back to school

rodney-back-to-school-cameo1
google images

Just like Rodney Dangerfield, I’m going BACK TO SCHOOL!

Starting tomorrow, I will log into my online class at the University of Missouri at Columbia (“Mizzou”) and start a two-year graduate certificate program in Positive Psychology. Founded by Martin Seligman, this is a relatively new field of psychology, although it draws upon theories and research from many of the great psychologists and philosophers throughout history. I am hopeful that this certificate will allow me to take the skills I have built in my college counseling work and branch out into other areas, such as life coaching and curriculum writing for the various kindness projects in which I am involved.

As I have learned through recent losses and the subsequent complicated grief I have experienced as a result, helping others really does make you feel better. I don’t mean to oversimplify here, but in my experience, it is completely true.

While I have always been drawn to helping others, the life-changing shift that took place after my step-father’s suicide, especially since my brother died the same way, completely altered the way I look at my own life as well as the lives of others. From the moment I learned he was missing, I started looking at him, his life, where he could be, and what he could be feeling through a different lens. I call it “the suffering lens.” It’s when I try to step into a person’s shoes and really feel what they might be experiencing, their pain. I know, I know…it all sounds strange and “out there”, but it’s what I do and how I see the world.

And, because I started to see the world with a “suffering lens” I became even more motivated to help others, which is why my work with the AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) became (and still is) so rewarding. I am actively helping, searching and fundraising for a cause that is going directly to suicide prevention efforts.

But my work with the AFSP did not prevent another loss in my own family…my sweet nephew, Patrick. When he died, my brain and heart literally could not process the magnitude of losing him, of losing another family member to suicide. It’s just too big. Too much. I’m still struggling daily with this loss and I’m “only” the aunt. I know my grief is secondary to his parents and others…I also know and respect that we all grieve differently.

My response to my grief last summer was to start performing acts of kindness in Patrick’s or “Noochie’s” name. I called them NoochieRAKs. Now that I reflect upon it, I think it was a defense mechanism – like denial or avoidance of the truth. But, it was positive and creative and it was helping others. I was completely overwhelmed and honored by how many other people participated in acts of kindness in his name. It gave me hope.

Now, as we approach the one year anniversary of his death, the feelings of sadness, despair and sorrow are slowly seeping in. I will let those feelings flow because NoochieRAKs and time have softened those sharp edges of grief…

NoochieRAKs also led me to the study of Positive Psychology and this certificate program. Last night when I started the required reading, I came across one of the reasons Martin Seligman decided to pursue this field. He wanted to research “the offbeat idea of a psychology about what makes life worth living.” (Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, Seligman, 2011)

I wept. Life IS worth living.

martin seligman what makes life worth living


The #365ActsofKindness Weekly RAK-Up:

#146. Wrote thank you notes for school project.

#145. Ding dong drop-off dog treats. (Put together a belated “welcome puppy” basket for a friend’s new dog, will deliver this week!)

#144. Wrote thank you notes to some helpful friends.
#143. Returned a random shopping cart, which had rolled into a parked car in the parking lot to Home Goods.
#142. Gave a few new pets a new home through adoption.
#141. Wrote TWNMLL (The World Needs More Love Letters) letters.

the housecoat

This weekend kicks off the unofficial beginning of summer and the weekend I pull out my summer housecoat.

housecoat

Okay…so my paisley print summer dress with the stretchy fabric, loose-fitting waist, flattering halter-top and built-in bra (bonus!) isn’t exactly the housecoat of the 1950’s, but it serves the same purpose. Casual comfort.

When I was a little girl, my beautiful grandma, Lillian, introduced me to the idea of the housecoat. With her striking white hair, carefully applied make-up, and little pink or taupe colored high-heeled slippers (even her slippers had high heels!), my grandma pulled off the housecoat with grace and poise.

And, she had several housecoats for every season…for the summer, she wore the thin cotton variety in pretty pastels, which gave her at least a little relief when her 3rd floor apartment would reach a sweltering 94 degrees. On those days, after she made breakfast, lunch and/or dinner for us, she would carefully dab at the perspiration* on her brow as she settled in for the night on her sofa with her latest library book (*note: my grandma did not sweat; she perspired).  In the winter, she would bundle up in her warmer, quilted housecoat collection in the same pastel colors. She would open the door to her apartment apologizing, “I hope you’ll excuse my appearance, I’m wearing my housecoat to keep warm.” My cute, polite and stylish grandma rubbed her hands together to keep her hands warm and grumbled, “My thermostat read 58 degrees this morning.” She was also tough as nails.

One summer, my grandma stayed with us for a few weeks after she had been in the hospital. While she couldn’t stand being sick and/or dependent upon others, she couldn’t stand the thought of looking sick even more, so she asked me if I would help with her hair and make-up. After a few failed attempts with the curling iron, we both realized that she needed to have her hair washed if we wanted to get her style just right.

As I carefully helped her over to the kitchen sink, she said, “I’ve been perspiring so much. What I’d love is a nice bath. I really don’t think I can take another sponge bath.”

And with that, we took a slight detour and somehow managed to get her all the way up the two flights of stairs and into the tub. It took a lot out of her, but she said she finally felt so refreshed, like a human being again. After she was all finished and toweled off, I brought over one of her freshly laundered housecoats which still smelled of her favorite perfume, Norell.

As I draped the housecoat over her shoulders, she looked up at me with her big hazel-brown eyes and said, “Beth, dear, you are going straight to heaven.”

I’ll never forget that moment.

So, if and when you see me out and about in my housecoat this summer, you’ll know who inspired it. My grandma…not only did she rock the housecoat, she was (is) one of the best KINDNESS role models for me and my family.


Weekly RAK-UP

#140. Left a nice tip, note and NoochieRAKs card for the housekeeping/maid service at the hotel.
#139. Asked our server to let the chef know that his salmon wrap special was AWESOME! (She greatly appreciated the feedback because they’ve never had that on the menu).
#138. Helped hold a door at the aquarium for a man who was pushing his grandma in a wheelchair.
#137. Picked up a new addition for Goldie’s tank.

hitting the wall…

hitting the wall
photo credit: google images

Over the last few days, I have hit the “Random Acts of Kindness” wall.

I am learning that it is not easy to perform all of these acts without spending a decent amount of money and/or without repeating many of the same acts, so I am falling behind in my numbers. I am still kind (for the most part), but sometimes I just don’t feel like documenting those acts. However, I made this commitment to myself, my children and the RAKtivist community (yes, it’s a thing) and I plan to see all 365 Acts of Kindness through to the end.

I need to try harder, but what I have also learned is that sometimes it’s the unexpected acts of kindness or moments of connection with other people that make the biggest impact.

One such moment happened yesterday…

I had to take one of our children to the doctor to have her ankle checked out. I knew I was pushing it arriving at 4:07pm when their hours run until 5pm, but that was the only time we could make it.

I could tell the lady behind the counter had had a long day.

While I watched her process our paperwork, I admired the braid she had wrapped around her head in a Star Wars character-inspired style or perhaps even a halo. Instead of keeping it to myself, I said, “I love your braid.”

She looked up from the forms and said, “What did you say?”

Gulp.

Clearing my throat, I said it a little louder, “I really like your braid.” I raised my hand and held it to my own head to demonstrate what I was talking about.

Her face softened, she smiled and then her hand went up to touch her head, “Awwwww…thank you.”

More paperwork was processed and she then she went to hand me a clipboard. Before she did, she stopped and said, “You are very pretty. Your eyes are such a neat color and your hair looks so nice.” Now it was my turn to blush and reach up to my hair and say “thank you”.

She giggled, “Look at us, complimenting each other and everything.”

I was giddy. It made my whole entire day. I explained that just the day before I was a lot more blond due to a botched highlight job and that I had to walk around all weekend long hating my brassy, not so golden, locks. And then, in an attempt to adjust the color on Monday morning, my hairdresser had to go a little bit darker and now my blond is “pulling warmer tones.” Or, as my kids have told me, “MOM! Your hair is RED! Did you ask for it that way?!”

The lady behind the counter assured me that it was just the perfect shade.

And, with that compliment, I feel ready to climb over that wall. :0)


The Weekly RAK-Up

#131. Gave someone a compliment (and received one in return). RAK of the Week

#130. Registered team for ice cream eating contest to benefit The Cancer Couch Foundation.

#129. Handed out grocery store gift cards in honor of Joan Berg and “Shopping with the Bergs”.

#128. Helped a woman with a baby stroller get through a doorway.

#127. Gave up seat at airport so family could sit together.

#126. Handed out waters to the landscaping crew who was helping with our spring clean-up.

Looking for any and all kindness ideas…if you have any, please share them with me, I’d love to hear them! Thank you!

the unconventional mother

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my mom on her 40th birthday

my mom.

she was not a conventional mother.

she was a…pack your own lunch, make your own bed, do your own laundry, figure out your own dinner, earn your own money to buy your own clothes, get your own band-aid, i’m on the phone and cannot help you with your homework…mother.

as a result, i learned how to forge her signature by the time a reading log was required in the 2nd grade, knew how to cook ramen noodles and mac n cheese for dinner when i was eight, always made my bed first thing in the morning and started a lucrative babysitting business by the time i was in 5th grade.

i resented her mothering style and have over-corrected with my own children.

i am a…

…give her one more extra kiss before she goes upstairs to bed mother,

…cuddle with her on the rocker that she outgrew many years ago mother,

…keep him on my lap so i can smell the top of his head a little longer mother,

…make breakfast, lunch, dinner and beds every day mother,

…wash and fold all of their laundry mother,

…help them or enlist the help of someone with their homework mother,

…mediate sibling squabbles mother,

…facilitate friend play time and activities mother.

and, despite my best, while flawed, mothering efforts, my own children will most likely resent me and think i am ruining them too.

for all the time i was putting down, dismissing and complaining about my mom’s mothering style, i should have been grateful that she helped me evolve into the resilient, strong and self-sufficient person i am today.

maybe being conventional is overrated. i never, ever doubted that she loved me. and, i miss her.

my mom did the best she could do.

i am too.


 

The Weekly RAK-Up

#125. Gave flowers to our neighbor and her caretaker for Mother’s Day.

#124. Let someone ahead of me in traffic.

#123. Donated a couple of gently used toys to Good Will.

#122. Assisted with a school project.

#121. Helped a girl who was left alone in movie theater (brother was working/taking tickets and babysitting at the same time).

#120. Sent a birthday card to a boy whose family requested them.

Happy Feet and the Weekly RAK-Up

Over the last several months, I started to notice that my feet resembled this…

rhino feet
Southern White Rhinoceros (google images)

I hadn’t had a pedicure or a manicure in over two years.

I also stopped practicing yoga around the same time.

I made appointments for and treated myself to all three of these things yesterday.

It’s weird, but there were these moments during the yoga, the pedicure and the manicure, that I had a big ole’ lump in my throat.

I couldn’t figure out why…and then I realized that I stopped doing some of these nice things for myself just around the same time my mom died.

Why? I have no idea.

While focusing on my drying nails contemplating that very thought, the door opened to the salon. I looked up to see a woman with a familiar-looking face. I knew I had seen her before, but I couldn’t place her.

Then it hit me.

On January 14th, my mom’s birthday, I went into that same nail salon and bought a gift card for one of their patrons as a random act of kindness. After “scoping out the joint” I pointed to a woman with blond curly hair who was sitting all by herself. I asked if the manager would give the card to her after I left the salon. The manager’s response, “Good choice. She is a nice, happy lady.”

It was that lady.

If I had left just two minutes before or looked down at my phone or skipped the manicure, which was my original plan, I would have missed her.

But, I didn’t miss her.

And, maybe this all sounds “out there” but I think there’s a reason our paths crossed again.

What’s the reason? I’m not sure, but I did learn something about this woman several weeks after my mom’s birthday. This “nice, happy lady” decided to do something kind for another person after she received the gift card. She left another gift card for someone else. The recipient of that gift card paid it forward as an auction item for an important cause, which she posted about on our NoochieRAKs page.

So, maybe the reason that she (unknowingly) crossed my path is to remind me of the ripple effect of kindness to others and ourselves.

And maybe that the big ole’ lump in my throat is what happiness feels like sometimes.❤️


weekly rak up

#119. Wrote TWNMLL: The World Needs More Love Letters (x3)

#118. Treated myself to yoga and mani/pedi (RAK of the Week).

#117. Gave a little extra tip at the nail salon.

#116. Complimented a stranger’s outfit in the parking lot. She was taken aback smiled and said “thank you, this old thing?”

exposing my kids to purple

purpleOther than a wide variety of purple crayons, markers, paints and colored pencils, the only purple that our young children have been exposed to over the years fall under the categories of children’s literature and college athletics.

For literature, I read and re-read sweet and adorable stories that illustrate the power of the color purple and one’s imagination in the books, “Harold and the Purple Crayon” and “Purplelicious”, which are timeless and still stacked on our bookshelves throughout the house.

For college athletics, they were exposed to Northwestern football early on when we lived just steps away from the stadium. During the fall, our neighborhood was transformed into a sea of purple, as fans walked to the game and tailgated just outside our windows. At the pre-game festivities, they would high-five Willie the Wildcat, who was also decked out in purple, shout “Go Cats!” and wear Northwestern’s purple logo tattoos on their cheeks.

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photo credit: sportslogo.net

They certainly didn’t associate the color purple with music.

That is, until last Thursday, when they were fixated on all of the news reports about Prince. They were very curious about all of the monuments, stadiums and bridges being lit up in purple and each wondered aloud, “Who is Prince?” and “What’s Purple Rain?”

I looked at them in disbelief…What do you mean, “Who is Prince?”

prince
google images

I went to play something for them on my iPhone and was surprised that I didn’t have a single one of his songs on my playlist. How could this be possible?! Very discreetly, so as not to blow my (cool) cover, I went to the iTunes store and plugged in P-R-…but, before I could tap another key, Prince’s name populated, as millions of people were downloading his music at the same time. I thought I’d start with just a few of my favorites and his most popular songs, including; Little Red Corvette, Let’s Go Crazy, Purple Rain, I Would Die 4 U and Kiss.

Although I hadn’t heard these songs in a while, I knew every single word…even my kids were impressed because, according to them, “You don’t remember anything, Mom!”

When his music started playing, it was sort of like a weird time travel…I was immediately transported back into the 8th grade with my friends, their boomboxes, the blue eyeliner and all that teenage angst. I could almost smell Dep hair gel, which, if I used enough, I could get my kinky, frizzy hair to look almost like Prince’s hair style. Almost. (I mean, I had a MUCH better chance of getting that look than Apollonia’s beautiful long locks!) I watched the movie, Purple Rain, at my friends’ apartment over and over and over again, feeling both intrigued and terrified of what I was watching. My immature brain was trying to process…What do these words in his songs mean? What’s with all that heavy breathing and rolling around on stage? Don’t I sound exactly like him when I sing into my hairbrush? (My sister’s response: a definitive “no”.)

During the beginning of junior year of high school, my interest in Prince waned as I started to gravitating towards Bruce Springsteen, the Police and U2. They were considered mainstream and safe, which was just what I needed during those uneasy and awkward high school days – fitting in with the mainstream crowd equaled safety for me. I started to think of Prince as unconventional, weird and a little self-absorbed and, unfortunately, that belief continued over the years.

What I have learned about Prince over the last several days is that he genuinely liked being his own person. He chose to be different. And, he was anything but self-absorbed, choosing to support so many different individuals and charities over the years, but always doing it under the radar.

So, in addition to exposing my kids to his music, I’m sharing what I’m learning about his philanthropy and his quirky and unique personality. It’s okay to be different is a mantra I’ve used over and over again in this household. I’m also telling them that I should have had an open mind over the years and not have been so quick to judge, perhaps I would have learned a lesson or two from him. It’s not too late to learn some lessons…

And…while there are many different accounts of what Purple Rain means, the most common interpretation I have found is that it means a new beginning…the color of the sky at dawn is purple, at times, and rain is symbolic of cleansing. I will share that with my children if they ask about it again, but I suspect they’ve already forgotten the question (and they say I forget everything!).

This morning I woke up WAY before dawn, purple or otherwise, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I remembered that we had taped Purple Rain, so I went downstairs and quietly turned on the tv. It was the first time I’ve watched it as an adult.

Over thirty years and many life experiences behind me, I watched it through a very different lens…we are all broken at one point or another, but there is always hope for a new beginning.

 

I am grateful to my dear friend, April, who loyally (and literally) followed Prince throughout the years and exposed me to purple, Prince and Purple Rain so many years ago. My kids and I thank you, April, for showing us that it’s okay to be different and that kindness always matters. xoxo


IMG_4699#115. Gave a Starbucks gift card to another favorite employee at Stop and Shop. He wasn’t there on Noochie’s birthday (the original plan). When I told him the card was for him in honor of my nephew and the kids’ cousin, he said, “I normally wouldn’t accept this, but I will because it’s in honor of your nephew.” I thanked him for accepting it and said that there were many days when his kindness turned my day around. He couldn’t believe it and said he was close to tears. He was going to give me a hug, except he had Poison Ivy all over his arms, so we “air” hugged. :o)

#114. Exposed kids to culture: Prince’s music and Purple Rain. (RAK of the Week)

#113. Earth Day activities: clean-up at duck pond with kids and their friends.

#112. Earth Day activities: helped kids and their friends plant pots with sweet pea and forget-me-not seeds. I told them the Cliff’s notes version of The Money Tree and A Sweet (Pea) Memory on this Earth Day…. We also said an Earth Day prayer, thanks to Sr. Terri!

#111. Made Earth Day pots for front office staff at kids’ school.

#110. Sent a note of encouragement to someone.

#109. Donated our old dining room table and chairs to someone who just moved into an apartment.

#108. Donated kids’ clothes to Good Will.

#107. Re-shelved food items at store.

A Sweet (Pea) Memory on this Earth Day…

Last month I shared the story of The Money Tree.

I wrote the story in response to a prompt, which I received from my writing instructor: Describe a special occasion.

I chose to focus on this particular occasion in honor of my nephew’s birthday last month and because it is one of my favorite memories of him.

What I didn’t share in that first piece is what happened after the big reveal…

So…here’s Part II: When the Money Tree Became the Giving Tree:

IMG_4587

The following day…I called the house to see if Patrick was enjoying his gift. As it turned out, he started to have second thoughts about the whole magical seeds story. The more he thought about it, the more the story just didn’t add up. Of course, it was just before his bedtime when he started envisioning a totally different version of the story…he thought it was more likely that someone broke into the house and swapped out the magic seeds pot with the money tree pot while we were all out at the Pinewood Derby. His mind went into overdrive as he conjured up a whole different cast of characters who may have come into his house to make the exchange…Was it the ancient Chinese man from the shop? Was it a leprechaun with a modified version of a pot of gold? Was it a troll? Was it just some crazy person (uh yeah, ahem, no comment) who made the swap? And…what if he/she returns to the house to collect the money tree?

He was so worried that someone was going to come in the middle of the night to collect the tree at he barely slept that night, which meant neither of his parents slept that night. I asked to speak with him and dug myself into a deeper hole explaining that he had nothing to worry about…this is how magic works and that no one broke into or would come to the house. When that didn’t seem to work, I distracted him by asking what he was going to buy with the cash…luckily, he had a list of items that took his mind off the original topic. I went with it…and then I made a note to myself to stay away from abstract gifts for my nephew in the future.

The following month…I was in the Target parking lot and popped open the trunk to load some basic necessities and a boatload of throw pillows and picture frames that I just had to have. As I organized the plastic bags, I noticed something green underneath a towel. Nervous that I had mold growing in the trunk, I very slowly lifted the towel. There, sitting on top of some old newspaper, was the original “magic seed” pot that I had painted and decorated with Patrick’s name.

FullSizeRender (12)Without any light or water, the sweet pea seeds that Patrick had sown with tender loving care and just a bit of water had started to sprout. In fact, they were not only sprouting, they were thriving, green leaves spilling out over the sides of the pot.

They were truly magical seeds.

Today, in honor of Earth Day and my Sweet P, Noochie, I will plant some Sweet Pea seeds today with my children and their friends. I will also tell them the sweet story of how the Money Tree became the Giving Tree. And, how I received the best gift.

What’s a Handkerchief, Mom?

bandanaman
image from bandanaman.com

A few days ago, the kids and I took a walk along the lake. We were about one block away from the apartment when Brian started complaining, “Mom, my nose is running. Can we go back now?” I told him he’d be fine and to just keep walking.

When we reached the next block he said, “Mom, I’m really tired, my feet hurt and my nose is running.” Once again, I told him he’d be fine and to just keep walking.

By the time we reached the third block, he whined, “Mom, I’m reeeaaallly cold and my nose is still running!” I gritted my teeth, told him he’d be fine and said emphatically, “Would you please just keep walking!”

Growing more and more irritable, I thought I knew I should have just gone on this walk alone.

Luckily, all of our moods lifted when we turned the corner and started walking toward the sunny trail that runs between Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive. We were all distracted and happy by the sights, sounds and smells of springtime in Chicago. The water was a beautiful shade of blue, a nice contrast to the grass, which borders the path and was finally turning green after a long winter. Some of the trees were just starting to bud and there were tons of birds chirping and flying from one tree to the next. There were cyclists, runners and mothers pushing baby strollers buzzing by us. The kids quickly learned the importance of “On your left!” as we made our way further along the trail. Despite the cooler temperatures and a brisk lake breeze, there was a young couple having a picnic at a little table in the middle of the green space between the path and the lake. In addition to the singing and tweeting birds overhead and the relaxing sound of the waves in the background, the LSD (Lake Shore Drive) traffic was whirring by on our right, as it always does morning, noon and night.

In a singsong voice, I exclaimed, “Aaahhh, I love the smell of spring! Can you guys smell the fresh air, the lake?!” I took a deep breath and turned around to look at the kids who were now lined up behind me like three cute little ducklings.

Emma and Kate shrugged their fleece-covered shoulders and mumbled something that sounded like “yes”. When I looked over at Brian for a response, he pouted, “I can’t smell anything.”

I looked a little more closely at him. Whoa…he wasn’t kidding earlier when he said that his nose was running. At this point, he had snot running down the front of his nose all the way down passed his mouth to his chin. It was disgusting. I tried to play it cool because I know how sensitive he is about anything gross anywhere near his body, but I’ve never had a very good poker face.

image
My “oh honey, it’s not that bad” look (google images)

In an effort to avoid a meltdown, I frantically searched my jacket pockets for a tissue, but only had the arm of one of his Teen Titans Go! figures and a NoochieRAKs card. I asked his sisters if they had any tissues in their pockets, but other than a few Jolly Rancher wrappers, their pockets were empty. I then started searching the ground for a tissue, a piece of paper or even a leaf…nothing. So, I told him to do exactly what I’ve told him NOT to do in the past when he has a runny nose, “Use your sleeve.”

“But, Mom! I don’t wanna…” he started whining through the glob of snot.

Before he could overthink it, I quickly grabbed his arm and wiped his nose with the back of his fleece jacket. I will not go into any additional gory details, but I will say that even for this veteran babysitter, former pre-school teacher and mom to three – I almost started gagging. As I anticipated, he started throwing a fit, then his sisters were laughing and screaming and I was looking around helplessly for something else to clean up his face and jacket.

At that point, I decided to cut our walk short and turned around on the path. We carefully navigated our way through the cyclists, strollers and runners like a game of Frogger to get to the other side.

frogger
Classic Frogger (google images)

Brian was trailing behind whimpering about his nose and jacket. I knew it was going to be a long walk back to the apartment.

I continued to search the ground for any object that would help our cause and noticed that the couple who was sitting at the little table along the trail was still there and called over to them to see if they had a napkin or Kleenex. She started looking through the Whole Foods bag, he started searching his backpack. Neither of them found one, but then the guy stood up, held up a blue bandana and said, “How about this?”

“Oh, that’s okay.” I said. To which he replied, “It’s clean, here take it.” I explained, “Well, it’s for his nose and I don’t want to get it all dirty and gross…”

He insisted, “Here, you can have it. I have two more in my pocket.”

In my brain, I quickly surveyed the situation…the guy seems normal enough, he did say it’s clean and considering that I was willing to wipe my son’s face with a piece of garbage or a leaf, it does seem like the better alternative. Also, he’s offering to help us and it’s important to accept help sometimes. For me, the hardest part of the #365 kindness project is when people say they don’t need my help or won’t accept a gift from me. It actually feels really crummy.

So, I gratefully accepted the blue bandana from him. It was the same exact style I wore in my hair during high school, the same exact style my father-in-law would pull out of his blazer pocket to aggressively blow his nose, and now I just realized, it’s the same exact style that Noochie’s Dad, Pete, was recently wearing at the Bruce Springsteen concert.

Brian allowed me to gently wipe his nose and we thanked the couple again.

I decided that it was still in our best interest to go back to the apartment and just chill out. While we were walking, I asked the kids, “Wasn’t that so thoughtful of that stranger to give us his handkerchief?” The girls mumbled what sounded like “yes” and Brian asked, “What’s a handkerchief, Mom?”

I told him, among other things, it’s a simple act of kindness.


 

IMG_4524

#105. Cleaned up paper towels that were all over the floor at Subway/rest stop.

#104. Helped lady who was cleaning up garbage at a rest stop.

#103. Gave a nice tip to server at the Cubs game who after she looked at my ID said, “You don’t have any wrinkles or gray hair for 45!” (the sunglasses glasses and baseball cap helped hide them). :0)

#102. Gave money to a homeless man outside Walgreens.

#101. Held the elevator door for someone loading a bunch of construction materials.

#100. Sent a Facebook message to my teachers who have made an impact on my life.

eatin’, trippin’ and rak’n

IMG_4245
google images

 

I always thought the expression “eating your feelings” was a little silly.

That is, until my mom died.

Now I completely understand it.

Ever since June 16th, 2014, the day she died, I literally feel like I cannot stop eating at most meals. And by meals, I mean breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. I’m not going to get into this too much, other than I know this is a process and I’m working through this and many other “issues”.

Anyhooooo, in an attempt to make healthier choices and lose (I’ll even take maintain at this point!) some of the weight I’ve gained while eating my feelings, I decided to run on the treadmill this morning in the workout room. And, to clarify, when I say “run”, I mean that I jog at a somewhat faster pace for several minutes and then walk for a few minutes and keep rotating walking and running (er, jogging) for an hour. I used to be able to run for the entire length of time, but along with my eating habits, my workout schedule has really been in a slump the last couple of years.

I’m always amazed by how many thoughts you can have when you’re just staring at a treadmill display or looking out the window at the lake. Today, my thoughts sounded like this:

I cannot believe it was exactly one year ago that we were saying goodbye to Mom’s house. I cannot believe that both Vanessa and Patrick were there, and now they’re gone. I cannot believe how many people we’ve lost this year…

All of these thoughts were running through my mind when I heard Vanessa’s voice say, “You know I love you, right?” followed by her hilarious, one-of-a-kind laugh. Of all the people we’ve recently lost, she is the one I “hear” most often. I haven’t exactly heard Patrick just yet…he’s been a quiet presence…more like a shadow. Right after that thought, the song “Just Breathe” came on, which I sent to my mother-in-law, Carolyn, when she was sick and, therefore, I think of her every time I hear it. Within the first few notes of the song, I imagined her saying, “Hey! What about me?!” followed by her laugh.

Girrrrrlllll, you are trippin’ was my next thought.

I wonder if I’m the only one whose “inner dialogue” (i.e., hearing voices, seeing shadows, etc.) sounds/feels like this…I sure hope not. If I am, then I’ll need to start working on this along with an ever-growing list of issues.

Anyway…back to the treadmill, I continued with my workout and random, not-so-interesting thoughts and was doing really well when I suddenly became overheated. And not just a bit overheated, but the I’m going to pass out or get sick right here kind of overheated. I paused the display, slowly stepped off the treadmill and went to turn on one of the fans that sits in front of the machines. It wasn’t working so I tried to reset it, unplug, plug it back in, etc., still no luck. I gave up and when I turned around an elderly lady had jumped on the treadmill.

“Oh, looks like you had a pretty good workout!” she said pointing at the numbers on the display.

“Uh…well, I, uh…yes, thank you…I did. Oops, just have to grab my keys.” I stammered, reaching over the treadmill display and into the cup holder for my keys.

I can’t really pinpoint what I was feeling, which is part of my problem, but sometimes this kindness project presents itself at just the right moments. :o)

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How I feel today – except substitute “JB’s pizza” for cake (google images) : )

 


 

image#99. Let someone else use the treadmill. (RAK of the Week)

#98. Complimented a stranger on his (awesome) cowboy hat.

#97. Cleaned off counter at rest stop.

#96. Donated gently used clothes to Good Will.

#95. Wrote an encouraging note to a friend.

#94. Donated dog treats to pet shelter.
#93. Re-shelved cleaning supplies sitting in middle of aisle.
#92. Paid a compliment to a stranger at Stop and Shop.

the old yeller & the weekly rak-up

I’m what some people would call, a bit of a yeller.

I yell at my kids to pick up their socks off the sofa. I yell at the dog to get off the sofa. I yell, “What are the cushions doing off the sofa and on the floor?!” I yell that it’s time for “BREAKFAST!” “LUNCH!” and “DIN-NER!” I yell that we’re going to be late for school. I yell that it’s time to be quiet, and I yell that it’s time for bed.

 

Okay, I’ll be honest, I yell A LOT.

 

Sometimes I worry what the mailman thinks of me, but mostly I think he gets it.

 

In my defense, I grew up in a family of yellers. This was how our household functioned. There was always some (self-induced) chaos around us, we were always running late, there were always too many kids in the house, and messes that I, as the oldest, always felt obligated to clean up. My siblings also responded to my yelling, although I’ll admit, maybe it wasn’t the response I was hoping for…sometimes they yelled back…sometimes they slammed a door in my face…sometimes there was a sibling slam-down. But, like I said, at least there was a response.

 

Despite my best efforts, all the best-selling parenting books, and behavioral modification or “star” charts, I continue to yell at my own children. I’ve realized over the years that it’s a hard habit to break.

 

So, earlier this week, I decided to try a different approach.

 

Two of our children started wrestling and typically, I would yell, “Go to the basement!”, “Knock it off!” or “Someone’s gonna get hurt!”. This time, as one of my acts of kindness, I remained silent (which, by the way, was REALLY hard for me).

 

I also discreetly snapped a few photos, which highlight what happened next:
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the beginning (very difficult for me not to yell)
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both end up on the floor (this could get ugly-still keeping mouth shut)
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“Look, Mom, we’re having so much fun!” (okay, difficult to argue with this one) :o)
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big sister bangs little brother’s head on the floor = tears
While I wanted to yell, “SEE, I told you someone would get hurt!”, I continued to keep my mouth shut. I also stopped snapping pictures and quietly observed what happened next…the fighting stopped and Kate checked, really checked, to see if Brian was okay. She comforted her little brother and they decided together to do something else.

 

An unexpected act of kindness for all of us.

 

Maybe this kindness project can teach this old yeller some new tricks. :o)


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#91. Wrote three letters for TWNMLL | The World Needs More Love Letters (moreloveletters.com)
#90. Picked up a loaf of bread that had fallen off the shelf and was just sitting in the middle of the aisle.
#89. Donated to a fund for the Nauti Dolphin delivery man who is going through cancer treatment.
#88. Donated to Amanda Lynn Williams Endowment Fund (McHenry County College).
#87. Gave a little extra tip to the man who delivered our Chinese food.
#86. Stayed out of sibling squabble. (RAK of the Week).