Monday, June 29, 2020

Week 45: Picnic Party with Pinwheels



Well, this is it, the last week of my little project. I truly can't believe it's over. What a wild ride this has been!

Never did I ever think I'd find myself shifting to performs acts of kindness related to a global pandemic. And I certainly couldn't have predicted being in Real Simple, People, local newspapers/radio and news stations, and a couple of other avenues still coming in July!

For my grand finale, I threw a picnic party at a park in my town and invited friends and family who have supported me over the past 45 weeks...actually more like 45 years.

It was so much fun! I didn't take any pictures with the exception of my adorable nephew when I was setting up and one shot of me after cleaning up.


I guess in this day and age, and for someone who spends a descent amount of time on social media, that's a sign of a great time. (Note to self: do more things that make me forget to check my phone.)

My family was there, my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. A friend from college stopped by, a family of friends from my daughters' Irish dancing days (they beat us at Kubb!)joined in the fun, the owner of my gym, some couple friends of ours (who were supposed to be in Europe, so that's one COVID silver lining), friends from years and years ago, neighbors, etc.

It was amazing to have people from so different many parts of my life overlapping throughout the afternoon!

I supplied everyone with alcoholic beverages (I offered soda, but this is Summer in Wisconsin so...) and had a snack table laid out. We played yard games, told stories, and caught up.

The only thing missing were birthday hugs.


To expand the celebration, I set up 45 pinwheels in the park which I then posted to our town's Facebook page.

It was fun watching kids running across the field during the party to snag a birthday pinwheel! And it was really special to have hundreds of people join in the celebration with "reactions" and comments, wishing me a happy birthday and sharing plans to celebrate their own future birthdays with giving instead of receiving.

It was a good day! And it's been a great 45 weeks!

But that's a wrap on the Kindness Countdown project for a bit.

Tomorrow I wake up 45 years old.


A new year ahead of me and a blank slate. I'm trying something new this year...my only plan is go where opportunities and experiences take me...to wake up each day and work to be my best self and live my best life.

If you want to follow along, check out my Instagram page, gilded.living, where I share daily stories and post on big and small happenings in my life, good books/food/drinks, travel destinations to check out, inspirational thoughts and experiences, snippets of my fitness journey (it sure is interesting at age 45), Wisconsin sports teams (Go Pack Go!), more kind acts (good habits die hard), and more!

If you want to stay inspired to do good, check out the Kindness Countdown Facebook page where I will continue to share good news I happen upon in hopes of helping people focus on the good around them and inspire others to brighten their own little corner of the world.

Until we meet again, be well. Lend a hand where you can. Take care of yourself and others.

I truly believe the world is a better place with you in it and that you were born in this time, with your unique set of talents, to do big and beautiful things.

So what are you waiting for? Now is the time! GO DO THEM!

xoxo,
Shannon

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Week 44: Small Town/Big Hearts


This Summer marks 13 years since my family and I moved to the small town of Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

Our city is a historic landmark, is often referred to as a "Norman Rockwell painting come to life," and is full of tourists soaking in the charm of the old buildings, gift shops, and delicious eateries every weekend of the year.

But it's during the week that Cedarburg shines for me. It's in the faces of my neighbors, the amazing care our mail carrier Darla takes when delivering our (too many) packages, and the endless smile our G-Man Michael (a real life guardian angel!) greets us with each week despite hauling away countless loads of trash compliments of the perpetual projects in our 1880s home. 

This week was all about showing some extra love to the hard working, big hearts that care for my family each day/week.


I put together some little care packages for them, including scotcheroo bars and smile cookies. 

Because I was fortunate to catch Michael during his early morning weekly round to our house, I also added in a hot cup of coffee and lots of words of appreciation. And because Darla is always speedy in her delivery and I don't always see her stop by, I left a note of gratitude to go with her sweets. 

To quote Sesame Street, "who are the people in your neighborhood" that take extra care and may be occasionally overlooked? Why not take a moment to offer them some much-deserved thanks...and maybe a cookie or lemonade on a hot day? 

PS - Can you guys believe I only have 1 week of this project left?! Time sure does fly when you're having fun!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Week 43: Pick a Pinwheel


Last week, during an interview with Woman's World magazine, I was asked what inspired me to start the Kindness Countdown in 2014 and why I coordinate this blog alongside the kind acts. I've been asked this question many times, and my answer always includes two pieces:
  1. I remember my parents turning 40 so I viewed my milestone birthday as an opportunity to impact my children while making some fun memories while helping others (the project), and
  2. Unfortunately, Milwaukee is one of the most racially segregated cities in the nation and we were in the middle of some particularly turbulent times, the local and national news seemed to focus on nothing but negativity so I wanted to do my part to give people some happy things to think about and maybe nudge them to do the same in their own community (the blog).
Point 2 obviously resonated with the interviewer last week. Race relations have continued to be the #1 topic in the nation since May 25, when George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. People all over the world are listening, questioning the status quo, looking inside to challenge themselves to do better, and coming together. 

This week I wanted to celebrate that. 


Last week, over 30 local artists in Milwaukee were give the OK to turn a storage building on North and Holton into a memorial in the form of murals as a way to heal and inspire. I took my kids there this weekend (it was incredibly moving) and we tried out best to leave some joy behind, across the street. 

I took 50 of the 100 pinwheels my youngest and I had assembled for a project I have planned at the end of this month and commandeered them for this week instead. Then I created a yard sign with the following message:

PICK A PINWHEEL,

Take a deep breath, now exhale. In this moment,

watch the colors and light dance and shine.
Carry your pinwheel home and remember:

Life is precious!
Live it to the fullest!
Let your colors and light shine for the world to see!


My kids and I found a small grassy area across the street from the art memorial, we placed the sign in the middle and then filled the area with pinwheels for passers-by to help themselves to. 

We were there when the first pinwheel was picked. The woman smiled big as she selected her favorite color, read the sign, turned to me and said, "Who doesn't love a pinwheel? This is great!"

I know this isn't much. I know we have a long way to go.

I wish I could fix our city's/nation's problems right now, last month, 400 years ago.

I can't. 

But I can keep loving, listening, and looking for ways to help.

I can continue to ensure my children have diverse experiences to learn from so they keep on listening, loving, and looking for ways to help too. 

And I can pray for peace, love, understanding, and change. 

Those things I vow to do.

Will you please join me?


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Week 42: Post-Quarantine Kindness


The world is opening back up, and I've been focusing my attention on helping those who were out of work or had to close or modify their businesses during the stay-at-home orders.

One way I've been trying to help is by giving big tips when I can. 

My son was the first in our family to get a post-quarantine haircut. (Lucky duck!)

Him and I, my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew, all have the same stylist: the friendly and uber-talented Leah! When I say we love her, I mean we LOVE her!

A visit to Leah at Special Effects in Mequon is guaranteed to brighten my day, even if I'm in a good mood when I arrive. I don't know that I've ever met a sweeter human. 

My brother, son, and my hair is thick and grows really fast, making the quality of our cuts important, making it REALLY important when we're going months in-between cuts (whether intentional or "unprecedented"). I can't tell you the number of times during quarantine my son and I talked about how we appreciated our hair growing out looking as good as it possibly could. 

That's just one of the reasons she got a 100% tip when she cut my son's hair.


Same thing with the local coffee shops in my town of Cedarburg who were hit hard during the stay-at-home orders...they've been receiving big tips in appreciation of their amazing products and service too!

Who in your life has been affected financially during the first half of 2020? How can you help?

Maybe take this big tip idea and run with it.

Perhaps you could make a social media post singing their praises to boost their business.

How about committing to gifting items produced or sold in local shops for birthdays and holidays this year?

Every gesture you make, small or large, is sure to encourage a smile and have a ripple effect in the lives of those in your community.

What could be better than that?

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Week 41: Focusing on My Family


This week's Kindness Countdown activity took my daughters and I on an adventure, and finally got us out of Wisconsin (three trips to visit family have been cancelled so far this year...this is the longest I've ever stayed so close to home).

You may recall back in Week 30, our family rescued a chicken who had stopped laying and was going to be "used" a different way on an active farm. This week, our family grew once again as I turned my focus for kindness onto my daughters (and some drivers behind us on our journey): we adopted two guinea pigs!

My daughters are very responsible and have taken over the majority of caring for our chickens in the past year. So when my youngest found a pair of guinea pigs in Michigan back in March, during the first week of quarantine, I paid attention and opened my heart to their request to adopt them (despite my fairly firm No Rodent policy).

After a month of walking past an adorable picture of those two fuzzy friends my girls continuously left up on our desktop monitor, after they put together a presentation, complete with facts, a budget, and answers to all of the questions I asked, I said we could contact the rescue to collect some more information.


We were told the guinea pigs had been bounced around quite a bit in their short lives and were looking for their forever home. My daughters loved that they were a rare Swiss breed with longer hair they could care for. I loved that the sparkle that had started to fade with all of their cancelled 2020 plans once again shown bright whenever they talked about adopting them.

I eventually said yes.

Monday morning, my girls and I drove a few hours to New Buffalo, Michigan to meet up with the guinea pigs' foster mom.

If you've ever driven through Illinois and Indiana, you know that paying tolls plays a major part in roadtrips. Kindness Countdown Bonus: On this trip, whenever there was an employee in a tollbox, I paid double and asked them to comp the car behind me. It's always nice to see smiles in other cars on the road. (:

We arrived in town early so we could spend some time at the beach and explore the cute streets of New Buffalo (pro tip: get a fresh strawberry shake from Nancy's if you ever find yourself nearby).


And then we made our way to the meet-up place and met our new family members...and oh, how big my daughters smiled! Which made me smile!

Our drive home was full of more double-paid tolls, lots of thank yous from my girls, commentary on every move made by the guinea pigs (who they have since named Pepper and Spinach), plans for introducing them to their new cage, making toys, and growing vegetables to feed them for snacks.

Everyone is settling in pretty well. The girls are spending lots of time bonding with their new pets who are receiving no shortage of love. My daughters have something positive to focus on that won't be cancelled.

And the sparkle in their eyes is shining bright. <3

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Week 40: Keep On Keeping On


Wow, it's week 40! Only 5 more weeks to go...I'm in the home stretch (literally. at home.).

I thought, since we're starting to see the end of this little project come in sight (for this round anyway, I have future plans rolling around this aging head-o-mine), I'd spend this week focusing on positivity for the future and share one of my favorite things I've discovered this week.

I'm a big Green Bay Packers fan. Actually, a HUGE Packers fan. I'm the person people tag in Packers articles, call with Packers news, and text during games (but there is a very short list of people I text back while the clock is still running, I'm usually too busy high-fiving my family or people near our seats inside Lambeau).

Fun Fact: I was a finalist for the Aaron Rodgers episode of Jimmy Kimmel's show Big Fan a few years ago, but sadly, didn't make the final cut. I would have studied my butt off to have won an opportunity to toss a football around with Rodgers (Aaron, if you're reading this, call me...it would be the BEST birthday gift ever!).

OK, I'm off track. See, this is what happens when I get talking about the Packers. Now, where was I? Kindness-Packers-Community Campaign, that's right...

So, I was on the Packers Pro Shop looking around last week and noticed some colorful, positive, inclusive merchandise. I clicked on the link and voila, I was in love!


The Keep On campaign was started to inspire hope for people all across Wisconsin during this crazy time in our history.
"Help us encourage everyone in our communities to Keep On doing all the right and good things. Keep On staying safe. Keep On supporting one another. We're all in this together. Let's Keep On Wisconsin."
All of the items are really reasonably-priced, being sold at cost, and the yard signs are FREE!

I bought my kids t-shirts, myself a pin for my jean jacket, a set of postcards to mail to friends and family, and I ordered 3 yard signs (one for my house and the other two for my parents and brothers' houses).

Join me in spreading some joy across Wisconsin! Order a free yard sign to make your neighbors smile, a pack of postcards to snail mail to a loved one, and a t-shirt to cheer yourself up. You deserve it!

Keep On keeping on, everyone! We're in this together, and together we can do ANYTHING!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Week 39: Surprise Snail Mail


Dear Reader,

Life here in Wisconsin is picking back up. My husband has returned to work, my kids' school is in the home stretch, and my real estate practice is getting increasingly busier as the Spring market has finally arrived (although inventory is low...if you know of anyone in Wisconsin looking to move, send them my way, I have buyers who need houses! 😉)

I know I'm not the only one feeling an increase in to-dos and (places) to-be. This is why I decided to carve out time to surprise special people in my life with some snail mail in hopes of brightening their days as their schedules fill up.

The recipients of my letters spread across all areas of my life, to a friend of 30 years, a mentor I have today, special family members, and more.


I thanked all of my pen pals for the meaningful role they play in my life, I expressed how much I appreciate their unique qualities and talents, and I told them I was rooting for them, their health and happiness.

Writing letters is such a simple thing to do but I know from experience that the ones I've been lucky enough to receive have had a huge impact on me the day they arrived, as well as every other time I've stumbled upon them (I keep them all)!

Who in your life could use a pick-me-up?
Who has played an important role?
Who are you grateful for?

Why not write and tell them?

Sincerely,
Shannon

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Week 38: Signs of the Times


What a time to be alive!

Never did I ever think I'd see my children wearing masks outside of a hospital during flu season.

Never did I ever think I'd be excited to find someone to make matching masks for my daughters and me in Rifle Paper Co. floral fabric.

Never did I ever think I'd be crafting encouraging mask signs.

But here we are.


This week, I painted a half-dozen signs* with a positive message to hang up around my town in hopes of making people smile behind the masks they're wearing to keep our community safe.

I painted them on the back of cereal and snack boxes and then sprayed them with a protectant coating to guard against precipitation (it's May and I wish I could have said "rain" there, but alas, it's Wisconsin and it snowed yesterday and may again tomorrow).

I hung the posters up outside of a couple of restaurants that take window order, on a tree in a park where people exercise, and downtown where lots of families are taking nightly strolls.


I hope the signs provide a boost of encouragement for people to continue wearing their masks (peer pressure is real).

I hope it makes people happy who are hiding their smiles for a while.

I hope everyone continues to care for one another in all of the creative and compassionate ways I've witnessed each day of this surreal season of our lives.

What a time to be alive!

* - Sign design is based off of a photograph someone took and shared online while out on a walk in California. (:



This week's Kindness Countdown activity was photographed and videotaped by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for an article they'll soon be running on my little project. I'll share the link when it becomes available! 

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Week 37: May Day Baskets


I was a little girl growing up on the south side of Milwaukee in the 70s and 80s, where May Day was celebrated...at least it was in my family. My mom had us put together baskets of goodies, set them on our neighbor's front steps, ring their doorbells, and run!

Seeing as we're currently social distancing, I thought this would be the perfect year to bring back the tradition of May Day baskets (but not the Maypole...I never understood what that was all about).


My kids and I crafted glittered butterfly cards, cut a half-dozen daffodils from our yard, and assembled some of our hen's fresh eggs in cartons, safely loaded it all in a basket, and walked down our block dropping goodies off on our neighbor's stoops. 

Although our intentions were to "ding dong ditch," we were happy to be caught in the act a couple of times and enjoyed the chats with our neighbors.


It doesn't need to be a special day and you don't have to drop off anything big...however you let your neighbors know, they'll appreciate you thinking of them and wishing them well. 

Hopefully we can all do that in person, complete with hugs and cookouts and such SOON!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Week 36: BOGO Masks


For Kindness Countdown week 36, in an effort to protect my family, along with the doctors and nurses working with the COVID-19 patients in hospitals, I purchased masks from a few generous resources I'd like to bring to your attention.

I bought two denim masks from Food52 and Ft. Lonesome, who are both donating a mask to a frontline worker with each mask purchased. (I love anything denim!)

I also purchased five cotton masks for everyone in my family from a local tactile crafter, annachorism (on Instagram), who is using the profits from the masks she sells to purchase materials to make masks to donate to area hospitals. All five of us love the fabrics we chose, they're really comfortable, and easy to clean!

Times have changed and I don't foresee the need to sport a mask leaving us anytime soon. If you're going to purchase a few to have on hand, why not help others while purchasing quality products to keep you and your family safe?

It's a win-win!
The gorgeous mural behind me is the work of uber talented Milwaukee artist, Mauricio Ramirez, and is titled Frontline Heroes. It's located at 600 W. Lincoln Avenue. 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Kindness Countdown in Real Simple


I still can't believe this happened!

A few days ago, I clicked on a DM notification in Instagram and saw a message from an editor at Real Simple who had seen the Kindness Countdown project in her feed. She asked if she could ask me some questions and write an article. 

Ummmm, I obviously said YES!

Fast forward 24 hours, and the article was live on their sit. 

Read all about why I started the project, a bit about my daily life, how I've switched things up since the pandemic hit, what future plans hold, and more. 

I tell ya what...you wake up in the morning and you just don't know what the day will bring.

I still can't believe this happened!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Week 35: Paper Chain Countdown

Hello, all you cool cats and kittens!

Sorry, I couldn't help myself...it's a sign of the times and a subject the friend I'm about to mention and I've exchanged numerous texts about.


I never intended to write about what I'm about to for this week's Kindness Countdown blog post, but it's such a simple idea that my friend said meant a lot, and since the purpose of writing a blog about these acts of kindness each week is to hopefully encourage others to spread some love, I'm sharing it (but I'm keeping the details private).

I have a friend who's counting down to a big day. To help make the waiting a little bit more fun, I made her a paper chain and left it on her back door while she was at work.

I come from a long line of paper-chain makers/lovers. We made them for loads of things when I was growing up...and I've never really stopped.

I can't tell you how many times I've said, "I think I'll make a paper chain" or "You should make a paper chain" when talking with a friend for family member about something exciting and heard them laugh as though it was a joke.


You'd think, after almost 45 years, they'd understand I take excitement, joy, and anticipation quite seriously, that I'd never joke about something as serious as a paper chain, but alas, here we are. Hopefully reading this in black and white will erase all confusion, set the record straight, and garner paper chains everywhere with the respect they've long deserved! ;)

Do you know someone looking forward to something special? Maybe a big birthday? An anniversary? The start of a new job? A family reunion or house closing? An extra-special concert? The end of quarantine? I kid, kind of...

Surprise them with a paper chain!

It's such a simple thing to do, and according to my friend brings upon a smile and is "incredibly thoughtful."

Spread the love! Share in the joy! Make them smile!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Week 34: A Cup of Calm

It's Kindness Countdown Week 34 and Week 5 of the COVID-19 Quarantine. I am missing my people.


One of the groups I'm missing most are my gym pals. I'm not sure if it's because they were brought into my life at a significant time, if it's because they motivate me to be my best (in more areas than just physical fitness), or if it's just because they're all awesome people (actually I do know...it's all 3!), but I find myself missing them even more than Trader Joe's, and that's saying something! 

Because my gym is located in close proximity to two hospitals, quite a few of my favorite people are healthcare professionals, many of them doctors and nurses in the emergency department. As much as I'm missing my normal life, I'm thinking they wish things could go back to pre-coronavirus a million times more. 

They're the ones taking care of those we're all avoiding with our masks and gloves (keep it up!), they're working insanely long shifts and changing clothes in their garages with the virus exposure at work in the backs of their minds when hugging family members. And you know what? I haven't heard any of them complain.

They are rock stars. 

Deservedly, this week's activity is for them. 


In an attempt to express a fraction of our gratitude, I traced my youngest and then my kids and I decorated this sign for them, packed up a few dozen bags of Bigelow chamomile tea, and shipped it all off to our nearby ER.

Please continue to keep all of them and the countless others on the front lines in your thoughts and prayers. Together-apart is the only way we'll all be able to get back the lives AND PEOPLE we're missing so much. 

Stay safe!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Week 33: Quarantine Care Kits


Do those of you quarantined in warm places, with views of palm trees, have any idea how good you have it? There are people, like me, who were cooped up indoors for FIVE MONTHS prior to their stay at home orders...and just as the weather inched above freezing, were told to remain indoors.

If you live someplace warm, if you have a view of a mountain, a backyard pool, or sunshine out your window more often than not, take a moment to appreciate it. (:

Here in Wisconsin, the weather is *finally* cooperating. Not only did it hit 50 degrees today, but the sun was shining! It was a great day for me to don some plastic gloves and get to work on this week's Kindness Countdown activity: leaving quarantine care kits on 100 of my neighbor's front doors.

I placed an Amazon order for plastic hanging bags, individually wrapped bags of calming chamomile tea for my neighbors to enjoy today, and packets of flower seeds to look forward to planting when the temperatures rise and then created a note of encouragement.

I included where I live "in the blue house with the big gas station numbers and the Green Bay Boneyard in the front yard (see photo below) during football season" and contact info and told them not to hesitate to reach out if they need anything during this time of social distancing...and to stop by to catch up once this was all over.

It was nice to chat with a few (from a safe distance) and amazing to hear shouts of thanks from across the street as neighbors returned to their homes from walks and bike rides. We promised to take care of ourselves and to get together once this is all over.

I'm really looking forward to it!

(Here is the Green Bay Boneyard I mentioned above. I make a tombstone for each team the Packers beat each season. Go Pack Go!)


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Week 32: Crafting Kindness


The Kindness Countdown, like the rest of the world, is under quarantine. And while I'm sad a handful of the activities I was planning on doing in the 13 remaining weeks will no longer be possible, the world needs more kindness than ever, and I'm excited to get creative and keep spreading smiles from the safety of my home. (And look forward to doing those other activities at a later, safer date!)

This week, my daughters and I made bracelets for some special ladies, both young and old, in our lives. 


We got the idea for this Perler Bead craft from my favorite blog, HonestlyWTF. We personalized each bracelet with the recipient's name (or nickname) and added their favorite colors or a mix of ones we thought fit their personality. 


I wrote out positive notes and popped each bracelet in the mail on Monday...a few of them have been received and I'm happy to report that they were nice surprises that brought smiles to their recipient's faces. Mission accomplished!

I've already started on this week's activity and am excited to share it all with you over the weekend! 

Stay tuned, stay home, and stay healthy!

Wishing you all well!
Shannon

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Week 31: ER Special Delivery


These are some surreal times. Just when I think I have a handle on my thoughts and feelings about COVID-19 and all of the closings, cancelled activities and vacations, and social-distancing, some anxiety sneaks in and I need to take a minute to refocus and relax.

But do you know who doesn't have much time for processing their feelings? Those on the front lines taking care of the rest of us.

I've spent a good chunk of time brainstorming what I could do for those working in the hospitals near me this past weekend. And while I'm not sure cookies scream "THANK YOU FOR YOUR SACRIFICES AND LITERALLY SAVING LIVES EVERY DAY" but it's all I could come up with on such short notice (can you believe how quickly this has escalated?!).

And so Saturday, I drove to the two ERs near my home and dropped off a note with some cookies (not homemade, because, pandemic).


Now, before you all run into your nearest ER with armloads of baked goods, let me tell you how I did it, because I'm taking my role in the flattening of the curve quite seriously.

I located a police officer outside the hospital and gave the cookies to him to deliver, therefore keeping myself free from exposure and ensuring I didn't pass the virus onto anyone else.

Don't feel comfortable with that? Maybe in a few weeks, when the virus is under control and everyone is out of harm's way, we could all drop off goodies as a post-community-saving show of gratitude.

Until then, keep these front line warriors in your thoughts and prayers!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Week 30: KC Chicken Rescue



I've been a proud chicken mother for a few years now, my small flock provides my family with fresh eggs and loads of opportunities for learning experiences, increased responsibility for my kids, and lots of laughs (chickens are goofy animals that are super entertaining to watch)!

But fun fact: Only one person in our family really loves eggs. Sure, I use them for baking once a week and a couple of us enjoy scrambled eggs or french toast from time to time, but the fact is, we don't go through too many (we love to give them to neighbors and friends though!).

Unlike me, my friend Jodi lives on an active farm with a large flock that they rely on for egg production. So when one of their sweet girls stopped laying, she asked if I'd take her off their hands so she wouldn't have to be useful to them in another way, if you know what I mean.

And so, this week, in the parking lot of my gym where she handed her off to me, I established the Kindness Countdown Chicken Rescue. ;)

Because chickens can be quite vicious with one another, we are still in the process of introducing her to our flock. She spends her nights in a large dog kennel separate from the other girls, and her days either in the divided run or under supervised free-range visits.

I'm happy to report that after a few rough days, today went much smoother and they're becoming more accustomed to one another.

I predict their integration will arrive soon thanks to the increased free-range time they'll be allowed compliments of our coronavirus-induced social distancing (AKA: we're all home to keep an eye on them).

She's such a sweet girl and we're thrilled to have adopted her! Welcome to the family, Blair!

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Week 29: Climbing High for Deep Breaths


Have you heard of Fight For Air Climb fundraisers hosted by the American Lung Association

They're large group climbs up very tall buildings that raise money to help make a positive impact on lung health in our country.

The events are near and dear to my heart for both the money raised to help fight lung disease and  because of the very high climbs.

As a teen, I watched my grandma suffer from emphysema and the complications that arose as a result (one of the many reasons I have never tried smoking). Losing her love, the incredibly pure and unconditional kind grandparents are capable of, was heart-breaking and life-changing. 

As the daughter of a (now-retired) fire captain, when I heard the news of the first plane crashing on 9/11, my heart went out to the firefighters, knowing the elevators would be out, knowing they had to climb the stairs in full gear to do what they do best: help those in need. And then the other plane crashed. And then they all came tumbling down. 


At each Fight For Air Climb, you'll see both families climbing in memory or honor of loved ones impacted by lung disease and emergency personnel climbing in their full gear in memory of their fallen brothers and sisters. 

This is the 4th year I've participated in the Milwaukee event and I was once again touched by each and every one of the thousands of participants. The energy is incredible, the people are so kind, and the money raised is amazing!

Before being cleared to climb the 47 flights (1,034 steps) of the US Bank building in Milwaukee, each participant needs to raise a minimum of $200. I'm proud to say the total raised this year was over $635,000! And I'd also like to take a moment to thank everyone who donated to help me climb: THANK YOU!!!

I finished the climb in just under 13 minutes this year, no where near my personal best of 10:31, but it's what I expected going in without any training. I'm dealing with some health issues and went into the climb knowing I'd allow myself a few minor breaks to catch my breath and let my heart rate slow - I'm not always so kind to myself in competitively timed situations, and I didn't like it one bit. ;)

But I made it to the top, took in the amazing views and swapped picture-taking time with some of the people I chatted with while waiting for our group to start (Hi, Dawn!), and then the coolest thing happened: I ran into a group of young firefighters from my dad's old department!

They invited me over for a cup of coffee in their new station, "We have an espresso machine now!" they proudly bragged. I'll definitely be taking them up on the offer!

It was a great event, run as smoothly as ever, and left all of us climbers looking forward to doing it again next year! Come join us!

Monday, March 2, 2020

Week 28: Dollar Tree Scavenger Hunt


My favorite part of performing the Kindness Countdown activities is doing them alongside my kids...and this week was no exception!

We headed to our local Dollar Tree store armed with a stack of singles and a roll of painters tape, and set up our very own scavenger hunt!

I gave each kid a handful of pre-taped dollars and let them go wild. 


They hid dollars behind dog toys and under pet water dishes.


They thought of home repair projects (because our 1880s home has a continuous cycle of them) and taped some near the construction items. - Can we take a minute to acknowledge how amazing it is that you can get a handsaw for $1?!


The kids thought of their little cousin and taped a dollar near the baby/toddler items.


And they excitedly looked at the new summer toy options and left a couple of dollars behind.

They left dollars sticking out of books, behind picture frames, and taped to packs of pencils. They placed one under a plate and another behind some Matchbox cars.

Oh, the fun we had! We were giddy walking out to the car, imagining the lucky recipients finding the bills hidden around the store, once again proving it is more fun to give than to receive!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Week 27: Giving Blood, Saving Lives


If you're having a déjà vu moment seeing me post about donating blood, you are not incorrect; I wrote about my blood donation back in Week 10, but thought it was important enough for another reminder.

As I mentioned back in October, I donate blood every 8 week. I schedule my next appointment as I'm sitting with my donor pals, eating snacks and sipping juice, with the volunteer who comes round and adds our names to our usual time slots.

Note for local readers: I go to the Cedarburg Lion's Club blood drive and my time slot is always between 1:00-1:15, in case anyone wants to get in on the fun; I kill the Cedarburg trivia game so you're almost guaranteed a prize! ;)


As I told a friend this week, the Versiti workers who coordinate the intake and draw the blood are some amazing, friendly, and uplifting people, we always have a good time! I've become friends with a lot of them and look forward to checking in on each other's families and big life moments every other month!

Wherever you are, I'm sure there is a regular blood drive just waiting for you to build a community...a group who gives, where you laugh and share and eat yummy snacks together, where you will give your blood and therefore allow someone to see another birthday, overcome a serious injury, watch their child get married, help them battle cancer, and live for the joy of hearing their favorite song come on the radio, when they'll sing loud and proud and feel like anything is possible.

You can make that happen.

Be a hero. Schedule your blood donation today!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Week 26: Freeing Fire Hydrants


Growing up with a firefighter for a father impacts not only your formative years, but each of the years beyond.

It is because of my childhood experiences that I desire a strong community, care deeply and express if often (I've never not been aware of how precious life is), and don't mind my unusual work schedule. It is why I seek daring adventures and simultaneously possess an equally strong sense of responsibility.

I am almost 45 years old and being the daughter of a firefighter is still one of the characteristic traits that best describes me. Want some proof? I present to you Exhibit C, the third Kindness Countdown activity inspired by my father's former profession (and I have another coming up in a few weeks).

In summary, old habits die hard.

Because of this, I couldn't help but notice the many fire hydrants still buried in snow while driving my son to school this morning; I instantly knew what this week's KC activity would be.

I armed myself with a shovel and drove around my neighborhood for two hours this morning, digging out fire hydrants that needed some breathing room. 

I noticed the hydrant across the street from my house was, as always, clean as a whistle (thanks, Doug!). But things quickly changed...I turned left out of my driveway and didn't make it three houses before seeing another almost entirely covered.

After working my way through the neighborhood I headed to a home I recently sold. (This realtor doesn't stop caring for her clients and their homes after the deal is done...once you're my client, I'm in it for the long haul. ;) I chopped up some frozen ice left by a plow and cleared two more hydrants on that block. 

(Sidenote: If you know anyone in the Milwaukee area looking to buy or sell a home, I'm your full-service girl! sschultz@kw.com)

In total, I made it easier for firefighters (and dogs) to access 10 fire hydrants this morning - before heading to Noodles for some much-deserved macaroni and cheese.

I'm sad to say the number of hydrants I saw needing TLC this morning greatly outnumbered the ones being cared for. And because of that, I'm posting this week's blog early, in hopes of spreading the word on the importance of maintaining a clean perimeter around your block's hydrant.

Fire fighters require three feet of space to work, and it needs to be accessible from the street.

Take a look around your neighborhood and ensure the hydrant nearest your home is operative in an emergency. And then call your loved ones and tell them to do the same. (If a neighbor is already caring for yours, adopt one near an elderly or disabled neighbor...we all know someone who could use a helping hand in the winter.)

The latest statistic shows that it takes only 3-4 minutes for a home to become engulfed in flames (newer homes and the furniture in them burns much faster than they used to...and if your home houses as many books as mine does, well, you get the picture). 

When seconds count, you do not want firefighters to waste valuable time locating and clearing a hydrant. 

You want them to spend their time doing what matters: fighting the fire.