Sunday, September 15, 2013

I'm Celebrating My Birthday a Little Differently This Year

Inspired by Robin over at The Birthday Project I decided to celebrate being on this earth for half a century (how can something sound awful and good all at the same time!?) by doing One Random Act of Kindness for every year of my life.  Ok, so maybe they're not all totally random since some necessitated advance planning, but I also kept my eyes open to moments of serendipity.  I also didn't do all of them on my actual birthday, but spread them out through almost two weeks.   I also enlisted the help of D and the boys.  Here's what I did:
  1. Let cars into traffic.
  2. Let people cross the parking lot/road.  
  3. Held the door open for several people (these first three feel like cheating, I do those every day)
  4. Gave a gift card to a family shopping for school supplies at Walmart
  5. Contributed to the impromptu dinner we all brought over to Grandma's and
  6. Carried her laundry upstairs for her
  7. Put out muffins, donuts & bagels out at the bus stop for the neighbors to enjoy while we waited for the school buses on the first day of school.
  8. Hey, the bus drivers have probably been up since 5 a.m. and it's their first day too.  They could probably use a muffin or a bagel right about now.
  9. Decided to invite the neighbors from the bus stop down the street to have some breakfast too! 
  10. The three-year old 2 doors down really liked the blueberry muffins so we sent him home with what was left.  (wow, see how that happens, one kind thing multiplies practically on its own!)
  11. Left some quarters in the laundromat for people to find.
  12. Paid for the car behind me at Tim Horton's.
  13. Treated P's class to ice cream (my original plan was to bring the teacher & aides lunch but they requested this instead so everyone could join in and it was fun to meet P's new classmates).
  14. Put a surprise donut in M's lunch.
  15. Took flowers to the assisted living facility down the street and asked the receptionist to give them to a resident who didn't have any family nearby. ("You want to what?  Why?"  The receptionist was shocked and called everyone out of the office to gawk at me.  LOL  "But who should we say they are from?"  Just from someone who loves them)
  16. My neighbor hurt her back so I called her from the grocery store to see if she needed anything.
  17. While I was there I decided to cook dinner for her family so she wouldn't have to be on her feet any longer than necessary.
  18. Paid for a different car behind us at Tim Horton's.  (Honestly we are there so much I could probably very easily do this 50 times.  LOL)
  19. The town is mandating that all the broken sidewalk on our street has to be fixed.  After talking to the contractor we decided to replace the whole sidewalk in front of our house rather than just the 4 blocks that are damaged.  Technically the one at the end is on the neighbor's property but we're replacing that one too.  (This is kind of an unofficial rule in the neighborhood.  Our neighbor on the other side replaced "our" block when he redid his sidewalk.  But there are probably an equal number of people who don't do it)
  20. Delivered a box of chocolates to the NICU at the local hospital.  This one was really important to me since there was no NICU when I was born and the hospital I was born in closed long ago. I remember going to visit the nurses there when I was 4 or 5 but I didn't really appreciate why we were there.  I would give each and every one of them a big hug today if I could find them.  (The unit secretary looked at the boys and asked "Which one of you was here?" Not them. Me. Well, not me.  None of us actually.  She looked puzzled at first, but seemed appreciative once I told her the story)
  21. Sent a card to a friend who is battling cancer.  (I wish we lived closer so I could help more.)
  22. Got my neighbor's kids off the school bus and watched them while she was at the doctor.
  23. Put money in the collection jar for the local food bank.
  24. Donated a big box of books and DVDs to the local library.
  25. Left $5 with the circulation desk librarian and asked that they use it to pay the fines the next person who owed them.  ("These aren't your overdue fees?  Who are they for?  You don't know?  Some person you don't know?  Wait a minute...")
  26. Wrote a note to a co-worker telling her how much I admire her (she sent me a very sweet text thanking me).
  27. I work for a non-profit that is heavily dependent on volunteers.  Tonight is new volunteer orientation so I left some treats for them while they fill out paperwork.
  28. Due to a Phineas & Ferb episode, M. has been wanting to try a croissant.  Saw some at the store today so got him a chocolate one.  He pronounced it very good.
  29. Got D. the expensive chocolate bars, the ones he doesn't buy for himself.
  30. Did not freak out when neighbor kid put her foot in the new concrete.  (I think that counts don't you?)  No damage, it had dried juuuuuust enough.
  31. Donated some books on Down syndrome to the local Parent Network library.
  32. Made a donation to the United Way.
  33. Made pasta salad for P and let him take it to school for lunch.
  34. Found  out it was National Chocolate Milkshake Day, so threw the kids in the car to get some.  ("Mom, are there more National Days like this?  How do we find out what they are? LOL)
  35. Gave up a chair for someone who needed it.
  36. Let a large family go ahead of us in line to visit the tall ships.
  37. Made a donation to a charitable organization with a booth at the Canal.
  38. Tipped generously when we got lunch at the food trucks.
  39. Went to four Tim Horton's until we found one that had mac & cheese, which P really wanted.
  40. Gave our phone numbers to a family member of a friend who's travelling through our area, in case they have a breakdown or get lost or need advice on where to stay, etc.
  41. Put some quarters in the candy machines at the mall.
  42. Paid for the car behind us in the toll lane, even though we have EZ Pass.
  43. Returned grocery carts in the parking lot.
  44. "Rounded up" our bill at the grocery store to donate to the Food Bank.
  45. Instead of the usual love notes I put in their lunch boxes, I drew cartoons and made up riddles (not very good ones, but hey, it was early in the morning!)
  46. Let homework go until Sunday night (definitely not the usual routine!)
  47. Got a whole pile of ironing done in anticipation of upcoming business trips, rather than do it last minute like usual.
  48. Had a family movie night on a weeknight instead of a weekend.
  49. Brought in the garbage cans and
  50. Unloaded the dishwasher (two of the boys' chores).
In reflection, I think this was a really good thing and I'm going to continue doing intentional random acts of kindness, not just on my birthday, but all the time.  I was in an exceptionally good mood the whole time I was doing this.  I also noticed that I was able to let go of a lot of little things that I would normally let irritate me.  The boys and D. definitely benefitted as well, not just as beneficiaries of a lot of the kindnesses, but I noticed them going out of their way to do nice things as well, like bringing gatorade to the guys who poured our sidewalk and helping a friend at the bus stop.  I want to give the kids an awareness that there are little things they can do to make the world a better place and that they should just do them as they see a need or as they think of it.  I hope that message sank in and I'll keep leading my example.

I also noticed that almost half of these have to do with food.  Hmmmm.... might have to work on that a little bit...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Observations from an Airport

In my single days I seemed to be in an airport every weekend.  While that is a rare occurrence these days, in the past year I've found myself on planes and trains.  Some of it was fun, some of it was insanely stressful.  But I was reminded that one of the best things about travel is people watching.  You can sit back and speculate on all the people sitting in your gate area and wonder why they are going where you're going.  What are they doing on their laptops?  Who are they talking to?  Why are they reading *that* book?  You can speculate on all the people going by.  Where are they rushing - or not rushing - off to?  Is it for fun or business?  Are they happy to be going or not?  And what (maybe I don't want to know!) are they speculating about me?  Here are some observations:

  • Everyone knows the TSA regulations by now and that there is increased security.  So I must ask why would you wear the complicated shoes and 1000 bangles and the pants with 20 pockets (all with something  in them) when you know you have to take it all off and put it back on and still make your plane on time?  I'm not even saying that because I'm behind you - I'm one of those people that is late to everything in every day life but I'm 2 hours early for a plane.  But really,  save yourself the trouble and look cute when you get there.
  • I hope the nervous-looking young girl in African national dress walking down the concourse was being met by the equally nervous-looking young man in African national dress holding the hugest bunch of roses I have ever seen.  I kind of wish I had stayed around to find out, but my first inclination was that probably one less person gawking at them as they greeted each other was a good thing.  I hope they are living happily ever after!
  • I laughed out loud watching a wee girl ride on her wheeled yellow suitcase that looked like a duck.  How fun!  And smart Mom & Dad to make it fun and get where they need to be on time.
  • To the flight attendant who sang the safety regulations, you sir are brilliant.  You're enjoying your job and putting smiles on our faces.  And you got everyone to pay attention!
  • Ditto to the flight attendant who cracked jokes through the whole flight, including telling us to "waaaaaaaiit" when the plane pulled up at the gate.
  • I don't know who Marcia is or where she was coming from or how long she'd been gone, but she had quite the welcoming committee!  30+ people with balloons, signs, confetti and a trumpet.  You are one lucky lady, Marcia, and your fans seem pretty lucky too!
  • Thank you to the kind security agents who were gracious about some jam we had in our carry-ons that were over the liquid/gel limit.  They could have just said sorry and chucked it, but seeing my son's disappointment, they directed us to go back downstairs and see if the check-in agents had a box so we could check it through.  We couldn't and had to bin it anyway, but they were very anxious to hear the result when we got back through the line and directed us to the duty free inside where we could get more.  These people see thousands and thousands of passengers each day and for them to take the extra moments was very much appreciated.
  • And lastly, there was only one time I have been on a completely silent airplane.  The captain announced shortly after takeoff that we had the honor of taking a fallen hero home to his family and asked that we not deplane until such ceremonies as are necessary were completed.  Everyone spent the flight in quiet contemplation and an attitude of gratefulness.  To the military escort sitting up front, thank you not only for your service but for undertaking this most difficult job; I hope you can bring some measure of comfort to this veteran's family.  To the fallen goes our ultimate thanks, godspeed and may you live in the light always.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Eleven Things About You at Age 11

  • All Minecraft All the Time (dig, dig, dig, cake, cake, cake).
  • Recent interests include architecture, archery and runes.  We went to see one of the local Frank Lloyd Wright houses and you thought it was pretty cool that he designed everything in and around the house.  
  • You want to go to any Scandinavian country.  Preferably now.
  • You read at an amazingly fast rate. Your school requires everyone to read 25 books of at least 100 pages each over the school year.  You easily hit that benchmark by December and most of the books were over 300 pages.
  • You're branching out with food - mozzarella sticks, baked chicken, cucumbers have all passed the test.  Lunch every day consists of cooked pepperoni, an apple, cookies and a juice box.  Sometimes I force you to take a cheese sandwich or some chips just to shake things up a bit.  You buy if it's chicken nuggets or grilled cheese, but not always.
  • You are settling into middle school.  Your favorite subject this year is Science.   Your least favorite is ELA (all that writing!).  Study hall is a good place to do or catch up on forgotten homework.  And the after-school clubs are neat too!  You joined model building (another new interest) and technology, which turned out to be wood shop.  That one only lasted a few months because as 5th graders you are not allowed to actually use the equipment. :-(
  • Like most boys your age you can pack away an astonishing amount of food when you want to.  You love to sneak out with Dad in the evening to get a "snack" somewhere, which consists of what most people would eat for an entire meal.
  • If it has anything to do with a dragon, you have read it, drawn it, seen it, bought it, played it, designed it, built it, wrote about it, and put it on your wish list.
  • You ask a ton of questions, most of which I do not know the answers to.  Hello internet!  When you are having your bedtime snack you and Dad discuss relativity and all manner of serious subjects.
  • You really really really want a dog.  You grudgingly admit that the fact that your brother is scared  of them is a good reason why we don't have one right now.  But you work on him every chance you get.  "You like dogs, don't you?  Wouldn't you like a dog?  Let's get a dog! Dogs are fun!" 
  • Getting you to take a shower is like murder.  Conversely you are suddenly very concerned with how your hair looks.

  • You've decided you like chicken.  Boy does that make meal time easier!  Every day for lunch you take turkey, balogna, and salami (no bread), a juice box, a box of raisins, some craisins and some pickles.  You love to buy lunch when it is spaghetti or turkey and mashed potatoes but I still have to send in the raisins, craisins and pickles because no way are you eating the other stuff Mrs. Linda cooks.
  • You love having a job.  Delivering things at school, setting the table, bringing in groceries, you're so proud of yourself when you help out.
  • You can buckle and unbuckle your seatbelt by yourself now.  This sounds like a little thing but it is huge.  No more standing in the cold and the rain getting you settled in safely and back out again.  We all just get in the car and go!  This literally saves us probably 30 minutes a day, maybe more.
  • Charlie Brown is the reigning favorite.  I think we now have every Peanuts video it is possible to own.
  • I love watching you navigate your way around the iPad.  The other day you went to the speech app and proceeded to tell me about everything you don't like.  Most of which was not true, but very funny nevertheless.
  • You are doing a great job at Special Olympics swimming and your coach says you are really coming along.  And you are having fun, which is the most important thing.  Probably by spring you will be focused enough to participate in a meet.
  • This winter you not only wore boots, but also gloves and sometimes a winter hat!  You'd prefer your fedora but sometimes we gotta cover those ears!  (You still love hats and wear one every day.)
  • Sometimes I find you packing your backpack with movies and toys to "go New Jersey."  I wish we could go more often too buddy.
  • There are a few games you *love* to play.  One  is the "opposite" game.  You say one word and we say the opposite one (up/down, sun/moon, yes/no, etc.) and then you switch and "trick" us into saying the wrong word.  One is the "cookie" game.  We talk about making cookies and what ingredients we need.  You insist on spaghetti or soup or cheese and we make faces and say no, you need sprinkles, cinnamon, chocolate chips.  Then we pretend to be Cookie Monsters and eat all  the cookies up no matter what is in them.  Or sometimes you are the cookie and say what kind you are and we are Cookie Monster and eat you up.  Lots of giggling and hilarity and snuggle time.
  • You need an escort to go to therapy again.  You were doing great for a long time until you realized that you could stop and visit your favorite teachers on the way.  You apparently would open the classroom doors and yell hi! until they said hi back.  You are also copycatting the other kids in class when they misbehave and lose a "thumbs up."  We all find this hilarious and developmentally appropriate; your teacher assures us that pretty soon you will be back to going to therapy alone.
  • Since Advent, you insist on eating dinner by candlelight.  You gave me a jar candle for Christmas and if I forget to light it you stop eating and go turn off the lights.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Memorable Books of 2012

2012's book total was 75.  I was shooting for 100 but I think I did pretty good.  Here are the books I absolutely loved reading this year:

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier.  Brilliant, totally original.  This is a debut novel from this author and I'm looking forward to reading what he writes next.  It is suspenseful without being creepy or scary and witty as well.  There are so many great books for kids & young adults out there, anyone who says that kids don't like to read or there isn't anything for kids to read has got rocks in their head.  The only downside is that I have to fight M. for them as he's often trying to read a book at the same time and doesn't necessarily want to read it *with* me.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.  Written in a very dense prose that creates it's own world immediately, the first chapter was a bit slow going, but after that I couldn't put it down.  On the premise that everyone is connected, the author takes people as diverse as possible and connects them to a single day in New York City and a single event (Phillipe Petit's tightrope walk between the Twin Towers).  By the third chapter I was anxious to meet the next person and see how they were connected to the characters that came before and after.  And yet each chapter/character could stand alone as a single short story as well. And I am in *love* with the cover art that makes the NY skyline into an entire world.  It's only after studying it for several minutes that you see the little tightrope walker at the top, near the author's name.  Truly a perfect cover.

To Reach the Clouds by Phillipe Petit.  Because of Colum McCann's book, I was prompted to seek out Petit's account of his walk between the Twin Towers, from first conception to everything that came after.  There are no words to describe the beauty of this book, both in Petit's language (poetry is a more accurate term) and in the documentation, photographic and otherwise.  Terrifying, exhilarating, splendid.  A love letter to the Towers that now live only in our hearts and memories.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.  Reminiscent of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" in that it takes a watershed event in recent history (World War II) and tells a new story when we thought we'd heard them all.  This book interweaves the lives of three women, Emma Fitch, a young fragile doctor's wife, Iris James. the postmistress of Franklin Massachusetts, and Frankie Bard, an American radio reporter covering the war in London and eventually across Europe.  Each fights the war in her own way and yet in the end they cannot fight it without leaning on each other.  Really a superb read.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.  I loved this book.  The title character is a spunky 12-year old girl in 1899 Texas who develops an interest (and eventually love of) science and because of it, a relationship with her previously-thought-scary grandfather.  She begins to see the world and her place in it in a new way and thus begins to redefine her life and dream for the future.  While the book ends as 1900 dawns, in my head Callie is a happy successful adult scientist/naturalist/intrepid explorer.  Because this is "juvenile fiction" many people will miss it.  Please don't be one of them!

The Kick Keswick series by Marne Davis Kellogg (Brilliant, Priceless, Perfect and Friends in High Places).  Kick is a mature woman who knows how to enjoy the best things in life, be they designer clothes, expensive wines, gourmet food, and jewels.  Especially the jewels.  In her spare time, Kick is the notorious Shamrock Burglar; she goes after only the finest jewels and leaves her signature shamrock bouquet in its place.  She wants nothing more than to embrace retirement at her lovely farmhouse in France (which has a multitude of hidden vaults) but finds herself working for the good guys recovering stolen goods from her clumsier colleagues.  Pure fun!

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella.  Kinsella has another wacky heroine in Poppy Wyatt, a girl who has lost her engagement ring and her phone all in the same hour.  When she finds a phone in a trash bin, it's finders keepers and hilarity ensues as the owner of the phone, businessman Sam Roxton, wants it back.  Actually the phone is supposed to be used by his personal assistant who has walked out on the job without notice.  Poppy strikes a deal with Sam to keep the phone and naturally cannot resist reading his texts, emails, and offering advice and personal assistance.  I can always count on Kinsella to keep me laughing and entertained and wondering how all these crazy loose ends are going to get tied up into a happy ending.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  This is the latest addition to my unofficial list of Books Everyone Should Read (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows was the first selection).  Victoria Jones has spent her entire life in the foster care system.  Now at 18, she has aged out and has nowhere to go.   She has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of flowers and their meanings and the only way she can connect to others is through this language of flowers.  After living in a local park and planting a small garden of her own, she meets a local florist who kindheartedly offers her some work.  She soon realizes that she has a talent for giving customers exactly the flower they need (which is not necessarily the one they want or think they want).  As word of her talents spread, she begins to feel more confident, begins to work, build friendships, find a home of her own.  A vendor at the local flower market is clearly drawn to her and she to him.  But a secret from her past could ruin everything.  Can they be happy?  I loved loved loved this book!

Broken Harbor by Tana French.  I do not read thrillers or mysteries or horror because I am a fraidy cat.  A very big fraidy cat.  I do not need a book to interrupt my sleep, thankyouverymuch, and definitely not a scary one.  Tana French is my one and only exception to this rule.  Yes, her books often scare the beejeebers out of me but they are so well-crafted, the language is so poetic, the characters so finely drawn that I actually enjoy having the bejeebers scared out of me.  As with her other books, Broken Harbor focuses on a member of Dublin's Murder Squad, this time Detective Mick (Scorcher) Kennedy.  He's working a case involving the murder of two young children and their father.  The mother is in critical condition.  Is it a botched murder-suicide as it looks at first?  Or is the real murderer trying to make it look that way?  As Mick and his rookie partner, Richie, get more into the investigation there are too many things that don't add up.  What was really going on in the Spain's house?  Mick's childhood ties to Broken Harbor begin to play with his mind, not to mention that of his sister, Dina, whose hold on reality is tenuous at best.  French's books are not just psychological studies of the perpetrators but the detectives as well.  It's been said that great criminal minds and great police minds are very few threads removed from each other.  Every detective has a case that hits too close to home.  Can they hold it together long enough to not only solve the case but themselves as well?

Clean by Dr. Alejandro Junger.   In this book Junger discusses the myriad of health issues facing modern society and how the benefits of a dietary cleanse can benefit and begin to heal the body.  Normally I read these books with a healthy dose of skepticism but I recently went gluten-free for a few weeks as an experiment.  I was amazed at how many nagging little problems (joint pain, cravings, lack of energy) went away - and came back as soon as I went back on the gluten.  A lot of what is in this book resonated with me on a deeper level and I finished it wanting to try the program.  It's designed to be 21 days in duration and consists of liquid smoothies or juice for 2 meals and a healthy meal for the third, perferably at lunch.  No wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine and a bunch of other things as well (look up elimination diet for specifics).  Given my experience with the gluten, I wonder if any of these other things may be causing issues?  21 days isn't all that long to try it and find out!  My husband wants to try it too and we planned to start after the holidays but the flu has put paid to that.  As soon as we're both feeling healthy again, we'll give it a go.  I'll post on the blog how we did and what we thought afterwards.

It's no secret that I am a Royal Watcher.  While I wouldn't say I'm a Monarchist because I don't live in a country with a Monarchy, I am a fan.  (Is fan the right word?)  Anyway, in this year of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee I thought it would be neat to read as many biographies of The Queen and other members of the Royal Family as possible.  And a few books on the jewelry to provide some eye candy.  Final count: 13.  I particularly enjoyed The Real Elizabeth by Andrew Marr,  Tiaras, A History of Splendor by Geoffrey Munn was... well, splendid!