celebrate kindness

Archive for October 2015

friendship quote

One thing I have always wanted to do in my decades of adulthood is return to places of my youth that bring me joy. This evening, as I drove four hours from my hometown across I-64 and down I-81, I couldn’t wait to arrive at my final destination: southwestern Virginia.

Although I was here to present at a conference, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to travel down memory lane. I spent four years in this part of the state, learning and growing, earning my Bachelor of Science degree. During that time, I met the most amazing people – many of whom I still consider close friends to this day! I was flooded with memories as I drove the long corridor in between valleys and hills; this felt like coming home.

As I approached my final destination, the name of a local restaurant caught my eye. Macado’s! I immediately pulled over and went inside.

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Just entering the restaurant made me smile, thinking of my Zeta Tau Alpha sorority sisters and all the good times we had, sharing a meal and catching up. So much laughter would ring in the air when I was with my sisters! We wore our letters with pride and made our way to Macado’s quite often.

Macado’s makes everyone smile. 🙂

I sat in my booth alone, but never once felt lonely, surrounded by memories that filled my heart with joy. My waiter was friendly, advising me to order the fish tacos when I asked for a suggestion. He was young, much younger than I, and I pondered what his life was like working as a waiter on a Sunday night in a college town.

When it came time to pay my bill, the words of my sorority’s creed came to mind:

“To realize that within our grasp, in Zeta Tau Alpha, lies the opportunity to learn those things which will ever enrich and ennoble our lives; to be true to ourselves, and to those within and without our circle; to think in terms of all mankind and our service in the world…”

It was in the spirit of my sisterhood that I left the waiter this note and tip:

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The note says:

“Thanks for being an awesome waiter! 21 years ago, I would enjoy meals at Macado’s with my ZTA sorority sisters – this visit brought back memories and made my heart smile. 🙂 I know waiters don’t make much money (esp. on a Sunday night!) So please enjoy this tip of 100% for the 100% joy you shared with me tonight.”

I left the restaurant with a smile on my face for the rest of the evening. I also caught up with two of my sorority sisters on Facebook later that night, working out details on how we could see each other on the journey back.

When I joined ZTA decades ago, I couldn’t imagine that a group of girls who were essentially strangers would become some of my closest friends. It’s true what they say – Sisterhood is Forever. I’m so happy I could reflect on all the happy times I shared with these ladies and take an opportunity to pay-it-forward to another college student in return!

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When was the last time you received a package in the mail? No, not a shipment from Amazon that you purchased with your credit card. I mean a REAL package. A gift. A surprise. Something just for you. Has it been a while?

This past week I received a package that LITERALLY made me squeal with joy! It was an unpublished, advance uncorrected proof of Kate Messner’s new book The Seventh Wish that was sent directly to me from Bloomsbury Publishers! This book won’t be available for purchase until June 2016, but I had it in my hands! SQUEAL!!

Kate Messner Book

For the past two summers, I have participated in Teachers Write: a virtual writing experience that consists of four weeks of daily writing prompts led by dozens of authors who write the books we read in and out of the classroom. These authors share their advice, offer suggestions, encourage us to learn and grow. Best of all, they actually read the posts we write and provide feedback (WOW factor, right here!) Created by Kate Messner, this writing opportunity has completely changed the way I approach composition, both as a teacher and an author. (Yes, I am using that term loosely. I have written blogs and published articles, but you know I want to write that book about kindness and life purpose!)

The great part of belonging to a writing community is that the connection doesn’t end when the tasks are completed. Even though the assignments and challenges ceased with the summer sun, we are still writing and sharing through social media.

A few weeks ago Kate posted that her newest book, The Seventh Wish, was nearing publication and she wanted to try something new for the book’s release. She asked if any of her teacher friends would be willing to read her book, then share with students to read, so that children could write the book reviews instead of adults.

I think this may be the actual moment I started squealing.

I threw my name in the hat, hoping to be chosen from hundreds of responses across globe, but figured it was wishful thinking at best. And then, with little fanfare or presentation, there was a simple manilla package waiting in my mailbox: The Seventh Wish.

This random act of kindness from Kate Messner and Bloomsbury Publishing made my heart soar this week. I can’t wait to curl up on my sofa, warm fleece blanket wrapped around my lap, with uninterrupted time to read her new book. I’m sure it will be just as awesome as her other books on the shelf! Then, as the ultimate pay-it-forward RAK, I will pass the book along to children in my school who will read, review, and share. What a gift indeed!

reunion quote

Last night I attended my high school’s 25th class reunion. While social media has made the art of maintaining friendships almost seamless (even if only in a virtual world of sharing photos and birthday greetings), there’s no comparison to actually visiting with friends in person! The four-hour event was held at a local brewery with threats of hurricanes and floods forecasted a few days prior. While the severe weather hampered many travel plans to attend, those who came out in the cold, dreary rain enjoyed a night filled with reminiscing and reconnecting.

There are 7 truths about 25th class reunions I discovered last night, in the midst of chatting with my friends. While I’m sure some of these may shift a bit for generational references, I’m pretty sure most are vividly accurate:

1. Nobody cares who you’re dating, what you’re wearing, or how much you weigh.

All the teenage stress and angst about appearance and social status simply fade into the background as you age. Sure, you may struggle with your own inadequacies (don’t we all?), but attending your 25th class reunion is a bit like entering Cheers, where everyone knows your name (well, at least when you’re wearing your name tag). You are not judged by how high your bangs are nor the amount of Sun-In soaked in your hair. There’s no one waiting at the door to see what vehicle you’re driving. We are bigger, smaller, taller, wider. Some peaked in high school and some are just now coming into their own. It’s all OK!

You are not classified by your social or financial worth. Nobody is walking around reminding you of your high school GPA and cross-referencing it with the accomplishments of your adult years. And unless you are wearing raw meat around your neck like Lady Gaga, few people will remember what outfit you decided to wear to the reunion. At a casual event like ours, there was a wonderful mix of jeans, dress slacks, sparkled tops, t-shirts, and button-downs (although I will admit that I was a bit disappointed John wasn’t wearing his brilliant blue cape from our last gathering, lol.)

2. Name tags are essential.

Let’s face it – 25 years is a long time. We have now spent more years in our lives outside of school than in. And we are 25 years older, which means our memory may not be as sharp as it once was (speaking for myself, of course!) Name tags make introductions SO much easier, especially when you are trying to place a face to a name from a class of 460 students. Unless, of course, your name is Steve and you spend most of the evening stealing other people’s name tags to wear as your own.

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The running joke last night was, “Is this a classmate or someone’s spouse?”

3. Perfect strangers will smile at you, if you smile first.

I know this will be shocking to some, but not everyone marries their high school sweetheart. (Gasp!) Most people find their spouses or significant others later in life, often from other hometowns or states (even across the globe!) For those +1 attendees caught in the mire of fabled stories from yesteryear, a class reunion can be a long, drawn-out event of awkwardness and people watching. I tried to make a point to smile at everyone I could, whether I knew them or not. It was an easy random act of kindness that anyone can do (class reunion or not!)

4. Break dancing and mosh pits are out, but the Electric Slide and Cupid Shuffle still draw a crowd.

You must, I repeat, you MUST have a DJ at your indoor class reunion. The music that’s played can make or break a crowd and sets the tone for fun and festivity. While dancing was not the focus of our reunion (I mentioned that we are 25 years older, right?), it was enjoyable to find a crew of classmates who didn’t mind making fools of themselves as they tried to remember steps for a line dance popular years ago. Who knows… it might even be a spotlight moment for a classmate to showcase their talent, as we saw with Chris and Lori stealing the show.

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I think that ended our line dancing for the night. They were simply amazing! A special thanks to Luke Gipson, who was an awesome DJ for this reunion and the last one we held – hire him quick!

5. There are always new things to learn about people you’ve known forever.

The topics of conversation at 25th class reunions are generally the same: How have you been? What are you doing now? Do you have any children? Where should we go after this? If you find yourself in a conversation for more than 5 minutes (which is actually harder than it sounds), you will inevitably start walking down Memory Lane. Shared memories are great, especially when several people chime in with their versions of the same story.

Last night I learned that Jennifer spent more money on her prom dress than I spent on my wedding dress and that Stephanie saved for years to have her dress custom-made. While these tidbits may not impact one’s life on a grand scale, they open the door even wider to a shared communal experience that can only come from being in high school together. (And just for the record, Jennifer looked FANTASTIC in that green sparkled dress she wore in high school!)

6. Social media allows the party to continue long after you’ve left the building.

All day my news feed has been flooded with photos and posts from last night. There have been countless comments of positive praise, shared sentiments, and plans to get together soon. We’ve even gone so far as to suggest having a yearly reunion, offering suggestions of how, when, and where.

As a high school student 25 years ago, I’m not sure that I would say our class was close. There were just too many students, in tight, cramped, outdoor hallways filled with asbestos signs and construction hazards. We found our tribe and stayed tight with that group until the road to Beach Week stretched before us. And yet… here we are. We’ve found our tribe once again, but the barriers of acceptance have long since washed away with time. I feel like I’ve attended your children’s birthday parties, mourned the loss of your family members, and celebrated all the milestones you’ve chosen to share.  A class reunion simply allows me to hear the stories in person.

7. Hugs from old friends are the best random acts of kindness to receive.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from; if you approach me at a class reunion, you’re going to get hugged. I could write an entire post on the benefits of hugging, (or not – it’s already been done by someone else here), but it’s suffice to say that a 25th class reunion is a room filled with people hugging at one time or another. Whether it’s the non-committal side hug of a stranger, or the enveloping bear hug of a friend, this is the one universal sign of welcome at a class reunion. If you are one who really doesn’t like physical touch, let me warn you now. A reunion can sometimes be viewed as a hug-fest. But hugs also count as random acts of kindness, letting others know they are welcomed, accepted, and missed.

For those who were unable to attend our 25th class reunion, I hope we can bring you out to our next social gathering. For those from our class who took the lead on organizing this event and assisting with details (Amie, Laurie, Michele, Donna, Debra, Diane, Kevin and countless others who chimed in on our group page) – a HUGE thank you for providing us an opportunity and space to come together for a few hours, set aside the woes of adulthood, and remember again how blessed we are to have friends that last a lifetime.

Until we meet again!

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