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