A longtime mid-Michigan resident and self-proclaimed “townie,” Jeanie Croope loves her community, but there is one thing she loves just a bit more… Christmas. Croope’s home around the holiday season becomes a Christmas wonderland with upward of 14 decorated trees that each hold cherished ornaments and memories. One special tree, that Croope lovingly calls her “mom tree” is decked with ornaments that remind her of her mother and is topped with a gingerbread man that has a sentimental place in Croope’s heart. “Going back, my whole sense of Christmas and holiday traditions are about bringing your family together,” she explains. “My parents and I would celebrate the holidays with my mom’s family and hold a gift-wrapping competition.” Croope said her mom would make tiny gingerbread men and string them on popcorn string. She remembers dozens of them hanging around the house. “This was around when my mom started to get sick, so it was a big deal,” Croope said. “She won best overall wrapping that year with the gingerbread men. My dad decided that year to make a large gingerbread man, just like the little ones mom would make; he left a little slit open on one side and slid a pair of earrings inside for my mom. Mom got the earrings and I got the gingerbread man and it always makes me think of them.” Croope attributes her love of Christmas to her mother, but has grown to love it more while sharing with her own family, her partner Rick and his two sons, Greg and Kevin. “I’ve done a lot of my favorite things with him and the kids. On Christmas Eve Rick will make his grandfather’s traditional dinner and when we are all done, it’s time to frost the cookies. We started frosting cookies with the boys when they were younger as an activity we could all do together and interact and it kind of kept going. The next day we would take them to neighbors, somehow they always found a home,” Croope, said. “We do it every year on Christmas Eve, whenever that is now that we are incorporating other people into our lives, but we always do it as a family.” Since Christmas comes only once a year, Croope invests her time outside of the holidays to her community. Croope works with Michigan State University’s radio and television station, WKAR, as the communications manager. She is passionate about her role with WKAR, working with the organization since she was a student; Croope knows just how important it is to the community. “I started as a student as the promotions assistant, and then as the promotions manager and now as the communications manager, but my main job throughout was to promote the station and what good it brought to the community,” Croope said. “I feel good about working for a place that brings public TV and radio into people’s homes and brings the city to people who can’t get out. It provides education to children and information to adults. I can go to work and feel OK about what I do, because it is doing good.” Croope said she values her role in the community and has volunteered her time with several organizations. She worked with Ele’s Place for many years and is currently working with the MSU Friends of Theatre board to support the art of theater. “I love this community and I’ve seen it through good times and challenging times,” she said. “If you always go away when it’s bad, it can’t get better. You have to be part of the community and I try to do that.” Although Croope will be the first to tell you she loves her community, she’ll also tell you she’s found another one she likes just as much, the blog community. “Everyone thinks bloggers are fake or that they are boring, but they are not,” Croope said. “They are great people. Every time we meet in person they are authentic, just like what they write. If you follow someone long enough, you get to know them. We read and follow each other, we know them and it’s a good community. The best part is that they are all really different, but it just works.” With her own blog, The Marmalade Gypsy, Croope shares creative ideas, family stories, life struggles and triumphs and, of course, holiday traditions. Posting everything from old family photos to her famous pumpkin roll recipe (find on page 31), Croope said she finds enjoyment in sharing a little piece of herself with readers. “I do a lot of art, a lot of collaging and I joined an online art group and that is kind of where it started,” Croope said. “I started it as an art blog, but I realized I didn’t have enough time to do all the art I wanted, so I started sharing about life. I don’t think my family minds too much that I put things on my blog; I don’t think anyone has ever said ‘Golly, why did you run that embarrassing blog.’” Croope’s blog offered her an opportunity to share about things that are most important to her, lending itself perfectly to sharing her love of the holidays. She said she feels that family and traditions are what make the holidays so special, even when the world seems to be moving so quickly. “I just really believe that this is a pretty crowded and rushed, kind of crazy world and we jump around from one thing to another — and a lot of times it’s to the new best thing,” Croope said. “When you have traditions, it kind of forces you to stop and put yourself into that place. Time has to change but some things are constant as long as we are doing them together. If I weren’t with the family they’d still be making cookies. When the kids have their own kids they won’t always make cookies, or maybe they will, but they will start their own traditions and traditions are the things you remember. “It’s the stockings I hang up, it’s the dinner Rick makes and it’s the cookies we frost that are important. It’s so easy to lose those things because of the pace of the world. You feel sometimes like you are running in circles and you never get time to slow down and at times you are over committed, but traditions are what center you. They center me.”
Ami Iceman-Hauter is the Brand Manager at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. Iceman is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelors degree in creative advertising.