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We did it!

The Kindness Yard Sale is complete.  It was a full day, that’s for sure!  David and I started putting items out at 7:00 am, and we had not ever really finished that task when we finally closed up shop at 6:15 pm!   There were just SO.  MANY.  DONATIONS!  It was amazing!

Many neighbors stopped to chat and shop.  It was lovely!  I met some people that I had only known online (nice to put a face with a name) and saw people I hadn’t seen in a while.  I foolishly thought that once we got everything set up in the morning, I would spend the rest of the afternoon chatting, “ringing people up”, and serving lemonade.  Wrong, wrong, wrong!  When there weren’t customers, we would pop back inside to bring out more goods! 

We had incredible support from generous shoppers, much more generous that I could have imagined.  A couple of people even gave donations and didn’t buy anything!!  But counting the money is the easy part.  I think at this point it is more important to think about the day – the experience – and what it meant.

Talking with neighbors all day reminded me of the importance of COMMUNITY.  People rode up on their bikes, walked, pushed strollers…  And what a SEA of people – every age, different languages being spoken, different beliefs I am sure.  And yet here we were – most of us strangers, but still a COMMUNITY.



I had several favorite moments of the day.  One was when 3 girls dressed in PRIDE gear were on the lawn trying to figure out how to open a suitcase David had donated.  It used to be his favorite bag and he had a bit of a difficult time deciding to let it go.  He rushed down to show them how the lock worked and they were so excited!  They ended up buying the suitcase and a couple of other things so came up on the porch to check out.  As we talked they told us they are not official neighbors, but they are interns here for the summer.  One girl said she teared up when she read the sign on the gate saying the money raised was being used for kindness.  I told them about my Kindness Activist project and gave them each a Kindness Activist button, which made her cry again!  They were so sweet.  When I asked how much they would like to donate for their items, they, like many shoppers today, hemmed and hawed a bit.  It is HARD to price your own items!  So someone (I think it was David) suggested maybe $15 for everything they were getting.  They smiled and said, “Well, we were going to give you $20 just for the SUITCASE, so how about $25 for everything…”.  ISN’T THAT BEAUTIFUL?

Another favorite moment was when an early teen child came up to me and asked a bit awkwardly, “Are you having a yard sale?”.  Ummm, no kid, I just like having my grass and porch filled with stuff and walking around wearing a fanny pack…  😊  Once he was assured it was indeed a yard sale, he set about exploring.  He was meticulous in his shopping, but once he heard me mention LEGOS to a little boy his behavior changed a bit.  I brought out a big tub of Lego, and those boys, 1 probably 5 years old and one around 15, sat side by side for what was probably half an hour.  They quietly looked at piece after piece, each boy sharing so nicely and being so respectful.   

One older Hispanic woman and I found a common language even though neither of us were fluent in the other's native tongue.  I offered her a SANGRIA ICE CUBE on a hot afternoon, and her eyes lit up.  A quick nod of the head made it clear we understood one another.  :) 

It was fun to see our State Delegate (Alfonso Lopez) take a break from campaigning (the election is THIS TUESDAY) to stop by and say hi (and shop!).  Alfonso is a terrific guy – very down-to-earth and relate-able.  Don’t worry Alfonso, your sign is going back up on our fence (I had replaced it for a yard sign sale and about 15 hours after I took it down a couple days ago he showed up with a replacement sign and pronounced our corner to be the best one to post political signage). 

It made my heart happy that a neighbor decided she would tell me about a beautiful kind act she had done in secret and not told anyone else.  

I was so happy to meet a man who told me he drives by our house everyday - going to and coming from work.  He smiled and said, "You have coats in winter, yes?".  He then explained that twice he had stopped and picked up coats from our front gate in my "Project Warmth" coat giveaways!  It was an honor to meet him and know where some of the coats went and that he sincerely appreciated them. That is good motivation to continue that project when winter returns.  

And finally, a wonderful moment was when a FLOAT heading to the big Pride Parade in DC stopped right in front of our house!  It was decorated in trans flag colors and it looked magnificent!!  We couldn’t go to Pride this year because of the sale, so it felt like Pride came to us!!!  I cheered and the people in the truck pulling the float rolled down the windows and celebrated with us!  Happy Pride!

Ok, enough chatting.  Let’s get to the part we have all been waiting for:  the donations!  How much did we take it, which equals how much KINDNESS WE CAN PUT OUT? 

One moment while we unload our official yard sale fanny packs and do the math…

The Kindness Yard Sale raised $1005.46!!!!!  Over $1000 in one day!  Isn’t that remarkable!  I am so excited to see how many kind acts we can do with that money!  I never expected this to raise nearly that much.  And if I add in the money from online auctions of 2 items I did leading up to the sale and the friends who donated to give us a cushion (in case the yard sale was a flop…) – we raised a total of $1205.46 FOR KINDNESS!!!!!! 

Thank you all SO MUCH.  The smiles, the donations, the whole experience has been really heart warming.  I promise to spend every penny on KINDNESS and to report back what it was used for.

Special thanks to all of the generous people who donated items to sell.  Many of those things found new homes today!  And those that didn’t get sold today will get donated (be on the look out for tons of posts from me Buy Nothing Friends…).

Also, thanks to:
·         Kendra for the loan of the big cooler for lemonade – it was really needed
·         Marta for the hard work on translating the signage into SPANISH.  Translation is not an easy task, nor is explaining the concept of this type of sale to someone that you do not share a common language with!  Marta, we had a few copies printed of your translations and used them A LOT!
·         Amy and Michael for helping us (the earring is still elusive Amy but WILL be found)
·         Ixi for bringing us some tasty donuts from Mac’s truck!  (We hadn’t eaten anything all day yet so they were great fuel to keep up going)
·         Jay for donating so many Lego – apparently Lego unites generations (and I kind of understand more now why parents complain about Lego, I am finding bits of them in the yard and on the porch…)
·         The Buy Nothing administrator for VERY politely reminding me that I shouldn’t be talking about selling stuff on BUY nothing 😊
·         A little neighbor girl, 2 year old Ellie, who decided to give her $2 of change back as a donation.  I think she is a Kindness Activist in training.
·         Janet for the Gatorade –shoppers were delighted with it after we got it ice cold
·         And the amazing Penrose community

·         And anyone else I forgot to thank (sorry!  It is 2:00 am and I am sleeeeepy)

P.S. – Shout out to the trickster that donated an “unrated” movie (”Eurotrip”) that looks a bit “soft pornish” on the cover, AHHHHH!  Neighbors I had never met probably think I am a complete weirdo now – in putting books and DVDs out quickly, I failed to notice that this movie miiiight not be 100% appropriate.  So, I did as any good retailer would do, I DISPLAYED IT WITH ALL OF THE OVER DVDS, meaning “Eurotrip Unrated” was next to some Disney Princess movie for hours and hours until I noticed it!

P.P.S. – Does anyone want to buy a copy of “Eurotrip Unrated” on DVD?

P.P.P.S – there WILL be a video of David get pied from the Pie in the Face game thanks to friends who donated before the sale!  We need a bit of rest, and to buy some whipped cream, and then BLAMO!! 

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It seems like the whole of the US has been having bad storms lately – tornadoes, thunderstorms, floods.  My area (metro Washington DC) has been no exception.  A big storm hit recently that caused lots of trees and branches to fall and electrical wires to be ripped down.  This, of course, meant loads of people (including us) lost power. 

When that happens, one tends to think of the “obvious” – things like, “It is super hot out, and now we have no AC…” or “The traffic lights are out, I hope there are no accidents,” or maybe the 1st world issue, “No power??  How will I watch television?”.

But one thing I have never thought of when the power went out was, “OH NO, how will I ensure that all of this milk I pumped for my baby does not spoil??”.  I have never breastfed, so have never had to trouble shoot that problem.  But a neighbor, Jessica, ran into just that issue in the recent power outage.  I saw her post this message to the neighborhood Facebook group:

“To anyone who still has power, would you be willing to share some of your freezer space if the power isn’t back on by tomorrow? I have a sizable amount of frozen breastmilk for my newborn, and I’m worried about it thawing in the next 24 hours. Please let me know!”

At first, I was worried for her, but the replies started being posted very shortly after her plea, and it made my heart sing.  Neighbors were reaching out to HELP!!  Comments quickly popped up like, “If my power comes on first I will post here.  I have a deep freezer that I never use”.  And “I have power and can make some room, too”.  The coming together of community gave me goosebumps. 

I contacted Jessica and asked if it would be alright to share her story.  She said yes, and even told me a bit more about it.  Her baby was only 5 weeks old the afternoon they lost power, and look at what a cutie!!



I asked the mom of a newborn how long the power was out before she started to worry about the milk, and she said, “Frankly, I was concerned the minute it went out! Conventional wisdom says it should be fine for 24 hours if you don’t open the freezer, but as any mom who as breastfed can attest, every drop is so important. After about 6 hours with no power, I started to really worry”.

One of her co-workers offered to drop off ice that he’d picked up for his wife and their baby, but with no idea how long the power would be out, it wasn’t clear that solution would work, and Jessica didn’t want to drive to her friend’s house at 10 pm, so that’s when she turned to the neighborhood Facebook group.  She said, “I think I had responses within 5 minutes. At least 3 people offered up their freezers”.  Isn’t that terrific??

A sweet neighbor named Jesse stored the milk.  The power luckily our power came back on in the middle of the night, so the next day Jessica picked up the frozen milk and brought it back home. 

Jessica told me, “I feel a strong sense of community here and am very fortunate to live in a neighborhood where strangers help strangers!  I am so grateful to the people who responded, and it makes me even more likely to help out my neighbors any time I can. I was so stressed about the whole situation, and luckily that only lasted for a couple of hours thanks to the generosity of others.”

Kindness.  It doesn’t need to be elaborate.  It doesn’t need to be expensive.  It just needs to be heartfelt and genuine.  A little kindness can lighten the load of a neighbor, a friend, or a stranger.  Keep your eyes open and look for places YOU can spread some kindness today.

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I have been feeling sad and stressed lately.  Often when that is the case, if I stop and examine things, I realize that I have taken my focus offkindness.  If I can re-focus – put kindness front and center again – the hustle bustle of the world slows down, and life seems more manageable.

And that is what happened today.

My sweetheart and I had a day FULL of plans – in fact we had so many events we wanted to attend today that before bed last night we had to eliminate one thing off our list.  We planned to wake up early, drive an hour to an event we both really wanted to go to, drive back and attend ANOTHER event we both were happy to go to, then go to a 3rd event…  In one day…  And I wonder where the stress was coming from…

Anyway, it was not to be.  The alarm went off this morning and I said, “One more snooze…” several times until we just gave up and admitted we would rather sleep.

Fast forward to 12:30 pm when I finally woke up.  Oops.  First planned event down the drain…

After a very nice breakfast we headed to the annual Flower Mart at the Washington DC National Cathedral.  We went last year for the first time and really liked it – there are booths of art work, clothing, food, and plants set up all around the green lawn of the Cathedral, and also singing and dancing for entertainment.  Moseying around the event is a nice way to spend a springtime day.



I was looking for a birthday gift for my sister (shhh, I got one!).  I also found a great t-shirt with a message that I need:  the front says, “don’t wait” and the back says, “There is no right time.  Make it happen”.  I think those are great mottos to live by, don’t you?

don't wait

There is no right time.
As I looked around one booth I heard the shop owner talking to a girl, trying to help her decide which of two small hand painted bowls she should get.  The girl loved them both, and was finding it impossible to choose.  “Just pickone.  Get it.  Take it home, you will love it.  And after a while you will not even remember the other one”, said the shop keeper.  It wasn’t an attempt at pushing a sale, it was trying to teach a life lesson to a teenager.  The girl hemmed and hawed, then explained that she was trying to be more conscious in how she spent her money.  Respect, girl, respect!  I was impressed.  The woman at the stall asked when her birthday was, and she said, “Next week!”.  “Ahh, this would make a good birthday gift for yourself!”.

After much deliberation, the girl walked away.  I asked the shop keeper which bowl she had chosen, and she told me she had NOT.  The girl left without getting a bowl, but it was the green one that she really wanted.  I looked at it – it was beautiful.  “Wait a minute!” I hollered to the girl and the woman I presumed was her mother as they walked away.  I handed the green bowl to the woman working and asked her to ring it up.  “I would like to get this for you for your birthday,” I told the young girl.  She stared at me.  “What???  Oh, no…  You don’t have to do that…”.  “I know I don’t have to, and that is exactly what I want to,” I told her.  “I think you deserve this for your birthday.”  The woman with her was stunned.  She teared up.  She was not sure what to think.  Then the young girl introduced herself to me and gave me a big hug.  “Wait a minute!”, her adult friend said, “You don’t KNOW this woman???”.  We chuckled and explained that no, we had never met.  This made the older woman cry.  “This is my neighbor,” she said.  “She is turning 17 next week.  She and I have come to this market together for years.  We have never had anything like this happen to us!  We will pay it forward!!  I promise, we will pay it forward!”.

The shop keeper smiled and finished the transaction.  She wrapped the delicate little bowl in a brown bag and handed it to me.  I presented it to the stranger – the birthday girl.  “HAPPY BIRTHDAY.”

And just like that – my focus shifted.  My heart opened.  My breathing was slower and deeper.  The grass looked even more vibrantly green and the world seemed more manageable.

A little kindness goes a long way (both for the receiver and the giver).  Open your heart to kindness today.  Don’t wait.



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One of the good things about living in the Washington DC area is that there are several bus companies that drive the DC/NYC route, so you can easily score a cheap ride to New York.  When we have a weekend off, we like to do just that, and it’s even better when we have an “excuse” to go.  Recently we were invited to an anniversary party in NYC, so we jumped on a bus.

But not before hunting online for fun things to do while we were there and making a list!  This time the list included Chocolate By The Bald Man - Max Brenner – which looked amazing in online reviews!  Especially since my sweetheart is a huge chocolate fan!

We popped into the restaurant on a Saturday afternoon and were told we would have quite a long wait.  But then we spied 2 seats at the counter, which was 1st come 1st served.  And BEST SERVED, it turned out!

Our seats were directly in front of the CREPE MAKER.  This woman’s job was to make crepe after crepe after crepe.  She did not stop!  She had 2 crepe machines, and as soon as she would pour and circle the batter on machine 1, she would do the same on machine 2.  Then flip (repeat on machine 2).  Then take off (repeat on machine 2).  Then start again.  Crepe after crepe after crepe.  And they were all perfect!  I guess she has a lot of practice…  We felt like we had won the seat lottery since we got to watch her work.

The menu had loads of chocolatey goodness to choose from, but of COURSE we picked a crepe!!  We ordered a hazelnut, banana, chocolate crepe, then sat back and waited for it to be OUR TURN with the crepe maker!! 

She knew we were watching her – we exchanged several smiles.  And she knew when she got to OUR CREPE.  For that one she seemed to take EXTRA CARE – specially drying the plate it would be displayed on, drizzling the sauce…  We laughed and pointed and gave her lots of “thumbs up” on the production.  When she was finished, she tried to reach around the counter and hand it to us personally, but was intercepted by the man in charge of organizing all of the food before it went out.  Her eyes seemed to say to him, “But it is THEIRS – it is for my FRIENDS who have been cheering me on!  I want to personally deliver it please…” but he was having none of it.  In fact, as he took it away from us, he said it was for someone else.  I think the crepe lady felt bad, she had put extra care and love into that one, and it turned out it wasn’t even ours!

But wait – the boss man was wrong!!!  IT WAS OURS, and he had to eat a bit of crow as he handed it back to us.  We exchanged big smiles with our crepe friend and dug in.

Our amazing crepe, and in the background, our new friend the crepe maker!!!  
It was delicious!!!  All of the flavors blended perfectly and one crepe (and an amazing hot cocoa) was more than enough for us to share.  We were very happy! 

I wanted to tip the crepe lady.  It was HER who had done all the work, so carefully making crepe after delicate crepe.  She had treated us like special guests, and I wanted to treat her special in return.  So, we took a $10 bill and slipped it through a line in the glass that separated her from us.  I gave her a big smile, pointed to the tip, and pointed to HER, making sure she knew it was for her and her alone.   She gestured back, “ME????” and we nodded YES!!! 

She.  Was.  Thrilled.  It was obvious she was not used to being tipped – she didn’t know what to do!!!  The bill was suspended in the glass between us and her, and she kept eyeballing it and grinning from ear to ear as she cranked out more crepes.  Finally, she turned to the woman who was probably her supervisor and explained (in Spanish) that the tip was there.  The supervisor looked at it, then looked back and said, “FOR YOU????” and our friend giggled and said “Siiii!!”.  The supervisor smile at us, retrieved the money, and gave it to the crepe maker.

A steaming hot "hug mug" of Italian hot cocoa - ahhhhhhhhh.
This tiny gesture of kindness went such a long way.  The smile on the woman’s face would not go away, it was the sweetest thing.  And one by one she pulled co-workers aside, explained in Spanish what had just happened, and showed them the $10 bill in her pocket.   They all looked like they were very happy for her luck.

Sometimes small gestures yield BIG RESULTS.  We couldn’t give money to every homeless person we saw in NYC.  We couldn’t buy meals for everyone there going hungry.  But we could make one dedicated crepe maker feel as special as she is.  We could remind her that her work is appreciated.  And we could make her smile. 

Bonus NYC photo - the Statue of Liberty as seen from Battery Park on a warm(ish) Spring day!




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I haven’t written here for quite a long time, and I am sorry.  There has been much sadness in my world over the last 8 months, and that sadness has consumed my time, my energy, and my creativity.  I am not going to write about that today, but I promise to do so at some point.

For now, I want to tell you a little bit about my friend Carol.  The story about her is also a sad one, but I am on a plane and was looking through old photos and found one of her that made me smile, so I wanted to share the story with you.

My friend Carol
Carol was our next-door neighbor in Ormond Beach, Florida.  She and I were quite different people; she was a country girl (Kentucky), I fancy myself a city girl (DC).  She never went down to the beach (a block and a half from our homes), I live for walks on the sand.  Politically, we were polar opposites.  We were different ages.  And yet – we CLICKED.  We had fun together and every time we went to Florida I looked forward to seeing her and laughing together.   

Carol had been sick for years – she was on oxygen (though she didn’t really keep it on as much as she was supposed to…) for bad lungs.  She had other ailments, too, like shingles and pneumonia.  But it was her lungs that failed.  They were already compromised from COPD, then cancer hit.  She and the doctors did all they could, but it wasn’t too long before she and everyone around knew her days were numbered. 

Carol's flowers after a Florida rain
I was worried that I would not get to see her and say goodbye, but we arrived in Florida before she died.  Her family had moved her into a hospital bed in the “Florida room” of the house (a Florida room is a room that used to be a porch but has been closed in).  By the time we got there she was pretty much confined to the bed.  She talked to us.  We laughed.  I read her greeting cards that people sent.  I asked a rock painting group if they would make her some rocks and they did – painted beautiful, elaborate rocks for a complete stranger!  She and I liked to look at those. 

As she got worse, I would just sit by her bed and hold her hand.  I would read to her from her Bible.  And I would sing hymns to her that I could remember from my childhood.  She was very religious, and at times when she was more alert she would join in with me on the songs.  I loved those moments when she joined in with her weak, tired voice.  I can’t say the 2 of us were the prettiest sounding duet ever heard, but we “got the job done”, as Carol might have said.


Sweet friend
She fought, and she fought hard.  Hospice nurses were amazed at her tenacity and will to live.  They kept warning that she would pass “any time”, but Carol kept defying their orders and lying in that bed, raising her leg, kicking off her covers, and every once in a while giving her family and friends a slight little smile.

Before she was really sick Carol told me that she had decided she was a BUTTERLY LADY.  She explained that meant that after she died, she would come back to visit all of us as a BUTTERFLY.  She told me to know that anytime a butterfly fluttered around me, it was her popping in to say hello. 

One day I had an idea.  I would make Carol’s room a BUTTERFLY room – make what would be her death bed a place of peace and comfort.  So, I bought a bunch of little butterflies at the craft store and put them on small magnets.  The ceiling over Carol’s hospital bed was made of metal, so I stuck those butterflies allllll above her.  If she opened her weary eyes, I wanted her to know that they were there for her – Carol the Butterfly Lady.

The ceiling above Carol's bed
Carol died the next evening.  Her husband was with her, and right after she passed he came to get us.  We sat with him and cried, saying goodbye to our sweet friend.

Nothing I did for my friend was extravagant.  I simply gave her the gift of time together, of holding hands, of reading aloud, singing, and BUTTERFLIES.  I like to believe that those simple kind acts made her last days easier to bear.  I like to think she knew those butterflies were up there above her.  And I believe what she told me – that she is now a BUTTERFLY LADY. 

Sweetly, almost every day we are in Florida, at least one butterfly flutters through our yard.  And every time I see them, I smile, and say, “Hi Carol!”.
 
Hi Carol




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I can only describe the last five months of my life as SHITTY.  Sorry if that word offends you, but anything less that “shitty” would be sugar coatingthings.

First, my sweetheart broke his collar bone on our very first dip in the ocean of our first day of vacation.  Ouch.  

Taken a half hour or so before he broke his collar bone while body surfing...

At the Urgent Care - frozen peas on the injury while awaiting x-ray results...
We thought that was bad, until….

Just a week or so later, my sister was diagnosed with glioblastoma (brain cancer).
Celebrating my birthday in Florida with my sisters - 6 days before Annette was diagnosed with brain cancer
 (she is the one in the middle - we had no idea she was sick)

Kayaking in Florida - we paddled the wrong direction and had to work hard to get back UP CURRENT
and in a huge storm that blew in.  Sherry and I did it while healthy, Annette did it with a brain tumor!
A couple of days after major brain surgery - still smiling

After her brain surgery, but while she was still in the hospital in rehab to recuperate, my dad’s blood pressure went off the charts lowand he ended up hospitalized, too.  Luckily, both family members were in the same HOSPITAL but on different floors, so I basically spent all day and all night going from one floor to the other visiting and talking with doctors and nurses.


Patient #2 (Dad) visiting Patient #1 (Annette)
My dad’s mystery illness was never really pinpointed (well, they figured out that his heart was in “a-flutter” and gave him some new meds to control that, and his blood pressure went up with fluids, but why it all started was a mystery). 

All of this time, I was living in Omaha to be close to my family, only seeing my partner when he could fly in from DC every few weeks for a couple of days.  But one night he texted me very late saying that someone had DRIVEN INTO OUR FRONT PORCH.  Literally.  Crashed into our house.  Took out the front gate, the front steps, part of a stone column, a flower planter…  Totaled 2 cars – the one that ran the red light and slammed into car number 2, pushing it into our home.  Luckily no one was injured, but a couple of months later and we still do not have a gate or steps…

Oh my...
This is the view from the porch when David came out the front door...
Pretty lousy parking job if you ask me...
 

I popped into town for 3 days to sleep in my own bed and see the destruction...
Fast forward through the late summer/fall – my sweetheart’s collar bone healed.  My sister graduated from rehab and started radiation and chemo.  My dad, though very stressed about my sister and his wife with Alzheimer’s, was doing ok.

My DAD surrounded by his 3 daughters
Then he had a heart attack (the sort that the doctors bluntly told us is called a “widow maker” and most people do not make it to the hospital after having…).  Then the attempt to put in a stent or stents to open up the 90% blockage was deemed a “no go” and a double by-pass was done.

And juuuuust when he was doing better – walking a bit at the hospital, sitting up in the chair, making us laugh again – a nurse called in the middle of the night to say they were “coding him”.

So yeah – he died November 17th.

Like I said, it’s been a shitty summer and fall.

But in the middle of it all, a mysterious kindness activist appeared…

One Sunday morning, David sent me a video and photos, saying that magically a teeny tiny work crew had appeared in the rubble of our front steps!!!!  There were bulldozers, tractors, a very diverse crew of little workers…  All set up by some lovely, unknown neighbor!!!!!

A WHOLE CREW of workers and equipment magically appeared!!!!

David added the adorable sign
To say that the kind act made me smile is an understatement.  I had a grin from ear to ear.  WHO had done such a magical thing???  These little secrets are things that I myself love to do, but who reversed the magic and presented it to US??? 

Have no fear - the workers are here!

The scene is swarming with workers (and rubble, and bits of car and flower planter...)
After basically being gone from July – November, I got home last night at midnight.  We cannot use the front door (because, hello, no STAIRS) so went in the back door.  (Well, technically, my honey went in the front door after climbing over the side of our porch, then when through and unlocked the other door for me, don’t ask…)  Anyway, I did not see the recent addition to our porch disaster until this afternoon, so I do not know if the mystery kindness activist added it TODAY or earlier. 

But look – THEY DECORATED THE RUBBLE FOR CHRISTMAS!

A SNOWMAN!
Who CHANGES COLORS!
This little light up snowman was found on the corner of our porch!  He runs off a battery and even changes colors!

And they put up actual CHRISTMAS LIGHTS right over the stair rubble, that run off a solar panel!  Hahahahaha!  The lights are not working – we need to check them tomorrow in the daylight.  It might be because we live on a busy corner (hence the car crashing into the house…) and so it is not dark enough with street lights for them to turn on?  But they are there – magical little fairy lights strewn across what once was stairs, a rail, a flower pot, etc.  I love it!!

So, I just wanted to say THANK YOU to whoever the mysterious Kindness Activist is.  You have made a very, very difficult time in my life a wee bit lighter with your whimsy.  You brought me smiles, and made me believe that things are not always going to be this, well, this shitty. 

KINDNESS COMES IN ALL FORMS.  Sometimes it takes the shape of a tiny plastic construction man or a little glowing snowman.  If we just open our eyes, and our hearts, we can see it.

Thank you

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I am going to let you in on a little secret: sometimes, on days when I feel overwhelmed and cranky – I find it difficult to see the kindness in the world. 

That sentence could also read – I am going to let you in on a little secret: I am human.

Because really, all of us, each and every one, have days when all we can see is anger.  Or hatred.  Or sadness.

But here is my real secret:  on days like that, when I am a bit more clever and not wallowing in self-pity, I make it a point to OPEN MY EYES AND BE ON THE LOOK-OUT FOR KINDNESS.  Like, actually pay attention and notice it.  Because it is there, it is alwaysthere.  And when I take time to breathe, to look, to listen – I see it.  And I am inspired.  And suddenly, the day that felt dark and dreary lightens up, and my perspective changes.  And I smile. 

And at times when I really need a wake-up call, I sit myself down and write about kindness.  It’s a bit selfish really.  It is as much for me as it is for you reading this.  But at least I am honest about that!  So here we go – let’s open our eyes and our hearts and talk about a KINDNESS ACTIVIST.

Meet Peggy.

Peggy - the newest KINDNESS ACTIVIST!
Peggy has been a friend of my sister Annette for a long, long time.  They met in junior high school (and, without giving away their ages, let me just say, that was a while back…).  I don’t know their history – how often they kept in touch, hung out, etc.  But I do know their PRESENT.

Annette has glioblastoma (brain cancer).  She was diagnosed in July and it has been a confusing whirlwind of a few months for her and our family.  We have met surgeons, oncologists, nurses, social workers, rehab staff…  Dealing with brain cancer is a maze of scary tests, terms, and medicines.

But through all of the sadness, scariness, and confusion – PEGGY has been a constant source of KINDNESS.

Peggy visited at the hospital.  Came to rehab.  Had long, deep conversations with Annette.

And here is the thing that has made me so happy, PEGGY TOTALLY STEPPED UP AND HELPED OUT.  She set up PEGGY DAY – one day a week where she picks up Annette, takes her to doctor or rehab appointments, goes out to eat, gets a pedicure, anything and everything

At the cancer center on Peggy Day
Peggy Day has been amazing.  It is a day that Annette always enjoys – she gets to laugh and hang out with her friend.  And it is a day that the rest of the family knows means it is our time to relax, recharge, get our non-medical things taken care of.  All while knowing that Annette is in great hands.  It is awesome.

I must mention that I know Peggy Day cannot always be easy for Peggy.  She has a very busy life of her own!  Her mom is not well, her own sister died of cancer, she herself has had cancer, she has a daughter with a disability that she cares for, etc.  It is not like Peggy is just sitting around waiting for things to do, mind you!  Even though she enjoys hanging out with Annette, it means taking time out of her schedule to do it.  It means arranging child care, driving Annette around, and giving of herself. 

Peggy and her sweet daughter
Peggy and her daughter spending time with her mom




















PEGGY IS WONDERFUL. 

And she is kind.

Which is why she is being named a Kindness Activist. 

Thank you, Peggy.  You are amazing.  You have been a source of support for our family more than you can know.  And you are an inspiration.  Someday I hope to be able to grace a friend with Susan Day – where I will carry on your tradition of love, support, and kindness.

Peggy - a KINDNESS ACTIVIST extraordinaire!
P.S.- Among the countless other KIND THINGS Peggy does, she is also on the planning committee for the fundraising gala Annette’s friends are throwing her this month!  And she also sends me encouraging messages and funny stuff late at night to make me smile.  See, her kindness never ends!

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Tate playing in the grass

This is the 2ndin a series of Kindness Activists that have stepped forward and shone during my sister Annette’s illness.  There are many, many people who have being remarkably kind and helpful during this difficult time, but one in particular stands out and is very deserving of being dubbed a KINDNESS ACTIVIST.

World, meet KRISTI!!

Kristi is my sister’s friend.  They have gone through good times together, and bad times – Kristi is a breast cancer survivor and Annette helped her through her illness. 

Annette and Kristi all decked out
When Annette suddenly had to go to the Emergency room on July 26th, one of the immediate issues that needed to be dealt with was:  TATE.  Annette had just gotten a new puppy, Tate Dakota, in June (born April 16th *).  He is a Cavalier King Charles and pretty much the cutest little dog you have ever seen!  But he couldn’t go to the hospital with her, the little fella wasn’t even potty trained!  And the whole family was going to be at the hospital at all hours, so Tate needed someone to stay with.

Tate Dakota - all sorts of cute!!
Kristi didn’t even hesitate to offer to puppy-sit.  Why, she and Annette had driven to South Dakota together to pick him up just a month earlier, so I guess technically they had each known that tiny dog the same amount of time.  And Kristi had just finished puppy-sitting Tate so that Annette could come to Florida for what we call “Sister Week”, so Tate was used to Kristi’s home and even had adopted “sisters” there!

Tate and her adopted sister Haley
So, when Annette checked into the hospital on July 26th, Tate checked into Kristi’s home, and he has been there ever since.  She has even been training him!  He couldn’t manage steps when he went there, now he can.  He wasn’t potty trained very much when he went there, he now even knows how to lift his tiny leg.  Go Tater Tot go!!

Also, Kristi doesn’t just take care of Tate, she makes sure to keep his mamma well informed and entertained with news of the puppy!  She sends photos, videos, and little messages from Tate so that Annette can feel the love.

And get this:  she brought up to the hospital for visits!  Even SNUCK HIM INTO THE REHAB unit one time!!  He was the hit of the party, of course.  Everyone loves the little guy.

Tate snuggling his mamma outside the hospital in Omaha

Puppies are good medicine!  See that long tongue? 
It gave Annette LOTS of kisses!
Kristi has bought Tate bones, treats, even a special collar so that the spoiled little puppy could be in our recent family photo shoot and match everyone else!

Annette and her cutie Tate (and a shoe, which Tate likes to chew on...)
Photo by the amazing Brenda Lee Dolinski 
Annette is now out of the hospital and doing well.  She is still in physical therapy, and now has started radiation and chemo.  So, she is not quite strong enough to take care of Tate (who is an active little fella…) yet.  Kristi is graciously still watching the little guy.

Kristi – you are a KINDNESS ACTIVIST indeed.  Thank you for giving Tate a great home so that Annette can focus on healing.  We appreciate you!
The beautiful and KIND Kristi
* - TATE AND KRISTI SHARE THE SAME BIRTH DATE!  Isn't that awesome??

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If you have watched the news lately, you know that Senator John McCain died.

And if you happened to see my most recent Kindness Activist piece, you know that my sister was diagnosed with Glioblastoma this July.

So, if you put 2 and 2 together, you might come to the conclusion that McCain’s death (he also had Glioblastoma) hit my family in a particularly hard way. 

And you would be right.

All politics aside – whatever your opinion of John McCain is/was – my hope is that him being open and honest about his brain cancer will somehow shed more light on this disease.  My hope is that him being famous will somehow draw more attention to the lack of research and innovation in Glioblastoma treatment and cure.  May his diagnosis somehow open doors to more funding for brain cancer research, so that new medicines, trials, and CURES can be discovered.

Yesterday John McCain laid in state at the US Capitol.  I went to the Capitol to pay my respects, and in my heart I carried the respects of my family (who are in Nebraska so could not attend).  I knew the line would be long, but I had a short day at work and decided that I would wait in line however long it took. 

The United States Capitol August 31, 2018 - flag lowered for John McCain
I went early – the public viewing did not begin until 1:00 pm and I went around 2:00 because I assumed the line would be much longer after the regular work day finished at 5:00.  Before heading out I checked the list of prohibited items for the Capitol, and one thing banned was “liquid – including water”.  Alrighty then, no water!!

I have lived in the DC metro area for almost 20 years, so have been to the Capitol often.  Yesterday I was envisioning the line being indoors.  Boy was I wrong…  The lines (there were 2) were huge and were definitely OUTDOORS.  The sun was beating down and it was very, very hot.  I think when I was in line it was about 90 degrees, but it felt much hotter with the sun beating directly down.  The lines were on either side of the Capitol and weaved in and out, each “row” separated by metal barriers that were all hooked together.  It looked a bit like lines at Disney World.

Well, I hadn’t waited in line too long before I saw the first person get sick from the heat.  It was an older woman in the row next to me, and she began leaning on the metal barrier, then trying to unlock the barrier from the one next to it to open it so she could get out.  But the barriers were held together very well and were HARD to unhook.  I heard her say weakly, “I need to get out…”, and the woman next to me and I started trying to unhook the barriers to let her escape.  When we couldn’t get it open I began yelling “EMT, EMT!” and the other woman shouted, “Medic needed here!”.  Other people got the barriers open and EMTs came and took the woman onto one of many small make-shift “ambulances” that lined the street in front of the Capitol.  It made me so sad to see her on the stretcher.  I imagined that she was a die-hard McCain fan, here to pay her respects, and now she would not be able to.  I wanted to shout, “If you begin feeling better, please come take my place in line!”, but I didn’t, and I doubt she got to return.

After that incident I guess you could say that people started dropping like flies…  There was no shade (save the rain umbrellas that some people held) and the sun was H-O-T.  And there was no water for those of us that didn’t bring any.  I searched frantically for someone selling bottles of water but there was no one.  Red Cross workers had water for emergencies only, and when someone was feeling faint they would take them out of line and either have them sit on a little brick wall with a cold pack on their neck or put them on a stretcher and remove take them away.

This photo does not capture the density or length of the LINES,
but gives you some idea
I started to really worry.  I have only suffered from the effects of heat stroke once (we went to India during what turned out to be a record heat wave).  It was spooky when I got sick in India, and I did not want to relive that experience yesterday.  I think the combination of the heat and my panic was not good, and my heart began to race.  But I didn’t want to get out line – I had come to pay my respects and that is what I intended to do. 

So, I texted my sweetheart David.  He offered to come down and bring me water and my sunhat.  I was so relieved when I saw him walking up!  I poured a bit of cool water on my neck and quickly drank a bottle, saving the second one to drink while I was in the rest of the line. 

Empty chair representing POWS and those MIA inside the US Capitol
When the line finally moved to INSIDE the Capitol, it was fine.  The air conditioner kept us all cool and the wait was not difficult at all.   The site of McCain's casket lying in the Capitol Rotunda, draped in an American flag and guarded by two soldiers, was stunning.  He lie right under the beautiful domed ceiling, and those paying their respects wept, prayed, and some saluted.  
Beautiful card given to all who attended
Well, while I was still in line I asked David via text if he would mind going to the store and buying a couple of cases of bottled water.  When I got done at the Capitol, I wanted to hand out water to other people waiting in line.  He agreed, and when I was out he met me with 2 cases of water and a big rolling suitcase.

I put the water in that suitcase and off I went, back to the line!!  By this time the clouds had rolled in, so it was not AS scorching, but it was still hot.  The street was closed off (blocked by large trucks) and the area was guarded by many police officers (some of them carrying machine guns…).   The bomb sniffing dogs sniffed my suitcase 4 times to make sure it was safe.  “It’s just water!” I assured the dog wearing booties to keep his feet from getting burnt.

They were only small bottles of water, but they brought large smiles to the faces of people in line.  I had noted the diversity of the crowd inside the Capitol earlier and was amazed: there were African Americans, Indians, Asians, Caucasians, elderly people, infants, those in wheelchairs, Muslims, school children, veterans, blind people, Deaf people, those who spoke other languages, people in military uniforms, there was even a homeless man in line.  So, when I had water to hand out, it gave me joy to share it with such a wide array of people!

“How much?” some people would ask as I handed them a bottle of water.  “It is free,” was my reply.  “I waited in this line earlier and know how hot it is”.  I was thanked countless times and took joy from the wide smiles.  When I only had 3 bottles remaining a group joined the line that included 2 monks dressed in beautiful orange robes.  They were thirsty and happily took water.  It felt so fitting to be able to share this small gift with them. 

This act of kindness was a good reminder for me of how being kind not only benefits the RECIPIENT, it also gives joy to the GIVER.  I have been sad and stressed since my sister’s diagnosis and this simple act made me feel lighter and gave me a bit more hope for the world overall.

When the water was gone I went to the Vietnam Memorial (“The Wall”) for a candlelight vigil for the Senator.  It is always touching to be in that space, especially when veterans and their families are there. 

Vietnam Memorial, Washington DC - candlelight vigil for John McCain August 31, 2018
I am grateful to live in our country’s capital, so close to events like yesterday’s.  And I am thankful to have a schedule that is flexible enough to be able to participate in things. 

And I am HOPEFUL that John McCain’s illness will somehow shed light on Glioblastoma, resulting in increased funding, research, effective treatments, and a CURE.

Candles and uniform left at the Wall


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