celebrate kindness

Archive for August 2015

About a month ago, I blogged about the start of our family vacation. Since that time, my list of “must write” blog posts has expanded from a couple to more than a dozen. Egads! So many stories to share and not enough hours in the day! So rather than jumping in with current RAKs, I’m back-tracking a bit to make sure I capture all the stories from the past month, lest they dissipate like the morning dew on a hot summer day.

At the end of July, my family took a long-awaited Disney Cruise vacation to Alaska. I say “long-awaited” because it took us several years of planning and saving to make it happen. As our departure date grew near, I started perusing the internet for any last-minute insights on what we might see or do while visiting the various ports. One link led to another and I found myself on a Disney discussion board forum, reading the posts from other travelers.

I saw several posts titled “Fish Extenders” and I laughed at my own naivety, wondering why on earth any one would want to make a fish longer. Intrigued, I clicked on the link to open the post and -WHAM- I suddenly found myself caught up in this magical, wondrous world of Disney Cruise random acts of kindness.

A fish extender is a hanging pocket carrier that you create and hang from a fish hook outside of your cabin door. (All Disney Cruises have fish hooks for crew members to leave messages or other forms of communication.) There are Facebook groups that people can join to be a member of a fish extender group for a particular cruise. Once in a group, you share your information and agree to a form of  “RAK reciprocity” where you will give other members in your group a little surprise during the cruise and they will do the same for you. (That’s a VERY short summary – click here to dig deeper and learn more about fish extenders!)

Example of a Fish Extender

Now you can image how EXCITED I became when I realized 1) this type of RAK even existed and 2) I could actually participate! WOOOO-HOOOO! The adrenaline rushed through me so quickly, I knew I just HAD to jump in!

Then reality hit. This was Monday night. I had to be at work all day on Tuesday. That left Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to pull all this together as our flight was departing first thing Saturday morning. Was it even worth the effort?

I don’t know when you last went on a family vacation, but the week before a trip is simply chaotic with all the planning, organizing, and packing. Add to that five family members, flying, with the goal of only 3 bags of checked luggage between us all. We had such limited time, but… but… but… how could I possibly resist the pull of a magical RAK?

I joined the FB group and added myself to the list of Pixie Dusters. (That’s a small group of people who join too late to be a part of the actual fish extender exchange, but would like to give/receive randomly.) I spent most of the day on Wednesday searching for a hanging organizer that would meet the length/width specifications as well as having enough pockets for my family of five, but after multiple store visits, I quickly realized I would have to make one myself. (Egads – I didn’t factor THAT into my limited timeline! I don’t even own a sewing machine!)

I bought some cloth napkins and a fabric table runner and got to work. It took almost the entire three days to complete the fish extender (we won’t discuss how many hours of hand-sewing), but it was finished in time for our trip! Yay!

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As I was making the fish extender, a dear friend from high school, Kim, noticed my posting on one of the Dis Boards. She reached out to me and asked if I would have any use for some crystal Mickey Mouse figures. I was so excited to accept her generous gift! (And it was awesome to catch up with her after so many years!)

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She told me she just signed a contract to teach first grade with a neighboring school district, so I grabbed some books of my son’s bookshelf to get her started with a classroom library.

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After she left, I added the crystal Mickey Mouse figures as well as a few more embellishments, then our fish extender was done!

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My next blog post will highlight the gifts we made over those three days to bless others on our trip – make sure to check back soon to read more!

yellow brick road

Do you ever have those mornings where you wake from a dream, still half-asleep, remembering bits and pieces of the plot, trying to recapture the events before they fade away? Or maybe you wake with such clarity, a problem solved, a peace that suddenly washes over you like fresh water from a crystal-clear mountain stream.

Both happened to me this week.

I was thinking about my mom, who was diagnosed with extensive stage small cell lung cancer in June. (Go ahead and Google it – it’s the worst kind.) Her health has rapidly declined; from sitting on the sidelines cheering at my son’s soccer game in late May to sleeping in a recliner with an oxygen tank in August. She has a big trip planned in a few weeks to Boston; the chemo stripping away her hair is providing her the extra boost to make the trip a reality. We spend our days not making plans for coming years, but cherishing the moments of now and laughing about the memories of before.

My mom has been blessed by the kindness of others. When I returned from my vacation, she couldn’t wait to show me all the “treats” she received from close friends during my absence. Magazines. Candy. Amazon gift cards (she has a Kindle and loves to read). Beauty products. Cards. Small little treasures with encouraging words. Hats. Chocolate.

Photo Aug 02, 11 19 40 AM

She was in tears reflecting on the kindness of others in her time of greatest need. The thoughtfulness. The generosity. The compassion. These are words that now take on new meaning for my mom. She even received a handwritten letter from a girl who knew her as a child – my mom taught her how to ice skate and even to this day, the girl-turned-woman wanted my mom to know how special that day was for her.

We shared a long conversation about how people react when you tell them this kind of news and how your relationship with certain people changes. To quote her directly, “You really do see who your true friends are.” I reminded her that some people haven’t had a lot of experience with someone dying; others may be frozen in the perpetual state of “I don’t know what to say/do/feel.” She nodded, more in acceptance than agreement.

My mom is walking on the yellow brick road.

She landed here in a whirlwind, totally unprepared, taken completely off-guard; a stranger in the midst of doctors, legalities, and chemicals she can barely pronounce, much less spell. She is told to move forward. Get started. Go.

Follow the yellow brick road.

Follow the yellow brick road.

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the yellow brick road.

(I bet I have you singing now, don’t I? Ahhhh, a little laughter to lighten the load is always nice.)

Just like in the movie, my mom is following the advice of others and hoping for the best. She will encounter people along her path that will become new friends and others that simply slip away unseen. She will have to crawl through meadows that glisten brightly, invitingly, but end up making her so exhausted she can’t keep her eyes open. She will encounter setbacks that darken her skies and threaten her with fear.

She will have to make decisions on her own and hope the road leads her to the place where her friends can receive courage, insight, and overflowing hearts of love. Despite her final wish to return to the place she calls home, she will want confirmation that her friends received their gifts first.

Did I mention that my mom’s name is Dorothy? It’s true.

My mom is on the yellow brick road. She is following the path, walking one foot in front of the other (even if only in her mind.) She will take that trip to Boston and it will be fantastic! She will then return home to more rounds of chemo that will hopefully give her a bit more bonus time to enjoy.

As her only child, and loudest spokesperson (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, lol), I want to say thank you. Thank you for remembering my mom. Thank you for being mature enough to let bygones be bygones and see the person she is now, not the person she was before. Thank you for leaving notes on her Facebook page, even if only to say “Hi, thinking of you.” Thank you for reminding her of all the wonderful reasons to live and the impact she’s had on your life. Thank you for remembering her husband and surprising her with unexpected treats and goodies. Thank you for your acts of kindness.

I don’t know how many miles this yellow brick road stretches out. I do know that when the road ends, she will meet the grand Oz himself and she will be reminded with a whisper in her ear: “You always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it yourself.”

Photo Aug 02, 11 20 39 AM


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