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Archive for the ‘Renee RAK’ Category

There have been so many RAKs this week, I thought I would just post them all in one place! Here’s a RAK Roundup overflowing with thankfulness!

Surprise Gifts

Last week a package arrived at my doorstep from my sweet friend, Sarah Armentrout, who lives 2 hours away. This was such a surprise! What on earth could she have sent me?  

I savored the moment of opening the box, even waiting a few days to enjoy the anticipation of revealing something unknown. Oh, the delight when I saw what she gave me – a beautiful Macintosh Apple scented candle! 

In the enclosed note (shaped like two apples), she referenced a conversation we shared where I had discussed a recent apple picking trip that, alas, had no apples to pick. What a lovely, thoughtful gesture to brighten my day – now I can enjoy the scent of apples in my home leading all the way up to the holiday season! Joy!

Her gift was also a great reminder of the power in listening and acting on the whisper of your heart.

Secret Santa Scam

How many of you got “scammed” by the recent posts on Facebook asking you to send a gift of $10 or less to a stranger, then get 6 of your friends to do the same and you would receive 36 gifts in return? Anyone?

A friend of mine posted this offer and I took it for exactly what it was – a gamble of  kindness. I could either win big or end up $10 in the hole. Was it worth the risk?

I decided to join in. After all, you’re talking to the gal who finds SO MUCH JOY in giving to others – in my mind, there was no risk at all! I received the name of the person I was asked to bless, and a few details about her. The main thing she mentioned was that she loved gift cards and her favorite color was purple.

Purple. The color of orchids, lilacs and lavender. The color of my grandmother’s birthstone and my daughter’s class ring. The color of Renee’s casket.

I purchased a beautiful purple scarf with a little bit of sparkle, in memory of Renee and my grandma. I also bought a Panera gift card, thinking of my daughter’s smile when we have our girl-time lunch dates. Then I wrapped the items in sparkle tissue paper and took the package to mail at the post office.

Will I receive 36 gifts in return? Highly doubtful. I would be shocked to receive even three! But you know what? Here’s the deal: I didn’t join this Secret Santa exchange to get a bunch of stuff for free. I did it as a way to bless someone I didn’t know with the joy of a surprise.

And if you know anything about me at all, you know how much I love surprises! 😊

New Markers

Ask any elementary teacher if they need classroom supplies and you will always hear a resounding, “YES!” Whether it’s post-it notes or glue sticks, teachers are always needing more.

This week, I was collaborating with a fourth grade class when my Expo marker ran dry, right as I was listing the key components of a digital creation assignment. Without hesitation, the classroom teacher left the lab and returned with a metal pail filled with Expo markers. “Here! Have them!” she replied as she put the container on my desk. Wow! What a perfectly timed random act of kindness! Thanks so much, Krista Miller, for blessing our computer lab with new markers!

Hit and Hug

On Thursday night, my daughter and I went to see the latest Hunger Games movie, which has become a tradition for the past 4 years. The movie was great, even though my daughter refused to smile for a picture. 

As we began our journey home, we were suddenly rear-ended in a single line of traffic. Oh my goodness! Visibly shaken, my daughter and I pulled over and called 911 to assist.

The man who hit us was very apologetic, checking to make sure we were OK. While waiting for the police to arrive and assess the damage, we chatted a bit and both were thankful the accident wasn’t worse. “Would it be OK if I gave you a hug?” he asked. It was a very sweet gesture in the midst of a not-so-pleasant car accident, and I was grateful for his kindness.

When the officer arrived on the scene, he was also kind and compassionate, even letting me borrow his pen to fill out the paperwork. He called a tow truck for the man, whose vehicle was too damaged to drive.

While no one ever wants to be involved in an accident, a hit-and-hug was much more enjoyable than a hit-and-run!

50 Circles of Happiness

Friday morning our boss arrived to our team meeting with a box of Dunkin’ Donuts doughnut holes.  With a smile on her face she announced, “Fifty Circles of Happiness! Take some and pass around the table!”

Have I mentioned lately how much I admire my boss? She is always going out of her way to show kindness to our team, and today’s gesture of thoughtfulness was just what we needed to start our meeting with smiles and laughter.


As I reflect on this past week with its highs and lows, I am blessed beyond measure that my path is sprinkled with kind people and warm hearts. While I can’t change the horror and violent destruction others experience daily (and I have no solution for the “big issues” of poverty and refugees), I can always take a moment to appreciate the good in this world and share how others have a positive impact on me.

And for that alone, I am thankful. 😊

To honor the memory of Renee Parr, her family asked those that loved her to complete 14 random acts of kindness as we approach the one year anniversary of her passing, July 14, 2014.

Last Saturday, my two older children came with me to The Dollar Tree as we picked up some last minute glow sticks for our 4th of July festivities. As we paid for our purchases, I saw my son go to the candy machines and check to see what was inside. In an instant, I felt that nudge and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do to honor Renee’s memory:

I wanted to share in the joy of surprises for children.

I dug around in my purse for all the quarters I could find – only two, but better than nothing. I opened my wallet to count my cash and there found disappointment as well – two single dollar bills folded behind my license. One more search in my purse resulted in a third dollar bill, crumpled and disheveled, the edges ripped and worn.

Two quarters and three dollar bills.

I asked the sales clerk if she could change my bills into quarters and she refused, saying she didn’t have any quarters in her tray. In desperation, I located the store manager and explained the RAK I wanted to do, its purpose to honor the memory of Renee. She used her master key to open two additional registers and finally we were able to complete the transation.

Two quarters and three dollar bills, now 14 quarters to give away.

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It didn’t take the children long to fill all the candy machines. Some required two quarters; some only one. They finished their task with two quarters left and had to decide which “big machine” would receive the money.

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Renee was always a princess, to her family and her friends, so it was only fitting that the remaining coins went to the Frozen Disney Princesses Tattoos.

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We took a moment, my children and I, and said a silent prayer for Renee’s family and those sweet children who would receive the joy of a Renee RAK. She will always be in our hearts, forever.

If you would like to share your Renee RAK, click here to add your information. If you would like to see some of the other random acts of kindness completed in memory of Renee, click here.


As I sit in my kitchen, looking out the window at yet another snow covered morning, I am reminded that even on the coldest, dreariest of days I have a choice in my mindset. Even Eeyore, the beloved, pessimistic sidekick of Winnie-the-Pooh, could reach down deep and find something good in the muck and mire.

It’s all about perspective.

I love the impact of words. Words people say; words people write. With just a few letters pushed together, one has the ability to change perspectives. Inspire. Empower. Simply amazing.

The past two months I’ve been reading a multitude of books, articles, and research journals focused on how young children learn. As I put the finishing touches on my keynote presentation for tomorrow’s early childhood conference, I’m reminded of the wonderful authors who have invited me into their world of words. From the silly stanzas of Shel Silverstein to the social struggles of Judy Blume, my childhood was filled with words.  I can still remember the moment as a teenager when I finished reading my first “adult book”, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. It was the longest book I had ever read (368 pages) and there was a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as I turned that final page to close the book.

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I have been blessed over the years to receive books from friends as gifts and to have the luxury of purchasing my own. Even in this digital age where it’s easier (and cheaper!) to download an e-book to read on your device, there is something powerful about holding a paper-bound book in your hands.

To have a book signed by the actual author, with a personal message inscribed inside, creates a connection that continues long after the book is done. One of the first autographed books I received was written by the assistant superintendent of my district who invited me to detail one of my teaching units to be included in her manuscript. Talk about a thrill indeed!

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This past year, I was delighted to receive two autographed books, generously donated to me by kindred spirits who believe in the power of doing good in this world. Oh, the delight in receiving an unexpected package in the mail, with something new to read!

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I wanted to pay-it-forward, to share this joy of words with others, so I decided to do a little “Book Buddy” RAK of my own. My friend, Jen, had donated several children’s books to me a while back and they had been sitting in my closet just waiting for a new home. I packaged the books in a blue, plastic tote, put them in my car, and started to drive.

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My drive was short; only about 15 minutes away, but in a location I rarely visit. From a quick view driving by you might miss it, a tiny daycare center sandwiched in a small retail space beside a tattoo parlor.

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The lights were dim and the door locked; I almost turned away thinking the child care center was closed.  As I peered through the dark windows, I saw the faint outline of someone walking towards the door. I could hear a key jostling the metal lock as the heavy door creaked open.

“Can I help you?”

I was greeted with a warm, but guarded smile, as a woman’s face appeared out of the shadows. I introduced myself and handed her the bucket of books. “I know the power of books, and I wanted to bless the children in your center with some free books to read. You can pass them along to your teachers to use in their classes or let the kids take them home! Whatever you like!”

Her smile widened as she turned to the side, allowing me a small glimpse of the many children playing with blocks and cars on the floor. “What a sure nice thing for you to do!” she replied as she accepted the books into her arms. She turned her head to several young women in the background, and explained why I was there. “She’s gonna give us some books for the kids! That’s just nice!”

I told her a little about Renee, the first grade teacher at my school who passed away, and sprinkled a little bit of her sparkle along the way. Our exchange lasted less than two minutes; I smiled all the way back to my car. As I drove home, I kept thinking about those children, who might be receiving a book of their own for the very first time. WOW. Talk about the power of a gift!

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The next time you are cleaning out your children’s bookshelves, or happen to see some books at a yard sale, you might consider paying-it-forward to bless someone else. A “new to me” book can be just as treasured as one with an autograph inside! Embrace the power of words and make someone smile today. 🙂

This year I plan to do 30 random acts of kindness in memory of our sweet Renee Parr, a first grade teacher at my school who unexpectedly passed away last summer at the age of 30.  She was known for her contagious laughter and smile, her sparkling personality, and her love of all things fun.

I don’t really have a set plan of which RAKs I want to complete, or even a timeline (other than doing them this year). I’m just going to wait on that nudge and know, in that moment, that it’s a Renee RAK.

Over the Christmas holiday, I had that first nudge as my family and I were visiting the Jelly Belly factory in Wisconsin. There were lots of smiling children and the whole place seemed somewhat magical with candy all about. You can read about that RAK here.

The next day, I went on a shopping date with my daughter (a perfect way to pass the time with a teenage girl!) As we strolled in and out of clothing shops, it seemed like I was constantly finding clothes that had fallen off their hangers. By the third store, I was almost starting to think I was on Candid Camera!  Each time I saw something on the floor, I stopped and picked it up, then searched for its hanger so I could return it to the rack, nice and neat. It wasn’t a huge RAK, one might even debate that it “doesn’t count”, but it was one less task a sales associate had to complete at the end of a long day.

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Then my daughter and I went into a store filled with sparkles. Oh, now THIS was our kind of store!  We looked at all the shimmering jewelry and scarves and admired the merchandising done by color groups throughout the store.  I took a picture of my daughter, just to relish in the moment:

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That’s when it hit me.

Renee loved sparkles. Glitter. Fancy things. And the color purple. All of which were surrounding my daughter on our special shopping day.

“Look up! I want this in MY room,” my daughter exclaimed with admiration. It was the largest, most glittery chandelier I had ever seen in a retail store. All glitz and glamour.

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“Look at this!” I turned to see my daughter modeling a tiara and felt my eyes fill with tears. Renee!

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Oh yes, this day of RAKs was meant for Renee for sure.  I kept the RAKs coming, allowing someone to go ahead of me in the dressing room and in the checkout line. I also left a few dollars in an accessories bin (but forgot to take a photo.)

It was fun spending time with my daughter shopping and it was fun to spend time with Renee in my mind. I’m excited to see what other RAKs lead me to think of her throughout the year.

Be blessed with kindness as you go about your week! For those of you tagging me in your RAK stories on Facebook and Twitter, keep ’em coming! Your stories inspire me, too!

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