celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘joy

The day after Jason delivered the bookshelf to the Tiny Tech Cafe, I arrived to see a large gift bag waiting for me. How exciting! I racked my brain trying to figure out why someone would leave me a gift (my birthday isn’t for another three weeks!)

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On top of the tissue paper was a card from a fourth-grade teacher down the hall, Krista Miller. As I dug a little deeper under the tissue, I discovered a gift that made me squeal with joy – literally!

Inside the bag was a handmade throw pillow, customized with green sparkle “Joy” across the front. What a delight! (As many of you know, #joy is my #OneWord for 2016!)

I rushed down the hall to thank Krista and discovered that she had ordered it from two of our MES parents, JaNette Herndon and Jenni Mouer. This just made the pillow even MORE special! I am so appreciative of their talent and kindness!

Now I REALLY can’t wait to get the sofa put up in the lab to showcase this beautiful pillow!

Later in the week, I received an additional random act of kindness from our GT teacher, Katie Brockel. She donated a bag of sparkle ribbon and border and blessed me with more fabric and window valences for the Tiny Tech Cafe! How sweet!

curtains-from-katie-brockel

I still have more posts to share about this exciting week, so check back soon! The Tiny Tech Cafe is starting to really look like a cafe!

If you would like to join in as a Tiny Tech Cafe Supporter, please click here for more information! We would love to have your support!

TinyTechCafeLogo - FINAL

 

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April 29, 2016.

The date on the calendar was blank except for the small printed words to the side: “T & D – Taking care of business”

I picked up my mom and took her out for breakfast, a long-awaited trip to Cracker Barrel. The morning was gloomy and my heart was sad, knowing my brother-in-law’s nephew was being laid to rest just a few hours later. There was a tragic accident the weekend before, an accident that shocked our small community, and the aftermath was, and is, too raw to put into words. While I wanted to be there to support my brother-in-law and his family, I knew it was right to keep my promise with my mom.

Today was an important day.

I arrived at my mom’s house, her breathing heavy and labored, but she was ready to get the day started. The dreary weather matched my mood as the drizzling rain made our hair frizz around our faces.

Correction.

My hair. My face. My mom lost her hair weeks ago.

Again.

We sat at the table and opened our menus, the elephant in the room peering over our shoulders as we placed our orders. Eggs over easy with a side of bacon. Sourdough bread, toasted.

The banter between us was light, the usual chit-chat you might find between a mother and daughter, talk of work and weather and kids. We both knew why we were having breakfast today, and how the day would unfold, but it wasn’t until the coffee arrived that we finally invited that elephant in the room to sit down and join our conversation.

Today was the day we planned my mother’s funeral.

We jokingly called it our “Girl’s Day Out,” knowing of course that it broke all the rules of conventionality. I asked her questions – lots of questions – and made notes on my iPad as we talked about details, decisions, and death.

We talked about services. We talked about songs. We spent a long time discussing hospice. We lamented about the exorbitant cost of funerals, then pondered the necessity for so many rituals. We discovered a need for an updated will.

We were making plans, much like a mother and daughter planning a wedding, but roles were now reversed. I was the mother. She was my child. I wanted to make sure her wishes were granted.

In the midst of our breakfast with the dishes cleared and coffee refilled we talked about flowers and photos. “I don’t need much,” she said, “Let’s keep it simple.”

We shifted gears and shopped for a bit and she found a blouse she liked. “If you like it, it’s yours!” I exclaimed, her Mother’s Day gifts bought without hesitation.  

We found a photo frame to memorialize her husky, Ivan, who suddenly passed away the week before after 10 years in her care. The circle of life never stops, whether pet or parent or child. It’s important to remember those things that bring us joy.

As we window shopped for this and that, we found humor in silly things. The baby boy frog shoes we would have bought in an instant, if my baby boy wasn’t almost seven.  The sparkled shoes, the overpriced scarves, even the pajamas with sailboats gave us a giggle. She glanced at the chocolate bars by the register and I had her choose her favorite to add to the pile. “Never say no to chocolate,” I reminded, “You only live once.”

Indeed.

We took selfies at storefronts and shared stories from our past. We chose objects that would have special meaning once she is gone.


Were tears shed today as we planned for the future that would not include her vibrance? Of course. But today was a day filled with making memories and the laughter overcame the sorrow.
Whether you are healthy or sick, feeble or strong, I encourage you to take time for your loved ones. Open the door to those difficult conversations. Make plans for today and tomorrow, even if you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Allow yourself to be happy. Find joy in the mundane. Remind someone that they are loved and show them with actions and words. Take pictures and be silly, even if you know people are staring at you like you’re a fool.

Be you. Be free. Make memories. These are the days you will always remember, and the laughter will rise like the sun, warming your heart for years to come.

 

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Today I had the opportunity to share in a very special random act of kindness; one not of my own, but of a friend.  Pam Larson, one of my high school gal pals from two decades ago, reached out to me and asked if I’d like to share in doing something in memory of her mom, Patricia.  On this date fourteen years ago, Patricia closed the chapter on this life as she passed away from congestive heart failure at the age of 54. She had many medical issues in the ten years leading up to her death: kidney transplant, quadruple bypass surgery, squamous cell carcinoma in her sinus cavity… not to mention other complications and setbacks along the way.  To say Patricia was a fighter, is an understatement.  She gave all she had, again and again, just to have as much time as possible with her family.

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Patricia also spent A LOT of time in the hospital.  Her sunny disposition was a bright spot through all the trials.  In fact, one of her favorite songs was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin, an upbeat song released in 1988, two years prior to Patricia’s kidney transplant.

It was in that spirit of celebrating joy instead of sadness that Pam asked me to join her today’s RAK.  We brainstormed a bit about what we could do (thankfully, Pam didn’t have 14 inches of hair to cut and donate because that might have ended up with her needing a wig, lol.)  We finally decided that delivering 14 smiley faced balloons to the cardiac unit of the local hospital would be a welcome surprise to bless others and share Pam’s story of honoring her mom’s memory.

Our first stop was purchasing the balloons.  Pam and I were almost giddy watching the store associate blow up each balloon, floating to the ceiling of the store, its long white curling ribbon trailing down to our eager fingertips reaching above.  Before leaving the store, we taped a memorial RAK card to each balloon so the recipients would know more about this special RAK.

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The memorial RAK card attached to each balloon

The memorial RAK card attached to each balloon

The RAK card included this quote by John Barrymore:  “Happiness often sneaks through a door you didn’t know you left open.”  We thought this would be a great quote because these happy balloons would be sneaking into the rooms of 14 different people! 🙂

Our next task was somehow getting all 14 balloons in Pam’s very compact car.  Below are the photos from THAT adventure (so much laughter!)

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So many balloons!

So many balloons!

Success!  Let's go!

Success! Let’s go!

As we headed to the hospital, Pam reflected on various stories about her mom.  It was a sweet time of remembrance and I knew that her mom would have loved what we were doing in her memory.

We arrived at the hospital and walked towards the entrance, the wind whipping the balloons all around us.  Have you ever had to carry so many balloons at once on a windy day?  It is NOT an easy task, let me assure you!  We approached the main desk and were directed to the cardiac unit on the second floor.  It was time to share some joy with others!

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The head nurse of the cardiac unit intercepted us almost immediately.  “How can I help you?” she asked with quizzical smile.  Pam explained our purpose: that her mom had passed away 14 years ago and she wanted to honor her memory by making 14 people smile with an unexpected surprise. The nurse informed us (after checking with her supervisor) that we would not be allowed to enter the rooms, but she would peek in her patients’ rooms and if they had a visitor, she would ask if the visitor wanted to step out in the hallway to receive a balloon from us.

Before she could finish her explanation, one such visitor stepped out of a patient’s room and said, “I would love to bring in a balloon!”  Our first RAK! We were thrilled!  As we giggled to one another, we realized we had a bit of a quandary… all 14 balloons were in a tangled mess from the wind blowing outside.  Although it only took a few minutes to separate a balloon, it felt like an eternity with this hospital visitor standing beside us waiting. Thankfully she was patient (a hospital pun for you medical people out there, lol) and after accepting and delivering our very first balloon, she returned to the hallway to hug Pam and pose for a picture.

Finally untangled!

Finally untangled!

Pam's first RAK hug

Pam’s first RAK hug

It wasn’t too long before Pam spotted a visitor walking down the hall.  “Excuse me, ma’am, are you visiting someone today?”  The lady smiled warily before she responded, “Yeeeeessssss”, then her smile spread across her face as Pam told her about the meaning behind the smiley balloon.  This lady stopped.  Listened.  Hugged.  She even added her own thoughts about this experience.  “We each have two dates – the day we are born and the day we die.  Then we have this line in between.  What you do during this line is what matters.  This is your purpose.  And what you are doing today is part of your purpose.”  These words nearly opened the floodgates for sure!

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There were more hugs.  More smiles.  I am convinced that just walking around with a smiley faced balloon in hand can make people happy.  We saw so much joy in the eyes of others today!  We were also able to share a few balloons with the oncology patients, too – a perfect place to continue our RAK in Patricia’s memory.

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When all 14 balloons had been given away, we left empty-handed, but our hearts were full of joy.  Pam told me on the way out of the hospital, “You know – this is the first time I have ever been happy on April 27.  Usually I am so sad and depressed, missing my mom, but today I know she is smiling down on us.  She would have LOVED this!”

So essentially… it was a healing RAK for Pam, too.  🙂

Be encouraged my friends to share your joy with others, even if it takes you a little bit out of your comfort zone.  I promise the rewards will multiply as others pay-it-forward, too!

As always, thanks for reading and sharing in my fun-filled RAK adventures!

 

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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books

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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K and C

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.

statue

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.

T and Em

(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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