Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Turned 40 and It Was Fabulous!

My 40th birthday has come and gone.  Today marks three weeks since entering my 40s.  I am to happy to report that I'm settling in quite comfortably.

Thank you to those of you who sent me birthday wishes on the big day!  It was lovely to hear from people near and far, from long-time friends and new virtual ones. 

This blog post is dedicated to those who asked me to share photos and stories from my time on Mackinac Island...I hope you all enjoy hearing about it!

I awoke the morning of my 40th birthday in a hotel room only 45 minutes from the Shepler's ferry dock in Mackinac City.  We wanted to be nearby to ensure a full day on the island, to make the most of our vacation.  We were delighted to discover we were booked on one of the Mighty Mack ferry rides. 

During this trip, which is only offered 2-3 times each day, the ferry takes you on a tour under the Mackinac Bridge.  This large suspension bridge spans the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Upper and Lower peninsula of the state of Michigan.  Big Mac measures 26,372 feet and is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western hemisphere.  The tour was breathtaking!

Upon docking, we were told that our suitcases were taken directly to Grand Hotel from the ferry, allowing us the freedom to relax, take in the sounds of horse hooves, and walk the streets, venturing into cute souvenir stores and fudge shops.  We were even offered a still-warm fudge sample off the marble table!  It doesn't get any fresher or more delicious than that!

We had a delicious lunch at Cawthorne's Village Inn before heading to Grand Hotel in the afternoon.  The wide-spanning greens, beautiful gardens, lawn games, and pool facility were awe-inspiring.  We had so much fun playing a family game of bocce before checking into our room and rocking on the numerous chairs that line their l-o-n-g porch. 

Once inside, I unpacked our clothes while my children and husband camped out on the balcony, watching horses and bikers pass by.  My reward came a few moments later when there was a knock on the door and a gift basket arrived full of wine, fudge, fruit and cheese!  What a lovely birthday gift!  I wasted no time joining my family on the balcony, drinking a glass of red wine before our 5-course gourmet dinner! 

The next morning we rented bikes and peddled around the 8-mile island circumference, stopping for a picnic lunch and to stack some stones on the beach.  My husband, son and oldest daughter rode individual bikes while our youngest daughter rode on a tag-along connected to my bike (trailers and toddler seats are also available to rent). 

We really enjoyed seeing Arch Rock and hiking to the top.  What an impressive natural formation it is! 

After our bike ride we walked over to Grand Hotel's stables to visit the horses, learn about the history of their carriages, and play a game of horseshoes. 

The stablehands were friendly and answered all of our questions about caring for the horses and amused my children, telling them about each horse's personality. 

Before dinner, we enjoyed a quick swim in the pool (just look at that view!) and then gave the free snowcone machine a whirl.  My children were thrilled to have dessert before dinner!

We headed downstairs to the world's largest porch (660 feet!) once we were dressed for dinner and asked one of the numerous photographers to take our family's photograph with the lake, columns and flags behind us.  What a treat it was the next day to go downstairs and look through the high-quality photographs...one might just end up in our Christmas card this year! 

After a good night's sleep, I took an early morning run.  The quiet time and seeing the scenes of the island as the sun rose was breathtaking.  

I have been coming to Mackinac Island for 40 years and have never experienced it quite like I did that morning; downtown was deserted, families of geese roamed the beaches...it was calm and serene...and all mine. 

As I rounded the corner up the hill and saw the sun greeting Grand Hotel, I couldn't help but reflect on the past year, on the 40 random acts of kindness my family completed, and all that had brought me to this special place with people I love.  It was a special moment I will always remember. 

After breakfast, our children played a game of chess on the porch, and then we packed up our suitcases to be taken to the ferry to ensure it met us back in Mackinac City where our car was parked.  Before leaving Grand Hotel, we headed to Sadie's Ice Cream Parlor to enjoy Mackinac Island fudge cones one last time. 

The kids were excited to take a carriage ride to downtown where they each picked out a souvenir (more than one horse stuffed animal made it's way home with us), and then we played a round of catch on the grass in front of Fort Mackinac.  It was bittersweet to head to the ferry dock to start our trip home...happy to head home to a life we love with such lovely memories, but very sad to see the vacation come to a close.

I have thought about our trip each day since we arrived home...and am already, if only mentally, planning our next visit to Mackinac Island. 

The kids would like to visit Butterfly House and tour Fort Mackinac again (we did so on a previous trip, but our youngest said she doesn't remember it).  I will definitely wake up early to experience a quiet run or walk as the sun rises again.  And without a doubt we will stay at Grand Hotel. 

Please feel free to comment or email me with any questions you might have about planning a trip to Mackinac Island.  I'm happy to help and would love to live vicariously through your trip until I'm able to head back there again myself.  (:

I hope this finds you all well and happy and kind! 


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Kindness Countdown in the Press

A feature article was written about the Kindness Countdown and published in the Ozaukee News Graphic this past week.

It was an honor to spread the message of kindness within my community and share how the past year has changed my family.

Below are scanned images of the article you can click, enlarge, and read. 

On a related note, as a child of the 80s, it's quite a thrill to have an article written about me printed alongside one written about Rick Springfield!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Week 40: Kindness Countdown Favorites

This is it.  The final week of the Kindness Countdown!  

I had planned on ending these 40 weeks of random acts of kindness with a Habitat for Humanity project in my county, a project I could continue working on long past my 40th birthday.  Unfortunately, I've been told there is an issue with receiving the permit and that the project is on hold.  (I'm on the list of volunteers to contact once the project is approved and am looking forward to lending a hand soon!)

After giving it much thought, I decided that my family and I would do a "best of" instead.  I asked each of my children what their favorite activity has been this past year, added my own, and then we set off to make the days of others a bit brighter.

Week 16: Collecting Carts in the Cold
Our first stop was Costco.  You may recall my son and I picked up all of the abandoned carts in the Costco parking lot back in January.  In -2 degree weather (-21 degree wind chills).

While it wasn't as big of a sacrifice this week with weather in the comfortable 60s, we did a thorough job cleaning up the abandoned carts and also offered our services to those who had just completed their shopping.  My daughters, who missed this random act of kindness earlier this year, were thrilled to join us this time and to lend a hand, sharing the experience.

Week 2: Cleaning Up Our Park
The next stop was cleaning up a park that is near and dear to us.  It is our favorite (and often-frequented) frog-catching location.

We couldn't help but notice the trash that had accumulated in the river the last time we were there, so when my daughter suggested we clean up a park, we knew just which one we'd be working in.  I feel bittersweet in telling you that we filled a giant yard waste bag of trash with plastic bags, bottles, cans, chip bags, pieces of insulation, fishing line, etc.

I hope the frogs, geese, ducks, turtles and fish all feel much more comfortable in their home.  I know we will now enjoy visiting them that much more.  

Week 6: Give and Take
One of the activities that moved me this year was hanging up the "take what you need" and "what will you share?" flyers...and driving around to the various locations the following week to check on their status.

We hung signs in four different places this week (a laundromat, coffee shop, ice cream parlor, and restaurant) and then, a few days later, went back to check on them.

As with the last time we hung up these signs, it was touching to see people acknowledge that they needed understanding, courage, love and healing.  And equally touching to see others devoted to giving those gifts.

Downloads of the flyers are below...I encourage you to hang them up in your neighborhood...and share the gifts you can. 

Week 27: Easter Egg Hide
We left plastic eggs at the various locations we repeated activities this week.  My children love dressing up in funny costumes and when they saw stick-on fake mustaches at the store last week they asked if we could put them in the eggs.

We hid a few eggs in carts we returned to Costco.  We put some in trees and on the playground at the park we picked up.  And we hid a few at the locations we displayed the signs in this week.  I hope everyone laughs and enjoys the mustaches as much as our family does when we wear them.  (:

It was a busy week of giving and, as always, we had so much fun!  My 40th birthday is Tuesday, only two days away.  I'm going to be spending some quiet time later this week reflecting on this past year and what it has meant to me.  I'm looking forward to sharing more of my thoughts once I've fully processed everything.  For now, I will say this:  It's been an amazing whirlwind, and I'm so very thankful for these memories and shared moments of giving with my family! 

And I thank you all for sharing along in the journey! Thank you!

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill

Monday, June 22, 2015

Week 39: Balloons Bring Big Smiles

School is out for summer!  For millions of children in the United States it means freedom from getting up early and having homework.  Unfortunately, it also means that those children now need to tag along while their parents run errands.

Running errands isn't anything new to my children since they're homeschooled, but it certainly doesn't make them immune from complaining about being bored and asking how many more stops we have to make before heading home.

This week's Kindness Countdown activity was to help frazzled parents dealing with bored children at the busiest errand location I could think of:  Costco.

I purchased $40 in helium balloons from my local grocery store and drove them over to Costco. (After a quick stop to take the above picture :)  I planned this random act of kindness to occur at lunch time; there is no worse time to run errands with kids...I know this from experience.

My children and I caught infectious smiles after seeing the joy on the children's faces who cheerfully accepted the balloons!  To bring a child that much happiness...it was an amazing feeling!  And equally rewarding were the knowing looks of gratitude I received from the parents.

This activity quickly became one of my favorites.  And after 39 weeks of acts of kindness, that's saying a lot.

I'll definitely be doing this again in the future! 

"Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon." - Winnie the Pooh

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Week 38: Recycle for Sight

Summer is underway and life is hectic and full.  My children and I were out catching frogs this afternoon, discussing our plans for this week's Kindness Countdown activity when I realized that I hadn't written about last week's random act of kindness.  Oops!  I apologize for my tardiness...and without further adieu...

My friend Stacy has been supportive of the Kindness Countdown since week one, but this week she provided more than kind words.  When I mentioned I was going to be donating old glasses and contacts to a deserving charity to recycle, she put the word out to her friends and co-workers and they generously added to my collection.  My friend Nanette helped too.  What a blessing these supportive ladies are...to more than just myself. 

After cleaning out my closet to locate my old glasses, collecting a handful from my friends, and throwing in some contacts that my aging-eyes no longer have use for, I donated the lot to the Lions Club's Recycle for Sight program.  

Why did I select the Lions Club?  I researched various donation programs in southeastern Wisconsin and found that a few of the other centers either weren't forthcoming with their practices or flatly admitted they didn't donate glasses to those in need. 

I can confidently recommend, after much research, that you donate to the Lions Club if you have glasses you no longer need.  Their Recycle for Sight program collects, cleans, and reconditions old glasses and then ships them to people in need all over the world. 

I wake up each morning to a blurry world and feel much more confident when I put my glasses on, when I feel I can fully participate in life and more easily interact with those around me.  I cannot imagine not having those glasses to reach for or my contacts to put on. 

It makes me smile to think of those who will be receiving this gift!  I hope they receive not only improved sight, but a renewed vision for life as well. 

To find a collection center near you, visit lionsclub.org.  

"Vision without action is merely a dream.  Action without vision just passes the time.  Vision with action can change the world."  - Joel A. Barker

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Week 37: Caring Cards Left on Cars

The hours between 3:00-6:00 pm are commonly referred to as "the witching hours" among stay-at-home parents.  By 3:00, you have pulled out every trick you had up your sleeve and are often bone-deep tired as you try to figure out what your family will eat for dinner.

I don't remember those hours being much more enjoyable pre-kids.  By 3:00 I was often mentally checked out at work and thinking about errands I needed to run on my way home and what I needed to pick up from the grocery store to make for dinner that night.

And then there are the countless number people that are in both camps...working all day and then rushing to pick up their children or meet them at home for dinner, homework and bath/story/bed time.

I had all of the above in mind for this week's Kindness Countdown activity.

My children and I placed short, encouraging notes (download available on Kind Over Matter's blog) on cars in multiple grocery store parking lots during those overwhelming hours.  The hours when people would be rushing home from work or picking up last minute ingredients for dinner. 

AKA: When they were likely to need a bit of encouragement. 

We sat in our van, watching people come back to their cars and read their notes after we finished in each location,.  It was so nice to see the recipients smiling as they drove away. 

There have been days when I have felt defeated, deflated at best, and a stranger has held a door for me, smiled a knowing smile, or offered a kind or encouraging word.  Those simple gestures never fail to turn my day around. 

We all have the power to affect moments, moods, and days of others.  Let's use our power for good. 

"One kind word can warm three winter months."  - Japanese proverb

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Week 36: Homeless in the Heat

Southeastern Wisconsin is heating up.  The temperatures have been in the upper 80s the past few days served alongside generous portions of high humidity.  It is during our hot summers (we reach the 90s more often than I'd like along with an occasional day or two or 10 over 100 degrees) and bitterly cold winters (don't even get me started on the -40 windchill...) that I find myself thinking about the homeless population even more often than usual. 

This week, my children and I visited a homeless shelter I've volunteered at (making lunches and handing them out to those in need) this week to drop off bottles of water and toiletry items. 

A carton of milk is handed out with each meal, but I've made an effort to donate bottles of water regularly the past few summers so that the recipients have a bottle to take with them and refill throughout their days to stay hydrated.  This time we dropped off 80 bottles.

In addition, we donated 125 shampoos, conditioners, soaps, tubes of toothpaste, toothbrushes, sunscreen, and hand-wipes that we've been setting aside from hotel visits and purchasing at a discount.  

On our way out of the facility, we passed a father and his young son walking in to receive free lunches. Once we got outside I looked at my children and said, "That boy and his dad are here to eat lunch."

Without missing a beat, my kids huddled together and decided to give the boy a large bin of LEGO bricks they had just purchased at a rummage sale on our way into Milwaukee.  When the father and son came back out, I approached the dad and asked if my children could give his son a gift. 

They happily accepted and were cheerfully on their way. 

We got back into our car feeling richer haven just given possessions away.

It's pretty cool how that happens.

"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving."  - Mother Teresa

Friday, May 22, 2015

Week 35: Flags of Freedom

To say this week's Kindness Countdown activity was humbling is an understatement.

I contacted Wood National Cemetery in Milwaukee a few months ago in preparation for this year's Memorial Day weekend, requesting my family's names be placed on their volunteer list to place American flags on the graves of the veterans buried there.

Before arriving, my husband and I talked about proper cemetery behavior with our children and reminded them what Memorial Day is all about.

Our family was assigned a small portion of the 38,000 graves, given a tutorial on inserting the flags into their desired location (one foot-length from the stone), and shown to the bin of flags to be distributed.

Because the ground was dry, inserting the flags required two hands and a little elbow grease.  We took turns holding the large bundles of flags, carefully handing flags out one at a time to those planting them in the ground.  I was thankful we gave the kids a refresher course on proper flag protocol before arriving so they knew not to drop or lay them on the ground.

Photo compliments of WISN-12 Milwaukee who filmed and aired a segment on the Kindness Countdown project on May 21, 2015. Viewing is available here:  http://goo.gl/zS4GPO

We were fairly quiet as we worked.  Being surrounded by the striking white stones, you couldn't help but feel the sacrifices made for our freedom.  Viewing the names of each veteran who so bravely defended our great nation was quite moving.

Once we completed our assigned section we visited the area of the cemetery where my grandfather and uncle/godfather are buried and placed flags at their graves as well.  And then I shed a few tears as I, once again, told my children about these two great men who proceeded them in our loving family and whose loss if felt daily. 

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." John 15:13

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Wdek 34: Cards with Karen Refugees

Karenni refugee families fled Karen (near Burma, also called Myanmar) to save their lives and escape the ethnic conflict which has existed there for decades. Over 1,000 Karenni refugees live in the Milwaukee area, most of whom are ethnic minorities in Burma. 

After years as a teacher's aid in one of the best public schools in Wisconsin, my mom was hired by a small private school in the Milwaukee area to help alleviate their need for academic tutoring and cultural mentorship for the refugee children who were sponsored to attend there. 

I found this accurate description of their people and culture on KarenniRefugees.com:
"The Karenni are a resilient, gracious people with a great sense of humor. They have a very strong work ethic, and don’t complain. They live out of a basic belief that life is difficult, so you do what you have to do in order to survive. If faced with a difficult task, they might respond with ‘a lay hey oh to’ (it doesn’t matter/ no problem). They demonstrate great dignity in providing for themselves and helping their fellow Karenni. They have a very strong connection and commitment to their own country, language, culture and people. They are not easily offended by outsiders (Americans), and are very appreciative of any kind of help they receive. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for them to ask for help, even if they desperately need it. They might be almost completely out of food, yet give you the last food that they have if you came to visit."

My children and I volunteered to be after-school tutors one afternoon this week.  After introducing ourselves, we helped the children with their spelling and memorization. 

Once their assigned homework was complete, we handed out the decks of cards I had purchased and began teaching them various card games. We played numerous games of Crazy 8 (a family favorite) and discussed the rules of Go Fish and Solitaire. 

After only a few turns each of Crazy 8, these children who were originally so timid and shy began smiling, laughing and opening up.  They talked about their families and the games they play.  We left feeling thankful for all we take for granted and the opportunity to share the experience with such friendly people.  And the students were all thrilled to leave with their very own deck of cards! 

We're already excited to go back again soon!

“Life consists not in holding good cards, but in playing those you hold well.” - Josh Billings

Friday, May 8, 2015

Week 33: Servicing the City with Smiles

Our trash is picked up each Tuesday morning by the most amazing garbage man, or G-Man, as he's called to the residents of our town.  Not only does he manage the task of the entire city's garbage on his own, but he also saves live.  Seriously.  He once recognized a woman's wave as not her usual wave, and called 911.  Our town had a meeting at city hall to honor him. 

I'm not making this up...

And so, with our garbage collection on the horizon, I spent Monday night working on this week's Kindness Countdown activity: baking cookies for our G-Man and mail carrier. 

Not be out-shined by our G-Man, our mail carrier is also an amazing person.  I'm not exaggerating; she once gave my brother the 3rd degree when he answered our door while dog-sitting...she asked where I was, if my husband was home and if our children were inside.  She even followed up that evening and the following day.

Now that I'm writing all of this, I'm feeling like cookies weren't enough...I sure am glad I also included handwritten notes thanking them for all they do for us.  (:

"You could be the world's best garbage man, the world's best model; it doesn't matter what you do if you're the best." - Muhammad Ali

Monday, May 4, 2015

Week 32: Charities for Change

Our world seems to be in chaos.  Thousands of people have perished due to the earthquake that hit Nepal.  Baltimore is in turmoil.  And news of violence in my home state of Wisconsin have received daily the past few weeks. 

It's easy to get swept up in the negativity, to throw your hands in the air and bury your head in the sand. 

But don't.

Please do not run and hide.  Please do not give up.

Please battle negativity in your home by seeing the gift it is to take care of others.  Please give of your time and give back to your community, for it is in the giving that we receive.  Please pray for those that are hurting.  Please donate time and funds to charities if you are able, to better the lives that are less fortunate. 

As the saying goes, be the change you wish to see in the world. 

The Kindness Countdown activity for week 32 was a donation to Lutheran World Relief to aid those suffering in Nepal while donating to a group in Baltimore. 

How did I settle upon donating to this charity when there are so many collecting?  I began by reading this NPR article which highlighted charities that have passed a gamut of litmus tests and then I looked for charities I've read about or donated to in the past. 

LWR is one that I've had experience with over the years in my church...and I liked that it's headquarters are in Baltimore...a place that needs some extra love right now.

The other piece to this week's Kindness Countdown activity is that I've made (and will continue to make) an extra effort to smile and positively interact with everyone I've come into contact with. 

I know that an unexpected compliment from a stranger or someone taking an extra five seconds out of their busy day to hold a door open for me has lifted my spirits in the past...I hope I can do the same for others during this less-than-peaceful time.  

"Life's most persistent and urgent questions is, 'What are you doing for others?'" - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Week 31: Kids in Control

I have dressed my children almost every day for over 11 years.  And I remind them to do their chores, to brush their teeth, to wash their faces, to make their beds, to practice dance/riding exercises/soccer drills/piano/etc.  As though that weren't enough, in addition to all of the general bossiness that comes along with being a parent, my children are also homeschooled. 

In summary, my children receive my well-intentioned input nearly 24/7.  Poor kids.

I read an article on Babble a couple of months ago about a mom who had her young son pick out her clothes every day for a week...complete with mismatched shoes and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt.  My first reaction was, "This is so cute, I wish I had thought of doing that with my kids when they were younger." 

But if I'm being truthful, deep down, I think I was a bit relieved I thought the time had passed because, well, who wants to walk around feeling self-conscience?  

Hair, clothing and accessories have always been important to me.  They have never been as important as faith and family, but they have been highly-ranked for as long as I can remember.  Even in my childhood when money was tight and a portion of my clothing was shopped for at Goodwill, I managed to put some killer outfits together thanks to the lessons I learned from my stylish grandma and the love of classics I inherited from my mom. 

After having the Babble article percolate in my mind for a month or so I pitched the idea to my children as we ran errands for Week 29's activity.  I explained that I'd like to do something nice for them...to hand over some control.  I told them that each of them would have two days to plan my outfits, hair, jewelry and shoes and in addition, plan an activity for us to do during the day.  

The rules I laid out for myself were: I could tell NO ONE about this "experiment" until it was over and I had to make eye contact, smile, and interact with strangers wherever we went.  The latter certainly isn't out of the scope of everyday activity for me, but seeing as I had no clue what I'd be wearing for the next six days, I wanted to make the interactions a verbal requirement to hold myself to.

The kids LOVED the idea and were eager to begin making their selections.  I assume you, the reader, feel similar anticipation regarding the viewing of their selections, so, without further ado...

Day 1 - My 6 year old daughter was thrilled to have the first day!  She selected the shirt because it had birds on it, the pants because they were green (her favorite color), the shoes because they were "shiny and look like cheetahs" and a small braid framing each side of my face.  I wore this fun outfit on a walk to our favorite local custard stand where we got a few scoops with fun toppings.  On the way home we stopped at a playground. I noticed one woman take in my shoes and silently judge my selection while we waited for our custard.  When she looked up I smiled and said, "Hello, how are you?  Isn't it a beautiful day?"  She smiled awkwardly, said yes, and walked away. 

Day 2 - My 8 year old daughter was in control on day two.  Without any hesitation she picked out my silk-patched jeans (she has similar jeans and loves that we can match) and then a navy shirt with pick embroidery "to match the pink in the patches."  The shoes were chosen because they were colorful and my hair was instructed to go into a French braid (she's been obsessed since learning how to craft them last month).  Her planned activity was a bike ride to a local ice cream parlor for cones (are you seeing a dairy treat theme yet?) that we ate outside in the sun.

Day 3 - My 11 year old son, a huge Green Bay Packers fan, picked out my outfit and our outing on day three.  He made a beeline for my green and gold shirt and paired it with some teal chinos and moccasins.  I never would have put these pieces together, but I have to say I really dig it and just might wear this ensemble again.  My son wanted my hair "down and plain" for the day and instructed me to put it behind my shoulders for the picture "to really show the shirt."  We visited a local coffee shop for their baked Irish oatmeal (one of his favorite meals) for his outing which we ate outside. A man smiled back at me and told me he liked my moccasins and concluded with "Go Pack Go!" 

Day 4 - My youngest was back in the driver's seat for day four.  Later in the day, when I told my husband I was running out in my carefully-crafted outfit he asked, "Are you going to the grocery store or to the circus?"  My favorite 6 year old picked out gray wool trousers with a small plaid comprised of burgundy and cobalt blue and to compliment them she chose a turquoise shirt, bright orange belt, cross necklace and black high heels...and a turquoise ribbon to tie in a bow around my ponytail.  When she saw it all put together she gasped and said, "You look so pretty!"  Tears formed in my eyes as I smiled back and hugged her.  We went to Dairy Queen for cones dipped in a hard cherry coating and while I may have felt uncomfortable in this outfit otherwise, my daughter's loving words stayed with me and I thought of them every time I caught my reflection in a mirror or window.  And not a single person gave me an odd look the entire day.  Well, except my husband.  (:

Day 5 - My oldest daughter picked out my patched jeans again for day five and the same "colorful shoes," but this time she paired them with a "matching" colorful belt and maroon shirt.  She wanted my hair in a loose braid down my back "like I wear to Irish dance" she explained.  Her planned activity was a trip to a different local coffee shop for their monster cookies, which my kids go gaga for.  "Can we each get our own?" she asked.  "You're in charge," I said, even though the cookies are roughly the size of their heads.  We obviously ordered four cookies.  And enjoyed every bite.

Day 6 - For our final day my son picked out "just your normal jeans" and a gold-striped shirt that he said he thinks I "look nice in."  He picked out some coordinating taupe flats and instructed me to wear my hair down.  He also asked me to change from the cross necklace I had been instructed to wear the previous two days to my Tali Gillette mama necklace that has rarely left my neck since his baby fingers fit into the center.  Everyone cheered when he said we were heading to local caramel apple boutique for his activity.  We even saved a slice for daddy!  

So, what did we gain through this activity, outside of satisfying our sweet teeth? Quite a bit, actually:
  1. My children greatly enjoyed having control over their day and took pride in the selections they made.
  2. People you meet on the street don't really notice what you're wearing...but they do notice when you smile and engage in conversation.  
  3. My daughters (girls) prefer my hair back and my son and husband (boys) prefer my hair down.  I don't think this is a limited preference to only the males and females in my family.
  4. Children are not in a hurry to get places...the means of transportation to a destination is much more important that the timeliness of arriving there.  They chose to walk or bike almost everywhere we went.  Note to self: I need to slow down and enjoy the ride.
  5. Apparently my children don't appreciate my "plain jeans" as much as I like wearing them.
  6. Relinquishing control is healthy and feels good.  Waking up without any decisions to make over my appearance was very freeing.  
  7. My children have inherited my mom and grandmas' impressive sense of style. 
  8. Kind and encouraging words have the power to make you feel pretty and turn your day around.  Spread kindness. 
When tucking my children into bed on day six my daughters asked if they could dress me again in summer "so we can put you in skirts and dresses."  My son quickly added that mini-golfing will be one of his activities. 

I now have another reason to look forward to summer!

“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It's the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.” - Audrey Hepburn

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Week 30: Supporting Our Servicemen and Women

I have many friends and family who are actively serving or have proudly served our country in the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force.  I am in awe of their sacrifice and devotion to our freedom on a daily basis.  For week 30 of the Kindness Countdown I reached out to some of them to ask what the best way to honor their sacrifices would be...and they directed me to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society

The donation that I made will help the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society's efforts to provide (free or interest-free) financial assistance and education to military members and their family members, widows and survivors. 

The main goal of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is "to help each person who comes to us get support for their immediate needs."  Their long-term mission is "to help Sailors and Marines become financially self-sufficient by learning how to better manage their personal finances and prepare for unplanned expenses."

Services provided by the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society include:
  • Financial Assistance and Counseling
  • Quick Assist Loans
  • Education Assistance
  • Health Education and Post-Combat Support
  • Budget for Baby classes
  • Emergency Travel
  • Disaster Relief  
If you'd like to donate to the Society visit www.nmcrs.org.

"America's fighting men and women sacrifice much to ensure that our great nation stays free.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the soldiers that have paid the ultimate price for the cause as well as for those who are blessed enough to return from the battlefield unscathed." - Allen Boyd

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Week 29: Wishing Well

The Kindness Countdown hit the road and traveled to Nashville, Tennessee for week 29!  My mom and I took a road trip to visit our cousin where I felt fortunate to not only have days waiting to be full of laughs and memories, but also to have her by my side as I gave wishes away.

We visited the beautiful fountain show above at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center on our second day in Nashville before heading over to Broadway to listen to some music. 

In preparation for this road trip random act of kindness I wrote this little rhyme and laminated my sign to ensure it could hold it's own against the water in the fountain and the evening showers the Tennessee forecast corrected predicted. 

I taped the sign to a large plastic container and filled it with 500 pennies...500 wishes that I hope come true. 

I had intended to check back on the pennies later in the day but the city was quite congested due to a convention downtown and we weren't able to check on it's progress.  I hope the dreams of locals on lunch, musicians looking for their big break, and tourists on vacation come true!

After years of my mom reaching into her purse in search of change for me to toss into countless wishing wells, I finally had an opportunity to fund her wish.  I will forever remember watching as she selected her lucky penny from the bin and tossed it over her shoulder with her eyes closed. 

It was my wish come true. 

"Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck. 
Give it to a faithful friend, then your luck will never end."
- Origin unknown

If you'd like to download a sign to leave with some pennies at a fountain near you, click on the image below.  (:


Monday, April 6, 2015

Week 28: Parking Ticket Pass

The weather in southeastern Wisconsin has been lovely: in the 50s and 60s with loads of bright sunshine.  After a long winter, this welcome change in temperature brightens spirits and brings everyone outside. 

Restaurants and shopping centers are full, co-workers grab drinks after work, families flock to the parks, and large quantities of runners and walkers can be seen on sidewalks and trails, finally having an opportunity to abandon treadmills and elliptical machines.

Last week Wednesday I spent a rare night out with co-workers (I freelance and work from home 99.9% of the time).  I made a mental note to bring coins for the parking meter that morning to avoid a parking ticket...a lesson I've learned the hard way on more than one occassion.  And that's when I came up with this Kindness Countdown activity.

I grabbed my jar of quarters and decided I'd save others from the misfortune I've "suffered" in the past.

That night, after saying goodbye to my friends/co-workers, I set off on my task.  I visited the large outdoor shopping center, where the parking meters there remained in full effect, on my way home. 

There was an abundance of expired meters due to the growing dinner crowd and after work errand-runners.  I went down two stretches of the mall armed with $10 in quarters and added 20-35 minutes to all of the meters flashing red. 

"What are you doing?" a woman out walking her dog asked me.  "I'm just adding a few minutes to some expired meters," I explained.  "Where were you last week when I got a ticket?" she said, laughing

Sometimes lines are longer than you're expecting or the dessert menu looks too good to pass up.  It's easy to lose track of time.  And there few things worse than finding a parking ticket on your car after enjoying a delicious piece of molten lava chocolate cake or cracking into some crème brûlée

"Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out." - Frank A. Clark