celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘books

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!

 

 

This was our first official week of school and our first day on campus was filled with Cardinal love! It was such a joy to stand on the sidewalk, meeting and greeting new and returning students as they piled off the school buses, with bright smiles and eager faces.

The school mascot of Mechanicsville Elementary is a cardinal, and one of our parents, Jason Whitlock, transformed himself as the grand cardinal himself, on the sidewalk to welcome everyone back on the first day. What fun!

After the kids made their way to their classrooms, I had to sneak in and get a photo with our cardinal… because he made an amazing contribution to our Tiny Tech Cafe!
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Last week, Jason’s wife, Grace, stopped me at Open House and said she wanted to bless our campaign by purchasing the bookshelf I wanted. What joy! Then, over the holiday weekend, she send me a photo as she was buying it with a note that Jason would put it together and deliver it on the first day of school. Oh my goodness – how amazing is THAT?!

The week before I had discovered a little book consignment store beside Big Lots. It caught my eye with the over-sized crate on the sidewalk and a sign saying “Free Books.” What a lovely random act of kindness! I went inside and perused a bit and found a few books I could add to the Tiny Tech Cafe. Now that we were getting a bookshelf, I could really start creating a lending library of educational books for teachers!

Sure enough, Tuesday rolled around and there was Jason, a grown man in a cardinal suit carrying a bookshelf taller than me. He brought it to the Tiny Tech Cafe and helped move it in place. I couldn’t wait to fill it up!

 

This REALLY got me excited because it was starting to look more and more like a cozy cafe!

As several of you know, Tuesday would have been my mother-in-law’s 69th birthday (she passed away in March of this year.) I created a little memorial area in her memory, dedicating our Tiny Tech Cafe to her. She was an MES parent almost four decades ago and in my early years as a classroom teacher she lovingly sewed fabric to make curtains, tablecloths and room dividers for my classroom. I know if she were still here with us, she would be jumping in to make our Tiny Tech Cafe a place of warmth and love.

The ceramic cardinal on top of the computer was painted by my husband’s grandmother, Vera Rapp, who at 93 years old still amazes us with her talent! Even though she lives in New York, I love that she can share in the joy of our Tiny Tech Cafe, too!

There’s a saying that when you see a cardinal, it’s a reminder of a loved one who passed away. We have lots of cardinal reminders at Mechanicsville Elementary (and in the state of Virginia, as the cardinal is our state bird.) It’s nice to know we have a cardinal watching over us in the Tiny Tech Cafe as well.

Thanks, Jason and Grace, for making my first day back with students an exceptional day!

More joy to come! Check back soon!

 

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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. 🙂

Wow – what an exciting year I’ve had, and it’s only the 9th day thus far! Today I completed another random act of kindness in celebration of a Twitter milestone – 2,000 followers! That number is simply incredible. To think that every time I post something, there are 2,000 different people receiving my words, my thoughts, my insights… wow, indeed!

My 2K follower was @mrwheeler, a high school language arts teacher from Ohio. Thanks for the follow!

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I wanted to do a RAK that aligned with his interests, so I decided to do something with books since he was an English teacher.  As a pure coincidence (or would you say divine intervention?), my co-worker Jen donated a Barnes and Nobles gift card for me to pay-it-forward in whatever RAK I chose. Perfect timing!

So after work today, I wrote a quick note and drove to the nearest store to leave my RAK surprise.

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I found a stack of books near the front of the store and left the gift card there.

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It was so much fun to peek at the shoppers leisurely gazing at book titles around me. Which one would see my gift card? Who would actually pick it up and use it? Sometimes half the joy of doing a random act of kindness is in the wonderment of who will be the recipient.  Will it be someone shopping for a gift? A bookworm like me, who will read all sorts of books? Or maybe someone who wishes they had enough money for a hardback book, but had resigned themselves to only being able to afford a soft cover. One can only imagine.

I hope whoever received this RAK was blessed with a smile, because it definitely made my day to give it away!

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Mr. Wheeler, I hope your day was blessed as well, and I thank you… along with the other 1,999 of my followers, who engage with me on Twitter and allow me the privilege of sharing my life journey. I treasure each and everyone one of you!

Be blessed!

The end of my work week was filled with simple surprises, as small acts of kindness were shown left and right. My Thursday started with a shriek of shocked glee, as I saw this beside my box:

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For those family and friends who are connected to me on FB, you may remember me commenting about my slight disappointment in not receiving an “I Voted” sticker on Election Day. Well, someone RAK’d me with a sticker all my own! I laughed so hard, I just had to have someone take a picture to document my joy in such a sweet surprise:

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Later in the day, I decided to pay it forward with a suggestion I saw on Twitter by @RippleKindness:

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I wrote positive notes on post-it notes, then hid them inside books in our school library:

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None of these RAKs cost money, just simple surprises to make someone else smile. What can you do today to bring a smile to someone’s face? Be inspired! The small things do make a difference!

Ever had a day where the weather was so beautiful, so perfect, you wanted to just freeze time forever? We’ve had several days like that around here recently. This past weekend I couldn’t wait to visit one of my favorite places, Maymont Park. Nothing relaxes me more than taking a stroll through that park. Hundreds of acres of rolling hills, farm animals, trails and more. They even have bears and a waterfall nestled on the grounds!

I decided to do another random act of kindness by gathering some activity books and pencils I had been saving from a Target clearance sale a few months ago. I thought again of those precious lives lost at Sandy Hook and one little face popped into my mind. Emilie. A sweet blond headed cherub who shared the same name as my sister, although spelled a different way. I remembered reading about her, how she loved anything to do with art, especially making handmade cards. That, of course, made me think of my own daughter who started her own card making business at the age of 13. Without a moment’s hesitation, I knew today’s RAK would be dedicated to Emilie.

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We gathered our things to have a picnic at the park then headed towards Maymont. Traffic was light, the breeze was blowing… I could not have asked for a more beautiful day. Upon our arrival, we found a nice, shady spot to set up our picnic lunch, near the iron statues of children playing on a wooden log.

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It was a busy day in the park with many families enjoying the gorgeous weather. As I made my way towards the statue, I knew it would be a perfect place to leave my bucket of activity books as children were always climbing and playing in that spot.

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As I made my way back to our picnic, a woman called out to me from across the grass. “Are those books free? The ones you just left right there?” I was already grinning. “Yep! Help yourself! Enjoy!” Immediately two little children came running past me, activity books already in hand. “Look what I found! And it came with a sharpened pencil, too!” (See – those little details DO make a difference!)

All of a sudden it was if a magnet was placed on the side of that statue. Children, parents, even a few grandparents made their way to see what all the fuss was about. We simply sat on our blanket and watched with glee, imagining how Emilie would feel to know her RAK brought so much joy to others. I broke my trance for a moment and captured a photo of a dad flipping through one of the books with his son (see below). Simply precious!

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Then, as our picnic was winding down with full bellies and happy hearts, I saw a family of three approaching our blanket. Lo and behold, it was my sister, Emily! I couldn’t believe it! I had no idea she would be at Maymont that day and she was just as surprised to see me. But I treasured the surprise (a.k.a. divine intervention and perfect timing) and spent the next few hours soaking up the rays of sisterhood as we walked the park together with our families.

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(Our “babies” are 8 days apart in age. They were so sweet walking through Maymont hand in hand!)

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With the acts of terror, violence, and despair we have experienced in only four days since our picnic (Boston marathon bombing, ricin laced letters to government officials, explosion at the Texas plant, even a scrawled hate message on a high school bathroom door in a neighboring school district), it makes me once again dig deeper to share peace and joy. I know my simple acts of kindness may not change the landscape of hatred that fights to cover our nation and our world, but I still believe with all my heart that even one random act of kindness can change a life forever. Who am I to decide which life is changed? I simply act on the whispers of my heart.

This act of kindness is dedicated to Emilie Parker, age 6. May her family find comfort in knowing her legacy lives on in others.


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The cards I made as random acts of kindness to bless others through iServe #iservecsbc #rak
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