celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘dinner

Today I wanted to do a Random Act of Kindness for Father’s Day in memory of my Grandpa Tirrell.  Unlike many of my friends who grew up with grandparents right down the road, I have limited memories with my grandpa as he lived several states away in Massachusetts.  My reflections are frozen snapshots in time:  Smiling in a posed picture in front of the car he drove down to visit with us.  Laughing at Thanksgiving, holding a bag that broke as the camera flashed.  Giggling at a joke that only he and I shared.  My visits were few and far between, but I always held Grandpa Tirrell close in my heart.

Me and Grandpa Tirrell (1977)

Me and Grandpa Tirrell (1977)

We always had this long running joke about me being a southern belle and him being a northerner.  We exaggerated the stereotypes every time we were together.  “How’ve y’all been?” I’d ask in an obnoxious drawl.  “Pahtly good, but you guys should visit mah often” he’d reply, his thick Bostonian vernacular overriding my sweet southern style.  He would sign birthday cards, “Love, Granddaddy” because he had this stereotype that everyone in the south called their grandfather by that phrase (even though I always addressed him by the much adored Grandpa title.)

I remember the time he sent me $50 for my birthday when I was ten or eleven… and while the exact year eludes me, I can clearly remember the excitement of seeing my name on a check written for SO much money.  I can also remember the inescapable joy of standing in the Barbie aisle of the local Toys ‘R Us realizing I could buy ANY Barbie set I wanted.  (I ended up buying a Beauty Salon set along with a new Barbie and several clothing outfits for the doll.)

Grandpa Tirrell = joy.  🙂

So today, as I was remembering all the fun qualities I loved about Grandpa Tirrell, I thought how nice it would be if I could buy him dinner as a small sign of appreciation.  Unfortunately, my grandpa passed away in 2005, making such a wish impossible to grant. However… I could pay it forward to someone else in his memory instead!  Yes!  That would be a wonderful way to honor him this Father’s Day!

I thought for a bit about which restaurant I wanted to visit and all of a sudden, I knew EXACTLY where I needed to go.  I am a southerner and we southerners like our home-cooked, southern style food.  What’s the one restaurant that would make Grandpa Tirrell roll his eyes at the pure novelty of all things southern?  Why, Cracker Barrel, of course!

I grabbed one of my business cards and quickly wrote a message on the back, then headed straight for the restaurant.

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As was expected, Cracker Barrel was PACKED with patrons waiting inside and outside.  If you’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel before, you are truly missing out.  The outside is designed like a huge ranch style home complete with rocking chairs and checkerboards (because we know that southerners spend all summer long rocking on their porches, right?)

I noticed today they were offering free tea (another southern stereoptype – that we all drink sweet tea), which was a lovely gesture on such a hot day.  I approached the gal at the entrance, who was taking names to be seated.  “Hi,” I began, smiling my sweet southern smile (which is NOT an exaggeration, lol.) “I would like to do a random act of kindness today in memory of my grandpa. Could I speak to someone who can help me buy someone’s meal?”

Within a few minutes, I was walking the floor with a manger, hand-selecting who I wanted to bless.  “Just walk around with me and scan the restaurant.  When you see a table you like, just tell me and I’ll get their tab from the waitress and let you pay for them.”  Oh my goodness!  What a delight!  I got to actually PICK the people who would receive a free meal!  How exciting!

Well, I didn’t have to look very long.  As soon as I walked into the seating area, my eyes were drawn to a couple to my left, whose finished plates were stacked neatly on the edge of the table, waiting for the waitress to remove.  They were older than me, and seemed to be lost in their thoughts.  They were perfect!

I pointed them out to the manager and she quickly gave me their tab.  It only came to $10.50.  I could almost hear my Grandpa laughing in my ear.  “See?  You call that a dinner for two?  If you were eating a meal up here, it would cost you that much just for two glasses of tonic!”  I gave the manager my business card and asked her to hand it to the couple explaining that their bill was taken care of.

I walked to the register, paid for the couple’s dinner, and tipped the waitress 30% of the bill.  It made me so happy to know they would receive such a sweet surprise on Father’s Day!

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If you are celebrating a holiday missing someone who has passed on, maybe you will think about paying it forward in their memory.  It sure did put a smile on my heart!  Next year I think I’ll do the same thing in memory of my Grandpa Jimmy or maybe my Grandma Payne.  Or… maybe I won’t wait for a holiday at all, but just do it in a totally random way on a totally random day. Who knows what I’ll do?  Guess you’ll just have to check back in to see!

I hope you had a very blessed Father’s Day whether you are a father, child, or significant other.  You are special and I thank you for taking time out of your day to spend a few moments listening to me.  🙂

Last weekend my husband and I were in DC to celebrate our 20th anniversary.  (Yes, we’ve been married quite a long time!)  He chose a restaurant we had never been to before called Lincoln, which happened to be within walking distance of our hotel.  The serving staff was friendly, the food was flavorful and reasonably priced being a downtown restaurant, and we enjoyed the ambiance of the unique decorations.

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This wasn't our seat, but it was across from our table - so unique and fit for Lincoln himself!

This wasn’t our seat, but it was across from our table – so unique and fit for Lincoln himself!

Our drinks were served in mason jars.

Our drinks were served in mason jars.

As we enjoyed our appetizer, we told the waitress we were celebrating our 20th anniversary and had her take a photo of us (after all, we will never be this young again, lol.)  Her name was Milena and she had a richness to her voice that matched her beautifully unique features.  We asked where she was from and she replied “Eastern Europe” with a smile that held secrets we dared not ask.

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Photo May 17, 7 29 13 PM

Our appetizer

They were gracious to serve the salmon from Rich's salad on the side for me to enjoy instead!

They were gracious to serve the salmon from Rich’s salad on the side for me to enjoy instead!


The salmon was especially tasty with the appetizer!

The salmon was especially tasty with the appetizer!

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My entree – soft shelled crab. This restaurant specializes in “seasonal small plates”.

After dinner, we asked to see a dessert menu (something we rarely order, but felt we should since it was our anniversary.)   A few moments later, Milena returned not with a menu, but a slice of chocolate cheesecake with a lit candle in the top.  “For your anniversary.  From us.”  Oh my gosh, what a surprise!  I laughed in my delight!  We were being RAK’d by this new restaurant!

Our RAK surprise!

Our RAK surprise!


As we reveled in this unexpected surprise, the restaurant’s executive chef, Demetrio Zavala, approached our table to congratulate us on our anniversary.  “You need champagne!  A drink to celebrate!  I bring you whatever you want, on me.”  More surprises!  Such fun!  Who in their right mind would turn down free drinks and dessert?

Me with the Executive Chef (and my free glass of champagne!)

Me with the Executive Chef (and my free glass of champagne!)

A thank you card for the free drinks and dessert marked $0.00 on the bill

Me and our waitress, Milena, with my RAK card.

Me and our waitress, Milena, with my RAK card.

If you are in Washington, DC, stop in adn enjoy a meal at Lincoln.  It’s not often in this day and age for a restaurant to provide anything for free (much less gourmet cheesecake and champagne!)… such random acts of kindness show a generous spirit and should be commended!

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Be blessed this holiday weekend – more RAK stories to come!


Last Friday was the official “last day of school” for teachers.  WOW!  Another school year done, time for summer break.  As I was packing up my belongings for the two month hiatus, I thought again of the students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I recently read that their district has plans to demolish the existing school and rebuild another one.

Starting over.  Renewal.  Rebirth.

Focusing back on the present I took one last look in my computer lab, then shut the door quietly and walked down the hall.  There were tearful goodbyes for coworkers who were moving away or moving on to new adventures.  There were smiles and laughter as others shared their plans for the summer.  Keys and paperwork were turned in and… that was it.  The school year was over!

As I got into my car, my purse overturned on the front seat, spilling everything out.  The first thing that caught my eye was a page of coupons for the restaurant, Ruby Tuesday.  Oh my gosh, I had totally forgotten that was in my purse!  When it arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago, I almost threw it away (It’s not close to my home, so I never go there).  Then I realized I could use the coupons to bless others for random acts of kindness!  I put it in my purse with good intentions, but with all the end of school craziness it ended up lost in the muddle until this moment.

I bet you know where this is heading… 🙂

Instead of driving home, I drove to Ruby Tuesdays.  Even the darkening skies couldn’t damper my excitement at bringing a smile to a stranger’s face.


I pulled out the coupons and made dedication cards for each.  I would be able to bless four people today!  Awesome!


I chose to dedicate each of these RAKs to Rachel D’Avino, a behavioral therapist at Sandy Hook.  Surely she would have been excited about the last day of school.  She may have even gone out to lunch with her friends to celebrate the onset of summer break.  I felt it was a perfect way to honor her memory.

I walked into Ruby Tuesday and was met by the greeter.  “How many in your party?”  I had to smile at that question, because it was a party in my heart indeed!  I explained my purpose, that I wasn’t here to eat, but rather to perform random acts of kindness in Rachel’s memory.  The greeter returned my smile and ushered me into the dining area.  “Feel free!”

As I scanned the room half-filled with diners, I decided to start on the right side and just bless each table until I ran out of coupons.  The first table had an older couple eating.  “Hi… My name is Tamara and I am doing random acts of kindness today.  I would like to bless you with a discount on your meal.  This card has my website and can explain more.”  They were surprised at first (as expected), but thanked me for my generosity as I moved on to the next table of diners.

Two ladies were sitting behind them, the waitress checking to see if they needed anything else with their meal.  “Sorry to interrupt,” I began, “But I wanted to bless your day with kindness.  Here is a coupon for your meal today!”  It’s difficult to explain the rush of emotion you receive when you bless a stranger in this way.  There’s always a little bit of apprehension at first (“Are they going to think I’m weird?!), but the appreciation shown by others quickly overrides the worry and replaces it with pure, unfiltered happiness.  It’s truly a win-win experience for me and the stranger!

My third coupon went to a mom and her two children.  She reached out and shook my hand, grasping it firmly between her own.  “Thank you.  Thank you so much.”  The gratefulness in her voice hinted to an untold story of need.  I KNEW the moment she grabbed my hand that this RAK today was no coincidence.  She was absolutely chosen by God for today’s blessing!

My last coupon went to a large group of diners seated in the middle of the room, two tables pushed together to accommodate everyone.  “This isn’t much, but I hope it blesses your day!”  The lady smiled back with appreciation as I quickly exited the restaurant.  My work here was done!

No matter if you are a student, teacher, parent, or professional, I hope the start of summer break brings blessings and joy your way.   And the next time you get a coupon in the mail, maybe you will choose to use it for someone else instead!

Be blessed, dear friends, and thanks for reading!  🙂

One of the favorite parts of my job as an instructional technologist is presenting at conferences. I love sharing my enthusiasm with others! Today I presented a session on Edmodo (a social networking platform for administrators, teachers, and students) at the annual Virginia Society for Technology in Education conference. The session was packed, standing room only, and the hour flew by.


After presenting, I was allowed to return to participant mode. Since this conference is one of the only conferences my teammates and I attend to receive our own professional development, I was excited to learn new things from other educators and technologists. I made it into the next room and got settled just in time for the presentation to begin.

Not even five minutes into the session, I could tell there would be issues. Apparently this particular room was the infamous black hole for wireless Internet and it seemed everyone was having difficulty accessing the resources due to this limitation. Most people handle this setback in stride (even if slightly irritated on the inside), but in this particular session there was one gal whose frustration had reached a boiling point. You could see her from a distance, huffing and puffing, making not-so-quiet comments under her breath… and with each passing minute her anger was rising to a crescendo.

While I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do about the wireless issue, I still felt obligated to do something (anything!). The other participants sitting near her were visibly disturbed by her erratic outbursts and I did not want the actions of this one gal to negatively impact those nearby (or the session presenter!)

There was an empty chair beside the disgruntled lady, so I took it upon myself to sit there and become her very own sounding board. I quietly packed up my belongings and moved to the seat beside her. “Is there anything I can help you with?” I whispered as quietly as I could so as not to disturb those around me. Well, that intro question was all she needed to rant and rave about allllllll the issues in her life. Keeping our voices to a minimum, I listened to her problems, then nodded my head consolingly as she described her frustrations. By the time this session was over, the lady was smiling as she thanked me for listening. She even apologized for being so irritated at the beginning. Realizing I had just sacrificed an entire hour of my own learning time, I just laughed and replied, “We’ve all been there. It’s OK.”

I really think she just wanted to be heard. Because having someone take the time to listen validates your world. 🙂

After the conference, I decided to surprise my best friend (whom I hadn’t seen in 5 months!). I took her out for a quick dinner at a local Chinese restaurant and a Starbucks for dessert, all the while listening to her frustrations of the day. By the end of our visit, she was all smiles, too, as she thanked me for being a friend to listen to her struggles.


It was then that I opened my fortune cookie from the dinner.


Wow! What a fitting fortune! It made me smile knowing that my little acts of kindness today may not have been sweeping grand gestures, but were still important because they came from the heart.

I hope you will find a way to bless someone today, even if it is only to stop and lend a listening ear. We are all in this together, so the more we take time to look after one another, the happier a place it will be!

Be blessed my friends!

How do you let people know you appreciate their kindness? Do you send a card with the sentiments penned inside? Maybe you pick up the phone and call to say, “Thanks so much!” Well, I’ll be honest with you – I’m bad at both. It’s not that I’m unappreciative. Quite the opposite! I just show my thankfulness in different ways.

My favorite way to say “Thank You” is to cook. Yes, cook! Those of you who know me well are probably laughing right now because you either knew me when I was a newlywed who had never cracked an egg, or you’ve seen how far I have come by the pictures of my meals I post on Facebook. In fact, some of you even stop me along my travels to comment about my meals. “How do you find the time?” Well, that’s an easy one to answer. I make time. Cooking is my way of sharing appreciation and love.

My 40th birthday was no exception. My friend, Michele, had opened her home to me so that I might spend a weekend of fun in Las Vegas.  After a whirlwind 30 hours in Vegas, visiting the Strip, sharing brunch with teaching buddies, revisiting my former home and photographing enough memories to last another 12 years, I pulled out the pots and pans and started cooking. “But it’s your BIRTHDAY! Are you SURE you want to spend the night COOKING?”  Michele was in shock.  Who spends their 40th birthday cooking in someone else’s home?  “You don’t have to do this!  It’s your birthday!  We could go out to a restaurant and relax!”   I simply smiled and asked, “Where are your measuring cups?”

So now you know the REAL story of my wild Vegas weekend.  I spent my 40th birthday cooking for my dear friend, Michele and her family to show my appreciation for her kindness.  And you know what?  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you’d like to see my online recipes, click here.  I made Bang-Bang shrimp in the photos above, but I will post Michele’s delicious salad recipe soon!

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