celebrate kindness

Archive for September 2014

Today has been an amazing day! I woke up to birthday blessings from my family which included presents and a huge rainbow chocolate chip cookie on our You Are Special plate with coffee from Panera – what a delightful surprise!

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Knowing how I love to do random acts of kindness, my family purchased a dozen bagels from Panera for me to pass out to my buddies at work – what a PERFECT gift! I was so excited to share the culinary delights with my coworkers, taking time to set everything out with a handwritten note in our teacher’s lounge.

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Best of all, when I returned to the lounge at the end of the day, this is all that remained.  Joy!

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One of my favorite things about birthdays are the stores who celebrate you, too. Michael’s Arts and Crafts store sent me special coupons for my birthday, but I thought it would be fun to pass them along to someone else with birthday joy, so I drove to Michael’s and left them to be discovered in the kids’ section.

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My personal note

My personal note

Coupons ready to be redeemed!

Coupons ready to be redeemed!

As I was walking out the store, the stamps below grabbed my attention and made me smile, so I took a photo of them to remind me of things that make my heart happy:

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10 things that make me happy... 4 things that make me ESTATIC!  Love this!

10 things that make me happy… 4 things that make me ESTATIC! Love this!

I also went to Starbucks and was delighted to receive a free drink for my birthday. Thank you Starbucks! I ordered my favorite Salted Caramel Mocha and relished in the happiness of sitting down without interruption to write this blog post.

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How do you like to celebrate YOUR birthday? The old adage “‘Tis better to give than receive” is so very true – I love to bless others unexpectedly with kindness. Interestingly, birthdays are the one occasion where friends and family come together to celebrate YOU; it’s a humbling time of year where laughter and memories come to the surface as you are the center of attention. I know several people who would prefer to hide in the shadows of their special day, but I like to think of it as an opportunity to share in the joy of others. Of course, if I had my way, I would have a sign in my house that says, “Celebrate Everything!”

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Today one of my students asked me how old I was and I told him to guess.  When he replied, “Thirty?” I smiled and whispered, “Add twelve more years.”  His reaction was priceless – his mouth gaped open in shock and disbelief.  “You’re… OLD?!?” All I could do was laugh!  

Yes folks, it’s true.  I’m old.  But old is simply a state of mind.  Ask my forever friend, Lisa, how old we are and the response would be slightly different: “You’re only as old as you feel!”

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Photo Sep 28, 2 39 05 PM

So with that mindset, dear friends, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing in my celebrations EVERY day, no matter how “old” I become.  You have blessed my life beyond measure!

For my loyal followers, I must begin with apologies for the decrease in blog postings.  I have enjoyed life so much being “in the moment” that I haven’t had a second to spare to write about the various RAKs I’ve completed the past week.  We are knee-deep in birthday party season at my house which means I am swimming through a sea of crepe paper and balloons just to locate my laptop which is buried three levels below the surface of celebrations.

Celebrations.  Isn’t that how life should be?  Just one rolling river of celebrations.  Oh, how I would love for that to be my reality every day! I am definitely a party girl at heart.  I love the anticipation of seeing friends, old and new.  The palatable excitement and nervous energy leading up to the big event.  The planning.  The prepping.  The hustle and bustle of making sure everything is coming together right on time.  The event itself is the pinnacle of joy, cresting the mountain of bliss and sliding down with a smile.

I. Love. Celebrations!

Yesterday, I took my daughter’s sweet sixteen birthday invitations to the post office to make sure they didn’t exceed the maximum size and weight for a traditional one-stamp envelope.  (For those who know my daughter, yes, she made her own invitations in the same style as her KitKatKards business.) As I waited patiently in line, I distracted myself by thinking of all the activities we had planned to make her party the best one yet.  Like me, my daughter also loves to celebrate, so we were getting excited to see our random ideas and brainstorming sessions finally paving the way for laughter and life-long memory making.

“Next in line, please,” the postal worker called, jarring me from my pleasant reflections.  I approached the counter and explained my purpose: to weigh my envelopes and purchase however many stamps were needed.

“One stamp will be plenty,” he said with a friendly smile.  “How wonderful!” I replied.  He reached into his side drawer and before I could even request the type of stamp I wanted, he handed me this:

Celebrate Stamp

I looked up to see his smile stretched across his face, his delight reflecting mine. “This one work for you, miss?”  he asked with a slight hint of southern charm. “That’s perfect!” I replied, clasping my hands together with joy.  He nodded and finished the transaction while I added the stamps to the birthday invitations.  Within moments, my cards were whisked away to the “Mail Today” slot and I was back in my car, driving away.

Celebrate.  Why yes!  Celebrate!  What a wonderful way to end my day – with a reminder to celebrate the small joys in life.  Sure, the naysayers would reply, “Well, he was just doing his job,” but my inner Pollyanna likes to think that he chose that stamp just for me.  He saw the bright pink handwritten envelopes; he knew it was something festive I was mailing.  He knew.  He cared.  He wanted to make me smile.

Best of all… he did.  🙂

May your day be filled with small reminders that you are special.  You are loved.  You are worthy of celebration!

Today’s blog post is quick and concise – I celebrated my forever friend’s 42nd birthday by surprising someone with a free coffee at Starbucks! It was an easy RAK to complete; so easy that you, too, can replicate my steps below:

1. Drive to your nearest Starbucks with $5 in your pocket.
2. Write a quick note on a piece of paper (or even a napkin at the store!)
3. Get in line and purchase a $5 gift card.
4. When the barista hands you the gift card, pass it back to him/her and explain that you want to bless a stranger with a random act of kindness. Allow the barista to pick who will receive the gift card.
5. Leave the building and continue your day with a huge smile on your face!

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See? Easy! 🙂

I hope you find small moments in your day that make you smile, and may you find creative ways to pay it forward in celebration of life!

This morning I woke up to a wonderful surprise in my Facebook account – a sweet message from a former student! (If the words are too small to read, click here for a larger view.)

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I held my phone in my hands as tears crept to the corners of my eyes.  I sat that way for quite a few minutes… unable to move… unable to respond… simple remembrances of that fateful day flooding my memory.

Today is 9-11.  It’s been 13 years since I sat in that classroom, still reeling from the shock of what I just witnessed, live, on the TV set during my planning period when the students were at their resource class.  The phrase “terrorism” wasn’t even a part of my vocabulary at the time; my greatest concern in the safety of my students was keeping them from getting stung by the multitude of mud daubers who would build their homes in the corners of the ceiling tiles in my portable classroom.

I remember the confusion.  The disbelief.  The shock and horror of such unimaginable hatred, pinpointed against the very country I loved.  I thought about my friend, Truly, working in New York just blocks away from the chaos.  I thought of my friends working in and around Washington D.C. I thought of my family, 12 hours away in Virginia and wished for just a moment I didn’t live so far away.

And then I thought of my students.  Their smiling faces, returning to class, unaffected by the turn of events that would forever mark their childhood and teenage years.  How would I explain this to them? We had just started the school year a few weeks before, still getting to know each other.  They were seven and eight years old. How could I possibly deal with my own questions and confusion and simultaneously answer theirs?

Somehow we all made it through the day.  I can’t remember if I talked with them that afternoon or the next morning, but I remember clearly the conversation.  I sat in my rocking chair with twenty-five sweet, innocent faces staring back at me as we discussed what had happened to our country.  They asked questions that I tried to answer with gentle honesty, reminding them that they would always be safe with me.  They were my babies and I would always protect them; they were indeed safe to learn and grow without fear.  We hugged one another and I continued to reassure them throughout that day, week, and months ahead that all was good and well.

Thirteen years have passed and I am still in the business of reassuring children that all is good and well with this world.  Yes, it may seem like a paradox, especially if you pay close attention to the news reports on any given day, but I believe there is good in this world.  It is my job to remind kids that they are safe.  That they are loved.  That they can overcome any hardship this world dishes out.  I am called to empower these wonderful little people to know that they can do and be anything they set their minds to and they are not just products of a system that may or may not fail them throughout life.

I am a teacher.

I’m here today to tell you that right now, on this most sacred days of remembrances, I am humbled beyond words to know that I have made a difference in a child’s life.  The lessons this sweet gal took away from 9-11 was that she was safe and she was loved.  Today, she took time out of her busy life to share her reflections and how much I meant to her.

And the tears appear again.  🙂

This afternoon I decided to put a little more good in the world, remembering those who lost their lives in such a tragic way, but also remembering the children whose lives were forever changed by such madness.  I wish that we could return to a simpler time, when life was easy and free and fun.  In that spirit of hope, I made my way to our local playground with a special RAK to perform.

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I brought along thirteen quarters, one for each year since 9-11.  If you look closely at the quarter, right there on the front, you can read visions of freedom from our founding fathers emblazoned in metallic words: Liberty.  In God We Trust.  United States of America.

All synonymous with hope.  🙂

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I entered the playground and scattered my coins, knowing they would be discovered with squeals of delight from children of all ages.

I hid this one on the top of a slide.

I hid this one at the entrance of a slide.

This quarter was placed in the far corner of the yellow race car.

This quarter was placed in the far corner of the yellow race car.

I even left a few right out in plain view, for little eyes looking down as they run and climb.

I even left a few right on the ground, for little eyes looking down as they run and climb.

It was a small gesture, sure… and one that will go unnoticed by many… but it made my heart happy to picture the smiling faces of children playing, with no greater worries than how fast they could slip down a slide.  For thirteen children, today will be a day of joy and celebration.  🙂

Thank you, Megan, for blessing my day with love, kindness, and memories.  I will never forget you, your class, or any of the students I have claimed as my own over the past seventeen years.  You are mine and I am yours.

I am proud to say I was your teacher on such an important day in our country’s history.  Let’s continue finding ways to bring happiness in all we say and do. 🙂

 

The transition between summer break and the start of school has come and gone and I am finally catching my breath to blog.  WOW – what an amazing time it has been!  It’s always so inspiring for me when I see kindness in others – I often wish I could screen capture my moments and post instantaneously to share the joy!  Here are a few excerpts of the kindness that has been shared around me the past two weeks:


 

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At our very first faculty meeting of the school year, I was presented with the WOW book.  This is a new journal we are passing around to co-workers in our school who inspire us in a variety of ways.  We write an entry inside the book about why we think that person is special, then we pay it forward to that person so that they can recognize the next WOW member of our school. There is even a special page inside the front cover dedicated to Renee Parr, the first grade teacher who passed away this summer.

When I was called to receive the book, I was humbled beyond words – one of the few times I could barely speak!  Even writing this I am awed that someone would find me worthy of this honor.  WOW indeed!


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One of the highlights of Teacher Work Week is the freedom to choose our own lunch time and eat wherever we want.  (No cafeteria food, no frozen lunches for the microwave!)  I was delighted to find a coupon for a FREE grilled chicken sandwich – thank you Chick-fil-A for remembering teachers and sharing in kindness!

As I approached the local restaurant, I could tell lots of other teachers were enjoying their free sandwiches, too, because the drive-thru line was wrapped around the lot!  I decided to park my car and go inside to place my order.  I entered the double doors and saw the line was just as long inside the building. Suddenly the person in front of me turned around and said, “Would you like to go in front of us?  We’re still waiting for our friends.”  How kind! Within moments I was facing the cashier, placing my order.

Now this alone would be a wonderful RAK, but it gets EVEN better!  As I’m standing there contemplating fries vs. salad, I hear a voice over my shoulder saying, “I’m buying her lunch.”  I turn around and there is our school’s P.E. teacher, Barry,  standing behind me.  “What?” I question, still trying to process the fact that I’m getting RAK’d back.  “Your lunch.  I’m buying it.”  I started to protest, and he looked me square in the eyes, using my own words against me: “Don’t deny my the joy in doing a Random Act of Kindness…” All I could do was give him a hug and say thank you, humbled once again.

Getting RAK'd back by Barry

Getting RAK’d back by Barry

Our cashier thought it was great!

Our cashier thought it was great!

Then I paid it forward by purchasing a cookie for another teacher in my school (which I placed on her lunchbox when she left her classroom, totally forgetting to take a picture!)



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I came to work one day and found this adorable sticky-note pad on my desk, in the shape of an iPhone, with a cute note on top saying, “iHope you have a great year!”  I sent an email to my faculty thanking whomever left the surprise, but the RAK giver still remains a mystery.  Hopefully they will read this blog and know how much I loved this gift – oh, how it brightened my morning! (And little do they know, but I adore school supplies!  The results of being a teacher!)

Following this RAK, I paid it forward by blessing my son’s teacher with an item off her classroom wish list:

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At my first team meeting of the school year, this cute little guy below was introduced as the “Hedgehog of Happiness”.  One of my teammates said, “Give this to Tamara – it needs to be on her desk!”  Oh my gosh, what fun!  He made me smile all day!  I wish everyone had a “Hedgehog of Happiness” to remind them of the joy found in simple things.

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I paid it forward by sending surprises to my children’s teachers and writing a note in my son’s lunchbox.

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During the first week of school, I received two RAKs – one was a sweet gift from a kindergartner whose mom used to teach across from me when I was a classroom teacher at another school.  Pumpkin Cheesecake handsoap – oh my graciousness, what a wonderful scent!  It reminds me of fall and cooler weather.  Hand washing is VERY important in our line of work, so now I can stay germ-free while pampering myself a bit at the same time.

The other gift I received was a personalized clipboard from our school’s PTA. How thoughtful!  Even though I’m a technologist, I still carry a clipboard in my laptop bag which holds important documents, sign-in sheets, and my to-do list.  Now I have a fancy clipboard to replace the boring brown one I’ve been using for years!

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As my first week back to school round the corner towards the weekend, I realized I had missed all my favorite exercise classes (Zumba and Body Pump.)  For me, that’s the greatest challenge of the school year – trying to meet everyone’s needs and interests while still carving out time for my own. My Zumba instructor, Toni, invited me to meet her for a salsa lesson one night (dancing, not the dip, lol) and I finally made it out.  Oh my goodness, THIS was such a fun way to end my first week back at work!  Our instructor, Boris, was AMAZING and despite feeling a bit uncoordinated at times, he provided an hour long mental break filled with laughter and learning (that alone was a RAK for me!)

Then as our lesson ended and I pulled out my wallet to pay, Toni reached across me and said, “Oh no, this is my RAK for YOU!  Thanks for coming out and dancing tonight!”

(We forgot to take a picture together, so here’s photo of my dancing shoes instead, lol.)

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Could this week get ANY better?  I smiled all the way home!  I also paid it forward by covering the toll money for the person behind me on the highway. 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed my summaries of kindness shared by others in my world – I can’t wait to do more RAKs soon!  A little bit of kindness goes a long, long way… who can YOU bless with a little bit of joy this week?

Thanks for reading!


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The cards I made as random acts of kindness to bless others through iServe #iservecsbc #rak
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