Beautiful. Framing. Actors. Riveting. Music. Time. Moving. Tragic. Monochrome. YES.
It’s 2017. I’m happy about it. I kept waiting for it, ready to start anew. Ready for a reboot.
Last year was stressful. Surprising and tense and divisive and nasty. Many good things happened in my life, but I was greatly affected by everything happening in the world, and that stuff, the stuff splashed all over mainstream media, was frequently disheartening and disappointing.
K and I spent the last weeks of 2016 doing daily random acts of kindness. It helped both of us to be more positive. To look at things from a different, and more uplifting, perspective. We vowed, going forward into 2017, we would continue trying to look at the world from the place of kindness. Continue to do random acts as they presented themselves. I think we will. We both believe kindness is key, a necessity.
I was thinking last night about the news, being affected by it, getting upset, etc. After all, it’s still there. Just because we’re in a new year doesn’t mean it all miraculously goes away. I have friends who are so passionate about the state of things they are still posting political stuff on Facebook and Twitter. I get incensed about certain events, just as they do, but I don’t post them. It’s not my way. My way is to post things I believe to be positive, uplifting, and kind. It’s a different way of going at things, which is OK. Mine helps me, theirs helps them I’m sure.
In that vein I started thinking about the effect all of this information has on me. Bombarded with news reports and posts about news reports and political events and health crises and how this thing or that thing is bad for you. It’s easy to get sucked in, to focus on it all, to think that those things have significant value in my life. But honestly, they don’t. Yes, I do care about the world, I am concerned about a lot of it. I am. And K and I will be volunteering for a couple of organizations this year in order to try and step up and do something productive and positive. But if I spend too much time thinking every day about all of it I’m not living right where I am. I forget to look at what’s good in my life, there is a whole lot that’s good. I miss appreciating great sunsets and how beautiful the light is shining through the trees. I am not present.
It’s so easy to be distracted, to look outside my life and focus on what’s wrong with everything. But that would be a disservice to my life, and I definitely wouldn’t be honoring all the magic that exists in my every day. The way to honor my life, to live it fully, to be present in it, is to notice the magic. To soak up the moments. To put my focus on the people and the sunsets and the smiles. To pay attention when I’m having a great conversation, or when one of my grandkids laughs, or when my honey smiles at me a certain way. To honor this beautiful life I have to be responsible for feeling it, being IN it.
So to hell with bad news, crazy politics, and all the negative crap. I can’t change the whole world, I can only do my small part. I will act with grace, or at least try to. I will be present and faithful to this beautiful, amazing, glorious life I’m lucky to be living. That’s where my energy needs to be spent. On walks and dog loves and kisses and hugs and music and beautiful words and great meals with family and laughter with friends and taking photographs and writing and silly and kindness and joy and love.
This is what I will do. That is all.
A baby eaglet hatches.
K and I have been a tad obsessed with Harriet and M15, the eagle pair sitting on their eggs in Florida. There is a live feed going all the time, even at night. This morning, about 7:30 Eastern time, the first egg hatched and E9 was born. It was a beautiful and lovely thing to see. With the tumult of 2016, it’s nice to be ending on this fantastic note of hope and inspiration.
If you are interested in continuing to watch and to read about the eagles go here for the info.
We were out and about again today, running more errands, getting ready for some upcoming Christmas festivities. Since we were going out we thought today would be a good day for the candy cane caper. Sounds more adventurous or slightly naughty than it was, but it ended up being pretty nice. We’d purchased a box of big sized candy canes a while back in preparation and today we took them around and passed them out to people, saying Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, giving people a smile as we did. Librarians, people sitting at a cafe, the ladies who work at the coffee roasters we go to, a couple of policemen, and a girl sitting outside waiting for a ride were all recipients. My honey is really good at this. Her smile can light up a room. Every single person who got a candy cane smiled back at us. We gave a few of the people two candy canes telling them one was for them and one was for them to hand out to someone else. A sweet bit of shared kindness.
Today might have been the most simple act of kindness we’ve done to date. We were kind to each other. We slept in, laughed, talked, shopped, did laundry, cooked, did dishes, drank our nightly decaf, held hands, showed each other cool photos online, took the pups for a nice walk, problem solved a couple of things, said I love you and thanks honey a few times, and had a pretty quiet day together. It’s important to be aware of your spouse, to be kind to them. We do a pretty good job of that most of the time, but it’s good to talk about it, good to be present with it. It’s a form of kindness that’s not talked about enough. It’s great and important to be kind to others, but it’s equally important, if not more so, to be kind to the people you are closest to, people who you share your life with.
Today K and I made our yearly Christmas trip into Chicago. We usually go to several places on our Christmas trip day, but this time we ended up just staying at the Lincoln Park Zoo all day. We looked at the animals, had several different talks with zoo staff about various animals, ate some lunch, then strolled around the place a couple more times after the zoo lights came on. We had meant to park at the zoo, take a bus downtown and check out the Bean, the Macy’s windows, some other sites we usually see at Christmas time, then get back to the zoo in the evening to see the zoo lights, but it didn’t happen that way. At one point we just looked at each other and both kind of said we were having a great time, a very relaxing time, just wandering around, no rush, nice and mellow. It was awesome. While we were there we also decided to put our money where our mouths are and donate a bit to the conservation and research programs the zoo participates in. Kindness through conservation.
Everyone loves cookies and it just so happens my honey makes great M&M cookies. Today’s kindness was a simple one. She made cookies and we delivered them to three of our neighbors. Needless to say they were surprised and very happy to get them. Nothing like seeing people with big smiles on their faces. Kindness through sugar overload. That’s what we’re talking about.
We decided to go with a fun act of kindness today. We taped a couple of packages of microwave popcorn to a Redbox outside a local Walgreens. The signs said, “Enjoy some popcorn with your movie”. We hope someone does!
We found a big package of handwarmers at the bottom of our hat/scarf bin in our closet. At some point we bought them in bulk. Each little package is a pack of two handwarmers. It’s very cold out today so our act of kindness was to drive around our towns, both Champaign and Urbana, for a couple of hours handing out packs of handwarmers to people at bus stops and other people just walking around who looked really cold. We would pull up and K would roll down her window or jump out and offer up a package of handwarmers to the person. Some took them, others didn’t. One guy said he didn’t need them because he had socks on his hands. K tried to convince him socks weren’t warm enough. He smiled, laughed a little, and still refused. We gave that pack to the next cold looking person we saw. Even the people who refused them smiled at us. The people that took them were very grateful. Small kindnesses mean something.
We are very corny. Silly even. It’s something both K and I share, a genuine dorkiness. It makes our lives fun, we laugh a lot. Because we love to laugh, we love to make other people laugh. Sharing laughter is a kindness. To yourself, and to the person you shared the laugh with. So today we recorded ourselves doing really corny knock knock jokes and sent them out to some people. We totally cracked ourselves up. I hope we made our people laugh as well.
We decided, really since we started this whole adventure, but today especially, that we would be mindful of being outwardly open, friendly, chatty, interested, and kind toward whoever we came in contact with. In all actuality, we are like this for the most part, in our daily lives, but it puts an extra special twist on it when you do it mindfully. So today, as we ran some errands, we made sure to look people in the eyes, smile at them, be silly, chat, make conversation, shake hands if it was possible. We ended up getting a lot of smiles in return. Again, sometimes it’s the smaller things that make all the difference in life. A smile costs nothing. Interest in other people as humans costs nothing. Being a tad silly, and chatty, costs nothing. And all of those things together show a kindness, an openness, toward other people, which might just make them feel more kind and open as they go through the rest of their day. Maybe it starts a wave of kindness. And if not, smiling at people generally gets them to smile back. It’s worth it.
Sometimes the kind thing is a thing you might do anyway. Something as simple as helping out someone when they’re in need. Kindness doesn’t have to be done in big grand gestures or deliberate acts for someone you don’t know. It can be simple, and right at home. The kid’s water heater went out. They’ve had a couple of days of no hot water, which they’ve managed to deal with pretty well, but the one thing they couldn’t get done at home were baths for the kids. So today they came over and the littles had a bath. Kindness can be about just being there for someone when they need you to be. And in fact, we should be kind like that as much as we can be.
I spent 20 years of my life working with at-risk kids. It was challenging work, but also very rewarding. Initially I worked for several years with kids at a youth correction facility. Later, and for most of my years doing the work, I worked as a Juvenile Probation Officer. That involved a lot of things, one of those being sometimes trying to find a residential placement for a kid who needed treatment, or safety, or both. I know a lot about residential kids, I have a huge place in my heart for them. Which brings us to today’s act of kindness. There is a residential program here in our town, the Cunningham Children’s Home. We know someone who works there and asked her if they were accepting donations for the holidays. She told us yes, gave us a few suggestions, then told us where to go to drop off the stuff (thanks so much, Evelyne!). We just got done dropping off the goods. If you are local here, consider a donation to Cunningham. Kids in placement don’t usually have very much, they frequently feel unwanted, forgotten, and less-than. They aren’t, but they don’t know that. Just getting to pick out some cool stuff around the holidays helps a little.
Sometimes acts of kindness are truly random. We had nothing planned for today. No act thought out ahead of time. We were driving to our local Co-op, Common Ground, talking about what to do today when we pulled up and the answer was right there. In the planters in front of the store, where during the rest of the year actual plants live, there were bare branches of trees sticking up, and tied to some of these branches were clear plastic bags with hats and gloves and scarves inside. The sign on the planter said donate if you can, take something if you need it. When we were done with our shopping we headed home, scoured our overflowing winter drawers and baskets for something to donate, found three scarves, neatly rolled them up and placed them all into a plastic bag, then drove back to Common Ground and hung them on a branch. They were scarves we’ve had forever, scarves we don’t need, and the thought that someone may be out there who can use them, who might need them, well… that made us both feel good. The weather has turned very very cold. I hope next time we go by they are gone and that someone has one snuggly wrapped around their neck.
Today’s act of kindness involved sending a few notes to a few people we were thinking of and just wanted to say hello to. Getting mail is cool. It makes people smile. Let’s them know you were thinking of them. Mail is kind. Send mail.
As most everyone can tell, we love our pups very much. They bring so much light, joy, and love into our lives. We also know we aren’t the only ones who feel this way about our furry family members. Because of this we wanted to do something kind for other people’s dog and cats. We found out about an event put on by a local organization called Hospice Hearts that is meant to help out low income people by offering vet service, grooming services, and food at reduced rates. So we bought some food and just dropped it off for the organizers to use at the event. We have to remember to be kind to everyone, including our furry friends. Spread the love.
Sebastian is an amazing little guy. Has always been. He started kindergarten this year and he’s flourished there, growing and maturing as the year has gone on. Teaching is a hard business, and teaching kindergarten must be impossible at times. Hopefully it’s also rewarding. We think Sebastian’s teacher has been great with him, and his class, this year. It has been a good first step for him into the regular school system and a large part of that has been due to her work. So today’s act of kindness is to show our appreciation to her by giving her a gift card good for a couple of cups of coffee or tea or hot cocoa at a local coffee place. It’s a small token for such a big thing.
We were at the library, where we go frequently. I’m a huge fan of the library. We probably go there a couple of times a week. Anyway, we were in the parking lot, which has meters, and we noticed the meter enforcement person pull up. She got out and walked over to a car and started writing a ticket. So K jumped out of our Jeep, ran over to her with a bag of change we keep in the Jeep for parking, and asked her if instead of giving tickets she would put change in the meters, K offered up our change. The meter lady told K she couldn’t do that, and in fact her bosses had told her specifically not to do it. She could put her job in jeopardy. We definitely didn’t want that. Then she says, “I haven’t gotten to that row yet”, and sort of gestured over to another row. We took the hint. We started moving around the lot trying to spot meters that had expired and if we found one we put change in it. The meter lady was sort of sour when K initially approached her, but by the time they finished chatting, and she suggested the other row, she had a big grin on her face. Sometimes acts of kindness just have to be seen to be appreciated, to lift spirits, and to make people smile.
Point is, we like coffee. Today we decided to spread love and kindness through coffee. We went through a drive-thru and paid for the person behind us. We were going to do it no matter who it was, but in the rear view it looked like a college student. They ordered two drinks. We didn’t know that when we told the girl at the window we wanted to pay for the person behind us, we just figured there were two by how much it was. That made us even happier. The kid behind us was taking a drink to someone else, spreading the joy even further than just his car in that moment.
We pretty much take our dogs for a walk everyday. The length varies, depending on weather and our schedule, but for the most part we try to get them out for a jaunt on a daily basis. When we walk we choose routes in our area of town, in our neighborhood. During today’s walk we decided, as our daily act of kindness, that we would take a trash bag along and pick up garbage. We walked about a mile and a half and ended picking up nearly an entire large kitchen sized bag of garbage. We couldn’t believe some of the stuff we found. Everything from an empty liquor bottle to what looked like old rags that had flown off a truck. A plethora of refuse, just around this particular route in our neighborhood. It made us feel good to do it. We actually wondered why we hadn’t done it before. Just think of how great it would be if everyone did this on theirs walks, even once a week.
K makes great jam, so when our mail lady came up to the porch today I handed her a large jar of pear jam. She was very happy to get it. I think it might have made her day. Kindness doesn’t have to cost anything, so be kind and spread joy!
Today’s random act of kindness was to call a faraway friend or relative to say hello. We decided to pick up the phone and give Lisa, K’s cousin, a jingle. We hardly ever get to see her, and shamefully never talk to her on the phone, so we thought she would be a good choice. The funny thing is when she answered the first thing she asked was if she was our act of kindness today. We told her yes! It was a great conversation and we were so glad we called her.
It reminded us, again, that we should reach out more often to those people in our lives we love. All it takes is a quick phone call or even an email to say, I’m thinking of you, and I love you.
Day three of our Kindness Advent involved putting money in a vending machine with a note letting the next person know there was a credit on the machine for them to use. We’re spreading joy, one bag of chips or candy bar at a time!
Today’s kindness adventure led us to our own backyard where we fed the birds with Tessa. As we did we talked to her about how it’s good to be kind to all creatures great and small. Her comment, “I feed birdie’s”. She’s already getting the hang of this kindness thing.