celebrate kindness

Archive for August 2014

Photo Aug 27, 6 49 50 PM

Our household has been a whirlwind!  MANY households have been a whirlwind.  It’s the week before the first week of school, which means it’s the official last week of summer break.  For me,  it’s also the first week of transition from mom mode to work mode.

It’s interesting playing a dual role of parent and teacher for a public school system.  As an educator, I get excited to go back to school… the anticipation of seeing all the sweet kiddos from years past creates a giddiness in my heart I can hardly contain.  As a parent, however, my joy is not quite so evident.  I look at the long list of items on the school supply lists for all my children, search the house for my checkbook to pay all the various school fees, carve time in my schedule to acquire school clothes for my kids… yeah, the parental role of education is not always as joyful as the educator role for sure, and this time of year makes it seem like it’s all about money going out of my pocket faster than it goes in.

I read an article this summer that made me ponder this whole concept of buying school supplies at the start of the new year.  Several friends on FB posted their thoughts in the comment section and I saw the article being shared around my social circles. Interestingly, it continued to pop up on my news feed by people I didn’t know, connected by comments of mutual friends.  I read respectable feedback from those who agreed and disagreed; I also read comments that were downright hateful, selfish, and mean.  I even saw one posting that received dozens of responses debating the values and costs of homeschool versus public school.

Really?

What a wonderful world we live in to have the freedom to debate whatever we like in a civilized manner.  Seriously!  We are so blessed! Even though I did not agree with all the perspectives shared about this specific article, I am thankful I am in a country where I don’t have to fear my safety for sharing my thoughts and opinions.

I remember the years I spent as an elementary classroom teacher.  I remember the hours I would spend trying to create a loving, nurturing, happy space for 25 children to learn and grow.  I remember the ink cartridges that would grow empty from all the printing I would do from home… the laminating film that somehow always got caught under my sofa as I cut out nametags and posters late at night on my living room floor… the stacks of binders and books strewn across my kitchen as I tried to plan out my first week of lessons and activities.  All before I was actually “back to work.”

I did ALL these things with love.  LOVE!  I loved being a teacher!  I considered my position a privilege to shape and guide children, helping them recognize the potential they had within themselves to succeed.  It was an honor, and I took it VERY seriously.

I guess that’s why this article struck a nerve with me.  It seems like it’s about the petty discussion about how many markers to buy for a teacher when in fact it simply illustrates truth.  Teachers spend hundreds, if not thousands, of their own personal dollars to do their job.  There – I said it.  Truth.  (And if you want to debate that issue of truth, you can schedule a coffee date with my husband and he can show you the Visa bills from years past as proof.)

Yes, I know other teachers may have spent more money than me.  I also know other teachers that are single parents, not to mention the cost of being a homeschooling mom. Parents are out of work.  Or work two jobs.  Or have many more children then me.  Parents versus teachers; money, money money.

Call me naive, but I don’t think the heart of this article is about money – I think it’s more about a selfish attitude.  For every school supply you choose not to purchase for my classroom, I ended up buying with my own money.  Do you know how many cheap glue sticks run dry by December?  I never sent notes home asking for more supplies throughout the school year; I bought them myself with my own hard-earned money. For ALL my students.  Not one.  Not two.  All twenty-five.  I continued to meet my students’ material needs for instruction long after the wave of school supplies had disappeared.

Over the years, I learned valuable lessons about school supplies.  Quality matters.  Ticonderoga pencils will always last longer because the wood doesn’t splinter like the cheaper brands when sharpened in the metal pencil sharpeners still bolted to classroom walls.  Crayola crayons will always be easier for children to use for coloring, because they contain less wax than cheaper brands and won’t break in half when a kindergartener holds it in a tight grip, pressing down.  Expo markers for the whiteboard have a value rating close to gold.

For me, and I can only speak to myself, I take careful consideration when purchasing school supplies for my children.  I know the teacher listed a specific brand beside the item because he/she learned from personal experience that quality matters and they want the best educational experience for my child.  They don’t want me to have to deal with a frustrated child who couldn’t keep their pencil from working right the whole day.

We all have our own priority list when it comes to preparing our child for school and I am not judging a single person out their for the choices they make.  I am also not advocating you spend money you can’t afford to spend.  If you are on a fixed income, please know that I don’t turn my eyes at you when I see lower quality supplies.  That is not the point of this blog post.  I’m simply taking a moment to share MY thoughts on a subject that I understand well from BOTH sides of the fence.  I know it’s expensive.  I know it seems like a lot of “stuff” to by for a “free” education.  I absolutely understand the frustration.

But then I come back to love.

As a parent, I do what I can, in the best way I can, to make sure my children’s needs are met – whether they are basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, or other needs such as school supplies.  I will gladly, with a joyful heart, sacrifice a restaurant dinner with my family to have a little extra money to purchase the items requested by my child’s teachers.  I’m not going to debate the teacher’s request;  I’m not going to argue the point.  I’m going to do in my heart what I feel is best for my child’s educational experience.

This is why I give.  I feel it’s important to share love with one another no matter how that love is shown.

So this year, as I do every year, I grabbed the value pack of Expo markers with JOY!  I added a few extra supplies in the bag JUST BECAUSE!  And I already mapped out a plan to bless my children’s teachers with little surprises throughout the year to remind them how much I appreciate all they do.

Last night was a big night for my kiddos as they were finally told who would be their teacher for the next school year.  I was just as excited!  Such anticipation!  As we walked into each of their new classrooms, I knew it was going to be a great year.  Their teachers were smiling.  Friendly.  Welcoming.  The classrooms were bright.  Clean.  Inviting.  And my children’s desks held treasures galore.

Photo Aug 28, 3 43 30 PM

Photo Aug 28, 5 16 36 PM

As we enter a new school year, let’s not get caught up in the pettiness of bickering the non-essential issues of the day.  Let us learn how to love and support ALL the educators out there and work together to raise up the next generation of leaders.  After all, we’re in this together!

Be blessed and take time to thank a teacher today!

 

 

Do you find children become a bit obsessive during various stages of their life? Looking back, I remember my daughter who insisted on having her hair braided in two long braids every single day before she could go to school.  If I tried any other hairstyle, or didn’t have the braids with a perfect line in the middle, there would be a guaranteed meltdown at 7AM. My middle child went through a stage where he refused to do a puzzle starting with the edges (the easiest way I knew); he had to start with the middle and work out. Heaven help you if you tried to work on edges first!

This summer, my youngest child has discovered Perler beads. For those of you unfamiliar with these tiny crafting beads, they are small, plastic cylinders you place on a plastic grid with small spikes to create colorful images.  Once completed, you use waxed paper to iron over the plastic.  The plastic melts and joins together, then your object can be removed from the grid when cooled.  Here are a few photos to illustrate our newest obsession:

In progress

In progress

A few of our finished projects

A few of our finished projects

The fascination with Perler beads began when my daughter was in elementary school.  We would spend hours at our art table, sitting on the bench organizing all the colors.  The process of placing the beads in the grid was meticulous at best; thankfully, we both had small hands and good pincher grips.

My oldest son followed in his sister’s footsteps and together they would sit creating masterpieces throughout the day.  It was a time of shared passion and cemented their friendship as siblings.  Sometimes when they ran out of colors they needed, they would create multi-colored shapes: a patchwork quilt of plastic, molded to perfection.

My little guy is four years old.  He’s just now figuring out how to count in straight lines and sort by color.  Wait, that’s not completely accurate.  He is obsessed with counting and sorting by color. OBSESSED!

“Mommy, this bead doesn’t go there.  It’s supposed to be four yellows, not five.” 

“Mommy, that’s not the right blue.  It’s supposed to be this color blue.”

“Mommy, you do red and I do white.  Let’s do it together.”

Making pictures from Perler beads takes patience and persistence.  One wrong move and your entire design will become a mangled mess of beads.  It’s time consuming, too.  You could spend hours making one design only to run out of the exact shade of green you need with only three beads left to complete the project.  Frustrating!

Understanding this, I posted a message on FB last week asking if anyone had any Perler beads they were willing to part with.  We’d already dropped a chunk of change at Michael’s craft store purchasing single colored beads and I knew we would deplete our supply soon.  Several friends liked my status, but no one had beads to share.  That was fine, it was worth a shot to ask, right?

A few days went by, more projects were made, and our bead supply was low.  Twice we started a project only to dismantle it because we didn’t have enough of the “right color” beads to finish.  Then, as things so often happen in my world, I received a private message from a friend:

Photo Aug 19, 8 33 12 AM

God is so funny sometimes.  I love how He meets our needs, even when the “need” is not really a need at all, but a want. God is so good!  Perfect timing always!

My friend dropped it off at my house while I was out and about with my kids, refusing the payment I offered to mail.  “It’s only $3.  Don’t worry about it.”  How incredibly kind!  Yes, I know $3 may not seem like a large sum of money, but I want you to consider for a moment what this random act of kindness meant to me:

  • One of my friends actually paid attention to my request.
  • She thought of me while out shopping.
  • She took time out of her day for ME.  She wrote me a message.  Spent her own money to buy me something she knew I wanted.  Used her own gas to drive to my house.
  • She expected nothing in return. 

When was the last time you were cared for like this?  She could have just as easily walked away from those beads thinking, “Oh look – I just saw that on someone’s FB post the other day.”  But she didn’t.  She listened to the whisper on her heart and went out of her way to make it happen.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what random acts of kindness are all about.  🙂

Those beads blessed my world in immeasurable ways.  They allowed me to share in life lesson moments with my son!  The morning after the surprise delivery, we were back at it again, making projects left and right.

Photo Aug 18, 8 11 29 AM

My son saw a picture of a pencil in his design book and decided that would be our next creation.  We spent the next hour delighting in our joy of not having to count out beads, knowing whatever color we needed would be in our brand new bucket!

The pencil is in the middle, far left.

The pencil is in the middle, far left.

Patience and persistence!

Patience and persistence!

Then it happened.  Disaster.  While carefully carrying his completed project to the wooden bench to iron, his little fingers shifted the wrong way and down came the plastic grid.  HARD.

Photo Aug 18, 8 50 35 AM

It was a pivotal moment for a life lesson.  How do YOU handle the frustration of working so diligently on a single task only to have your project/ideas/thoughts crushed by one single event?  A life lesson indeed.

He immediately looked to me for my reaction.  I knew he wanted to scream.  Cry.  Kick.  I could see the range of emotions pass like a lightning streak through his crystal clear blue eyes.  But in that moment I saw something else as well.  The need to know that everything was going to be OK.

Acknowledgment.  Reassurance.  Kindness.  We all need those things at different times, don’t we?  My blue eyes met his, our shared DNA reflecting his pain.  “Awwww man!  It’s no big deal, bud.  Mommy can help you fix it.  Ain’t nothing but a thing.”  I smiled my southern smile allowing my dad’s cliche for life to pass from one generation to the next.  

And fix it, we did…. one bead at a time.

Photo Aug 18, 8 54 02 AM

Photo Aug 18, 9 03 22 AM

Today, think about how you might be able to bless someone else with kindness.  No, you don’t have to buy them a bucket of beads, but maybe give of your time and thoughtfulness.  Maybe even just a smile will be enough to change someone’s day.  🙂

 

 

It’s been more than 24 hours since I’ve learned of Robin Williams’ suicide. My social media news feeds are filled with condolences. Memories. Sorrow. It’s been more than 48 hours since my tweets and posts were interrupted by the chaos and loss in Ferguson, MO. One month since Renee. Car accidents. Airplane crashes. Heart attacks. Cancer. My summer fun has been overshadowed by death at every turn.

For those of you who aren’t comfortable talking about death or dying, you officially have my permission to click on another blog or read something else that keeps you in your comfort zone.  I won’t judge you one bit.  Talking about all aspects of death is not for the weak, the insecure, the timid, nor the fragile.

I am none of the above; and yet at times, I am all four.

To me, death is simply a part of life.  Just another milestone on that grand stage of accolades that began with my very first breath.  So it began and so it will end.  What’s important is what happens during the dash in the middle. (Right, Greg?) I woke up this morning with the song, “Say What You Need to Say” by John Mayer resounding on my heart.  Have you ever considered the impact you have on others?  If you were to die today, what would people remember?  What would they say?

Sometimes in this wonderful journey of performing random acts of kindness, I get a sneak peek into people’s reactions when I do something nice for them.  Maybe it’s a comment on my blog or a heartfelt smile in the moment. These gems are treasures indeed; they serve as reminders that I have worth in my purpose and I’m on the right track.

Rarely, however, do I get the inside scoop on someone’s impression of me. Do any of us, really?  First impressions are often misleading anyway – a bumbled, botched-up moment of judgement that sadly shapes one’s view of another long after the connection has been made.  We are all human. We have good days and bad days.  And sometimes we just get caught on the wrong day, at the wrong time, and without even knowing what we’ve done, we’ve impacted someone else in a negative way without an ounce of negative intent whatsoever.

But the opposite is also true.  Sometimes we are going about our business, just being the people God made us to be, and we are making an impact on others left and right.  Without even knowing.

I’ve often joked with my family that should I be diagnosed with a terminal illness, I want to have my funeral while I am still alive.  I want to know what people will say!  I want to share in the memories!  Do people’s impressions of me really match the person I believe myself to be?  I want my life to be remembered as the celebration it is – filled with love, joy, and kindness.

A few weeks ago I received a message on FB from my Zumba instructor, of all people.  She had made a comment to me after class about her joy in doing a random act of kindness for a homeless person and, of course, I was thrilled to share in her joy!  Below is the message she sent me.  (If you can’t view the images, click here to read the texts in paragraph form.)

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I had tears running down my cheeks by the end of her message.  Such a mixture of emotions!  I was humbled. Awed. Slightly embarrassed. (I mean, geez, who else notices that I sing the songs in Zumba while going 100 miles an hour in every direction all at once?)  I was also impressed by her writing style – she writes EXACTLY like she talks, much like me!  Wow!

She was inspired by me.  Inspired?  By ME?  Really?  What in the world?  I’m glad she couldn’t see me in that moment, because I’m sure my face was beet red, blushing, with my silly smile plastered from ear to ear.  This was just so incredible!  (Click here to read the blog post I wrote about her so many months ago.)

All of a sudden, the worries of the world weighing me down didn’t matter. Stress?  Completely gone.  Nothing else mattered, but that I had made a difference in someone else’s life.  I just wanted to reach out and hug her for blessing ME with a gift only she could give – a small glimpse of how my life impacted hers.

Why do we wait to say such important things until it’s too late?  This question has nagged me today in light of all the news of death and loss around me.  Why. Do We. Wait?

Please take a moment to tell someone you care about how important they are.  Tell them how they made a difference in your life. Share with them a story that illustrates your love for them.  Remind them of their uniqueness. Don’t wait until it’s too late to heal wounds you may not even know are there.  Your words are treasures of unspeakable richness.  Share your wealth with others by paying it forward with a heartfelt note or a thoughtful text.

I hope your day will be blessed by words of kindness in return.  🙂

As a child, there are many milestone moments that define your independence.  Learning to crawl.  Walk.  Playing outside by yourself. Riding a bike.  Walking to a friend’s house unescorted.  Going to the movies with friends.  Each accomplishment brings us closer and closer to the ultimate independence – becoming an adult and leaving home to carve your own path in this world.

One rite of passage in this chain of events is learning how to drive a car. Although it has been many decades since I first sat behind a steering wheel, white knuckled in complete panic of forgetting how to use the clutch and the brake at the same time, nothing quite compares to that moment when you walk into a Department of Motor Vehicles building and realize – THIS. IS. IT.

Last week, after four months of stalling, my daughter finally decided the time had come to tackled the dreaded computer test she needed to pass in order to get her learner’s permit.  Now if you know anything about my favorite teenager, you know she is a VERY conscientious student and takes assessments of any kind with the seriousness you might retain for passing your bar exam in law school.   This learner’s permit test was a BIG DEAL.

We arrived at DMV and I started to take a picture of the sign.  “Wait.  Don’t jinx it.”  The warning flashed in vibrant red neon in my mind.  We walked in and agreed we would speak only in hushed tones.  OK, maybe we didn’t ACTUALLY agree to that per se, but that’s what happened.  We received our ticket number, filled out the paperwork, then sat to wait.  And wait. And wait.

I started to giggle.  Not the most appropriate thing to do while waiting for a very important and serious event, but all I could think of was the movie Beetlejuice and the final scene where Beetlejuice is so tired of waiting that he swaps his ticket with the guy beside him who happens to have a shrunken head.  All of a sudden, his new number is called, but before he can take a step, his head shrinks, too!  (Wait – is that exactly what happens?  Now I’m second guessing my memory of the movie.)  Either way it made me giggle and I received a very sharp, this-is-not-funny, glare from my daughter.  Then I looked down at my ticket number.

Photo Aug 08, 10 11 38 AM

T90!  Oh my gosh, now the giggles became stifled laughter.  Really?  This was our ticket number?  My very first set of license plates were personalized plates: Tamie 90.  Here I was, sitting in a DMV with my daughter to get started on HER license and the ticket number was an abbreviation of my first license plate.  What are the chances of THAT?! Surely that was a good sign, right?

“Don’t jinx it, Mom,” my daughter whispered, her eyes glued to the ticket number screen.  Apparently I was the only one savoring the moment of perfect coincidences.

Her number was called shortly thereafter and we approached the main counter.  The gal who was waiting on us had a kind smile and an even sweeter personality.  “Don’t worry about it.  You’ll do fine!”  She instinctively knew the stress my daughter tried so hard to hide. As she verified all the pertinent information, she glanced up and smiled again.  “It will be OK.”  Her comforting words were like a virtual pat on the hand, gentle and reassuring. As she turned to get her manager, I noticed the stars posted on the wall behind her.

Photo Aug 08, 10 25 23 AM

As you can see by the photo above, these construction paper star cut-outs were nothing fancy, didn’t have any glitter or sparkle added, but I can guarantee whoever’s name was listed received the biggest heart-warming smile when they realized their good deeds at work were recognized and shared for all to see.  It made me very happy to see DMV recognizing their employees in such a positive way!

The manager came by and also smiled at my daughter.  “Now, don’t you second guess yourself.  You stick with the first answer you know.  You’ll get this!”  Her friendly advice was spoken with the warmth of a cozy sweater, much like the one she was wearing around her shoulders.  She added her approval to our paperwork then directed us to the end of the counter.

As we approached yet another DMV representative, this one held the keys to independence.  If my daughter failed her test, she would have to wait weeks on end to try again.  If she passed… jubilation!  The stress was so stifling I actually looked for a knife to slice it.

She walked the green mile to the testing area and I stood, helpless, suddenly frozen in the moment.  My little girl was growing up.  In that instant, I recalled each and every milestone moment that led us here and suddenly wanted to call her back.  She was ready.  I was not.

I sat down.  My mind swirled as I prayed.  Just as I encouraged her to take those unassisted baby steps at ten months of age, I wanted her to know the feeling of success.  I waited.  And waited. And waited.  And then… a screech of a chair.  Footsteps.  A smile.

Success!

Those waiting around me knew the importance of this moment.  They reflected the smile on my daughter’s face and I could almost picture speech bubbles above their heads shouting, “Way to go!”  “You did it!” “Wahoooo!”  I looked back to the warden, her keys to my daughter’s freedom stamped in swirling black ink.  “Great job!  You’re all set!”  She smiled back at us, a moment of joy shared by us all.

As we walked outside into the brightness of day, my daughter laughed and said, “We can take a picture now!”  Oh, the joy of being a teenager!

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A special thank you to the following ladies at the Brook Road office of Department of Motor Vehicles:  Trena Myrick, L. Jefferson, and Nikia Jenkins. Your kindness made all the difference in our daughter’s experience and I cannot thank you enough for your smiles and words of wisdom.  We appreciate all you do in your job, and we hope DMV will recognize you in a wonderful way for your exemplary attitude!

Thank you faithful readers for sharing this journey with me – take time today to tell someone “Thank You” for a job well done!

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