Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Week 15: Kindness Close to Home

Six days ago, my family and I were two hours from home celebrating Christmas with my husband's family when I became suddenly feverish and achy and developed a cough and headache.  I looked at my husband and said, "I'm not feeling well.  I'm sorry, but I think we need to go."

It was an endlessly long ride home.  The van heater was on full blast with all vents pointing to a frigid, teeth-chattering me while the rest of my family suffered in a mama-made sweat lodge.

Once home, I said hello to our dogs and goodbye to my husband and children...I retired to bed at 3:30 in the afternoon.  Later that evening, I awoke to our youngest child crying because she couldn't kiss and hug me goodnight.  I snuck to her door and told her I loved her...and did my best to explain to my sweet six year old why not giving love was an act of love in this case.

For the next three days I ventured out of bed the least I could.  I fetched my own water, Advil, blankets and occasional snack.  I did everything I could to cocoon myself in the flu in hopes of protecting my family.

Sadly, despite my best efforts, I awoke on day four to the sound of my daughters both coughing.  A cough I recognized.  I bounded out of bed with strength I didn't know remained, and told my husband to stay downstairs.  I went upstairs and saw my children's faces for the first time in days...but their eyes were glossed over and their cheeks were red.  I kissed each of their foreheads, both for comfort and to confirm their fevers, and told them to get back into their pajamas and bed.

It is now day three of their flu-journey (that sounds so much more adventurous than this is) and there is still one to shield from this nightmare, my husband.  And so I am now multitasking the flu: resting, making trips upstairs to bring them juice, Popsicles, pretzels, tomato some more, bring up some snuggles (the best part of having fellow flu-suffers in the house), water, an apple or pear...and then rest some more.

The Kindness Countdown is at home this week...I'm trying to nurse my children (and myself) back to health.  Nothing glamorous.  Nothing mothers and fathers haven't been doing since the beginning of time.  But hopefully my kids will remember the little games I've invented this week to lift their spirits and give them positive things to think about in their dark moments as I do some of the things my mom and dad (and my grandma and grandpa, when my parents were working) did for me when I was sick.

I'm doing my best to line the flu in silver.

"Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - the ones at home." -Mother Teresa

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Week 14: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

We moved into our home six years ago after months of stress...a home sale that fell through and our family being split up for weeks across the country as we awaited the move-in date of our new house.

The first day together in our new home was a special one as we shared stories from our adventures apart, walked each room carefully, opening all of the cabinets to get a feel for our new dwellings, and enjoyed greetings from neighbors who stopped by to make us feel welcome.

One of the most special visitors was our next door neighbor who brought us a homemade pineapple upside-down cake and has spent the last six years as a steady presence in our lives.  She comes outside to chat when she sees the kids playing outside and has smiled as each of them learned to ride their bicycles.  Because she is elderly, she doesn't hand out trick-or-treat candy, but each year she stops over to bring the kids special treats purchased just for them.  And when she sees me outside raking, shoveling or pulling weeds, she always says, "Don't work too hard.  If there's anything I know it's that the work will always be there."

Obviously, we are very fond of Florence. 

For this week's Kindness Countdown activity the kids and I decorated a gingerbread house for her to enjoy...and nibble on, if the she wants.  She was thrilled when we brought is over and said she's going to use it for her table centerpiece for Christmas Eve's dinner when her family gathers together.

Wishing you all peace and love during this special time of year! 

"The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." - Mark 12:31

Monday, December 22, 2014

Week 13: Free Candy Canes!

I took a trip to Phoenix, Arizona years ago to visit my cousin, Dana, just before Christmas.  We had a lovely time shopping and laughing and catching up, but one of the most memorable things we did was hand out candy canes to strangers.  Everywhere we went. 

We stopped at the gas station to fill up her car on our way home from the airport when I was introduced to her tradition.  She got out of the car with her Longaberber basket full of candy canes and proceeded to walk around the pumps, handing out goodies to everyone buying gas.  I watched each person light up at her small gesture and thought, "Oh, now this is FUN!" 

My children and I filled up our own Longaberger basket this year and have been handing out candy canes for the past few of weeks: in the post office, parking lots, gas stations, and to little kids holiday shopping with their parents.  ("Thank you, they were just saying they were hungry and I have two more store yet to go," one mom told me.)  I've even hung a few on door handles as treats for drivers when they return to their cars.

For each candy cane I've given out I've received a smile, thank you and "Merry Christmas!"  What a lovely way to spend the hectic weeks leading up to Christmas!

Next year will mark my cousin's 27th consecutive year of handing out candy canes...and my 2nd.  This tradition will most definitely continue!

"I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month." - Harlan Miller

Friday, December 12, 2014

Week 12: Worse than Cancer

Do you know what is worse than cancer?  Pediatric cancer. 

Fighting for your life is tragic.  Having a child fight for their life is unbearable.  Yet children and their parents are bearing it every day...and helping others during the battle.  Example:  Emma Rose.

I heard Emma's story for the first time this week and decided then and there it would be this week's Kindness Countdown activity.  Read her story and you'll know why:

"Hi! My name is Emma Rose. I am an 18 year old Leukemia (ALL) patient. I was diagnosed with cancer in January, 2012. It was a tough first year, but I am finally feeling better. I recently finished my treatment. Now I am at school studying to be a pediatric oncology nurse. When I was diagnosed, so many people helped my family and me in many ways. Now, I want to do something to give back. I want to help other kids with cancer who are also being treated at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.  

I collect soft comfort items and things kids can use during their stay. Right now we are especially in need of gift cards. Our newest Wishlists are on Amazon. If interested in donating gifts to help the Kids at Children's WI, please go to Amazon, click on Wish Lists and then search for Emma Rose. You do not have to order through Amazon! You can send any donations you would like to my PO Box. One of our major donation drives was called "Movie Night". Thanks to the generosity of our followers and WE Energies' donation of 100 copies of Honor Flight- The Movie, we were able to put together 100 movie tubs for the kids. Each tub contained several movies, popcorn, candy and other items for the children and their families. The tubs were given to the children on the HOT Unit, in MACC Clinic, in the BMT Clinic and at Ronald McDonald House. Since the children cannot go to the movie theater, I wanted to bring the movie theater experience to them. Thank you so much!"

Because most of the gifts that are donated to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin are for little kids, Emma's current project is collecting gift cards to Target, Amazon, iTunes, Panera Bread, etc. to give to teens with cancer for Christmas.  My children picked out two and we sent them on their way yesterday. 

Please consider helping Emma reach her goal of 100 gift cards.  Any dollar amount is fine.  Donations can be sent to Emma Rose, P.O. Box 485, Theinsville, WI 53092.

"Some days I had to tell myself, 'Get through the next 5 minutes.  You can make it through 5 minutes.' And I did.  I made it through months of my daughter's cancer treatment, 5 minutes at a time." - Mom of a cancer patient

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Week 11: It's on Me

I woke up this morning and was thinking about the Kindness Countdown activity I have planned for tomorrow and realized that in the hustle and bustle of homeschooling, work and holiday preparations I never posted a writeup on the activity I did last week.  Oops!  I hope you don't mind two back-to-back posts.  (:

2014 has not been the kindest year to many of my friends and family.  People I care about have logged too many hours in hospitals across the country worrying about children, spouses, parents and grandparents.  And while I've spent a lot of time this year praying often and fervently, cooking meals and writing words of compassion, encouragement and sympathy, I have also found myself wishing I could be there more for them.  Wishing I could, just for a minute, make them happy.

In memory of those feelings, I took bags of quarters to a nearby hospital and, with a note attached, taped them to vending machines.

I know that when I've had emotional visits at hospitals in the past it's helped to take occasional breaks to recharge.  Most times that has included a walk in the halls to grab a snack or soda.

My hope is that if someone is in such need, having their goodie unexpectedly paid for by a stranger will lighten their load, if even just for a moment.  Or if a worker is having a difficult day, I hope they too will find some relief in an unexpected random act of kindness. 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” - Ian Maclaren