celebrate kindness

Posts Tagged ‘Renee


As I sit in my kitchen, looking out the window at yet another snow covered morning, I am reminded that even on the coldest, dreariest of days I have a choice in my mindset. Even Eeyore, the beloved, pessimistic sidekick of Winnie-the-Pooh, could reach down deep and find something good in the muck and mire.

It’s all about perspective.

I love the impact of words. Words people say; words people write. With just a few letters pushed together, one has the ability to change perspectives. Inspire. Empower. Simply amazing.

The past two months I’ve been reading a multitude of books, articles, and research journals focused on how young children learn. As I put the finishing touches on my keynote presentation for tomorrow’s early childhood conference, I’m reminded of the wonderful authors who have invited me into their world of words. From the silly stanzas of Shel Silverstein to the social struggles of Judy Blume, my childhood was filled with words.  I can still remember the moment as a teenager when I finished reading my first “adult book”, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. It was the longest book I had ever read (368 pages) and there was a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as I turned that final page to close the book.

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I have been blessed over the years to receive books from friends as gifts and to have the luxury of purchasing my own. Even in this digital age where it’s easier (and cheaper!) to download an e-book to read on your device, there is something powerful about holding a paper-bound book in your hands.

To have a book signed by the actual author, with a personal message inscribed inside, creates a connection that continues long after the book is done. One of the first autographed books I received was written by the assistant superintendent of my district who invited me to detail one of my teaching units to be included in her manuscript. Talk about a thrill indeed!

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This past year, I was delighted to receive two autographed books, generously donated to me by kindred spirits who believe in the power of doing good in this world. Oh, the delight in receiving an unexpected package in the mail, with something new to read!

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I wanted to pay-it-forward, to share this joy of words with others, so I decided to do a little “Book Buddy” RAK of my own. My friend, Jen, had donated several children’s books to me a while back and they had been sitting in my closet just waiting for a new home. I packaged the books in a blue, plastic tote, put them in my car, and started to drive.

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My drive was short; only about 15 minutes away, but in a location I rarely visit. From a quick view driving by you might miss it, a tiny daycare center sandwiched in a small retail space beside a tattoo parlor.

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The lights were dim and the door locked; I almost turned away thinking the child care center was closed.  As I peered through the dark windows, I saw the faint outline of someone walking towards the door. I could hear a key jostling the metal lock as the heavy door creaked open.

“Can I help you?”

I was greeted with a warm, but guarded smile, as a woman’s face appeared out of the shadows. I introduced myself and handed her the bucket of books. “I know the power of books, and I wanted to bless the children in your center with some free books to read. You can pass them along to your teachers to use in their classes or let the kids take them home! Whatever you like!”

Her smile widened as she turned to the side, allowing me a small glimpse of the many children playing with blocks and cars on the floor. “What a sure nice thing for you to do!” she replied as she accepted the books into her arms. She turned her head to several young women in the background, and explained why I was there. “She’s gonna give us some books for the kids! That’s just nice!”

I told her a little about Renee, the first grade teacher at my school who passed away, and sprinkled a little bit of her sparkle along the way. Our exchange lasted less than two minutes; I smiled all the way back to my car. As I drove home, I kept thinking about those children, who might be receiving a book of their own for the very first time. WOW. Talk about the power of a gift!

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The next time you are cleaning out your children’s bookshelves, or happen to see some books at a yard sale, you might consider paying-it-forward to bless someone else. A “new to me” book can be just as treasured as one with an autograph inside! Embrace the power of words and make someone smile today. 🙂

This year I plan to do 30 random acts of kindness in memory of our sweet Renee Parr, a first grade teacher at my school who unexpectedly passed away last summer at the age of 30.  She was known for her contagious laughter and smile, her sparkling personality, and her love of all things fun.

I don’t really have a set plan of which RAKs I want to complete, or even a timeline (other than doing them this year). I’m just going to wait on that nudge and know, in that moment, that it’s a Renee RAK.

Over the Christmas holiday, I had that first nudge as my family and I were visiting the Jelly Belly factory in Wisconsin. There were lots of smiling children and the whole place seemed somewhat magical with candy all about. You can read about that RAK here.

The next day, I went on a shopping date with my daughter (a perfect way to pass the time with a teenage girl!) As we strolled in and out of clothing shops, it seemed like I was constantly finding clothes that had fallen off their hangers. By the third store, I was almost starting to think I was on Candid Camera!  Each time I saw something on the floor, I stopped and picked it up, then searched for its hanger so I could return it to the rack, nice and neat. It wasn’t a huge RAK, one might even debate that it “doesn’t count”, but it was one less task a sales associate had to complete at the end of a long day.

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Then my daughter and I went into a store filled with sparkles. Oh, now THIS was our kind of store!  We looked at all the shimmering jewelry and scarves and admired the merchandising done by color groups throughout the store.  I took a picture of my daughter, just to relish in the moment:

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That’s when it hit me.

Renee loved sparkles. Glitter. Fancy things. And the color purple. All of which were surrounding my daughter on our special shopping day.

“Look up! I want this in MY room,” my daughter exclaimed with admiration. It was the largest, most glittery chandelier I had ever seen in a retail store. All glitz and glamour.

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“Look at this!” I turned to see my daughter modeling a tiara and felt my eyes fill with tears. Renee!

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Oh yes, this day of RAKs was meant for Renee for sure.  I kept the RAKs coming, allowing someone to go ahead of me in the dressing room and in the checkout line. I also left a few dollars in an accessories bin (but forgot to take a photo.)

It was fun spending time with my daughter shopping and it was fun to spend time with Renee in my mind. I’m excited to see what other RAKs lead me to think of her throughout the year.

Be blessed with kindness as you go about your week! For those of you tagging me in your RAK stories on Facebook and Twitter, keep ’em coming! Your stories inspire me, too!

Today was a day of surprises! As a mom, one of my favorite things to do is something unexpected. I love to see the smile on my children’s faces when they get to experience first-hand the joy of being blessed without warning, without precondition, with no strings attached.

My daughter had made arrangements to go bowling with two of her friends and, as expected, my oldest son was quite disappointed when he realized he was not included in my teenager’s plans. Little did he know, I already had plans for him and his brother when all the girls were gone!

“Where are we going?” he asked, a bit disillusioned at having to escort me to run errands. “It’s a surprise,” I replied, my eyes twinkling with just enough mischief to bring a smile to his face. “A surprise? Really?!” It was hard for him to contain his excitement at this point. He wanted to ask questions, to figure out where we were going, yet he wanted it to stay a secret until the last possible moment.

When was the last time YOU were surprised by something fun and unexpected? For many of us, as we enter adulthood with all the stresses and responsibilities, we lose some of that childhood exhilaration for the unexpected. We are wary. On guard. Expecting a forced reciprocity, perhaps.

I think we simply need to be reminded that life is filled with joyful opportunities. 🙂

We turned into the shopping area and he knew. “I know where we are going! I know where we are going!” There was no mistaking his excitement as he turned to his brother and pointed out the window. “Look! Look! We’re going to Sweet Frog!”

For those of you who don’t have a Sweet Frog nearby, let me share for a moment how MUCH my children love this frozen yogurt shop. They have a dozen different flavors and four times as many toppings. It’s a haven for any sweet tooth and the perfect treat for a hot, summer day. We don’t get to visit often, which makes it an even sweeter treat when we do.

As I helped my boys fill their cups with frozen yogurt and choose their favorite toppings I suddenly, without warning, felt my eyes fill with tears. We were in the midst of making memories. There will come a day when my son prefers to hang out with his friends instead of his mom and not even the promise of frozen yogurt will change him back to being ten. I glanced sideways at my favorite redhead and simply took in the moment.

Sprinkles. Cookie crumbs. Gummies. Such small symbols of bliss, all cascading down a tower of soft, snow-colored peaks. And then it happened. I thought of Renee.

It’s been two weeks since her life here on earth ended, an unexpected passing for a 30 year old first grade teacher at my school. Oh, how she would love this moment! She adored being a surrogate mom to her students as well as a real mom to her three year old and baby on the way. I could almost hear the ring of her laughter as I watched my son put one too many gummies on top of his treat, only to have it fall to the floor. “Kids will be kids.” The whisper on my heart was so audible, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Renee standing right beside me.

Oh, how I miss her smile.

So in that moment, I decided to do the only thing I could. I paid for our treats, then asked the cashier if I could also buy a gift card as a random act of kindness.


“Please give this to a customer of your choice, maybe someone with a small child”, the picture of Renee’s daughter dancing in my mind. It wasn’t much, but maybe it would make a stranger smile. After all, we all need to be reminded of the power in unexpected joy.


And as an extra RAK, I left my change in the tip jar. 🙂

We ended our visit with messy smiles and happy hearts. It was a wonderful day indeed. Maybe you might take time this week to surprise someone with joy! I promise it will bring you happiness as well.

Be blessed and pay it forward!

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