celebrate kindness

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It’s been one week since the funeral visitation.

The days before and after blur like a watercolor painting left in a rainstorm. Habit alone reminds us of daily rituals: get up, take a shower, get ready for work. Take care of the kids. Feed the cat.

I went more than a week without doing any laundry. No grocery shopping. No nightly dinner preparation for my family of five. I’m not really sure what, if anything, got accomplished other than the status quo completion of required tasks, an unmanned plane gliding on autopilot.

Joy, my #oneword of 2016, stands along the outskirts of my week, handing me tissues and sharing in my tears.

The visitation was filled with friends, family, and flowers. The outpouring of kindness and love shown to our family in so many small ways reminds me again and again that there is good in this world.

I remember when my grandmother lost her battle with cancer sixteen years ago. The funeral home received so many flowers for her passing, they offered to open another room so people would have enough space to walk around. That was the way people showed their condolences back then – flowers. Lots and lots of flowers.

Times have changed dramatically in sixteen years, even with this rite of funeral flowers. Practicality and cost now govern decision-making and rightly so. Flowers are expensive, especially petals that are woven into wreaths or displayed on stands. Not everyone has hundreds of dollars to spend on objects that, while beautiful in the moment, have a limited luster and will quickly wither away.

In lieu of flowers, some send plants. While lacking in the vibrant colors and patterns of flowers, they can thrive beyond the period of mourning. They remind the living that there are things to care for and that they, too, are still alive. Plants are a lovely choice as well.


A beautiful plant donated by my school in memory of Mom Letter.

Sometimes there are donations. We’ve seen an increase with weddings and funerals for people to add a tagline: “In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to…” listing a favorite charity or organization. What a beautiful legacy to pay-it-forward in memory of someone else.

Mom Letter asked for donations to be made to hospice. For five months, hospice helped to care for Mom and provided support for our family. Now Mom has a way to say “thank you” to the hospice nurses and caretakers through the kindness of those who loved her.

Today my husband received the list of names of those who had donated in Mom’s name. Family. Friends. Neighbors. But one name stood out among the others.

Dr. Scott Otto, Libertyville, IL.

See, Mom Letter’s journey from diagnosis to hospice spanned more than two years and two states. Dr. Otto was the specialist who first cared for her. Talked with her. Helped her make decisions. It was Dr. Otto who knew her more intimately than any of us ever could – he literally held her existence in his hands in the operating room and surgically saved her life more than once.

It’s because of Dr. Otto’s care that Mom lived years, not months. It’s because of his dedication that we were granted extra time with Mom, sharing holidays and celebrations. It’s because of his signature that Mom was granted permission to move back to Virginia, to be surrounded by family, so that her final days could be filled with love.

And now, because of Dr. Otto’s generosity and the kindness of others, more families will get to do the same through hospice.

It’s been a tough week to write, but I hope as the hours turn into days, I will regain my momentum again. Thank you for taking the time to be a part of our lives and share in our journey. There is kindness everywhere, even in death.





puzzlesMy daughter came to me yesterday morning asking if we could donate some puzzles to church, explaining that the children’s nursery only had one puzzle that our son completed week after week.  (If you know our children, you know both boys LOVE putting jigsaw puzzles together.)

It was a really easy RAK to complete; I walked into my son’s room and started pulling unused puzzles off the shelf.  I think the most difficult part of the process was choosing WHICH puzzles to donate because we had so many (we finally agreed to make two separate bags – one with 24 piece puzzles for the younger kids and another with 100 piece puzzles for the older kids).  We made sure the boxes were sturdy and all puzzle pieces accounted for, then sent them on their way!

May this inspire you today to look through your kids’ closets or playrooms and gather a few items for someone who may benefit from a “new-to-me” toy – check with local daycare centers, churches, even your local gyms, dentists and doctor offices might appreciate your generosity.  You never know what will put a smile on someone’s face!

Be blessed!

Last week I received an email sent on behalf of a co-worker’s son.  He was chosen from among his peers to attend a leadership conference for one of his school clubs.  What an honor!  The email was asking for monetary donations towards his travel expenses, but what struck me was the offer to do any kind of service or job for donations as well.  There was even a tagline that any donation was appreciated – even a $1.00 would help!  Wow – he thought of everything!

Now I’m going to be brutally honest here, with a little guilt attached as well.  I have received many emails and letters from friends or children of friends asking for donations of support for church or school activities.   I’m always touched in the moment and have the best of intentions, but sometimes I read these messages and forget to follow through.  The guilt builds up because so many of you have been exceptionally kind to me and MY children in supporting us with our initiatives and school activities.  So right now I am apologizing to each and every one of you for all the donations, wedding gifts, birthday wishes and such that I have forgotten to send throughout the years.

Yesterday I followed through.

photo (6)

It wasn’t much, only $5, but it was $5 he didn’t have before.  Every little bit counts, right?

May your day be blessed and may you be better than me in remembering to support our youth in their adventures!

‘Tis the season for holiday parties!  One of my favorite parties to attend is the one hosted by a friend who makes her event half party/half benefit. She asks all guests to bake cookies and package them in small bags which are then delivered to cancer patients in our local community.  She does this random act of kindness in memory of her dad, who passed away several years ago from cancer.  What a thoughtful gesture to pay it forward!

My daughter and I woke up early Saturday morning and started baking with a purpose.  Now I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to bake with several kids in the house, but it can be a bit chaotic, especially if they are not baking with you!  What would normally take about 20-30 minutes ended up being several hours as we made several batches of cookies in the midst of me getting sidetracked to make breakfast, complete 100 piece puzzles, clean up spills, pick up toys, and all the other tasks a mom is called to do on a daily basis.  But it was all worth it!  Because in the end, we knew our small contribution would make someone else smile in return.

White Chocolate Macademia Nut

White Chocolate Macademia Nut



All packaged up and ready to deliver!

All packaged up and ready to deliver!

As you go about your holiday season, remember those whose holidays may need an extra boost of love or attention.  Share the joy with one another!  Be blessed my friends! 🙂

This week, I was delighted to participate in a Random Act of Kindness to benefit “A Heart for Oklahoma”, a church based mission to bring supplies to those suffering from the effects of last week’s tornado.  What made this RAK especially close to my heart is that it was organized and led by one of my high school friend’s daughter, Claire Belfield Henry, a homeschooled 7th grader who has also captured the Junior Miss Mechanicsville crown.  (You can read more about the mission here.)

They were collecting basic health and beauty supplies to personally deliver to Oklahoma which was GREAT because I had received donations of these items from friends!  I love when God works out details like that!  Here is the basket I created to donate to this project.  It contained shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, tooth brushes, dental floss and picks, deodorant, heating pads, nail clippers, body wash, soap, lotion, and cleansing wipes.


I drove to my local Kroger and there was Claire with another gal, Michelle, from her church.  Her delightful smile was contagious as she thanked me for my donation.  “Wow!  It looks so pretty!” she exclaimed.  She could have easily won an award for Miss Congenialty as her conversation with me was inviting, purposeful, and filled with excitement for her project.   She allowed me to take a few photos for the blog (which I knew her Momma would approve!)


Their collection site outside of Kroger


The girls with my basket of donations

I went inside the store to tackle my never ending grocery list.  As I stood in the checkout line, I thought again of Claire and Michelle.  How wonderful to be so involved with giving at such an early age!  I decided to reward their hard work with a bag of Skittles candy (which was a little inside joke because Claire’s mom is going to make my daughter a Skittles cake for her next birthday party.)  As I made my way out of Kroger and towards her donation stand, I realized another young girl had shown up to share in the donation table duties.  Without hesitation, I turned right back into Kroger and bought more Skittles so that ALL the girls could share in some simple delights for their labor.


I took an opportunity to have my photo taken with local royalty, too.  😉


This RAK is dediated to Jessica Rekos, age 6, whose parents described their daughter as a “mini CEO”.  She sounded just like Claire.  These two girls shared a passion for helping others, but doing it in an organized, efficient way.  I could easily imagine Jessica doing something as grand as this mission.  I am always humbled when I see such leadership skills in our children.  Their self confidence is inspiring!!  I hope Jessica’s parents know that her spirit lives on in other “mini CEOs” around the world.

Thanks for sharing in my joy of giving.  Be blessed, my friends and have a wonderful weekend!  🙂

Twice this week I’ve had friends of my mine send me links or suggestions to find out more about “suspended coffees“, that it might be something I could do as part of my Random Acts of Kindness.  The basic premise of “suspended coffee” is that while you are purchasing your own salted caramel machiatto (or whatever your favorite coffee drink might be), you also purchase another coffee to be “suspended” or waiting there, allowing the barista to choose a random stranger who appears to be in need of coffee without the burden of payment.

Today as I sat in church rejoicing over the news that Jesus is no longer suspended on the cross (He is Risen!), my thoughts focused on that one word:  suspended.  What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?  Being an educator, I immediately think of being suspended from school (NOT from first hand experience, let me reassure you!  Ha!)  Being suspended from school is humiliating.  Embarrassing.  A punishment for not following the rules.  Then I think of Jesus being suspended on the cross.  Humiliated.  Embarrassed.  Punished.

All for me.

While suspended coffees and a suspended savior may not go hand-in-hand per se, they were connected in my head this morning.  Jesus did not stay suspended.  He was brought down from the cross, placed in a tomb, and rose 3 days later.  He carried the weight of my sin hanging on that cross, but it was a weight he chose to bear.  A suspended student also bears the weight of whatever action was committed, but does not stay suspended forever.  He serves his time, then returns to begin again.  Like these two examples, I know my suspended coffees will not remain in mid-air.  Someone will enjoy a free coffee.  Someone’s thirst will be quenched.  Someone will be reminded that there are nice people in this world and that good things can, and do, happen to them.

It was with this spirit that I reached into my purse and felt the straight edges of my Happy Birthday bag.  As many of you know, I celebrated my 40th birthday by completing 40 Random Acts of Kindness (if you want to start at the beginning and read what I did, click here.)  One of my dearest friends, Lisa, blessed me with this birthday bag and filled it with one dollar bills.  “For your project!” she proclaimed, being one of my biggest cheerleaders in life.  I’ve been carrying around this bag for months, never knowing when the moment will touch my heart to bless someone else, but reassured that when the moment appears, I will have some money to make it happen.  Today, I reached in and took out $10.

coffee bag

coffee money

After church, I made my way downstairs to the new coffee shop that just opened in our church.  All proceeds from the coffee sales will go to support mission trips; not only would I bless a few strangers with coffee, my money would continue to bless those that served others.

coffee collage

coffee menu

As I waited in line, my thoughts drifted again to Sandy Hook.  Today is the first Easter celebration where 26 families have their precious loved ones living with Jesus instead of them.  Just the thought brought such an array of mixed emotions, I could barely speak when it was my turn to order.

“And what can I get for you, Miss?”  My tear-clouded vision cleared as I was brought back into the moment.  “Well, this might sound a little odd, but I don’t want to buy any coffee for myself.  Can I buy three suspended coffees instead?”  I then explained the concept of suspended coffees and the purpose of my mission.  The barista, a church member, was a little taken back by my request (I’m pretty sure she hasn’t heard the latest buzz about suspended coffees, lol), but she seemed quite happy to take the money and pass it along to someone who might need it more than me.

Suspended coffee.  Something so simple, and yet a perfect RAK for Easter Sunday.  I dedicate today’s RAK to Dawn Hochsprung, age 47, who as the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary knew the meaning of “suspended”.  According to media reports, she was a hero in every sense of the word, not only leading her school with joy and enthusiasm, but “facing every problem head-on… even lunging at the shooter upon hearing the sounds of gunshots.”  She sacrificed her life for her students; Jesus sacrificed his life for you and me.  I know, without a doubt, neither life is suspended anymore.

Be blessed my dear friends this Resurrection Sunday and share a hug with those you love.  Those RAKs are free, but worth the world.  🙂

Today’s Random Act of Kindness is a direct response to a plea posted on Facebook:

“My dear Facebook friends, an old friend of mine has a sister that lost her whole house last night to a fire.  She has 3 young girls aged 7, 2, and 10 months.  I can store anything you can donate at my house.  Just leave it on my front porch.  Thank you so much to those of you who can contribute.”

And this, my friends, is one of the many reasons I love social media.  As soon as I saw my friend make a comment on this post, I felt that all familiar tug on my heart and knew I had to help.  No, I didn’t know the family whose house had burned down.  In fact, I didn’t even know the gal who posted the plea (but she is a friend of a friend, so she is important!)

It’s interesting how these things happen sometimes.  I’m always amazed how in the face of tragedy, God has prompted me to look through my home and out of nowhere I suddenly “discover” all these things that could help someone else.  I immediately thought of the bathroom set sitting on the top of my closet shelf:  shower curtain, shower hooks, trash can, fish decorations, a new shower sponge with two unopened bottles of bath wash.  I kept meaning to list it on Craigslist, but… well… God had other plans!  Then I opened my linen closet.  I immediately spotted the flowered twin sheets from when my daughter used to have a twin sized bed.  Oh!  Her comforter!  That could be given away, too!  With each blink of an eye it seemed my closet had become a donation warehouse of sorts.  Towels.  Washcloths.  Curtains.  I barely had all the items stuffed into a bag when it occurred to me that all those little girls would need toys.  And books.  And crayons.  Markers.  Activity books.  Coloring books.  Right now, those sweet little girls needed a distraction for the loss of all their possessions.  I found a stuffed animal for each of the children so they would have something to snuggle with when they went to sleep, wherever that may now be.  I even found a purse of my daughter’s filled with play jewelry.  (Every little girl needs play jewelry!)  With each item I gathered, I prayed for this family, that through a simple Facebook plea all their needs would be met.

I checked back on Facebook to find more details posted about needs:  Mom wore a size 3-5 pants, small tops, size 8 shoes.  Right there I got chill bumps.  I wear a size 4!  Perfect!  I went into my closet and made two outfits of sweaters and pants, then threw in another sweater and a few shirts.  (As many of you know, I keep a pretty “bare bones” closet – if I haven’t worn something in the past year, it doesn’t stay in my closet!  Unfortunately, I had already cleaned out my closet about a month before, but I was willing to part with a few favorite outfits.  :-))  I also found a long wool coat and another shorter coat for Mom.  Unfortunately, I wear a size 6 shoes, so I wasn’t able to donate any footwear.

I remembered several friends who had donated items to my 40th Birthday Project:  books and “Blessing Bags” (bags filled with essentials such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.)  I gathered those items as well.  As I was laying everything on the floor to take a photo for this blog, a small oak box caught my eye.  My jewelry box.  That’s when the impact of this devastation hit me.  This mom had lost all her jewelry, too.  I literally stopped everything as my thoughts raced ahead of my actions.  No jewelry.  No family heirlooms to pass down to her daughters.  Gone.  Everything.  It was almost too much to bear, and made me think of the recent events of Hurricane Sandy and all those that had lost similar treasures.

I then did what I knew was right.  I opened up my jewelry box and pulled out three of my favorite necklaces and a matching bracelet.  Using a special gift bag my mom gave me on my 40th birthday, I placed the jewelry inside with a simple note:

As I made one final sweep of my closet and bedroom, my gaze landed on one final item.  My absolute favorite children’s book of all time:  Guess How Much I Love You.  All three of my babies were rocked to sleep as infants with me reading this book to them, snuggled safely in my arms.  Each time I see the book at a yard sale or consignment store, I buy it and then wait for an opportunity to bless someone else with the gift.  This particular version came as a gift set with the main character of the book, a sweet little bunny.  If you’ve never read this book, please do, especially if you are a parent.  The story ends with my favorite storyline:  “I love you all the way to the moon… and back.”  Without a moment’s hesitation, I grabbed the book and bunny and jotted a note for this family, including my project business card so they could know that even in the midst of tragedy, they were loved.

Then I loaded everything in my car and dropped it off on the friend of a friend’s front porch.  No one was home, so I simply left all the bags by the door.

Why do I do all these things without wanting anything in return?  Because I believe showing kindness to others is the way we all should be.  I would like to think that if I were ever in a predicament such as this that others would show me kindness, too.  Until that time, I will continue to count my blessings and try not to take too many things for granted. 🙂

If you would like more information of this family’s needs, or how to donate, please send an email to celebratekindness@gmail.com or if you know me on FB send me a PM and I will get all the details to you.  Even if you only have a few items to share, a little can add up to a lot!

Be blessed!

This was a quick and easy Random Act of Kindness… adding a few quarters to a donation jar. In this case, it was a Boy Scout fundraiser set up right outside a grocery store. No, I didn’t want any popcorn. Yes, I was in a rush. But it was for the Boy Scouts. How could I say no?


A few days ago a friend of mine was asking for donations for a church project where they were gathering items to share with children entering the foster care system. He listed specific items needed and I knew this would become another Random Act of Kindness. Now I know I have posted before about donating items (see Random Act of Kindness #7), but this request was near and dear to my heart for several reasons:

  • My dear cousin Amy (and her brother David) were foster care kids, adopted with love into our family;
  • My best friend Lisa adopted two of her four children from the foster care system;
  • My sister donated many personal care/beauty products to my Celebrate Kindness project, which I had already planned to use as “blessing bags” for anyone that needed them.

I gathered blankets, made blessing bags, and had the children choose their favorite stuffed animals to donate to the cause.




I passed along our blessings of kindness to James, and gave him my business card so he could pay it forward, too.


Little things we take for granted, such as warm blankets and cuddly stuffed animals, can absolutely make a positive impact in someone’s day. It doesn’t take much to make a child feel loved and important. What can YOU do to bless someone with kindness? Be inspired! 🙂


Saturday morning yard sales.  Have you ever had a yard sale before?  Surely if you’ve never had one yourself, you’ve driven past one or maybe even stopped at one if something unique caught your eye.  Or maybe you are an avid yard saler, planning out your destinations with newspaper or Craigslist ads.  I think I fall somewhere in the middle.  At one point of my life, I was an avid yard saler (even stopped at a yard sale on my wedding day with my maid of honor as we were heading to get our hair done!)  Now, with 3 kids and a husband who has marathon training runs on Saturday mornings, I rarely get caught up in the yard sale hype anymore.

Until now.

Some gals I know sent me a message that they were hosting an “Adoption Yard and Bake Sale”.  Of course the title alone intrigued me.  At first I thought it was an animal adoption event (I do NOT need any more pets in my home!!)  Then, after reading more, I realized it was a benefit yard sale to help a wonderful family we know raise money to adopt another child.  The message was merely letting people know the details of the event, but I couldn’t resist the now-quite-familiar tug at my heart.  I knew I had to perform another act of kindness!

So I spent the week sorting things in my house (“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, right?) and I realized three things:  1) I have too much junk in my house.  2)  I have too much junk in my house.  3) I have too much junk in my house.  Bean bags we haven’t used in years.  A lamp that was never big enough to light anything.  Movies.  Toys.  Blankets.  The more items I priced the more items I found.  It was like a treasure hunt in my own house!

Then as I was walking through my dining room, I saw them.  My most adored Charming Tales collectible figurines.  Cute little mice, intricately detailed with such precision you could see the individual hairs poke through on the mice’s ears.  I started this collection twelve years ago with the passing of my grandmother, who had her own mice collectibles.  These mice reminded me of her, kept her memory alive.  But did I really NEED them?

That question stopped me in my tracks.  Did I really NEED them?  Well, of course I did!  They were my collectibles!  I have them because of Grandma!  But wait… did I REALLY need them?  In an instant I knew the answer.  No, I did not NEED them.  I did not need a figurine collection to remind me of my grandmother’s legacy of laughter and love.  Those memories had long been sealed in my heart with every sunrise, rain storm, and flickering light I saw around me.  These cute little mice, which were once so near and dear to my heart, had been transformed by time into painted objects that required a little too much dusting for my busy life.  No.  I did not need them.  And despite the sentimental attachment I had placed on every figurine, they each received a pricing sticker and were added to the donation pile.

By the end of the week I had accumulated a small stack of items to donate to the yard sale.  I priced everything so there would be no additional work for someone else to do.

I even made cookies with my daughter to donate to the bake sale – 3 cookies for $0.50.  We ended up making 16 bags worth of cookies!

I dropped off my items to the yard sale and was amazed by the quantity of STUFF other people had also donated as acts of kindness.  My cookies and collectibles were nothing compared to the other items donated (A treadmill!  Tools!  An entire bathroom ensemble!), and yet I knew in my heart that it was important for me to be a part of this event.  It was truly inspirational to see all the ways this family would be blessed by everyone simply clearing out unwanted items from their home.

So the next time you drive by a yard sale, consider stopping by.  You never know who might be blessed from your purchase!  🙂

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