari noted that the experience was “extremely positive for us.”
Dila became a part of the Arnold family, and has repeatedly returned from Germany to visit during Christmastime. It’s a tradition that Shari says her family eagerly anticipates.
Dila says what she loves about her Christmas visits with her adopted American family are, “…family time with the heartwarming conversations, the kids’ joy when they unwrap their presents, Christmas dinner with the food that her American grandma cooks (Shari’s mom, “Mimi” Susan Arnold), the pastor’s way of telling the values of life and the peace you can feel during the service, and all the love that is spread all around Christmas.”
This year, Christmastime will be especially joyful. Shari, Maggie, Jack Ryman, and Shari’s parents, will be celebrating with Shari’s brother, William Scott Arnold and family, who recently relocated to Mount Juliet from Los Angeles, CA.
Shari acknowledges there are challenges and bonuses of single parenthood (twice the work, but twice the love). She says the holiday season is about being real, letting go of some past-life traditions, opening your heart to others, and being grateful. She said she tries to focus on the good in life, learn from heartbreak and challenges, and, “What better time to count blessings?”
Shari says she thanks God for her two greatest blessings of all, her son and daughter, Maggie and Jack.