Monday, December 30, 2019

Week 19: Happy (Hectic) Holidays

I am not someone who usually leaves things until the last minute; I prefer to work ahead whenever possible to free up time for unexpected fun opportunities. 

But even the best intentions don't always pave a smooth path. For example, sometimes the flu hits you like a ton of bricks and you find yourself in bed for a week just before Christmas. 

This is not a hypothetical situation, I know this from experience.

I found myself shopping with the last-minute masses the three days before Christmas last week. I visited the mall, I drove a few town over to large collection of big box stores, and I hit up some small shops in my town (one of them is the cute toy store in the photo above!). Each store was crazy busy, full of frustrated people waiting in lines, trying to cross off the last few items on their shopping lists. 

Every morning, just before I headed out, I'd jokingly say to my family "I hope you don't see me on the news!" and then I'd enter the chaos, wearing a smile like armor against the overcrowded crabbiness.

I set out determined to hold open every door a bit longer, chit-chat and compliment each store employee I saw, give extra smiles to parents with young children, and spend a few extra minutes talking with elderly patrons. 

And guess what! It worked!

My experiences those few days, despite still being a bit worn down from my illness, were positive and I returned home each afternoon feeling happy and grateful. Not because I didn't experience unfortunate situations and encounter rude people, but because I was intentional with my attitude and stubborn to spread some cheer. (And oh boy can I ever be stubborn ;)

One of my goals for the new year is to carry this attitude into the new year, to choose kindness each day, and to set out to spread it wherever I go. 

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Week 18: A Sweet Tradition

For the past 15+ years, I've distributed dozens of candy canes each December.

It's one of our family's favorite holiday traditions because it's a chance to slow down during the hustle and bustle and connect with people, to put smiles on faces of strangers who may seem a bit stressed trying to juggle work, party prep, financial strains, and all the emotions that come at the end of the December.

My children have taken on an increasingly larger role with this project over the years, from their tiny mittens helping to hand the candy canes out to now having a big say in where, when, and who we hand them out to. But never as big of a role as this past week.

I put this year's batch together, and as always, was too excited to wait for our plan; I took a handful with me as I left the house to run errands. And it's a good thing I did or I wouldn't have participated in the tradition at all this year...a couple of days later I became a cold and flu season statistic.

My kids stepped up in a big way, working hard not only around the house to help get ready to host Christmas and care for their ailing mother, but to hand the rest of the candy canes out. They went for a walk in town and hung the rest of the little red and white swirled staffs on cars visiting our touristy town for the Christmas celebrations we throw each weekend.

They even sent me pictures for the blog!

Hanukkah has begun, Christmas celebrations begin later today, and the New Year is just around the corner.

I hope that whatever and however you're celebrating, the lights are only dimmed by the smiles around you, the food and drinks are tasty, and your heart is full of love. Actually, I hope it's overflowing with you have some to share with those all around you!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Week 17: Caring for Kids at Christmas

A big blessing in my life is working at a job that doesn't feel much like work, for a company that feels a whole lot like family.

I'm a real estate agent with the Keller Williams, Milwaukee North Shore office and I feel so lucky to be doing what I'm doing, alongside some of the most energizing, encouraging, knowledgeable, collaborative, and kind people!

A large part of our holiday party this weekend was the toy drive we held for Sojourner Truth House, the largest nonprofit provider of domestic violence prevention and intervention services in Wisconsin.

I took my son shopping with me for our donated gift a few days before the party. We discussed the experiences that might bring the children to the Sojourner Family Peace Center and what they might like to receive. When I mentioned LEGO, a family favorite of ours, he said that would be good for a boy or girl of any age. I was sold!

"We need to get a base plate too," he reminded me, "that way they have something to build on if they want to keep their creation."

I'm so thankful he thought of that! And my prayer for it's recipient is that they have a peaceful home to keep their LEGO masterpiece in after Christmas, and that they all know safety and love and security in 2020!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Week 16: An Ornament for Oliver

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge animal lover.

I'm a lifelong vegetarian who has had countless pets over the years. We currently have 2 dogs, a small flock of chickens, fish, and a snail.

My kids beg weekly for a goat, rabbit (despite the fact that we've had one and discovered a few of us are allergic) and cat (also allergic)...and it hurts my heart each time I have to tell them no.

Because we're unable to add another pet to our family, I love to join in celebrating when friends add to theirs!

My best friend got a goldendoodle this summer; my kids and I showed up at her door with toys and a card that very day. When I learned a gal pal from high school became a mama to an adorable puppy she named Oliver, I couldn't wait to support her in her new role!

Some of our family's favorite ornaments are for our dogs, those we currently have and those we've loved and lost. As we unpack them each year, we talk about what we love(d) about each silly four-legged friend, exchange funny stories, and hang them in spots of honor on the tree.

And so, when I was out Christmas shopping last weekend and spotted an ornament that looked like my friend's boy, I knew I had to get it for her!

For this week's KC activity, I mailed her the ornament, a duplicate of one of my dog's favorite toys, and a handwritten note expressing my joy over the many Christmases they'll share in the coming years.

Receiving photos of her adorable dog and the ornament side-by-side and a video of Oliver playing with the toy was incredibly heartwarming! I LOVE having made her smile and been a part of making her dog happy too!

I hope they have a very Merry 1st Christmas together!

PS - These are photos of my dogs, Maude and George, and me when I was wrapping up the ornament to ship it out; for some reason they were super interested in it! Aren't they the cutest?!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Week 15: Quarters for Kids

A childhood friend recently reminded me of a fun activity I did 5 years ago (Thanks, Chris!) when I was counting down to my 40th birthday: filling gumball/toy machines with quarters to surprise children passing by.

And so this week, my kids and I went around town filling machines with change from my piggy bank - it's actually a bank in the shape of a bear that my great aunt and uncle made for me when I was born, but "bear bank" probably wouldn't have conveyed the same message. ;)

We filled up small machines with one quarter, we filled up 50c machines with two, we even went all out and put three quarters into machines asking for 75c! 

I love picturing the faces of kids discovering the quarters as they walked by with their parents! I hope it made mom and dads' errands a bit more enjoyable having their kids excited about their free goodies! 

Next time you have a quarter or two in your wallet, slip them in a machine and make a kid's day! It's sure to put a smile on your face!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Week 14: Gift Card Giveaway

"If people knew how much fun it is to do nice things for others the world would be a completely different place!" I told my husband on my way home from this week's Kindness Countdown activity.

I'm a real estate agent with Keller Williams in Milwaukee, and my why is to help people.

I want to help people receive the reliable service I wish I had gotten in my former real estate transactions, to utilize the unique skill set I've developed over the years (juggling a freelance writing/marketing career, homeschooling three kids, cooking meals, caring for 8 pets, kickboxing, making time for family and friends, etc), and because I love getting to know people - every where I go...just ask my friends and family, I talk to EVERYONE!

And so, I strive to provide my clients with the best care possible, to connect them with other professionals I've come to respect so they're surrounded by a team of people that will make the transition out-of or in-to their home as smooth as possible. 

I feel incredibly blessed to be trusted with such a huge part of my client's lives and to do this thing I love. And so after all is said and done, I give a portion of my commission away.

This week, in celebration of a closing with some special clients, I went to Woodman's and purchased 4 gift cards...and then I sat back and surveyed the crazy scene that can only happen the Saturday afternoon before Thanksgiving in a grocery store!

I noticed which men and women smiled at those near them, which customers had especially large loads in their carts, which people had children with (that they would need to shop for gifts for next month), who might appreciate a little help with their grocery bill.

And then I approached them and asked if I could give them a gift. They all said yes. ;)

And then a couple of them asked if they could give me a hug! ("YES!")

And then one lady asked me what my name was "so I can tell people this story and keep you in my prayers." 

I walked out of the store with tears in my eyes and a huge smile on my face! 

Three thoughts have stayed with me since that afternoon:  

1. DO THIS! If you can afford a $5 gift card, give it someone at your local Dollar Store. If you can afford to give away one gift card at the grocery store, give away one. If your bank account allows for more, give more. This can be a stressful time of year for people who live on a budget. I know, I've been there!

2. Talk to your family and friends about your gift-giving traditions. My best friend and I switched to gifting each other with a night out to a nice dinner in lieu of buying each other presents a few years ago and the memories we've made since then are priceless! My brother and I discussed buying presents only for each other's kids this year and then going on a low-key double-date as a gift for each other and our spouses. Plan a game night or give your family members a coupon to come over to watch a movie. Memories made together are so much more valuable than anything you can buy in a store!

3. Find your why! Having a clear understanding of why you do what you do, what you hope the future of your family and career look like is insanely powerful! It can be a source of extra strength when you're ready to quit, it makes what you do more rewarding, it provides your days with more meaning.

I want that for you!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Week 13: Party at the Food Pantry

November is one of my favorite months of the year: It gets dark earlier so I find myself lighting more candles, my Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of posts describing things people are thankful for, my family is home together in the evenings watching movies, playing games and my husband and I enjoy a nighcap most nights!

Thanksgiving is right around the corner! This weekend, my family and I went to the Saukville Community Food Pantry to drop off our donations and help set up for the festive meal they were about to serve.

(I'm on the board of directors and we had a lot of volunteers signed up to help with the meal service, so we let them have the fun of helping during the actual event!)

My children and I went shopping for some of the items I saw still needed to be donated at the end of the week and we helped sort through things, organize the pie station, set up a few chairs, fetch a large can of corn, etc. the morning of.

As always, it was fun to see so many kids there to volunteer for girl scouts, a school group, or with their families. Our food pantry is blessed to have support throughout the year. But it, along with an article I recently read, got me thinking about nonprofits who don't find themselves with volunteers the first 3 quarters of the year, only during the "season of giving."

If you're reading this, I encourage you to reach out to a local charity you believe in and get involved...year round! 

Gratitude isn't limited to the month of November. Giving back isn't reserved for December. They are appreciated and needed, YOU ARE NEEDED AND WILL BE APPRECIATED, every month of the year! xo

Monday, November 11, 2019

Week 12: Constructing a Community

Week 12! Can you believe this Kindness Countdown to my 45th birthday is already 1/4 complete? Time surely does fly when you're having fun! And this week was no exception!

I spent an afternoon volunteering with my local chapter of Habitat for Humanity this weekend, lending a hand to build a duplex near my home.

I've been gifted with quite the arsenal of handy talents over my 44 years of life. I grew up working on house projects alongside my father, who is a very talented woodworker. He completed all house projects on his own and since renovating my childhood home, has built two houses for him and my mom in his "retirement."

I’m currently renovating my third home and am in the middle of a complete DIY kitchen remodel.

And so, with this background, I walked onto the construction site Saturday afternoon, ready for work. And while all of the middle-aged men who were there were all super nice and accepting of me from the beginning, I'd be lying if I said they appeared confident in my abilities; here was this girl (who people kindly say looks younger than her 44 years) walking up the driveway, asking for a job to do on an active site with no finishing work to speak of.

After signing the waiver and being handed a helmet and safety glasses, I was first assigned the task of cleaning up a couple of areas around the site. I happily got to work loading myself up with discarded pieces of wood and tossing them onto the burn pile, wrapping cords, and easily maneuvering around different stations.

I must have proved myself because once the wood was sorted and stacked, I was assigned to assist on constructing the electrical box for the outside of the house, including drilling through loads of metal, switching out bits, using a hydraulic cutter, and more.

Towards the end of my shift, the men working didn't think twice about asking me to lift heavy things, relocate large ladders, walk through the oozing mud to fetch tools they called by their real names and not some silly descriptions, and joke around with me like one of the guys.

I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel great having them all tell me I did a great job after we put everything away for the day, and invite me back to help again next week on such a great project in our community. I wasn't just the token female to photograph working...although I happily played that role as well (anything to encourage more women to join in the fun!).

No matter your abilities, your local chapter of Habitat for Humanity would love your help!

  • Cleaning up a site keeps everyone safe, it's an important job! 
  • Organizing food donations to feed those working construction keeps them motivated and energized!
  • Working on communication for volunteers keeps the projects moving ahead!
  • Picking up some tools and helping to build is a no-brainer necessity for every project!
Whatever your experience, no matter your talents, I feel confident volunteering for HFH would be fun and appreciated! And you're sure to meet some awesome people who just might be down for grabbing drinks after the work is over! At least they usually are here in Wisconsin. ;)

Visit to find a volunteer opportunity near you! Get constructing your community today! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Week 11: Supplying Samaritan's Purse

Samaritan's Purse: Operation Christmas Child is my family's first sign of Christmas and one of our favorite traditions of the season! This year was no different!

Last week Friday (I'm a few days late in writing this, but rest assured, the KC activities continue to remain on schedule...this post is just a wee bit tardy), my children and I went shopping and filled boxes that will be shipped to children in need of encouragement, love, basic necessities, and the Gospel this holiday season.

To get started, I picked up a few of the boxes and forms that our church provided (visit to find a distribution and pick-up location near you!) and then my children chose what age and gender they wanted to pack a box for. As always, my daughters packed for girls their age and my son for a boy just a few years younger than him. 

Next, we headed to the store to pick out basic items for the boxes (soap, hairbrushes, deodorant, socks, toothbrushes, etc) and then my kids let loose filling their baskets with special items they thought the kids might like: crayons, notebooks, balls, an airplane, stickers, and more. 

When we got home, my kids placed all of their purchased items into the boxes and we talked about how much these simple things we take for granted will mean to the children receiving's such a blessing for my kids to take part in moments like this, and I appreciate encouraging their little hearts full of so much love. 

On Sunday, we dropped our boxes off at church, where next week, my son and some of his friends will return to fill dozens of other boxes in a group activity and then pack up the hundreds of donations into a trailer to be shipped out for distribution! (I'm beyond proud of him and how he balances school, work, and a few service hours each week at the age of 15!)

This is such a fun and meaningful activity to do as a family and I encourage anyone looking to spread the message of gratitude and compassion onto their children to find a participating location near you in the next week and a half! It has been such a blessing to our family over the years, I know it will become a family favorite for you as well!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Week 10: Be a Hero

Five years ago, when I was counting down to my 40th birthday with 40 act of kindness, I had an AHA moment: I decided to donate blood...and I thankfully never looked back.

Since that blood donation in week 22 of the first Kindness Countdown, I have attended my local blood drive like clockwork every eight weeks. 

A couple of times my iron was low and I didn't qualify (not a huge surprise being a lifelong vegetarian), but that made me all the more determined to figure out how to care for myself so I could care for others. My secret: Orgain Organic plant-based protein powder.

The Versiti Blood Center employees who work our events have the best energy, they play the best music, and are so easy to laugh with!

A couple of them have told me they've passed along my plant-based protein powder tip to others with low iron. One man refers to me (affectionately, I think/hope) as "the woman who smells like she has chickens" because after growing up on a farm, immediately picked up the sweet smell off my muck boots when I once had to rush to make an appointment. Today, a woman and I bonded over the career changes we both made this year and shared stories about our children and her grandchildren.

And then there's the Cedarburg Lion's Club who hosts our bi-monthly drives! They are incredible, and work so hard to keep us all comfortable and thankful for the incredible Out & Out salad donations (they have The Best food), games, and snack tables to socialize at when we're finished. 

It really has become a special part of my community! But I do have one complaint: 

There are not enough young(ish) people there.

When I first began donating again five years ago I remember the moment I realized I was the youngest person quite a lot. I usually still am. And *I'm* counting down to my 45th birthday. 

If you're reading this, please consider donating.

Please gently remind your friends and family to donate.

Please tell them it doesn't take long, that it's pretty pain-free, that they'll save up to three lives with each donation. 

Please offer to go with them, to start your own tradition, to build your own community.

And then congratulate each other for being a hero!
"When you give blood you give another birthday, another anniversary, another day at the beach, another night under the stars, another talk with a friend, another laugh, another hug, another change." - American Red Cross

PS, a lot of the regulations regarding blood donations have been updated; many people who didn't qualify in the past most like now do. Please double-check the rules and regulations for your local blood drives.  

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Week 9: Kind Cards on Cars

I live in quaint, historic city of Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Our tiny town is known to be packed with tourists any given weekend, but yesterday and today, we've seen an unusually high number of visitors thanks to the Milwaukee Film Festival being in town at the Rivoli Theatre for the first time and what is being billed as the last warm weekend of the year.

Whatever the reason, our little walkable downtown has been crowded...and a wee bit stressful to maneuver. I thought I'd do what I could to make it cheerier.

Yesterday, my kids and I took to the streets, armed with cards carrying messages of kindness, love, and compassion.

The various cards read:

* You are enough
* You don't have to do it all
* Love what matters
* You are so full of love
* I believe in you
* You are perfect just the way you are

We walked through the city parking lots depositing cards on cars parked there. We tucked them into driver-side windows in the street. We "littered" the town in kindness.

And then we sat and watched.

It was amazing to watch people's faces transform when they returned to their cars and caught site of the cards on their vehicles. Their expressions quickly changed from one of annoyance to having a flyer to throw away to a smile in recognition of the love they had just received from a stranger.

While most of the cards were placed willy-nilly, without intentional paring for each car and card, I did place a few "You don't have to do it all" cards purposefully on cars with car-seats inside, "I believe in you" on vehicles that, like mine, had seen better days, and "You are enough" on cars that were obviously owned by women.

(Note: This all happened with a quick glance, I promise I was not creepily snooping inside the cars of stranger!)

I hope these cards brightened the days of their recipients.

I like to think of them tucked under car visors as a reminder, holding pages of a good book where they'll continue to make the reader feel strong, placed under a souvenir magnet where they'll be glanced at each time the fridge is opened for a midnight snack, or passed on to someone else who could use a smile.

Now go back and read the card messages for they apply to you too! <3

Monday, October 14, 2019

Week 8: Merch Table With a Mission

My family and I attended a spoken word performance by Tanner Olson, AKA Written to Speak, on Friday night, where my son and I volunteered. 

I've been following the Written to Speak Facebook page for a couple of years now, finding Tanner's words inspiring, and often, just what I need to read or hear at the time. (Funny how that always seems to happen!)

I was quick to lend my family's services when I learned he was coming to town to perform his poems, tell a few stories, and join in some fellowship, I knew it would be an inspiring night, and I was right!

My son worked the PowerPoint slides for the two performances and I sold Tanner's merchandise before and after the show to the attendees (and my own family - my daughters LOVED the show and were so excited to get autographed poetry books and a t-shirt). 

Volunteering at the event was loads of fun as most of the people there had been, like me, following Tanner's journey to a full-time poet/performer for a handful of years, and were excited to see him live!

He has a great ability to balance humor and thoughtfulness pretty perfectly; one moment you're laughing out loud and the next you find yourself thinking "Huh, I never thought about it like that before."

His poetry inspires the reader/listener to recall childhood moments, reminds them to set new goals, of God's love, of hope and kindness. 

I can confidently say everyone left the event smiling and feeling lighter than they did walking in on the first freezing night of the season. And Tanner's bags of merch were a little lighter as well!

Here's a snippet of one of the poems you'll find if you check out the Written to Speak Facebook or Instagram pages or purchase his book (it's like I'm still working his table... ;) 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Week 7: Putting the FUN in Fundraising

The Saukville Community Food Pantry is an organization that services all of Ozaukee County, providing community meals, free food in a market atmosphere, school supplies, shoes, and more to those who need it. 

I joined the Board of Directors in the first quarter of this year and have greatly enjoyed lending my ideas, marketing skills, contacts, and time as well as working alongside the other members for such a great cause! Plus we have I did this week!

I attended a Chamber of Commerce meeting on behalf of the Pantry Thursday night at a local brewery, Rebellion (hence the flags), and talked with the packed house of people from my community for a couple of hours. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it!

I talked with a graphic designer about helping us with some merchandise, discussed the possibility of a couple of companies holding food drives in their offices, and walked away from the brewery with a guarantee they'd donate a package to an upcoming raffle event we're having!

The event definitely put the FUN in fundraising and helped to make the night successful for the Saukville Community Food Pantry! Thanks, everyone!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Week 6: A Little Give and Take

Some days we need a little help: a kind word from a stranger or hug from a loved one. Other days we've got hope and compassion in spades and can't wait to give it away.

What kind of day are you having today?

Like most people, I've found myself on both ends of the spectrum this week...and just about everywhere in between.

I was grateful when a dear friend picked up the phone when I called late this week; she listened, shared words of wisdom, and made me laugh during our hour-long conversation. Her love, compassion, and understanding really turned my mindset around.

Earlier in the week, a close friend of mine was in need of some hope, peace, and courage of her own. It was an honor to be able to listen, help carry her burden, and provide a glimpse of a view with a little more light.

Life is one big give and take with those we spend our days with, both people we know and strangers we encounter.

And so this week, I performed a re-do of one of my favorite Kindness Countdowns activities from 5 years ago: creating and hanging up Give and Take flyers.

I posted some up at a bustling local cafe, in the grocery store (life is busy, people running errands can always use something to smile at), inside a laundry mat (I used to contemplate life pretty hard while waiting for my laundry back in the day), and in my office (while high-stress moments have been known to happen there - it's a real estate office, it goes with the territory - it's also full of some of the most motivated and kind people I've met).

Yesterday, while spending the day with my son, I revisited most of the flyers. And do you know what I noticed? More items to share were removed than those in need.

That doesn't mean people aren't yearning for compassion, freedom, and patience. It just means they're still willing to share the strength they have with others.

Isn't that cool?

If you'd like to perform this act of hope and kindness in your community, feel free to download the flyers below. You never know whose day you'll turn around!

Except your own, that is a guarantee.

If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that doing something nice for someone else is the quickest ways to brighten your own day.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Week 5: Happily Helping Humans & Horses

Rides & Reins is a therapeutic riding center located 30 minutes from my house.

The organization is doing incredible things; I'm proud to say my daughters have been a part of it for the past 5+ months, taking full advantage of their homeschool schedule, volunteering three hours each week.

They clean the barn, groom and tack horses, and side-walk with the clients to ensure their safety and overall experience.

I had the pleasure of joining them for a shift for the first time this week. And to say it made an impact on me is an understatement.

When someone participates in therapeutic horseback riding, they are likely to experience physical, emotional, and developmental rewards.

I saw all of that and more.

My afternoon of volunteering started with lots of sweeping (both inside and outside the barn; "It's the first thing our clients see" the President of the organization told me, "We want to make a good impression!") followed by fetching some handsome horses from a field, and then grooming and tacking them.

Grooming horses has always relaxed me. Back when my youngest started taking riding lessons years ago (she now volunteers more than she rides), we would arrive early so I could spend extra time currying coats, cleaning hooves, and brushing tails and manes.

I was happy when it was time to prepare the horses (I got three cleaned and dressed) and it was an honor to actively participate in a student's lesson. I shadowed an experienced side-walker in hopes of returning regularly to lend a hand when my daughters are there.

Seeing my girls work hard for such a good cause, sharing special moments with the riders, giving them smiles and encouragement when they need it, and being patient and calm to provide a peaceful environment for the horses and their riders made me beyond proud to be their mama!

(Especially because patience and calmness don't necessarily come naturally to my girls and me ;) - it turns out this is therapy for us as well!)

I learned a lot about the services Rides & Reins has been providing the past 20 years and the benefits of horseback riding for the students they serve. Here is an excerpt from their website if you'd like to learn more too:

"Because horseback riding gently moves the rider's body in a manner similar to the way a person walks, riders with physical disabilities often show improvements in flexibility, balance, and strength.

Not only does therapeutic riding offer physical benefits to students, but also psychological benefits. The rider feels a sense of achievement that often enhances motivation towards recovery. It also builds concentration skills.

Individuals having special needs often form a unique relationship with a horse that can lead to self-confidence, patience, and increased self-esteem. Medical professionals, as well as the American Physical Therapy Association, recognize the positive qualities of therapeutic horseback riding." (

I'm so glad I joined my girls on this adventure! It was an honor to assist this great mission and I'm looking forward to lending a hand at the barn again soon!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Week 4: Anniversary Appreciation

The 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on bustling New York City, the capital of our great nation in Washington DC, a peaceful field in Pennsylvania, and every freedom-lover across the globe took place this week Wednesday, September 11.

Like everyone else, where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing is forever engraved on my heart. Leaving my office, walking down Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee towards my car, hugging a loved one with tears streaming down my face was like something out of a movie.

The tragedy of that day was felt especially strong in my family; my father was a Captain on the fire department in St. Francis, the city I grew up in, for 40 years, and then a volunteer on the department in Belgium for another decade.

When I saw the first tower fall, my heart sank.

Just as I do for every car crash, building fire, and other cause for alarm, when I saw the towers fall, my initial thought was for those brave souls climbing UP, knowing they had just come tumbling down.

The firefighter community is a tight one. I didn't just have one dad looking out for me, keeping tabs of my whereabouts, making sure I wasn't in trouble, growing up. I had 12 guys doing that in my small town, a dozen guys and their families who I could turn to, whose lives were intertwined with mine.

And I thought of them, and the family of firefighters in NYC on September 11, 2001. And I think of them all on each anniversary.

This week's Kindness Countdown activity was to make a "THANK YOU" sign and drop it off with a couple dozen black & white cookies for our local volunteer fire department.

The two volunteers there when my children and I arrived asked what organization we were with so they could reach out and thank them. My daughter said, "We just thought it would be a nice thing to do."

"My father was a fire fighter for many decades," I added.

Our eyes met and we nodded. There was no mention of 9/11. We didn't need to say the words. I think we both understood the inspiration for delivering sweets on that specific day.

And then we smiled and got a tour of the incredible fire department in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

What an impressive one it is! And this is coming from someone who has visited countless fire departments across the country (my dad's department had a wall of patches on display growing up, and we'd pick up a handful of them each year on our travels).

It was a pleasure to spend some time at our department, hear stories from the volunteers, look at the large collection of antique gear, and share our gratitude with them.

They're true heroes!