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Fish Extender Gifts Received Blog Logo

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…” ~ Clement Clark Moore

Do you remember the Night Before Christmas? The children, all tucked in their beds (sugar plums dancing in their heads) as they waited with anticipation for the surprises to arrive the next morning. St. Nick arriving, his belly like jelly, trying to tiptoe so quietly around the house, delivering gifts for others to enjoy. Participating in a Disney Cruise Fish Extender gift exchange is similar: the preparation, the anticipation, the surprise.

(For those of you stumbling across this blog for the first time, you can catch up on the Fish Extender saga by clicking here, here, and here.)

Each morning as my children awoke, they jumped from their beds wanting to check their “stocking” to see if any treasures were left the night before. I reminded them that we weren’t officially part of the Fish Extender exchange, but participating as Pixie Dusters, so any gifts we received would be extras shared by generous families. Our purpose was to bless others without expectation of reward.

But oh, how we were blessed in return!

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Coloring books with crayons. Personalized drink holders. Flashlights. Stickers. Disney-themed toys. Luggage tags. Bookmarks. Mini game boards. Lanyards. Keychains. Candy. Cups. Lip Balm. Even detergent and stain remover wipes for any emergency laundry needs (which we needed, but didn’t have!)

We received handmade scarves that we wore almost every day. (We didn’t even think about bringing scarves on our trip to Alaska – genius!)

One family even surprised us with a handmade Disney bag which we used every day to carry our souvenirs, toys, and books from on-board activities and excursions.

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Sometimes the surprises arrived while we were sleeping; sometimes while we were eating meals. Each and every gift was appreciated, no matter the type or cost.

I was reminded again and again about the kindness of others. Such thoughtfulness was shared with our little family of five. Remember, we weren’t even supposed to receive any gifts at all! I connected with the Fish Extender Facebook group literally three days before we left. And yet… so many families chose to add us to their list and bless us as if we belonged to them from the start.

Even typing this blog post brings tears to my eyes, remembering the overwhelming feelings of love and gratitude.

The gifts continued throughout the week. I was humbled by the thoughtfulness and creativity of others. One family gave an open-faced locket filled with Disney themed charms. I literally gasped with awe when I discovered the jewelry hidden in my Fish Extender pocket.

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Another family blessed my youngest child with a handmade super hero cape and mask from The Incredibles which he wore, but refused to pose for a photograph. (“Mommy, pictures take away my powers!”)

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My daughter kept meticulous care of her gifts, choosing to empty a clothing drawer so her treasures would be safe throughout the voyage.

We were even surprised with strangers decorating our cabin door with handmade signs and magnetic whiteboards. (Did you know that the cruise ship doors and walls are magnetic?)

I simply cannot thank these strangers enough for the joy they added to our vacation. The entire Fish Extender experience showed my children first-hand the power of “give and receive.” We now have tangible treasures to remember your kindness and stories to share with others. You have woven your thoughtfulness into our family memories which will be retold for generations to come.

You have blessed us beyond measure!

If you are planning to take a Disney Cruise and love the idea of random acts of kindness, I recommend you to join the Fish Extender Facebook Group to get more information. (This is a closed group, so you will need to request to join.) The passengers on my cruise created their own closed group which allowed us to share information on a Google Sheet and post photos/memories from our trip.

A special thank you to the following families for all our gifts received (if I left anyone off the list, please let me know and I will add you!) You truly transformed an already fabulous vacation into something only Walt Disney himself could create.

The Johnson Family

The Miller Family

The Fontenot Family

The Green Family

The Adams Family

The Peauroi Family

The Hanks Family

The Mill-Nap-Hacks Families

The Kennedy Family

 

 

 

 

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This week I received two surprises in my mailbox that brightened my day:

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What an easy way to put a smile on someone’s face!  I’m not quite sure who blessed me with these unexpected gifts, but they were received with much appreciation.  Thank you, mystery sender(s), for making my day shine brighter.

Happy Fall indeed!

It’s been more than 24 hours since I’ve learned of Robin Williams’ suicide. My social media news feeds are filled with condolences. Memories. Sorrow. It’s been more than 48 hours since my tweets and posts were interrupted by the chaos and loss in Ferguson, MO. One month since Renee. Car accidents. Airplane crashes. Heart attacks. Cancer. My summer fun has been overshadowed by death at every turn.

For those of you who aren’t comfortable talking about death or dying, you officially have my permission to click on another blog or read something else that keeps you in your comfort zone.  I won’t judge you one bit.  Talking about all aspects of death is not for the weak, the insecure, the timid, nor the fragile.

I am none of the above; and yet at times, I am all four.

To me, death is simply a part of life.  Just another milestone on that grand stage of accolades that began with my very first breath.  So it began and so it will end.  What’s important is what happens during the dash in the middle. (Right, Greg?) I woke up this morning with the song, “Say What You Need to Say” by John Mayer resounding on my heart.  Have you ever considered the impact you have on others?  If you were to die today, what would people remember?  What would they say?

Sometimes in this wonderful journey of performing random acts of kindness, I get a sneak peek into people’s reactions when I do something nice for them.  Maybe it’s a comment on my blog or a heartfelt smile in the moment. These gems are treasures indeed; they serve as reminders that I have worth in my purpose and I’m on the right track.

Rarely, however, do I get the inside scoop on someone’s impression of me. Do any of us, really?  First impressions are often misleading anyway – a bumbled, botched-up moment of judgement that sadly shapes one’s view of another long after the connection has been made.  We are all human. We have good days and bad days.  And sometimes we just get caught on the wrong day, at the wrong time, and without even knowing what we’ve done, we’ve impacted someone else in a negative way without an ounce of negative intent whatsoever.

But the opposite is also true.  Sometimes we are going about our business, just being the people God made us to be, and we are making an impact on others left and right.  Without even knowing.

I’ve often joked with my family that should I be diagnosed with a terminal illness, I want to have my funeral while I am still alive.  I want to know what people will say!  I want to share in the memories!  Do people’s impressions of me really match the person I believe myself to be?  I want my life to be remembered as the celebration it is – filled with love, joy, and kindness.

A few weeks ago I received a message on FB from my Zumba instructor, of all people.  She had made a comment to me after class about her joy in doing a random act of kindness for a homeless person and, of course, I was thrilled to share in her joy!  Below is the message she sent me.  (If you can’t view the images, click here to read the texts in paragraph form.)

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I had tears running down my cheeks by the end of her message.  Such a mixture of emotions!  I was humbled. Awed. Slightly embarrassed. (I mean, geez, who else notices that I sing the songs in Zumba while going 100 miles an hour in every direction all at once?)  I was also impressed by her writing style – she writes EXACTLY like she talks, much like me!  Wow!

She was inspired by me.  Inspired?  By ME?  Really?  What in the world?  I’m glad she couldn’t see me in that moment, because I’m sure my face was beet red, blushing, with my silly smile plastered from ear to ear.  This was just so incredible!  (Click here to read the blog post I wrote about her so many months ago.)

All of a sudden, the worries of the world weighing me down didn’t matter. Stress?  Completely gone.  Nothing else mattered, but that I had made a difference in someone else’s life.  I just wanted to reach out and hug her for blessing ME with a gift only she could give – a small glimpse of how my life impacted hers.

Why do we wait to say such important things until it’s too late?  This question has nagged me today in light of all the news of death and loss around me.  Why. Do We. Wait?

Please take a moment to tell someone you care about how important they are.  Tell them how they made a difference in your life. Share with them a story that illustrates your love for them.  Remind them of their uniqueness. Don’t wait until it’s too late to heal wounds you may not even know are there.  Your words are treasures of unspeakable richness.  Share your wealth with others by paying it forward with a heartfelt note or a thoughtful text.

I hope your day will be blessed by words of kindness in return.  🙂

Have I mentioned how much I love surprises?  I do!  So often we get caught in the drudgery of day-to-day monotony that we almost forget what unexpected joy feels like when receiving a surprise.  I think this is one of my favorite aspects to being a parent, watching the impact surprises have on our children.  Their joy is unmasked, unreserved, so full of passion!

As adults, we rarely respond to surprises in the same manner.  When was the last time you clapped your hands and said, “YAY!” at the top of your lungs when something unexpectedly nice happened to you?  Somehow in the transition from childhood to maturity, we learned how to temper our reactions.  We became more self-conscious of our reactions that might be observed by others.  It isn’t that we lost the feeling of joy per se… we just became… well… diminished in our outward response.

I am a joyous person.  Seriously!  (I suddenly hear the laughter of my closest friends reading this post… they might even argue that my sentiment is an understatement.)  I am blessed beyond measure again and again because I simply take the time to appreciate the little things in life – including surprises!   Today was a perfect example of how a small surprise could turn around someone’s day. Without too many distracting details, let me just say it was a loooooong day… and by 2pm I realized I was starving, needing to eat lunch.  I made my way into the teacher’s lounge and look what I discovered:

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What in the world?  Someone had set up a mini “manicure spa treatment” station with a cute note explaining all the steps of using the special salted oils and lotion.  How fun is THAT?!  Oh, I was so excited!  If I had been five years old, I would have undoubtedly clapped my hands together and shouted, “YAY” as loud as I could!  A mini spa treatment in the middle of my work day? ABSOLUTELY!

Such joy!  I did the spa treatment, of course (how could I resist?) and even wrote a little thank you note to whomever left the surprise.

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What a thoughtful random act of kindness!  I was all smiles the rest of the day.  I had luxuriously soft hands thanks to the spa treatment (seriously, this stuff was amazing!) and on my way home I decided to keep the joy flowing by paying it forward with a random act of kindness for someone else.

A long while ago, one of my friends donated a manicure gift card so I could use it for a random act of kindness.  It’s been in my purse, following me from here to there, just waiting for a perfect moment to be used.  Today was the day!

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I drove to the nail salon, and sat in the parking lot contemplating my next move.  What if I went into the shop and no customers were being helped?  Oh, that would be awkward.  I was toying with the idea of going to a nearby store and just leaving the gift card in plain view for someone to discover, when I saw a car pull into the parking lot driven by a pretty, blond-haired gal.  Surely SHE would be getting a manicure?

I watched her leave her car and start to head into the nail salon.  YAY!!  (The five year old inside of me clapped and cheered!)  I quickly moved my car closer to where she was walking and rolled down my window.  “Excuse me, ma’am?  Are you going in there to get your nails done?”  She turned and answered, “Well, my feet…” and I extended my arm out of the window, handing her the gift card.  “Use this and be blessed!”  She smiled, said thank you, and that was that!

Maybe you aren’t a fan of surprises like me, but surely there are moments throughout your week or month that brighten your spirit and put a smile on your face.  Share the joy!  Tell your story to someone else or pay it forward with a nice gesture.  It doesn’t have to cost money or even a lot of time.  Revel in happiness, because joy is contagious!  🙂

 

This has been such a fun week.  I’ve done several little RAKs here and there, but haven’t had a speck of time to write about them!  Now that I’ve completed my #26 acts mission and my 40 for 40 RAKs, it’s really nice to just be able to DO a RAK without any planning or thinking ahead!

As many of you know, we like to visit the Krispy Kreme store when report cards come out because Krispy Kreme is AWESOME about giving one free doughnut for each A you receive on your report card.  Monday night after dinner we made a quick drive across town (oxymoron), and reaped the rewards.

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You have never seen such joy as watching a little person pick out their favorite doughnut to eat from the display case!

Since Krispy Kreme only gives out free glazed doughnuts for report cards, we always allow the kids to pick their favorite doughnut out as well.  Such joy!  This evening, as everyone was making their selections, we purchased a few extra doughnuts as well (Rich’s idea) – some for Rich’s running team and some for the teachers at my school.

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The next morning, Rich delivered his donuts to his pals and I delivered mine.  I left them in our teacher’s lounge with a little note attached to the box.

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photo 1A closer view of the note

It wasn’t much to give, and for those teachers who are dieting it may have made their day even worse, lol, but it was still a fun RAK to do on the first really cold day of Fall!

Be inspired!  More RAKs to come soon!

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.

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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!). 🙂

As a continuation of the previous post, I was at Starbucks getting a few moments of peace from a crazy hectic day (which just happened to also be my 41st birthday).  I used my registered Starbucks gift card to receive a free drink of my choice (God bless the person who decided salt, caramel, and coffee would make a good drink combination – pure heaven for me!)  After ordering my drink, I handed the barista a sealed envelope which contained a note and a $5 bill to allow a complete stranger to enjoy a free tall pumpkin spice latte on me in celebration of my birthday and to honor the memory of Alyssa O’Neill.

As the barista passed my drink across the counter, I gathered my purse then looked up to see him reaching into the pastry display case and placing something in a to-go bag.  As I started to walk away, he handed the bag to me stating simply, “Your birthday cake!  Enjoy!”

WHAT?!?!  Did I just get RAK’d by a barista?!  No way!!  All I could do was laugh at the joyous surprise by such a sweet, kind gesture.  “Really?  For me?”  He grinned from ear to ear (such an infectious smile!) as the other barista chimed in from the other end of the counter with “Happy Birthday!” greetings.

It was a priceless moment that literally was the icing on my cake.

I frantically dug through my purse trying to find my RAK business cards as I knew this was worthy of one of my #26acts.  Did it matter that it was a RAK received instead of given?  Absolutely not!  A RAK is a RAK no matter the type!  🙂

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So I found a card I was saving for Avielle Richman, age 6, and explained to the barista that he actually completed my #23 random act of kindness.  I had seen a video clip showing Avielle’s parents talking about their daughter’s infectious smile and knew this RAK belonged to him because his smile matched hers.  I’m hoping that he will visit this website and see that he is part of an amazing journey to remember those sweet children lost from Sandy Hook Elementary.  Here is the barista with my business card:

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What joy!  Such a simple act of kindness, yet so powerful.  So important.  So meaningful.  A true blessing indeed.

It wasn’t until I was back in my car that I opened my to-go bag and saw what delicacy he had chosen for me to enjoy.  A beautiful pink cake pop with tiny white sprinkles, molded firmly to a solid white stick made to look like a delicate lollipop.  I almost cried at the pureness of the moment.  My birthday cake indeed.

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Thanks to Starbucks for offering free birthday coffees to pay it forward with kindness and for hiring such kind-hearted baristas who take opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life.  My day may have started off as a hot mess, but it ended in peace and joy.

Be blessed my friends!  Thank you for sharing in my first complete year of blessing others with deliberate acts of kindness!


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