celebrate kindness

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I started this post 8 days ago when the pain was still raw, the scab of grief was not quite hardened enough to remove the protective bandage covering my sorrow. I would start to type and the words remained garbled on the page. I couldn’t finish my sentences. My grammatical errors glared back at me in judgment, and I was so overcome by emotion that tears would blur my vision.

“It’s ok,” they said with sympathy-laden voices. “You don’t have to write.”

No. It’s not ok. I can’t not write. I simply can’t.

So here I sit in the dark, quiet space of sunrise. Reflecting. Remembering. Writing.

About a month ago, we sat by her bedside, the final stretch of her journey looming before us like the darkened clouds of an incoming storm. Her sister, Betty, and I were trying to keep the conversation light and lively; she opened her eyes and gave a weak smile. I can’t recall the exact story we were sharing, can’t quite remember what started my mother-in-law talking as well, but she was awake. Alert. Engaged. There was laughter with a thread of silliness as Betty and I talked about family, kids, and life, catching up on the recent events of the week. Then there was a break in the chatter. A pause. And mom spoke to me.

“Take some of my jewelry.”

She had already shared this invitation with her two daughters, her three granddaughters as well. Her beaded, costume jewelry still sits in a bag on my daughter’s desk, treasures too valuable to touch.

I was different. I was the daughter-in-law.

I did as she asked, reaching into the top drawer of her bureau, removing a wooden box engraved with a quote about Grandparents, my children’s small faces smiling back at me in the photo centered in the wood. I had given her this jewelry box years before and it made me smile to see it again. There were only a few pieces of jewelry remaining, small trinkets of tarnished metal and a couple of clip-on earrings. I politely took a pair of earrings, knowing her desire for me to have something from her, then carefully returned the box back to the top drawer.

“Go look beside it. There’s more.”

My eyes traveled to the left of the dresser to the small jewelry stand almost hidden from view. Opening the door, I saw simple chains of gold, a brooch, and then… the bracelet.

It’s funny what you remember when time stands still.

The bracelet was simple, nothing elaborate. Rectangular links of silver creating a perfect circle held in place by a flexible thread. Along the perimeter, there were four colored birthstones, representing each grandchild she had at the time.

Only three of those four babies were born.

This bracelet was a birthday gift, purchased by me to give to her as a surprise announcement of the fourth grandchild to come. My baby’s due date was March 3, 2003, a delightful triangulation of threes. We kept the secret for weeks, despite the fact that my growing belly now required elastic waistbands and maternity shirts. Living out-of-state away from family made this natural progression easier to hide.

We had already heard the heartbeat, marking days from one trimester to the next. There was no cause for worry, no need for concern, even the daily ritual of morning sickness was starting to abate.

The bracelet arrived in a beautiful box, surrounded by lush velvet. My in-laws would arrive the next weekend and we would celebrate Mom’s birthday a week early.

And then… everything just stopped.

No heartbeat. No movement. No change. My second child’s life was lost before it had barely begun.

My in-laws arrived and the bracelet was given, but the aquamarine gem had lost its luster. It now served as a reminder of things that would never be.

Now, thirteen years later, I stood with Mom once again, holding the bracelet that represented life and death, the parallel so vivid to Mom’s journey now. I turned to face her, my eyes brimming with tears and met her gaze with clarity.

“The bracelet! Mom, you still have the bracelet!”

My voice was filled with awe and wonder. The bracelet had survived more than a decade, with moves across state lines. It was left unselected by the other family members, its value and worth unknown like a hidden treasure at an auction sale.

It was waiting for me all along.

I put the bracelet on my wrist, the silver links still gleaming from immaculate care, as I retold the story to Betty, who was still sitting in the room. I faced Mom and saw her watching us. That’s when the impact of the bracelet hit me.

She would meet my angel baby before me.

I shared my realization with her and the corners of her mouth turned up slightly, the weak smile radiating across her face. “Yes, I will,” she said before her eyes closed again.

This was her act of kindness to me.


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Dear Misty and Jarod,

If you are reading this blog post, then you have received the gift I purchased for you today as a random act of kindness (RAK).  I don’t know you in real life; in fact, I only know of you from doing a random search of wedding registries on Amazon.com this afternoon.  I wanted to do a special RAK in honor of my 20th wedding anniversary and I was delighted to discover that you are getting married TODAY!  How exciting!  You are just now starting a journey I’ve been on for 20 years.  Welcome to the club!

Now, most people would probably expect me to dish out some great wisdom here about marriage and love and life, but why would I spoil your wedding day with THAT?!  Ha!  I thought, instead, that I would share some laughable moments from my own wedding day so you know that bad things happen to good people, even on such an important day of your life.

First off, I hope you hired a really good photographer.  That saying “You get what you pay for” still rings in my ears twenty years after the fact.  I was 21 years old when I got married, and I’m sure many people thought we would never make it 20 years.  (In fact, I’m actively collecting my money from all the bets placed back in 1994, lol.)  My family got a “good deal” on a local photographer and when we went to meet him, he was charming with a solid portfolio.  Unfortunately he was a “good deal” for a reason.   What we learned from our wedding day was that having a horrible photographer actually creates a lifetime of laughter, as we reflect on these experiences each anniversary.

For example, the majority of the photos taken of me prior to my wedding ceremony are in front of a baby’s crib or large, brightly colored stuffed animals.  I. Am. Serious.  I was asked to get dressed in the church nursery and it never crossed the mind of my photographer to take pictures in the hallway (or even outside!)  Of course, the last thing I was thinking about was my surroundings, so we didn’t discover such creative backdrops until the wedding was long since over.

Notice the stuffed animals in the bottom left corner.

Notice the stuffed animals in the bottom left corner.

Our photographer shot photos in such bizarre angles that he cut the head off the only picture I have of my grandma.  Needless to say having your grandmother beheaded on your wedding day is not quite the gift that keeps on giving.  He also managed to capture every grimace, groan, and smirk of the wedding party as they waited.  And waited.  And waited for their turn to take pictures with the bride and groom.

Twenty years ago there were no such things as digital cameras (geez, now I really do sound old!)  Photographers would have to load small canisters of slick, black film into their large cameras praying their gargantuan lenses and flashes didn’t crash to the ground in the process. Our photographer chose to switch out his film right in the midst of us cutting our cake, but in his haste he forgot the most crucial part – to actually put a new roll of film back in the camera.  The remainder of our wedding was captured by 138 candid photos guests took with the Kodak instant cameras we provided on the reception tables.  (Of which maybe 6 photos had recognizable parts of our wedding day.  One entire roll was filled with blurry faces showing silly expressions – a precursor for today’s “selfie”.)

SIDEBAR: We later discovered our photographer was actually drunk at our wedding.  I’m not sure if he became inebriated before or during the reception, but almost five years after our wedding took place we actually got to see our photos and were allowed to take all the proofs without paying any extra money. It took us that long to track him down and demand our pictures, thanks solely to the aforementioned grandmother who was beheaded!

We had other disasters at our wedding as well.  My veil and slip were left at my step-mother’s house.  My husband and I were the very first guests to arrive at the reception so we had to wait for everyone to arrive (that’s what happens when you take a helicopter and everyone else has to drive.) My new father-in-law called me by my mother-in-law’s name when he did the toast.  We ran out of food at the reception and I forgot to pack a change of clothes in the getaway car, having to call a relative to deliver them to our hotel. Sometimes all you can do is laugh.

My favorite disaster of the day was when the bustle of my six foot train broke.  (Ironically, the same thing happened to my sister when she got married 17 years later, so  apparently this is just a family curse, lol.)  When it came time for the Father/Daughter dance, my best friend and Maid of Honor danced with us, holding the train.  What made this sight even more comical is that we had planned a two-step for our Father/Daughter dance. Having my friend and I BOTH turning under my dad’s arm with every twirl was worth the price of a wedding gift to watch.

Lisa holding the train of my dress due to a broken bustle.

Lisa holding the train of my dress due to a broken bustle.

One of the most treasured gifts I received for my wedding day was my very first cookbook from my dear friend, Andrea.  She knew I had no business being in a kitchen – I didn’t even know how to crack an egg!  She gave me this book with this inscription:

My very first cookbook

My very first cookbook

Although Andrea passed away from lung cancer in 2008, I was able to share with her just how much her wedding gift meant to me and my marriage.  It only took 20 years, but I not only learned how to crack an egg, I now create published recipe guides for Snapguide.  (And that’s in my spare time!)

Which brings me back to your gift.  I wanted to do something totally random, yet meaningful, for a complete stranger that shared my wedding date.  I hope you don’t mind that I stalked your registry on Amazon.  After looking over the items still remaining on your list, I decided to buy you two cake pans, because it reminded me of Andrea’s cookbook and all the cooking I’ve learned how to do through the years. (And if you ruin one of your pans, you still have another one to cook with!)

Photo May 21, 1 46 10 PM

Your registry


The note I enclosed with the wrapped gift from Amazon.

The note I enclosed with the wrapped gift from Amazon.


I wish you many years of happiness and joy and I hope when you look back at your wedding day, you can find laughter and love in the memories you both now share.  Maybe for your 1st anniversary next year, you will pay it forward to someone else in memory of this random act of kindness.

Be blessed!  Congratulations!

One resolution many people make at the start of the year is to get in shape, start exercising, lose some weight.  It’s an admirable goal, especially for those who realize and acknowledge that life changes are good!

Personally, I am not a gym rat (and no offense to those who are!)  I enjoy exercising, but I also enjoy eating, so for me it’s more like a balancing act in staying healthy.  I’ve tried all sorts of gym activities, but the one I love most is Zumba.   Imagine fast paced dancing like salsa and mambo mixed with squats and lunges and you have a small taste of this hour long class.  It is an EXCELLENT form of exercise!  Best of all, if you do the classes consistently, you really can see changes in your tone, strength, and endurance!

There are many Zumba classes offered around town – some classes come to your workplace (seriously!), some are offered at gyms, and some can be shown on a DVD or Wii.  I like to attend classes at my local Y because it allows me to  get out of the house and meet new people while keeping me motivated with my fitness goals.

The Monday before Christmas I was trying to decide if I should go to my Zumba class or stay home and wrap some last minute gifts for the holidays.  If you are a busy mom like me (or just busy in general), you know how precious just an hour of free time can be! Although I was tempted to use the time productively to mark another task off my to-do list, I decided to head down to the Y and use the time on ME instead.

You can imagine my surprise when my Zumba instructor, Toni, opened the door wearing a Santa themed shirt and an obnoxiously huge elf hat made from skinny balloons.  (Where was my camera when I needed it?!) Her huge smile radiated joy as she welcomed us into the class.  What fun!  I almost expected to see a clown in the corner, inflating and twisting balloons into requested shapes.

As we all found our places to stand, Toni grabbed a basket off the shelf and announced, “I have a little something for you!”  You could hear the small gasps of “Awwww!” and “Oh, thank you so much!” as she made her way to each individual person in the class. When Toni made her way to me, I finally saw what made everyone else respond with such appreciation:

photo (3)

Our amazing Zumba instructor, with her own time and money, had purchased each of us special Zumba jingle bell bracelets and created a CD of all the music we dance to in class.  REALLY?!?  Oh my gosh, it was such a sweet gift (and the first I have ever received from a gym instructor!)  Unbeknownst to Toni, we had a surprise for her, too, as we had chipped in with cards and money to purchase Powerade and gifts cards to show our thanks for all she does to inspire us on a daily basis.

It was a sweet moment of reciprocity, with both givers and receivers sharing in the emotion of surprise and kindness.  Best of all? We spent the next hour laughing, smiling, and sweating as the sounds of jingle bell bracelets danced in the air.

Today may you be inspired!  Try a new class at the gym or call up a friend to walk around your neighborhood.  Sometimes the most needed random act of kindness is the one you give yourself!  🙂

This morning as I sat listening to the sermon at Cool Spring Baptist Church, something Pastor Brad was saying struck a chord in my heart.  He was quoting Luke 6:37 – 38, talking about how God commands us to give and how when you do, it will be given back to you.  How nothing we own in this world truly belongs to us.  How we need to be kind to others, not stingy with our gifts, talents, and resources.

Wow.  It was if God himself was whispering in my ear, “See?  This is what it’s all about!”

Let me explain a little more.  For the past year, as many of you faithful readers know, I have been on this journey of blessing others with kindness.  I do it with no expectation of reward or acknowledgement, although I do feel compelled to share my experiences with others to inspire and share my joy.  Yesterday, those tables were COMPLETELY turned on me as my husband and I were recipients of the most amazing random act of kindness!

It all started when I told my husband I had to run out to take care of a few errands.  He had been doing yard work around the house and without a second thought had placed his cell phone on the top of my car’s trunk, unbeknownst to me.

(I bet you know where this is going, lol.)

Well, you’re exactly right.  I got in my car and drove to Target with nothing more on my mind than my shopping list.  As I entered the store, I received a phone call from an unknown number (which I usually ignore), but something prompted me to answer it.  On the other line was my husband asking a simple, yet weighty question:  “Is my phone still on the top of your car’s trunk?”

Oh. Dear. Heavens.  The walk back to the car was at a frantic pace, already knowing what I would discover.  No phone.  Ugh.

When was the last time you lost something of value in your life?  Now notice I didn’t say “something valuable” because we all have a different measure of value on different things.  To some, a cell phone is just that – a phone.  Nothing more, nothing less.  To my husband, however, that phone was much more.  (And, I might add, to many of us as well!)  Think for a moment about the impact a lost cell phone would have to your life.  Personal and professional contact information, not stored anywhere else.  Photos.  Apps.  Email.  Banking.  Books.  Yes, I know many of these items can be recovered (well, many except the photos – that’s just heart-wrenching), but think of the time, the inconvenience, the cost involved in replacing a lost cell phone.  And if you have a passcode lock on your phone, well… even if found, how would the person get into your phone to even let you know it was found?

Not the way we wanted to spend our Saturday, that’s for sure.

As I scoured the parking lot and retraced my car’s route, I despondently drove home, sharing in my husband’s panic and loss, when my phone rang again with the unknown number.  (My husband was borrowing another phone to call me).  The excitement in his voice superseded any words he actually spoke.  “You are never going to believe this – I found my phone!”

Praise be to God!!

The next 5 minutes of jubilation was spent with him describing how he simply called his phone number and someone answered the phone (apparently you can answer a phone call without having to enter through the passcode lock – thank heavens!).  The kind stranger, named Robert, was driving the same path as me and happened to see something shiny reflecting against the  pavement, smack in the middle of a busy intersection.  Robert took it upon himself to pull over to the side of the road and actually retrieve the object from the road when traffic subsided.

What he found was an untouched, unmarked, undamaged smart phone.

Can I just stop right here and let that resonate with you for a moment?  Untouched.  Unmarked.  Undamaged.  In the middle of a busy intersection.  Of MOVING VEHICLES.  ON ASPHALT.  Wait – say that again?  Untouched?  Unmarked?  Undamaged?

Ladies and gentlemen, you have just witnessed a modern day miracle.  God is so good!  If you are the owner of a smartphone, you know how easily it can get a scratch (or even worse, a cracked screen!)  Yet here was a phone that survived a 35 mph turn, from the back of a car down to the pavement, in between tires of many other cars traveling down the same path.  Untouched.  Unmarked. Undamaged.  Immaculate.

All I can say is… WOW!

Arriving home, I told my husband he HAD to reward this kind stranger!  I raced upstairs and grabbed a restaurant gift card I just happened to have (I was going to give it as a Christmas gift to a family member) and asked my daughter to make a Thank you card. Then I grabbed my very last Sandy Hook RAK card, #26, and said a prayer of thanks.

photo 1Front of card

photo 2Inside of card

photo 3Back of card

photo 4Gift card with Chase Kowalski’s RAK card (#26 of #26acts)

photo 5The recovered phone

Luke 6:38 says: “Give, and it will be given to you.”  No truer words were spoken in this moment.  This RAK is dedicated to Chase Kowalski, age 7, who like my husband enjoyed running (among other sports ambitions.) According to his memorial website, Chase completed his first triathlon at age six and ran in many community races.  I can’t think of a more perfect child to receive this RAK as you must be quick and speedy to run a race and retrieve a phone from oncoming traffic.

Today I leave you with a quote that was in my Facebook feed this morning.  Without a debate about the accuracy (because we all know not to believe everything we read on the Internet), this quote fills my heart with joy and inspires me to do more with what I have.

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.  If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.  If you are honest, people may cheat you.  Be honest anyway.  If you find happiness, people may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.  The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.  Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.  Give your best anyway.  For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.”  –Mother Teresa

I have some of the best coworkers a person could ask for. There are nine of us on a small, select team and we work together with such efficiency you would swear there were 30 of us!

This morning as we arrived for our weekly team meeting, one of my coworkers walked through the door waving a small, brown, rectangular item that looked like a piece of decorated cardboard. “I was trying to figure out who to give this to, and I decided that this should be for YOU!”, she declared, handing the brown item to the coworker beside me. “What? What is this for?” I peeked across the table and saw it was a Starbucks gift card! How sweet!

My coworker then proceeded to hand it to me saying, “Here, you take it. You can use it for your Random Acts of Kindness project.” No, no, no! I pushed the card back to her. “Oh no! I am not going to take that! It’s YOUR gift! Enjoy it!” We all started laughing at this point, and I begged them to allow me to take their picture for a blog post.

“No! I don’t want my picture taken! I’m a mess!” was the immediate response, but I convinced them to smile for the camera just the same.

Then I went into my iPhone apps and blurred out their faces so no one would ever know who they were.


The blurred photo alone sent us in another fit of giggles as we laughed at the absurdity of it all.

What a fun way to start my workday – having a front row seat to a random act of kindness. I can’t think of a better way to be inspired!

(Did I mention how much I love my team? They are the BEST!). 🙂

Black Friday is right around the corner (7 days and 4 hours to be exact!). Even though this is the official start to the holiday shopping frenzy, my Christmas shopping has already begun. Having three children, I’m always keeping an eye out for great deals, especially on toys. One way that our family affords to have lots of gifts around the tree is to purchase gently used, “like new” toys at consignment sales.

My favorite local sale, The Clothesline, provides additional incentives if you volunteer to work for them during the sale. Each three hour shift you complete earns different perks. My favorite incentive is the ability to shop before the sale officially opens. (This is when you get the best deals!). Another reward you receive is a coupon for $5 off your purchases. Awesome!

Yesterday afternoon was my big shopping day. Pure bliss! I don’t want to spoil any secrets, but there is a really cute little three year old girl out there who is getting a three level dollhouse from me!

As I finished paying for my purchases, I realized I had never given the cashier my $5 off coupon. Turning to the woman right behind me in line, I said, “This might seem a bit odd, but would you allow me to bless you with this coupon for $5 off?” I then explained the details about my 40th Birthday Project and hastily scribbled my website down on a notecard (because, once again, I forgot to refill my business cards in my wallet.). As I was sharing my story, the owner of the Clothesline, Lisa, looked up at me and exclaimed “I love you!” (This really made my night because technically Lisa had blessed me with the coupon in the first place, I was merely passing it on!)


It was a fun way to end a great night of shopping and seeing this lady’s smile made me want to do even MORE random acts of kindness. It’s always a win-win to give from the heart with no expectation in return.

Be blessed my friends and keep paying it forward! 🙂

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