celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘Disney

As many of you know, our big vacation last summer was taking an Alaskan Disney Cruise. One of the awesome things about taking a Disney Cruise is this secret RAK experience called “fish extenders”, which I blogged about here. While that blog post gave an overview of the fish extender process and showcased the fish extender I made, I never told you what happened next!

Since I was late in joining the Fish Extender Facebook group, I was put on a list of “Pixie Dusters”, which meant our family would receive random gifts that others had as extras (we were too late for the official gift-swapping exchange.) I, however, had a secret plan of my own. I decided to RAK fish extender gifts to every person/family that “liked” my Pixie Duster post on the page.  We ended up with list of 10 families – 41 people in all.

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Did I mention that we less than 72 hours before our plane would depart?

We. Got. Busy.

My two boys found pictures of Disney characters online and started recreating them out of Perler beads. My daughter grabbed her paint brushes and started decorating picture frames. I headed to the store to see what small gifts and Disney-themed trinkets I could find. We spent the next three days making, organizing, printing, and gluing so we would be ready to give our gifts away.

We prepared memory-making gifts for elderly grandparents and baby-safe gifts for tiny infants. We bought sparkle nail polish for the teenage girls and painted Mickey Mouse ears on the side for fun. We had beads. We had stickers. We had journals, pens, and more.

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Once everything was spread out and sorted, we packaged the gifts in family bags with a personalized note attached.

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We even packed a huge bag of truffles to bless the Disney Cruise workers who would make our vacation so special.

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The next blog post will share all the fun we had blessing others – check back soon and feel free to share!

 

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About a month ago, I blogged about the start of our family vacation. Since that time, my list of “must write” blog posts has expanded from a couple to more than a dozen. Egads! So many stories to share and not enough hours in the day! So rather than jumping in with current RAKs, I’m back-tracking a bit to make sure I capture all the stories from the past month, lest they dissipate like the morning dew on a hot summer day.

At the end of July, my family took a long-awaited Disney Cruise vacation to Alaska. I say “long-awaited” because it took us several years of planning and saving to make it happen. As our departure date grew near, I started perusing the internet for any last-minute insights on what we might see or do while visiting the various ports. One link led to another and I found myself on a Disney discussion board forum, reading the posts from other travelers.

I saw several posts titled “Fish Extenders” and I laughed at my own naivety, wondering why on earth any one would want to make a fish longer. Intrigued, I clicked on the link to open the post and -WHAM- I suddenly found myself caught up in this magical, wondrous world of Disney Cruise random acts of kindness.

A fish extender is a hanging pocket carrier that you create and hang from a fish hook outside of your cabin door. (All Disney Cruises have fish hooks for crew members to leave messages or other forms of communication.) There are Facebook groups that people can join to be a member of a fish extender group for a particular cruise. Once in a group, you share your information and agree to a form of  “RAK reciprocity” where you will give other members in your group a little surprise during the cruise and they will do the same for you. (That’s a VERY short summary – click here to dig deeper and learn more about fish extenders!)

Example of a Fish Extender

Now you can image how EXCITED I became when I realized 1) this type of RAK even existed and 2) I could actually participate! WOOOO-HOOOO! The adrenaline rushed through me so quickly, I knew I just HAD to jump in!

Then reality hit. This was Monday night. I had to be at work all day on Tuesday. That left Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to pull all this together as our flight was departing first thing Saturday morning. Was it even worth the effort?

I don’t know when you last went on a family vacation, but the week before a trip is simply chaotic with all the planning, organizing, and packing. Add to that five family members, flying, with the goal of only 3 bags of checked luggage between us all. We had such limited time, but… but… but… how could I possibly resist the pull of a magical RAK?

I joined the FB group and added myself to the list of Pixie Dusters. (That’s a small group of people who join too late to be a part of the actual fish extender exchange, but would like to give/receive randomly.) I spent most of the day on Wednesday searching for a hanging organizer that would meet the length/width specifications as well as having enough pockets for my family of five, but after multiple store visits, I quickly realized I would have to make one myself. (Egads – I didn’t factor THAT into my limited timeline! I don’t even own a sewing machine!)

I bought some cloth napkins and a fabric table runner and got to work. It took almost the entire three days to complete the fish extender (we won’t discuss how many hours of hand-sewing), but it was finished in time for our trip! Yay!

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As I was making the fish extender, a dear friend from high school, Kim, noticed my posting on one of the Dis Boards. She reached out to me and asked if I would have any use for some crystal Mickey Mouse figures. I was so excited to accept her generous gift! (And it was awesome to catch up with her after so many years!)

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She told me she just signed a contract to teach first grade with a neighboring school district, so I grabbed some books of my son’s bookshelf to get her started with a classroom library.

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After she left, I added the crystal Mickey Mouse figures as well as a few more embellishments, then our fish extender was done!

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My next blog post will highlight the gifts we made over those three days to bless others on our trip – make sure to check back soon to read more!

For those who know me in real life, it’s no surprise that I’m a photo freak.  I take photos of EVERYTHING!  In fact, years before digital photo albums became available, I used to be a Creative Memories consultant, teaching others how to safely preserve and share their photographic memories for generations to come.  I have albums upon albums on my bookshelf documenting milestone events such as birthdays, graduations, and vacations.  For me, photos are the keys to our past and the joys of our future.

Keeping that in mind, can you imagine just how many photos I take while on vacation? It’s crazy!  I am the person who annoyingly asks, “Can you take a picture of us?” to the chagrin of my family members.  I might also be the gal who sheepishly admits to taking not one, not two, but quite possibly twelve (12!!) photos of a gecko who just happened to meander near my sandals.  Yes folks, I am a photo freak by every definition of the word.

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Last month our family took a week long Disney Cruise, a vacation we’ve been saving up for over the course of several years.  I could not WAIT to take photos of the islands we would visit and embrace the colors, sights and sounds of a new culture.   Such joy!   One of our stops was the beautiful island of St. Thomas; 32 square miles of lush tropical paradise with crystal clear water and bright, colorful flowers.  We planned to take our children on the Skyride, a cabin-like closed compartment with windows that travels up a mountain, allowing you to see the island from an aerial view as it rises 700 feet in the air.  Unfortunately, the Skyride was closed the day we arrived, so we had to change our plans while there.

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It was hot.  Scorching.  The moment you stepped on the white cement, you could feel the heat radiating from the ground through your shoes.  Thankfully there was a gentle ocean breeze and several open shops that provided cool relief from the heat.  After about two hours of walking around and taking photos, we decided to head back to the ship.  In order to gain entry on the boat, you had to pass through an entrance area barricaded by a chain link fence.  You had to show a photo I.D. and your boat’s key card as well.  Depending on the time of day you returned, you could be met with quite a line at the re-entry spot as every single guest on the cruise had to pass through this security clearance area.

Once past the chain link fence, you walked towards the ship’s boarding gangway where you stood in yet another line, waiting for your ship’s key card to be swiped.  Did I mention how hot it was outside?  By mid-day it was brutal!  Even though the lines moved forward at a decent pace and the security officers were friendly and kind, it was still a draining process.

My daughter and I were patiently waiting to proceed through the second set of security clearances when I overheard a woman behind me speak with despair in her voice.  “Oh no……,” she moaned “I totally forgot to take a picture of the St. Thomas sign!”  I turned my head at a 45 degree angle to see a dark haired gal pointing to the long “Welcome to St. Thomas” sign on the other side of the chain link fence.  Even if she held her camera high above her head, there was no way for her to take a picture of that sign without an ugly metal fence obstructing her view.

“Would you like me to email you my photo?  I just took one with my daughter right before we got in line.  I even took one WITHOUT my daughter, so you might like that one instead!”  She paused for a split second then grinned from ear to ear as she replied incredulously, “Are you sure?  You would do that for me? That would be wonderful!”  I had to laugh at her shock.  “Of course!  I’d be more than happy to do that!  No big deal at all!”  She gave me her email address and I typed it into my phone.  I even joked that if she sent me a photo of her kids, I would Photoshop them into the picture and no one would ever need to know.  We laughed at the idea and continued chatting through the clearance area, into the elevator and all the way up to our separate floors.

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It wasn’t until I exited the elevator and was halfway down the hall, heading back to my stateroom, that I realized I had completed another RAK.  My business cards! In a moment of sheer panic (which is silly to remember in retrospect – who on earth panics about RAK business cards!?!?), I ran down the hall and up a flight of stairs, hoping to catch her as she exited on the 7th floor.  Sadly, I wasn’t quick enough to tell her about my 26 acts, but I figured if it was meant to be for her to know about my mission, then I would see her again before our vacation ended.

Well, see her again I did.  That night before dinner there was a hypnotist show and who would be one of the people chosen for the show?  Yep, yours truly.  (That, my friends, is a WHOLE separate story right there – oh gracious!)  Following the end of the show, as we were making our way through the crowds of people, I saw her.  Right about the same time, she turned her head and saw me, too.  “It’s you!  It’s you!” she said as we both made our way towards each other.  We hugged like long-lost friends, laughing and sharing stories about the show.  I reached into my purse and handed her the business card, explaining that I had tried to find her after I got off the elevator.  She then touched my heart as she said my kindness reminded her that there is still good in this world.  Priceless.  Humbling.

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This Random Act of Kindness is dedicated to sweet Ana Marquez-Greene, an adorable child who loved to sing with her brother at the piano. In a statement the Greene family made in December 2012, ” [Ana] routinely committed selfless acts of kindness: every drawing or craft project she began was envisioned not for her own enjoyment, but as a gift for another. She often left sweet notes that read, ‘I love you Mom and Dad,’ under our bedroom pillow – not on special occasions, but, rather, on ordinary days.”

While taking a family vacation on a cruise ship to St. Thomas may not count as an “ordinary day”, this RAK was selfless, an offer made as a gift for another.  I’m sure had Ana been standing in my shoes, she would have done the exact same thing.

Be blessed my dear friends and keep paying it forward!


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