Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Week 19: Nurturing Nature

Our family is what you'd call outdoorsy.  We tap maple trees in the spring, camp in the summer, climb crimson trees in the fall, and snowshoe in the winter.  We dissect owl pellets we find on hikes and can identify most plants and tracks we come across.  My kids know how to read a compass and are getting better at starting a fire from flint.

Given our love of nature, I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that one of our favorite places on the planet is Riveredge Nature Center - 379 acres full of educational opportunities!

Riveredge is currently fundraising to fix up their Chicken Coop, a vintage cozy coop converted into a classroom where my children have learning sessions throughout the year, including cold winter mornings which are warmed by both the wood-burning stove and the friendliness of educators employed there.  How fortunate my children are to have the opportunity to witness first-hand the magic of biodiverstiy on the land of Riveredge.  As a result they are developing an appreciation of the interconnectedness of energy, shelter, food, waste, water, and land management.

I feel grateful to have the opportunity to give back to Riveredge for this week's Kindness Countdown activity, having donated to their fundraising goals in my children's names.  I love that this frees up funds for them to use in their outreach programs that might not otherwise be possible...for city-children to see and hold frogs, to learn about nature, and feel connected to a world they've only seen in books and on TV. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm in the mood for a walk outside...

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Week 18: A Helping Haircut

Ethan Zohn, one of my favorite Survivor contestants and two-time cancer survivor, once said "My hair is my identity."  

He, like so many other people who lose their hair battling cancer, Alopecia or Trichotillomania, or as a result of burns, felt less like himself when he lost his hair during chemotherapy treatments.  And it is for these courageous people, and in memory of a dear friend's daughter, that I donated 8+ inches of hair yesterday.  

Like Mr. Zohn, my hair is part of my identity...this act of kindness was a big one for me, as silly as it may sound (it's only hair...it grows back, after all).  But I'm so glad I did it, and the experience couldn't have been more memorable and special.  I even received my own act of kindness!

When I made my haircut appointment with Samantha (I highly recommend her!) at Blush Beauty Boutique I mentioned I was going to be cutting quite a bit off to donate.  Last night, when my cut was finished, Sam told me there was no charge for my new do.  After giving her a healthy tip, I walked outside and saw the sign above painted on the building across the street.

I smiled at the message and said a prayer for the little girl who would be receiving my hair, for comfort and confidence. And then I walked to my car, with a little extra spring in my step.  Would you believe at that moment, fluffy white snowflakes began to fall?  They did.  It was a magical moment.

So, what organization did I donate my hair to?  Well, after much research and consideration, I chose Children with Hair Loss, the only organization that gives human hair replacements to over 300 children a year...at no cost to them.

Their mission is to empower children to become whole again by making hair replacement available, especially to those who are financially challenged and might otherwise not have a means of obtaining the hair they want and need.  Their goal is "to assist as many of these children as possible in changing their lives by improving their outlooks and empowering them with a degree of self-confidence that will allow them to face the world with renewed self-esteem."  

For those of you with long locks or looking to go short, please consider donating to this great nonprofit.  And if you have gray or color-treated hair, rest assured.  They, unlike other organizations, accept all hair donations and match up the hair accordingly so it can be dyed evenly.  Just think of the smile your hair will put on a child's face! 

"A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life." - Coco Chanel

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Week 17: Feeding My Fire Department Family

Fire departments are like families, and the St. Francis Fire Department in Wisconsin is no exception.  I know, because I am the proud daughter of a retired* captain from that department.

It was almost like I had 12+ dads growing up, each guy looking out for me in our small town.  Because my dad worked a 24 hour shift every three days during my childhood, I celebrated many special occasions at the department: I took prom pictures on fire trucks, blew out birthday candles in their kitchen, and logged countless hours joking with the guys at the station (I didn't know at the time that those were special occasions, but they are memories I hold near and dear to this day).

The St. Francis Fire Department moved into their new "house" a couple of months ago...and what a beauty it is!  This past weekend I surprised the guys with a visit, dropping off Packers cookies and cupcakes from Grebe's Bakery prior to the big playoff game on Sunday (Go Pack Go!).

Our friend, Pete, gave me a tour of the impressive new digs, pointing out the prayer box my dad built and the clipboard he repaired which they moved from the old station to the new radio room.  There were other comforts of my old "house" there as well...bronze wall hangings that used to hang in the old TV room, a patch collection I spent many vacations contributing to (we used to visit a fire station on every family vacation, asking for a tour and a patch from their department), and equipment I know more about than the average bear.

"So you came all the way here just to bring us treats?" Pete asked.  "Absolutely!" I replied.

And then I told him about the Kindness Countdown and how when I first had this idea I sat down to make a list of people I wanted to spread kindness to  I told him that the St. Francis Fire Department was an obvious choice...and about how much they've all meant to me throughout my life.  Heck, one of them even played bagpipes while I walked down the aisle at my wedding! 

And then a call came in and we said our goodbyes, hugging briefly before he ran off down the hall to answer the call of duty.

At least there were cookies and cupcakes waiting there for them when they returned.

"When duty call's me, oh Lord, wherever flames may rage, give me the strength to save some life whatever be its age.  Help me embrace a little child before it is too late, or save an older person from the horror of that fate.  Enable me to be alert, and oh Lord, guide my every move, for life is so precious, please don't let us loose.  I want to fill my calling and to give the best in me, to guard my every neighbor and protect their property.  And if according to thy will, that I must give my life, then with thy protecting hand my Lord, I pray thee protect my children and my wife." - Unknown

* - After retirement, my dad became a volunteer firefighter and was recently name 2014 Firefighter of the Year!  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Week 16: Collecting Carts in the Cold

"Baby, it's cold outside" aren't just some catchy Christmas lyrics in Wisconsin this week.  It is cold.  Frigid.  Freezing.  We're talking polar vortex cold.  And so, for this week's Kindness Countdown activity, I wanted to do something to help someone whom the below-zero temps affect:  the Costco cart guy. 

My son and I bundled up and headed out while the sun was still high in the sky to take advantage of the maximum temperature for the day:  2 degrees (-21 wind chill).  When we arrived, the parking lot was just as I had expected...there were carts everywhere...with more being added as people finished loading their newly-purchased goods into their cars.  In the shoppers' defense, the cart corrals are w-i-d-e-l-y space out in the parking lot and it's difficult to maneuver the double-wide carts through cars on even the most beautiful of days.  

My son and I worked as a team to return all of the abandoned carts back to the building since the nearest cart corral was further away.  He started with the carts closest to the building while I began with the carts with the longest trek to make.

A few people were thrilled with my offer to return their carts when they were unloaded, anxious to get into their heated cars and home to begin their weekends after a cold week of commuting to and from work. 

One man asked, "Are you cleaning up the parking lot?  Oh, I'll help!"  He shortened our chore by four, taking two trips of two.  And the woman checking cards inside the door, recognizing us from our years of shopping there and after seeing us return carts over and over and over again, asked if we were ever coming in to shop.  "No," I said, "Not today.  Today we only came to help return carts." 

I'm happy to report the parking lot was free of miscellaneous carts when we left, and just in time...our feet and fingers were starting to freeze.  But it felt good to be outside in the cold, working alongside my son.  And we had fun, after we had gotten back into the car and blasted the heat, talking about the look that would be on the face of the person who would dread coming outside to collect carts in the cold, when he saw that part of his task was already complete.

"To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold."  - Unknown