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!