Archive for February 2016
This past week was a whirlwind. Literally. Wednesday afternoon, all afternoon activities were cancelled due to the threat of severe weather. I raced out of work to pick up my youngest from daycare, then headed straight home to hunker down with the rest of my children.
My daughter is deathly afraid of thunderstorms and tornados. Maybe it’s because we used to live in Memphis, TN and I had to place her in a closet for safety one too many times. Perhaps she can still recall the shelter-in-place drills at her daycare center, her small hands barely wide enough to cover her head as she cowered under a table in a tight ball. Whatever the reason, I knew that she would be anxious, so I wanted to get home as soon as possible.
The sky was overcast, but not a drop of precipitation was falling from the sky as I drove. By the time I got to the daycare center, the winds were starting to pick up, but nothing outrageous. A few raindrops finally splattered on my windshield as I pulled into my driveway.
It was February. In Virginia. I still had the snow boots lined up in the hall from the foot of snow that finally melted from a few weeks before. A thunderstorm this time of year was hard to imagine. A tornado? Unfathomable. We just don’t get weather like that.
Twenty minutes later, I saw these images on TV and quickly gathered my three children to squeeze into a narrow hall closet.
We were lucky. Our home was spared with no damage. The storm had passed and we left our cramped closet, breathing a sigh of relief. I opened my Facebook app and saw dozens of photos from friends doing the same thing as me, trying to make the best of a scary situation. I saw snapshots of kids in bathtubs with pillows, dogs and cats lying on tile floors, board games and snacks. Then I saw a photo that made me gasp.
I actually did a double-take. Was that a door ripped from the frame of Kenneth’s upstairs room? I scrolled through his posting and saw image after image of the damage to his home. Doors blown off. Windows with shattered glass. Trees on cars and boats in trees. Even the crack in his hallway wall ominously told the story of what just happened.
It could have been so much worse.
It was so much worse.
The next few days would reveal the destruction across the state.
There were 3 deaths in Waverly. I couldn’t even wrap my brain around what had just happened.
And then, just as quickly as the storm blew its way through our town, the generosity of others poured in.
As Thursday came and the weekend approached, I noticed other people offering up their kindness in the midst of such unspeakable tragedy:
It’s nice to know that in the face of desperation and despair, there are good people around to lend a hand and make a difference. I am blessed to live in such a supportive community! May we always take the opportunity to help when we can, for there may come a time when we will be the ones in need.
How many of you dread the word “Monday”?
One click of a Google search for “Monday quotes” and you can see the struggle is real:
What if it was possible to actually look forward to Monday? Say what? Yes! I’m serious! What if you could start your week with anticipation of something good instead of something bad.
Impossible? I think not.
For those of you on Twitter, you already know a few hashtags people follow for inspiration. You can now add #celebratemonday to your list. No, I didn’t create the hashtag (even though some of you thought I did!) Those kudos belong to principal Sean Gaillard, a motivating force behind the Monday positivity movement. Check out this article by ISTE, explaining how it all began!
This Monday morning, I woke to find a tweet from Sean giving me a shout-out on Twitter:
When was the last time you had someone give you a shout-out to others? On social media? On a MONDAY MORNING?
My day was made and I hadn’t even left my house.
I was tagged in another tweet from Ashley Hurley, a gal in my virtual PLN:
So inspiring! Already my brain was spinning, thinking of a random act of kindness I could do to #celebratemonday. How fun!
I had to leave school early today to take my middle child to get braces on his bottom teeth (definitely not a RAK in his eyes!) and while I waited in the office for him to gather his belongings from class, I gazed at the beautiful tree painted on the office wall.
Not just any tree. A Giving Tree.
There were only a few leaves left on the tree, but surely I had something I could give. I reached up and removed a leaf to bless a teacher at my son’s school.
While I waited in the orthodontics office for the dental technicians to add brackets and wires to my child’s teeth, I thought about the leaf I pulled. I don’t know Ms. Owens, but I could imagine her purpose for those stress balls. Maybe she’s a SPED teacher and knows how some students need to keep their hands active to refocus their attention. Maybe she’s a P.E. teacher and wants to use the balls as part of a class activity. Perhaps she’s a science teacher and wants to use the balls in an experiment. No matter the reason, she needed the balls and I couldn’t wait to fulfill her wish.
Guess who’s getting 12 new stress balls soon! 🙂
Later today, I had another friend, Kitty Tripp, tag me in her post about a random act of kindness she completed for a stranger:
If you are looking to be inspired on a Monday morning, check out the hashtag #celebratemonday on Twitter. You might be amazed how good it will make you feel! Share your joys as well – celebrating Mondays inspires everyone!
Have a wonderful week ahead! Feel free to comment below with something good that happened to you today and share with a friend!
“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…” ~ Clement Clark Moore
Do you remember the Night Before Christmas? The children, all tucked in their beds (sugar plums dancing in their heads) as they waited with anticipation for the surprises to arrive the next morning. St. Nick arriving, his belly like jelly, trying to tiptoe so quietly around the house, delivering gifts for others to enjoy. Participating in a Disney Cruise Fish Extender gift exchange is similar: the preparation, the anticipation, the surprise.
Each morning as my children awoke, they jumped from their beds wanting to check their “stocking” to see if any treasures were left the night before. I reminded them that we weren’t officially part of the Fish Extender exchange, but participating as Pixie Dusters, so any gifts we received would be extras shared by generous families. Our purpose was to bless others without expectation of reward.
But oh, how we were blessed in return!
Coloring books with crayons. Personalized drink holders. Flashlights. Stickers. Disney-themed toys. Luggage tags. Bookmarks. Mini game boards. Lanyards. Keychains. Candy. Cups. Lip Balm. Even detergent and stain remover wipes for any emergency laundry needs (which we needed, but didn’t have!)
We received handmade scarves that we wore almost every day. (We didn’t even think about bringing scarves on our trip to Alaska – genius!)
One family even surprised us with a handmade Disney bag which we used every day to carry our souvenirs, toys, and books from on-board activities and excursions.
Sometimes the surprises arrived while we were sleeping; sometimes while we were eating meals. Each and every gift was appreciated, no matter the type or cost.
I was reminded again and again about the kindness of others. Such thoughtfulness was shared with our little family of five. Remember, we weren’t even supposed to receive any gifts at all! I connected with the Fish Extender Facebook group literally three days before we left. And yet… so many families chose to add us to their list and bless us as if we belonged to them from the start.
Even typing this blog post brings tears to my eyes, remembering the overwhelming feelings of love and gratitude.
The gifts continued throughout the week. I was humbled by the thoughtfulness and creativity of others. One family gave an open-faced locket filled with Disney themed charms. I literally gasped with awe when I discovered the jewelry hidden in my Fish Extender pocket.
Another family blessed my youngest child with a handmade super hero cape and mask from The Incredibles which he wore, but refused to pose for a photograph. (“Mommy, pictures take away my powers!”)
My daughter kept meticulous care of her gifts, choosing to empty a clothing drawer so her treasures would be safe throughout the voyage.
We were even surprised with strangers decorating our cabin door with handmade signs and magnetic whiteboards. (Did you know that the cruise ship doors and walls are magnetic?)
I simply cannot thank these strangers enough for the joy they added to our vacation. The entire Fish Extender experience showed my children first-hand the power of “give and receive.” We now have tangible treasures to remember your kindness and stories to share with others. You have woven your thoughtfulness into our family memories which will be retold for generations to come.
You have blessed us beyond measure!
If you are planning to take a Disney Cruise and love the idea of random acts of kindness, I recommend you to join the Fish Extender Facebook Group to get more information. (This is a closed group, so you will need to request to join.) The passengers on my cruise created their own closed group which allowed us to share information on a Google Sheet and post photos/memories from our trip.
A special thank you to the following families for all our gifts received (if I left anyone off the list, please let me know and I will add you!) You truly transformed an already fabulous vacation into something only Walt Disney himself could create.
The Johnson Family
The Miller Family
The Fontenot Family
The Green Family
The Adams Family
The Peauroi Family
The Hanks Family
The Mill-Nap-Hacks Families
The Kennedy Family
When was the last time you received a love letter?
No, not a text message. Not a Valentine’s Day card. An actual love letter. Handwritten. Folded. Filled with words of endearment and appreciation for YOU. Can you remember such a time?
Last summer while on vacation, I was waiting in the wee hours of the morning to see the sun peek across the horizon of the Pacific Ocean. The morning was cold and wet, the Alaskan breeze blowing across my blanket-covered lap as I sat in a beach chair on the top deck of a cruise ship, listening to the ocean waves rise and fall.
The sun’s rays started to shimmer across the midnight blue water and I caught myself holding my breath with anticipation. Slowly the sky brightened, the mountains illuminated against the cloud-covered sky. Each moment was more spectacular than the one before and my heart overflowed with one simple word:
I was struck by an insatiable need to share this feeling with someone, right in this moment. I recalled a novel I had read by Hannah Brencher which described her journey in sharing joy with strangers through letters. Love letters. Yes, I know it sounds romantically saccharine and a bit bizarre, to share such sweetness with a stranger, but in that moment, it felt right. I waited for the sun to finish illuminating the sky, then quietly returned to my stateroom, grabbing paper and pen.
I walked around the ship, searching for a place of solitude which was rather easy to find so early in the morning. As soon as my pen touched the paper, the ink flowed from beginning to end, shaping a letter of love for a stranger I had never met.
I wrote two letters, my ultra-fine Sharpie capturing my sentiments with indelible ink. Thoughts of kindness. Hope. Joy. But most importantly, love.
While it may seem a bit odd that a perfect stranger is taking time out of their day to write you a love letter, please know that this no accident. For whatever reason, this letter was meant for YOU. Right here, right now, and with perfect timing.
You see, there is a very important message you need to hear. You, my friend, are loved.
Yes. It’s that simple. You are loved. You are important. Your life has purpose and you are meant to move mountains just by being YOU.
I know this life had hardships. Boy, do I ever. But I’m here to tell you that no amount of rain or darkness can dim the beauty and brightness of your spirit.
You. Are Worthy.
There will be mountains along your journey, and the sheer height and scope will make you want to turn completely around, go another way. This letter is to bind you. Grab you. Pull you to the base and lift you up and over that insurmountable hurdle. There may be sweat. There may be tears. But in the end, you will look back and see it was more than a rolling hill, a piece of a perfect landscape that now showcases part of your spirit.
With love and joy,
A girl from Virginia.”
I’m writing this letter today because you are wonderful. Yes – YOU. For whatever reason, I felt that you needed to be reminded of all the specialness wrapped inside of you. Oh, the beauty that shines from your spirit! If you could only see the depth and breadth of joy and kindness that encompass your every being and how that touches those around you!
Maybe you are looking around, searching for a hidden camera, convinced this is a joke, a ploy, a hidden card trick at a small venue magic show. Rest assured, this letter was meant for you. Your life has such grand purpose, which may seem impossible to believe, but it is true.
You. Are. Special.
And… you are loved.
Yes, I know some days you may not feel worthy or deserving of such enormous proclamations, but life is like that. The waves rise, then crash, then pull back and start again. But even in the midst of that repetition, there will be a ray of light from a sunrise that will change the landscape into a radiant sea of sparkle and everything is transformed into beauty and hope and all things good. You, dear friend, are that light. Now go out and shine!
With love and joy,
A girl from Virginia”
Later that morning, we docked in Ketchikan, Alaska a city that receives more than 160 inches of rainfall a year. True to form, a light drizzle of rain coated the streets as we made our way into town. Suddenly the dark clouds shifted, replaced by the warmth of the sun I had greeted mere hours before.
We walked from shop to shop, learning about the culture of this salmon canning town, and I waited patiently, two folded pieces of paper hidden in the pocket of my rain jacket. Who would receive my letters of love?
I saw a stack of t-shirts in an open bin and felt the nudge to leave one there, hidden in the folds of cotton, so I did.
As we walked deeper into the town, I saw a quaint table and chairs outside of a sandwich shop and knew my second letter belonged there.
We were only in Ketchikan for a few hours, long enough to walk around town, buy a few souvenirs, and sprinkle some love on the other side of the world. I may never know who read my my letters, but I know that my words were meant for them.
And maybe my words are meant for you as well.
You. Are. Loved.
Be blessed, my dear friends, and share this story with someone who may also need to feel a little love today!
As we boarded the Disney Cruise, we could barely contain our excitement – it was almost time to put up our Fish Extender (FE) and start giving our gifts away! (For those that are new to this blog, you can read more about Fish Extenders here.) We had a list of 10 families – 41 people people in all, and bags of small gifts organized by cabin number.
Since everyone’s luggage would arrive at various times throughout the day, we had to wait a bit before we could RAK the others. We hung our FE outside our door with hopes that someone would Pixie Dust us during the week.
Understanding that we were late to join the FE group, I had already prepped my kiddos not to expect many gifts. “Remember,” I cautioned, “This is more about giving than getting. We may not get anything at all, but think of how happy the others will be to receive our surprises!”
We decided to RAK a few families each day and agreed that if their FE was filled by someone else we would try again when it was empty. Oh, if you could have been a fly on the wall to see us trying to hide our treasures as we walked through the narrow halls, always wondering if we were passing by the family we would soon bless. We felt like spies on a recon mission!
The first door we came to had a fun surprise for us – a magnetic scrabble board on their door! We added our word “fun” and filled their FE. Then we went up a floor and filled a few more.
The next morning, we grabbed a cup of hot chocolate from Deck 9 and laughed about how much fun it was to give to others the day before. We searched the faces of the passengers seated around us wondering, “Could this be the Mann family? Maybe that’s the Kennedy family over there…”
Walking back towards our cabin, we talked about who to RAK and made a plan for organizing their gifts. Then, as we turned the corner, we received our own surprise – someone had blessed US by filling our fish extender in the short time we were away! The kids were SO excited and couldn’t wait to see what treasures were hidden in their FE pockets. Little did we know, this was the first of many gifts we would receive throughout the week!
Check back tomorrow to see a sample of the FE treasures we received – it was like Christmas morning each time we returned to our cabin!