celebrate kindness

Archive for July 2016

“Let’s make this!”

I looked up from the sink filled with dirty dishes, soap suds swishing warm water across my fingers, to see my six-year-old pointing at the laptop screen.

“Be there in a sec,” I replied, pulling my dripping hands from the water, drying them on a faded kitchen towel.

“Mommy, it’s perfect! We can have an Angry Birds birthday party! Here’s the cake I wanna make!” I peered over his shoulder to see a basic sheet cake covered in green frosting with miniature Angry Birds figures scattered around a fallen wooden structure. The words “Happy Birthday” were piped in colored frosting to the left.

He was so excited, his small body fell into the computer desk as he leaned closer to the image shown. “I’m ok,” he quickly alerted, “Let’s make this today!”

It’s July. 

His birthday isn’t until September.

I don’t make cakes.

No, seriously. I don’t make cakes.

My children know I adore themed celebrations. There’s something about the planning of decorations and activities that reminds me of the perfect childhood I never had. And while I don’t bake cakes, I feel compelled to create these timeless memories for my family.

“Mommy! Listen to me! We gonna make this today!” He jumped down from the computer chair and stood in front of me, hands on his hips, his sweet smile replaced with a showdown glare. “TO-DAY!”

I could hear the strains of “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” playing in my mind with Clint Eastwood’s swagger reflected in my son’s stance. He was determined to be the last man standing. There was no way I was coming out of this showdown unscathed.

I knew this was a losing battle. He may only be six, but he’s sixteen with persistence.

It’s July.

His birthday isn’t until September.

Why can’t we bake a cake just for fun?

My dirty dishes would have to wait. It was time to make memories. “It’s a trial run,” he shrieked with glee, “Let’s do this!”

Sometimes as parents we need to surprise our children with random acts of kindness. I don’t bake cakes. In fact, in the 17 years I’ve been a mom, I have never once made a birthday cake for any of my three children. I always buy their premade cakes from grocery stores or have them custom-created by friends, with no guilt whatsoever.

But today was different. Today I became a cake baker for my son.

We went to the grocery store and purchased cake mix, frosting, food coloring, and eggs. Returning home, I searched for a hand mixer as he gathered items from his Angry Birds game to decorate the top.

He cracked the eggs. He mixed the batter. He even helped me change the frosting from white to green.

After the cake was baked and cooled, with icing spread from left to right, he meticulously placed the Angry Birds items on top using the picture he found on the internet as his guide.

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“Mommy, can you write the words, but let me write my name?”

And with that, his trial run birthday cake was complete!

That’s when it hit me.

This wasn’t about the birthday cake.

It was about the process.

It was about quality time.

It was about taking the time to make memories and validating my son’s purpose in the moment.

And that, my friends, is priceless.

Be blessed with kindness as you look for ways to shine your light in small and simple ways. For Gae Polisner, Cindy Ashburn, and Andrea Kish, I wish you the happiest of birthdays today!

 

 

Last night as the summer sun swept across the horizon fading from the day, my son begged to go to the playground. “Let’s go, Mommy!” The smile stretched across his six-year-old face as I listed all the local playgrounds we could visit. “Pick whichever one you want and we will go!”

He pondered his options, then chose the last one on the list. It was the farthest from our home, but “has the most awesomest rock wall.” Who could resist that?

When we arrived, the playground was busy, but not mobbed. There were a few parents idling around, several teenagers walking the path, and a handful of children running and playing.

Not a single person here shared our skin color.

He ran towards the rock wall before I could even close my car door. “Take a picture of me, Mommy!” His small feet scampered up to the top and there he stood, so proud of his accomplishment.

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Another boy joined him at the crest and they spent the next hour playing together. There were no formal introductions, no hesitation, just two boys happy to play with each other.

They ran through the jungle gym and slid down the slide, waiting for each other at the bottom to do it all again. Their make-believe banter echoed across the metal monkey bars as they celebrated their mission of evading dangerous crocodiles below. “Follow me!” they chanted as they zig-zagged through the park, their small bodies darting from one end to the other.

I helped the boys into the swings, their small legs too short to touch the ground, then gave them both five pushes (“and one for good luck!”) Then I sat on a bench to watch the boys swing higher and higher in the sky.

 

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As I scanned the playground area, I saw trash scattered across the grass. Keeping an eye on the boys, I walked over and picked up the discarded plates, napkins, and plastic drink pouches, placing them inside the dumpster where they belonged. (Yes, I was struck by the irony of the trash so close to the dumpster with the “Please Don’t Litter” sign attached. My best guess is the trash was in the large box on the dumpster and had blown out from the wind.)

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As night began to fall, we wrapped up our playtime with one last spin on the tire swing. “Mommy! I made a best friend today!” my little guy exclaimed as his giggles rang across the meadow.

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Yes, you did, sweet boy.

Yes, you did.

This is how the world should be.

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo Credit

Two weeks ago, while attending the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in Denver, CO, I had the pleasure of visiting with the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. I discovered this organization in 2014 and applied to be a RAKtivist shortly thereafter. Since that time, I have been inspired by their monthly newsletters and mission to spread kindness around the world.

And now, I can say I have met the ladies behind the label. Bucket list – check!

I emailed a request to visit their office and after a somewhat elaborate walk through the city (my Waze app sent me on a very long path!), I finally arrived just a few blocks from where I started. Thankfully it was a gorgeous summer day and my Fitbit cheered my progress of steps for the day.

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I was greeted by Rachelle Stubby who graciously gave me the tour of their office space, a cozy attic abode atop a historical museum.  I met the other ladies in the office, Kelsey Gryniewicz, Brooke Jones, and Jeana Newsom, and received apologies that the RAK Foundation Director couldn’t meet with me due to a prior engagement.  (With the Dalai Lama. And Lady Gaga. And city mayors and Ann Curry. All part of a panel discussion about kindness. WOW!)

The gals were friendly, kind, and gracious. We chatted about various kindness initiatives and then they presented me with a few surprises! Oh my goodness, such thoughtfulness!

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We then walked a few blocks to a local restaurant where they treated me to a delicious lunch as we chatted and brainstormed ideas for sharing kindness with others. These gals were SO inspiring! I was reminded of southern hospitality; all that was missing was sweet tea and a front porch (we already had the great conversation and cool breeze.)

We talked about extroverts and introverts. Bloggers to follow and books to write. Little Free Libraries and ways to make them work. We pondered the RAK vision and how to get more people involved with random acts of kindness. I was able to share a little about what I do, how I got started, and who was along for the ride. I even gave a shout-out to my school district and the Hanover Education Foundation for funding “A Passion for Kindness” grant that I will implement next year in Lori Cross’ fourth-grade classroom.

It was a solid hour wrapped in joy.

Jeana had to leave a little early for a conference call, but the other gals and I posed for a photo as our time together came to a close. I was humbled that they would make my visit a priority in their day, then had to laugh at my own surprise.

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Rachelle, me, Kelsey, and Brooke

This was their RAK for me.

If you would like more information about the Random Act of Kindness Foundation, you can connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, or their website. They have free lesson plans for K-12 teachers, a collection of quotes and inspirational videos, even a monthly newsletter you can receive. If you want to join me as a RAKtivist that would be great, too!

All it takes is one person to bring more kindness into this world. Do a random act of kindness. Share your story. Inspire others through actions and words. Kindness is contagious!

 

 

 Dear Beautiful Family,

Today as I sank my toes into the warm sand and felt the gentle breeze gracefully sweep across my face, I saw you walking towards the waves. You were unrushed; your steps small and gentle as you stared in wonder at the ocean that stretched for miles ahead.

You were a beautiful family of three, a triangulation of love completely balanced in joy as you watched your son play in the waves. My son played there as well.

Your chair rested to my right, your legs outstretched to capture the tickle of the tide as it approached the shore. Your son’s laughter at the rising surf made me smile as the waves crashed around him; the simplicity of childhood captured in a fleeting moment of bliss.

I watched your family and prayed for you.

Today, in this moment, there were no worries. There were no fears. You reminded me that life doesn’t have to be complicated. We shared this space and reveled in the joy of watching our children play, even as the finite world around us raged with anger and hate.

You brought me hope.

I know when you leave this beach, the crushing realities of raising a child whose skin color is much darker than yours may overshadow this moment. That is why I am writing this letter today.

To remind you that your family is beautiful. To share the joy you brought to my heart today. To show that someone cares for you and your child.

You matter.

Your child matters.

Your family matters.

And in this singular moment of time, I wish I could wrap my arms around you, embracing all that you represent, showcasing to the world how perfect life can be.

No anger.

No hate.

Simply love.

 

Sometimes all you need is a simple surprise to make your day.

Yesterday afternoon was a scorcher. Ninety-degree weather with a heat index well into the 100s. My sister and I planned to get the kiddos together, thinking a late afternoon walk through Maymont Park might be a nice, refreshing change from the day-to-day mom mode of summer.

Nice, yes. Refreshing, no.

The children’s zoo entrance was blocked due to construction, so we had to find another way in. The bears exhibit was closed and empty. We had tantrums. We had tears. We had a streak of angry petulance from one of the six-year-olds when we tried to take a group photo. (My child, not hers.)

We walked and we walked and we walked. There wasn’t much of a breeze, so our sweat clung to our clothes as if we had been caught in a downpour of rain. Some may have questioned why on earth we were still out in all this heat, but we knew what we wanted to see: the beautiful waterfall in the Japanese Gardens.

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Our children climbed the rocks to sit in the tiny pagoda, a family tradition from when my sister and I were young and would come here with our dad. We reveled in the moment, knowing we were passing down our own childhood memories to the next generation.

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Two hours later, we ended our walk where we began, gave our hugs goodbye, then headed home. As I pulled into my driveway, I saw an Amazon box by my front door and was surprised to see my name on the front. I thought perhaps I had received an item in error, or maybe my daughter had ordered something delivered in my name. I carried the box into the house and sat on the floor to see what was inside.

Using scissors, I carefully cut the packing tape across and lifted the edges to discover a speck of red peeking out. That’s when I started to laugh with childlike wonder… it was a hummingbird feeder!

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Attached to the feeder was a small note from my friend, Karen Richardson, who blessed me with this surprise in response to my comment about her blog post this past week. Both she and Donna Donner described the joy of watching hummingbirds from their yard and I stated that I needed a hummingbird feeder, too.

And with that one statement, a random act of kindness was delivered.

JOY!!

What Karen and Donna don’t know is that we did a “deck overhaul” just a few weeks ago. We took down the table, chairs, and umbrella, stained each and every wooden plank, then purchased two lounging chairs, three folding chairs and a small side table to make the deck more like a relaxing “outside office” for me to do my writing this summer.

And now… I can watch the hummingbirds linger as I write, read, and play.

Thank you, Karen, for your gift of friendship and kindness and for reminding me how wonderful it is to be on the receiving end of a simple surprise. You absolutely made my day!

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There are some days where it truly feels futile to write.

Who. Really. Cares. What. I. Have. To. Say.

We are living in a day and age where hyper-connectivity is the norm. We see all things. Hear all things. Breathe all things. In order to truly disconnect from it all, we either have to have an act of God rip apart our house (because we all know we can charge our phones in the car if the electricity goes out) or we need to vacation somewhere deep in the forest where no cell tower would ever be constructed.

Here’s the thing that gets me. I don’t want to live a disconnected life. Sure, it’s a nice change every now and again, and I will be the first to admit that I adore living in my Pollyanna bubble, but to live my entire life disconnected from the world and all it has to offer? No thanks.

This world is a complicated construct of good versus evil. There is also a wide range of in-between. I don’t have all the answers. Shoot, I barely have ANY answers! I’m just an average, suburban, working mom-of-three trying to somehow raise my little kiddos to be good, kind people in a world filled with mixed messages.

Today my social media news feeds were filled with anger. Angst. Abhorrent rebuke. I could feel myself getting sucked into the rancid riptide as people posted their perspectives on the violence across the world.

Terrorists. Politics. Guns and gangs. Black and white.

Their passionate views literally paralyzing my own.

Who really cares what I have to say?

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These are the times when my writing stalls like a deserted wasteland. “Such a simple-minded girl,” echoes the whispered taunts in my brain. Who am I to think that my little random acts of kindness actually matter? That anyone would be inspired to change their actions because of a few paragraphs written about helping a stranger? Who would take time out of their hectic, hyper-connected world to reflect or reply to my stories? Why take the time to be kind to anyone at all? Does any of this really matter?

Oh, the paralysis of a passionate soul.

This morning I was reminded of my purpose as a blogger. In David Geurin’s post, Why Blogging Isn’t What You Think It Is, he illustrates that the size of the audience doesn’t matter, it’s the message that’s received that counts. Who are you writing for?

I am writing for you.

I write to share. I write to connect. I write to inspire, uplift, and at times reflect on my own daily struggles. I write about kindness because there is an indescribable joy in doing something nice for someone else. I write about educational topics because my I love to learn and grow. I even write about writing because that brings joy and sharing our words helps us become better writers in the process.

And today, when the swirling world around me seems to suffocate with negativity, I write to breathe… so you can breathe, too.

I believe the world needs more kindness. I believe the world needs more love. While I may not have all the answers, I do know one thing for sure:

 

The evil in this world will not stop me from doing good.

And it shouldn’t stop you either.

My random acts of kindness may be small, and they may be simple, but they matter. They are a lifeline in a world filled with hate. They keep us afloat when those riptides pull us away from the shore of safety.

And your stories are just as important as mine.

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Thank you, faithful readers, for having the courage to continue your kindness despite the horrifying events that surround us each day. Shine your light bright in all you do! Share your stories. Be the change. Never doubt the impact your kindness can have on someone else.

In the final battle of good versus evil, good always wins.

Always.


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