celebrate kindness

Archive for the ‘Kind Words’ Category

This past Friday, I arrived at school to discover the sweetest surprise from my coworker, Krista: a stack of “Be Kind” to-go cups for our Tiny Tech Cafe!


What a sweet addition to our room! Several teachers stopped by throughout the day and enjoyed their coffee and hot chocolate in these very cups.

My day flew by, jam-packed with lessons and video editing. After work I planned to make a quick stop at Kroger before heading home to get ready for A Night to Shine, a Prom Night sponsored by Tim Tebow, celebrating people with special needs. (My sweet neighbor, Ashton, was attending for the first time and I couldn’t wait to surprise her there!)

I grabbed the few items I needed at the grocery store, then headed for the self-checkout line. There was a gal in front of me, doing double-duty as she pushed an oversized grocery cart with one child turning a steering wheel on a bright, plastic car and her other child lying horizontally across her chest, fast asleep.

She went to her register; I went to mine. As I started to scan my Kroger card, I felt that all-too-familiar nudge on my heart. “Turn around and help her.”

Now let me pause the story for a moment and remind you – I was in a bit of a rush. I had several things to do at home to get ready for the prom, I had to drive more than 30 minutes away and every moment more would increase the risk of additional rush-hour traffic. My goal was to be right there on the red carpet to see sweet Ashton make her entrance, but if I was late…

I took a side glance at the woman beside me, trying to awkwardly scan a bottled drink while balancing her sleeping child in her arms, and a flood of memories filled my soul. I remember what it was like to go grocery shopping with more than one little child in tow. I remember the complete exhaustion. I remember the frustration of not being able to complete simple tasks others took for granted. I remember the fear of one misstep causing my overtired, sleeping child to wake and not sleep again for ten hours or more.

It all came back in an instant.

“Here, let me help you with that!” Her eyes met mine, in disbelief, as she smiled back at me. “Are you sure? Wow! That would be great!” I scooted over to her register and started scanning her items one by one as we chatted a bit. I scanned her card and placed the bags in her cart. “Thank you so much!” she exclaimed as she tried to readjust the child in her arms so she could push the shopping cart out of the store. Once again, I felt that nudge.

“If you can hang on a sec, I’ll scan my items and help you take your groceries to the car. You need to let your baby sleep!” Once again she smiled, and it was apparent that she was appreciative of the offer. A few minutes later, we were heading out of the store together, her oldest child “driving” us through the parking lot to her car.

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As she opened her door and transferred her youngest into a car seat, I helped the other one get settled in his seat, then I loaded the groceries in her car. As the trunk door closed shut, we hugged as she thanked me once again for the kindness. “We’re all in this together!” I said as I started to walk towards my car. “You deserve a moment of kindness. Have a great weekend!”

I was so caught up in the random act of kindness, I totally forgot that I was in a rush to get home.

This morning as I was sitting in church, our pastor spoke of the power of being a follower. Two slides resonated with me: “Being sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting” and “A readiness to share the story.”

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See, this whole kindness thing isn’t about me and it isn’t about you. It’s about us. It’s about living your faith out loud so others can see an example of how life should be. It’s having a willingness to follow and do when you hear that whisper on your heart.

You are a part of someone else’s story.

As for that magical prom night? I made it there just in time to see my beautiful neighbor glide down that red carpet, wearing a sparkling tiara that matched the sparkle in her eyes.

We always have time for kindness.

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One sure sign of birthday season is an absence of my blog posts filling your feeds. Every September and October, as I focus on my children and their joyous days-of-birth, I tend to wrap my attention around them, leaving less time to stop, pause, and reflect.

Does this mean that I have stopped showing kindness to others? Oh, goodness, no! But my time has been limited, thus impacting my natural ebb and flow of writing.

Since my last blog post, there have been countless acts of kindness, too many to recount and post. Nothing spectacular, no grandiose expressions of greatness, just me being me and you being you; small acts of love shared here and there.

I received two new book donations to our Tiny Tech Cafe which is so exciting! Our lending library is expanding!

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I was able to pay-it-forward with a few notes to coworkers to lift their spirits and remind them that they matter to me:

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Today when I arrived to work, there was a darling container of hand-picked flowers with a sweet message waiting for me:

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When was the last time you received an anonymous gift that made you smile?

This small ray of sunshine was actually a perfectly-timed gift of compassion. As many of you know, my mom is walking through her journey of Stage 4 small cell lung cancer. There have been ups, downs, and moments where I swear I thought the train was derailed. This was one of those weeks. But these flowers reminded me that all things blossom in their own time and small things matter!

So today, I’m celebrating the small things.

My mom had to get a lung test today as she struggles daily to breathe and her pulmonologist needs to know what’s going on inside. Right now we are taking it day-by-day. To make my mom smile and focus on other things, I promised her a yummy lunch to celebrate her very first lung test.

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We ate at Baker’s Crust and had the most attentive waiter one could hope for. We tasted samples of homemade soup, shared stories of my kiddos, and I even got her synced up with Words With Friends again (so feel free to invite her to a game!)

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Then came the main meal. Oh. My. Goodness! We both agreed her Wine Country salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette was much better than my Caprese Panini.

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On the way back from lunch, we talked again about her visiting my Tiny Tech Cafe. “Maybe we could go next week.”

No.

How can we live in the moment, if we keep putting off today?

Forty-five minutes later, I was popping wheelies with my mom in a wheelchair as we made our way around campus.

(OK, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. You know if I tried to pop a wheelie with mom in a wheelchair we would BOTH end up on the ground!)

Today was a good day. My mom got to sit in the Tiny Tech Cafe!

JOY!

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As much joy as this brought to my soul, what actually made me happiest was hearing my mom’s laughter as she fussed at me for holding on to her wheelchair going down the ramp in our building. “Let go of the chair! I want to feel it roll!”

So I let go and my mom was free.

Her laughter echoed against the walls, her arms outstretched, bracing for impact as the wheelchair gained momentum reaching the bottom of the ramp.

For just one moment, there was no cancer, there were no worries, and everything was right with the world.

Friends, thank you for being such faithful readers. Thank you for allowing me to pour my heart into your life through my stories. Thank you for lifting me up when I can’t find the words, when my writing comes to a standstill, when my thoughts are going in a thousand different directions, but not a single complete thought is shared.

We are sharing this journey of life together and I appreciate being on the road with you.

Until next time! Be kind and #CelebrateEverything!

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

April 29, 2016.

The date on the calendar was blank except for the small printed words to the side: “T & D – Taking care of business”

I picked up my mom and took her out for breakfast, a long-awaited trip to Cracker Barrel. The morning was gloomy and my heart was sad, knowing my brother-in-law’s nephew was being laid to rest just a few hours later. There was a tragic accident the weekend before, an accident that shocked our small community, and the aftermath was, and is, too raw to put into words. While I wanted to be there to support my brother-in-law and his family, I knew it was right to keep my promise with my mom.

Today was an important day.

I arrived at my mom’s house, her breathing heavy and labored, but she was ready to get the day started. The dreary weather matched my mood as the drizzling rain made our hair frizz around our faces.

Correction.

My hair. My face. My mom lost her hair weeks ago.

Again.

We sat at the table and opened our menus, the elephant in the room peering over our shoulders as we placed our orders. Eggs over easy with a side of bacon. Sourdough bread, toasted.

The banter between us was light, the usual chit-chat you might find between a mother and daughter, talk of work and weather and kids. We both knew why we were having breakfast today, and how the day would unfold, but it wasn’t until the coffee arrived that we finally invited that elephant in the room to sit down and join our conversation.

Today was the day we planned my mother’s funeral.

We jokingly called it our “Girl’s Day Out,” knowing of course that it broke all the rules of conventionality. I asked her questions – lots of questions – and made notes on my iPad as we talked about details, decisions, and death.

We talked about services. We talked about songs. We spent a long time discussing hospice. We lamented about the exorbitant cost of funerals, then pondered the necessity for so many rituals. We discovered a need for an updated will.

We were making plans, much like a mother and daughter planning a wedding, but roles were now reversed. I was the mother. She was my child. I wanted to make sure her wishes were granted.

In the midst of our breakfast with the dishes cleared and coffee refilled we talked about flowers and photos. “I don’t need much,” she said, “Let’s keep it simple.”

We shifted gears and shopped for a bit and she found a blouse she liked. “If you like it, it’s yours!” I exclaimed, her Mother’s Day gifts bought without hesitation.  

We found a photo frame to memorialize her husky, Ivan, who suddenly passed away the week before after 10 years in her care. The circle of life never stops, whether pet or parent or child. It’s important to remember those things that bring us joy.

As we window shopped for this and that, we found humor in silly things. The baby boy frog shoes we would have bought in an instant, if my baby boy wasn’t almost seven.  The sparkled shoes, the overpriced scarves, even the pajamas with sailboats gave us a giggle. She glanced at the chocolate bars by the register and I had her choose her favorite to add to the pile. “Never say no to chocolate,” I reminded, “You only live once.”

Indeed.

We took selfies at storefronts and shared stories from our past. We chose objects that would have special meaning once she is gone.


Were tears shed today as we planned for the future that would not include her vibrance? Of course. But today was a day filled with making memories and the laughter overcame the sorrow.
Whether you are healthy or sick, feeble or strong, I encourage you to take time for your loved ones. Open the door to those difficult conversations. Make plans for today and tomorrow, even if you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Allow yourself to be happy. Find joy in the mundane. Remind someone that they are loved and show them with actions and words. Take pictures and be silly, even if you know people are staring at you like you’re a fool.

Be you. Be free. Make memories. These are the days you will always remember, and the laughter will rise like the sun, warming your heart for years to come.

 

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Today wraps up our last day of Jeff Goins’ 7-Day Blogging Challenge. He deemed today a day of rest (very appropriate for a Sunday!) and shared his analogy of training for a marathon: while the entire race is long, the occasional sprints build endurance and make you stronger.

Endurance.

Strength.

Yes, this pretty much summarizes my week.

Like many writers, this is not my full-time job. I’m an instructional technologist working in a public school system, providing professional development for teachers who want to integrate technology in their lessons. Much of my day is spent either in the classroom teaching students or preparing resources and training materials to support the needs of teachers and district administrators. I do my fair share of technology troubleshooting as well.

When the final bell of the school day rings, my job is still not complete. I offer training sessions after school and attend various meetings. Sometimes I tutor students or participate in webinars to enhance my own professional growth. Several nights a week I bring work home, waiting for my three children to go to bed so I can continue the unfinished work of the day.

Finding time to write is an ongoing quandary in my world.

Now let’s throw in a 7-Day Blogging Challenge to the mix. It’s one thing to carve out time to write. It’s quite another to write and learn.

The Fitbit on my arm reminds me that I haven’t met my step goal for four days in a row. My sleep goal has diminished by two hours as my writing now takes me from PM to AM most nights. I’m a night owl by nature, but at some point sleep does become a necessity. My laundry is still piled up on the floor and my vacuum remains in the closet, untouched. I’m sure those close to me are questioning, “Why does she DO this to herself?”

I did it because I needed to grow.

See, that’s the beauty of a 7-Day Blogging Challenge. It’s a choice. I wanted to learn new things. I wanted to become better at my craft of writing. I wanted to know what I didn’t know and figure out how to move from static to dynamic. I prayed for a push and received an invitation instead.

This is what I learned in the process:

1. It’s OK to not know what you are doing.

When I began this blogging challenge, I had no idea what the journey would entail. I didn’t receive a syllabus, nor an agenda for weekly assignments. Each day began with a new post from Jeff with a task to complete, most often on a platform I never knew existed. I was constantly faced with my lack of knowledge in marketing, advertising and social media management and often felt incompetent, even in the area of technology which I use every day! Learning something new, no matter the content, humbles you quickly.

2. Pressure + Persistence = Success

HTML codes. Widgets. Plug-ins. Pixels. No matter how many times I tried to follow the directions shown on my screen, I was met with a product that didn’t match my vision. Again. And again. And again. And then it worked. The pop-up appeared, I could close it out, and all was well with the world. (In my mind, the heavens parted and I could hear a choir of angels singing the Hallelujah chorus in perfect harmony.) No one watched me struggle. No one witnessed my frustration. I could have easily given up and no one would be the wiser, especially with the pressure of a daily deadline. But I persisted and, in the end, was met with success.

3. Everyone has a purpose for their writing.

With almost 3,000 people participating in this challenge, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.  As each person posted links to their blog posts, manifestos, giveaways, and more, I found myself caught in the comparison game, my inadequacies as a professional writer glaring back at me with each paragraph I read. Then something amazing happened. About mid-week I stopped comparing my writing with others and started seeking out the writer’s purpose. Why was the writer sharing this story? What lessons were to be learned? How does this writing appeal to me as a reader? What could this writing teach me? It helped redefine my purpose for writing and move past the fear to write and share more.

4. Random acts of kindness are everywhere.

You wouldn’t expect a virtual blogging group to bring out the good in others, but that’s exactly what happened. Jeff’s Day 2 Challenge encouraged us to share something as a lead magnet; Day 5 was to give away something for free. Day 6 was to ask for kindness from someone else in sharing our writing with others. Bloggers I had never met were taking time to read my writing, offer suggestions, share ideas, even troubleshoot my questions. Their kindness encouraged me to keep writing and inspired me to think creatively about blessing others in this realm of writing. The greatest random acts of kindness shared this week were from Jeff Goins himself.  He willingly organized this challenge, shared insights from lessons learned, and encouraged us along the way. From live video broadcasts with back-channeled questions (nice hair and nice grill!) to scheduled check-ins to gauge our comfort level, he made this journey of learning not only productive, but enjoyable.

I am thankful for the opportunity I’ve had this week to sprint as fast as I could to the finish. Now is the time to catch my breath, retie my laces, and start again.

Writing really is like a marathon and I’m in it for the long haul. Runner, spectator, or cheerleader, we each have a purpose for the journey. Won’t you join me in the race?

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This week while in the checkout line of Target, I found myself standing beside a woman who was very pregnant. She was wearing a comfy-cute outfit, leggings and boots, and I couldn’t resist complimenting her in the moment.

“Excuse me, but I just wanted you to know that you look amazing. I know you may not feel like it, but you do. Congratulations!”

Her face lit up with a smile as she acknowledged my compliment. “That was really nice of you to say! Thank you!” She then chuckled as she added, “Two more weeks to go!”

I smiled even more as I nodded with understanding. “Such an exciting time!” I added as I started to walk away, my items paid for and bagged.

Even though I am no longer in the stage of birthing babies, I clearly remember the emotions of having your body completely changed from within (and having absolutely NO control over how that happened!) It really is an amazing process, but one that also makes you feel very self-conscious about your appearance, especially near the end. When you can’t see your feet and you feel yourself waddling like a penguin, it’s near impossible to feel attractive at the same time.

I remember those feelings.

And yet… here I was standing beside a Mommy-To-Be and all I saw was her beauty.

My cousin, who is also counting down the days to parenthood, posted a photo of herself on Instagram. I couldn’t resist complimenting her, too!


Every compliment counts, whether told face-to-face, written in a note, or typed on a mobile device. It’s always lovely to bring a smile to someone else’s face. 🙂

May your day be filled with kindness for others!

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.

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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.

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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.

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It could have been so much worse.

It was so much worse.

The next few days would reveal the destruction across the state.

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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.

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As Thursday came and the weekend approached, I noticed other people offering up their kindness in the midst of such unspeakable tragedy:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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! 🙂

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Later today, I had another friend, Kitty Tripp, tag me in her post about a random act of kindness she completed for a stranger:

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So awesome!

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!

 

Love Letters to Ketchikan header

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:

Love.

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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.

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I wrote two letters, my ultra-fine Sharpie capturing my sentiments with indelible ink. Thoughts of kindness. Hope. Joy. But most importantly, love.

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For you,

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.”

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“For you,

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.IMG_2705

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.

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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.

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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.

Immensely.

Be blessed, my dear friends, and share this story with someone who may also need to feel a little love today!

 

 

If you haven’t gotten your milk and bread yet, you are running out of time. With an enormous snowstorm barreling across the East Cost today and tomorrow, a State of Emergency already in place, you can rest assured there will be lots to talk about in the coming days.

Bread. Milk. Water. Check.

My social media feeds have been filled with reminders all week:

“Bring in your pets!”

“Stock up on supplies!”

“Make sure you have plenty of water if the power goes out!”

What about those who never had power to begin with?

For the past month I’ve been purchasing basic supplies in preparation for the storm. But unlike many, my supplies are not for me, but for strangers who might need them. Several friends noticed and made donations of their own and together we were able to assemble eight fully-stocked blessing bags for the homeless.

My friend, Cindy, came over this week and we sorted all the items, making sure to equally divide what we had collected into separate bags. My cousin Michele had bought thick, warm gloves and hats to go with the blankets Stacie and Suzi donated. I added spoons to the peanut butter Cindy bought (perfect for scooping out and spreading across the crackers.) Even my son got inspired, donating his own school bag and offering to help us organize. It was exciting to think that eight people would receive our surprise of blankets, hats, gloves, water, peanut butter, crackers, hand warmers and more.

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I decided to add playing cards to help them pass away the boredom (thanks Deb for the idea!) and some conversation hearts to make them smile. I even threw in a few dollars and some mints that a coworker had left in my RAK jar at school (thanks Krista!)

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I also added a hand written note to each bag. Everyone needs a reminder they are loved.

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After packing up the bags on Monday, Cindy and I hit the streets on Wednesday to give away our surprises.

We drove towards the city, our eyes looking for people sitting on the streets or anyone looking cold or hungry. The first gentleman who caught our eye was sitting on a plastic crate near an intersection. He carried a sign describing his plight, upper-case letters scrawled across to catch our attention. Even though he was wearing a coat, hat, and gloves, something nudged us to roll down our window and hand him a bag.

So we did.

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I don’t know this man and I don’t know his story. And sadly, since I was now approaching a green light at the intersection, I didn’t have time to say much more than “Stay warm for the storm. God bless.”

We drove on.

When was the last time you drove into a city and really saw how the surroundings changed before your eyes? Large two-story homes surrounded by manicured lawns gave way to ramshackle row houses with tiny front porches of rotting wood. Windows with bars. Alleys. Sidewalk cracks. Graffiti. Welcome to the city.

Homeless people often gather in Monroe Park, so we decided to head there. We parked and put all our bags in a cart, pulling across the sidewalks looking for anyone who we could bless with basic necessities.

We walked. And walked. And walked.

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Unbelievably, we didn’t see a single homeless person in the park.

Maybe it was the police car cruising nearby that forced them away. Maybe it was the throngs of college kids leaving their classes at VCU that kept them hidden from sight. Perhaps, just perhaps, they had found somewhere warm to stay in this bitter cold.

Perhaps.

We walked towards Broad Street, still searching for someone to bless. Cindy and I chatted about the irony of always seeing homeless people down this way, but not on a day when we have something to give. That’s when it stuck me – every day I have something to give, even if it’s just a smile of kindness.

I made a silent promise to do better.

At some point Cindy and I realized our attempts were futile. We had to change our game plan. Our faces and ears were already numb from the cold and we needed to head back to our car before the sky shifted to darkness. We decided to leave the bags in places that might be discovered by someone who needed it. Did it really matter who received our kindness? Maybe it wasn’t really up to us to choose the recipient. Maybe our purpose was simply to pack the bags and go.

I had my notepad of RAK cards and safety pins with us, so we attached one to each bag. In this day and age you can’t just leave a closed bag on a sidewalk without everything thinking you are a terrorist. I wanted a passerby to know that our package was safe. No terrorist leaves their website URL and Twitter handle on their packages.

We sprinkled the city with kindness as we walked back to our car.

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Even though our mission didn’t go as planned, we still enjoyed our RAKs, knowing someone out there would be blessed with kindness. When the last bag was placed, we took a quick selfie then made our way back to our car to head home, a little more thankful for all that we have.

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As I left the city and drove down the winding paths of my hometown, I had to laugh when I saw this church sign. As if I need confirmation that today was, indeed, a planned event.

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I really do enjoy God’s little whispers on my heart. 🙂

A special thanks to the following people who also followed the whisper on their hearts to donate to this special RAK. We will do this again, so if you would like to donate to the cause, please let me know!

Stacie Taylor – blankets

Suzi Tapper – blankets

Lori Cross – bags

Amie Boothe – bags

Emily Cleaton – bags

Daniel Letter – bag

Krista Miller – mints

Michele Payne – hats and gloves

Cindy Ashburn – peanut butter, crackers, Oreos and hand warmers

For those interested in making their own blessing bags, here’s a list of additional items we added: spoons, water, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, soap, candy, playing cards, money, and handwritten notes. Next time I hope to add socks, tissues, and small wet wipes.

Be blessed, my friends, and stay safe in the storm!

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